Monday 20 May 2024

Wembley Tile Murals – Open email to Cllr. Butt about 28 May Cabinet vote

 Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity

Wembley Tile Murals – Open email to Cllr. Butt about 28 May Cabinet vote

Earlier this month,
Martin published a reminder about the petition I had launched, calling on Brent’s Cabinet to award a new advertising lease only for the parapets of the Bobby Moore Bridge, which would allow the heritage tile murals in the subway to be put back on public display. The petition attracted 114 signatures (thank you!), more than enough to allow me to present it to the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 28 May.


The agenda for that meeting was published on the Council’s website last Friday, including the Officer Report for item 7, about the award of the new advertising lease. I will be writing more about this subject in the coming days, but there was one matter which I thought needed to be raised with the Cabinet Chair / Council Leader in advance of the meeting.


The opening section of the Report makes a clear statement:


‘It was agreed by the Chief Executive that the final award decision should be made by Cabinet.  This report explains the outcome of procurement for Bobby Moore Bridge Advertising and requests a decision between the two options below: 


Option A - Advertising on the parapet walls of the bridge only where the existing digital screens are located. This will not affect any of the tiled areas.   


Option B - Advertising on the parapet walls of the bridge, plus the underpass walls excluding the mural with plaque.’


I have, in the past, raised concerns about decisions that are meant to be made, openly and publicly, at Cabinet meetings (Democracy in Brent – are Cabinet Meetings a Charade?). How could I try to ensure that both options were considered at the meeting, and the decision between the two options made fairly?


This seemed particularly important because the key recommendation in the Officer Report is that Cabinet: ‘Approve the award of a contract for Bobby More Bridge Advertising on the basis of Option B to Quintain Ltd’, and the Report is heavily biased in favour of Option B.


This is the full text of the open email I sent to the Council Leader, with copies to the other members of Brent’s Cabinet, first thing on Monday morning, 20 May:



‘To: Cllr. Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council.


This is an open email

Dear Councillor Butt,


Cabinet meeting on 28 May - Voting on the new Bobby Moore Bridge advertising lease 


Last year, at an event in Olympic Way, you kindly and publicly thanked me for keeping Brent Council “on its toes” over heritage matters. That is what I will try to do when I present the public petition on the Bobby Moore Bridge tile murals to the Cabinet meeting on 28 May.


The relevant Officer Report to that meeting sets out that the Cabinet ‘is required to decide whether to award a contract for Bobby Moore Bridge Advertising on the basis of’ either Option A or Option B, as set out in the procurement process. 


You may already have thought how you will ensure that this decision is taken fairly, but I hope you will consider the request I am making below. This would ensure that not only is the decision fair, but that the wider public, interested in the tile murals at Wembley Park, can see that it is fair.


The Officer Report recommends that Cabinet approve the award of the contract under Option B, because that will provide a higher level of income to the Council. That is understandable, as it is their job to generate as much income as possible from Council-owned assets.


The petition I will present to the meeting urges the Cabinet to approve a new advertising lease under Option A, as although that would provide a slightly lower income, there would be added value in putting the heritage tile murals in the subway back on public display.


Individual Cabinet members may have different, yet both perfectly legitimate, views on which option should be approved. As this will be a Cabinet decision, each member should be entitled to vote according to their honestly held view.


From my previous experience of watching Cabinet meetings, you would usually ask members whether they agree with the recommendation(s) made by Officers in their Report. 


In this particular case, I am requesting that you invite individual votes for “those in favour of Option A” and for “those in favour of Option B”. In the event of an equal number of members voting for each option, you would, of course, have the casting vote as Council Leader and Chair of the meeting.


I look forward to seeing this form of voting used at the meeting on 28 May. Thank you. Best wishes,


Philip Grant.’


Regular readers may remember my recent correspondence with Brent’s Corporate Director for Law and Governance, about Cabinet Member Forewords in Officer Reports. Her view is that they ‘provide an opportunity for the council policy context of decisions to be made explicit in reports to Cabinet by the Cabinet Member who is accountable for initiating and implementing council policies within the relevant portfolio.’


The Cabinet member handling the award of the new Bobby Moore Bridge advertising lease is Cllr. Butt himself, and for your information, this is his Leader Foreword in the Report:-





Philip Grant said...

The Leader's Foreword makes several references to social value benefits provided by the "supplier".

The present supplier is Quintain (or its Wembley Park subsidiary), and the recommendation is to award the new advertising lease to Quintain as well, so Quintain would continue to be the supplier.

This could be seen as the Leader indicating a preference for the Officer's recommendation. But, in fact, the social value benefits provided by the supplier will be the same whether Option A or Option B is chosen - a point worth noting!

Anonymous said...

Whilst there doesn't appear to be much difference in revenue between Option A and B, presumably Brent would have to pay for the upkeep and lighting of the underpass if the lightboxes were removed which could be a significant ongoing cost to the Brent Council Tax payers?

Philip Grant said...

Thank you for your comment, Anonymous at 14:51.

Paragraph 5.3 of the Officer Report on the award of the new lease says:

'Both options will cover maintenance of the underpass walls as the existing
contractor manages this area and there is no council budget available to
manage this area in the future.'

[Basically, Quintain act as if they own the subway, even though they only manage it on Brent's behalf!]

The "Heads of Terms" document, as part of the Council's pack of Tender documents for the new lease, which set out what the contract would include and was not open to negotiation, included:

'11.1 Rates and utilities - Tenant to pay all utilities and business rates.'

The current lease does include the tenant (Wembley Park Ltd) paying electricity bills, but with the Council making a reasonable contribution towards the cost of lighting in the subway.

I hope this helps to answer your query.

Anonymous said...

Well Brent did give £17.8million of our NCIL money to multi-billion developer Quintain for their vanity project steps outside Wembley Stadium so perhaps Quintain can subsidise the cost of lighting the underpass in return????

Philip Grant said...

Thank you for your comment Anonymous (22 May at 22:58).

The £17.8m was towards the whole of the Olympic Way improvement works, which included improved lighting in the subway.

I will be mentioning this at the Cabinet meeting.

Philip Grant said...

I was pleased to see that the full text of my open email to Cllr. Butt was published in the "letters" section of the "Brent & Kilburn Times" today.

It has now appeared publicly both here online and in the local newspaper, so hopefully the Council Leader will have "got the message", as well as in the email directly from me, to which he has yet to reply.