The Purpose of the committee
· Councillor Matt Kelcher (Chair) LABOUR
· Councillor Saqib Butt (Vice-Chair) LABOUR
· Councillor Ajmal Akram LABOUR
· Councillor Rita Begum LABOUR
· Councillor Liz Dixon LABOUR
· Councillor Arshad Mahmood LABOUR
· Councillor Michael Maurice CONSERVATIVE
· Councillor Rajan-Seelan LABOUR
Below is a response I received from the Governance Manager at the Assistant Chief Executive’s Department at Brent Council after I raised my concerns about what I experienced at the November 16th planning committee meeting and how I thought this was a one sided biased system which would always result in one outcome.
‘Just a quick follow up to the email you sent earlier this week regarding the query you’ve raised about membership of the Planning Committee.
In terms of the balance of membership on the Committee, this is actually determined by applying the “political balance rules” prescribed by the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 and supplemented by the Local Government (Committees and Political Groups) Regulations 1990. These rules are designed to ensure that the political composition of the Council’s decision-making committees including Planning, as far as possible, replicates the political composition and balance of the Full Council.
The Council is actually required to review the representation of political groups on relevant committees at the Annual Council meeting each year, with the last such review undertaken following the local elections in May 2022. As a result of the overall membership of the Council standing at 57 members, the breakdown by political groups as a percentage is as follows:
· 49 Labour Councillors (representing 85.97% of total council membership);
· 5 Conservative Councillors (representing 8.77% of total council membership);
· 3 Liberal Democrats (representing 5.26% of total council membership).
The total number of committee seats to be allocated across all relevant bodies and also according to the number of seats on each individual committee therefore has to reflect this overall breakdown in Council membership.
Given there are a total of 8 seats on the Planning Committee, applying the above calculation means we are required to provide 7 of those seats to the Labour Group and 1 to an Opposition Group member, which it was agreed at the Annual Council meeting would be allocated to the Conservative Group’.
Having attended Wednesday 16th November planning committee meeting as a neutral, I sat in the gallery right through the whole proceedings. I wanted to get a feel for how these meetings work as my neighbours and I are fighting yet another ‘infill’ proposal in Newland Court where we reside. There were 2 cases that I was interested in finding out what the outcome would result in.
1. Planning application 22/1282, located at 7A Sidmouth Road, London, NW2 5HH.
2. Planning application 22/1386, located at Minterne Road, Harrow, HA3 9TA
The Planning Committee in session
From what I saw it seemed like this was a one sided biased system which would always result in one outcome. The Labour councillors on the committee seemed to be all voting together and of course a majority outcome always in their favour. The planning application for both were approved. I also watched the full council meeting on Monday 21st November at 6pm where I discovered even more about Labour run Brent.
Even Cllr Michael Maurice who is a planning committee member and the only Conservative on the planning panel said at Monday’s full Council meeting, ‘Time and time again the planning committee approve private developments which fall short of social housing, unaffordable housing and don’t comply in regards to amenity space. And if Labour cabinet members don’t vote in favour with their other members, then they get thrown out’.
And then even Cllr Matt Kelcher, who is the chair of the planning committee, reiterates about the shortage of social housing and Brent Council’s target of building 2,500 council homes a year. So my question is whether as the leader of Brent Council. Muhammed Butt said in defence of his Labour planning committee members, ‘Every Labour planning committee member will have read all the paperwork and make their decisions on the facts and evidence put forward to them’ ?
Well, I’m not too sure about that because from what I have already seen and experienced with those Councillors involved in all these new development proposals, Brent seem to have made up their minds about fast tracking all these ‘infills’ at any cost. At the detriment of their own existing residents who voted them in, including me.