Saturday 30 September 2017

Grunwick40 unveil extraordinary murals marking the historic Grunwick strike

Two Grunwick40 murals were unveiled today. The first (above) outside Dollis Hill Station where the Grunwick factory gates were situated in Chapter Road, the second on the bridge on Dudden Hill Lane (below) where the mass picket in support of the Grunwick strikers took place.

The work of the Grunwick40 group and artist Anna Ferrie add something extraordinary to the streetscape of Willesden marking a historic struggle of women, Asians and the trade union movement.

Friday 29 September 2017

HELP! Wembley Stadium has stolen our bus

Residents of the Pilgrims Way/Kings Drive Estate have been deprived of their local bus, the 206, on Wembley Staium events days which have increased since Tottenham Hotspur took over the stadium for their home games.

The 206 which starts and terminates at The Paddocks on the Salmon Street/Fryent Way roundabout is turned around at Brent Park Tesco on event days.

Residents are puzzled as to why it is necessary to curtail the service from 8am when events start at 2.30 or 3pm.

The estate has many elderly residents who rely on their local bus and their freedom of movement is now regularly restricted at weekends. Users of Fryent Country Park are often to be found vainly waiting for a bus at weekend at The Paddocks and have to be told that they are not running.

Some long-standing residents have told me that TfL received a subsidy for the 206's predecessor, the PR2, especially to serve the estate.

Transport for London have been contacted for a comment.

Queensbury pub redevelopment consultation today 4pm-8pm St Gabriel's Church Hall

Queensbury pub campaigners are rolling their sleeves up ready for another round in the campaign to save the Queensbury pub in Willesden Green.

Developers Fairview Homes lost an appeal against the refusal of permission to develop the site. Now it is the turn of Redbourne (Willesden) a subsidiary of the Winston Group to try and persuade the community and Brent Planning Committee to accept their plans for 48 flats and a pub with function room on the site.

The second day of an exhibition by the company's public relations company takes place today at St Gabriel's Church Hall, Chichele Road, NW2 3AQ 4pm-8pm.

UNMISSABLE! Grunwick Mural unveiling Saturday at noon

From Grunwick40
We're looking forward to welcoming you tomorrow and revealing not just one mural to commemorate the Grunwick strike but two! 

As you come out of Dollis Hill tube station at the Chapter Road exit you'll be greeted by dhol players and some of the former strikers, and it's here that we'll unveil the first mural just after 12pm. We'll be standing directly outside the former factory, on the same pavement that the strikers and their supporters stood on 40 years ago. 

They'll then lead us in a short procession up Dudden Hill Lane (a 5 minute walk) to the site of the second mural - which is a huuuuge 28 metres long! After this is revealed we'll take another 7 minute walk back down the hill to the offices of Brent Mencap (379-381 High Road, NW10 2JR) for a short reception.

The view from the pavement outside Grunwick 40 years ago


Thursday 28 September 2017

Now Duffy asks about missing councillor and 'jollies' from developers

This is part 2 of Cllr Duffy's correspondence with Cllr James Allie who will be chairing the Standards Committee tonight:

Dear James , 

Here is part two of my concerns please ensure the co-opted member are given a copy. Also if you are not the person or committee who deals with these issues please pass them on to the CEO with the questions as a FOI .

(A) Committee attendance 

James as a member of  the Labour group you are  probably aware that I have been left off committees for the past two years. You maybe also be aware that I won an election to be on scrutiny committee but was then removed and was not placed on any committee whatsoever this year. This is in-spite of the fact that attendance at committee meetings is very  low and the recommendation from the Penn report concerning the death of CIIr Oladapo (Tayo) said under 2.

What, if any, improvements the Council should implement"

(i)consideration should be given as to whether every member of the Council should sit on a sub- committee or committee as well as Full Council to improve the potential for attendance and thereby avoid the possibility of breaching the six months rule. This could also obviate the current practice of using the substitution arrangements to enable members to avoid breaching the six months rule". 

I know you have witnessed the exchange of emails between the Labour Party chief whip Cllr Kabir and myself about this issue of me being removed from all committees. Therefore you can imagine my surprise when just before full council meeting on  last Monday! Cllr  Kabir told me that she had put me on the Licensing committee replacing another councillor, without asking my permission or my availability .I informed Cllr Kabir that I would not stand as I believe it was just cover-up to hide the fact a councillor had moved out of Brent sometime previous  and she was not willing to attend any more meetings than the bare minimum. I also told Cllr Kabir I was not good enough  for the leadership to nominate me for any committee meetings in May,  therefore what had changed by September.

