Tuesday 30 September 2014

New free schools announced for Brent, Ealing and Harrow

The Government today announced 35 new free schools which are due to open in Sepotember 2015 although most of them do not yet have sites.

The blurb is from the DfE, not me.  I presume the Wembley Ark Primary is on the Copland site, now Ark Elvin, although it was not on the plans that went before the Council. Elsley Primary School is close by.

Gladstone and Gateway Secondary Free Schools failed to open last month as planned because they were unable to secure a building. Children had to go to other Brent secondary schools. Michaela has opened but building work is still in progress around the children.

Katharine Birbalsingh has started the process of bidding for a Michaela Primary Free School.

ARK Wembley Primary Academy, Brent, London

  • primary (ages 4 to 11), 630 places (plus 60 in nursery)
ARK Wembley Primary Academy will be a mixed primary that will open in 2016 and build to full capacity of 630 pupils by 2022. The school will also have a 60 place nursery for 2- and 3-year-olds. ARK already runs 27 free schools and academies and will also open a free school in Ealing in 2017. ARK has a track record of running successful academies and free schools and the school will follow the successful ARK model by focusing on pupil success, with a commitment to developing aspirations and motivating pupils to achieve no matter what their background or prior attainment.

One Degree Academy, Brent, London

  • all through (ages 4 to 18) 420 primary places, 300 secondary places, 120 post-16 places
The One Degree Academy, for 840 4- to 18-year-olds, has been put forward by the team behind the tried and tested One Degree Programme in Brent. The programme mentors local young people to develop their self-belief and transform their academic performance. The school will have very high expectations and aspirations for its students. The school’s curriculum will give students a global perspective and will make imaginative use of technology to enhance their learning.

ARK Ealing Academy, Ealing, London

  • secondary school (ages 11 to 19), 900 secondary places, 300 post-16 places
ARK Ealing Academy will be a mixed school in Ealing, London. The school will open in 2017 and will eventually include a 300-place sixth form. ARK is a multi-academy sponsor with a track record of running successful academies and free schools. The school will follow the successful ARK model by having a strong focus on pupil success, a commitment to developing and building on aspirations, and motivating pupils to achieve regardless of their background or prior attainment.

North Twyford Church of England High School, Ealing, London

  • secondary (ages 11 to 18), 1000 secondary places, 350 post-16 places
The trust that runs the popular and ‘outstanding’ Twyford C of E High School North is to open a new school in Ealing that will provide a rigorous academic education. All pupils will follow a core programme of English, maths, science, languages, history, geography and RE. Pupils will have longer afternoons for sport and creative programmes and will all have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. The school will have the same principles of embedding a positive ethos within a distinctively Christian framework of values while applying a non-faith, open admissions policy.

In Harrow secondary academies are combining to set up a primary school:

Harrow View Primary School, Harrow, London

  • primary (ages 3 to 11), 630 places (plus 26 nursery places), 12 special educational needs places
7 successful Harrow academies:
  • Bentley Wood High School
  • Canons High School
  • Harrow High School
  • Hatch End High School
  • Nower Hill High School
  • Park High School
  • Rooks Heath College
are collaborating to extend their high standards by setting up a brand new primary school. Harrow View Primary School will serve a new community in the Harrow View area which is being constructed on the old Kodak site. The proposed school will also include a 26 place nursery and specialist provision to support 12 pupils with autistic spectrum disorders in a mainstream setting.

The same schools, with the addition of Whitmore are setting up a High School in Pinner

Pinner High School, Harrow, London

  • secondary school (ages 11 to 18), 900 mainstream places, 240 post-16 places, 12 special educational needs places
8 successful Harrow schools:
  • Bentley Wood High School
  • Canons High School
  • Harrow High School
  • Hatch End High School
  • Nower Hill High School
  • Park High School
  • Whitmore School
  • Rooks Heath College
are collaborating to extend their high standards by setting up a brand new community secondary school. The new school will build on the high academic standards achieved at these popular schools and create 1,152 places. The proposed school will also offer specialist provision for twelve pupils with autistic spectrum disorders, sustaining their education in a mainstream setting with specialised support and facilities.

Brent Council case gets curiouser and curiouser

The Employment Tribunal Judgement and papers referred to Cara Davani's 'micro-management' at Brent Council.

It was  interesting therefore that I received an email this morning in response to one I had sent to Brent Communications Team. I had asked if the salaries of Christine Gilbert and Cara Davani were still being paid into private companies.

The reply, although unsigned, came with the sender: Cara Davani brent.foi@mail.icasework.com

It said that my request would be forwarded to the relevant department who would contact me shortly.

