The Brighton College Mystery – part 2

10 Oct

Following up my post last month about the curious business of Sir Robin wrongly declaring himself to be a governor of one of England’s most expensive independent schools, I asked Newham for an explanation.

That request got passed to Information Governance. They asked me to confirm if I wanted to file an FOI request and to state what information I wanted. My reply was to the effect “Are you serious? Wouldn’t it be easier to just send me an explanation?” They ignored that, so I filed an FOI. That prompted an extraordinarily rapid response. The following day I got this:

We can confirm that Sir Robin Wales was approached to become a member of the Board of Governors of the London Academy of Excellence in October 2011. Although he accepted this appointment in November 2011 he stepped down shortly after – in April 2012 – due to diary pressures.

The invitation to join the London Academy of Excellence Board of Governors was received on Brighton College letterhead. Unfortunately, officers incorrectly recorded on the Council’s Register of Members Interests and subsequent Mayoral Proceedings minutes as “Board of Governors at Brighton College”.

Sir Robin Wales has never been invited to join the Board of Brighton College.

So some hapless junior clerk was at fault, not the Great Man himself.

Perhaps understandable for the register of interests, but in the minutes of a meeting? You’d have to be especially cloth-eared to record the Mayor saying “I’m a governor of the London Academy of Excellence” as “I’m a governor of Brighton College” when the agenda item under discussion is about the London Academy of Excellence. And shouldn’t the Mayor at least check the minutes of Mayoral Proceedings? If he had done so he would instantly have spotted the error.

I looked up the annual report and accounts for the London Academy of Excellence for the period 23 May 2011 to 31 August 2012, which covers the time Sir Robin now says he was on their governing body.

On page 4, under ‘Constitution’ it says, “Details of the governors who served throughout the period except as noted are included in the Reference and Administrative Details on page 3.” (my emphasis added)

The list of governors on page 3 does not include Sir Robin Wales.

I contacted the London Academy of Excellence directly and yesterday they very kindly responded:

We invited Sir Robin to join the Board of Governors in mid-Oct 2011. He replied on 20 Dec 2011, saying that he could not take part in the interviews on 13 Jan 2012 but that he would be happy to be a governor. He formally resigned from the governing body prior to the meeting on 27 Sept 2012.

Although the dates don’t quite tie up with the entries in the Mayor’s register of interests or with the statement the Information Governance team provided, it seems that Sir Robin was a governor, albeit briefly, of the London Academy of Excellence. The omission of Sir Robin’s name from the school’s annual report must simply be an unfortunate oversight which the school needs to correct.

But even if this whole Brighton College nonsense turns out to be a cock-up rather than a conspiracy we should be no less concerned. This shows a very casual attitude to record-keeping and accountability by Sir Robin and those working closely with him. The register of interests is a significant public document: it’s how we can tell if our elected representatives are looking after our best interests or theirs. Minutes of council and committee meetings should be faithful records of what actually happened. The public must be able to rely on their accuracy.

In Newham, that is clearly not the case.

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2 Responses to “The Brighton College Mystery – part 2”

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  1. Albert Rose by any other name… | forestgatedotnet - March 5, 2014

    […] written before about the slapdash attitude of the mayor and his councillors towards record-keeping and accountability. In particular about the register of […]

  2. A matter of interest | forestgatedotnet - October 13, 2014

    […] utter disregard shown by councillors – and the mayor – for openness, honesty and just straightforward accuracy in recording their interests is […]

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