Brent Cabinet faced angry criticism tonight when it approved the setting up of a Free School offering 'alternative provision' for children rejected by local secondary schools.
Local Labour Party member Graham Durham lambasted Cllr Muhammed Butt, Labour leader of Brent Council, for not following Labour Party policy which he claimed is against the creation of any more free schools.
Cllr Mili Patel read a statement in a barely audible voice about the proposal but rather than focusing on the creation of a free school focused on the youth provision that would be offered outside of school hours by the voluntary sector. There will be no directly employed Brent Council youth workers but building maintance costs and school hours running costs will be paid by the Free School.
Durham said that rather than a Free School the Council could have asked a local mainstream secondary school to run the facility for out of school children. All Brent former local authority secondary schools are now academies as are all but one special school. The majority of Brent's academies are stand-alone rather than part of a chain.
Guardian on Labour Party education policy LINK
Later Graham Durham claimed on Facebook that the Brent CEO left the meeting to accost him after the item was discussed:
What made the event unusual was that as I was outside and walking away from the meeting outside in a corridor, I was cornered by the Chief Executive ( supposedly non-political) who called me ‘ a vile little man’. I had never met her before but she clearly does not like ‘her’ councillors receiving independent socialist advice. Odd.
Thank you for this,Martin. I have also sent to Simone who has an interest.
It was wrong for Graham Durham to shout out and heckle from the sidelines*, when other people were speaking at a formal meeting of a Brent Council committee ...
... yet that is exactly what Cllr Butt did to me, when I was speaking at a Scrutiny Committee meeting four years ago.
I was (unsuccessfully) seeking the Committee's permission to present a properly notified Deputation to them, without the restrictions that the Chief Legal Officer wished to impose on me at short notice. Those restrictions prevented me from mentioning the findings of fact against Brent's then Director of HR, and then Chief Executive, in a decided Employment Tribunal case.
Although Cllr Butt was not involved in any of the business which Scrutiny Committee was considering at that 30 April 2015 meeting, he was sitting next to the then Director of HR (Cara Davani) when he heckled my presentation to the meeting. His intervention may have influenced the committee's decision not to allow me to present my Deputation **.
Cllr Butt, as Leader of the Council, has a duty to show leadership by example. He does not always do that.
* Despite this, Graham Durham's question was a very valid one, and Cllr Butt has not answered it.
** Scrutiny Committee, in April 2015, was considering a draft action plan on Brent's HR and Equalities policies and practice, following the Employment Tribunal case which had found that a former member of staff had suffered racial discrimination and constructive dismissal, together with victimisation, particularly from Ms Davani.
The Deputation, which I was stopped from presenting, quoted specific findings of fact from the Employment Tribunal's judgment, and then included the following passage:
'If the Senior Officers responsible for such findings ignore Brent’s HR policies, what example is that setting to the Council’s other staff? The Action Plan is totally undermined, because why should managers bother to put the policies into practice, when those at the top ignore them and get away with it? Even if disciplinary action was taken against more junior staff for policy breaches, they could argue at any hearing that it would be unfair to penalise them, when no action was taken against Brent’s Director of HR for far worse misconduct.
Scrutiny Committee may wish to ask Ms Davani why she did not do the honourable thing, and resign, following the findings of fact in the Rosemarie Clarke case. It may also wish to ask Ms Gilbert why she did not institute disciplinary proceedings against Ms Davani when she failed to resign. If, having heard anything those Officers wish to say, committee members agree that the Equalities and HR Action Plan cannot move forward with Cara Davani still at Brent Council, I hope they will not be afraid to say so.'
Ms Davani, who could and should have been dismissed by Brent for gross misconduct in 2014, actually left the Council with a £157k pay-off in June 2015.
Mo Butt has also been called 'a vile little man', and worse, even by some of his fellow Labour councillors (and Cabinet members)!!!
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