Archive | September, 2015

Discourteous, aggressive & threatening

18 Sep

“Discourteous, aggressive & threatening.”

“Discourteous, aggressive & threatening”

Tucked away at the bottom of the agenda for Monday’s council meeting is a Decision Notice of the Standards (Hearing) Sub-Committee. It is the outcome of an investigation into a breach of the code of conduct by councillor Ian Corbett, mayoral chum and ‘full-time’ advisor on environment and leisure.

Here it is in full:

The Complaint

On 26 August 2015 the Standards (Hearing) Sub-Committee considered a complaint made by a member of the public concerning the alleged conduct of Councillor Ian Corbett towards a Council employee at Newham Town Hall, East Ham on 3 September 2014.

A general summary of the complaint is that Councillor Ian Corbett acting in an official capacity spoke in an inappropriate manner and acted discourteously towards a member of staff in the reception area at Newham Town Hall. This conduct also took place in the presence of a member of the public.

The Independent Investigator’s report concluded that Councillor Ian Corbett had breached the Member Code of Conduct by his behaviour towards the member of staff which was discourteous, aggressive and threatening.

The Decision

Having sought and taken into account the views of the Independent Person the Standards (Hearing) Sub-Committee resolved that:

i) Councillor Ian Corbett had breached the Code of Conduct by not engaging with the member of staff in an appropriate manner and not treating the person with respect;

ii) The Monitoring Officer write to Councillor Ian Corbett to advise him on his future conduct and place on record the Sub-Committee’s disappointment and concern that he had failed to engage in the investigation process at any part of the procedure despite numerous requests which went against the spirit of the Code of Conduct.

iii) That the decision of the Sub-Committee be reported to the next available meeting of Council.

Just like the mayor last year when he was investigated – and found guilty – over his behaviour towards the Focus E15 mums, Corbett has completely blanked the Standards Committee investigation. Refused to cooperate in any way. The committee’s observation that this goes “against the spirit of the Code of Conduct” is barely begins to cover it.

Standards, like scrutiny, is being treated with utter contempt.

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No standards

11 Sep

The mayor has received a complaint about the behaviour of Cllr Ken Clark at this year’s Newham Show.

The email contains considerable detail about the incident, in which Cllr Clark swore violently and at some length at Ahmed Noor in front of other councillors and members of the public. It claims that Cllr Clark’s actions have bought both the council and the Labour party into disrepute. It concludes:

 I request you start an independent enquiry and the Standards Committee considering (sic) the nature of the misconduct by Cllr Clark 

There is a procedure for handling complaints against elected members. It is described on the council website and it is set out formally in Part 2, article 9 of the council’s constitution:

The Monitoring Officer shall be the Proper Officer to receive complaints of failure to comply with the Code of Conduct…

The Monitoring Officer shall, after consultation with the Independent Person(s), determine whether a complaint merits formal investigation and arrange such investigation.  

If there’s an investigation it’s carried out by the Standards Advisory Committee. Not the mayor. In fact the constitution explicitly excludes him from membership of the committee. 

So, even setting aside any concerns about a conflict of interest because of his close working relationship with Ken Clark, Sir Robin only had two options when he received the email: he could have told the complainant that he was not the right person to deal with the matter, and that they needed to write to the Monitoring Officer directly; or he could have passed the matter to the Monitoring Officer, telling the complainant that this was what he’d done.

But of course the rules don’t apply to the mayor and he did neither of those things. Instead, this was his reply:

I am writing to clarify a few things following receipt of your email. Just a couple of questions:

  1. You provide a considerable amount of detail which raises a number of questions. Given the detail I assume you were present and I need a few questions answered. Could you please provide me with contact details, telephone, address etc., so that I can arrange to meet you in person and discuss these questions.
  2. I note that you appear to have used a Council distribution group for all members of the Council which is only available through the Council’s email system. I presume that you got this from a councillor or perhaps a member of staff? If you could provide me with their details I can have a chat with them about the issues.
  3. Just to clarify, you make several references to the Newham Labour Party but I do not believe you are yourself a member. Is that correct? Perhaps you are a member in another Borough?

