Tuesday, 16 September 2014

North Lanarkshire Council


I have submitted another FoI request to North Lanarkshire Council asking for information about the Council's controversial 'bonus' scheme or 'performance pay' scheme which is reserved for its highest paid officials.

Now I'm pretty sure these payments are counted as part of 'normal pay' for chief officials in North Lanarkshire.

If so, this means the payments will get taken into account for pensions purposes as well as being paid as normal during holidays and periods of annual leave.    

For example, the chief executive's salary in 2012/13 was effectively £136,473 plus a performance bonus of £11,039.20 or a grand total of £147,512.20 which would be paid, presumably, in 12 monthly payments throughout the year.

In other words £12,292.68 every month - or £2,836.77 for 52 weeks of the year.  

The key point being that if the chief executive's salary does not fluctuate during the working year, and go down during holidays periods, then surely the same should be true for the rest of the Council workforce?   

So let's see how the Council responds to my latest FoI request, but to be honest I'm amazed that the trade unions have allowed council employers to get away with this practice of not paying people for regular overtime, or shift working and so on.

Because that's certainly not how things used to be in my time and I don't recall any big union campaigns or threats of industrial action being made in recent years - to stop the employers in their tracks.   



15 September 2014
Gavin Whitefield
Chief Executive
North Lanarkshire Council

Dear Mr Whitefield

FOISA Request 

I would like to make the following request under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002.

I enclose the following entry to the Council's web site by way of background and the my information request relates to the Council's 'performance pay' scheme for senior officials or managers. 
Please confirm whether the council's performance pay scheme resulted in payments to chief officials in the year 2013/2014.

2 If so, please confirm the amounts paid along with the names and job titles of the senior officials involved.

3 Please confirm if the payments made under the scheme are taken into account for superannuation or pension purposes.

Please confirm if the payments made under the scheme are regarded as 'normal pay' and paid as a proportion of salary during holidays and periods of annual leave.
I look forward to your reply and would be grateful if you could respond to me by e-mail to: markirvine@compuserve.com
    
Kind regards



Mark Irvine

Extract from North Lanarkshire Council's web site
Gavin Whitefield
Gavin Whitefield CBE, Chief Executive
The Chief Executive within North Lanarkshire is the council's chief policy advisor. He is the main link between council officials and elected members. He is responsible for corporate governance and seeks to ensure the co-ordination of the organisation and all its functions. Of primary concern to the Chief Executive is the overall direction and performance of the council.
Salary 2012/13: £136,473 (plus performance-related pay of £11,039.20)

Holiday BackPay Claims



Here's an information leaflet from HBPC which is either too large or two small for the formatting used on this blog site, but readers may be able to enlarge the image on a PC, laptop or tablet device

Alternatively, you can view it at the HBPC web site: http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk 

Or you can also order copies by calling 0800 024 6888 or 0141 343 8066

Independence Debate


I revisited my thoughts on voting Yes in the independence referendum which I posted on the blog site back in August and I'm pleased to say that views have strengthened, if anything, as the campaigning has intensified over the summer. 

To my mind, the Yes campaign has won all the key arguments and the desperation of the Westminster based parties (Labour, Tories and Lib Dems) is best illustrated by their cynical 'death bed' conversion to Devo Max - which is hugely ironic because these same parties ganged up to prevent the Devo Max option appearing as a second question on the ballot paper.

So it's too little too late as far as I'm concerned and as Westminster is never going to reform itself, I hope a majority of the Scottish people vote Yes with their heads as well as their hearts on Thursday.  
   

Yes Scotland (8 August 2014)


I've finally made up my mind on the business of Scottish independence and after a lot of thought I have decided to cast a 'Yes' vote in the referendum on 18 September 2014.

Now I'm not a 'committed nationalist' and I'm neither a member or supporter of the Scottish National Party. In fact I attended every Scottish Labour Party conference during the 1990s (as a union delegate from Nupe and then Unison) and I've voted for Labour on and off even after I resigned my Labour party membership in 1999.

I started out on my referendum journey strongly supporting a second question on the ballot paper for more powers or 'Devo Max' for the Scottish Parliament, but the Westminster parties ganged up to deny people the choice that most Scots wanted, as if we're all too dumb to hold two thoughts in our minds at the same time.