An FoI request about Brent's decision to appeal against the Employment Tribunal judgement, submitted independently by another person interested in the case, was also acknowledged in an unsigned email which identified the sender as Cara Davani.

All a bit odd. Is Cara Davani apart from HR now in charge of Freedom of Information requests...about matters relating to herself?

Eric Pickles decides NOT to intervene in Kensal Rise Library case

Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has  decided NOT to intervene in the case of the Kensal Rise Library Planning application.  The Brent  Planning Committee decision had been the subject of a call-in request by a member of the public. LINK

The National Planning Casework Unit said:
The Secretary of State has carefully considered this case against call-in policy, as set out in the Written Ministerial Statement by Nick Boles on 26 October 2012. The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively. The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.

In deciding whether to call in this application, the Secretary of State has considered his policy on calling in planning applications. This policy gives examples of issues which may lead him to conclude, in his opinion that the application should be called in. The Secretary of State has decided, having regard to this policy, not to call in this application. He is content that it should be determined by the local planning authority.

In considering whether to exercise the discretion to call in this application, the secretary of State has not considered the matter of whether this application is EPA Development for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011.  The local planning authority responsible for determining this application remains the relevant authority responsible for considering whether these Regulations apply to this proposed development and, if so, for ensuring that the requirements of the Regulations are complied with.

In relation to the comments that it is considered the local planning authority of Brent has incorrectly and arbitrarily applied the regulations of the Localism Act 2011 to this proposal and its progression, the Government is concerned that all local authorities should administer the planning system with utmost propriety, However, authorities are independent of central government and are responsible for their actions and decisions to the local electorate, their Auditor and, ultimately, the courts. Ministers have no statutory duty or powers to supervise the general propriety of individual authorities and, therefore, I cannot  comment on London Borough of Brent Council's handling of this matter.
The letter went on to suggest contacting the Council's Monitoring or Complaints officer stating:
It is his or her duty to report to the full council any cases where he or she thinks that the council, one of its committees, sub-committees  or officers is about to or has done something unlawful, improper, or which would constitute maladministration.
They also suggested an approach to the Local Government Ombudsman if this is within 6 months of the original complaint being lodged with the local authority, although they often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure.

Monday 29 September 2014

Brent's Corporate Management Team - looking after each other

Brent Green Party and Brent Trades Union Council in their calls for an independent investigation into Brent Council have included an investigation into previous business and employment relationships of senior officers.

Christine Gilbert is an ex-Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Counci and ex-chief of Ofsted. She became Interim Chief Executive of Brent Council following the row between Muhammed Butt (who had ousted former leader Ann John) and the then Chief Executive Gareth Daniel.

Daniel evetually left with a payment of £200,702.

In the course of the row three members of Brent's Corporate Management Team had written in Daniel's defence.

Clive Heaphy,  Chief Finance Officer of Brent Council, formerly Interim Director of Finance at Ofsted  employed Cara Davani on a £700 a day contract as Interim Head of HR. She was previously Director of Human Resources at Tower Hamlets Council and had worked as a consultant for Ofsted

Cara Davani was originally contracted with Brent Council by Heaphy, and her fees paid through Cara Davani Ltd., although the Brent Audit investigation found no written contract existed. Davani's initial engagement was from March 2012 to 31st October 2012.

Cara Davani drew up Christine Gilbert's contract which included payment into her private companty Christine Gilbert Associates in September 2012. She earned £100,000 in six months and later took up an additional job in Haringey. LINK

Clive Heaphy who had been suspended in August 2012 as Chief Finance Officer of Brent Council on grounds, later withdrawn, of gross misconduct, left the Council shortly after Daniel's departure and the day before Christine Gilbert's appointment as Acting Chief Executive. She took up the post officially on November 5th 2012.

Heaphy left with a payment of £140,508.

Fiona Ledden, Head of Legal and Procurement, wrote the report that recommended to the Council that Christine Gilbert continue as Interim Chief Executive until after the 2014 local elections.

Fiona Ledden prevented me from speaking to Brent Council on the issue of the appointment of a permanent Chief Executive. Correspondence about whether she was correct in that decision continues.

Christine Gilbert will continue as Interim Chief Executive during the Autum and Spring according to Muhammed Butt so that she can work on the new Borough Plan.

A  recruitment process for a permananent Chief Executive will begin in 2015.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Did Senior Brent Council officers allow Cara Davani to continue her victimisation of council worker?

