Friday 27 May 2016

Muhammed Butt to face Standards investigation over Tayo Oladapo death announcement

Muhammed Butt - just a few questions to answer

Brent councillors have been informed that the independent investigation into issues involved in the death of Cllr Tayo Oladapo will be undertaken by Richard Penn, a former local authority chief executive. He will conduct an investigation into the Council's processes regarding the matter as well as the conduct of Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt which has been the subject of a Members' Code of Conduct complaint.

The two inquiries will overlap but the latter will be considered by the Standards Committee.  Cllr James Allie's recent appointment as Chair of that Committee was the subject of controversy in the light of a possible referral of Butt to the Standards Committee over the Cllr Oladapo affair. LINK
Sandra Kabir,  Chief Whip,  named in the appointment letter as someone who should be spoken to,  is now vice chair of the Standards Committee. As Chief Whip she was involved in the move against  Labour maverick Cllr John Duffy. Cllr Krupa Sheth, another committee member, is a close associate of Cllr Butt.

Carolyn Downs, Brent Council Chief Executive Officer told Brent councillors:

An independent investigator has been appointed to examine processes and the conduct of a councillor at Brent Council following the sad death of former Councillor Tayo Oladapo.

Richard Penn, a former local authority Chief Executive of two major metropolitan authorities with 35 years of public sector experience, is expected to start his investigations next week. Mr Penn has led a number of high profile examinations of local government, the health service, the police service and as Commissioner for Standards at the National Assembly for Wales.

Former Councillor Oladapo died at the Royal Free Hospital on 29 January 2016 following a long illness. However, Councillor Oladapo’s death was not confirmed to the council until 10 March 2016 and the death was not formally registered by his family until May.

Mr Penn’s investigation into the council process is expected to last around three weeks and it is intended that any recommendations from his report will be considered by Full Council in July.
The investigation concerning the councillor is expected to last around five weeks and will be reported to the Council’s Standards Committee.

Full terms of reference for the investigations  were sent to Mr Penn in the following letter:
Appointment to conduct investigations into Council processes and the conduct of an individual Councillor
I am writing to confirm that you have been appointed by the Council to conduct two separate but closely related investigations following the sad death of former Councillor Tayo Oladapo who was a member of the Council’s Labour Group.
Former Councillor Oladapo died at the Royal Free Hospital in the Borough of Brent on 29 January 2016 following a long illness.
For a long period of time prior to his death, former Councillor Oladapo was unable to attend any meetings of the Council and was therefore at risk of automatic disqualification. According to the Local Government Act 1972, if a member of a local authority fails throughout a period of 6 consecutive months from the date of his last attendance to attend any meeting of the authority then, subject to certain exceptions, he ceases to be a member of the authority unless the failure was due to some reason approved by the authority before the expiry of that period.
Former Councillor Oladapo was elected in May 2010 and last attended a Council meeting on 26 November 2014. Since then his absence from meetings of the Council was approved by Full Council on 2 March 2015; 20 May 2015; 7 September 2015; 18 January 2016 and 22 February 2016. Copies of the public reports considered at these meetings of Full Council are available on the Council’s website.
Following enquiries made by the Council’s Chief Executive, Carolyn Downs, on 10 March 2016, the Police notified the Council that former Councillor Oladapo had died on 29 January 2016 but that his death had not been registered. A copy of Ms Downs’ statement presented to the annual meeting of Full Council on 18 May 2016 is attached hereto.
In the circumstances, the Council recognises that the reporting of former Councillor Oladapo’s absence to Full Council and the approval of his absence raises issues which warrant review in the public interest. It is the Council’s objective to ensure that its processes are independently reviewed; the facts, as known and understood by the Council, and indeed the actual facts are formally reported; that any lessons are learned and that any improvements are implemented.
Against that factual background, you are requested to review/investigate the following:
1. The events leading up to the meeting of Full Council on 22 February 2016 concerning former Councillor Oladapo’s illness and continued absence from Council meetings;
 2. The information and facts known and understood by key officers and members of the Council throughout the relevant period and how this was formally reported at meetings of Full Council;
3.  Whether further or better information could reasonably have been obtained about former Councillor Oladapo prior to the meeting of Full Council on 22 February 2016; 

4. The Council’s general processes for reporting former Councillor Oladapo’s illness and continued absence from Council meetings; 

5. What, if anything, the Council could have done differently or better at the time; 

6.. What, if any, lessons the Council should take from this experience; and 

7.. What, if any, improvements the Council should implement. 

