Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Muhammed Butt accused of tricking Labour councillors on Scrutiny

James Powney, ex Brent Labour councillor, has returned to the matter of the changes in Scrutiny voted through by the Full Council on June 4th with no comments or questions from Labour backbenchers.

Here is an extract from his hard-hitting posting about the Labour Group meeting LINK:
Neither Cllr Butt nor anyone else chose to mention the drastic changes to the Council Constitution which he at least must have known about.

Why therefore did the entire Labour Group simply nod them through?  I asked a councillor this, and was told that no one in the Labour Group had chosen to read the changes and therefore they did not really know what they were voting on.  If true, that statement is a fairly damning comment on the thoroughness with which councillors prepare for meetings.  When the Tories pointed out the content of the rule changes, the inevitable partisan instincts kicked in and the Labour councillors all voted for them.

Had I been there I would have argued for deferral on the grounds that most of the councillors didn't understand what they were being asked to vote for because parts (eg describing scrutiny arrangements) are just obscure, and parts have sersious implicationms which new councillors simply won't understand until they are given some sort of grounding in Council governance.

Cllr Butt has effectively tricked his colleagues.  I hope they return to the issue at a later date, when they have had time to think about it.
The claim that 'no one in the Labour Group had chosen to read the changes' is interesting. The day before the Full Council I emailed a selection of councillors from all parties with the following message:
Dear Councillor,

First of all congratulations on your election as a Councillor for 2014-18.  With a Council returned with a large majority it is important that there is effective scrutiny in place with backbenchers playing a full part. Effective scrutiny protects against bad decision making and also protects against the damage to the Council's reputation that could be caused by poor decision making.

There has been extensive coverage on Wembley Matters of the proposed changes tabled for Wednesday which have not had full discussion, tabled as they are just two weeks after the election and with many new councillors elected.

Effective scrutiny is a matter for all political parties on the Council and I suggest that you read the pieces below and consider referring back the proposals to allow for the provision of more details and to allow for proper discussion.

Martin Francis

The only councillor who really questioned the changes and pointed out the issues was John Warren, leader of the Brondesbury Park Conservative Group.

I understand that disquiet is now developing in the Labour Group with newly elected councillors complaining about the lack of discussion beforehand. A source suggests that there is a possibility of a review although there may be some constitutional impediment to the reversal of a policy recently adopted by Full Council.


Unknown said...

I respect James Powney for publishing this and I'm glad that you have replicated it here for prosperity (just in case he has pressures to remove it). Its just a shame that it has taken leaving office for him to find his voice.

What is particularly interesting for me in his blog is the idea of being 'tricked'.
Powney was one of the great defenders of the indefensible - Brent Labour Libraries Policy.
Powney's loyalty to the cause was so transparent as he clasped for every possible tenuous argument in favour, including his research around Mark Twain. Yet his valiant effort for the Brent Labour Cause went unrecognised and he was de-selected. I wonder if upon reflection Powney now feels 'tricked' as the loyalty shown did not go two ways.

This is something that the 'new' - (new) old Labour councillors should not forget whilst sitting on the backbenches. They need to work out who they really represent, the electorate, the Whip or their 'leader' as unless they stand up for what they believe in and gain the respect of the electorate they will be replaceable, just like Powney has found out to his detriment. On this occasion the councillors were forewarned and forearmed with knowledge provided by Martin, yet chose to ignore it. Shame.

Scott Bartle.

(I made a similar comment on Powney's blog that probably won't get published due to the issue reported by WembleyMatters previously over at http://wembleymatters.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/believing-james-powney.html)

Nan Tewari said...

There is an optimistic assumption in Martin's letter to councillors that they can actually be bothered. I suspect that the vast majority of them will prove to be too lazy to read papers, never mind inquiring into them. The one or two who understand what they have been elected for, will inevitable find it hard to cope with being the only ones ever raising questions.

Officials in any part of the public sector are highly literate in the language of Gobbledegook and councillors play into their hands by failing to demand what the Gobbledegook actually means. And thus is council policy made.

A local resident said to me this evening that there was once an expectation that paid officials of public bodies were expected to reside in the area they worked for because they would have a vested interest in the area being well run.

Anonymous said...

It has to be asked of Muhammed Butt - did he play a fast one with residents regarding the KRL fraudulent email affair for short-term pre-election political reasons? It was on the night of 31 January this year that Mo Butt tweeted that the police had changed their minds and resumed their investigation in to the still-unresolved sordid email business. He sounded angry that the the matter had ever been dropped. But today, Cllr Butt struck a different tone when he failed to support deferral of the developer's latest planning application despite the active police investigation, weakly telling the BKT that the inquiry referred to a different application. Different application maybe, but the same developer - that the Brent Council leader failed to make clear. Why won't the leader stand up for the obviously correct thing to do? Hopefully, he'll defend his stance on this blog.

As others have oft-repeated - no convincing case has been made for hearing the latest planning application while the police are conducting a live investigation in to what seems like an attempt to sway the previous planning committee in favour of the developer's original scheme. Charges may yet be pressed, so why not let the police complete their investigation?

Martin Francis said...

UPDATE BrentLabour Party sources say that it appears Muhammed Butt's plan to have Labour standing orders changed to make re-election of leader every four years, instead of annually as at present, has been quietly dropped. Also suggestion that there may be a challenge to him next year.

Anonymous said...

So the civic-centre coup has failed. Wonder who advised that installing a leader for four years was hardly putting forward one, let alone two democratic feet? And what of Ms Gilbert? Has her job been advertised yet, or is she to continue as 'interim' CE a while longer? Ms Gilbert unwaveringly favours the KRL planning application first, police report second tack in respect of the fraudulent email biz. Seems Cllr Butt doesn't want to challenge that stance.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Master Miller's been at it again with his Twitter bio - 'socialist' has now been reinserted after a commentator on a previous WM blog noted he'd dropped it, along with his self-definition as a 'realist'. Cllr Tom now describes himself as 'Charity fundraiser & socialist. Labour Cllr for Willesden Green, Hendon GMB member. For transformative politics, effective campaigns, obscure punk bands'. 'Transformative politics' - wonder what he means by that practicably obscure (sic) phrase? Seems he's a regular reader of WM, though. Well-done, Martin.

Anonymous said...

So Brent Labour are as divided as the tories. Whilst the executive meets there is plotting being done. At least for once the LibDems are not divided, but Cllr Carr could always defect - its not done Cllr Shaw any harm clearly!

Any likely suspects?

Anonymous said...

charity fundraiser? is he really one of those chuggers in the florescent bibs trying to scam bank details off the public to feed a charity kingpin that squeezes peoples donations for profit?

Anonymous said...

Why has the first scrutiny meeting been cancelled??