Guest post in a personal capacity by Philip Grant
George Irvin’s Fun
Fair at Roe Green Park, 21 April 2023.
Last week, Martin revealed that Brent councillors had been offered
free tickets for George Irvin’s Fun Fair at Roe Green Park, on 21 and 22 April. This raised some concerns, because
George Irvin is also involved in a planning application affecting Barham Park,
which may come before some of those councillors for a decision within the next
In the circumstances, I thought it best to
make sure that Brent’s Monitoring Officer was aware about the situation, and
that she knew that there would be public interest in how she responded to it.
The open letter which I sent her on 25 April is set out in full below. I
know that some readers may find my letter hard to follow in places, because it
refers to parts of the Brent Members’ Code of Conduct, but I hope that many of
you will take the trouble to read it.
I believe it is important that decisions
made by the Council, its committees and their members, are not only fair and impartial,
but that we, as citizens of the borough, can feel confident that they are
fairly and properly made. That must mean that there should be no suspicion that
the people making the decisions may have been influenced by a gift received
from, or any personal friendship with, a person who could benefit from that
One of the comments made under last week’s
blog was: ‘why can’t residents be on the Barham Park Trust Committee to ensure
our park is protected?’ That is a very good question! Why should that committee
have just ‘5 members of the
Cabinet appointed by the Cabinet’? You will see that the final
recommendation I made to Brent’s Corporate Director of Governance is that there
should be an independent review of the committee’s membership.
This is my open letter:
To: Debra Norman From: Philip Grant
Corporate Director of Governance and
Monitoring Officer, Brent Council.
25 April 2023
THIS IS AN OPEN LETTER
Dear Ms Norman,
Gift to Brent Councillors by George Irvin, and
for ‘sound and transparent decision making’.
I know that in both of your roles, as Brent Council’s Governance
Director and as its Monitoring Officer, you wish to ensure that Council members
abide by the Brent Members’ Code of Conduct, Planning Code of Practice and
Licensing Code of Practice.
It has become public knowledge (see: https://wembleymatters.blogspot.com/2023/04/developer-george-irvin-offers-brent.html ) that the principal owner of the George Irvin’s Funfairs business
recently offered a gift of free use of his funfair at Roe Green Park on 21 and
22 April 2023 to Brent councillors, ‘along with family and friends’. I’m
attaching a true copy of the blind-copied email of 14 April, containing this
offer, in case you have not seen it.
As there is at least one application to the Council, from George Irvin
or a company he effectively controls, which councillors are likely to have to
decide within the next few months, I believe that the Council needs to be
pro-active in dealing with the implications of this gift.
I will set out my views on this (as a retired public servant, formerly
in a role where integrity and fairness were at the heart of my
responsibilities), and offer some suggestions / recommendations. I will number
these, and put them in bold type,
and would ask that you consider these, please, and respond to me on them.
The email to Brent councillors, from the Senior Manager at Irvin
Leisure, does not contain the “usual” offer (to use George Irvin’s description
from his response to the blog article) of ‘£10 of tokens to all the councillors
that can be given to anyone including charities’.
Instead, it says: ‘we would like to invite you along with family and
friends to our Funfair free of charge as I will arrange tickets for you all.’
In order to obtain those tickets, councillors are told: ‘Do confirm to George
direct if you wish to attend’, and are given George Irvin’s personal email and
mobile phone contact details.
What is being offered is clearly ‘a gift or hospitality’, in their
capacity as a member, likely to be covered by para. 31(c) of the Brent Members’
Code of Conduct, subject to the value threshold.
1. I would strongly
suggest that, in order to ensure that all councillors comply with para. 31(c),
you write to all members of the Council and require them to notify you if they
accepted free tickets for George Irvin’s funfair at Roe Green Park this month.
If they did, they should advise you, as Monitoring Officer, of how many free
visits they made to the funfair, and how many family members and/or friends
also used free tickets to the funfair on 21 or 22 April. As required by para.
31(c), they should also advise you of what they believe was the value of the
gift they received.
that you require all members who took advantage of George Irvin’s gift to
notify you, as they could easily underestimate the value of the gift,
especially if they had family or friends with them. As shown on the poster
which formed part of the email, entrance to the funfair was £2 per person.
Tokens for rides were 10 tokens for £10, but as the very small print underneath
states: ‘number of tokens per ride varies’.
Roe Green Park
is my local park, and as I was walking through it on 21 April, looking through
the fencing around the funfair, signs were showing 3, 4 or 5 tokens per
attraction (some of the big “thrill” rides may have been even more), or the
same amount in £s if paying contactless. This was a typical example:
2. I would suggest that a reasonable
approximate value, per person per visit to the funfair, to be applied
when calculating the value of the free funfair gift from George Irvin or his
company, should be treated as at least £25 (unless a councillor can provide
details of which rides etc. he/she and their family and friends went on, and
the number of tokens for each). As the rides were being provided ‘free of
charge’, they are more likely to have been taken advantage of than if those
enjoying them had to pay £4 or £5 for each ride, for each person.
application I referred to above is 22/4128, seeking to demolish two houses in
Barham Park (actual address 776-778 Harrow Road, Wembley), and replace them
with four 3-storey houses. The applicant is Zenastar Properties Ltd, owned by
members of the Irvin family. Although George Irvin is not shown as a director
of that company, the architects drawing up the plans submitted in support of
the application had no doubt that the client they were acting for was George
Irvin, as shown by this example:
There may be
other planning, or licensing, applications to Brent Council by companies which
George Irvin is either a director of, or where other members of his family are
directors but he still has a controlling interest. In view of this, it is
important that all councillors who accepted the offer of funfair tickets, free
of charge, are identified, and that the ‘gift or hospitality’ they received
from George Irvin or Irvin Leisure is recorded in their Register of Interests
on the Council’s website at the earliest opportunity.
