Thursday, 20 November 2014

Brent Council denies restructuring information to ex-Leader - he issues formal Open Government complaint

As  readers will know Christine Gilbert and Cara Davani have proposed a restructuring of senior management of Brent Council  that some have seemed as part of a 'jobs for the boys and girls' strategy. Details can be found here: LINK

The details were to be discussed at the General Purposes Committee but no details were published on the Agenda. It was marked restricted as individuals could be identified before consultation began. One person who may be affected is Fiona Ledden, Director of Legal and Procurement, as it was proposed that her post be deleted.

At the meeting the item was taken 'below the line' (confidential) and a backbench Labour councillor was none too happy at being excluded from the room.

Now the issue has been taken up by Paul Lorber, former leader of the Liberal Democrats and previously Leader of the Council.

He pressed the case for open government in an exchange with Fiona Ledden:
To: Ledden, Fiona
Cc: Gilbert, Christine Subject: GP Report on Restructuring etc

Can you please supply me with a copy of this Report as I believe that aspects of it should NOT have been kept secret .

Brent supports the concept if a Freedom Of Information and Reports dealing with the abolition of Departments and posts themselves have not in the past been treated as confidential.

Only matters which are confidential are issues specific to individual employees.

The normal practice in the past has been a Report above the line dealing with the general issues and only the specific staff related issues should be kept below the line .

Can you please explain who made the decision to restrict all the information to just the Members of the GP Committee and why were other Councillors excluded from Meeting and prevented from being present during consideration of the items.

How does any of this meet the acceptable Freedom of Information undertakings? Has there been a decision to raise the Secrecy threshold under the current Administration?

I would appreciate an early reply.
 Dear Paul,

The report was below the line and will always remain below the line I can not therefore provide you with a copy.

The consideration of whether the report should go below the line took into account the relevant information.

Kind regards


Fiona Ledden 
Director of Legal and Procurement

Sorry but this is not an acceptable answer. What 'consideration' - absolute secrecy to hide what officers recommend even if breach of Open Government undertakings?

On what basis were Councillors expelled from the meeting of the GP and thus denied an opportunity to Scrutinise. Are you using GP Committee to by pass information and decision making of full Council or even the Cabinet?

This is clearly an abuse and not what was expected of the Cabinet and Scrutiny System. Perhaps you and your colleagues need to review both the legislation and Brent Council policy on Open Government and act accordingly.

Please advise how this decision can be scrutinised if access to the papers is denied to Councillors let alone the public.

Please treat my email as a formal Complaint against a refusal to provide me with information I am entitled to as a local resident and Council Tax payer.



Anonymous said...

Isn't it time Fiona Ledden took a stand seeing as she has now been screwed over?

Nan Tewari said...

If Ledden is departing, what are the odds she will do so with a generous package paid for by us?

Anonymous said...

If Paul and The Lib Dem Group were this active in opposition they may have kept their seats. (Aside from being devoid of strategy)

Anonymous said...

Being screwed over for a generous package. Isn't there a name for that...............?

Mike Hine

Unknown said...

Message for Paul Lorber:

The next step after a FOI is declined is to request an internal review. Once this is complete you can get the information commisioner involved.

The website enables people to use the FOI process publicly and proves an added pressure to follow requests properly. Would advise a visit.

Scott Bartle

Nan Tewari said...

This is a sufficiently important issue for party politics not to impinge and divert attention away from it.

I remember in days gone by that restructuring, even of small teams of three staff, went to open committee. Presumably it is the secrecy that now permeates Brent that no longer permits this.

I am not optimistic that there are robust mechanisms anywhere to deal with the issues this blog has been addressing. Even the district auditor says he is powerless to take the matter up unless an actual law has been broken. Apparently, the mere failure to achieve value for money is not regarded as an infraction of enough seriousness to warrant action.

This pretty much tells us that since values of decency and probity do not exist in legislation, it is the firm intention of Cllr Butt and his officer cronies to ignore them.

So it is up to us to keep the pressure on.

Anonymous said...

'Since values of decency and probity do not exist in legislation, it is the firm intention of Cllr Butt and his officer cronies to ignore them'. This certainly seems to be the case but it definitely didn't appear in their electoral pitch so it would be unfair on The Leader and the crones for us just to assume it without giving them the chance to confirm it. Perhaps Cllr Butt could be asked to set out his position on this and other moral and ethical matters more clearly at some point in the near future. Christmas is always a good time for this kind of thing.

Nan said...

Since you are obviously feeling charitable, I assume you are suggesting that the crones /cronies should try out the roles of the three wise men for size, bearing gifts of morals, ethics and probity.

Better not to traverse the Stonebridge Adventure Playgound route though, eh, or Willesden Library, or any Employment Tribunal offices or .......

On the other hand it might just be a whole lot simpler to stay in the office and continue stirring up toil and trouble in the Brent cauldron!

Anonymous said...

Over to you, Mr Lorber.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there is no truth in the rumour that Christine Gilbert sent Cara Davani and Fiona Ledden an email saying: 'When shall we three meet again?'

(I'm sure, because I just made up this rumour, but I am also sure that there are good grounds for a "witch hunt" against the actions of certain senior Brent Council officers.)

Anonymous said...

I've had 'horrible imaginings' of that scene in Polanski's Macbeth when Banquo goes on his own to find the witches and they emerge from the cave no it's just too terrible......make it go away...........

Anonymous said...

It would be better to see her take to the stand to account for all the coverups going on in Brent Council instead.