So, having been left with a straight Yes or No, my vote is going in support of independence. Because while the Scottish Parliament is properly representative and accountable to the Scottish people the same can't be said of the Westminster Parliament which has palpably failed to reform and reinvent itself in the wake of the great MPs' expenses scandal. At the same time the House of Lords has become even more bloated with a record 760 peers and its very existence is an insult to democracy. 

The case for the Scottish Parliament having far more extensive powers is absolutely overwhelming if you ask me, and not just because the Scottish Government, Scottish Ministers and our MSPs have shown themselves to be as capable and competent as their Westminster colleagues over the past 15 years.

No, another big reason for the Scottish Parliament to have full control of tax and economic policy, over immigration and the welfare system, is that the influence of London is distorting and destabilising the rest of the UK economy. The out of control housing market being the obvious example and one which helped lead the country to near financial disaster in 2008.

And while I can see the argument that the UK is 'greater than the sum of its parts' when it comes to defence and foreign policy, I don't believe this is true of other areas of policy and public life where there often is a distinctly Scottish agenda or political culture.

All of which boils down to the question of whether the Scottish Parliament is capable of taking over responsibility for the country's affairs. Or should we be persuaded by the last minute, death bed conversion of the Westminster parties to grant 'more powers' to the Scottish Parliament after the September 2014 referendum was called.    

I might have been persuaded by the 'more powers' argument if this had been backed up by a second question in the referendum because the overwhelming support of  Scottish voters would have made it virtually impossible for the Westminster parties to deploy cynical wrecking tactics.

As the Labour Party to its terrible shame did back in 1979 when a Labour MP, George Cunningham (a Fifer originally who defected to the SDP), moved an amendment to the Scotland Act 1978 which effectively denied Scotland its Scottish Parliament for another 20 years, while at the same time ushering in a 18 long years of Tory rule.

So as I see things there are risks and uncertainties either way, and nor has it escaped my attention the Westminster Parliament was responsible for fuelling the great 'boom and bust' which Gordon Brown claimed to have abolished, yet the country's economy was brought to its knees under Labour in 2008 and is only now beginning to recover.

In other words, these people are in no position to lecture Scotland on how we should now organise our own affairs. 

Caledonia



A new version of Dougie MacLean's great ballad 'Caledonia' has taken off in a big way during the referendum campaign, so here it is by a Scottish group called The Libations.


Got the Point



I like Hugo Rifkind's regular columns in The Times because they are nearly always funny, self-deprecating, well informed, argumentative yet balanced and reasonable, with a political point to make, though seldom a tribal party one.

Hugo's got his fingers crossed for a No vote in the Scottish referendum on independence, but unlike many of our politicians north and south of the border, I think it's fair to say Hugo's one of the few journalists who's really got the point. 

OK, I admit it: the Yes camp does have a point

By Hugo Rifkind - The Times

Behind the garbled slogans of the independence campaign lurks genuine unease about the country we have become

‘Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.” In 2004 they put those words up on the side of the new Scottish parliament, attributing them to the novelist, artist and poet Alisdair Gray. And you could not walk past without feeling a shiver in your spine.

Six years later they got out the chisel again and changed the name to “Alasdair”, because that’s what he’s actually called. By then Gray had also pointed out that he’d paraphrased the line from a poem by the Canadian author Dennis Lee, but nobody wanted to know. That’s the thing when a building costs £414 million. You don’t want to scrape off more than you have to.

Hell of a line, though, eh? The early days of a better nation. Oof. Who wouldn’t want to vote for that? You will find a lot of the modern Scottish soul, I think, in that short, taut phrase. The other day, fresh off the train and browsing Twitter as I sat on my suitcase in the hall — just in case I had missed any important developments, you understand, on the four-minute walk from the bus stop — I saw that the Scotland on Sunday journalist Euan McColm had found a young and prominent independence activist who was broadcasting this glorious prose to the world. Or at least trying to.

“Vote,” this guy had written, “like you live in the better days of a world.” And I started laughing, not very nicely, and I just couldn’t stop.

I’m tired. That’s part of it. It’s hard to convey, perhaps, the sheer, bleak, anxious, miserable, killjoy weariness of being a Scot who thinks “no”. You’re the grit in every bright eye; the pish, as they say, in every bath. All around you is hope and glorious anticipation, and your only role is to ask it to stop. There’s something about that garbled phrase — “vote like you live in the better days of a world” — that just seems to sum it all up. So earnest. So hopeful. Such nonsense.