With Philip Grant's permission, I am re-posting comments which he has made on the Kilburn Times website, in response to Brent's decision to appeal against the employment tribunal judgement. LINK

Comments made by Philip Grant in response to the online Brent & Kilburn Times story about Brent’s appeal against the employment tribunal appeal decision:
1.  I agree that Brent Council should not be appealing against the Employment Tribunal judgement. An appeal can only be taken on points of law, and cannot overturn the tribunal’s findings of fact, unless no reasonable person could have made those findings on the basis of the evidence before them. The tribunal had very clear evidence, which it set out fully in the judgement, to show that Rosemarie Clarke was victimised by Cara Davani, as a direct result of having made a formal complaint about being bullied by her, and that other senior officers in the Council did not do what they should have done to protect Rosemarie from that bullying and victimisation. 
Even if Brent was to win an appeal, on some legal technicality, against being found guilty of “racial discrimination” as an aggravating feature in its victimisation of a former employee (who for years had played a key part in raising Brent’s status as an “Investor in People”), that victimisation remains a proven fact. By appealing against the tribunal judgement, rather than taking Ms Davani’s actions of ‘victimisation, harassment or bullying extremely seriously’ as it claims it does with all such allegations in its statement, Brent Council is continuing its victimisation of Rosemarie Clarke. 
The Council thinks that its deep pockets will allow it to pay the fees of top barristers to present its appeal, and make no mistake, we are talking of fees and costs well into six figures here. But the money in those ‘deep pockets’ is your money and mine, from Council Tax and Income Tax, every pound of which is needed to provide services for people in Brent. It should certainly not be spent on trying to cover up the actions and protect the reputation of Brent’s Director of Human Resources, Cara Davani.
2. This may seem strange, coming from someone who has criticised Brent’s handling of the Rosemarie Clarke employment tribunal case, but it is possible that her victimisation by senior Brent Council officers was not a result of racial discrimination. If that is the case, why does the tribunal judgement, at para.313, say: ‘The tribunal finds that the claimant has suffered discrimination on the protected characteristic of race, victimisation and was constructively dismissed’?
Evidence showed that a senior white male employee, who had been suspended by Brent for alleged gross misconduct in 2012, had the disciplinary proceedings against him dropped after he resigned. Rosemarie, a black female employee, had resigned in April 2013 after being suspended by Brent at the end of February, but the Council carried on with the disciplinary proceedings, finding her guilty (in her absence, and after she had left their employment) of gross misconduct on 31 July 2013. As it had been proved to the tribunal that there was a distinction between the Brent’s treatment of the two comparable cases, it was then up to the Council to show a valid reason for the difference.
Brent could not show a valid reason for the difference. Brent gave ‘an account as to why disciplinary action was not pursued against Mr H after his resignation, being as to his professional relationship with [an] accountancy body, having implications on his ability to work in the future’. The tribunal said that ‘this does not account for the reason why action was continued against [Ms Clarke] so as to offer an explanation showing that race was not in issue, the continuation and conclusion of disciplinary action having similar employment consequences for both parties.’ In these circumstances, the tribunal found that Rosemarie ‘was less favourably treated because of her race …’ to be ‘… proved on the failure of [Brent Council] to show that race was not a consideration.’ (Paras. 249 and 250 of the judgement). 
Brent Council has been “found guilty” of racial discrimination in this case, and wants to clear its name. If race did not play a part in the decision to continue disciplinary action against Rosemarie Clarke after she had resigned, what was the reason for the decision, and who made it? Here is what the tribunal judgement says at para. 240:
‘With regards to the decision being taken to pursue disciplinary action against the claimant, following the termination of her employment, the respondents [Brent Council and Cara Davani] have been unable to state by whom or when that decision was made. Indeed, by the evidence before the tribunal a decision was taken following a meeting between Ms Cleary [a Brent HR Manager] and Ms Ledden [Brent’s Legal Director]. In her oral evidence, Ms Ledden confirmed that Ms Cleary’s role at the meeting was an advisory one only, but also that she, Ms Ledden, had not made the decision either. Ms Ledden could not identify who had made the decision.’
The tribunal clearly found the evidence reported here scarcely credible, as any reasonable person would. Despite claiming not to know who had made such an important decision, Brent’s most senior legal officer chaired the meeting on 31 July 2013 which implemented that decision, and found Rosemarie “guilty” of gross misconduct. What was the “misconduct” which she had been suspended for? The letter to her on 26 February 2013, supposedly written by the Director of her department, but emailed to her by Cara Davani, said: ‘It has been alleged that you maybe liable for gross misconduct in respect of your failure to follow reasonable management instructions.’ The ‘instructions’ had been given by Ms Davani, who Ms Clarke had lodged a formal complaint against for bullying, and the tribunal found that they had not been ‘reasonable’.
So, what was the reason why Brent Council victimised Rosemarie Clarke? I don’t know Ms Clarke, and was not involved in any of what happened at the Council over this matter at the time, but based on the very detailed evidence set out in the Employment Tribunal judgement this is my opinion. 
·      The primary reason appears to be the personal animosity of Cara Davani, after Rosemarie Clarke had the courage to complain in December 2012 about the bullying and harassment she felt she was receiving from her line manager. 
·      Rather than protecting Rosemarie in this situation, as Brent’s HR procedures set out that they should, other Senior Officers at the Council (up to, and including, the Chief Executive) did not follow those procedures, and allowed Cara Davani to continue her victimisation.
·      When, in June 2013, Rosemarie made a claim against Brent Council to the Employment Tribunal, Ms Davani and the other officers involved (probably including Brent’s Senior Employment Lawyer, who, it appears, is also Ms Davani’s partner) were determined to do all they could to undermine that claim.
·      One way they saw of doing this was to carry on with the “gross misconduct” proceedings, even after Rosemarie had left Brent’s employment, so that they could claim that she would have been sacked, even if she had not resigned.
·      Alternatively, or in addition to this, the continuation of the disciplinary action was a result of Ms Davani’s personal wish to do as much damage as possible to Rosemarie’s future employment prospects, by ensuring that any “reference” she was given by Brent would say that she had been found guilty of gross misconduct during her employment with the Council.
If I am right, then Brent Council would do better to admit the real reason, and make clear that it was not guilty of racial discrimination by taking strong and appropriate action against the Senior Officers who were responsible for Rosemarie’s victimisation, and by ensuring that Rosemarie is properly compensated for the harm she has suffered at the hands of those Officers.

