Sunday 3 September 2023

The Barham Park Trust – there is another way to run it!

 Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity


Minute of the previous Review of Future Governance, 7 March 2018.


Although it is not the headline item on the agenda for next Tuesday’s Barham Park Trust Committee meeting, the periodic review of the way in which the Trust is managed is still an important one. Brent Council is the sole Trustee, and all of the Trust’s decisions are currently made by a sub-committee of Brent’s Cabinet, whose members are appointed by Brent’s Cabinet, and can only be Cabinet members. 


In April this year, as part of an Open Letter to Brent’s Governance Chief, Debra Norman, about the implications of free fun fair tickets from George Irvin to Brent Councillors, I raised the suggested that the membership and voting rights for the Barham Park Trust Committee should be the subject of an independent review. I followed this up with further suggestions for including local people in the decision-making process.


I was pleased to see that a review of the Trust’s governance was on the agenda (item 9) for the 5 September meeting, but disappointed to see that it made no mention of the suggestions I’d made. In fact, the Report on this subject is virtually a “copy and paste” of that made in 2018, when the Committee voted for Option 1, to maintain the status quo (see minute above).


The description of Option 1, from the Report to the 5 September 2023 meeting.


As I think there is greater scope for involving the local community than that which I’ve highlighted in the current Report above, I wrote to the Committee’s Governance Officer, seeking an opportunity to have my ideas considered at Tuesday’s meeting:


‘Dear Ms Shinhmar,


I am writing to request that I be allowed to make a short statement to next Tuesday's (5 September) meeting of the Barham Park Trust Committee. I am copying this email to Cllr. Muhammed Butt, the current Chair of the Committee, for his information, as you will probably wish to check with him before replying.


The item I would like to make a representation on, please, is item 9 on the agenda, the Review of Alternative Administration & Governance Models. 


Earlier this year, I wrote to the Corporate Director for Governance with some suggestions which would be relevant to the Committee's consideration of Option 2 (paras. 4.3 to 4.5 of the Report), but these do not appear to have been passed on to Chris Whyte and Bianca Robinson, the authors of the Report. 


I think it would be helpful if those ideas could be brought to the Committee's attention, before they decide on the recommendation at 2.2 in the Report.


Unfortunately, because of a prior appointment, I will not be able to attend the 10am meeting, either in person or online. I would therefore ask that I be allowed to submit a short written statement, which would be read to the Committee, by yourself or another Officer, at the start of item 9 on the agenda.


I understand that members of the public speaking at the meeting are normally allowed two minutes to make their presentation. I would make my statement no more than 250 words long, which is what I would expect to present if I were speaking.


I hope that this will be acceptable to you, and the Committee, and look forward to receiving your confirmation as early as possible. Thank you. Best wishes,


Philip Grant.
(A Brent resident for 40 years).’


Option 2 (of five) was to “Appoint additional Trustees alongside the Council”. The Report appears to advise against that option, but I think it could be made to work (with “independent advisors”, rather than formal Trustees).


The disadvantages of Option 2, from the Report to the 5 September 2023 meeting.


After an initial holding reply, I received this response to my request on Friday 1 September:


‘Dear Mr Grant


Following on from our exchange of emails yesterday, if you can let me have a copy of the representations you wish to submit for consideration in relation to Item 9 on the Barham Park Trust Committee agenda (Review of Alternative Administration & Governance Models) I’d be happy to ensure these are circulated to the relevant officers and Trust Committee members in advance of next week’s meeting.


Having consulted with Councillor Butt, whilst advice will be taken from officers (as considered to be relevant) on the points included within any submission it has not been agreed that the submission should be read out in full at the meeting.


Although I know you’re unable to attend the meeting, you will be able to follow proceedings via the live webcast or to view the recording following the meeting via the following link: Home - Brent Council Webcasting (


I hope this helps to clarify the position and look forward to receiving any representations you wish to make.


Kind regards,

Abby Shinhmar
Governance Officer’


It appears that Councillor Muhammed Butt does not want my views to be “on the record” at the meeting. My suggestion for a better way to run the Trust will only be mentioned if the Council Officers advising them consider them relevant!


Nevertheless, I sent Ms Shinmar my submission on Friday evening. I’ve had no acknowledgement from her, and as it may be Monday before she is able to deal with it, I sent copies of the document ‘to the relevant officers and Trust Committee members’ myself, on Saturday afternoon. I hoped it would give them the opportunity to consider my short submission, ‘(250 words, so it will only take a couple of minutes to read)’, in plenty of time before the meeting.