In Scotland all the good arguments against independence are practical. It’s all very well going on about shared history and cross-border love and the general undesirability of two mixed peoples on a crowded island suddenly having divergent aims, but the simple fact is that nobody north of the border gives a toss. It’s too late. “It’ll be bad,” is the only real argument left. The currency thing won’t work, the businesses will suffer, the money will shrink, the oil might end, all of that.

Project fear? Sure. Because it’s frightening. Imagine Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling in pith helmets, leading a posse of Scottish voters down a jungle path and coming to a fork. “There’s a tiger that way!” Darling would say. “Project fear,” Salmond would retort. “But it’s, um, right there,” Darling would quail, pointing. “Stop patronising Scotland!” Salmond would declaim, and lead the group blundering on. Then all you’d hear was the shrieks.

People who don’t see the tiger are people who don’t want to see the tiger. Deep down, they must know that it is there. It’s not them who trouble me, though. It’s the younger Scots. It’s the ones who just want to live in the better days of a world. Because, amid the nonsense, always, there’s a hook.

Certainly they’re nationalists. They say they aren’t, sure, but nationalism is the line — or the thing that makes you see a line — between Salmond’s vision of independence and devo-max. Still, if there was a chance of changing all of Britain, I think many of them would take it. They look out and they see an ossified, unfair country, with food banks, an aloof elite and a state that seems in hock to huge businesses that it can’t even tax. And they don’t want to be a part of it. And that’s when I start getting edgy.

Perhaps so much optimistic guff has spouted from various “yes” orifices these past two years — secret oilfields, redeveloped seaboards, the dead rising up to till the land, etc — that the goal of merely building a new Jerusalem (obviously without the song) has started to seem relatively modest.

Yet it troubles me that my only response to their idealism is to point out that an impoverished, wobbly, independent Scotland would likely be far worse at dealing with all of this stuff than our stable, relatively prosperous Britain. Because here and now, let’s be honest, Britain doesn’t really seem to be pulling its thumb out.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Britain. Having lived in various bits of it I also feel that I know it quite a lot better than many Scots do. As a Londoner, particularly, I resent the characterisation that the south increasingly has in Scottish politics, as a selfish, inegalitarian, Farage-ish place. Often, I think that Scotland simply projects on to the south the things it cannot reconcile about itself, with its Orange lodges, homophobic billionaires, smug, impenetrable professions in the central belt and lingering feudalism in the Highland glens. Yet for all that, I cannot say that I feel any great enthusiasm in Britain as a whole to be a better nation. And I wish I could.

An independent Scotland would — and perhaps will — have a savage, painful, nasty awakening. Reality wouldn’t just bite; it would swallow these dreams whole. But the rest of us should see that passion and be shocked by our complacency. How the hell has it come to this? How can our wonderful country contain so much to which people can reasonably object?

We all know what the problems are. We have half a parliament that isn’t elected, a capital that looks after itself and justifies this by writing cheques, and regions so unpractised at governing themselves that most of them no longer even want to. We have a financial system that seems to move ever farther from accountability of any sort and foreign policies dictated by the scribbles on napkins from three generations ago. And, worst of all, we have a pervasive fatalism — left and right — that this is just how it has to be.

I don’t normally feel like this. Perhaps it’s a function of defensiveness and will ebb away. But I hope it doesn’t. I simply don’t believe that an independent Scotland could afford to be a better nation, even if it genuinely wanted to be and that’s why I’d vote “no”. The United Kingdom could, though. So, if it survives the next week, I really think it’s time we pulled ourselves together. We’d better.

Ethical Banking



I came across this article from The Mail which highlights a little local difficulty within the Co-op where by the big boss, Niall Booker, is having an affair with another senior official who has a role in recruiting directors to the Co-op Board which has the job of holding Mr Booker to account.

Now I've heard of conflicts of interest, but this really does take the biscuit and I'm just glad I moved my business away from the Co-op in the wake of the Paul Flowers affair. 

