Tuesday 18 June 2024

Democracy in Brent – Council and Leader responses to my open email.

 Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity

Martin reports Cabinet’s (in)action over my efforts to get 28 May minutes corrected.


If you have been following the saga over the Bobby Moore Bridge advertising lease, and what happened at the Brent Cabinet meeting on 28 May, you will know I feel strongly that the subsequent official minutes for item 7 are not a correct record.


On Sunday, Martin published a guest post from me, setting out the text of an open email which I had sent to the Council Leader, Cllr. Muhammed Butt, and all the members of his Cabinet. This forwarded an email I had sent to Brent’s Corporate Director (Law and Governance), which gave details of the changes I believe needed to be made to the minutes, to make them a correct record, which is what minutes of meetings are meant to be. I wrote: ‘I hope that you will approve those amendments at your meeting on Monday.’


In the hour before that meeting, there was an exchange of emails between the Corporate Director and myself, followed by an email from the Council Leader after the meeting. As Martin has published my views, I think it only fair that he should also publish the Council’s response to them.


Here are the full texts of the email exchanges on Monday 17 June, so that followers of “Wembley Matters” can read them if they wish to, and make up their own minds on the issues. All of the emails were copied to the Council Leader, Cabinet members and Brent’s Chief Executive. (As I am writing this, I will reserve the right to have the final word! You are welcome to agree or disagree with me in the comments section below.)


Monday 17 June at 9.15am, from Brent’s Corporate Director (Law and Governance):


Dear Mr Grant


Thank you for your emails relating to this matter and I note your main concerns identified in your email of 14 June 2024 (now copied to the Cabinet and Chief Executive) following your consideration of Mr *****’s email of earlier that day.


The main purpose of minutes of a Cabinet meeting is to establish a clear record of the decision(s) taken.  The minutes should also establish the reasons for the decision(s) including any alternative options which are placed before Cabinet but not agreed.  This can be done by reference to the report relating to the decision.


The minutes meet these requirements.


Other details of the meeting are not required to be included.  In respect of what is included I cannot see that the minutes are inaccurate.


In respect of the first section you wish to substitute, the decision and reasons are required to be recorded in the minutes.  The minutes refer to the potential options being presented in the report, they do not state that the Leader specifically presented these options himself. You had of course already spoken about the Options so there could be no doubt that the Cabinet was aware of them and of the views of those who supported the petition to take note of them.  In agreeing the recommendations in the report, the Cabinet was agreeing to note items as recommended as Mr ***** explained.


Cllr Donnelly-Jackson thanked you for your contribution, which was for the purpose of representing the residents who supported the petition, and I think recording that as Cabinet thanking residents is not inaccurate.


There is no general requirement for Cabinet members to vote by a show of hands or to formally state their support.  Cabinet members were given the opportunity to indicate that they did not agree the recommendations which the Leader had proposed be agreed, for example if they had thought Option A was the correct choice.  None of them chose to do so.


In respect of your second proposed substitution and your intervention to raise a point of order, the minute clearly captures the import of the Leader’s response.  As a member of the public observing a Cabinet meeting you would not have the formal right to raise a point of order.  However, given you stated the point you wish to raise anyway, had the Chief Executive or Head of Law considered there was a matter of concern to address I am sure they would have provided advice.


In summary, although I wasn’t at the meeting, I have watched the webcast and do not consider the minutes to be an incorrect representation of the decision or the reasons for it, including the options which were presented by the report.


Best wishes




Debra Norman
Corporate Director, Law & Governance


Monday 17 June at 9.35am, my reply to Ms Norman’s email:


Dear Ms Norman,


Thank you for yoùr detailed response to the concerns I raised.


I note what you have said, but still believe that the minute for item 7 of the 28 May Cabinet meeting is NOT a correct record, and should not be accepted by Cabinet as such.


I would be grateful if you would, please, publicly make clear at the meeting that a member of the public involved at that meeting does not accept that minute as being a correct record, and have that included in the minutes of today's meeting. Thank you. 


Best wishes,


Philip Grant.