I was at the time and subsequently concerned that the Labour leadership are not being transparent to residents  that  I am being brought into a deception without my knowledge. Also in the Penn report it said "consideration should be given to the way in which ‘apologies for absence’ are managed. Currently there is no requirement for the member concerned to tender their apologies directly or personally as these can be tendered on their behalf by another member or an officer". 
I am concerned that the apologies are being managed by the Chief whip in a blanket fashion and do not relate absences due to illness or any other reason , just the unwillingness of a councillor  to travel to Brent.I  wonder if under standards you would be willing to start an investigation into 

(1) When did the councillor leave Brent?
(2) Was the CEO and the Head of Legal informed ?
(3) If not why not ?
(4) Did the CEO and HOL give any advice?

(B) Hospitality 

As you know there has been a  successful planning application for Tottenham Hotspurs to play at Wembley , many people suggested Tottenham got a good deal  and many local Cllrs objected to the conditions. I have been informed by  a member of the public  both the Leader of the council Cllr Butt and lead member for Regeneration and planning Cllr Tatler have received hospitality from Tottenham since the planning permission was granted. Whereas I have some understanding that we need to keep relations open with the Wembley and their tenant Tottenham,  However I  do not understand why the lead member for planning should participate in hospitality as this could seemingly bring  the planning system into disrepute , therefore I ask you to ensure both these councillors  and any others who have participated in Hospitality declare  the reasons why they were offered hospitality and did they check it with the CEO,before excepting also if you could enquire 

(1) How many tickets were received and value.
(2) Who attended the matches with them.
(3) Reason  for the hospitality ( sometimes its OK to look at an issue of say crowd control ,traffic management, or a new street cleansing practise. However  receiving hospitality should not just be for a "Jolly Boys outing@ for them and their family that is not acceptable)
(4) Can you also enquire whether any other Councillors , Officers or relative have received hospitally from Tottenham or Wembley stadium.

In my experience its best to keep clear of hospitality from developers as ' When you dance with a developer, its always to their tune". I hope you see that a declaration alone without reason is not enough, what we must consider is what the average man /women in the street would think, that is why I ask you to look at the issue.

Cllr Duffy asks Standards Committee to defer his item to allow independent input

Cllr John Duffy, subject of a report going to Standards Committee tonight LINK, has requested that members refer back the report to allow independent input into the matter.

This is his email to Cllr Allie, cahir of the committee.
Dear James , 
I was not informed of this meeting and only read about it on Wembley Matter on the 22nd September. No doubt the CEO and the head of legal will say I was told six months ago this would be referred to the next meeting, however it is up to you to decide, whether it would be reasonable for CEO to inform me of the date of that meeting once it has been fixed.  

Anyway I am unable to attend tonight for personal reasons. Can you pass this email on to the co-oped members.

Let  me first point out there is no independent input into the report and I refused to accept that officers can come to a decision on selective emails and therefore I refuse to co-operate unless someone who was not on the officers “payroll” was involved.

Let me get things right and state why I believe the CEO was wrong  to leave Brent  to sit on operation Gold. I believe operation GOLD, was a complete waste of time,it's not my opinion it's the opinion of many  people.I strongly believe that quangos very seldom solve problems and I believe I have a right to voice that, as we live in a democracy.

In the aftermath of the disaster I believe the Ministers were wrong to set up a quangos of CEOs as many of the victims believed senior officers were responsible for not listening to them. What was needed were operation teams with hands on experience of logistics  and how to deal with problems that would arise from Re -Housing, Social Services , Bereavement counselling, Food distribution etc. CEO could play a role by nominating their best officers and put them into the field with resources.The ministers view that we need more Chiefs instead of Indians was proven wrong. 

The following day I went down to South Kilburn  and identified two blocks I believe were of concern, George and Swift House and raised it with the CEO during the next few days neither the CEO, the lead member for housing Cllr Harbi, the lead member for Regeneration Cllr Tatler appeared in South Kilburn, even though they were aware of SK  close proximity to Grenfell and the  fabric of the buildings was similar.

The officers on site did a sterling job on ensuring all survey were carried out.I also recognised that the Leader and Deputy Leader and the MP Tulip Siddiq (who chaired a very well received meeting) turned up to reassure residents.

However the CEO's decision not to support a emergency meeting was in my opinion wrong. It was clear the meeting may have been difficult as many resident needed to vent their  anger and frustration.