3. I would recommend that you advise any
councillor who has received such a gift that they have a ‘personal interest in
any matter being considered by the Council’ under para. 32 of the Brent
Members’ Code of Conduct. And that, as a result, they should not take part in
considering and deciding any planning or licensing application, or any other
matter involving George Irvin or any company over which
he may exert some control, including planning application 22/4128.
The second part
of the sentence in the 14 April email to councillors (‘Do confirm to George
direct if you wish to attend as many other Councillors will be attending’)
gives the impression that George Irvin or Irvin Leisure may already have made
the offer of free tickets personally to ‘other Councillors’, and that they have
already accepted that offer.
If correct, that
implies that Mr Irvin or his companies may already have had a business or
personal relationship with some Council members. I was already aware of a
rumour, mentioned in a comment on an online article about the offer, that
George Irvin had ‘attended the wedding of at least one senior councillor's
offspring.’ This gives rise to the possibility that George Irvin could be
considered a ‘friend’ of one or more, possibly senior, Brent councillors, which
would make him a ‘connected person’ of the councillor(s) under para. 30 of the
Brent Members’ Code of Conduct.
4. I would strongly suggest that in writing to
all councillors (under 1. above), you require them to disclose to you any other
contacts or meetings, business or personal relationships, they have had with
George Irvin, or members of his family. If any such relationships are
disclosed, you should consider whether these amount to George Irvin being a
‘friend’, or ‘person with whom [the councillor] has a close association’. If
that is the case, you should advise the councillor that Mr Irvin must be
treated as a connected person, they should not take part in considering or
deciding any matter involving George Irvin, or any company over which he may
exert some control.
This may become
particularly important if planning application 22/4128, or any subsequent
application in respect of 776-778 Harrow Road, were to be approved. Mr Irvin,
or Zenastar Properties Ltd, could potentially make a large profit if they were
able to replace the existing two (former park keepers’) homes with four new
homes. But to be able to build four homes on the site, they would need to
remove the covenant which restricts the site to two homes, and possibly to
acquire a small extra piece of the Barham Park land.
Any change to, or
removal of, the covenant, or any sale of land, would require a decision of the
Barham Park Trust Committee.
5. I would strongly suggest that any member of
that Committee who has either accepted the offer of free rides at the Roe Green
Park funfair, or any other George Irvin or Irvin Leisure funfair, or has had
any relationship with Mr Irvin or any of his companies, other than a purely
business one in their role as a councillor or Cabinet member, should be barred
from involvement in any decision of the Committee relating to that covenant
and/or any sale of land in Barham Park. Even if the relationship might not meet
the para. 30 threshold, in the circumstances of this matter ‘a member of the
public knowing the facts would reasonably regard it as so significant that it
is likely to prejudice [the member’s] judgement of the public interest’, under
para. 34 of the Brent Members’ Code of Conduct.
As you are
aware, the Barham Park Trust Committee is currently treated as a sub-committee
of Brent’s Cabinet, and ‘comprises 5 members of the Cabinet appointed by the
Cabinet.’ This Committee is ‘responsible for the trustee functions in relation
to the Barham Park Trust.’ But the Trustee is the London Borough of Brent,
which holds Barham Park ‘on trust to preserve the same for the recreation of
One of those who
commented on the blog article which made public the offer, of free funfair
rides to councillors, wrote: ‘why can’t residents be on
the Barham Park Trust Commitee to ensure our park is protected?’ That is a
good question. Is there any good reason why the Committee should be the sole
preserve of self-appointed members of Brent’s Cabinet?
6. I would recommend that the question of the
membership of, and voting rights at meetings of, the Barham Park Trust
Committee is the subject of an independent review, possibly under the auspices
of one of Brent’s Scrutiny committees. The independent review should be allowed
to make recommendations, which would initially be considered by the relevant
Scrutiny Committee, and that Committee could place its final recommendations,
if any, before a meeting of Brent’s Full Council.
Finally, in the
interests of transparency, I should say that I was one of many objectors to a
previous planning application in respect of 776-778 Harrow Road. As a result of
this, I received a letter on 18 April 2023 from Brent’s Planning and
Development Services, headed ‘PLANNING APPLICATION - THIS MAY AFFECT YOU.’ It
advised me of application 22/4128, and said that if I wished to make comments
on it, I should do so by 9 May. I have not yet had time to consider the
application documents properly, so have not yet decided on any comment I might
I look forward
to receiving you full response to the six suggestions / recommendations I have
made, once you have had chance to consider and follow-up on them.