Wednesday 25 February 2015

Another Deputation that Brent Council will not hear - important questions for Cllr Butt on senior officers and the Employment Tribunal case

Guest Blog by Philip Gran
Three weeks ago “Wembley Matters” carried a guest blog from me about the lack of action taken by Brent Council against Cara Davani and Christine Gilbert for their parts in the victimisation, racial discrimination and constructive dismissal of Rosemarie Clarke. LINK  This included a letter which asked the Leader of Brent Council, Cllr. Muhammed Butt, two important questions. The “Brent & Kilburn Times” published the same letter, in a slightly edited form, on 12 February.

On 19 February our local newspaper carried a letter from Cllr. Butt, saying that ‘Brent Council is deeply committed to equality, diversity and fairness.’ It may even have been written for him by Cara Davani, as it is very similar in tone to her reports on Equality to this week’s General Purposes Committee, or Michael Pavey’s report on his HR policies and practice review. It makes a point of saying ‘We already have Investor in People Silver standard and are working out way to Gold’, without mentioning that it was Rosemarie Clarke, when she was Brent’s Head of Learning and Development, who actually achieved that IIP Silver Standard for the Council. It is perhaps ironic that Brent might already have reached the IIP Gold standard if Ms Clarke had not been constructively dismissed. However, Cllr. Butt’s letter did not answer the two questions I had asked him.
My disappointment that Cllr. Butt had side-stepped the real issue was eased when I saw that the “Democracy in Brent” webpage for speaking at Council meetings said that:
‘The programme of council meetings for the remainder of 2014/15 at which deputations are permitted’ included the Full Council meeting on Monday 2 March 2015. As the deadline shown for giving written notice of a deputation for that meeting was midday on Friday 20 February, I sent off my written notice to Brent’s Chief Legal Officer, Fiona Alderman, (and not to Fiona Ledden, whose defunct email address is still shown on Brent’s website as the place to send notices!) with an hour to spare. I heard nothing back from her, and wrote to query this when I saw on Tuesday that the agenda for the meeting on 2 March did not include an item for “Deputations”.

Ms Alderman has replied to me, saying:

The Council meeting in March is the budget setting meeting.  Standing Order 34 explains at (b) that certain items on the council agenda do not form part of the agenda items when the budget setting is considered. Deputations (Standing Order 37 (i)) are excluded items. Therefore, no deputations will form part of council business on 2nd March.’

I have checked, and she is correct. It was the details on the Council website which were “in error”, and this is not another case of senior officers (or members?) wrongly preventing a Deputation from being presented to councillors. So, I am setting out here the Deputation which I would have made to Full Council next Monday, if I had been given the opportunity to do so. I will send copies of it to Cllr. Butt, and to all the other Brent councillors. Perhaps we will eventually get a full reply!

Two important questions for the Leader of the Council to answer.

I am speaking as an individual, but I know that the points I am raising are of concern to many local residents, Council employees and a number of elected councillors as well.

In September 2014 an Employment Tribunal gave a judgement against Brent Council and its HR Director, Cara Davani, finding that its former Head of Learning and Development, Rosemarie Clarke, had suffered racial discrimination, victimisation and had been constructively dismissed. [Paragraphs 1-6 and 313 of the judgement]

In respect of Ms Clarke’s suspension in February 2013, for alleged gross misconduct, the judgement says:

‘The tribunal find it to have been unreasonable of the respondents [Brent and Ms Davani] to suspend the claimant [Ms Clarke] when they did, which suspension this tribunal finds was sufficient to breach the implied term of trust and confidence; the factual matrix not supporting the allegations, which factual matrix Ms Davani had been fully aware of.’ [Para. 271]   and:

'The tribunal is satisfied that the action of Ms Davani in seeking the claimant's suspension when she did, was a direct consequence of the claimant having raised a grievance against her. The tribunal finds that the claimant was thereby victimised.' [Para. 302]

In respect of Ms Davani stopping Ms Clarke's sick pay in June 2013, the judgement says:

'… the tribunal finds no procedural basis for Ms Davani taking the action of stopping the claimant’s sick pay when she did,' [Para.310]   and: 

'In the absence of Ms Davani being able to give an explanation for taking such action when she did, the tribunal on a balance of probabilities finds that this course of action was taken by Ms Davani as a direct result of the antipathy the tribunal finds she had then had against the claimant, following the claimant having done the protected act [the grievance complaint], which this tribunal finds Ms Davani to have been incensed by.' [Para. 311]

The grievance which Rosemarie Clarke raised in December 2012 was against Cara Davani, her line manager, alleging bullying and harassment. Brent’s HR policies say that ‘bullying and harassment will not be tolerated’. Because she felt that her case was not being dealt with fairly, Ms Clarke made a formal grievance complaint to Brent’s interim Chief Executive in February 2013. The following extracts relate to how Brent dealt with this.