As my submission will not be made public by Brent Council, here it is, for anyone to read, and know the alternative to “maintain the status quo” which is available to the Trust Committee:


‘Thank you for agreeing to consider this submission.


Chris Whyte’s Report sets out five options for the future governance of the Trust. It does not include an idea I suggested to Brent’s Corporate Director for Governance earlier this year, which I believe would improve the present arrangements.


Option 2, to appoint additional independent trustees alongside the Council, is shown to have several advantages, such as allowing individuals to be selected for their particular skills or expertise. 


The Report seems to warn against this option in para. 4.5, but my suggestion does away with most of the disadvantages, by using a model which already works well at Brent - the pairing of the Audit and Standards Committee with its Advisory Committee. 


In this case, the existing Trust Committee would meet immediately following on from the Barham Park Trust Advisory Committee, of which they would be members, to take the formal decisions legally required to be made by the Council as Trustee.


The Advisory Committee would have an independent Chair (preferably someone with a parks background) and independent members, including some nominated by local community groups and Barham Park users.


This would provide both expertise and local knowledge among Advisory Committee members, who could easily be consulted by Council staff engaged in the day-to-day management of the park, whereas Trust Committee members must prioritise their Cabinet portfolio and Ward responsibilities.


Please recommend this version of Option 2 ‘for further consideration and consultation’ under para. 2.2 of the Report. Thank you.’


If you have a view on this, please feel free to put a comment below. 


But the Committee Report, when describing Option 1, states that: ‘members of the community have been accustomed to being consulted on decisions’. Has anyone been consulted about the decision the Trust Committee will be making about its future governance arrangements? Para. 5 of the Report answers that question:


Paragraph 5, from the Report to the 5 September 2023 meeting.


If, having read this post, you feel you would like to have been consulted, there may still be time (up to 5pm on Monday?) for you to let the Committee know your views.


For example, if you wanted to support the suggestion I have made, you could send a short (but polite, please) email to the Committee members (not Cllr. Mili Patel, as an “out of office” message I received says she is on maternity leave until Spring 2024), saying something along the lines of: 


I support the suggestion in Philip Grant’s submission on the future governance of the Barham Park Trust.


If you don’t have their email addresses handy, they are: , , , and .


So that the key Council Officers know that you’ve shared your views on this, you could copy your email to:

The Director, Environment and Leisure, whose Report it is:
Corporate Director – Governance: , and
Brent Council’s Chief Executive: .

Philip Grant.




Anonymous said...

Let's face it, Butt and his sycophants won't budge on anything that would allow residents to influence anything about Barham Park and its housekeeping and future use. The London Borough of B~ent continues.

Anonymous said...

Well said mr Grant but going by previous experiences it will be like talking to a brick wall. It is time the Charities Commission are alerted to this. And if needed the Trustees should be taken to court for abusing their powers. They are clearly not independent and not working fir the local people.

Anonymous said...

As Anon commented on the ‘Brent Council's Strategic CIL £4.5m spending plans for Alperton parks, Kilburn Medical Centre and Harlesden Picture Palace article…”

“Reading this piece I’m struck by the difference in how the community in Harlesden is being dealt by Brent Council compared to us residents in Wembley:

We are gifted Barham Park and its buildings for recreation and community use and the Barham Park Trust should be protecting Barham Park yet they are allowing development of the ex park keepers houses and they now want to turn the older buildings into commercial space with no consultation with us residents re what we actually want and they even won’t allow us residents to sit on the Barham Park Trust Committee.

The Harlesden Picture Palace which was a cinema and then had various commercial uses including as a pub is going to be done up for the community using our community infrastructure levy money and with the community fully involved - why is this so different to what we are experiencing here in Wembley???

Philip Grant said...

You may be right, Anonymous at 11.12 but at least by trying to present the Committee with a reasonable alternative, which I hope that many in the local community would support , they can be "put on the spot".

If my suggestion can be referred to at the meeting on Tuesday, and if others give notice of their support for it, Officers would find it difficult not to mention it, then the Committee members may feel obliged to give a reason for voting to "maintain the status quo".

Philip Grant said...


Councillor Butt emailed me this evening, in response to the copy of my submission which I sent him yesterday. He copied his email to his fellow Barham Park Trust Committee members.

This is what he wrote:

'Dear Mr Grant

Thank you for your email and thank you for taking the time to write to us.

I have read the committee papers and find them to be in order, I wish you a good evening.



