Sunday, 10 December 2017

Brent playing into the perception that developers have an unfair advantage in the planning process - Cllr Warren


The 'Twin Towers' approved by Brent Council on the Chesterfield House site

John Warren, the Brent Conservative Group leader has followed up Muhammed Butt's response to questions about his meetings with developers. LINK

Dear Muhammed,
                             Thank you for your response, and I am well aware that I should contact our chief legal officer, as and, when I have sufficient evidence to put forward a credible complaint.

1. It does not reflect well on our F.O.I. reporting that we cannot get basic information right. How many other F.O.I. responses are incorrect?

2. I still believe that L.G.A. guidance has not been followed.

3. I question why lead members - as opposed to officers -  need to attend so many meetings with developers, notably Quintain, Hub Group and R55. It plays into the widespread perception that their planning applications are given a completely unfair advantage in the whole planning process.
How many times have I heard objectors to developments say that "the dice is loaded against them?" in making very real and reasonable objections. Minavil House LINK and Chesterfield House LINK are glaring examples!

4. I do make comments of objections / support on planning applications. I would argue that all of my comments are on record - I do not have unrecorded meetings and I have never lobbied a planning committee member.

John Warren

Brent Movie Fun Day for children Saturday 16th December


Venue St Raphael's Chidlren Centre, Rainborough Close, London, NW10 OTS (Near IKEA)

NEU call on Brent Labour leadership to follow Corbyn's policy on privatisation of education ahead of Village school strike


From the National Education Union in Brent
 
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Staff at The Village School in Kingsbury, Brent have voted to take strike action against the proposal to turn the school into an academy, part of a Multi Academy Trust (MAT). Unless the proposal to become a MAT is withdrawn, NEU* staff will strike before Christmas.

John Roche, NEU ATL section Brent Secretary said:
The school passed its last Ofsted in with an ‘Outstanding’ judgement in all categories in October 2016 so clearly there is no educational reason to seek to become an academy. Furthermore, Brent Local Authority has put millions of pounds into this special school and now a state asset, our asset, is proposed to be privatised. Staff ask why is a Labour Authority not up in arms at this attempt to foist a Tory policy on one of their schools?

Lesley Gouldbourne, NEU NUT section Brent Secretary said:
The Government’s academy programme has proved a corrupt shambles that has done nothing to improve education and lacks accountability, in particular with finances. The Wakefield City Academy Trust (WCAT) has collapsed leaving 21 schools in chaos affecting 8500 children. Joining a MAT means all the school’s assets and any surpluses are handed over. A small group of unaccountable, unelected trustees control the finances. I am also finding it hard to understand why a Labour Council is not opposing the privatisation of this jewel in Brent's crown, especially at a time when it is taking other services back in-house. Cllr Butt has not replied to my email about this.

A report on BBC news in Leeds and West Yorkshire stated, “During a Wakefield Council meeting it was claimed that the Trust (WCAT) moved millions of pounds of school reserves into its centralised accounts prior to collapse. Leader Peter Box said he would be talking to the police about his concerns”

Hank Roberts, NEU ATL section London Executive said:
The NEU believes that the Labour Council leadership is not following the democratically established overwhelming majority of Brent Labour Party members that oppose the loss of more Council LA controlled schools to be handed over to be privately run by Trusts. This is clear from the resolutions passed unanimously at Brent LP meetings and the London Region of the LP. Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to the privatisation of state education has been made clear. Instead, it appears that they are doing the bidding of senior paid Council employees with an agenda.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Brent could lose Community Cardiology Service after February 2018 - the public have not been consulted




From Brent Patient Voice
 
We have learned that the Brent Clinical Commissioning Group  Community Cardiology Clinics at Wembley and Willesden are closing at the end of February. While we know that the CCG has been discussing the future of this service with local hospital trusts there is no information in the public domain. We have written as below to the CCG Chief Operating Officer, Sheik Auladin, to press for public consultation on this issue as required by the NHS Act
2006. A full response has been promised.

