Thursday, 30 April 2015

Cara Davani and Christine Gilbert – Brent’s cover-up continues (or, another Deputation that the Council would not hear!)

Guest blog by Philip Grant
“Wembley Matters” readers may be interested to know what happened at Brent’s Scrutiny Committee meeting this evening (Thursday 30 April). 

Before it started, I was treated to the sight of Cllr. Butt sitting next to Cara Davani (Director of HR and Administration), laughing and joking with her, and pointing me out as the person who had come to present a Deputation about Equalities and HR. I don’t know why the Council Leader was there, except perhaps to impress on the committee members sitting opposite him that Ms Davani was under his protection, so they had better not do anything that might annoy her.

The Chair, Cllr. Aslam Choudry, soon got on to the question of the Deputation from Phil Grant, and said that there was a matter to sort out before I presented it. He asked for my agreement that if I were allowed to speak, I should not refer to any individual legal cases, as Brent’s Chief Legal Officer had advised me earlier in the day. 

I replied that I could not accept this restriction, for the reasons I had set out in an email sent to all of his committee members, and copied to the Legal Officer, some hours ago, which had not been answered. The legal case I wished to refer to was the one which Cllr Pavey’s review had been set up, as Christine Gilbert (interim Chief Executive, and also present) had announced last September, to learn the lessons from that case. As one of the points I wished to make was that an important lesson had not been learned, and both of the points required reference to the case in order to explain the reasons for what I wanted to say about the draft Action Plan, which Scrutiny Committee was being asked to give its views on, that case was relevant to committee’s consideration, and could not be ignored.

There was some further discussion with the senior Brent Lawyer, Arnold Meagher, at the meeting, who said that as the case involved had not been fully concluded, I should not be allowed to refer to it. I responded, saying that I would only be referring to “findings of fact” from the judgment in the case, and that judgment was final as it was no longer under appeal. I could not see how any reference to that part of the case would prejudice the position of any party to the remaining “remedy” hearing, at which the compensation award would be decided. I don’t think that this point was ever answered by Mr Meagher.

Cllr. Choudry said that he would discuss with his committee whether they should allow me to speak, as I would not accept the condition he had set out. There was a rather disjointed “discussion”, with several members of the committee speaking, but I could not follow what they were saying because they forgot to turn their microphones on. It seemed to be about the Legal Officer saying that I could not refer to the legal case I wanted to, but whether they viewed this as legal advice, or a legal instruction to the committee, was unclear. It appeared that the Chair was about to ask the committee to vote on the matter (which under Brent’s Standing Order 69(a)(i) he should have done, with only a simple majority being required to allow a Deputation to be received), but after further mumbled discussions Cllr. Choudry announced that I would not be allowed to present my Deputation, and moved on to the next item on the agenda.

Before leaving the meeting, I handed out the dozen printed copies of my Deputation I had taken with me to members of the public, co-opted members of the committee and other councillors present who wanted them, and I am setting out the text of what I would have said below, for anyone who wishes to read it.

Deputation to Scrutiny Committee on 30 April, in respect of item 9:
Cllr. Pavey’s Equalities and HR Policies and Practices Review and draft Action Plan.

I am speaking as an individual, but am aware that many local people, including Council employees and some Brent councillors, share the concerns I am raising.

In September 2014 an Employment Tribunal gave a judgment against Brent Council and its Director of HR, Cara Davani, finding that a former employee had suffered racial discrimination, victimisation and had been constructively dismissed.

Cllr. Pavey’s review of Equalities and HR policies and practices was set up ‘to ensure that we learn lessons from this case’. In the foreword to his review he says:

Policies are mostly sound. But policies are implemented by people and we need to do more to ensure that they are consistently applied.’

What Cllr. Pavey could not say, because his review’s terms of reference did not allow him to actually consider the Rosemarie Clarke case, was that an important lesson which should be learned is that even the best HR policies and practices are of little use if they are ignored by the officers who are supposed to follow them.

As an example, in guidance issued by Brent’s HR Director you can find statements like: ‘bullying and harassment will not be tolerated’. Rosemarie Clarke had raised a grievance against Cara Davani, because she felt she was being bullied and harassed by her. This led to a succession of acts of victimisation against her, recorded as findings of fact by the Tribunal, such as in para. 302 of the judgment:

‘'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.'

There were other findings of fact by the Tribunal about total failures to follow HR policies, which provided evidence of Brent’s constructive dismissal of Ms Clarke. Para. 176 of the judgment says:

'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 [Brent’s] procedure and a breach of contract.'

If the Senior Officers responsible for such findings ignore Brent’s HR policies, what example is that setting to the Council’s other staff? The Action Plan is totally undermined, because why should managers bother to put the policies into practice, when those at the top ignore them and get away with it? Even if disciplinary action was taken against more junior staff for policy breaches, they could argue at any hearing that it would be unfair to penalise them, when no action was taken against Brent’s Director of HR for far worse misconduct.