You are also requested to make any other recommendations that you consider appropriate and prepare a written report to the Chief Executive within a timescale of 2 to 3 weeks.
Arising from these same circumstances, on 13 May 2016, in my capacity as Monitoring Officer, I received a Members’ Code of Conduct complaint about the conduct of Councillor Muhammed Butt. Councillor Butt is the Leader of the Council and Leader of the majority Labour Group.
In broad terms, it is alleged that Councillor Butt apparently misled the Council over the death of former Councillor Oladapo. A copy of the full complaint is attached hereto and you are asked to investigate the following issues and prepare a separate standards investigation report which will be considered by the Council’s Standards Committee. You are asked to consider the contents of the email which is referenced in the complaint and address each allegation, save those which relate to the employment relationship between the then Labour Party official and the Labour party.
In your standards investigation report you are asked to make findings on the following:
1. Whether or not Councillor Butt was acting in an official capacity and whether the alleged conduct was capable of falling within the scope of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
2. Whether or not Councillor Butt breached the requirements or obligations of the Members’ Code of Conduct. If so, specify which paragraphs of the Code you find have been breached.
3. If applicable, the action that you recommend the Council should take in response to any finding of breach.
I also attach a copy of the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct and associated complaints procedure which you will need to consider carefully before preparing your standards investigation report. The expected timescale for this report is 4 to 5 weeks.
Inevitably, the terms of your general review will overlap with the standards investigation into the conduct of Councillor Butt and therefore your two reports are bound to contain much of the same information. As no doubt you will appreciate, however, they are intended to serve distinct purposes and will be reported accordingly.
I would suggest that your enquiries should extend in total to approximately 5 working days. If, in your assessment, a greater amount of time is needed, I would ask that you contact
The opportunity to interview and make enquiries of the officers and Members you consider are relevant to your review and investigation will be given to you.
It is suggested that in order to pursue the enquiries listed above you will need to interview the following officers:
Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive

Fiona Alderman, Chief Legal Officer

Thomas Cattermole, Head of Executive and Member Services
Peter Goss, Democratic Services Manager

Daniel Elton, Labour Group Political Assistant
I will strongly encourage any Members who you consider it necessary to interview to make themselves available. I suggest that the following may be most able to assist:
Councillor Butt – Leader of the Labour Group Councillor
Sandra Kabir – Chief Whip

Councillor Thomas – then Chair of the Labour Group
Councillor McLennan – the current Deputy Leader
The following members attended a pre-council briefing on 18th February 2016 and may be of assistance:
Councillor Butt – as above

Councillor Lesley Jones – then Mayor

Councillor Kansagra – then leader of the Conservatives

Councillor Colwill – current leader of the Conservatives and then Deputy Leader.
Yours sincerely,
Fiona Alderman
Chief Legal Officer


Alison Hopkins said...

I'm confused. What happened to Mandip Johal?

And in other questions,how much is this costing and who is paying?

Martin Francis said...

1. The above independent person is not THE Independent Person. 2. Dunno. 3. Before anyone else tells me - yes I know the Royal Free is in Camden but the letter is reproduced in the article as sent to councillors.

Philip Grant said...

Dear Alison,

Richard Penn, under the terms used in Brent's Standards procedures, is an "Investigating Officer", appointed by the Monitoring Officer to investigate a complaint.

Mandip Johal, the Independent Person whose appointment was confirmed by Full Council on 18 May, should have been consulted by the Monitoring Officer in deciding how the complaint against Cllr. Butt should be dealt with. The Standards procedures say:
'The Monitoring Officer will consult with the Independent Person to determine the course of action to be taken. This decision will normally be taken within 14 days of receipt of the complaint.'

The Independent Person should also be involved when the Investigating Officer's report is submitted to Standards Committee, if that report finds that there has been a breach of the Members' Code of Conduct. Brent's procedures on this say:
'The hearing is before the Standards Committee and the Independent Person will be in attendance to provide his/her views before a decision is made.'
'The Standards Committee will decide on the balance of probabilities whether the member is in breach of the Code of Conduct. The Standards Committee must seek the views of the independent person before making a decision on the allegation.'

The Standards Committee also includes a (non-voting) Independent Member. The Committee agreed in March to recruit two additional independent members, whose names were meant to be submitted to the Council AGM on 18 May for approval, but according to the latest information on the Council's website, Sheila Darr is still the only independent member of Standards Committee.

If all of these independent people (independent Investigating Officer, Independent Person and Independent Member) agree that Cllr. Butt's actions over disclosing the death of the late Cllr. Oladapo have breached Brent's Members' Code of Conduct, it would be difficult for Standards Committee to find him "not guilty", however closely associated with him some of the committee members might be.


