Saturday 30 July 2016

Brent Council and Cara Davani - at last some answers, but ...

On 21 July we published a guest blog from Philip Grant LINK , which asked some questions of Brent Council and its Leader, Cllr. Muhammed Butt, about the pay-off last year to its former Director of Human Resources, Cara Davani.

I am pleased to say that, unlike her predecessor Christine Gilbert last year, Brent Council's Chief Executive, Carolyn Downs has written to provide brief answers to the four points which Philip raised. A copy of her letter is shown below, and readers are invited to consider the information given, and to add any comments they wish to arising from what we now know about the pay-off arrangements.


Philip Grant said...

To summarise the main points of the letter:

1) It was Christine Gilbert (then Brent's interim Chief Executive, and a close associate of Ms Davani - they had previously worked together at Tower Hamlets Council and at Ofsted) who decided to terminate Cara Davani's employment and give her a £157k "compensation for loss of office" pay-off in June 2015.

2) It was also Christine Gilbert who decided not to take any disciplinary action against Cara Davani in September 2014, despite the compelling evidence of Ms Davani's misconduct in victimising Rosemarie Clarke (the reference to the racial discrimination finding is a "red herring").

3) A "smokescreen" answer in respect of Cllr. Butt - why is he always hiding behind others, and refusing to answer this question?

4) Brent Council (that is Brent residents, through their Council Tax bills and cuts to services) picked up the full bill for settling Rosemarie Clarke's Employment Tribunal claim, even though Cara Davani was a separately named respondent in that case, who should have paid part of the (still undisclosed) damages and costs.


Anonymous said...

i.e. this is still just bloody cover up. Doesn't it get through that we are not going to just accept this rubbish and being treated with such contempt.It is OUR money that has been misused and our services cut to nothing. Perhaps it is going to have to go outside and also fully utilise the media. The more they want to cover it up the more we want to know why!!!!

Nan. said...

With reference to para 3, the head of paid service, Christine Gilbert, could not have had jurisdiction over her own questionable conduct! This would have been a matter for councillors.

It had after all been possible for the council leader to sack the former Chief Executive, Gareth Daniel.

The reason the rational reasoning put forward by Carolyn Downs is undermined is because of the peculiar relationship between Davani and Gilbert.

Davani was effectively the power behind the throne having got rid of her own manager in order to clear the way for Gilbert to be given the interim chief executive role so that Davani could remain in charge.

Thus the Davani Gilbert relationship was truly symbiotic each dependent on the other to maintain her position.

The idea that Gilbert would have had the slightest inclination to act against Davani under any circumstances is entirely laughable

an angry tax payer said...

Nan brings up many of the things that have been going through my mind on reading the Chief Executive's reply. If they are trying to gang up to cover up and say "it was all Christine Gilbert and nothing can be done as she's not here now" well somebody must have approached her to invite her to become the interim chief executive and somebody must have offered her the post and agreed terms with her. How about giving us this week information.

Anonymous said...

I am still none to wiser as to why we paid Ms Davani £157K for being crap at her job? Knowing her relationship with Christine Gilbert was quite incestuous. Why Mo Butt once again has been allowed to "pass the buck"? Who actually is running Brent Council?

Nan. said...

Interesting section taken from the Model Code of Conduct for local government employees that would have been applicable to the Davani /Gilbert /Andy Potts situation.

4.5 Appointments and Other Employment Matters

Employees involved in appointments should at all times act in accordance with the Local Government Staff Commission’s Code of Procedures on Recruitment and Selection (Code of Procedures).

The Code of Procedures at Part D, Stage 2 – Conflict of Interest, page D:52 states:

"Responsibility is placed on every panel member to disclose to an appropriate manager or officer of the council where potential conflict of interest may be present, for example partners or persons where a family relationship is deemed to exist, or if an individual has agreed to act as a referee for an applicant"


"Where a potential conflict of interest exists, the issue is not about satisfying the conscience of the individual. Public perceptions and also those of other candidates must be considered and, in such cases, it may be appropriate for the individual to withdraw from the recruitment exercise."

Similarly, employees should not be involved in decisions in relation to discipline, promotion or pay adjustments for any other employee who is a friend,a person to whom the employee owes (or is owed) an obligation, partner or person where a
family relationship is deemed to exist (see Appendix 1, page 19 for a definition of 'family relationship’).

For further examples of potential categories of
interests see Appendix 1, page 19 which are based on the relevant section in the Northern Ireland
Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors

Philip Grant said...