The CEO had a number of options of how to respond to the request from the 5 Councillors,Cllr Chan and Cllr Hector requested a meeting via all councillor email which included the Mayor.  

She could have supported the meeting and assist the members who were calling for a meeting to get passed, or to ignore those members of the council and use the bureaucratic tactics to ensure it did not take place. The CEO then compounded the issue saying a meeting would take place but the residents would be barred and the meeting would last no -longer than a ½ hour.I believe the later decision was  the worst decisionand an affront to the democratic process 

I believe the CEO was wrong so I am releasing some of the private emails LINK between the CEO and myself and other officers,which may explain what was going on at the time,means from the bottom-up.

I do have respect for the CEO and I believe she is very competent, however she is not infallible and on this occasion I believe she made a mistake on this occasion.

Overall I believe Brent officers did well following the Grenfell disaster. Therefore I think the CEO should concentrate on where we agree not where we disagree. 

I would ask committee members to refer the report back to allow independent input into the report.

I have other things I wish to raise with the standards  which I will send you later to today before the meeting .

The emails Cllr Duffy refers to can be found on his blog Kilburn Calling HERE

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Join the Ecosocialist Network

Following my posting of the Naomi Klein speech at the Labour Conference I thought that some readers may be interested in this initiative.

Ecosocialist Network on Facebook LINK

Local Democracy Week events in Brent

From Anne Kittappa, Brent Local Democracy Week

This year, Local Democracy Week begins on Monday 09 October. The events that I think you might be particularly interested in are:

All About Brent Question Time
Wednesday 11 October, 7-9pm, Brent Civic Centre
This annual event follows the BBC Question Time format. Jonathan Carr-West from the Local Government Information Unit will return to chair. The panel will be comprised of:
·         The Leader of the Council 

·         Leader of the opposition
·         Dean Simon, a social media personality known as Rants n Bants and local resident
·         Yasmin Hai – Author, producer, and former resident with a strong local connection

If you would like to submit a question for this event, please email, or call me on 020 8937 6060, or tweet @Brent_Council using #qtbrent

Or contact me directly.

Scrutiny Cafés

We are holding three cafes, one for each committee, to talk about topics which the scrutiny committees are going to look at in detail this year. Come and join us for a cup of tea and a chat.

Topics: rent setting for council housing, housing associations quality of service, reviewing how housing complaints are handled, and applying new rules on tackling homelessness.
Date: Wednesday 11 October
When: 3-5pm
Where: Willesden Green Library
Who: Cllr Janice Long

Community Wellbeing:
Topics: adult social care, children’s services, public health, cultural services and the work of the NHS in Brent
Date: Tuesday 10 October
When: 11-1pm
Where: Costa Coffee, Wembley Central Square
Who: Cllr Ketan Sheth

Public Realm and Resources:
Topics: Regeneration in South Kilburn and Wembley, welfare and benefits, what it’s like to contact and deal with the council, the council budget, recycling rates in Brent, employment support and closure of job centres in Kilburn and Willesden, crime and antisocial behaviour, and how the council engages with residents.
Date: Monday 09 October
When: 10-12noon
Where: St Laurence Larder - Christ Church, Christchurch Avenue, NW6 7BG
Who: Cllr Matt Kelcher

If you would like to book a place, please contact me by email,, or call me on 020 8937 6060

Other events taking place throughout the week, include, Be a Councillor event, the Great Youth debate, Councillors visits to schools, video poetry, and Brent Youth Parliament radio station takeover. For more information about these events, please visit our website, or email or call me.

Be a Councillor

Saturday 14 October 2017, 10:00am Brent Civic Centre
Are you passionate about your local area? Are there local issues that you feel need to be raised and addressed by the council? Why not consider becoming a councillor?

Most councillors are put forward for election by their political parties, but independent candidates are also just as eligible to stand for election to represent their local area.

This session is for anyone who may consider standing in the May 2018 council elections to find out what you need to do to get your name on the ballot paper, what being a councillor involves and what support is in place to help you carry out your duties once elected.

Book your place today!


Why Labour should support electoral reform and how the environment could benefit

Make Votes Matter fringe at the Labour Party Conference this week
The Green Party came up against a solid brick wall at the General Election when it tried to get agreement with the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats for a 'Progressive' (Electoral) Alliance which involved a commitment to campaign for electoral reform in exchange for the other parties standing down in favour of the party best placed to defeat the Tory candidate. In the event neither the Lib Dems nor Labour made the commitment although Greens did stand down in a number of seats.