A quick response so we can meet in the very near future would be very helpful.

Regards,

Robin Wales

There’s no acknowledgement of the seriousness of the allegation, no suggestion that this is matter that needs to be put through the proper channels. Just a bullying and sinister tone. How do you suppose that ‘chat’ with whoever provided the email addresses would go?

Replying to Sir Robin the complainant says:

I am very much puzzled as to why you were far more eager to know my background instead of starting the investigation thoroughly against Councillor Ken Clark

Well, they might be puzzled, but I’m not.

Sir Robin holds the code of conduct and the Standards Committee in absolute contempt. When he was investigated by the Standards Committee last year he refused to even acknowledge the investigation, much less provide any evidence. He and his chums are untouchable. They can behave as they like, without fear of the consequences. 

And as we see in this case, he’d much rather pursue the complainant than any complaint.

Return on investment

3 Sep

“If you look around the table and can’t tell who the sucker is – it’s you.”

The mayor has been on week-long trip to China with council chief executive Kim Bromley-Derry, paid for by Chinese developer ABP, and now he’s looking at investing in its Royal Albert Dock project.

The Newham Recorder asked him about the plans:

“We’re always looking at opportunities to invest in projects,” he said.

“…we will always look at opportunities to make money out of projects.

“Each project is judged on its merits of course, but if we can make money and there was an opportunity we’ll do it.”

Sadly this is not the first time the mayor has decided to use public money to play ‘Investment Bankers’ after being sold a dodgy business plan by a man in a shiny suit.

Back in 2012 the London Pleasure Gardens was, according to one of its directors

“going to be one of the coolest places to watch live sports, chill out and catch some amazing events.

“This isn’t just a commercial proposition – we want to be a whole new cultural hub for London and beyond.”

It turned out to be a fiasco that cost Newham council taxpayers close to £5 million for the five weeks it was open.

The company was bankrolled by a £3.3 million loan from the council, plus a further £800,000 because of interest and costs. The council also ended up paying £444,000 to Deloitte for administrators’ fees (graciously discounted from the £1 million they actually racked up) after the business went bust.

Unable to accept the reality of the situation a Newham council spokeswoman insisted:

“The council is continuing to discuss the future use of the site with relevant parties and remains confident that we will see a return on our investment.”

That, of course, never happened.

And awkward questions about what happened to the money, why what was delivered by LPG was so far from what was promised and the evidently hopeless quality of the due diligence carried out by council officers were never even asked by our feeble and supine councillors, much less addressed.

With £40 million of our money on the line with the Olympic stadium ‘loan’ and another £5 million already earmarked for ‘retail opportunities’ in the Queen Elizabeth Park councillors should be wary of indulging the mayor’s next investment fantasy.

Pensions again

3 Sep

Professional Pensions has reported on Sir Robin’s decision to overrule the recommendation of Overview & Scrutiny (OSC) and proceed to spend £500,000 on developing a ‘special purpose vehicle for Newham’s pension fund.

Forest Gate South councillor Dianne Walls, one of the OSC members who called in the original decision, is quoted at length:

She is concerned about releasing the funds without reference to the Investment & Accounts Committee which “should really look at all of these things very closely”.

Walls believes it is important to look at the proposal in more depth rather than “spending lots of money without due process”.

She said: “It’s a matter of principal, mainly because there’s a lot of decisions made at cabinet and mayor level that have not been open and haven’t been scrutinised properly.”

She added: “As we’ve seen in the past, when decisions are made in haste or without due process, then we make mistakes and we lose money. This is not to say that this actual proposal is wrong – we just don’t know – we need to look at it very carefully before we commit half a million pounds.”

At a time when the council is being forced to make £50m in cuts, she said that spending public money without investigating properly raises the risk of making costly mistakes, which the council “cannot afford to make”.

Cllr Walls noted that call-ins are very rare – only two have been made in 12 years.

And both were on the subject of pensions.

Sainsbury Wellcome Centre

3 Sep


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