Dear Sheik,

BRENT COMMUNITY CARDIOLOGY SERVICE RE-COMMISSIONING: PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT AND CONSULTATION.

Peter Latham has not yet received any acknowledgement or reply to his letters to you dated 29 November and 5 December 2017 about the future of the Community Cardiology.

We have seen the email letter from Brent CCG dated 30 November 2017 notifying Brent GPs that the current NHS Brent Community Cardiology Service provided by Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust (RFL) from both Willesden Centre for Health and Care and Wembley Centre for Health and Care will come to an end on 28th February 2018 with no further extension. RFL are not accepting new patients for this service after 4 December 2017.

Brent Patient Voice are very concerned at the short time now left before the end of the current RFL provider contract for the Brent Community Cardiology Service on 28 February 2018. Brent CCG do not appear to have published anything about their proposals for commissioning such NHS Brent cardiology healthcare services after the end of this contract.

Clearly a number of questions arise. They include the location or locations of replacement clinics, whether equivalent resources will be transferred to new providers, what will happen to patient records and to cases in progress. This list is not exhaustive.

We feel that we must now formally remind Brent CCG that under section 14Z2 of the NHS Act 2006 as amended it would be unlawful for Brent CCG to develop or consider changes in the commissioning arrangements where the implementatiom of the proposals would have an impact on the manner in which the services are delivered to patients or the range of services
available to them without full public involvement and consultation by the CCG.

Please now arrange for someone to respond to acknowledge receipt of this letter and to say how and when Brent CCG propose to inform us as to their proposals for NHS Brent cardiology services after the end of the current RFL contract and for involving the public under the terms of s.14Z2 before final decisions are taken.

Yours sincerely

Robin Sharp
Chair Brent Patient Voice

Friday, 8 December 2017

Raised Voices for Palestine at Wembley Central station



Guest post by Raised Voices

On Thursday evening commuters at Wembley Central station were greeted with some lively songs in support of justice for Palestine. Raised Voices choir couldn’t have chosen a better day to gather at the station entrance to highlight the Palestinian cause. For simultaneously, out there in the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians themselves were raising three days of rage and rampage in response to Donald Trump’s controversial announcement that he would move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Raised Voices choir had obtained permission under Transport for London’s charities scheme to sing in this busy station for their pre-Christmas busking event to raise funds for the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. MAP is an energetic organization founded more than thirty years ago, with offices in Ramallah, Gaza and Lebanon as well as Islington, north London. It reaches out to the most vulnerable Palestinian communities with the aim of achieving the highest attainable standard of healthcare in those hostile circumstances. ‘Health and dignity for Palestinians’ is their motto.

Maternal and child health is a strong focus for MAP, including advice, support and training for neo-natal doctors and nurses, and treatment for malnourished youngsters. In the West Bank, MAP run a mobile clinic serving 31 Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley with primary health care, including ante- and post-natal services. In East Jerusalem the charity is supporting psychosocial activities for children mentally damaged by the tensions of that contested city.

To the Gaza Strip MAP send teams of orthopaedic and plastic surgeons to operate on individuals with the most serious and complex injuries, deliver essential equipment and train specialist Palestinian surgeons who are prevented from obtaining advanced training overseas. MAP procured and delivered a stunning half a million pounds-worth of surgical equipment for limb reconstruction surgery after Israel’s attacks on Gaza in 2014. 

For their part, Raised Voices singers are a member of a lively UK-wide movement of ‘campaigning choirs’, that come together annually in a ‘street choirs festival’. They meet every Thursday evening at the Doreen Bazell Community Centre in Chenies Street, St.Pancras, to develop and practise an impressive repertoire of songs that range across a number of urgent themes including opposition to militarism, war and the arms trade; welcome to refugees; and responsibility for the environment. 

Raised Voices are actively seeking new members, so if your New Year’s Resolution this time around is ‘getting active for change’ and if you love to sing but draw the line at Christmas carols, here’s your chance: roll up at the Doreen Bazell Centre at 7.30 one Thursday evening and give it a try.