Some Labour MPs made individual commitments on PR and a number of them spoke at the Make Votes Matter/Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference. Locally Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) has supported proportional representation.

Coinciding with Conference the two organisations published a well researched paper making the case for the Labour Party to adopt electoral reform as policy. The paper has the non-snappy title The Many Not the Few Proportional Representation and Labour in the 21st Century. On line copy here LINK.

This is an extract from the paper addressing the issue of environmental policy:

The evidence

Studies have found that countries using proportional systems
 set stricter environmental policies and were faster to ratify the Kyoto protocol. On environmental performance, Lijphart and Orellana found
that countries with PR scored 
six points higher on the Yale Environmental Performance Index, which measures ten policy areas, including environmental health, air quality, resource management, biodiversity and habitat, forestry, fisheries, agriculture and climate change. 

Using data from the International Energy Agency, Orellana found that between 1990 and 2007, when carbon emissions were rising everywhere, the statistically predicted increase was significantly lower in countries with fully proportional systems, at 9.5 per cent, compared to 45.5 per cent in countries using winner-take-all systems. Orellana found use of renewable energy to be 117 percent higher in countries with fully proportional systems.


The UK has historically lagged behind its European peers when it comes to action on climate change and uptake of renewable energy. Depressingly, this is despite having by far the best off shore wind and marine energy potential in Europe. Successive governments have at best taken relatively limited action to move away from fossil fuels and reduce emissions, or at worst have actively resisted such progress (with the current government determined to begin shale gas production despite strong opposition from both local communities and the general public). 

Using data from the International Energy Agency, in his 1990 book, Electing for Democracy, Richard Kuper offers an explanation for this which remains true to this 
day. “Were the Greens”, he writes, “in a position to obtain representation in proportion to their vote, it is inconceivable that Labour would not already have in place a coherent and much strengthened range of environmental policies in order to head o the challenge.” 

Because a vote for the Green Party remains a wasted vote in almost every constituency, we in the Labour Party have little electoral incentive to worry about winning those voters back by competing with the Greens with our environmental credentials. On the contrary, since the swing voters in marginal seats may not be keen on the idea of a wind turbine at the bottom of their garden, an electoral agent may well advise us not to make too much of a fuss about climate change. 

Twitter links @MakeVotesMatter  @Labour4PR

Rebirth of Riddim Up - Harlesden Thursday 28th September

Naomi Klein's speech should strengthen the hand of Labour Party ecosocialists

Naomi Klein's speech at the Labour Party Conference was well received yesterday and should strengthen the hand of those members who want to see the party take a stronger line on challenging climate change.

Her praise of Corbyn's Labour Party was a little OTT at times but it also contained ecosocialist themes that reflect the position of Green Left (the ecosocialist current in the Green Party) and could build links between the two parties.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Information Commissioner's Office calls on Brent Council to take measures to avoid future data protection breaches

Following the data breach by Brent Council when e-mail addresses of residents were sent to recipients of a message about a meeting acomplaint was made to the Information Commissioner's Office.

This is their response:

You have contacted us to complain that Brent Council appears to have inappropriately disclosed your personal data.

Summary of case

In this case, your email address was cc’d into an email and disclosed to other individuals.

It would therefore appear that Brent Council has breached the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).

Role of the ICO

Our role is to ensure that organisations follow the Data Protection Act 1998 properly. If things go wrong we will provide advice and ask the organisation to try to put things right. Our overall aim is to improve the way organisations handle personal information.

Next steps

Although it appears that Brent Council has breached the DPA, it would seem that this is down to human error, and the ICO does not consider it necessary to take any further regulatory action at this stage.

However, we have contacted the council to advise them of our view. We have also asked that they take the following measures to ensure that similar breaches do not occur in the future:
  • To remind all staff to take extra due care and attention when sending emails by double checking addresses and only sending out relevant and appropriate information in future.
  • To use the bcc feature when sending emails to numerous individuals with external email domains, to ensure that email addresses are not disclosed to other parties.
  • To check that all staff have undertaken data protection training within the last 12 months.
  • Inform any other parties whose data may have been inappropriately disclosed in this case.

Although we do not intend to take any further regulatory action on this case, this will remain on our systems to help us build a picture of Brent Council’s information rights handling.

