Agenda and minutes
Thursday 22 September 2016 6.00 pm
Venue: Board Room 5 - Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley HA9 0FJ. View directions
Contact: Colin Sweeney, Governance and Civic Services Manager 020 8937 5451; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Declarations of interests
Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, any relevant personal and prejudicial interests and discloseable pecuniary interests in any matter to be considered at this meeting.
There were no declarations made by Members.
The minutes of the previous meeting, held on Monday 21 March 2016, were approved as a correct record.
The Council’s Chief Legal Officer stated that:
(i) The Council’s Complaints’ Procedure had now been published on its website;
(ii) A further training session had been arranged for Councillors and co-opted Members; and
(iii) Dr Robert Cawley had recently been appointed by the Council as an Independent Member on the Standards Committee but was unable to attend this evening’s meeting.
Matters Raised by Members - Validity of Committee Membership
Councillor Warren wished it to be recorded that he objected to the Chairman presiding at the meeting as he believed that the Chairman’s relationship with the Member at whom the complaint had been directed, could bring into question his impartiality in considering the matter before the Committee.
Councillor Collier stated that he shared Councillor Warren’s concern.
In response, the Council’s Chief Legal Officer advised the Committee.
Subsequently, the Chairman confirmed that he was impartial.
On 13 May 2016, the Council’s Monitoring Officer received a Members’ Code of Conduct complaint about Councillor Muhammed Butt. As the subject matter of the complaint has been reported in the press and on the internet, the details of the complaint are already in the public domain. The allegations have been independently investigated by Mr Richard Penn and his investigation report is attached for the Committee’s consideration. Mr Penn’s report concludes that there is no evidence to support the complaint and that Councillor Butt did not breach the Members’ Code of Conduct.
*Please note that a paragraph was removed within section 3.8 of the attached report on 30 September 2016 following confirmation from Cllr Pavey on 28 September 2016 that it was incorrect.
The Council’s Chief Legal Officer introduced the item, provided the background to the complaint, summarised the findings of the external independent investigation carried out and the resultant recommendation to Committee.
The Council’s Senior Solicitor outlined the key stages of the complaints procedure.
It was reported that a Members’ Code of Conduct (the Code) complaint against the Leader of the Council, Councillor Butt, had been received and which had been the subject of an external and independent investigation.
The complaint, from Mr Philip Grant, a resident of the borough of Brent, had been received by the Council on 13 May 2016, in which, it had been alleged that Councillor Butt had misled the Council over the death of a former Member, Councillor Tayo Oladapo. The complaint had arisen from an email, sent by a Labour Party worker, the subject of which had been leaked to the media that day and which formed the basis of Mr Grant’s complaint that Councillor Butt had breached the general principles of honesty, integrity, openness and leadership, as detailed in the Code.
The Committee was advised that the allegations had been independently investigated by Mr Richard Penn and that his investigation report, which concluded that there was no evidence to support the complaint and that Councillor Butt had not breached the Code, had been circulated to Members.
It was noted that, in accordance with the Code’s Complaints Procedure, the Council’s Monitoring Officer had carried out an initial assessment of the complaint and, subsequently, referred the matter for investigation. It was further noted that as well as having conducted an investigation into the Code’s complaint concerning Councillor Butt, Mr Penn had also been instructed to separately review and investigate the events, which had lead up to the reporting of former Councillor Oladapo’s continued absence from meetings, and other related matters, at Full Council on 22 February 2016.
Given the above, the Council’s Chief Legal Officer stated that the Committee’s role was to consider Mr Penn’s investigation report, which focussed on Mr Grant’s complaint concerning the conduct of Councillor Butt.
A Member stated that the whole matter rested on whether Councillor Butt had breached the Code and at which point the alleged breach had occurred.
A Member questioned what constituted a breach of openness under the Code.
A Member acknowledged the independent investigation and said that a comprehensive review of the complaint had been carried out.
The Council’s Chief Legal Officer then referred Members to Mr Penn’s main conclusions, which were set out at paragraph 3.5 to the committee report and which stated that:
(a) Councillor Butt had acted in his capacity as Leader of the Council in respect of the matters, which were the subject of the complaint and therefore he was required to comply with the Code;
(b) There was no evidence that Councillor Butt knew of former Councillor Oladapo’s death before he had been told on 7 March 2016;
(c) There was no evidence that Councillor Butt had been trying to avoid a by-election;
Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the committee is scheduled to take place on 28 November 2016.
It was noted that the next meeting of the Committee was scheduled to be held on Monday 28 November 2016.
Any other urgent business
Notice of items to be raised under this heading must be given in writing to the Head of Executive and Member Services or his representative before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 64.
There was no other urgent business.