Monday 17 June at 9.59am (meeting started at 10am!), reply to me from Ms Norman:


Dear Mr Grant


Thank you for your email.


This would be a matter for the Leader.


Best wishes




Monday 17 June at 11.08am, from Cllr. Muhammed Butt’s to me:


Thank you.


The minutes were accepted as a true reflection of the cabinet meeting held in May.





Cllr Muhammed Butt
Leader of Brent Council
Labour councillor for Tokyngton ward.


It is not often I agree with Cllr. Butt, but I think that what has happened over this matter, since the open email I wrote to him on 20 May (about the need for the voting on the Bobby Moore Bridge advertising lease to not only be fair, but to be seen to be fair) is a ‘true reflection’ of the state of Democracy in Brent under his Leadership.


I said above that I would have the final word. This is the reply I sent to the Council Leader, with copies to Cabinet members and Brent’s Chief Executive and Corporate Director … etc.:


Dear Councillor Butt,


Thank you for your email.


I will pass on your message to those who are interested.


I hope that you and your Cabinet colleagues will consider, along with the Chief Executive and Corporate Director (Law and Governance), the points I made in my email of 15 June, about the need for Cabinet decisions, and votes on them, to be more visibly seen to be considered and made, in the interests of open democracy.


That is also something where "Change" would be welcomed. Best wishes,


Philip Grant.


Brent residents deserve to be treated with more respect by our elected councillors*. The least we should expect in a democracy is that the decision-making body, Brent’s Cabinet, considers  decisions carefully and votes properly on them in its public meetings!


Philip Grant.


* They were democratically elected. Cllr. Butt topped the poll, receiving 1447 votes, when he was elected to represent Tokyngton Ward in 2022, and Labour councillors won 57.6% of the votes cast in Brent, on a 30.67% turnout. Under our first-past-the-post system, that gave Labour 49 out of 57 Council seats, and after such a victory it was unsurprising that Cllr. Butt’s councillors voted to give him four more years as Leader of the Council (a post he has held since May 2012).


Anonymous said...

So Brent Council are becoming the new 'Post Office'??? In other words they won't accept they have done anything wrong and are ready to dismiss and humiliate anyone who rightly questions their processes???

However they don't need the dodgy 'Horizon' sysyem to mess things up as they are openly altering details themselves!

Philip Grant said...

A Senior Council Officer (the one responsible for good governance and standards in Brent) says in an email above: 'This would be a matter for the Leader.'

The Leader seems to be able to decide anything he wants to, such as only offering one option (the one he wants) to his Cabinet when two are available, and assuming their acceptance of his will when they are not quick enough, or too scared, to speak.

Then he can decide to ignore the truth of what took place at the meeting, and have the official record show what should have happened, rather than what did, covering up his unreasonable behaviour.

He would claim this as his right, because he is the democratically elected Leader of Brent Council, but it doesn't make for good democratic government, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Leadership? More like dictatorship!!

Paul Lorber said...

What needs to be realised is that the "public" Cabinet Meetings are just for show and posturing. The Real business and decisions are made in so called "Leaders Briefings" which take place behind closed doors attended by the Cabinet and all senior officers and where the decisions are made in advance over a few hours of discussions. That is why there is never any debate in Cabinet itself as the people present do not wish to spend more time debating the same issues and want to get the 'public show' over with as quickly as possible.

The Leader did not want or need a vote as he already got the result he wanted and actually bothering to call for a vote and waiting for those present to put up their hands would have delayed his escape. It is the two faced and rude way he treated Philip Grant which puts Brent Council to shame.

Anonymous said...

You say "That is why there is never any debate in Cabinet itself as the people present do not wish to spend more time debating the same issues and want to get the 'public show' over with as quickly as possible" - but does our Labour run Council even debate these issues 'behind closed doors' or do our elected councillors just sit back take their allowances and do whatever Cllr Mo Butt says???

This is not democracy.

This is not representing the residents best interests.

Philip Grant said...

Thank you, Paul, for your comment. That sums up what the Cabinet meeting on 28 May felt like.