We will continue to monitor the council’s data protection practices, and should any regulatory action be taken against them in the future, your case may form a part of our intelligence against them. You can view any regulatory action we do take on our website, using the following link:

Brent CEO's advice to Mayor over John Duffy Special Council Meeting request published

A supplementary report has been published for Thursday's Standards Committee meeting which contains the correspondence between the Mayor and Carolyn Downs (Brent CEO) about John Duffy's request for a Special Council Meeting about fire risk in Brent buildings post Grenfell:

Monday 25 September 2017

223 bus route link to Harrow likely to terminate at Northwick Park in future

A Wembley Matters reader has been in contact over proposals to stop the 223 bus at Northwick Park rather than Harrow Bus Station. The consultation has now closed.

She wrote:

I had sent them (TfL) a long message detailing the effects the cut would have on older residents, on children travelling to school in Harrow and all sorts of people who have difficulty getting their shopping on and off the bus or who would feel intimidated standing around Northwick Park in the dark or cold weather.  Apparently none of  this is of any interest to TFL.

The consultation was a sham because they didn't tell anyone about it.  There is no information on buses or in the bus station, so most people are completely ignorant of the proposals.
TfL replied:
Thanks for the contacting us on 31 August, about the route change proposal to the 223 buses.
I’m sorry that you are unhappy with our proposal to terminate the buses at Northwick Park Hospital instead of Harrow Bus Station. It’s understandable that many of the customers rely on the direct service for Harrow, and this would result in journeys being disrupted. 

Harrow bus station and Northwick Park Hospital will continue to be linked by routes 182, 483, 186, H9, H10 and H14 (where the Hopper Fare can be applied). Curtailing the 223 at Northwick Park Hospital will also create the free space for new route X140 to stop and stand at Harrow bus station. 

These changes are in keeping with the opening of the Elizabeth line next year, which will change how customers travel around the capital.

Sunday 24 September 2017

Clean air for Brent - residents' questions answered

Clean Air for Brent LINK have published the first batch of answers to questions asked by the public at its meeting held at the Civic Centre in July.

The answers are below. Click on the bottom right side square to enlarge.

Saturday 23 September 2017

When was American Football first played at Wembley?

Guest post by local historian Philip Grant

Sunday sees the Jacksonville Jaguars play one of their regular NFL “home” games at Wembley Stadium, this season against the Baltimore Ravens. But when was American football first played at Wembley Stadium?

There has been at least one NFL “International Series” game played at Wembley each year since the new stadium opened in 2007. Many people would claim that the first American football match played in the old stadium was in 1983, when Minnesota Vikings beat the St. Louis Cardinals 28-10 in an NFL Global Cup game.

The FA’s Wembley website takes the first match at the old stadium back to 1952. Then the venue played host to the final of the U.S. Airforce in Europe football championships, with the Fuerstenfeldbruck Eagles beating the Burtonwood Bullets 27-6. However, there is now evidence that the history of American football at Wembley goes back even further, to the Second World War.

When Quintain were carrying out their major refurbishment of the Wembley Arena about ten years ago, some clips of old “newsreel” type film were discovered. These had probably been collected by the former Wembley Stadium company, which was set up by Arthur Elvin in 1927, to buy the Empire Stadium and save it from demolition after the British Empire Exhibition.

During World War Two, Elvin used the stadium to host many charity and sports events for the armed services, and was knighted for this in 1946. Among the old film clips is footage of an American Football game, with U.S. and other service men and women in the crowd, as well as local residents. There are no details of the date (probably in 1943 or 1944) or which teams were playing. Here are a couple of grainy “stills” from the film, which help to provide a taste of the occasion.

American football was not the only U.S. sport that Wembley Stadium hosted during the war. There are records of a baseball game played there in 1943 between teams representing the U.S. Air Force and U.S. ground forces stationed in England, in preparation for the invasion of Europe the following year. There are clips of film showing that game, including the players being introduced to Clementine Churchill, the Prime Minister’s wife, who was guest of honour at the event. Here is a baseball “still” for fans of that sport, and of our local history.

Friday 22 September 2017

Hear Rashid Nix on Crisis in the Community - Stonebridge Hub tonight

Tonight at the Stonebridge Centre Green Activist Rashid Nix is speaking about Crisis in the Community, as part of The Mind Cafe's Black Mental Health Matters Event.

Born and bred in South London, Rashid Nix's background in housing activism and youth mentoring represents a fresh perspective on London's issues. Rashid is down to earth and one of The Green Party's most engaging speakers, so if you can get there tonight (from 6.30pm) - entry is free.