Further information:  
info@raised-voices.co.uk     info@map.org.uk

Brent to amend Code of Conduct to cover councillors' meetings with developers

Readers will remember that ex Brent Council leader Paul Lorber raised some questions of his own, addressed to Brent CEO Carolyn Downs, about the meetinsgh with planners and the Alperton Masterplan.

The Q&A is below. Lorber's questions in italics. Some of Downs' answer cover several of the questions. Paul Lorber has responded to Downs' answers at the foot of this post.


Are you aware of these meetings, did you attend and did you authorise them?

 We are a Borough that is in need of homes for our residents and it is positive news that we have public, charitable and private sector partners that wish to work with us. To enable the building of these homes requires positive partnership working which means we have to engage with the private sector and have meaningful dialogue. In every authority that wishes to build homes there will be meetings with the private sector and the appropriate officers to attend including Chief Executives.

As the Chief Executive I do where appropriate attend meetings to ensure that I provide the required guidance. At the meetings there is discussion on the scheme and the appropriateness of it for the whole Borough. The meetings do discuss the nature of the scheme, they do not discuss financial matters as these are discussed separately and appropriately with Planning Officers.

The meetings do not involve members from the Planning Committee. They will involve the appropriate colleagues from Planning to ensure that we receive the professional advice when required. These meetings take place to ensure that I and all officers are working in the best interests of Brent residents.

You will be aware that the Alperton Masterplan was subject to public consultation, including with residents, and that the height of the buildings in the area were restricted "to up to 17 storeys".

When did the Council change the Masterplan or its policies to breach this commitment to local people and allow buildings of 26 storeys?

What exactly was the purpose of the meetings with the developer, who initiated them and was the height of the buildings they propose and any financial contributions discussed?

 You raised the matter of the masterplan.  The 2011 Alperton Masterplan SPD has not been changed. Whilst a material consideration in the consideration of planning applications in the area, it is now quite out of date and circumstances have changed, including the designation of the area as a Housing Zone. The committee considered the SPD during their assessment of the application, along with other policies, including the proximity to the station and high PTAL rating, and the significant proportion of affordable housing being provided in the scheme.

You will be aware that Brent Council subscribes to Open Government and that involvement of the Leader of the Council with Developers at a time when their Planning application, in breach of the Masterplan height limits, is being considered is of justified public interest.

What discussions about this Developers Plans took place in the regular Leadership/Officer meetings and how did any of these influence the planning process? Did any officers from Planning or any Councillors on the Planning Committee attend any of these meetings?

Please set out the protocol dealing with the issue of the Leader or any Councillors meeting Developers at a time when their major Planning applications are under consideration.

You asked about the protocol dealing with the Leader or any Councillors meeting with Developers.  The Planning Code of Conduct can be found in part 5 of the Council’s constitution, the latest version of which is on our website at http://democracy.brent.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=584&MId=4313&Ver=4&Info=1.  In addition other guidance has been given to members from time to time about this.  We are in the process of reviewing the Planning Code of Conduct, including adding a section specifically dealing with meeting with developers involving councillors who are not members of the Planning Committee. 

There is now a new Planning application for a 28 storey building on the site of the Boat pub in Bridgewater Road/Ealing Road. Can you advise what meetings involving Councillors or Officers took place discussing a proposal over 50% taller than the 17 storey Alperton Master Plan limit?

Additionally, you also asked whether I had attended, authorised or been aware of meetings with R55. I did not attend any. I was aware of the lunch. I do not need to authorise such meetings.  As long as the relevant officers are present, which they were, I would be comfortable for such meetings to proceed.

Paul Lorber's response:

Dear Ms Downs

Thank you for your reply.

I note your view about the need for positive engagement with Developers. They of course have their interests at heart and those of their investors - often based in offshore tax havens.

It is also a fact that getting planning permission for a 26 storey block is substantially more profitable than a 17 storey block. In fact the extra 9 storeys add a disproportionate amount to those profits.

The Alperton Masterplan which is still available via the Brent Council website makes a great deal from the fact that local people were consulted and contributed to the plan. It specifically highlights the fact that the maximum height of the buildings in the area would be up to 17 storeys.