Co-op chief's affair with his 'head of talent': Married chief executive's office-hours romance with senior colleague whose job is to find a successor to... Paul Flowers

The bank's £2.9m-a-year boss Niall Booker, 55, was warned last night he may have to resign over the affair with Samantha Davenport, who is 11 years his junior and as the No 2 in the Co-op's human resources department has a key role in selecting the very board members who hold Mr Booker to account. The pair held hands as they left her townhouse in Hammersmith, west London, at 2.30pm last Friday, and their romance is now an 'open secret' among colleagues. The revelation comes weeks before a multi-million pound relaunch of Co-op's ethical 'core values'.


Co-op is Crap



I noticed that the chief executive of the Co-operative Bank, Niall Booker, was one of the signatories to a letter from business 'leaders' urging a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum.

Now I don't know Niall Booker personally, but I had occasion to write to him recently and as I wasn't in the least convinced by his answer I am no longer a customer of the bank.

Here are a few posts from the blog site archive which explain why I think the Co-op is crap.   

Co-op Bank (10 December 2013)


I said the other day that I would write a letter of complaint to the Co-op Bank over its financial support for the Labour Party - so here's a copy of the letter I sent by email to the Co-op Bank's chief executive, Niall Booker, the other day.

To my mind, banks should stay out of party politics - all banks not just the Co-op.

If individuals want to give their own money to the Labour Party or some other party, then that's up to them - and that's how it should be with the trade unions as well, if you ask me.    


Niall Booker
Chief Executive
Co-op Bank

Dear Niall

The Co-op and Party Politics

I am a customer (saver) with the Co-op Bank to which my account was transferred from the now defunct Britannia Building Society.

I am sure you have your hands full at the moment with the fall-out from this terrible Reverend Flowers business, but I would like to let you know how much I resent and disapprove of the Co-op Bank getting so heavily involved in party politics.


To my mind, it is completely wrong for the Co-op Bank to be giving 'soft loans' or financial donations to the Labour Party such as the £50,000 handed over recently to the office of Ed Balls MP, Labour's shadow chancellor. The money involved belongs to the Co-op's customers and, in my view, it is quite outrageous for the company's funds to be used in this way. 



I imagine the appointment of the Reverend Paul Flowers as Chairman of the Co-op Bank had something to do with his party political connections to the Labour Party and clearly this gentleman's out-of-control, hypocritical behaviour is doing considerable damage to the Co-op's public image.

So, I hope you will see the importance of putting your customers first and putting an end to these party political shenanigans, otherwise I will be taking my business elsewhere.

I look forward to your reply.

Kind regards



Mark Irvine

Co-op is Crap


I'm glad my mind is finally made up.

I am going to close my account and take my business elsewhere because the Co-op is crap and can't face up to reality, if this report from the BBC is to be believed - and I have to say it makes perfect sense to me.

The dozen or so independent societies which combine to form the Co-op across the UK seem completely out of their depth to me, otherwise the business would not be in the mess it finds itself in today.

And while I'm no admirer of the House of Lords at least Lord Myners took on the challenge of trying to reorganise and bring some sense to the Co-op's operations for a salary of £1, so he appears to be driven by the right motives.

But still the 'independent' societies within the Co-op seem intent on re-arranging the deck chairs, as the SS Co-op bears down on the iceberg ahead.    

So, I'm off as they say although I wish all the very best to those who stay on board because I think they'll need a lot of luck in the days ahead.   

Why Co-op's woes are deepening

By Kamal Ahmed
BBC

Sent on 7 March, the covering letter from the Midcounties Co-operative, was suitably polite. "If you would like further information on the points raised, please let me know."

The letter was to Lord Myners, the former city minister charged with coming up with a plan to overhaul Co-op Group. With the letter was Midcounties' submission to Lord Myners' review.

In forensic detail the submission picks apart the main arguments contained in the initial plans for change. It is also provides stark evidence that here is an organisation that agrees it needs to reform - it just doesn't agree how.

"In recent years Midcounties has observed a failure at the most senior levels in the Group . . . to consistently reflect co-operative values and principles and the best standards of good governance and transparency," says the submission, which I have seen.

"This was not just a matter of errors of judgement over particular business decisions but also, more crucially, of a fundamentally flawed vision of the future of the movement which led to risk taking of a kind which was inappropriate and unnecessary in the context of co-operative ownership."

