Monday, 22 September 2014

Cllr Butt had been told about concerns regarding Cara Davani well before the Employment Tribunal

Nan Tewari sent this as the comment on the piece below but I think it deserves a posting ot its own. Cllr Butt is currently at the Labour Party Conference and has made no comment on the Emplyment Tribunal Judgment against the Council and Cara Davani.

Well before this matter was lodged with the Employment Tribunal, I took the opportunity of speaking to Cllr Butt in some detail about the deleterious effect Cara Davani was having on both HR staff and across departments generally.

I explained that I had worked for a number of organisations that had needed to make improvements in staff performance and service delivery and that in every case I had managed to do this both rapidly as well as in a civilised way that did not destabilise individuals or organisations. In all instances I had delivered the service improvements required.

And yes, I did do this work as a daily paid interim working for each organisation for a few months and always with the result of leaving the organisation in better shape than I had found it on arrival.

In saying all of this to Cllr Butt, I pointed out that Davani was causing an enormous amount of damage in trying to achieve her objectives and that this was entirely unnecessary, not to say gratuitously done, as though she bore a grudge against the staff she was working with.

With reference to the piece above, I have looked through the policies in existence at the time that Davani arrived. Whilst they could have benefitted from a tidy-up and a lick of grammatical polish, they were perfectly adequate. What was wrong was that managers were untrained in how to apply the policies - a failing in many organisations, not just Brent. The policies in force pre-Davani did have the merit of affording staff a measure of protection in their contractual (employment) relationship with their employer (the council) whilst I fear that the Davani policies lack this.

As a resident in the borough, I have enormous difficulty in recognising the "modern flexible, service-first culture" lauded above. Staff are tired and resigned in the face of the deteriorating services they have to front and who can blame them? The public is treated just as badly by the council as Davani treats council staff. Notwithstanding cuts in expenditure - aka 'savings' - it is entirely possible for staff to offer a decent service if they, the staff, are well treated to begin with.

Staff do not go to work to fail - they want to go home satisfied in the knowledge that they have done an outstanding job. Good management acts as an enabler for this to occur naturally. Poor management just ensures staff 'serve their time', or clock watch.

This said, there is a notable number of staff who do succeed in rising above the oppressive conditions and I salute their dedication and professionalism.

32 comments:

  1. Labour Party Conference! What a good time for councillor Butt to release the Tribunal news then. If Davani appeals I suppose we'll get to hear the result on the 4th of March 2015. Crufts starts on the 5th.
    Mike Hine

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    1. Butt didn't release the news - Martin did! They've had it since the 4th Sept. They couldn't even be bothered to prepare a proper statement!!

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  2. Re-posting corrected comment from previous blog

    http://wembleymatters.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/we-need-different-supportive.html

    Anonymous 22 September 2014 11:58

    I don't know Nan but hers is an incisive analysis of what appears to have gone wrong since Cara Davani was appointed as head of HR at Brent. From hers, above, and previous comments on the various related blogs, it's impossible to draw any other conclusion than that Ms Davani is unsuitable for her job - certainly in Brent, where all local knowledge seems to have been discounted when her appointment was made - and perhaps for any HR role. Maybe her 'skill-set' lies elsewhere - I believe she trains dogs...

    Reference has been made in comments above to Bloomsbury Resourcing. Take a look and your heart will surely sink - its online blurb page tells us everything that's wrong with how local authority (LA) senior managers are selected

    http://www.bloomsburyresourcing.co.uk/

    As one of its self-appointed roles is to advise 'organisations...undergoing organisational reviews, restructures and change programmes', what's the bet Bloomsbury Resourcing's being consulted on Brent's new borough plan - the excuse given for Christine Gilbert remaining as the borough's CE despite Cllr Butt's pre-election promise to the contrary?

    Referring to LAs as 'organisations' is dangerous management-speak which has been allowed to erase the crucial difference between a citizen-elected body and other set-ups. All reference to electorates and elections has been erased. So an LA becomes an 'organisation' like any other, not one responsible for delivering policies made by politicians to constituents. Local knowledge must be a prerequisite for senior LA posts - at a minimum, that must mean living in the borough in which you play a major role?