Cllr Muhammed Butt
Leader of Brent Council.'

Paul Lorber said...

I write this in my capacity as Trustee of Friends of Barham Library - a charity which occupies Unit 4 in the Barham Park Buildings and which has operated a Community Library there since October 2016.

The Barham Park Trust Meeting on 5 September 2023 is being asked to make important decisions about the future use of the buildings gifted for the "recreation" of local people by Titus Barham, including

1. A redevelopment requiring vacant possession of the site.
2. Replacing community facilities and activities with commercial activities such Shops, a Hotel, Airbnb, Supermarket and restaurant/cafe.

The Consultants Report, which cost £25,000, shows drawings without a library, Barham Veterans Club or Tamu Samaj ex Gurkha Centre. It makes no mention whether any of these groups will be able to return.

I have spoken to the other users of the buildings.

For the avoidance of doubt there has been:

* NO involvement of the local community
* NO consultation with us or any of the other users

Sadly this is the normal approach you get from the Leadership of Brent Council or Senior Officers who work for the Council - they pay lip service to involving or consulting members of the local community and make their decisions in secret pre meetings and in total ignorance of the true facts.

Anonymous said...

Translation - Up yours Mr Grant. Its my Council and I run it as I want. Mo.

Philip Grant said...


This is the text of an email (with copy to the Chief Executive) which was in the inbox of Brent's Corporate Director for Governance this morning, with a copy of my submission on the future governance of the Barham Park Trust attached:

'Dear Ms Norman,

We corresponded about this matter earlier in the year, and item 9 on the agenda for Tuesday (tomorrow) morning's Barham Park Trust Committee meeting gives the opportunity for ideas I suggested then to be considered.

I'm attaching a copy of a short submission I have made for the Committee. It was sent, at her invitation, to Abby Shinhmar last Friday evening, and as she might not be available to deal with it until Monday, I also sent copies to the Trust Committee members and the Contact Officers for the item 9 Report on Saturday afternoon.

The current Committee Chair, Councillor Muhammed Butt, had agreed that Council Officers will consider my submission, but not that it should be read out (it would only take two minutes) at the meeting for consideration.

So that my suggestion is in the public domain, I shared it in an online "guest post", which was published on Sunday morning:

As you are Brent's Corporate Director for Governance, I would request, please, that you ensure that whichever Council Officer is presenting the item 9 Report to the Barham Park Trust Committee meeting (Chris Whyte, Biancia Robinson, Amin Soorma or yourself?) outlines the suggestion and proposed recommendation which I have made, so that the Committee and members of the public present are aware of this option. They can, of course, also express their views on whether it offers a practical alternative to "the status quo".

[Text of my email continues in a second comment]

Philip Grant said...

FOR INFORMATION 2, continued:

This is the second half of my email to Debra Norman, Brent's Corporate Director for Governance:

'While on the subject of governance, you are aware of serious concerns which have been expressed over the alleged friendly relationship between Councillor Butt and George Irvin, the developer who is hoping the Trust Committee will agree to remove the restrictive covenant which thwarts his proposed redevelopment of the property at 776/778 Harrow Road, the former park keepers' houses within Barham Park.

Muhammed Butt has never publicly answered the allegation that George Irvin is a close friend of his, and was a guest at the wedding of one of his children. As Councillor Butt is currently Chair of the Committee, and a decision to "do a deal" with Mr Irvin over lifting the restrictive covenant is on Tuesday's agenda (item 7 - Strategic Property Review), this point does need to be resolved at the start of the meeting.

The relationship, if it exists, may not be sufficiently close to make them "connected persons" in the strict legal sense, but in the interests of good governance, Councillor Butt should not take part in any consideration of, or decision on, that matter if any reasonable person, with knowledge of the facts, might reasonably consider that it could influence his decision.

I believe that a serious mistake was made by Brent's Legal Officers several months ago, when a councillor who had declared a recent gift from Mr Irvin, albeit a relatively small one, was allowed to take part in the Planning Committee meeting, and vote (in favour) of his application to redevelop the property at 776/778 Harrow Road. Decision making needs not just to be fair, but to be seen to be fair.

Brent Council is suffering reputational damage because of such mistakes. One comment that I read, under another blog article about proposals being considered at the Barham Park Trust Committee meeting, simply said: 'Does anyone trust these Trustees?' And it is becoming increasingly common for (usually anonymous) social media comments about the Council to omit the "r" from the borough's name.