Midcounties is an important player in this game, the largest of the Co-op's independent societies with revenues of £1.2bn and more than 10,000 employees. The dozen independent societies across the UK have more than 20% of the voting rights on the group board and five are represented at group level. What they say matters for the future of the Co-op.

The background, as we know, is grim. As my colleague Robert Peston revealed last February Co-op Group is likely to report losses of up to £2bn when it reveals its 2013 figures next week.

The supermarkets, pharmacies and funerals business needs to change its model to survive. Many criticise a byzantine governance structure which critics say rewards longevity, skill at internal politics and willingness to attend endless committee meetings, above managerial skills.

Over the last decade, Co-op expanded rapidly, buying Somerfield supermarkets and the Britannia building society. Its structure simply couldn't cope.

Lord Myners - a non-executive board member of Co-op Group - is now on a listening tour, refining his initial proposals which focus on bringing in outside directors and giving the Co-op some of the checks and balances more akin to a publicly listed company. As The Guardian reports this morning, Midcounties has already voted against the reforms, with its president, Patrick Gray, saying that they will not support the "menu" that Lord Myners is offering.
Lord Myners has several proposals for the future of Co-op Group

Mr Gray, whom I spoke to yesterday and who made an appearance on the Today programme and BBC Radio 5 live this morning, is most concerned that by changing the governance structure, the very democratic and "values-led" DNA of the present Co-op might be lost. Euan Sutherland, the former Co-op chief executive who resigned after details of his pay were leaked to The Observer, argued that democracy and values might be vital, but without radical change the whole future of the business was at risk.

This is a disagreement that goes to the heart of the Co-op debate. As its submission continues, "Midcounties does not share the view that in a co-operative context member control is incompatible with the needs of a complex commercial enterprise. Indeed, experience in the UK and abroad demonstrates that this is clearly not the case.

"Among the independent consumer co-operative societies, it is demonstrably the case that it is the most democratic that are the most successful in commercial terms, not the reverse."

The clash is one of cultures. Lord Myners is steeped in PLC history, having formerly been chairman of both the property business, Land Securities, and Marks and Spencer. Mr Sutherland was formerly at the retail giant, Kingfisher. Niall Booker, the chief executive of Co-op Bank in which the Co-op Group retains a 30% stake, is a veteran of HSBC.

They are coming up against committed independent heads of co-operative societies who have long experience of mutual operations. They are suspicious of where change is leading.

"A fundamental point is that the relationship [between Group and its Co-op members] is not purely commercial," the Midcounties submission says. "All societies are part of the co-operative movement.

"We share a common interest in showing that co-operation is a force for good in society and an important organisational model in itself."

Lord Myners has until a special general meeting of the Co-op Group in the summer to get his proposals agreed. He will have a tough job.

UPDATE 13:15

I'm hearing rumblings that the Treasury Select Committee is very keen to call Euan Sutherland to give evidence to its inquiry into the Co-op bank collapse and its impact on the Group's problems.

In what would be an incendiary hearing, MPs are particularly keen to ask the former chief executive exactly what he meant when he said that the business was "ungovernable" and why he left so abruptly. Mr Sutherland also questioned the viability of the 170-year-old organisation.

If it happens - and I believe it will - it will be standing room only.

Celebrity Justice



The story's not quite over yet, but Oscar Pistorius seems likely to try and cash in on his notoriety by writing a book about his trial and conviction for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, with a high powered hand gun.

I don't know enough about South African law to know what the prospects are, but I hope Reeva Steenkamp's family go after Pistorius in the civil courts because, so far at least, they haven't found any justice in the criminal courts.

And as things stand there's every possibility that Pistorius will not even receive a prison sentence for causing the death of Reeva Steenkamp, as one of the options open to the trial judge is a non-custodial suspended sentence.

Which would make a mockery of South Africa and its criminal justice system, if you ask me.

Pistorius plans money-spinning book as girlfriend's family head home

After being convicted of culpable homicide, the Paralympian's story of a tragic night could be a global bestseller

By David Smith - The Observer

Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court in Pretoria on 12 September 2014 after the verdict in his murder trial where he was found guilty of culpable homicide. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

Oscar Pistorius plans to write a book giving his account of what happened when he shot dead his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and his ordeal in standing trial for her murder, his manager said on Saturday.

The memoir could prove hugely lucrative for the Paralympian but also prompt accusations that he is cashing in on the killing of the 29-year-old model and law graduate.

