Wednesday 18 May 2016

UPDATED: Labour rebellion over Principal Opposition designation

Brent Council's  CEO, Carolyn Downs, announced tonight at the Brent Council AGM that  she will be commissioning an independent person to review the whole episode of Cllr Tayo Oladapo's death going back to January 2016.  (This is not the same person as the Council's Independent Person. The reviewer's identity wil be made known in due course.) Any recommendations arising from the review would be brought to Full Council.

Downs  outlined the sequence of events that included reports earlier in the year that Cllr Oladapo had gone back to Nigeria, his country of origin.   These had not been reported to Council on February 22nd  because there was no confirmation that this was the case. There were then reports of his death that could not be confirmed as the Registrar said the death had not been registered.   Letters to his address in Harlesden got no response and attempts to contact relatives in Nigeria and the USA also drew a blank.

On the 9th March police were contacted and on 10th March they had confirmed the councillor had died on January 29th. On March  11th his death was announced by the Council. LINK  (WM note -The announcement posted by Brent Council on March 11th did not mention the earlier date of death).

Cllr Oladapo's death was not officially registered by his mother until May 11th.  Carolyn Downs had then been able to convey her and the Council's condolences.

Councillors from all sides of the chamber paid tribute to Cllr Oladapo. Cllr Stopp was not called but his tribute appears HERE .

Later in the meeting some Labour councillors abstained on a vote to recognise the Conservative Group as the official opposition. This is the group based in Kenton now led by Cllr Reg Colwill. Earlier the Brondesbury Park Brent Conservatives  had failed in a bid to occupy the front  bench seats currently occupied by the Conservative Group.

A senior councillor told me that  the Brondesbury Park Conservatives would make a better, and much needed, Opposition. Apparently some felt that it was an abuse of Labour's huge  majority to use it to install a tame opposition that would give the ruling group an easy ride. It was better to leave the seven opposition councillors to decide between themselves. That would of course have Cllr Helen Carr wielding the casting vote..

Abstainers were Cllrs Perrin, Nerva, Collier, Chan, Marquis, Stopp, Long, Thomas, Tatler, Kelcher, Duffy  and Ramesh Patel.

Cabinet posts approved were:

Butt (Leader), McLennan (Deputy). Farah (Housing) Hirani (Community Wellbeing), Mashari (Regeneration, Growth, Employment and Skills, Mitchell Murray (Children and Young People), Pavey (Stronger Communities) Southwood (Environment).

Mashari adds Regeneration to her portfolio while Pavey's post is a clear demotion after his leadership challenge.  It is not clear whether McLennan will take on the Finance and Human Resources responsibilities previously led by Pavey.

The key Planning Committee,  is still chaired by Cllr Marquis but the membership is relatively inexperienced with the exception of Cllrs Long and Moher. Other members of the Committee are Agha, Hylton, J Mitchell Murray and newly elected Kilburn councillor Pitruzzella.

Joining the controversial Cllr Allie on Standards are Collier, Kabir (former whip) and Krupa Sheth. Collier will have his work cut out to persuade his colleagues to adopt a strong stance in dealing with any referrals. Mandip Johal was recommended for appointment as an Independent Person.  The recommendation said that Mandip had over 10 years experience of dealing with professional misconduct complaints within the legal profession.

In an almost one-party Council strong Scrutiny Committees are essential and the memberships announced this evening slightly better than I feared.

The Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee is chaired by Ketan Sheth and other members are Hoda-Benn, Conneely, Hector, Jones, Nerva and Shahzad.

Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny is chaired by Cllr Kelcher. Committee members are Aden, Choudhary, Ezeajughi. Miller, Tatler and M Patel.

Cllr Stopp, previously on the Scrutiny Committee has now relegated to Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing  (with Cllr Perrin) and the  Trading Standards Joint Advisory Board.  Duffy remains out in the cold.


Anonymous said...

So housing has been split from regeneration. Suspect this is more to do with promotion/demotion of individuals rather than anything to do with strategy or policy.

Alison Hopkins said...

I was told about the contact with police on the 16th March, as I recall.

This all raised even more questions. How can you have an official announcement of death if it hasn't been registered? And where was it registered? If this 11th May date was the Brent registration, was the death previously registered elsewhere, thus allowing the announcement to be made and the by election to take place? The process for a casual vacancy is that two voters living in the ward have to write to the council stating that the councillor has died, and will the Returning Officer therefore call a by election. So, was this actually a legal by election at all, given that the process includes checking if the councillor is actually dead?