The Stonebridge Centre.
Address. The Hub, 6 Hillside, Stonebridge, London, NW10 8BN

Preston Library 60s Film Night Saturday 30th September

African soldiers of the Great War - Kingsbury Library Sept 26th

Thursday 21 September 2017

Brent CEO's Standards complaint against Cllr Duffy upheld but no apology made as yet

Brent Standards Committee will receive a report at its September 28th meeting on a complaint made by Brent Council's CEO, Carolyn Downs, and Cllr Liz Dixon against Cllr John Duffy (Labour, Kilburn ward)

The agenda item states:
Members’ Code of Conduct Complaint about Councillor John Duffy

In June and July 2017, the Council’s Chief Executive and Councillor Liz Dixon made a Members’ Code of Conduct complaint about Councillor John Duffy. The background to the complaint is recorded in the attached Decision Notice as is Councillor Duffy’s response, a discussion of the issues arising and the reasons for the Deputy Monitoring Officer’s decision.

The complaint about Councillor Duffy was upheld and by way of sanction it was recommended that:  

Councillor Duffy apologises to the Chief Executive;
- the decision notice be published on the Council’s website for 6 months; and - the decision be reported to this Committee.

Councillor Duffy did not exercise his right to request a review of the decision which is now final.

To date, Councillor Duffy has not apologised to the Chief Executive. The decision notice has been published on the Council’s website and this is the reporting of the complaint and the decision to this Committee.
Brent Members’ Code of Conduct Complaints about the conduct of Councillor John Duffy

The complaints

On 26 June 2017, the Council’s Chief Executive, Carolyn Downs, made a Members’ Code of Conduct complaint about Cllr John Duffy, Kilburn Ward. The complaint alleged that Cllr Duffy had breached the general principles of conduct, in particular, integrity and leadership and breached the following general obligations:
·      4(1): You must treat others with respect.
·      4(2)(b): You must not bully any person.
·      4(2)(e): You must not make frivolous, vexatious or repeated complaints against another member or an officer of the Council.
·      5: You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or the Council into disrepute. The Code of Conduct amplifies the general principles of integrity and leadership in the following terms:
·      Integrity: You should not place yourself in situations where your integrity may be questioned, should not behave improperly and should on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour.
·      Leadership: You should promote and support these principles by leadership, and by example, and should act in a way that secures or preserves public confidence.  

The factual and evidential bases of the complaint is an email sent by Cllr Duffy on 26 June 2017 to the Chief Executive and all councillors criticising the Chief Executive. The broader context is as follows. On 26 June 2017 at 15:01, the Chief Executive sent an email to the Mayor giving her advice regarding a request for an extraordinary meeting of the Full Council in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The Chief Executive advised on the legal and constitutional rules, explained the procedure for calling an extraordinary/special meeting and set out the options and possible permutations. The Chief Executive also mentioned the member drop in session which had been arranged and suggested that the discussion of this very important topic could take place at a scheduled meeting of Full Council on 10 July 2017 - which had been in all members’ diaries for some time - and that normal rules could be suspended to enable a fuller and longer discussion. The email stated that “Clearly the decision to have the meeting before the 10/07/17 is your decision but I thought it transparent to share with all Councillors my advice to you.”. Accordingly, when sending her email to the Mayor, the Chief Executive copied in all other councillors. Shortly afterwards at 15:36, in his email reply (also copying in all councillors), the Mayor thanked the Chief Executive for her helpful advice and expressed his agreement. The Mayor, however, confirmed that: “If 5 councillors sign a requisition asking me to call an extraordinary meeting I will consider their request very carefully before making my decision.” 

Cllr Duffy initially replied by email at 16:21 (also copying in all councillors) and then re-sent his email at 16:29. In substance, the emails are virtually identical: the second email inserted a few more words which are immaterial to my decision. For ease of reference, I have re- produced below the actual content of Cllr Duffy’s second email with the additions underlined.
“The CEO behaviour is disgraceful and out of touch with reality.She says it’s not her decision but clearly she is trying to manipulated the Mayor and the situation. 

She is well aware there was more than enough members support for a special meeting but she has decided to ignore that. 

The Labour group should not stand by while she swans off to “gold”
(Personally I do not think they are doing a good job , the evacuation in Camden was a shambles)telling everybody else what to do , while she neglects Brent residents and thinks a bosses bulletin will suffice for our residents and local councillors Her first loyalty should be to Brent . 

Disgraceful behaviour and what I have come to expect from this CEO who is out of touch with Brent residents and seeks to enhance her own reputation instead allowing Brent residents information”.
The reference to “gold” in Cllr Duffy’s email is to the Chief Executive participating in the London-wide emergency support provided to Kensington and Chelsea Council following the Grenfell Tower fire. 