Saturday 27 September 2014

London Greens support the Focus E15 Mothers campaign for social housing


The London Green Party is backing the Focus E15 Mothers group, and calls on Newham Council to:

1. Immediately stop persecuting the squatters, and to enable them to live in the empty homes on short-life contracts for the time being, working with them to access funds to bring the empty homes into use.

2. Work with the residents group 'Carpenters Against Regeneration Plans' and Focus E15 Mothers to develop a plan for the comprehensive refurbishment of the estate, providing them with secure and affordable social housing. This can be financed by the addition of new housing for private sale on existing buildings and under-used land.

3. Follow Hackney Council in refusing to attend the MIPIM UK property fair being held in London in October, and overhaul its housing strategy which has been so beneficial to rich investors and land owners, and which has delivered too few social rented homes for people like the Focus E15 Mothers group.

Tom Chance from the Green Party said:
Like so many in the past year, we've been inspired by these women and applaud their direct action. Instead of smearing and persecuting them, Newham councillors should be celebrating and supporting their constituents.

Councils like Newham cannot continue to demolish social housing and replacing it with expensive homes for the benefit of rich investors and big developers. Local residents need more than the crumbs they get from this rich man's feast.
Focus E15 Mothers on Facebook

Operation Skybreaker likely to create fear, suspicion and division in Wembley Central


Operation Skybreaker is an attempt at engagement within local communities to force people who are here without permission to go back. Operation Skybreaker, a pilot project, will run for about another five months and target five London boroughs, Brent, Ealing, Greenwich,  Newham, and Tower Hamlets. It will focus on businesses that employ people illegally, registry offices, and housing services. In Brent it will focus on Wembley Central ward.

Here Brent Anti Racism Campaign explore the issue.
Operation Skybreaker the latest government crackdown on illegal immigrants has been painted in a misleadingly positive light (Home Office to target bosses who employ illegal immigrants in Wembley, kilburntimes.co.uk, 22 August). Operation Skybreaker will be rolled out across five London boroughs, of which Brent is one. It will target businesses, registry offices and housing services. But in Brent it seems that the focus will mainly be on business premises in Wembley Central.   

The Home Office has delivered reassurances that the objective of Operation Skybreaker is to enforce compliance, but given the number of different types of legal paperwork relating to one’s immigration status, this is really difficult. Although it is true that undocumented workers are extremely vulnerable to exploitation, let’s not pretend that the latest government endeavour is part of some sort of compassion led agenda to end exploitative labour practices.
If this government cared about exploitation, the minimum wage would have been raised significantly, there would have been no bedroom tax and public sector employees would not have been subject to pay freezes. One of the evident motivating factors behind Operation Skybreaker is to develop marketing propaganda for the Conservative party against the UKIP threat. The three major UK political parties are in a race to create an image of being tough on immigrants, whether they are here legally or not. Anti migrant sentiment is rampant across the UK and Europe, and this is exactly what the government is pandering to ahead of the General Election.
Additionally, as we saw with Operation Centurion, people working here legally who may not “look right” are very likely to be targets.  There was a significant element of racial profiling in this last operation. The Home Office has stressed that there will not be a heavy handed approach, but the department has a far from rosy track record.  Following the “go home” vans, the racial profiling by UKBA officials in Brent last year and the deaths and poor treatment of asylum seekers in custody, there is a real lack of trust. This will be further weakened in the very diverse but cohesive London communities which will be subject to raids in the coming months.  