Labour will have been benefitting presumably from Tayo's tithe. Will they return this? Did they end up helping with the funeral expenses?

This needs far more than a Brent Council investigation. It raises very serious issues and concerns about the council itself, including some possibly criminal ones.

And in all this mess, poor Tayo and his family are dragged in. :(

Anonymous said...

Clrr J Mitchell Murray on planning??

His public linkedin states he is research asst forProperty investor of london.......

conflcits of interest!?!

Anonymous said...

Cllrs Tatler, Duffy and Kelcher also were abstainers.

The Labour Group was whipped on two votes. To vote AGAINST a plan to make the "Brent Conservatives" (Brondesbury Park) the official opposition and to vote FOR the "Conservatives" (Kenton) as the official opposition. By actively abstaining on both votes the rebels were making their point that the Labour Group shouldn't use its large majority to hand pick its own opposition and leave this up to the 7 opposition Cllrs to decide.

Anonymous said...

Sadly don't feel very reassured. Unhappy that Agha still in planning committee at all (hope he is not vice chair) and not enough experience there. Appalled that Allie has the position he has.

Anonymous said...

Given his past record I would imagine that you won't have to wait long before Allie starts providing a few 'oops' moments.

Alison Hopkins said...

Can anyone find out who this Johal is? I've googled a tad and can't find anything that seems relevant.

Anonymous said...

And isn't there something a bit paradoxical about an Independent Person being 'recommended' by someone or other (and we can guess that the recommender wouldn't have been Philip Grant)?
Mike Hine

Nan. said...

I hope the independent person has a sound knowledge of local authority governance and the respective responsibilities and remits of the officers and the political parties.

Responsibility for Members going AWOL lies with the Chief Executive ultimately, possibly through a Legal Director or some other such officer.

Of course political parties have their own internal mechanisms for managing pastoral care and maintaining standards that don't bring the party into disrepute.

Another point is that a death needs to be registered in the borough in which it occurred, hence deaths in the Royal Free will be registered with the Camden Registrar.
Brent's registrar service is well aware of this so would /could have advised accordingly, if asked.

The idea that none of this could have been reported by council officers to council members is utterly ludicrous.
The usual form would be to brief the party leaders in confidence about what enquiries had been made and with what level of success. This would ensure that Cllr Oladapo's personal information would not have been paraded unnecessarily in the public arena without accurate confirmation as to the position.

A summary report could then be made to full council that party leaders had been briefed as to details in the interests of safeguarding personal confidentiality; officers were continuing to pursue enquiries as to Cllr Oladapo's state of health and whereabouts; and that Members would be kept apprised.

Anonymous said...

Did Tom Miller really abstain? He's now an Assistant Whip so I find this very unlikely

Tom said...

Hi Martin/avid readers, I really hope this is not from the official record, because I voted with the Labour leadership, and I've been voted in as a whip by the Lab group. Sorry for any resulting disappointment!

Martin Francis said...

My mistake and corrected. It is quite hard to see the hands up in the horse shoe formation. Had another councillor complaining because I didnt include him!

Anonymous said...

Fair play to them but worth pointing out that they all voted FOR exactly the same proposal last year. Of course a change of heart is welcome but don't think there's anything prinipled about these "rebels"

Anonymous said...

What a shame Tom. I quite liked you.

Anonymous said...

There was no whip.

Tom said...

Thanks Martin, appreciate it. The layout is at least as frustrating if you are sitting in it!

Anonymous said...

Kenton Conservatives should be paid their allowances as 'Principal Opposition' from Brent Labour Party funds not public money, as their job is to prop up Brent Labour

Philip Grant said...

Dear Mike (19 May at 19:42),

I can confirm that I did not recommend Mandip Johal, but as I don't know him (or her?) I cannot say whether or not I would have done if I had been given the opportunity.

Brent Council was trying to recruit THREE Independent Persons, who had to apply for the posts by early March. As I had pointed out in earlier blogs, Brent does not appear to have had any properly appointed Independent Person for Standards purposes since May 2014.

A report to General Purposes Committee in December 2015 set out the recruitment process for the new Independent Person(s), including the following:
'the Director Human Resources, the Leader and the lead Member for HR matters (i.e. the Deputy Leader) to short-list candidates, conduct interviews and to recommend appointments to Full Council for final approval.'

If this procedure was followed, then the Independent Person recommendation that Full Council accepted on 18 May would have been made by Cllr. Muhammed Butt, Cllr. Michael Pavey and Mildred Phillips (or by two out of three of them).