Unless I have missed it there is no reference to residents being either consulted or informed that despite their past involvement it is now regarded as "out of date" and that Officers or Councillors on an obscure Committee decided that the 17 storey limit can be ditched and replaced by a 'Developers' free for all. What is the point of involving local people in helping to develop Planning. Policies in their area when an arbitrary decision to call them "out of date" enables key aspects, such as height of buildings, which residents regard as important, are over ridden in this way.

Is so called consultation in public participation in developing local plans in Brent just an empty gesture and a sham? 

Proximity to a station does not justify extra 9 storeys on top of an already very tall building. The residents who live in the Ealing Road area already endure problems including traffic jams and displacement parking from buildings with inadequate car parking spaces.

It is clear from the current Brent approach that the views of local residents count for very little. Perhaps the right and honest approach to deal with an "out of date" Alperton Masterplan would have been to update it with a proper involvement of local residents. 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Greenpeace hail spoof Coca Cola ad success





The Kilburn Times LINK reports that Camden Greenpeace protested outside Brent Civic Centre today ahead of the Coca Cola truck's visit to the LDO tomorrow.

Greenpeace are campaigning against the soft drink company's use of plastic bottles that are poluting the world oceans. This is what they had to say about their Christmas campaign against Coca Cola:


At the top of Coca-Cola’s Christmas list is the warm glow of good PR. From the nationwide tour of its iconic red truck to the hyped release of its famous Holidays are Coming advert, Coke’s marketing has gone into overdrive. But this year the brand is sharing the spotlight with our ocean plastics campaign. We’ve been riding the wave of Coca-Cola’s relentless advertising – and being seen in all the right places.

We’ve been popping up to call on the world’s biggest soft drinks company – the maker of  3,400 plastic bottles a second – to do our oceans a festive favour and ditch throwaway plastic. In the UK alone, 16 million plastic bottles a day aren’t recycled and many of these end up in our oceans. A glitzy ad campaign won’t change that: we need Coca-Cola to take responsibility for its plastic packaging at every step.


So here’s how our spoof of a well-known Christmas ad has wormed its way into the heart of Coke’s precious PR push.


Owning the conversation the day Coke released its Holidays are Coming advert 


The challenge for us was, how do we hijack Coke’s PR push when we can’t compete with its advertising budget? We decided to gate-crash Coca-Cola’s release with our own video launch hours before. There’s an annual flurry of Christmas adverts by big brands like Coke and we wanted to see if we could nab a bit of their newsworthiness and reach a bigger audience by taking over the hashtag. And thanks to you it looks like we succeeded. According to Blurrt, 66% of the conversation about Coca-Cola on the day we launched was taken by tweets mentioning Greenpeace UK. When you followed #HolidaysAreComing you discovered, “Greenpeace UK released an advert the same day as Coca-Cola, calling them out for the amount of recyclable plastic bottles dumped into the ocean each year.” Win!


Marketing media love our ad 


We wanted our video to reach Coca-Cola’s PR team directly, and calculated that the best way to do that was to make something that their industry bible might feature. We wanted our parody to replicate the slickness of the original and look like it could be the real thing. And it paid off – we made headlines like Soft focus, subversive unease: how Greenpeace parodied the iconic Coca-Cola Christmas ad and Lower budgets, higher impact? Our Christmas panel on the charity campaigns cutting through the crowd. And now it looks like we might have actually taken Coke’s place. PR Week highlighted ours as one of the season’s best adverts and we’ve made it into their top five Christmas campaigns! The favourite is out to a public vote here.


A global campaign for a global brand 


So far we’ve had over 3.5 million views on Facebook worldwide. It’s been shared from Australia to Africa, in the US and New Zealand, in Turkey, Israel and Germany, and many more. We might just have taken the shine off Coca-Cola’s Christmas. We’ve definitely heaped on the pressure for Coke to start 2018 with a new year’s resolution to seriously curb its plastic habit.


Join us here.