Given that these email exchanges lie at the heart of this complaint, they are appended to this decision in full. 

On 1 July Cllr Liz Dixon also made a complaint about Cllr Duffy email. Cllr Dixon complained that:
“In an apparent attempt to make representations on behalf of his residents Cllr John Duffy has made a number of widely distributed disparaging remarks about the personal and professional integrity of Brent’s Chief Executive, Carolyn Downs. In doing so, Cllr Duffy also publicly belittled the importance and effectiveness of London’s Gold Command structure and process. While Cllr Duffy has every right to make representations, and is free to speak critically in holding Brent Council to account, on this occasion his disreputable behaviour has fallen below the expected standard and as such Labour Group Executive is taking this action. This complaint is made on the basis of comments made in the attached emails which we believe to be entirely unwarranted, defamatory, malicious and vexatious.”
On 3 July 2017, the Chief Executive also complained about a further chain of emails between Cllr Duffy and officers (and copied to all councillors) which she felt demonstrates vexatiousness. The email exchanges concern an additional briefing session arranged for Members on fire safety in Brent. In his exchanges on 29 June 2017, Cllr Duffy, amongst other things, made further critical remarks about the Chief Executive’s advice to the Mayor. For example, “ proves her strategy of kicking everything to the 11th was flawed...”; “Why did she change her mind, was it because before the ink was dry on her email stopping a special meeting the facts were becoming clear that her decision was wrong and was unravelling in front of her” and “The CEO had decided not to have a special meeting and the Mayor and some other councillors support it and now we are in a mess and we look like we have something to hide”. Cllr Duffy copied all other councillors as well as other members of the Corporate Management Team into his email.

The response

In his initial response to the Monitoring Officer, Cllr Duffy reaffirmed his criticisms of “Gold”. For example, “I do not think Gold are doing a good job, you cannot make me say they are. They are useless and need to get their act together and start relating to the victims in K +C.”

Cllr Duffy also repeated his criticisms of the Chief Executive. For example, “The CEO made no attempt to contact me before she cancel the meeting....”, and “She mislead Councillors saying I had not enough Councillors knowing that I had”

Cllr Duffy also claimed that the Monitoring Officer was not impartial. 

In a subsequent response to the Monitoring Officer, Cllr Duffy said “I honestly do not care, what you do as I think the CEO behaviour is out of control and she believes because she wares a gold badge at meetings she is above dealing with local Councillors and residents 

It is clearly is no use complaining about her, as it will be you who will deal with complaint. You and the CEO have sought to misuse your powers to curtail debate.”.

The issues

Under section 27(1) of the Localism Act 2011, the Council has a duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by members and co-opted members of the Council. Enforcing the general principles and obligations set out in the Code of Conduct is key to discharging this important statutory duty. 

In accordance with the Council’s complaints procedure, the Monitoring Officer carried out an initial assessment of the complaints and found that they fall within the scope of the Code of Conduct. Cllr Duffy’s emails clearly relate to Council business and ward matters and it is equally clear that he was acting in his capacity as a councillor. 

My determination of the complaints are set against the following legal and political background.
Councillors are entitled to criticise officers and their decisions and, depending on the circumstances, do so publicly and robustly. Criticism does not in itself amount to bullying or failing to treat someone with respect. Councillors are also entitled to challenge officers as to why they hold their views and officers can reasonably expect to be held accountable for their views, decisions and actions. However, if criticism is a personal attack or of an offensive nature, it is likely to cross the line of what is acceptable behaviour. Similarly, unwarranted comments which undermine public confidence in the administration of local government affairs and/or impair the mutual trust and confidence between members and officers are unlikely to be acceptable. 

Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting or humiliating behaviour. Such behaviour may happen once or be part of a pattern of behaviour. Amongst other things, bullying behaviour attempts to undermine an individual. 

When a Code of Conduct complaint concerns something a member is alleged to have said or written (as in this case), a finding of breach will only be lawful if it fully respects the important right to freedom of expression enjoyed by members of local authorities in the interests of effective local democracy. 

My decision has accorded due respect to Cllr Duffy’s fundamental right to freedom of expression. 

This right has a long tradition in our common law and was embedded in domestic statute law by the Human Rights Act 1998. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides that: 

“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it
duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention
of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for
the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.” 

This includes a right to express views which others may find objectionable or even offensive. Further, comments which constitute political expression attract an enhanced level of protection under Article 10. There are limits however. And the right itself is limited and not absolute which means it has to be balanced against the duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by members. Further, the right has to be balanced against competing rights such as the Article 8 right to private life etc. which includes the protection of the reputation of others.