After setting out details from Brent’s HR procedures of what an employee should have been entitled to expect in such a case, the Tribunal found that:

 ‘The claimant was not afforded any of these.’ [Para. 175]  and:

'The tribunal finds that, from the correspondence from Ms Gilbert on 21 February, addressing the claimant's grievance of 18 February, so as to conclude and dispense with the grievance, this was not in accordance with the first respondent's procedure and a breach of contract.' [Para. 176]

Ms Clarke appealed by email against this summary dismissal of her grievance, and the Tribunal found:

‘The claimant chased up this email on 27 February, enquiring as to whether it had been received, Ms Gilbert responding stating that, it would be responded to as soon as possible.’ [Para. 196]   and:

‘The respondent has not responded further to the claimant’s correspondence. They maintain however, that a response had been drafted but not sent out, by mistake. The tribunal has not seen this correspondence.’ [Para. 197]

The Employment Tribunal judgement gives clear findings of fact, supported by detailed evidence, to show that Cara Davani victimised Ms Clarke over a number of months, and that Christine Gilbert, when the problem was brought to her attention, totally ignored Brent’s proper HR procedures. As a result of their actions, Brent will have to pay out a very large amount in compensation, damages and costs. Rosemarie Clarke had the courage to stand up to their bullying and indifference, and has been proved right to have done so.

The press release last September which announced the Council’s decision to appeal against this judgement says: ‘Brent Council takes all allegations of racial discrimination, victimisation, harassment or bullying extremely seriously.’ But the Council has done the complete opposite in this case, even after its appeal was thrown out last December because there were no reasonable grounds to support it. 

No action appears to have been taken against Brent’s Director of HR, or its interim Chief Executive, for their actions in this case, despite them being senior officers who are required to show high standards of conduct, promoting these ‘by leadership, and by example’, and by acting ‘in a way that secures or preserves public confidence.’

In a letter sent to Cllr. Muhammed Butt on 5 February, which was also published on a local blog site, and in a slightly edited form in the “Brent & Kilburn Times” on 12 February, I asked him two important questions. He has not yet answered them, so I ask him again:

1.  How can staff have confidence in the Council’s latest round of job cuts, when it is being presided over by two senior officers responsible for victimisation, racial discrimination and failing to follow the Council’s HR procedures?

2.  Why is Cllr. Butt still “protecting” these two senior officers, when he has known about their misconduct in the Rosemarie Clarke case since at least September 2014?

I hope that the Leader of the Council will now give the Council, its staff and Brent residents his full answers to these questions.

Philip Grant.


Anonymous said...

Cover up and Lies

When will Council Butt be held to account, just as Brent Council Officers should be held to public account ?

Anonymous said...

Forensically immaculate, Philip, and unignorable. I'll help Cllr Butt out with Q1: 'They can't' and (from what we've read here and what Martin and others have received in phone calls and emails) 'they don't' .

The refusal to answer 2 can only lead to the conclusion that an honest answer would inevitably lead to the removal of all 3 of them.

Mike Hine

Anonymous said...

Philip Grant: You will never get answer to your questions from Cllr Butt. Cllr Butt wants to be Lutfur Rehman of Brent (He is already behaving like that (1) Council Sold Tokyngton Library to Islamic Centre (where on and off he was Trustee now Mr Saqib Butt is one of the trustee no idea if he is related to Cllr Butt) he banned Cllr Zafar Vankalwala from Civic Centre (still have no idea who advised him to do so) I personally believe he abused his power by banning an elected Cllr from Civic Centre, (3) he wants to be leader for full term rather then having yearly elections, (4) he changed the rules in the Council constitution to made him more powerful, for all this he wants support of Christine Gilbert & Associates.

Anonymous said...

In a new twist on Cara Davani, the Kilburn Times website has just published a very good story about her being appointed to lead Brent Council's new Equalities Team:

It includes the first comment from Brent Council about why Ms Davani has not faced any disciplinary action:
a spokeswoman said: “An adverse tribunal decision should not automatically lead to disciplinary proceedings.”

I agreed that 'an adverse tribunal decision should not AUTOMATICALLY lead to disciplinary proceedings'. However, when you look at the findings of fact, based on detailed evidence, in this particular Employment Tribunal judgement, which I have only quoted from very briefly in the text of my Deputation above (because of the five minute time limit which would have been in place if I had been able to present it), there is a very strong case for such proceedings.

So why hasn't the Council taken disciplinary proceedings against Ms Davani? Cllr. Butt still needs to answer that question.

Philip Grant.