    As for Bernard Collier - he seems to have quit his job at Bloomsbury Resourcing before last May's local election. He now works for the CAB, apparently - no question that reads much better on a Labour Party councillor's CV. Here's his page on the council website

    http://democracy.brent.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=8874

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  3. Martin

    Could you please share this important statement on fairness, justice and values? ...

    "Today I want to talk about fairness. Politicians often shy away from using words like fairness, equality and justice. They consider them to be problematic as they can often mean slightly different things to different people. However, I believe that there are a set of basic values which are broadly shared by everyone in our Borough. These form our sense of community and shape our society. As a council we have a responsibility to fight for these values on behalf of our residents."

    Cllr Muhammed Butt. Monday December 3, 2012 from http://brent.gov.uk/muhammeds-blog/posts/2012/december/3/my-priorities-1-fairness/

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    1. Cllr Muhammed Butt, so when will the fight begin to knock out unfairness, inequality and injustice at Brent aka Cara Davani. Or are you not up to the fight yet? p.s I'm willing to pay up to a £136 a ticket.

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  4. Sentence 3 of the Buttquote. Yep, words like fairness, equality and justice sure can mean slightly different things to different people. They can even mean nothing at all to politicians going through the motions. Or to their highly-paid employees (or tax-avoiding 'consultants') like Ms Davani, who cynically parrot the necessary bromides in order to get the plum jobs they feel entitled to.
    No wonder those politicians shy away from those words. You'd have been well-advised to shy away from them yourself, Mr Butt, in the circumstances.
    You're spot on with the last sentence though: ' As a council we have a responsibility to fight for these values on behalf of our residents.' Would you accept that failure to deal justly with a high-ranking council representative found guilty of racial discrimination, victimisation and constructive dismissal will make it very difficult for any of our residents to take your words in any way seriously?
    Mike Hine

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  5. A vote for Labour was and is a vote wasted!

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  6. They didn't care then, they don't care now and they won't care tomorrow! A blatant disregard for the electorate.

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    1. Then do as the Scots have done and mobilise for change. 'No' might have won, but since the 18 September referendum vote, thousands more have joined both the Green Party and the SNP. Change won't come from the top, but only by folks mobilizing, talking, organising - writing to the local press as well as this blog. The Brent and Kilburn times goes weeks without a letters page, so a first start could be to change that - it has a different readership from Wembley Matters.

      In the end, we get the politicians we deserve. The future is what we make it, so let's start now in the gloriously citizen-energised wake of last week's events in Scotland.

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  7. I work at Brent and I have made a comment or two on this blog about the way I think things are run and what this will lead to.
    I and many other staff are not simply whining when we say things are in a sorry state; we are genuinely concerned about the future we see for the borough if it continues on its present path.
    Many outsiders might simply ask why these matters haven't been raised internally and why are we simply moaning on a blog instead of raising concerns through available channels; the answer to this is FEAR. Fear of the reaction of management when they see you deviating from their message, fear for your own job, fear for the jobs of those around you, and fear of just how much worse it could get if you dare speak out in any way at all.
    We all know cuts are necessary - budgets are going to be extremely tight because our money from central government will be reduced even further so it is inevitable that cuts will have to be made.
    But the problem everyone has is that staff have continually made suggestions on how cuts can be made whilst maintaining services yet these have been ignored. The reputation of Brent is clearly spreading because we now face recruitment problems in certain areas as well. Good staff are leaving one by one; some have got other jobs, some are off sick and others seem to be there physically but you can see their heart isn’t in their work anymore as all of the joy is gone.
    When someone is gone, it is then a fight to get a replacement agreed because the temptation from above is to simply ask other staff to cover workload and leave posts vacated. If you are LUCKY you will instead be granted a temporary member of staff for a maximum of three months but this is only after a long and bloody fight which seems to drag on endlessly because all requests have to cross Davani’s desk and she refuses everything first time around.
    This even happens for essential staff posts as there have been instances where my area have had to involve Health and Safety to ensure that we had enough staff to meet legal minimum requirements for the services we deliver. I know that this is an issue that is being raised more and more in various areas; how can a HR Director who doesn’t even know the minimum requirements of staff needed to meet legal responsibilities the council has to its staff, let alone its requirements to members of the public who engage its services in any way, be trusted to make the cuts needed?
    The other issue many staff have is that during restructures their job descriptions were rewritten and they suddenly found that when these new job descriptions went to HR, it was suddenly discovered that they needed to be paid LESS despite delivering the exact same job, or even more, as they had previously!
    Before anyone says this was probably the staff’s own fault, I can tell you that whilst this is true in a small number of cases it is definitely not true in all of them. In fact I know of areas where savings deliveries have been made, which would be considered even more significant if looked at as a percentage of their previous budget, yet these staff have also had their salaries cut and absolutely no regard was given to their contribution.
    One member of staff in a department I have recently worked with is on a two person team where the other person is off sick and is unlikely to return because they are suffering from a terminal illness. This employee has been offered no help at all in the work that they do, in fact they are asked to do more, and yet saw their pay cut during the Environment and Neighbourhood department’s restructure. They are covering the work of two staff for less money than they received when they only had their own job to worry about – how is this fair or designed to ensure that good staff (and from what I hear, this person is very respected) stay at Brent?