FOR INFORMATION: This is the text of the reply which I sent to Carolyn Downs (and Cllr. Butt), with copy to all of Brent's elected councillors, this afternoon:-

Dear Ms Downs (and Cllr. Butt, please see 3. below),
Thank you for your letter dated 27 July 2016, which I received by email on 29 July.

I am grateful for your openness in responding, which is a welcome change from the attitude of your predecessor. I also acknowledge the regret which the Council has finally expressed for the hurt caused by the actions of Senior Officers in the Rosemarie Clarke case (even if only issued in a brief statement from a ‘Council spokesman’, reported at the end of a local newspaper article). These are positive indications that the Council is moving towards a “better Brent” under your stewardship, but there are still some matters from this ‘very unhappy episode’ which remain to be resolved before the borough can move forward.

You have replied briefly to the questions I raised on four issues, and I will keep my responses brief:

1) Thank you for confirming that Christine Gilbert terminated Ms Davani’s employment. Whether this gave rise to a legitimate payment of “compensation for loss of office” is open to question. As both Cllr. McLennan and Cllr. Colwill appeared to suggest that Ms Davani had been made redundant, at the Full Council meeting on 11 July, you may wish to check the accuracy of any briefing document they had been given on the matter.

2) Although it was the “racial discrimination” finding by the Employment Tribunal which caught the headlines, it was the findings of fact over Ms Davani’s victimisation of Rosemarie Clarke which should have led to her dismissal for gross misconduct. Christine Gilbert (whose then legitimacy as Head of Paid Service must be in doubt, after the fixed-term of her appointment, approved by Full Council in June 2013, expired in June 2014) was well aware of those findings, and clearly failed to act appropriately.

3) You have done your best to provide a “diplomatic” answer to this question, but it is Councillor Butt who should be providing the answer. If he cannot, or will not, explain his actions, openly and honestly, I would hope that his fellow councillors will hold him to account. You have mentioned the statutory role of the Head of Paid Service, and councillors may also wish to seek an explanation from the Council Leader as to why he kept Ms Gilbert in the role of interim Chief Executive for so long (after saying in September 2012 that he was appointing her for just a few months, until a permanent appointment could be made) and why he announced in September 2014 that she would be staying until 2015, without seeking the approval of Full Council.

4) Thank you for confirming that Brent Council (or Brent residents, through their Council Tax payments and/or cuts to services) paid the full settlement to Rosemarie Clarke (despite part of this representing a personal liability of Cara Davani).

If the questions raised in June 2015 about rumours of a “pay-off” had been answered, and attempts to get the matter before meetings of Full Council or Scrutiny Committee (so that elected members could consider whether any payments were a mis-use of Council funds) had not been blocked, by Christine Gilbert and other Senior Officers on her behalf, these matters could have been cleared up before you took over as Chief Executive in September 2015.

As it was not until the Council’s draft accounts for y/e 31 March 2016 were published, including (under a legal requirement) the £157,610 amount of the “compensation” payment to Ms Davani, there are still points to be resolved. I have written to the auditor for those accounts, to question, and ask him to investigate, the £157k payment and other related expenses, and will await his response when the audit report is finalised.

I am copying this email to all Brent’s elected councillors, for their information. Best wishes,

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

Where they are now.

Cara Davani

Embarked upon a career change. Beautiful boutique hotel with outstanding 2 AA rosette star restaurant. Super wedding venue. Outstanding gardens. Close to coastal towns of Aldeburgh and Southwold. Only limited HR consultancy work undertaken now.

Philip Grant said...

Thank you for this, Nan. I was able to quote from this in my email to the auditor of Brent's 2015/16 accounts, in support of my evidence for a conflict of interests involving Cara Davani and Christine Gilbert which should have made the £157k "pay-off" unlawful.


Philip Grant said...

Thank you for this information, Anonymous (2 August at 19:56). sounds like a very nice place:
'Set in three acres of parkland, our 18th Century Grade II listed country house offers you a chance to get away. Tucked away in a rural part of Suffolk, Satis House offers hotel accommodation in a place perfectly placed for exploring the coastline, quaint market towns and relaxing days away from the hustle and bustle.'

I wonder how Cara can afford it? I certainly couldn't afford to stay there, even if I felt I would be welcome!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for pursuing this Philip, I'm behind you and I'm sure you have the backing of most Brent residents too!

Nan. said...