A vital question to ask is how effective are these actions? Are the results really worth the community tension caused by racial profiling and wrongful arrests? Also let’s not forget that “weeding out” rogue employers also means low paid workers will lose the little income and security they and their families have. There is a risk they will be deported into some potentially quite dangerous circumstances. These are not nameless, faceless people we are talking about.  These are people living in our communities.  The term “illegal immigrant” is toxic, and incredibly dehumanising. We simply do not hear enough of the human side of the story in the media that would contextualises a person’s life choices.  It is highly unlikely you choose to enter a country illegally and take on quite a difficult existence, unless there are some dire circumstances driving you to take such decisions. We really need a more open and compassionate discussion at a national and international level on how we treat undocumented workers.

As it stands the Skybreaker operation is likely to create suspicion, fear and division in our community and should be opposed.
Background LINK

Brent Anti Racism is organising opposition to Operation Skybreaker and ensuring people affected have access to independent advice. If you want to get involved in this or any of our other activities please contact brentantiracismcmapign@gmail.com

Final decision on Kensal Rise Library on hold while Department for Communites considers planning application

Brent Council has agreed with the Department for Communites and Local Government to put the final Kensal Rise Library planning application decision.

Responding to a member of the public who had requested a call-in to Eric Pickles, Secretary of state, 
The National Casework Planning Unit state:
Thank you for your email set out below addressed to the Secretary of State, your email will be passed to my colleague Fiona Hobbs who is already considering this application on behalf of the Secretary of State, and while she is working on the case the council have an agreement with us not issue a decision.  I understand from my colleague that Brent council are currently preparing a S106.
This is the content of the e-mail:
Dear Secretary of State,


I believe the above application - granted planning consent on 16 July - should be called in because it raises issues of more than local importance: 

a) the Localism Act 2011, ACV listing and Community Right to Bid regulations appear to have been incorrectly and arbitrarily applied by LB Brent LPA:

i) inconsistent, arbitrary application of Localism Act 2011 to an Asset of Community Value (ASV): points 7 & 8 of the LB Brent LPA case-report (note 1) state unequivocally that 'the fact that the building is listed as a Asset of Community [ACV] value is...a material planning consideration' (7) and 'is also relevant...as a partial change of use to residential is proposed' (8); 
ii) so why did LB Brent LPA's legal advisor tell the 16 July planning committee that the 2011 Localism Act and ACV were 'separate legislation and not under the consideration of this committee' (note 2)? 
iii) LB Brent legal department's failure properly to apply the Community Right to Bid (CRB):
- Kensal Rise Library, subject of planning application 14/0846, was designated an Asset of Community Value (ACV) in December 2012;
- the sale contract for the building wasn't signed until January 2013, ie after ACV-listing, so the 6-month moratorium bidding process should have been enabled; but
- LB Brent LPA chose as the sale-date the earlier date of the Option Agreement (note 3) to purchase the property, signed in November 2012, ie before ACV-listing. Using this earlier date, LB Brent LPA argued that the 6-month moratorium on the sale did not apply.

b) I believe 14/0846 to be, therefore, a suitable test-case for the proper application of the Localism Act 2011 to ACV-listing:

i) it's widely believed that the Option Agreement was signed in order to bypass the provisions of the 2011 Localism Act for a moratorium on the sale of the property's ACV-listing (note 3, para 6.2). 
ii) this was, and remains a controversial sale and change-of-use planning application for one of Brent's few remaining historic buildings (note 4). The possibly deliberate attempt to bypass the ACV provisions of the 2011 Localism Act by then-owner All Souls College, Oxford requires investigation.

The Localism Act/ACV listing and Community Right to Bid is new legislation with little or no case-law to date. I urge you, therefore, to exercise your right to call in the application to ascertain whether correct procedures have been followed.

http://democracy.brent.gov.uk/documents/s25283/03 Former Kensal Rise Branch Library Bathurst Gardens London NW10 5JA.pdf
awaiting publication of minutes of meeting; 


Friday 26 September 2014

Caroline Lucas: Why I oppose Government's motion on Iraq air strikes

Caroline Lucas spoke in the Parliamentary recall Iraq debate today:

Every vote I cast in Parliament weighs heavily on my mind, especially as, unlike most other MPs, I have no whip telling me what to do – I consider the evidence, reflect on the principles I was elected to stand up for, listen to my constituents in Brighton Pavilion.  

