Monday 2 February 2015

Pavey Review won't lance Brent's boil but points to future improvements

The Pavey Review which was published last week has this key sentence:
  1. It is important to note that the review was not a review of our HR department. It is about the role each person has to play in making Brent Council the best possible place to work. There are clear recommendations in relation to employment policies and practice, and these require the action of the entire organisation and crucially managers at all levels.
This limitation is why Brent Green Party and others called for an independent investigation into Brent Council, not only in the racial discrimination, victimisation and constructive dismissal that an Employment Tribunal found against first respondent Brent Council and second respondent Cara Davani, but into the previous working connections of senior staff. The latest example of the latter is the appointment of Lorraine Langham as Brent's Chief Operating Officer who like Christine Gilbert and Cara Davani previously worked for both Ofsted and Tower Hamlets Council. LINK

In any other organisation disciplinary action would have been taken against a manager found guilty of such conduct. Muhammed Butt, when challenged by members of staff on the issue at Brent Connects said the council had to follow 'due process' and make an Appeal.

Some Councillors suggested to me that disciplinary action could only take place when the Appeal process had been exhausted. A Judge found that the Council had no grounds for an Appeal but still no action was taken. Two legitimate opportunities to lance the boil missed.

Some have claimed that disciplinary action in itself would amount to victimisation or even a 'witch hunt',  or would be to succomb to political pressure. This is  a red herring. The Council owes a duty of care towards its employees and this includes ensuring that they are treated fairly in their day to day employment regardless of race, gender etc. Brent Council should have confidence that their own disciplinary procedures are robust enough to withstand such pressures.

Now the Council is in the position of having someone in charge of HR who has been found guilty of the above offences but is nevertheless in charge of recruitment and redundancies policies. Long term mprovements in processes and procedures does not address immediate issue.

Michael Pavey has done a thorough job within his limited remit, consulting widely with staff and apparently winning their confidence. One glaring ommission is consulting with the staff who have left the Council and examining any gagging clauses that were imposed. They, after all, are possible victims of poor employment and practice.

However, given the comments I have received on this blog regarding working conditions at Brent Council (many unpublished so as not to reveal identity or due to gagging clauses) as well as emails and telephone calls, soemtimes distraught,  the following comment seems emollient:

This review finds that Brent is generally a happy and inclusive place to work. But there is plenty we can do better.
Although Cllr Pavey recognises that Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) statistics in Brent are better than some other London local authorities, he says they are far from satisfactory.  What is missing from his report is the connection between those statistics and the operation of the HR department (Proportion of BAME employees in Brent is 62%, Female employees 65%):

Both show higher proportions in the lower grade and I assume that BAME and Female would be higher still at tScale 3 to P2, and lower at the Hay grade.

Im terms of HR practice the reasons for leaving are also important and for both BAME and Females dismissals are higher (second column)

These are perhaps some of the most important recommendations:

Finding: Generally, feedback from staff themselves suggests that practice is good; however, improvements can and should be made to employee management practice to achieve a more collaborative and inclusive culture. 

Engagement with staff suggests inconsistent application of policies and procedures, including as regards flexible working. There has clearly been great progress in implementing good management practice, but the Council should also seek to ensure that internal communication explain expected practice, underpinned by a clear explication of staff and manager competencies and behaviours.

·      At present, there are few reported incidents of bullying and harassment. The Council has an emphasis on informal resolution: according to the LGA this represents good practice. Consideration should be given to ensuring consistency, support and follow up within the informal resolution framework.
·      The Council lacks a systematic Council-wide approach to learning from HR and legal processes when complaints are raised; whilst this is not uncommon, we have an opportunity to make improvements. In addition, this may give rise to inconsistent management responses. Thus, though HR takes the lead, individual managers are responsible for learning from ETs and grievances, and reviews take place with HR and within departments. Improvements should be made in terms of cross-organisational learning, peer review and Council-wide improvements.

·      The Code of Conduct does not at present adequately articulate the behaviours and practice expected of managers and staff. Such behaviours should be clearly articulated, communicated and reflected in:
·      recruitment and selection processes

·      ongoing team and line management
appraisal processes
·      learning development processes and interventions.

Addressing this presents an opportunity to emphasise the significant priority the Council attaches to valuing diversity.
·      Evaluation of practice and understanding of staff experience should be regular and Council-wide.
·      Internal communications should be strengthened to become a two-way flow of information. It is critical for senior management to be able to communicate values and good practice to the wider workforce. But it is equally important that communications enables the wider workforce to articulate their experiences to senior management. In two staff focus groups, more than half had not seen a copy of their service or team plan and participants suggested that improvements could be made to internal communications, including the ability for greater staff engagement and management visibility, for example through senior managers attending team meetings. This is increasingly important given the scale and pace of change. Managers themselves need to be supported to communicate effectively, but must also play the key role in staff engagement. Given the current and future constraints on funding, it is important that central advice and strategy is complemented by good practice within departments.

The Full Report can be found  HERE


Anonymous said...

Is that picture really necessary?

I nearly just threw up my Alpen!

Anonymous said...

‘core values..underpin..embed practice’....I tried to read it, Martin, I really did but it's Death by Corporate Management Bum-Wibble, isn't it? And even to start to read it is to let the whole diversionary tactic succeed.

The key sentence is indeed 'It is important to note that the review was not a review of our HR department'; because that is exactly what the situation was crying out for and for which some very persuasive evidence in the form of a court judgement already exists.

This Review is all a distraction and should be treated as such. If my car is rammed by a drunk driver I want the culprit arrested, I don't want the police to conduct an investigation into whether I'm keeping my oil and water topped up properly.