Might Brent be entitled to a percentage of the profits........??

Nan. said...

I'm glad it was of use, Philip.

The District Auditor is a very courteous chap whose hands seem to be tied in what he can do.

I hope you may have greater success in convincing him that there has been provable wrong-doing.

Philip Grant said...

Thank you, Anonymous (3 August at 15:14). I also have the backing of a number of Brent's Labour councillors, but unfortunately they don't feel able to come out and say so publicly.

Martin Francis said...

Received via email:

I am writing to commend WM for exposing the Cronyism within the Christine Gilbert reign in Brent. I also wish to give compliments to the Kilburn Times for investigating and writing numerous related articles, especially the recent one by Nathalie Raffray, titled: "Disgraced Brent Council director receives £150k payout after SHE racially discriminated against a black worker”, dated 30 June 2016

It beggars belief that the Council / Cara Davani (CD) implies she received legal advice indicating she could claim constructive dismissal from the Council, although she had already been found guilty at a tribunal of discrimination, which many would argue was tantamount to gross misconduct whereby she could have been dismissed forthwith.

With regards to statutory redundancy payments she was not directly employed by the Council for very long. Originally she was reportedly paid £700 per day, into her private business bank account, for her HR services. After concerned residents queried this matter she was paid through payroll as an employee for approximately two years four months.

Had she been employed by the Council for more than two years, and not been found guilty at a tribunal for matters potentially deemed to be gross misconduct whereby she could have been instantly dismissed, she would just be entitled to statutory redundancy pay, which I understand to be one week's pay per year of service.

It beggars belief that Brent should pay CD her an extortionate amount of money (almost £160,000) which is not in line with the Council’s own statutory redundancy payments and again highlights how she has been treated in a more favourable manner, compared to other Brent employees who may have committed themselves to a lifetime service.

Had Cara Davani’s actions of racially discriminating, bullying and harassing, not been deemed as gross misconduct surely her redundancy payment should not have exceeded £6,000. Perhaps Brent should investigate this inequality and consider sacking, or suing their lawyers?

A Concerned Resident / former employee of Brent

Philip Grant said...

Dear person who wrote the email comment (4 August at 18:37) - given the strength of your views, and if you are on the voters list for Brent, you have a right, if you wish, to object to the expenditure of £157,610 by Brent Council, BUT ONLY if you submit your objection in a proper form by Thursday 11 August.

If you do want to do this, it can be done by email to the auditor at KPMG: ,
and a copy must also be sent to Brent Council's Chief Finance Officer: .

Your email would need to say that it is about the accounts of the London Borough of Brent for 2015/16, and that you are objecting under Section 27 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.

You need to say that you are an elector in Brent, give your full postal address, and (if you know them) the name of the Ward in the borough and the constituency (e.g. Brent North or Brent Central) in which you are registered to vote.

You must say what you believe is wrong about the accounts and why you believe they are wrong. If it is the £157k payment, you should say that you are objecting to the compensation for loss of office payment of £157,610 to Brent's former Human Resources Director, shown at Note 30 (Senior Employees' Remuneration) in the accounts, and that you think it is wrong to include this amount in the accounts because it was not a proper payment for the Council to make.

In support of your objection, you need to explain why you think the £157k should not have been paid, and provide what evidence you can. Based on your comment, you could say that Cara Davani should already have been sacked for gross misconduct after the Tribunal findings against her (Note: these were NOT for racial discrimination, but for victimising Rosemarie Clarke and for wrongly having her suspended for misconduct just because Rosemarie had complained about being bullied and harassed by her); that she should not have been given a compensation payment for leaving (or at most only a small one, quoting the normal redundancy rates from your comment); and that the £157k payment shows she was being treated more favourably than she should have been because she was a crony of Christine Gilbert.

You don't need to provide much evidence, as you can also say that you are aware that there has been another objection about the leaving payment to Cara Davani, and that you would like any evidence provided in any other objections to be used in support of your objection as well.

At the end of your objection email, you would need to ask the auditor to investigate the payment you have objected to, and either:

1) ask the Court to declare the payment unlawful, under Section 28, if he thinks there is a strong enough case for this; or,

2) make a public interest report, under Section 24, giving his views on the payment and asking Brent Council to take action to remedy it.

I hope this is of use to you, and I will also post it as a comment, in case it is of use to any other Brent WM readers who may be wondering how they could object to this disgraceful payment by our Council. Best wishes,