Anonymous said...

I would be more interested in ensuring transparency than the cost of the independent investigation. Everyone need to understand that anything that potentially looks less than ethical will be investigated - this will encourage better decision making in the long run. It is really sad that this mans death is overshadowed in this way, but I think the Chief Executive has made the right decision.

Alison Hopkins said...

14:48. I do agree that proper independent and transparent investigation is needed. There also need to be appropriate sanctions if culpabilty is found.

My point about cost is that yet again a balls up by the Glorious Leader has ended up besmirching and costing Brent. I cite Gareth Daniel, et al.

Alison Hopkins said...

Philip, thank you very much indeed for explaining that so fully. I hope that this whole sorry mess is indeed investigated properly and with true independence. I'd also like to see real transparency in what gets published.

Anonymous said...

I echo everything that Alison says above....If found there is basis for the complaint I would love that some way was found to lay the cost of this investigation at his door also.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree - this is part of the overall cost (money and reputation) of everything that has happened since the glorious leader came to power. 14.48

Martin Francis said...

I have edited the following comment to remove the name of the Brent officer mentioned.

Philip Storer29 May 2016 at 00:11
It would seam as if the denial of any politically damaging information is routinely withheld andor ignored by members of Brent council. Take for instance the fact that when my 15 year old daughter come to live with me and my wife here in Brent and the council provided temporary accommodation for us. We were sent by Brent council to Hounslow where myself and my wife were given a room in a shared house and my daughter in another shared house across a main road. This is a breach of the housing act. After contacting Brent council about the unsuitability of the accommodation they had provided nothing was done. Anyway I told my daughter to stay in the best room with myself and my wife and got her a air bed. Things were fine until one day a ambulance was called for my wife as she had told me she had took a few extra pills that she had been prescribed. Guess what, the police turned up, cancelled the ambulance and told my daughter she had to go into the other room. the strange thing was we were all in the room that had been allocated to my daughter, so I dont know why they told her to leave. Anyway she did as instructed by the police and when to stay in the room in the house across the road. Remember she is only 15. and as such cannot give consent for sex. So when I found here hanging around with a 25 year old man who lived in the same house she had been told by the police to go and stay in, I had to start keeping a close eye on her and make sure she was not doing thing a minor should not. So after catching them together alone in her room a few time I explain to this guy she is only 15 and he cannot legally have sex with her. then myself and my mother caught them in bed together. You can imagine how things went. Anyway (Name given) from social services was contacted and came and saw the situation, and said that it was unacceptable, but still noting was done. It then became harder to keep an eye on here as I was denied access to the house she was staying in by the staff. One night I could not find her and had been told by other residence that she was in his room, again the staff tried to ignore me and prevent my from caring for my daughter. The police were called and she was found in his room. When this was reported to Cllr Butt he tried to deny it at first until he was presented with (name given) findings. however despite the evidence from social services Cllr Butt and his council still deny they had any part to play in this.

Philip Grant said...

I agree with Anonymous (28 May at 14:48), 'the Chief Executive has made the right decision', as has the Monitoring Officer by asking Richard Penn to report on the matter to Standards Committee.

The allegation that the Council has been mislead by its Leader is a serious one. If Cllr. Butt is innocent of this charge, then it is right that his name should be cleared by an independent inquiry that his colleagues and the people of Brent can have confidence in.

However, if Cllr. Butt did conceal the sad death of Tayo Oladapo (especially if he knew about it before the Council meeting on 22 February), the truth should be made public, and he needs to be held to account for his actions.

As I know from personal "campaigning" experience, Brent Council has been too willing to "sweep things under the carpet" in recent years. The way that the Chief Executive has handled this latest episode sends out a different, and very welcome message, as Anonymous puts it: 'anything that potentially looks less than ethical will be investigated.'

I hope that Council members and senior officers will take note of that message, so that this is the start of better times at Brent.


Anonymous said...

Hear hear. May this be the start of a new era for Brent Council and may this new Chief Executive remain in our employ.

Philip Grant said...


Richard Penn's investigation has taken a little longer than hoped, but a report to Full Council this evening (11 July) says that his draft report on the Standards enquiry in respect of Cllr. Butt should be in the hands of the Monitoring Officer this week.

Hopefully it will not be too long before the final report is presented to Standards Committee, and the facts are made public.

Philip Grant said...


We are now into August, and there still seems to be no report to Standards Committee. I hope this means that Richard Penn is carrying out a very thorough investigation of all the evidence he can gather, rather than that Brent Council is (once again) trying to 'sweep things under the carpet".