Brent CEO attempts to clarify errors in FoI response on Butt's meetings with developers

Carolyn Downs, Brent Council CEO, has replied to Philip Grant's email about Cllr Muhammed Butt's meetings with developers and the accuracy of the FoI answer provided to Andrew Linnie LINK:
Further to your email, all of the information that was provided in the FoI has been checked, and where any was found to be incorrect, we have established how the error occurred.


In the FOI response, two meetings were referenced;

1)      5th April 2017; this meeting actually took place on 5th April 2016*. It was attended by Cllr Butt and Aktar Choudhury. The Executive Assistant who checked through Mr Choudhury’s outlook records accidentally typed the wrong year, and the error was then carried forward into the FOI response. The email chain that lead to this error has been seen. The diaries of the attendees have been cross referenced to confirm the date the meeting actually took place.

2)      23rd May 2017 - this meeting took place at the time and date stated in the FOI, and the attendees were correctly stated**.

The FOI also highlighted hospitality received by Cllrs Butt and Tatler from R55’s representatives, and the declaration forms and the various diaries to confirm the details of this have been checked. The hospitality records show that this meal was registered on the 10th May 2017. The FoI incorrectly used this as the date that the hospitality was accepted. However, the form correctly declares that the meal took place on 9th May 2017, and attendee diary records confirm this.

There are no formal minutes of the discussions that took place. Aktar Choudhury was the only officer present at the meeting on 5th April 2016, and he confirms that no note exists of this meeting. Amar Dave did make a handwritten note of the meeting he and Aktar attended on 23rd May 2017, which I have read.
* The question arises as to if this meeting did indeed take place on 5th April 2016 why did the October 31st FoI response say that 'the meeting was also attended by Amar Dave (Strategic Director - Environment and Regeneration)' when Dave although appointed in March 2016 did not take up the post until June 2016?

 ** On the meeting that was held on May 23rd 2017, the day before the Planning Committee where Downs said that Dave made a handwritten note, why did the FoI response on October 31st not include those notes?

Andrew Linnie, who  made the FoI request said, 'So the meeting that raised eyebrows did in fact take place on that day, and though they have a handwritten note they failed to release it.  Doesn't paint any better a picture!'

Linnie confirmed that despite Butt's letter to Philip Grant of December 1st stating that 'clarification and an apology is in the process of being issued' LINK as the author of the FoI he has still not heard anything from the Council.
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It is not only May's government that is a shambles.

Brent Central CLP urge support for anti-academisation strike at The Village School

Brent Central Constituency Labour Party has sent the following message to members. Also see the report on page 10 of the current Kilburn Times LINK
The Village School, currently a Local Authority school, provides an excellent education for pupils in Brent with complex special educational needs, receiving 'outstanding' in all areas in its last Ofsted inpsection last year. It has a high staff-to-child ratio with highly experienced staff who are committed to ensuring that every child reaches their full potential.

That philosophy is under threat, as the school management has decided the school should become an academy as part of a Multi Academy Trust (MAT). An academy is run as a private business using taxpayers money. This Tory Government wants to privatise all of education. The staff and parents at the school oppose this move, but the management are pressing ahead with their plans and asking the Department for Education to approve this privatisation in the New Year.

Now the staff need your support to make the management put the needs of the children first. Around 100 staff will be taking strike action next Thursday 14th December, and there will be a protest outside the school gates in the morning to show the level of support in the community for keeping the school in the local authority.

Come along on Thursday 14th December to join the protestors any time from 07:30 to 09:30 at the Stag Lane pedestrian entrance (Kingsbury, London NW9 0JY). Brent Central Labour Party’s Executive Committee supports this strike action and we hope to see many of you there too!
The Village School MAT proposal was discussed at the Teachers Joint Consultative Committee on November 29th and although Minutes are not published for this committee I expect that strong opposition to academisation was voiced by teacher representatives.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Brent Council take on the Coca Cola sugary drinks juggernaut amidst fear for children's health



The Coca Cola truck has become a regular feature of Christmas at the London Design Outlet in Wembley Park but concern has been voiced about the marketing of sugar drinks aimed at children in an era of rising rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.  LINK

This year rather than joining in publicising the visit due on Friday,  Brent Council, in David and Goliath mode, have written to Coca Cola asking them to limit their giving out of free drinks to diet and zero sugar drinks instead of the usual Coke that has the equivalent of 9 teaspoonfuls of sugar in a 330ml can. 

