Friday 20 May 2016

Full text of Brent Council CEO's statement on death of former councillor Tayo Oladapo

Statement about the death of former Cllr Tayo Oladapo by Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive Officer, Brent Council made at AGM of Council on May 18th 2016

As Chief Executive of Brent council, I have received numerous enquiries about the sad death of former Cllr Tayo Oladapo. The matter has also been the subject of press coverage. I feel it to be very important for me to put on record the facts as they are known to me. I do this as a matter arising from the minutes of the last meeting which recorded both Cllr Oladapo’s absence and agreed his continued absence due to his ill health.

My aim is to clarify the Council’s understanding of events surrounding his death, and specifically the timing of when the Council received official notification of his death.

To be absolutely clear, I believe that the report considered by Full Council on 22 February was written in good faith on the understanding that Cllr Oladapo’s ill health was ongoing. It was submitted to Council as the previous report received in January required that this happen. You will all remember that Cllr Oladapo, according to the report, was expected to return to his work at the Council for that meeting in January following his release from hospital. In fact, there had been a deterioration to his health which resulted in his return to hospital and by the time of the council meeting in February it was believed that he had returned to his family in Nigeria to pass away. This was not, however, confirmed and so would have been inappropriate to put in a public report. I believe, therefore, that the Full Council considered and approved Cllr Oladapo’s ongoing absence in all good faith based on what was known on that date and what was included in the report.

At the beginning of March 2016, I became aware of concerns that Cllr Oladapo had in fact passed away. I sought confirmation and despite best efforts to confirm his death, no formal confirmation was forthcoming, which would have left me able to call a by-election.

As we were unable to obtain clarification, on 8 March, I asked Registrar colleagues to make enquiries in Camden. They were unable to confirm if Cllr Oladapo had indeed died as no death had been registered.

Additionally, I wrote to his family but the only address held by the Council was an address in Harlesden and I doubt that they have ever received the letter.  We made all reasonable enquiries possible, including trying to contact family members in both Nigeria and the USA. We were not able to get official confirmation of his death. 

On 9th March I contacted the Police to request their help.

In the early evening of 10 March 2016, I received police confirmation that Cllr Oladapo had indeed sadly passed away on 29 January 2016 but that his death had not been registered. 

On 11 March, the Council issued a statement about his death, lowered the flags and issued tributes from the Mayor of Brent and the Leader of the Council.

Just last week, on 11th May, Mrs Oladapo, Cllr Oladapo’s mother, registered his death at Camden Council.  She subsequently came to see myself and the Leader and I was able to pass on the Council’s sincerest condolences for her tragic loss. Councillor Oladapo’s funeral will take place soon. 

Clearly this whole episode raises issues regarding the noting of absences when councillors cannot attend meetings along with the frequency of reports to Council requesting leave of absence for Council. I shall arrange for an independent person to urgently review the whole episode, going back to the start of Councillor Oladapo's illness and his absences from council meetings and will ensure that their report to me is submitted to the Constitutional Working Group for their consideration. They in turn will be able to make any relevant recommendations to full Council.  I sincerely apologise on behalf of the Council for any misunderstanding which has arisen out of our actions which I repeat I believe were undertaken in good faith.

Finally it is important to remember that this all relates to the very distressing story of a young man, elected to serve his community and who died tragically from a long illness. Although I had never met Tayo, I have only ever heard positive things about how warm, kind and conscientious he was. 

As is customary, I would encourage members to use the opportunity of the first full council meeting since his sad death, when requested by the Mayor, to pay tribute to Cllr Oladapo.


Philip Grant said...

An independent review of this episode is welcome, but the Chief Executive does not say whether the report produced for her by the Independent Person will be made public. Instead, she says that the report will be submitted to the Constitutional Working Group.

I have not been able to find out from Brent Council's website what this Group actually does or who are the members of it. There are references to such a Group being set up at the beginning of the four year terms of new Brent Councils in 2006 and 2010, but NOT in 2014.

I can remember that when I followed up a Brent Connects "soap box" item in February 2014, calling on Brent Council (particularly its Senior Officers) to respect the Council's Constitution (especially the pledges in the Constitution over consulting with the borough's residents), Cllr Lorber (then Leader of the Opposition) asked for the matter to be referred to the Constitutional Working Group. This request was blocked by the Council's then Legal Director, Fiona Ledden.

In the interests of openness and transparency, the report does need to be made public, whether or not the Constitutional Working Group (whoever they may be) decide to make any recommendations to Full Council arising from it.


Philip Grant said...

After I had commented above on several points that were unclear from the Chief Executive's statement, I decided to write to ask her about these.

My email to Ms Downs of 22 May said:

'Can you confirm, please, that, in the interests of openness, you will make a copy of the independent report to you on this matter publicly available?

As the Constitutional Working Group is not a committee whose details are available on the Council's website, please disclose publicly what the role of this Group is, and who its members are. Thank you.'

In her reply of 24 May, Carolyn Downs has said:

'The investigation and report to the Constitutional Working Group will relate to the process that the council adopted from the start of Councillor Oladapo’s illness up to the announcement of his death. My intention is that this report will be made public.

The Constitution Working Group covers all matters which are of constitutional significance and which may require a change to the council’s constitution. Its membership is the Chief Executive, Leader of the Council, Deputy Leader of the Council, Leader of the Conservative Group, Leader of the Brent Conservatives and also a further member of the Cabinet (not yet appointed). It is not a decision making body and it is both chaired and convened by the Chief Executive. Any recommendations, as is the current practice, will be forwarded to full Council for their approval.'

I am pleased to be able to say that Brent now has a Chief Executive who will give straight answers (or any answers at all) to straight questions!