Thursday 5 February 2015

Two important questions for Cllr. Butt to answer

Guest blog by Philip Grant

This week’s “Brent & Kilburn Times” carries an article, “Council to revamp its equalities policies” on page 5. I am glad to see that, rather than simply repeating Brent’s press release about Cllr. Pavey’s review, the article also reminds readers about the Employment Tribunal case which gave rise to it, referring to ‘the treatment endured by Ms Clarke from her line manager, HR director Ms Davani’, and concluding:

‘Brent Council has refused to disclose if any disciplinary action would be taken against Ms Davani.’

After reading Cllr. Pavey’s report last weekend, I sent an email letter to the editor of our local newspaper, which I hoped would be published in the same issue as any story about the results of his review. Unfortunately, the “Brent & Kilburn Times” did not have room for it in this week’s edition, carrying instead (on page 15) two very good letters about vital services threatened by the Council’s proposed budget cuts. My letter included two important questions addressed to the Leader of Brent Council, Cllr. Butt, and as I believe these questions should be put to him publicly, I have asked Martin if he would “publish” my letter here. I know that Cllr. Butt may not be a “Wembley Matters” reader, but I will ensure that he, and his colleagues, receive a copy of this letter.

Dear Editor,

A lesson not learned by Brent's HR review

In September 2014 an Employment Tribunal found that former Brent Council employee, Rosemarie Clarke, had been constructively dismissed, directly discriminated against because of her race, and victimised by both the Council and its Director of HR, Cara Davani.

Brent Council responded by appealing against the Employment Tribunal judgement, and by asking its Deputy Leader, Cllr. Michael Pavey, to review its HR policies and practice ‘to ensure that we learn lessons from this case’.

In December 2014, a judge threw out the Council’s appeal as it had ‘no reasonable prospect of success’, because ‘none of the grounds disclose any reasonable ground of appeal’. The report on Cllr. Pavey’s review was presented to the Council’s General Purposes Committee last week. Although it shows that a great deal of effort has gone in to suggesting improvements to Brent’s HR and Equalities policies, the report does nothing about the key lesson which should have been learned from this case: that even the best HR policies and practices are of little use if the officers who should follow them are allowed to ignore them.

The detailed evidence in the Employment Tribunal judgement showed that the victimisation began after Rosemarie had the courage to complain about the bullying and harassment she felt she was suffering from her line manager, Ms Davani. It also showed that the victimisation continued over a number of months, and that interim Chief Executive, Christine Gilbert, failed to stop the victimisation when it was brought to her attention, or to follow the Council’s own grievance procedures, so that Brent was found guilty of breaching its employment contract with Ms Clarke.

The actions of these two senior officers have brought the Council into disrepute, as well as leaving it liable to massive compensation, damages and costs, but no action appears to have been taken against them. The Council Leader, Cllr. Muhammed Butt, does not appear to have made any public statement about the case, and has not replied to several emails I have written to him about it. When he became Leader in May 2012 he told your newspaper that under him the Council would be ‘more open and transparent’.

I hope that Cllr. Butt will honour that promise, and give Brent’s staff and residents his answers to the following questions:-

     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?

    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?

Yours faithfully,

Philip Grant.


Anonymous said...

Sadly getting rid of Gilbert and Davani is likely to result in a Brent Labour leadership Challenge.

This is something Councillor Burt Will avoid happening.

Perhaps if Labour nationally suffer a collapse in their vote, questions Will be asked from a Local perspective why is this so if London May 2014 Local Elections were so favourable to Labour.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Philip. And well done B&KT.

Anonymous said...

You know what, residents really need to start making their ward councillors more accountable. For them to just sit back and accept Butt's blatant disregard for decency is very much unacceptable. They should all be ashamed for accepting public funds whilst turning a blind eye to what is going in Brent Council. Blood disgrace the lot of them

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you've mentioned ward councillors being more accountable, as I agree with you entirely on that. I hope that they see your comment, and take your views to heart, but in case they are afraid to upset their Leader by reading "Wembley Matters", I have taken steps to make them aware of the position.

After this guest blog was posted, I emailed the text of it to Cllr. Butt, with copies to his Cabinet colleagues. I have then forwarded copies of that email to all of the other Brent Labour councillors, with the message:

'When Muhammed Butt was elected Leader in May 2012 he told the Brent & Kilburn Times: 'I want better relationships between front and backbenchers so everyone has an input in decisions.' Will you let him know what you think about the situation over the actions of Cara Davani and Christine Gilbert, and how you believe he should decide to deal with it, or will you say nothing and remain part of Cllr. Butt's "silent majority"? '

I don't think I could have put it to them any straighter than that. Let's see what response, if any, comes of it.

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad s/he mentioned 'decency' too, Philip. What a forgotten concept with this lot.
Good questions to the councillors but I'm not confident that their expectations of The Leader's decency will allow them the confidence to do anything other than conform to 'party discipline'.
Mike Hine

Anonymous said...

Falling between the cracks in this debacle is the basic and simple proposal to STOP CLEANING THE STREETS in residential roads. What on earth is this, other than a deliberate and blatant 'two finger solute' to the residents?

And............would this have happened in the heady days of Ann John and Gareth Daniel? NO!

Anonymous said...

Although I have not yet heard back from Cllr. Butt, or any of his Cabinet colleagues, I have already received replies (none of them hostile) from six backbench Labour councillors. Several have expressed their own concerns about this case, others have simply thanked me for forwarding my email to their Leader and text of the "guest blog", or simply 'noted' what I have sent them.

One Labour councillor (I won't reveal his name) clearly has a sense of humour, as he wrote:
'Firstly before responding I am now bound by the council code of conduct to ask whether you are a Council employee?'
I suspect he is a Wembley Matters reader, and is aware of fellow readers concerns that the latest changes to the Code of Conduct, pushed through at a recent Full Council meeting, mean that if Brent councillors are approached on any employment matter by a Council employee, they must report it to the Director of HR.

Philip Grant.