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Sunday, 8 November 2009

How Far Does Nepotism Extend Beyond Copland?

The scandal at Copland School continues. Sir Alan Davies and the HR head have stepped down rather than appear at a disciplinary hearing. Deputy Head Richard Evans (and former Tory parliamentary candidate in Hendon) has been dismissed. Given the size of the amounts involved, how did they get away with it for so long?

One reason might be that no one at Brent Council was desparately keen to investigate them. For twenty years there has been a trend towards making schools more independent, and having fewer and fewer checks by the local authority. But I also get the impression that the Lib Dem / Tory Executive on Brent Council aren't interested in safeguarding money in schools.

Back in July, Labour put forward a motion at Full Council because we were worried that some of the stuff that has happened in Copland may be going on at other schools. In particular, there are rumours of nepotism elsewhere in the Borough. The Tories and Liberal Democrats combined to voted against it. I have appended the full text below. Can anyone see anything objectionable?

I suspect that the reason they voted it down is that they know that there is malpractice, and they don't want it to come out before the local elections. That would also explain the release of the news at 17.27 on Wednesday evening, well past the deadline for this week's local newspapers.

After all, the Copland scandal makes most of the MP's expenses misdoings look trivial. If similar scandals are going on across Brent during the Liberal Democrats' watch, what does that say about their competence or value for money?

The Full Text of the Labour Motion

Standards in Brent schools
This Council resolves to conduct an investigation into all primary and secondary schools and children’s centres in Brent, to discover:

1. Whether any of them use special bonus payments to reward staff and, if so, the level of remuneration and criteria for judgement;

2. Whether any school or children centre employees are related to senior staff;

3. Whether any senior school staff members have family or other close relationships linking them to companies that have contracts with the school.

We further resolve to survey all primary and secondary schools and children’s centres to detail their mechanisms for financial scrutiny by the governors, as well as mechanisms for governors and school employees involved in financial decisions to disclose any financial or related party interests.
We also resolve that the investigation should outline what arrangements the Children and Families Department has for scrutinising school and children centres expenditure to ensure that it is appropriate and value for money.
Finally, we resolve that all of the above information should be made available to the public in a report to be published by 15 September 2009.

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