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Excellent! Local journalism lives. And well done to Nathan Louis.
Edited version of above comment (not wanting to attract legal action): Surely this can't be brushed under the carpet by what the Council spokesperson said in the last paragraph? Butt has to held accountable for these meetings which were not logged...[Edit]
FOR INFORMATION:After I had read yesterday's Kilburn Times article I sent the following email to Brent's Chief Executive, Carolyn Downs (with copies to Cllr. Butt and Debra Norman):-'Dear Ms Downs,In case you have not seen it, I am attaching a copy of today's front page article from the "Brent & Kilburn Times". I am copying this email to the Council's Leader and its Monitoring Officer, for their information.I was aware last week that a Council spokesperson had said about the meetings with developers that:'These meetings are informal and minutes are not taken.'I believe that the following comment, which I made in response to that statement, is worth repeating to you, for the benefit of Brent Council:'Informal meetings? The dictionary definition of the adjective "informal" is: 'having a relaxed, friendly, or unofficial style, manner, or nature.'Can anyone honestly describe pre-arranged, hour-long meetings, between a developer with a major planning application awaiting a decision by the Council and that Council's Leader and top Regeneration member and officers, as 'informal'?Even though the Leader and the others from the Council attending those meetings are not supposed to be able to influence what Planning Officers recommend in their report, and how members of the Planning Committee make their decision on the application, not keeping any record of what was discussed and agreed at such meetings does give rise to suspicions that something underhand might have occurred. In a case like the Minavil decision, where permission was given despite the application appearing to breach Brent's own planning guidelines, it is natural that local people will ask "Why?". Those suspicions may not be justified, but how are we to know?The answer to this uncertainty is simple. The Leader, and senior Council officers, should ensure that ALL meetings with outside organisations or people who might benefit from a Council decision are witnessed, and properly and accurately recorded, by a member of the Council's staff.'I hope you will agree that the advice in my last paragraph is sensible, and that you, the Council Leader and the Monitoring Officer will ensure that it is followed in future at Brent Council. It is in everyone's best interests that the Council's members and senior officers "should not place themselves in situations where their integrity may be questioned." Best wishes,Philip Grant.'
C'mon Butt. We're waiting for the answer. It's not going to disappear under the carpet.Could be The Evening News asking the question next week. So get on with it.
Well done Nathan!
Agree with Mr Grant. The use of the word 'informal' is suspect.
UPDATE:Carolyn Downs, Brent's Chief Executive, replied to my email above on 24 November:'Dear Mr GrantMany thanks for your email the contents of which are understood and duly noted. Yours sincerelyCarolyn Downs.'I have responded to her this morning as follows:'Dear Ms Downs,Thank you for your email. It would be more reassuring to know that some positive action would be taken over this matter, as well as the point I made being 'understood and duly noted'. Best wishes,Philip Grant.'
Anything yet from Mr Butt?Remember Christmas is a'coming and May will not be long after that.
The 2013 Local Government Association guidance, "Probity in planning for councillors and officers", which makes clear that a Council officer should arrange, attend and make notes of any meeting between a councillor and a developer is available to view at:https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/probity-planning-councill-d92.pdfIn the section on "Pre-Application Discussions" it identifies the problem uncovered by the FoI about the meetings with the R55 representatives, and says:'Pre-application discussions between a potential applicant and a council can benefit both parties and are encouraged. However, it would be easy for such discussions to become, or be seen by objectors to become, part of a lobbying process on the part of the applicant.''Although the term ‘pre-application’ has been used, the same considerations should apply to any discussions which occur before adecision is taken. In addition to any specific local circumstances, guidelines should include the following:'Among "the following" is:'Confirmation that a written note should be made of all meetings. An officer should make the arrangements for such meetings, attend and write notes. A note should also be taken of any phone conversations, and relevant emails recorded for the file. Notes should record issues raised and advice given. The note(s) should be placed on the file as a public record.'The guidance about the proper procedures to be followed could not be clearer. So why were they not followed by Cllr. Butt and Brent's top Regeneration officers?Philip.
That's the sixty four thousand dollar question isn't it. As Butt doesn't seem to want to answer it perhaps more pressure will have to be applied
UPDATE:The story continues at:http://wembleymatters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/butt-attempts-to-answer-questions-about.htmlCllr. Butt now claims that these meetings did not happen, or that they were held 'at least a year earlier'.
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