The decision

In accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct Complaints Procedure, before deciding the outcome of this complaint, I consulted the Council’s Independent Person and have taken her views into account. 

Cllr Duffy’s reaction to the Chief Executive’s advice was entirely without justification. The Chief Executive had stated the legal and constitutional rules accurately. And the rules had been applied correctly: at the time of writing, a request for an extraordinary meeting of Full Council had been received from 4 members only (i.e. not 5); in any event, the request had not been signed by the members and was not accompanied by a notice of the motion to be debated at the meeting as required by the constitution. The advice was balanced, set out the options and stated in clear terms that the decision had to be made by the Mayor. The advice was also given transparently. 

Against that background, the allegation (which was stated twice) that the Chief Executive’s behaviour was “disgraceful” and that she was trying to manipulate the Mayor and the situation was unacceptable. As was the suggestion that “The Labour group should not stand by while she [the Chief Executive] swans off to “gold”” and the accusation that the Chief Executive “seeks to enhance her own reputation”. 

Cllr Duffy’s response was an unreasonable and excessive personal attack. These comments are unequivocally and deliberately offensive, disparaging and defamatory. Although I acknowledge that the Grenfell Tower fire is an emotive issue and feelings were running high at the time, the comments I have referred to amount to an unjustified attack of a personal nature and do not concern fire safety issues. 

In my view, those aspects of Cllr Duffy’s email crossed the line and failed to treat the Chief Executive with respect and brought his office and the Council into disrepute. This is especially so because Cllr Duffy copied all other councillors into his email. This amounts to breach of obligations 4(1) and 5 of the Code of Conduct as well as the obligation to maintain a high standard of conduct and, in particular, the principles of integrity and leadership (see para. 3). 

I am also satisfied that the email Cllr Duffy sent on 26 June 2017 in overall terms either by itself, or when read in conjunction with his email exchanges on 29 June 2017, is vexatious and unjustifiably offensive and bullying in nature. The persistent and targeted criticisms of the Chief Executive in emails which were sent to all other councillors and senior officers have no reasonable foundation, were intended to undermine the Chief Executive and have a harassing effect. 

This amounts to breach of obligations 4(2)(b) and 4(2)(e) of the Code of Conduct as well as the obligation to maintain a high standard of conduct and, in particular, the principles of integrity and leadership (see para. 3). 

For these reasons, I am satisfied that my findings of breach are a necessary and proportionate interference with Cllr Duffy’s right to freedom of expression. The Council has an important statutory duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by members and the serious, deliberate and unfounded accusations of wrongdoing which Cllr Duffy repeated and disseminated to others crossed the line and amount to an unreasonable and excessive personal attack. In addition, such an attack on the Chief Executive, without consequence, could expose other officers to similar treatment.
Further, the unfounded accusations of manipulating and misleading others and acting out of self-interest and other such personal attacks do not attract the higher level of protection that political expression does. Alternatively, even if they did, the findings of breach would still be necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances. 

For completeness, I note that Cllr Duffy was also disparaging about “gold” and made other criticisms of the Chief Executive being “out of touch” and neglecting Brent residents. As set out above, Cllr Duffy has a fundamental right to hold opinions on these matters and to express those opinions. As a matter of law, I do not have to agree with or approve of Cllr Duffy’s comments in order to respect his fundamental right to make such comments. 

Cllr Duffy has not disputed that he sent the emails the subject of the complaints under consideration. In any event, I am satisfied that there are no factual issues which need investigating before a decision can be made because the meaning of the emails which has caused offence and the context is clear. For these reasons, I have been able to conclude that there has been a clear breach of the Code of Conduct without an investigation.

The sanction

I recommend that Cllr Duffy apologises to the Chief Executive within 5 working days of the end of the period for requesting a review of my decision. 

This decision notice will also be published on the Council’s website for 6 months and will be formally reported to the Standards Committee. 

I am satisfied that these measures are proportionate to the clear and serious breaches of the Code of Conduct by Cllr Duffy. 

In accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct Complaints Procedure, as far as the complainants are concerned my decision is final and there is no right of appeal or right of internal review against my decision. 

As far as Cllr Duffy is concerned, he may request in writing within 10 working days of receiving this decision notice that the Monitoring Officer review my decision that he breached the Code of Conduct and/or the sanction imposed. The reasons for requesting a review must be given and any new supporting documentation provided.