One of the worst aspects of it was that there were two options available. The one which I was presenting, on behalf of more than 100 people who had signed the petition (and several backbench Labour councillors!), would have given Brent Council a good guaranteed income from the advertising lease, as well as allowing the heritage tile murals in the subway to go back on public display.

Option A was not even considered, because the decision had already been made before the meeting, based on a one-sided Report written by Council Officers who had already been identified (over the secret three year extension of the previous advertising lease) as having too cosy a relationship with Quintain!

Anonymous said...


Who were the Labour Councillors who signed your petition? It would be great to know those who think for themselves rather than toe t he party line all the time!

Philip Grant said...

Dear Anonymous (19 June at 09.19),

Thank you for your comment.

I agree that this is not how democracy should be done, and that it is not in the best interests of Brent's residents.

It is up to us, as residents, to raise awareness of what is happening in our borough, and to vote for change at the earliest opportunity, as is our democratic right.

Residents in Queen's Park have the chance to do that on 4 July, but most of us will have to wait for the next full Brent Council elections in May 2026.

That is almost two years away, but residents and local political parties, should be preparing for it, and sharing their views about the need for change, during the whole of that time.

Philip Grant said...

Dear Anonymous (19 June at 12.43),

I think that only one was brave enough to sign the petition. You can see who that was if you look at the list of signatories on the petition page of the Council's website.

The other two told me privately by email, and they might lose positions they hold if I disclosed their names (which I won't do).

Anonymous said...

So these elected local councillors are not prepared to stand up for what they believe in over what is basically a few nice tiles being covered up by advertising? How can we then rely them to stand up to Cllr Mo Butt over far more serious issues???

A freedom of information request into bullying at Brent Council might be the next move?

Anonymous said...

If it’s basically a few nice tiles being covered up by advertising why does everyone care so much?

Philip Grant said...

Dear Anonymous (21 June at 22:26),

If you would like to understand why everyone cares so much, I'd suggest that you read the case I put to Brent's Cabinet on behalf of 114 people who had signed the petition, which Martin published on 27 May:

Anonymous said...

I was being ironic!!!!!!!

The tiles are an important local history asset celebrating previous events at Wembley Stadium!

The way Philip has been treated is appalling!

The way council minutes are being 'doctored' is very concerning!

The way some local councillors are seemingly being controlled is incredibly worrying!

Anonymous said...

So the Mayor of London celebrates a new mural of Taylor Swift being unveiled near Wembley Stadium whilst Brent Council disrespect the history of Wembley Stadium by giving multi-billion pound developer Quintain permission to once again cover up the wonderful tiles celebrating the history of Wembley Stadium which are enroute from Wembley Park Station:

Why does one artist deserve more respect than another one?

Anonymous said...

"Mayor of London Sadiq Khan unveiled the Swiftie Steps and new murals at Wembley Park" - why cover up our historic tiles yet promote these new murals at Wembley...


Anonymous said...

I'm questioning why the new Taylor Swift murals are so celebrated whilst the existing tiles are not - the artist who did the existing tiles deserves equal respect! Their work should not be covered up!

Philip Grant said...

The artist who designed the Bobby Moore Bridge tile murals in 1992/93 was Kathryn Digby.

Anonymous said...

Because people / things move on?

Anonymous said...

the record books, particularly the council records and local press records, will show who ripped the heart out Wembley, destroying all of our history and green spaces in favour of poorly built tower blocks - if that’s moving on then we are surely doomed 😔

Anonymous said...

So in Wembley they cover up our historic tiles by Wembley Park station yet here the local history is being celebrated by new artworks...

Philip Grant said...

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous (23 June at 08.48), and for the link to the Kilburn Times article. Those new mosaics at Kilburn Station look amazing, and I look forward to seeing them next time I am going down the Jubilee Line.

Unfortunately, in is Brent Council, not TfL, who own the Bobby Moore Bridge and the tile murals in its subway.

It is almost a Wild West (or Spaghetti Western) scenario, with Wembley Park a one horse (Quintain) town, and Brent's macho bounty hunter always seeking "a few dollars more".