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  8. The restructure in my own area is a complete mess; do I work for Social Services, Children’s’ Social Services, Children & Families Services, Welfare & Wellbeing Services, Public Health, Services, or is it now something else? The amount of time that has been wasted on simple decisions such as this is a real kick in the face to staff working on lower salaries and continually told that there is waste and inefficiency everywhere that we have a responsibility to root out.

    It seems their idea of “rooting out waste and inefficiency” is that we simply continue to magically provide services with fewer staff, who already are seriously demoralised and have less resources behind them. I have asked for redundancy on the last two occasions it has been offered yet each time I have been refused because I am seen as too “critical”; where else would the opinions of “critical” staff be ignored and then brutally silenced if they don’t fall in line?

    I used to love my job at Brent but I don’t any longer. The only reason I stay there now is because of the ties I have; I live in the borough, I still have affection for certain colleagues, and it is an easy commute. This genuinely saddens me because in the past I would never have considered my commute as a factor keeping me at Brent but now it is one of my main three.

    I know I am not the only one who feels like this as I have seen and heard of little rebellions everywhere; other staff have raised concerns about their own safety regarding security, first aid, emergency evacuation, service resilience and many other concerns they have about staffing levels. But this is still a bloody fight and you are left with the distinct feeling that although you may have won that battle, they certainly doesn’t think you’ve won the war and will be back with a vengeance later for not respecting their authority by publicly defying their will (and being seen as “getting away with it”).
    I am not being paranoid or melodramatic when I refer to “them” instead of naming specific people; there is a group at the top who run things and the rest have to toe the line. There is “them”, a small but powerful group comprising of Cara Devani, Christine Gilbert, Cllr Mo Butt and their various acolytes. Then there is “us”, which is everyone else who isn’t in their group, doesn’t follow their line and isn’t useful to them in any way at all.

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  9. They are ruthless; I have seen them destroy people who were following their line but weren’t otherwise useful to them so they were removed from post in the most humiliating way possible. The post that person was in was rewritten and all of a sudden the person in the “old” post is told that their job has been deleted but they are welcome to apply for the new post. In fact they are often invited to apply for the new post, so the hint seems to be that they are a shoe-in for the new job.
    However, following the recruitment process they told that the new post has gone to someone else - so thanks for the effort, you’ll get a redundancy package to tide you over but before you go can you train these two or three graduates and a semi-replacement to do your old job between them? You have two months redundancy period so that’s loads of time!

    The other option is that their pay is cut and they are told that certain responsibilities of their job will be removed from them. The responsibilities will either end up with a contractor or temporary member of staff who is brought in if they are lucky. If not they will be told that the responsibilities will be absorbed by their current management so they don’t need to worry, but inevitably the work ends up back with them because their manager is already overworked, or they don’t understand certain things you do, or they legally cannot do them because of H&S or other legal requirements!

    Either of these options clearly cost Brent more money in the medium and long term but this isn’t how these people look; they are strictly short term thinkers who have at most the next year or two in their head. On paper it will look like fortunes have been saved and efficiencies have been made; in reality it has meant that existing staff are overworked with only trainees, temps, contractors, or otherwise unqualified people for assistance. The trainees and temps who are good never stay long because they are in demand, and the contractors who are good are expensive. I was shocked to find out someone I had seen around the council for at least five years is actually a contractor and when I found out his responsibilities, I was even more shocked as I had thought many of these were performed by existing staff. He told me that many of those in the area that he works are incompetent so the good staff are overworked and he often takes the slack even though it wasn’t what he was actually employed for. We are paying a contractor not to do the work he is expert in, but to cover the work of existing staff who cannot perform where their colleagues cannot cover all of their work so he is then asked to.

