Thursday 2 October 2014

James Powney comments on 'tragic situation' regarding Brent Council bullying allegations

Former Brent Labour councillor James Powney has posted two interesting articles on the current controversies in Brent regarding the Human Resources Department and the Employment Tribunal findings of Racial discrmination, victimisation and constructive dismissal.

Yesterday he wrote:
Following an Employment Tribunal that found Brent Council had tolerated racist bullying, there has rightly been a lot of disquiet.  The concerns are highly unlikely to be met by any internal review into the issue, as such a review is far to close to the people alleged to be involved to have any credibility.

What saddens me most about this is that Brent has over many years made real efforts to tackle equality issues, and this looks like an organisation losing those hard fought gains through neglect and perhaps something worse.
Commenting that the Council had come through a rigorous review over the libraries case he went on:
Since then I get an impression of decline.  A lot of this follows on from the removal of Gareth Daniel as Chief Executive.  There has never been any public explanation of why this was done, but I suspect part of it was because Gareth had objected vigorously to a particular councillor bullying staff.  The councillor bore him a grudge as a result and persued a vendetta against him.

Once you start allowing this kind of thing without objection, you begin to create a culture where it is acceptable, and people cease even to object to bullying and simply keep their heads down.  That is a tragic situation not just for the victims but also the organisation as a whole.
I agree that the root of much of the current situation goes back to the removal of Gareth Daniel and deals that were done at the time. The leaking of email communications between Gareth Daniel and Muhammed Butt, to the local press, the suspension of Clive Heaphy for gross misconduct (not financial) and then the settlement with him, the initial stand of three Corporate Management Team members in support of Daniel and the rapid appointment of Christine Gilbert are all part of the scenario.

James Powney today discusses some of the wider issues involved LINK:
I mentioned some of the failings of Brent's human resources yesterday.  Understandably there has been a lot of focus on accusations of racism and bulling, but I think the Human Resources function at Brent Council has a number of problems that need examination by rather more rigorous examiners than the "internal review" apparently set up.  The questions I have in mind are:

1) The obvious concerns about issues to do with bullying, intimidation and possible misuse of funds.
2) The continued appointment of an "interim" Chief Executive whose term appears to be set to extend for more than two years.  During this time other London Boroughs (eg Barnet) have seen seen Chief Executives go and be replaced.  Lambeth Council has advertised recently.  Why is Brent unable to perform this basic function?
3) The rising use of interim staff, which is an enormous cost to the taxpayer, and whether this reflects an underlying weakness in the structure of the organisation.
4) Whether anyone is getting any benefit from the One Oracle project.  One of the main aims of this was supposed to be the improvement in human resources information, which should lead to genuine efficiency savings as well as potentially improving the Council in terms of diversity and so on.
I am sure that these concerns are shared by many Labour councillors as well as local Labour Party members.

The bullet has to be bitten.


Anonymous said...

"Once you start allowing this kind of thing without objection..." Mr Powney seems to have developed selective amnesia. He was a member of Brent's ruling Executive during the time of Rosemarie Clarke's sacking and Gareth Daniel's departure, was he not?

Anonymous said...

He also voted for the extension in Christine Gilbert's contract when it was discussed at a full council meeting as I recall. Is Mr Powney wise after the event? Or just a hypocritical Yes Man?

Anonymous said...

Just because Mr Powney was involved in earlier mistakes does not mean he should be ignored.

People who think otherwise should do some research on the "hypocrisy fallacy" to learn the error of their ways before engaging in personal attacks.

This is the behaviour we see from politicians all the time so I think I can guess the professions of the 20:36 and 22:14 commentators. How was the Labour Conference Leader Butt? Are you copying Ed Milliband by forgetting to mention important matters?

Everyone at work seems to know about this blog but few dare speak about it for fear of it getting back to management. Floors 3, 4 & 8 are the worst because this is where you will have the most contact with councillors and senior management.

We've had no leadership throughout this - they are all keeping their heads down and acting like everything is fine. They think that appeal against Rosemary Clarke will keep them safe for the time being and everything will soon be forgotton.

All those responsible are covering their own arses and have put their personal interests above their responsibilities to the council and the residents.

Staff are all scared of the consequences if we speak out in public so we are reduced to writing anonymous comments on this blog and hoping that something will change for the better.

Brent is in trouble. It needs help and it does not matter where that help comes from.

Would you refuse help in an emergency just because the person offering the aid isn't a complete angel?

The place has a bad smell right now because of a problem with the plumbing. I think it is actually the smell of bull shit from management!

Nan Tewari said...

I assume it is wishful thinking on the part of James Powney when has says he is

" ........... sure that these concerns are shared by many Labour councillors as well as local Labour Party members".

It is evident that Labour councillors (with the odd, honourable exception) could not give a toss about any of this. They have taken no action, they have failed to hold their leadership to account and just to emphasis how little they do actually care, they have supported the Pavey cover-up review.

Of course it may well be that councillors too, have worked out that patronage and preferment lie firmly in the hands of Cllr Butt and his cronies Davani, Gilbert and Ledden.

Anonymous said...

Sad state of affairs

Anonymous said...

The question is:
- what are doing about a discriminatory Labour Council?
- what do regional or national unions doing about this. Unison and GMB, are happy to take all our subscriptions, but the silence is both astonishing and deafening.
- what about the 50 labour Councillors that are not in the Cabinet?

It might be legitimate for the powers that be to say that they want to keep CD because she is delivering their agenda, or that they feel that the Tribunal has come to an erroneous decision, but what seems overwhelmingly undeniable is the culture of fear that hundreds of council staff and junior and middle managers are working in. Do Unions and the Labour movement think that is OK? Even three members of the Corporate Management Team tried to stand in defence of the previous Chief Exec.

What is more important, that Labour closes ranks in order to defend their position of power for political purposes or to stand up for what is right, fair and just, and have a Council where staff are valued and are able to say things and put their name at the bottom instead of cowering in anonymous fear?

Come on Councillors, local MPs, Unions stand up for the weak and protect ordinary people (many of whom are your constituents) from one or two very powerful bullies. Show ordinary people that our complete disaffection with politics and complete disillusionment with politicians who seem to just be in it for themselves, is mis-guided and that you really are there to stand up for the oppressed.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure your final point is right, Nan. That's how the moral rot spreads and why it's so important to deal with it as soon as the smell is detected, which Butt didn't do for whatever reasons and which is why he's now up to his neck in it. Once that point is passed the whole lot of them have to go and that can only be done when such a fuss has been made that Butt/Davani/Gilbert's fair-weather friends come to believe that being seen to be associated with the decay becomes more uncomfortable than being seen to oppose it. Publicity, publicity, publicity. And affidavits from as many 'witnesses' as possible.

Anonymous said...

At least he now has the guts to say wrong is wrong, what are you doing 22:14 voting yourself and your fellow greedy councillors a big fat 25% steal of taxpayers money. Better late than never Powney at least one labour member with some dignity, something Butt knows nothing about.

Anonymous said...

Too true 23:40, the place has a feel of being run by headless chickens, totally no leadership. They have this attitude of, if they ignore it we will forget about the disgrace they have brought on Brent. We are intelligent people who know that if you want respect you need to treat people with respect. Davani thinks if she talks at us about the need for cuts we are going to forget that 1 of the reasons for the council departments needing to make cuts of 40% is because of her cavalier attitude of calling staff in her office, getting them to sign a piece of paper, pay them off then bring in someone on a higher salary. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that doesn't add up.

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm Anon 22.14 and I'm not a councillor or a member of the Labour Party - I'm just someone who hates all politicians. Almost without exception.