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Monday, 23 May 2016

Roundwood Park


Brent Council drastically reduced its planting regime four years ago.  This was partly for climate change and partly for cost reasons.  One of the obvious places to potentially suffer would be the bedding plant areas by the entrance to Roundwood Park.  However, looking at this recent photo I took the weekend before last, it seems to me that they actually look quite good.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Keeping it Co-op

Good to see yesterday's vote to Keep it Co-op in Manchester.  I am told that the vote was 78% in favour, which is a hefty majority.  I hope this puts the proposal to bed.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Another Brent Council Investigation

Brent Council's Chief Executive has announced an investigation into the circumstances around the death of Cllr Tayo Oladapo and the strange way in which Brent Council seems to have handled it.

This is a scandal in which questions of timing are crucial.  Tayo's death was eventually announced by the Council on 11 March 2016.  The inquiry was announced at the Council AGM on 18 May 2016.  It has therefore taken the Chief Executive many weeks before concluding that an inquiry should be launched.  A cynic might wonder if the time is related to the appearance of the story in the Evening Standard

We have been here before of course.  In the notorious Rosemarie Clark case there was a prolonged period during what appeared to be efforts to suppress the story were made.  Once significant damage had been done, an inquiry was announced.  I was personally assured by Cllr Butt that the inquiry would deal with the case.  It turned out that the inquiry was specifically designed not to deal with it, which is said to have caused Cllr Mike Pavey some frustration.  In that case, the inquiry struck me as just a way for Cllr Butt to reduce the political heat.  Let us hope that this inquiry is not a similar tactic.

One of the things that guarantees that the Standards Committee inquiry will be inadequate is that it will only have a remit to deal with the Council.  I think both the Labour Party and the Labour Group need to take a long hard look to make sure that this kind of thing cannot happen again.

I say this as it seems to me that the whistleblower who revealed the whole thing to the Standard was put in a deeply unfair position, and the Labour Party (as an employer) needs to make sure it behaves properly towards its employees.  The Party and the Group also need to worry about accountability.  It seems highly likely to me that a lot of lying has been going on.  Leaving that to one side, Group officers appear not have been aware of what was going on when they really should have been.  To simply ignore all this is a deeply inadequate response.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Cllr James Allie and Ethical Standards

Cllr James Allie has been appointed to chair Brent Council's Standards Committee, which is ironic given his notoriously boorish behaviour.  This dates back many years.

I first came across him, when as Lead member he was invited to the first Scrutiny Committee I attended as a councillor. He was astonishingly rude _ speaking over people, claiming that they weren't allowed to ask him questions, refusing perfectly simple information.  He seemed to have no idea of how to behave normally.  Nothing of my experience of him in subsequent years has led me to change the low opinion I formed of him back then.  I imagine his chairmanship of the Standards Committee will simply be chaotic. 

What makes the choice even odder is his well known involvement in the Templar Vintners case.  This featured in both the local and the national press at the time.  However the most detailed description comes from a blog written at the time.  In that, and a subsequent blog, it appears that Cllr Allie's name was used to entice people into putting large sums of money into a fraudulent business. As the blog comments:

"A concerned client of Templar Vintners, who had paid for two cases – 2008 Ausone  and 2008 Lafite – received an email purporting to come from Allie but it is likely that it was sent by Moruthoane. It is thought that Allie had no active involvement in Templar Vintners and no charges were brought.
Clearly it was, at the least, careless and foolish of Allie to have  unwittingly allowed his good standing and reputation to help persuade potential customers to invest in a fraudulent scheme."
Anyone who follows the links will see an extraordinary story about how shamelessly people were ripped off in scams.  Cllr Allie does not appear to have been particularly alert in this saga.

It sounds like the monitoring of ethical standards in Brent Council will be handled with a light, even gossamer, touch.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Brent Council Whistleblowing

I referred yesterday to the Evening Standard story on the death of Cllr Tayo Oladapo.  This was followed up by Martin Francis, who published the whistleblower's email that was the main basis of the story.  Like Martin, I had been told of this verbally, but it all seemed very far fetched.  The email's author will be obvious to anyone who is active in Brent Labour Party from the content.  Fortunately, she can no longer be subject to Cllr Butt retribution as she is no longer employed by Brent Labour Party.

The timeline appears to be:

29 January 2016:    Tayo died after a long illness.
22 February 2016:  Brent Council extended the period during Tayo could remain a councillor without attending meetings for a further six months. 
2 March 2016:       Cllr Butt asks the whistleblower to investigate whether Cllr Tayo is alive as he believed that Tayo had died and "had been dead for about a month".
4 March 2016:       The whistleblower discovers that Tayo was dead by asking the hospital.  She informed the London Labour Party, who told Cllr Butt on 7 March.  This was the same date as a Labour Group meeting.  According to the whistleblower "But Cllr Butt did not even mention Tayo at this meeting. At this point I started to become seriously concerned that this extremely serious issue was not being handled appropriately."  I have since confirmed with some one at the meeting, that Cllr Butt simply told the Group that he had "lost touch" with Tayo.  This differs again from the line in the whistleblower's account, that Cllr Butt told a smaller pre-meeting that the London Labour Party had told him a Brent councillor had died but he didn't know which one (I find it hard to imagine why he didn't ask them for a name, a surprising lcak of curiosity).  At some point around this time the London Labour Party seem to have been given the impression that Cllr Butt had contacted the police, although he had not in fact done so. 
8 March 2016:     Cllr Butt is reported as telling another meeting where the whistleblower was present that Tayo was not dead.  
11 March 2016:   Tayo's death was officially announced.

It is hard to read this account without concluding that Cllr Butt was behaving in a seriously underhand manner that he involved giving radically different accounts to different people.  It raises questions for the Labour Party, the Labour Group and the Council.

The Labour Party
The Labour Party, as an employer, should worry about the position that the whistleblower was put in.  It sounds to me that she  exhibited significant moral courage in difficult circumstances, but she should have had more support.  

It also seems to me to give the regional party a major problem in working out how to deal with a senior elected figure who behaves in such a frankly bizarre manner as to deny that some one is dead when they have good reason to know that he was.  I don't think the Labour Party's procedures cover this sort of thing, probably because no one had ever imagined such a situation.

The Party should also be concerned that Cllr Butt had previously been in contact with the family, but they had decided to no longer communicate with him.  The Party  needs to find out why this is, and whether Cllr Butt has done something to bring the Labour Party into disrepute.

Finbally, I can't help wondering what the other officer, such as the Labour Whip, were doing in relation to this matter.

Brent Council
Brent Council should investigate whether the Council was knowingly misled on 22 February.  Although the sums of money are small, I would have thought that anyone who knew of Tayo's death but said nothing may have left themselves open to a charge of fraud.

I must admit I have never heard of a case as bizarre as this.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

More of the Same at Brent Council

Yesterday, Cllr Muhammed Butt was re-elected as Leader of Brent Labour Group, so we can all expect more of the same at Brent Council.  This is despite the late revelations in the Evening Standard regarding the death of Cllr Tayo Oladapo.  Cllr Maggie Mclennan is now Deputy Leader.

I am told that Cllr Sarah Marquis has scraped through as Planning Chair, so at least some one there will have some idea of what to do.