I look forward to seeing and hearing (although it will have to be on a recording of the Live Stream, as I'm not available on Tuesday morning) that good governance is in evidence at the Barham Park Trust Committee meeting. Best wishes,

Philip Grant.'

Anonymous said...

Such arrogance from Cllr Mo Butt!

Please all of you vote for anyone apart from Labour at the next local elections - we need to get them out before they destroy Brent forever.

At local elections you should vote on local issues NOT national issues.

Anonymous said...

Mo Butt - a perfect example of the old saying: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Philip Grant said...


This is the full text of an email I received late this afternoon from Brent's Corporate Director for Governance, in response to my email at INFORMATION 2 above:-

'Dear Mr Grant

Thank you for your email.

As you are aware, I drew the proposal you are making to the Leader’s attention when you originally put it forward in May.

The proposal you put forward is a variation on option 1 in the report rather than being a sperate governance model as is the case with options 2 to 5. If the committee decides on consideration of the report to choose option 1, officers will then consider your proposal further.

As your proposal is not one of the options being put forward in the officer report at the meeting, or being formally raised in the meeting, it will be a matter for the committee members to who it has been circulated, whether they wish to mention it.

As always there will be a specific reminder to all members of the committee to declare any interests they may have at the start of the meeting.

Best wishes


[I will share my reply at FOR INFORMATION 4 below.]

Philip Grant said...


This is the text of the email I sent (with copies to the Chief Executive and other Officers who may be involved at tomorrow's meeting) in reply to FOR INFORMATION 3 above:-

'Dear Ms Norman,

Thank you for your email.

I'm sorry to have to contradict you, but Option 1 is 'to maintain the status quo', keeping the existing arrangements the same. If the Committee decides to choose that option, there is nothing in the recommendations which allows for consideration of any variation of the present governance model.

The closest of the options to my suggestion is a variation of Option 2. Under recommendation 2.2, that would allow for 'further consideration and consultation.'

You are well aware of disquiet (often outright distrust) over the way in which matters at Barham Park are being dealt with by the Barham Park Trust Committee. There is a strong feeling that there needs to be independent input, and local representation, in the way that the Trust is managed.

Item 9 on tomorrow's agenda is the first formal review of the Trust's governance arrangements for five and a half years, and should be the occasion where that need can be considered, openly and publicly.

The suggestion in the short statement which I submitted, to the Committee members and relevant Council Officers, provides the opportunity for a proper alternative to the present model to be considered. It should be formally raised at the meeting.

Councillor Butt and his colleagues may not favour the idea of non-Cabinet members having any say on the affairs of the Trust, but as members of the Barham Park Trust Committee they are acting in the role of Brent Council as sole Trustee. They should be making decisions based on what is in the best interests of the Trust, not on what they personally would like.

At the very least, in the interests of good governance, you or another Senior Officer should outline my suggestion to the Committee, when introducing the Report at item 9 on the agenda, and explain that they have the option to recommend, under 2.2, that my suggestion be consulted on and given further consideration.

It would be still be open to the Committee members to choose Option 1, but they should be given the opportunity to consider an alternative, and explain their reasons for whatever decision they make. [Openness - You should be as open as possible about your actions and those of the Council, and should be prepared to give reasons for those actions.]

I sincerely trust that you will reconsider your position on this matter, in the light of the points I have made above. Thank you. Best wishes,

Philip Grant.'

Philip Grant said...

For any readers who don't recognise the quotation on Openness, in square brackets towards the end of my email at FOR INFORMATION 4 above, it comes from the "Seven Principles of Conduct in Public Life".

These form part of the Brent Members' Code of Conduct, and all councillors are meant to follow them.

The other six principles are Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Honesty and Leadership.

The Seven Principles are also included in the Code of Conduct for employees of Brent Council.

Philip Grant said...


This is the full text of the email sent to me by Debra Norman, Brent's Corporate Director for Governance, 75 minutes before this morning's Barham Park Trust Committee meeting, in reply to my email at FOR INFORMATION 4 above:

'Dear Mr Grant

The Options in the report are concerned with the arrangements for the trustees of the charity. Your proposal is concerned with involvement of individuals independent of the Trust from the community.

I have however spoken to the Leader who is happy that your proposal is mentioned in the presentation of the officer report. It will then be up to the committee how they respond.'

I don't know how many people read my "FOR INFORMATION" comments, or whether they are of much interest, but I think it is important that this sort of correspondence is publicly available, so that anyone who is interested can know how Brent Council Officers and members deal with matters which are normally hidden from view.