Pistorius was acquitted of murder at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, last week but convicted of culpable homicide after shooting Steenkamp through a locked toilet door at his home. He was released on bail and will be sentenced at a hearing that starts on 13 October.

As Steenkamp's parents expressed dismay at the verdict and headed home to Port Elizabeth, Pistorius's manager and agent, Peet van Zyl, revealed that the double amputee athlete intends to put his side of the story on paper.

"He will write his own book," he told the Observer. "We've discussed it. We've talked about ideas and concepts. I'm not going to go into details now." If Pistorius receives a suspended sentence, as some experts predict, he could also return to competition, possibly even in time for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio. He is known to be regularly working out to stay in good physical condition. The International Paralympic Committee has said it will allow its most famous athlete to return to the sport.

Van Zyl said: "I will sit down with him once everything is done and decide what we are going to do. We have to wait until 13 October before we can think about anything. After that we will tell the world what we are going to do."

Pistorius published an autobiography, Blade Runner – a reference to his nickname due to his prosthetic limbs – five years ago. But after that he reached the pinnacle of the London Olympics only to be author of his own downfall when he killed Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria on St Valentine's day last year.

A book about the shocking episode could be a bestseller, enabling Pistorius to restore personal finances that have been exhausted by legal fees, but also risk charges of exploiting the situation. OJ Simpson, the American actor and sportsman cleared of murder after another blockbuster trial in 1995, was criticised for publishing a book entitled If I Did It, in which he hypothetically described how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend.

Pistorius has always maintained that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he shot her four times. But speaking to ITV News after the verdict, her parents, June and Barry Steenkamp, said they did not "fully" believe his account of that night. June said of the judge's ruling: "We were shocked. Shocked. Disappointed. You know your heart drops because you just want the truth. It's going in the wrong direction, that's how you feel."

Ben Williams, books editor of South Africa's Sunday Times, said a book by Pistorius "could go either way. If you do it right, you could have the sports biography of the century. On the other hand, he's not the most popular person in some circles so you could have a tremendous backlash that sinks the book. Look what happened to Julian Assange's autobiography."

As Pistorius contemplates the project, other authors are racing to put out books about a case that has captivated millions of people in South Africa and around the world. Williams said he is aware of half a dozen titles from mainstream publishers plus "innumerable" self-published ebooks. Few would be surprised if the nascent Pistorius publishing industry leads to a film or TV dramatisation.

"It's because Oscar was the person who defined South Africa," Williams added. "I thought he was going to be the next iconic figure after Nelson Mandela. It's all gone horribly wrong and the amount of interest is spectacular. I've no doubt there will be a made-for-TV movie – that's definitely going to happen."

Last week saw the publication of Oscar: An Accident Waiting to Happen, co-written by Patricia Taylor whose daughter, Samantha, was a girlfriend of the sprinter and testified during his trial. It is billed as "the all-exclusive inside story of ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor's tumultuous romantic relationship with the gold-medal athlete which turned into every mother's nightmare".

South African journalist Barry Bateman's coverage of the trial gained him 139,000 new Twitter followers in a week; he now stands at 227,000. He is the co-writer, with Mandy Wiener, of Behind the Door: The Oscar and Reeva Steenkamp Story, due out next month in countries including the UK.

Bateman said there has already been interest in the book from producers looking for a screenplay. He described the making of a movie about the case as "inevitable".

Another contender is Chase Your Shadow: the Trials of Oscar Pistorius, published internationally in December. Its writer, British journalist John Carlin, said: "I've had contracts since a year ago, which tells you there's a universality about this story. It fits into a recognisable narrative pattern going back to Homer. It is a classic tragic hero's fall."

Carlin, author of a biography of tennis player Rafael Nadal, and of the book Playing the Enemy about Nelson Mandela and the 1995 rugby world cup, which became the film Invictus, said he would be very surprised if Pistorius returns to the track.

"I don't think it's in his thoughts in a serious way at all," he said. "I find it extremely unlikely that he's going to go back to what he was. Whatever the outcome of the trial, the controversy will linger on, as it did with OJ Simpson. There are loads of people who will think he killed Reeva deliberately. If he turns up on athletics track in Manchester or Dusseldorf or wherever, there will be protesters with placards."