Nice try, Butt/Pavey/Gilbert/Davani but you're fooling no-one. Could I suggest that you start taking the matter seriously?

Anonymous said...

Do you honestly think anyone would have done a better job on this than Pavey? He's constrained by his position and his brief, but this is an honest, wide-ranging report.

An independent report would probably repeat 95% of what Pavey has written.

Anonymous said...

Staff were warned not to speak to councillors and are currently in fear of their jobs so your stance is wrong.

Anonymous said...

The constraints of the brief is precisely my point. It was never going to deal with the problem(s) and was intended as a distraction from it/them. Pavey's principles didn't direct him to point this out to Butt/Gilbert/Davani and refuse to be any part of it, rather he went away and dutifully prepared what was required of him.
It may well be an honest, beautifully constructed and informative thing, but the undertaking of it was dishonest and its whole reason for existence and its purpose were dishonest.
Think about the actual series of events, practices and actions which led to the Review's setting up (and are still continuing at expense to taxpayers). This Review is the sum total of Brent Council's response to those actions of its most senior officers. Is it adequate? Is it even relevant to those events? Is it likely to really change anything? Was it ever intended to?
An independent report looking into the actions of Davani and the reaction to those actions by Gilbert and Butt would certainly not ' repeat 95% of what Pavey has written'.
Pavey's Review is a distraction and, in your case, it appears to have been a successful distraction.

Anonymous said...

I'm saying that Pavey is not the problem. He did the best he could under difficult circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Of course Pavey is not the original problem. But he is not a stupid man: he was aware of the facts of the case; aware that they were not inconsistent with Davani's 'previous'; aware from the 'Review' brief that what he was being asked to do did not address the issue and, in fact, avoided the issue altogether; was presumably aware that this was what 'reviews' and 'inquiries' are regularly used for (to give the illusion of 'something being done') and aware that avoiding taking any real action against Davani was the outcome that Gilbert and Butt were seeking; he nevertheless decided to involve himself in the distraction and, in doing so, became complicit in it and complicit with Davani, Gilbert and Butt.

Whether this fits Pavey's previous image as a 'good guy' or not is neither here nor there (except to the extent that it demonstrates that if you choose to sleep with dogs, don't complain when you find you've got fleas).

Anonymous said...

It's a load of crap. It is well known that the staff who will speak up would not have been included in the so called review. The same happened with IIP when the assessor came in and chose names at random, she was told that the ones would speak up were not available to attend. It's not worth the paper it is written on, staff who are still working there are aware that nothing is anonymous so if they were speak up it could be traced back to them. A total load of bull

Anonymous said...

Pavey did not do the best under difficult circumstances. He is the deputy of the Labour Group, doing best under difficult circumstances would be ensuring an investigation was independent.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks. This kind of information is priceless. It puts into perspective all that stuff in the review where Pavey presents what he wants to hear as if it's the true opinion of the people involved.
They don't deserve to get away with it. Don't let them.

Anonymous said...

I think this might be Wembley Matters' Charlie Hebdo moment. But this time I'd be on the murderers' side. You have the right to offend, Martin, but only up to a point.
This depiction of a pustular furuncle (isn't Wikipedia wonderful?) is a step too far.

Anonymous said...

Cllr. Pavey was well aware of the situation over the Rosemarie Clarke Employment Tribunal case (it was what his review was set up to learn the lessons from), and I had correspondence with him about it in November 2014. Here is an extract from a long email I sent him on 7 November:

'As interim Chief Executive of Brent Council Christine Gilbert has a duty to ensure that Senior Officers of the Council behave properly. It seems clear that the decision to appeal against the Employment Tribunal judgement was taken more in the personal interests of Cara Davani, Fiona Ledden and herself than it was to protect the interests of the Council. I have sent Ms Gilbert a similar email to this one, asking her to revoke the decision to appeal against the Employment Tribunal judgement, saying that I am also writing to you, and suggesting that she contacts you with a view to discussing how best to "save face" for the Council, and herself.

To put it bluntly, the situation over this appeal stinks. The more that Senior Officers (and Councillors?) at the Civic Centre try to cover it up, the more putrid will be the smell when it becomes public knowledge. There is always a possibility that the facts will remain concealed, but is that a risk you can, or should, take? You must make your own decision on that, and accept the consequences of it, but I would suggest that there is a way this situation can be resolved in a fair and just manner.'

I said that I would not disclose the advice I was giving him, unless required to do so as part of a formal enquiry, so that will have to remain between Michael Pavey and myself. While he thanked me for letting him know my concerns and views on how it could be resolved, he told me that the terms of reference he had been given (presumably by Christine Gilbert and/or Cllr. Butt) would not allow him to follow up my suggestions as part of his review. The trouble is, no one at the Council has yet followed them up at all, as far as I am aware.

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

'he told me that the terms of reference he had been given (presumably by Christine Gilbert and/or Cllr. Butt) would not allow him to follow up my suggestions as part of his review'.

It must be dreadful to be so powerless! To be so near the top and yet have no ability to speak out, to influence or, as they say, to make a difference. To have to accept The Leader's orders knowing that it's you who will have to take the flak for a 'review' which, though brought about by the past actions of 2 or 3 known people, is only allowed to talk about the future actions of everyone else but them.
Who knew that Deputy Leader was just a sinecure? Might just as well be Mayor really.

Mike Hine

Anonymous said...

It might be interesting to use FOI to reveal the contributions made by staff, Members, unions or members of the public that were not considered in the final and published report.