Scrutiny Committee may wish to ask Ms Davani why she did not do the honourable thing, and resign, following the findings of fact in the Rosemarie Clarke case. It may also wish to ask Ms Gilbert why she did not institute disciplinary proceedings against Ms Davani when she failed to resign. If, having heard anything those Officers wish to say, committee members agree that the Equalities and HR Action Plan cannot move forward with Cara Davani still at Brent Council, I hope they will not be afraid to say so.

The second point I would ask Scrutiny Committee to consider is at Section 2 of the draft Action Plan [see page 5 of Appendix 2].  This has been prepared by Cara Davani, and is entitled ‘Achieving Excellence in Employment Policies’. 

I am deeply concerned at one of the “success criteria” which she proposes. This reads: 

‘Number of employment tribunals is low against benchmarked councils (benchmarks TBA) and ET cases are successfully defended.’

It is the second part of this that I find most worrying. “Success”, according to Ms Davani, should be measured by successfully defending Employment Tribunal cases. The risk of setting such a “target” is that it might encourage Council staff involved in these cases to fabricate or falsify the evidence that they give. 

As an example, in the Rosemarie Clarke case, a key factor in the finding of ‘racial discrimination’ against Brent Council was the decision to continue disciplinary proceedings against her after she had ceased to be a Council employee. In Para. 240 of the judgment it says:

‘With regards to the decision being taken to pursue disciplinary action against the claimant [Ms Clarke], following the termination of her employment, the respondents [Brent Council and Cara Davani] have been unable to state by whom or when that decision was made.’

As there would have been very few Council employees who could have made that decision, and at least some of those were witnesses at the Tribunal, this totally undermined the credibility of the Council’s evidence.

Scrutiny Committee may wish to ask Ms Davani and Ms Gilbert to tell them who did make that decision, and why. The stain of the ‘racial discrimination’ verdict against Brent Council cannot be removed, nor the Action Plan succeed, until a full and honest answer is given.

“Success” over Employment Tribunals is having none, and to achieve this I would recommend that the “criteria” should be: 

100% of managers honour in practice the core value set out in Cllr. Pavey’s review:
‘Every Brent Council employee deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.’ 

Thank you.

Philip Grant
30 April 2015.

Note from Martin Francis: Readers may be interested in seeing the Scrutiny Committee in action discussing whether Philip Grant should be heard. Unfortunately most councillors did not switch on their microphones so the public could not hear what was being said. Muhammed Butt is sitting with Cara Davani in the right hand corner of the horse shoe.



G.Lee said...

Well said Martin, and Thanks to Philip Grant for pursuing this with a purposeful determination....This kind of behaviour from a Labour council that is supposed to be representing the people of Brent is deeply disturbing....seems like a blatant disregard of the law! Isn't there some form of redress, or independent body that this can be taken to?

Anonymous said...

Call in Pickles. I'm no fan of the Tories but this has gone far enough.

Alison Hopkins said...

I'm very disappointed that Aslam was simply a puppet in all this. He used to be pretty objective - was my vice chair for a year.

Martin Francis said...

Edited comment by a reader: I agree. By this stage it's a case of whatever it takes to get rid of these snakes is justified. All moral case for their position on this is completely lost and they taint everything else they do as a result. It's not as if they'll be replaced by Tories and whoever else the Labour group can offer must be preferable to these XXXXX. Please, everyone, broadcast this to any outlet you possibly can.


Martin Francis said...

Interestingly he offered the Committee an opportunity for a vote on whether to hear Philip despite the legal advice and they declined.

Alison Hopkins said...

Did he indeed. That's more like the Aslam I knew. In our day (!), we'd have perhaps taken officer advice, but then done our own thing, sans vote. I can think of at least one instance where I allowed a speaker, despite the fact they'd not applied beforehand. But - BIG but - the advising officer was extremely good at working with councillors rather than instructing them. She has, of course, gone.

Anonymous said...

Cara has Butt so well trained she should enter him at Crufts

Anonymous said...

It doesn't seem right that Brent's Lawyer, Arnold Meagher, should advise at the Councillors at last night's meeting that the case should not be referred to, as it has already be concluded and the tribunal judgement is widely available via the Internet. For those who wish to read a copy of it the Watford Employment Tribunal case, titled:- RC Clarke v. 1. London Borough of Brent 2. Ms Cara Davani, the reference number is:- 3302741/2013.

Anonymous said...

Why was Cara Davani in attendance whilst this important matter was being discussed, especially as her actions has brought the Council into so much disrepute? Further, shouldn't such an important matter be discussed at a full Council meeting?

Anonymous said...

P.S. -
In reporting what happened at Scrutiny Committee yesterday evening, I forgot to mention the following incident.

While I was explaining to the committee why I should be allowed to refer to the Rosemarie Clarke case in the Deputation I wished to present, a voice called out: "Is this part of his five minutes?"

The Chair, Cllr Choudry, said that it was not. Cllr. James Allie, to his credit, said that Mr Grant was a member of the public addressing the committee, who should be respected and not interrupted.

Who was the heckler? Cllr. Muhammed Butt - Leadership by example, the Brent Council way.

Thank you for all your supporting comments.

