Tuesday 9 September 2014

Brent, the 'Listening Council', refuses to let me speak but answers an unasked question

Just to keep readers up to date on Brent Council's refusal to let me speak as a deputation last night.

Seconds before the meeting Muhammed Butt, leader of the Council,  came over and took me aside to say he couldn't allow me to speak but he would address my 'question' in his report to the Council.

I had never asked a question but had requested a deputation:
I would like to speak to Full Council on September 8th on the subject of the appointment of a permanent Chief Executive.
There's a touch of Alice In Wonderland here when you are not allowed to speak but the Council decides what question is implied by your request to speak, and then proceeds to answer it.

In fact I would have spoken about the background to Christine Gilbert's Acting Chief executive position and sought assurances about the transparency of the appointments process and the involvement of parties other than Brent Officers and Brent Cabinet members  in that process.

In his report Muhammed Butt gave the statement that I reported here yesterday evening.

I have received no written reply to my non-question from Fiona Ledden or Muhammed Butt although other correspodents have been told that this would be done. The only correspondence has been Fiona Ledden's attempting to justify my not being allowed to speak.

In response to Councillor John Warren (Brondesbury Conservatives) who asked about my delegation being refused she said: 'The matter has been dealt with by correspondence between myself and Mr Francis'.

The implication appeared to be that the issue was closed. 

I received this from Fiona Ledden on September 5th while I was away at the Green Party Conference in Birmingham:
Dear Mr Francis
Thank you for your response.
I note your comments in relation to the tweet, I will ensure in future that the tweet alerts go out at least 2 weeks before a relevant council meeting I am sorry that did not occur on this occasion.
In relation to the calculation of working days within the definition section of the constitution it confirms that days mean full clear working days which would mean that the deputations need to be received on the Friday before Council on the following Monday.
I confirm again the leader will write answering the question that you have raised
Yours etc

Following the Council Meeting I replied this morning:

 Dear Ms Ledden,

I would like to put on record that I am not satisfied with this response as Brent Council, on its official Twitter feed,  quite clearly gave a deadline of September 1st.  As no other deadline was readily available to the public and deputations were on the agenda for the meeting commonsense, natural justice and the public interest should have resulted in a decision to let me speak.

I do not accept, as you implied in answer to Cllr John Warren’s question at Full Council, that our correspondence on this matter concludes the matter.

I am now considering how to take this further.


Anonymous said...

There's a dilemma here which needs to be faced.
Do you continue to follow legitimate procedural channels on the assumption that the people you are dealing with are capable of honesty, integrity and openness and simply need to be reminded that they have strayed from the path of righteousness which it is their genuine desire to follow?
Or do you conclude that they're a bunch of snakes and that your energies are best utilised in making that as clear as possible to as many people as possible in as short a time as possible?
Given the Gilbert/Ledden/Butt situation outlined above, what expectation, or even hope, does there seem to be of any change?
Mike Hine

Anonymous said...

[Edited cross-post from last night's 'Appointment of chief executive...' blog] -

'Who runs Brent?'

That's the question residents need to ask themselves following last night's full council meeting. Contrary to Fiona Ledden's written blather gagging Martin Francis from speaking on the matter of the chief executive, Muhammed Butt clearly understood - presumably from the adverse publicity this stupid course of action received - that he'd better say something in public.

And so we now learn that Christine Gilbert is to stay on for another six months, a different excuse being given for this further extension of the previously off-payroll chief exec - this time she's 'working on the Borough Plan'. Who made this decision? They (it wouldn't have been one person) clearly didn't consider whether residents would want someone who had her previous 6-figure remittance paid into a private company - such schemes are widely seen as tax-avoidance systems - shaping their borough's future. Mo Butt needs to explain why this distasteful game of musical-chairs continues. Ms Gilbert is not indispensable. Meantime, it'll be interesting to read Ms Ledden's - or will it be Mo Butt's or even Gilbert's? - 'written response to [Martin's non-]question in due course'.

As for the rest of Brent's Labour members, they were clearly more concerned with voting through their expenses' increase than standing up for democracy and transparency. Their complacent arrogance beggars belief, mirroring that which has led the political class to grossly underestimate the strength of the 'Yes, Scotland' independence vote. They patronisingly assume a Brent Labour future...

Meg Howarth said...

So Cllr Butt answers an unasked question by updating full council on Christine Gilbert's role but refuses even to acknowledge repeated requests for an update on the police investigation into the fraudulent email affair surrounding Kensal Rise Library - an investigation which was launched thanks to his intervention over 7 months ago.

Anonymous said...

Yes, having pushed for the police to investigate the sordid fake email affair, Mo Butt's silence on the matter is disturbing, likewise on whether or not Simon Lane has been demoted as head of the council's Audit&Investigation Unit.

Anonymous said...

It is a sad day when the council purport to act in the public interest by denying you as a member of the public the opportunity to speak, by obfuscating the process by which you would be 'allowed' to speak and being inflexible in response to their own errors and short comings with regard to the tweet situation. Who's up for going up to the next meeting when Butt and Ledden attend for a bit of incessant twittering to accompany their weasel words?

Anonymous said...

I am!