Never more so than on a day like today, when MPs are deciding whether to carry out air strikes in Iraq against the so called Islamic State (ISIL).

Whatever we decide people will die. Be it directly at the hands of ISIL, whose barbarity seems to know no limits. Or when they are hit by bombs dropped by the US, France or the UK

And, of course, people are dying as a result of the humanitarian crisis engulfing the region – the Refugee Council tell me it’s the first time since the Second World War that the number of people worldwide who are fleeing their homes is more than 50 million, and the conflicts in the Middle East are a key driver of this exodus.  The death toll from the crisis in Syria is heading towards 200,000. Getting aid to all Syrians and Iraqis in need must remain one of the UK’s top priorities.
Amongst the questions I have asked myself ahead of today’s vote is how best to help close down the cycles of violence, which are taking so many lives.

There are no easy answers. But there is this certainty: killing people rarely kills their ideas.

The hateful ideology of ISIL must be stopped but the risk is that air strikes will be counterproductive: every Western bomb dropped will fuel it anew, providing fertile recruitment, fundraising and propaganda opportunities.
I don’t think this is like the last Iraq war.  I don’t think that the Prime Minster is manipulating intelligence or lying to the House.

There is much in the Government’s motion with which I agree.  It is written in a measured and very reasonable-sounding tone.  But the considered, thoughtful tone cannot get away from the bottom line, which is to give permission for the UK to bomb Iraq. Nor can it mask that what is often called ‘precision bombing’ is rarely precise.  We should be under no illusion that we are debating whether to go to war.

With virtually everyone on the Government and opposition benches looking set to vote for air strikes, there is a real danger too that diplomatic and political solutions are side lined yet further – and possibly even made more difficult.
The real question should not be whether to bomb but how we can intensify work politically and diplomatically to address the fundamental hostility between Sunnis and Shias – with regional powers such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia centre stage and support for a fledgling new Iraqi government to deal with seemingly intractable problems like the failures of the Iraqi armed forces, sharing of oil revenues, decentralisation demands and territorial disputes a top priority.

Also uppermost in my mind, in a week where it’s been revealed that a young man from Brighton has been killed whilst fighting for ISIL in Syria, is that there is nothing Islamic about what this extremist group are doing. That as well as embarking upon a concerted effort to find a political solution to the current crisis, we must also redouble our efforts to tackle the radicalisation of some members of our communities, and redouble our efforts to address deeply worrying levels of anti-Muslim sentiment and incidents.

Our best hope of reducing the numbers radicalised would be to champion a new foreign policy doctrine based on clear principles, consistently applied.  This should not include selling arms to brutal regimes like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It should not include tolerating war crimes in Gaza.  We must stand up for international law.

Being the only Green MP can be lonely at times, especially on days like today. But my inbox this morning is full of messages from constituents urging me to vote against air strikes and I know that when I stand up and oppose the Government’s motion, I am representing the views of many.

Racism findings-Complacent Brent goes for internal review by Pavey rather than independent inquiry

Despite calls by Brent Green Party, Brent Trades Union Council, Brent Againt Racism Campaign, Brent Labour Representation Committee and many individuals on this blog, Brent Council today decided to deal with the findings of racial discrimination,  victimisation and constructive dismissal against it with an internal review.

The review will be led by the Deputy Leader of the Council, Michael Pavey, not someone anyone could claim is independent on this issue. He is extremely close to  Labour Leader, Muhammed Butt.

Pavey will look for 'mprovements in 'policy and practice'.

At the same time, ignoring the depth of feeling aroused in the Brent Council workforce over this issue the Council has decided to appeal against the judgment, telling the Kilburn Times LINK
Following independent legal advice, we have decided to appeal as there ppeal to be legal errors in the Tribunal's reasoning, in particular on the direct race disrmination and victimsation aspects of the judgement.

This does not mean we are complacent. We accept there are impoertant lessons to be learned from this case.
Sorry, this does mean you are complacent and that you have learned nothing from what was revealed about the workings of the Human Resources department in the Tribunal papers and the lies and mismanagement of the Corporate Management Team itself.

Following rumours yesterday that a Labour councillor was resigning over the Tribunal case and the Council's position on it, there was a resignation today - but only 'personal reasons' were stated.

Cllr Keith Perrin (Northwick Park) lead member for Environment resigned from the Cabinet today but will stay on as a ward councillor.

Thursday 25 September 2014

Time for Brent Council employees to make a stand against racism and bullying and come forward with their cases

The Brent Unison representative wrote to Christine Gilbert, Brent Council Acting Chief Executive, regarding the treatment of Rosemary Clarke saying “I am deeply concerned regarding the way Rosemary Clarke is being treated, the lack of adherence to procedures and the breach of confidentiality.”