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  10. That contractor shows two real problems at Brent at the moment; the games played with budgets to disguise the costs of contractors, and the fact that underperforming staff still present are now unlikely to face Competency proceedings because the person now managing them doesn’t know enough about their job to hold them to proper standards or the person now managing them has only assumed responsibility for their area and hasn’t got time to get a proper understanding of their work. This inexperience often means that any targets the manager has to set as part of the Competency assessment are too vague so the employee can easily achieve them or argue about their definition to such an extent that many managers will not bother with the effort on their own.

    Instead, the manager may rely on other “good” members of staff to cover the underperformer’s work inevitably the complaints from the “good” staff will increase. The manager may then recruit a “good” employee’s assistance in drafting and assessing targets for the “bad” one, and this evidence will then be used as the basis for a formal Competency process.

    This is risky because managers will inevitably have to disclose to the “good” employee that the “bad” employee is subject to the Competency process so the “bad” one’s confidentiality has been compromised and there is also a risk that because the manager doesn’t know much about the employee’s work; they also don’t’ actually who the “good” and “bad” employees are as their perceptions are distorted. What they see as “bad” may be overwork, which inevitably leads to mistakes, and what they see as “good” may just be someone who knows how to play office politics and is merely a sycophant.

    There is also the risk that staff will find out that other staff know confidential information about them and attempt to use that against Brent when their career is jeopardised so instead of being able to sack an underperforming member of staff, Brent is forced to buy them off in some fashion to get them to leave. Even if the manager never actually states to anyone that an employee is subject to the Competency process, others may be able to deduce this quite easily by the actions of the manager towards the employee in question or the information the manager requests from others about work in general or the employee in question in particular.

    This won’t end well at all - many staff are already disenfranchised and those at the top seem more remote than ever. Brent could never be said to be perfect, but it was certainly a lot better than this in the past and that is a shame because it was a good place to work and had the interests of its residents at the forefront of what it used to do. That is now all gone, and no amount of “consultations”, “lunches with the chief exec”, or “staff coffee mornings” are going to change that unless there are real changes at the very top.

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    1. Not to mention question time with the leader where staff dare not ask the questions they really want to ask! What residents need to be asking is how much savings have been made with their re-structure, when they get rid of very competent staff who knows the rules and regulations, stand up for decency but because they don't tick Mo Butt and Davani's box, they get rid then replace them with someone on a much higher salary. Staff and residents now need to make a very affirmative stand we could start a twitter campaign #CleanupBrent to show that we are no longer prepared to sit back and accept what is going on at Brent Council. Cannot believe it is proven that someone is guilty of mis-conduct and Brent's response is that they are surprised and disappointed, what about the staff that are suffering daily? And then they have to gall to declare that they take bullying and discrimination seriously, SHAMEFUL

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  11. Well done to all the people who have provided such detailed accounts of the situation. It's not easy to break cover when you know how vindictive the cabal ranged against you can be and when your perception is that they hold all the cards. However, once the spotlight is turned on situations like Davani/Gilbert/Ledden/Butt it will be difficult for them to switch it off. Bring everything into the open. Make as much noise as possible. Continue to get as many outside people aware of the situation as you can. These people thrive on the shady, the hidden and the underhand. Call their bluff. Open it all up. You've made a good start already.
    And this organisation my be useful for whistleblowing advice: http://www.wbuk.org/index.html

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    1. Yes notify the CIPD they are looking for news like this to publish. They send weekly updates in their People Management magazine on the outcome of employment tribunal claims, let's make this headlines.
      Email

      editorial@peoplemanagement.co.uk

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    2. Too many staff are using this "contractor" route to boost their pay and they get away with it . because taxpayers are not being told the truth. The staff are just following the example of Christine Gilbert who still is not on payroll and no one seems to know how much she is being paid. This all needs to stop.

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    3. We don't want her on payroll we want her and her best mate gone!

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  12. http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-27486722

    Someone posted this link in an earlier blog, intersting.

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    1. Yeah. Never quite worked out how 'it's their own business etc etc ' and 'this is ridiculously unethical' can be squared.

