"They can't do this to people I'm sure!!"
If anything summed up Neil Hill it was this statement, contained in one of many, many e-mails he sent us over the last few years. During chats on the phone or personal meet ups he always had a cause to fight against a system which, in his words, is "a load of corrupt bollocks". But Neil didn't just talk about it, he set about proving it through relentless Freedom of Information requests, public watchdog hounding and Human Rights court cases. He was usually miles in front of everyone.
Over six months ago Neil e-mailed us about the NHS and PCT sharing people's personal data with third parties. Unfortunately we didn't have a magazine to put the story in. It finally appeared on the front page of the Observer a few weeks ago. He was way ahead.
In fact, Neil was so far ahead and so into taking apart the bewildering small print and finer details of documents and `consultations' that half the time it was hard to get your head around what he was talking about. But the bureaucrats, politicians and executives understood exactly. And were scared shitless of him. Working class people from Salford aren't supposed to be that clever.
Neil was the only person in the country who stuck out a long running case about people being forced to medically retire through ill health losing their right to Incapacity Benefit because they funded either a private or final salary pension schemes. This one went all the way to the House of Lords where he was given permission to go to the European Courts of Justice.
When he took his cases through the legal system, high court judges would salute his bravery, the brilliance of his mind…but there was always a technicality, dredged up by expensive barristers, that meant the case was lost. And so it proved with City West Housing.
Two years ago, when Salford Council was balloting for the transfer of council homes to City West Housing, Neil tried to get the vote stopped on legal grounds, arguing in the Salford Star that information sent to tenants was "one sided and biased" and warned what would happen…
"I am very fearful of the changes" he wrote "I'm only a medically retired tanker driver but if I can highlight these worrying points what would a legally trained barrister find?"
Lo and behold, two years later, the rents in City West Housing increased by 8% and even John Merry, Leader of Salford City Council, said he was "extremely disappointed" with the rise. But while the Council was urging people to vote for the transfer Neil stood up for council tenants all over Salford. His fights were on behalf of everyone.
When the rent increases became apparent, Neil took City West Housing and Hazel Blears (who gave consent to the transfer) to court to try and get the rent rise stopped on human rights grounds. He lost the case on yet another `technicality' and within 30 minutes of the case ending was handed a bill from the Treasury for almost £3000. Two days later he sent an e-mail to the Treasury, which was acting on behalf of Hazel Blears…
By the time you receive this I will be dead, having committed suicide. I hope you feel very proud of yourselves. Before you send another old person a bill for £3000 please think of the consequences.
I will haunt you for the rest of your miserable stinking rotten life.
Have a nice life! I certainly won't.
Perhaps you'd like to explain to all my family why I can no longer cope and what your position was in ending my life?
Malcolm Neil Hill
That was sent on April 18th – it wasn't passed onto the police until three days later.
In a statement Hazel Blears said "Mr Hill was clearly passionate about his campaign and what he was doing, which I respect. His family must be distraught and I feel for them."
Now we've got a message for Hazel Blears, from Neil which we're sure he won't mind us printing from an old e-mail…
"I'm up for anything that will stuff bastards like Blears and her poxy new world order…Just love her to bits, the bitch…"
Neil Hill had a brilliant mind, a loving personality, a great sense of humour and a fighting spirit. If they can get to him, God help the rest of us…
Salford Star sends total sympathy to all Neil's family and friends and we promise to try and keep his spirit alive. He taught us loads.
"The glass is half full mate NOT half empty"
From e-mail 11.11.08
I had a bad experience last week. As you know I don't enjoy the best of health and have been very ill for several weeks. During one of these episodes I got a knock on my door and it was a bloke from City West Housing who showed his ID and asked if he could do a structural survey. They are entitled to access your property but should give 24 hrs notice which they did not.
However in he came and began to take photos of my property INSIDE and because I was so ill I didn't have the energy to do anything about it. I am pretty confident they are breaking convention rights under Article 8 (3.69) and (3.71) and they have no right under the ECHR Acts to enter peoples homes under that act and invade peoples privacy. It is an absolute infringement.
They can't do this to people I'm sure!!
Read Neil's article on City West Housing