She called Clarke's treatment by Cara Davani, Head of Human Resources, 'unprecedented and unnecessary'.

Clarke recently won her case with a judment that she has suffered racial discrmination, victimisation and  constructive dismissal.

I understand that today another ex-employee of Brent Council has had a positive outcome at the Watford Employment Tribunal.  Marion Hofmann's cause was championed by Francis Henry LINK who resigned as chair of Brent Sustainability Forum over Hofmann's treatment. Hofmann is white.

He wrote:
I and others are appalled how Brent Council and your senior officers have treated one of our colleagues who has contributed so much to public engagement and the promotion of environmental issues.

It would seem that as an organisation Brent Council and some of your officers in Environmental Services will do everything possible to get rid of good and trusted officers who understand how to work with local people and who are truly committed to the cause.

I am so disgusted by the conduct of Brent Council and the conduct of your senior officers that I am resigning as Chair of Brent Sustainability Forum and ceasing my involvement with anything involving your Council.
You and the whole Council should be ashamed in the way you treat your valued members of staff who have the trust and respect of the local community.
I do not know the details of the Judgment but will publish as soon as I do.

This is beginning to look like a pattern, rather than a one-off, which is what of course many people commenting on Wembley Matters have claimed.

 'Unprecedented' may not be quite correct as Cara Davani had a run-in with Unisonn when she was at Tower Hamlets Council. This is what Personnel Today wrote in May 2006 LINK
The HR director at Tower Hamlets has fired a parting shot at one of the east London council’s trade unions after leaving for a new job.

Cara Davani, who left last week after three years in the role, accused Unison – which represents more than 2,200 staff at the authority -of being obstructive and afraid of change.

“I’ve watched [union reps] say no to something before they even know what I’m proposing,” she said. “I find that very hard to deal with.

Relationships have been mixed and there have been changes and restructuring they’ve found difficult to stomach.”
Davani said the council had “excellent” relations with the GMB, its other trade union, but that Unison was more “militant”.

Earlier this month, Unison members went on strike over changes to the council’s sickness absence procedures.

The union accused management of “bullying” staff by introducing a call centre that sick staff must notify when they are absent. But Davani said the union only objected after a decision was made to outsource the role to specialist firm FirstAssist.

John McLoughlin, Unison branch chairman, hit back, claiming it had been “very difficult” working with Davani. “The corporate management team have their own agenda to see change through rather than any genuine consultation,” he said.
Either Brent Council did not check on Carani's background and were therefore negligent, or did and were quite happy with her approach. Both options are worrying.

Following the Brent TUC motion reported below and the success (and courage) of Rosemary Clarke and Marion Hoffman it is time for the many anonymous contributers of comments on this blog to come forward and put their cases to their union. That is what unions are for after all. Comments may let off steam, but they do not effect the change that is needed at Brent Council or win compensation for those experiencing injustice.

Action through the unions can do that.  While complaints remain anonymous they can be ignored by both union officials, who want to avoid confrontation with management, and Brent Council itself. They can legitimately claim that they cannot follow up such complaints as they do not know the person complaining and no documented evidence, or less legitimately, that all the comments on Wembley Matters could have been made by just a handful of people.

I am aware that because of the alleged bullying and victimisation, people have been reluctant to come forward. In the new atmosphere generated by the Employment Tribunal judgments, and by Brent TUC's demand for an independent investigation, people should have the confidence to make a stand.

Together we stand - divided we fall.

Don't let the bullies win.

Brent TUC and ex-Labour councillor join call for independent investigation into Brent Council following racism judgment

Brent Trades Union Council (Brent TUC) has followed Brent Green Party in calling for an independent investigation into Brent Council and their Corporate Management Team:

This is the resolution passed at their meeting yesterday:
Brent Trades Union Council considers that the Employment Tribunal judgement that Brent Council has been guilty of racial discrimination, victimisation and constructive dismissal brings shame on the Council, especially in a borough that rightly prides itself on its diversity.
We call for the dismissal of Cara Davani, whose position is now clearly untenable, using the Council’s disciplinary procedures.  
In the light of the tribunal findings, we call for an investigation headed by an independent expert in race relations acceptable to both Councillors and Council Unions of:
1. The extent of racism and discriminatory practices within the Council;
2.  The working culture of the Human Resources department;
3.  Brent Council's Whistle Blowing Policy to ensure that it adequately protects whistle-blowers from harassment and retribution;
4. Corporate Management Team officers being paid through their private companies rather than normal payroll;
5. The contractual arrangements for CMT officers and interim appointments;
6. Previous employment and business connections between senior offices appointed by Brent Council on an interim basis.
In addition former Labour councillor and member of the Labour Representation Committee, Graham Durham has written to all the current Labour councillors:

I trust you have read of the finding of race discrimination, victimisation and constructive dismissal against Brent Council.
I recommend that you find time to read the full report of the case ( Employment Tribunal Case Number 3302741/2013.)
I  am sure you will agree that this is a shocking indictment  of an  individual senior manager but also  of the apparent culture which was allowed to flourish in Brent Council management. It is a disgrace to all of us in Brent and especially to the Labour Party which was in control of the Council throughout the period referred.
I am sure that you will want to ensure appropriate disciplinary action commences promptly. Perhaps more importantly I hope you will support the demand of Brent Trades Council that an independent enquiry is established headed by an independent expert in diversity practice and with membership agreed by Council trade unions and the Council members. The enquiry should cover diversity policy, management behaviour and culture and the rights of staff to be  protected  from victimisation.
Many of you will know that Brent Council once had an international reputation for challenging racism and promoting equalities. In the 1980’s the Tory press attacked the Labour Council ,of which I was proud to be a member, for our determination to challenge decades of racist behaviour. Journalists from The Sun and other papers harassed us but we stood firm. Our stand then led to a proud history of record numbers of black councillors and MPs in Brent and for Brent having a reputation as the equality Council.
This proud reputation is now in tatters. It will be important for us to debate in the party how the Council leadership allowed this to occur.
I urge you to take immediate action to try to restore our reputation

Wednesday 24 September 2014

'Positive' stories from Brent Council to drown out racism findings?

A regular reader writes to point out his suspicions of news management by Brent Council
  • The Kilburn Times website published an article about the Rosemarie Clarke tribunal decision on Monday lunchtime (22 September). 
  • This story will hopefully appear in tomorrow's paper edition, which they would have been finalising the content for on Tuesday (23 September), with only a limited space available for Brent Council related stories.
  • Also on Tuesday, Brent Council issued four press releases, each containing a "positive" story.
  • Two of these press releases contain quotes from Cllr. Butt.
  • Cllr. Butt is at the Labour Party conference this week, and unable to deal with important issues, such as what to do about Cara Davani in the light of the Rosemarie Clarke tribunal decision.
Brent Council's Commications Director Cheryl Curling was made redundant in January 2014. Her department was then restructured and expanded from 9 staff to 11. Existing staff had to reapply for their jobs.

This is the current structure of the folks paid to give Brent Council a great public image and mitigae any negative stories:

Recruitment for the Head of Communications was handled by our old friends Bloomsbury Resourcing LINK

Here are the 'positive stories' released on Tuesday. Hold the front page!

Free activities for National Fitness Day

Bid to build more homes in Alperton and Wembley 

Reduced waiting lists for Brent allotments

Win for Brent in prestigious horticultural awards 

One more for luck was released today:

Wembley Crossrail key to Brent's backing for Old Oak Regeneration

The latter may make it into the Wembley and Willesden Observer which always has one Brent story on the front page but very little about Brent inside.

However this was relased 8 days after Brent Cabinet made the decision about Old Oak. Not exactly hot off the press!

Brent Council: 'Key financials' for Gilbert and Davani private companies

The use of private companies by local authorities to pay senior staff has been a sourc eof considerable controversy within the Labour Party nationally.

In Brent the revelation that Christine Gilbert, Acting Chief Executive,  had her salary paid into her private company was the subject of debate in a full Council meeting. Her current salary is listed as £187,044 with more for additional duties as Returning Officer during elections. LINK

  Her company website, http://www.cgilbertassociates.com/ is currently unavailable.

These are the latest figures I could find on her company. It is due to report again in 2015.

Cara Davani also has her own Human Resources company but her website www.caradavani.com  is also unavailable.

She was paid £700 per day by Brent Council when she started as Acting Director of Human Resources

She is also an associate (but not a director) of the HR Lounge whose website IS available:http://thehrlounge.co.uk/cara-davani

Below you can find the key financial data from Cara Davani Limited which is due to report again in two months time.

 Both companies are exempt from audit due to their small size.

HR Lounge key financial data:

Fiona Ledden, Brent Chief Legal Officer and Head of Procurement and Democratic Services, has no website available but a Fiona Margarent Ledden is listed as Company Secretary and Director of Ledden Associates Ltd, registred at 4 Belmont Road, Wallington, Surrey which was dissolved in 2009. She is also listed as Director and Company Secretary of Sutton Regeneration Partenership  Ltd dissolved in 2003 and as a Director of Potters Field Management Trust, dissolved 2009. She has no current active directorships.