In pleading for the multi-national company, who long ago incorporated Santa Claus into their advertising, to act responsibly for the benefit of children, Brent Council point to the fact that nearly half of children in the borough aged 11 are overweight or obese. Although tooth decay in the borough have been reduced recently there is still much to do to tackle the problem.

Coca Cola all part of consumerism for the LDO


Some councils and health authorities have called for the trucks to be banned completely.Accompanied by lights and music, in vivid red, they are clearly aimed at children who find their lure irresistible.


Cllr Krupesh Hirani, Brent Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing said:

It’s great to see Coca-Cola getting into the festive spirit once again. However, in a borough where nearly half of 11-year-olds are overweight there is an obvious concern that there is this focus on encouraging children to consume what is a highly-sugary drink.

Mums and dads in Brent have enough of a challenge to keep their children healthy and we hope that with a little bit of responsible marketing and one small change, Coca-Cola can be a part of the solution to Brent’s obesity issues, rather than part of the problem.

With nine teaspoons of sugar in each 330ml can of Coca-Cola, their flagship product clearly has a negative impact on people’s health. With obesity and diabetes levels so high in the Borough, we are calling on Coca Cola to stop promoting their sugary drinks to our residents. They are entitled to market their products and we are calling on them to promote their diet and zero sugar drinks instead.

Sewer works likely to continue into the new year

Brent Council, answering a query from a local resident, have confirmed the revised end date for the Wembley High Road sewer works as December 22nd but added that it was likely that the works would continue into the new year.

Thames Water are currently excavating another shaft over the sewer and the lateral connection to the former Brent House which should be completed by Thursday of this week. Thames Water will then need to continue to tunnel towards Wembley Triangle to a point where there is no more concrete in the sewer.

When all concrete has been been removed the backfill and reinstatement process is expected to take up to three weeks to complete.

The Council added that they are working with Thames Water to ensure these works are completed as soon as possible. They assured the resident that Thames Water is working seven days a week but as the majority of the works are underground it may look as if there is not much activity on the surface. Thames Water have been instructed to update their Variable Message Signage to reflect the new revised date.

Responding to a question about the reinstatement of the traffic island and trees formerly on the site Brent said that the island, removed for these works, will not be replaced as there have been long term plans to remove it. It has been decided to take the opportunity to remove the island at no cost to the council. The trees that had to be removed can be replaced at the expense of Thames Water who will in turn recharge whoever is repsonsible for the concrete in the sewer.

Parking restrictions on Park Lane imposed because of the works and the traffic diversion have now been extendeduntil the sewer works are completed.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Cllr. Butt’s meetings with developer – was Brent’s FoI response True or False?

A guest post by Philip Grant

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A recent blog LINK  published the Council Leader’s reply to questions raised by Cllr. Warren about meetings Cllr. Butt had with a developer, as disclosed by a Brent Council Freedom of Information Act (FoI) response.

Cllr. Butt claimed that the FoI response about meetings in April and May 2017 was ‘an error’, and that these meetings took place ‘at least a year earlier’. If his claim is correct, one or more Council officers have been incompetent, at best, and the confidence that residents should be able to have in the reliability of Brent’s FoI system is undermined.

Carolyn Downs, as Brent’s Chief Executive, is responsible for ensuring that the Council delivers its services efficiently. She also has a responsibility to defend her staff, if they have been wrongly criticised. This is the text of an email I have sent to her, in order to establish the facts:

Leader's meetings FoI response - True or False?