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    2. Ipswich Borough Council has asked staff to disclose any encounters, "long or short term", which could affect their impartiality or ability to "act in the public interest". "There are occasions when there is a risk of a conflict of interest arising between an employee's private relationships, with either the council's interests or the wider public interest," she said.
      HR Director in a relationship with Employment Solicitor is wrong on so many levels, so much scope for colluding.

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  13. If it's correct that Christine Gilbert is still off-payroll, this is a scandal in itself, and Is surely one reason Martin was gagged from asking about the role of the chief executive at the recent full council? Cllr Butt must clarify immediately.

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  14. A few weeks ago at the behest of Cllr Butt, Cara introduced a new policy that limits agency staff to 12 weeks placements and interims to 12 months placements. As the reduction of non-permanent staff is on of the Leaders priorities and 'performance' statistics are circulated on this every month, it seems hypocritical in the extreme that the Chief Exec is now in her second or third year as a temporary member of staff, whilst other managers are internally harangued on use of temporary staff through name and shame league tables.

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    1. Could someone confirm that Christine Gilbert - partner of ex-MP Tony McNulty - is definitely still off-payroll?

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    2. I believe she is on payroll. The Council website records her as being on Scale Hay1 £187,044 with an additional payment as Returning Officer for elections. She is not in the Local Government Pension Scheme. She also had a job with Haringey Council alongside the Brent one. I am not sure if that is still the case. Her company website Christine Gilbert Associates is currently in available. I'll publish some financial details later.

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    3. Thx, Martin. Vital that incorrect information isn't passed around. Also VERY interesting to learn that her 'company website' is currently unavailable! Makes one wonder...

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    4. 'Name and shame league tables'? Is that all? The Leader needs to take a lesson from some more efficient organisations which long ago introduced 360 degree best practice analysis sessions such as the one described below:
      ' Several evenings a week the workers gathered for a collective confession and the Manager addressed them thus: "Let us appraise the day that has passed, in order to correct our faults. We must cleanse ourselves of the repeated sins that accumulate and slow down our beloved revolution.'
      "I," answered the first to confess, "er... I fell asleep after my meal, forgetting to make sure the bamboo urine containers in the shelters had been emptied properly." Then on to the next one.
      When each had spoken in turn, they moved on to the next stage, which the Leader introduced as follows: "The beloved Leader congratulates you, comrades, for these admissions, which are so essential to the progress of each of us. In order to make our actions shine forth for ever, let us now try fearlessly to help our brother better detect his own faults, those he has not confessed because he was unwilling to see them. Who wishes to tell us of his comrade's faults so that he may benefit from this criticism ?" (Adapted from Francois Bizot's account of his experiences with the Khmer Rouge in his memoir 'The Gate').
      Chairman Mo, it seems, still has a lot to learn.
      Mike Hine

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  15. I see that the Brent and Kilburn Times has published the story and that it is currently the 'most read' story of those they are running.

    Herewith link:

    http://www.kilburntimes.co.uk/news/brent_council_found_guilty_of_victimisation_and_racism_against_black_worker_1_3779365

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    1. Here's a posting on the BKT site comments. More needed, please.
      'In what way does Cllr Butt's attendance at the Labour conference cut him off from all means of communication with the rest of the world? If his phone's got no credit or the battery's dead he could always use a call box to phone a message through to the council. Or if they're not picking up he could pass on his thoughts to Nick Robinson and he could read them out for us on the 10 o'clock news.
      He's had long enough to think about it, hasn't he?
      Come on, Mo. Phone home!'

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    2. He was in the building yesterday, they can stop using that line. They have known about the judgement before last Friday seeing as it was dated 4th Sept as the conference been going on all this time? Butt can stop hiding behind the Labour conference and man up.

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  16. What a joke Brent HR are with this person leading them. Who knows if they are all forced to give advice because they are fearful. How very very sad. Please can someone make the nightmare end for them.

    By the way congratulations to Rosemary. You were brave and your actions were great. Clearly you had the evidence to support your allegations. Well done you!


    Ranj J Kaur

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  17. In saying all of this to Cllr Butt, I pointed out that Davani was causing an enormous amount of damage in trying to achieve her objectives and that this was entirely unnecessary, not to say gratuitously done, as though she bore a grudge against the staff she was working with.

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