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

I think you are right 7:28 as it looks like Ms Davani has Butt (as well as other council officials) tightly on a leash. On 10 Dec 2014 - Cllr Butt proudly tweeted:- "Cara Davani is giving me lessons in dog-training. This will come in handy at the next Labour Group meeting."

Anonymous said...

Cara Davani was there, along with Christine Gilbert, as it was their report to Scrutiny Committee on Cllr. Pavey's review and the Action Plan arising from it which was on the agenda. That was the agenda item which I had requested to present my Deputation on.

It was Cllr. Pavey's review which had suggested that the Action Plan should be presented to Scrutiny Committee for its views and comments. I did not stay to see whether they actually had any comments to make.

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

Why wait a year? She could do that to him anytime.

Mike Hine

Anonymous said...

Davani has to be there to keep an eye on her poodle.

Anonymous said...

Classy, Cllr Butt, classy!

Anonymous said...

No poin in censoring, Martin. I don't know what 'a reader' called the snakes but I'm sure it wasn't half as bad as what I've filled the blanks up with.

Anonymous said...

I would say sheer contempt! Mr Butt should be ashamed of himself.

Anonymous said...

So true - yap, yap!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they are veering on the side of caution as such things may be regarded as a conflict of interest :)

Anonymous said...

Curious if anyone has kept a tally of the number of deputations refused?

Anonymous said...

It looks like Christine Gilbert, Cara Divani & Co should be reminded of ..

The 7 principles of public life



1. Selflessness

Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.


Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.


Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.


Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.


Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.


Holders of public office should be truthful.


Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

Anonymous said...

If there is still a remedy hearing are there any powers tribunal can use directly against Brent Council such as ordering the removal of Ms Davani in post as a remedy ?

Anonymous said...

If We get a hung parliament in a few days could any appointed MP propose a motion for Brent Council to be scrutinized ?
If so Labour nationally would be very foolish to oppose such a motion.
This might be the only way to rid Brent from the rvil clutches of a few council officers

Anonymous said...

If only...

Anonymous said...

Let's hope that Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, will be replaced after the election and that his replacement will listen to community requests to investigate this dishonourable group of cronies within the council. Meantime, I think Phillip Grant should write a detailed report to circulate to the media as these people have more than breached the 7 principles of public office.

Anonymous said...

After the Scrutiny Committee meeting, I sent copies of the text of my Deputation to all eight councillors on the committee and to a number of other Labour councillors, including some fairly senior ones.

None of the committee members has responded to comment (or apologise) yet, but I have just received a reply from one who says:
'I think you make a legitimate point about what constitutes success in terms of ETs. I will take a look at this after the Election.'

A small start, perhaps, but until the main issue of senior officers being held to account for their misconduct is dealt with, rather than being covered-up, HR issues at Brent will not improve.

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

Keep the pressure up Tower Hamlets eventually cracked and Brent Will be next.

Anonymous said...

You are doing a commendable work, Phillip - I am delighted that it's being recognised. Roll on Election Day!

Anonymous said...

Great analytical minds get together!

Anonymous said...

Keep up the great work, Phillp! As Confucius said, " Truth conquers all"...

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Yes, you are right, Phillip.. A small start .. but until the main issue of senior officers & their cronies, as well as their so-called 'independent' lackeys, are held to account for their misconduct Brent will not recover and improve.

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group said...

I was particularly interested in the way that Brent's legal dept were drafted in. I have heard that that is now standard intimidatory practice of Brent Housing Partnership when appealed to by those they wish to evict for vacanat possession of properties they want to clear on the South Kilburn Estate.

Meanwhile I have commented that Brent Housing Partnership's interpretation of 'Managing homes for Brent Council seems to be 'evicting locals for vacant possession'. (See blog piece Housing policy realities and consequences for mock up logo.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anonymous of 3 May at 00:39. In case you are interested, this was my reply to the Labour councillor who I quoted above:-

'As we are both well aware, it was the first point in my Deputation which really needs to be dealt with, rather than being repeatedly covered-up. The worst thing about Thursday evening was seeing Cara Davani flaunting her power, sitting beside Mo. Butt and chatting and joking with him. It seemed as if the Scrutiny Committee members sitting opposite them were intimidated into not receiving my Deputation by a combination of pressure from Council Officers and the sight of their Leader "protecting" Ms Davani.

This is not healthy for democracy in Brent, nor is it healthy for the Brent Labour Group. When Cara Davani and a clique of her cronies who have been recruited since she arrived ... have more influence over Cllr. Butt than his elected colleagues, something needs to change.'

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

I know that "poodle" is the traditional term for someone who appears to be so obedient to the wishes of its handler, but Cara Davani is an owner and breeder of terriers (from her website: Kerry Blue Terriers, Lakeland Terriers, Irish Terriers & Welsh Terriers).

There is probably* no truth in the rumour that Kebulak (the dog breeding business she runs with partner, Andy Potts, at their six acre home in Suffolk) has recently applied to the Kennel Club to register a new breed, the Brent Red Terrier.

Philip Grant
* Ok, not 'probably' - there is no truth in the rumour (as far as I am aware).