Dear Ms Downs,

Further to our recent correspondence over the local newspaper article on 23 November, "Why did leader meet developers?" the text of Cllr. Warren's questions to Cllr. Butt arising from it, and the Council Leader's reply, are in the public domain - see LINK; I am writing to you to request your urgent action on, and reply to, the serious concern raised by this statement in his reply by Cllr. Butt:
 
'An error was made in responding to the FOI on which your questions are based. The meetings to which you refer occurred at least a year earlier than reported.'

The 'FOI' referred to was issued by Brent Council on 31 October 2017, with the reference: 8353800, and the copy of it which I have seen is embedded as a document in a blog article at LINK.

The reply from Cllr. Butt quoted above is scarcely credible, and I have said so publicly in a comment which explains why I believe that is the case. I attach a copy of the text of that comment, for your information, and that of Cllrs. Butt and Warren, and your Chief Legal Officer, Debra Norman, to whom I am copying this email.

Cllr. Butt has claimed that a Brent Council officer has issued an incorrect response to a Freedom of Information Act request. I am asking you, as Brent's Chief Executive, and Head of Paid Service, whether that claim is true or false.

The FoI letter of 31 October was quite clear. In response to the request:

'Please provide details including the date, time, location, attendees, and minutes (if taken) of any meetings between any Brent Councillor(s) and any representative(s) of the following organisations, between 2012 and now: A. R55 (Developers) B. Colliers International C. HKDD Properties Ltd. D. SF Planning Limited.'
 
the information given was:

'In terms of meetings between councillors and any of the organisations listed the only ones I am able to confirm as having taken place are as follows:

· Wednesday 5 April 2017 10:30-11:30am – Councillor Butt (Leader of the Council) met with representatives from Terrapin Communications and their client R55. This meeting was also attended by Amar Dave (Strategic Director – Environment & Regeneration) and Aktar Choudhury (Operational Director – Regeneration).

· Tuesday 23 May 2017 10:15-11:15am – Councillor Butt (Leader of the Council) and Councillor Tatler (Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Growth, Employment and Skills) met with representatives from Colliers International. This meeting was also attended by Amar Dave (Strategic Director – Environment & Regeneration).

No minutes were produced for either of these meetings.'

In view of the details given of dates, times and attendees, (and there being no record of any other such meetings with the organisations listed in the FoI request since 2012), this information must have been researched by reference to at least some of the people who attended the meetings detailed, and their diaries. Yet Cllr. Butt now claims that the meetings listed did not take place, or that if they did, they 'occurred at least a year earlier than reported' in the Council's FoI response.

I would ask that you, or a trusted colleague, should check personally:

  with the officer or officers responsible for issuing the FoI response (ref: 8353800) of 31 October 2017 as to the source(s) of the information which gave rise to that response, and whether you consider the information given in that response to be reliable and correc

and,
 
·       with your senior officers, Amar Dave and Aktar Choudhury, and obtain from them details (including date, time and persons present) of any meetings which they have held with the developers R55, or any of their representatives, at which Cllr. Butt was also present, and for any notes made of discussions at those meetings.

I would then ask that you make those details publicly available, so that concerned local people, and the press and blog site which have reported this matter, can know what confidence they can have in the accuracy of Brent Council's handling of Freedom of Information Act requests. 

Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you at an early date. Best wishes,

Philip Grant.

When I receive a reply, I will make it publicly available, as I believe it is important for this “True or False?” question to be resolved openly and transparently.

If you are wondering why it matters when the meetings took place, here is my answer. 

·      If the meetings ‘occurred at least a year earlier than reported’, that would be before the developer, R55, submitted its planning application for the Minavil House site. Cllr. Butt’s explanation that the ‘meetings were to discuss much needed inward investment and the building of essential new homes’ could be a reasonable one (even though notes should still have been taken of the points discussed, in line with the LGA guidelines).

·      If the meetings took place in April and May 2017, with the last of them the day before R55’s application was approved by Planning Committee, then Cllr. Butt may well have misled Cllr. Warren, the Council and the people of Brent. If that proves to be the case, the public can rightly be concerned that he may be trying to cover-up what happened at those meetings (at which notes should have been taken under the LGA’s guidance on “Probity in Planning for councillors and officers”).

Philip Grant