(Tory) Council leaders, don’t you just love ’em – not!

Current leader of EDDC, Paul Diviani, and his Tory friends on the council voted against hospital bed cuts at EDDC (which is toothless on this matter) but he then voted FOR the same cuts at Devon County Council, which has just a few gnashers, but where former EDDC Leader and DCC councillor for Whimple, Sarah Randall Johnson, silenced a legitimate opposition debate on closures using very dubious tactics against her arch-enemy (campaigner and ouster from her EDDC seat) Claire Wright:


Now the former Leader of Grenfell Tower Council joins the merry band:

The council leader who presided over the Grenfell Tower disaster offered paid “advice” on public sector cutbacks – and tried to “whitewash” his CV in the process.

Nick Paget-Brown resigned as leader of Kensington and Chelsea council after the authority’s woeful response to the deadly inferno drew widespread criticism.

He has remained a councillor but has attracted fresh ire from survivors and rival politicians after advertising his own company – NPB Consulting – on his new Linkedin profile.

The firm, of which he is managing director, offers specialist advice on “financial planning in an age of austerity” to other councils.

Paget-Brown is also accused of hurling a “final insult” to victims as he has omitted his experience as council leader from his CV’s career history, leaving a space between the end of his time as deputy leader in 2013 and founding NPB in 2017. His appointment as leader was mentioned elsewhere. …

Paget-Brown used the networking site to advertise his skills, including “policy analysis, seminars, briefings and drafting assistance for organisations working with local authorities”.

Emma Dent Coad, the Labour MP for Kensington, said: “Paget-Brown’s attempt to whitewash his career by becoming a cost-cutting consultant is the final insult.”

Moyra Samuels, co-founder of the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign, said: “To effectively say, ‘I’m moving on swiftly to my next project’ shows complete disdain for this community.”

At the time of his resignation, Paget-Brown said he shared responsibility for the “perceived failings” of the council. “


Only “perceived” note …

The Swamp UK-style: David Davis – 6 days work a year for a pal – £34,000 and help to cancel a £450,000 fine

David Davis backed a City high-flyer’s appeal against a huge fine for insider dealing a month after accepting a lucrative position at one of his companies, the Observer has established.

The Brexit secretary has been a staunch ally of star banker Ian Hannam for many years. Both men were members of 21 SAS Reserve Regiment and Hannam donated £2,000 to Davis’s Tory leadership campaign in 2005. But their relationship deepened in 2012 when Davis criticised the Financial Services Authority in its pursuit of the City’s leading dealmaker, who was forced to leave his job with JP Morgan after being found guilty of “market abuse”.

The £450,000 fine imposed by the FSA (replaced by the Financial Conduct Authority or FCA in 2013) was one of the largest handed down to an individual and was considered a major coup for the authority. But Davis described its action as “unBritish”. He said at the time: “This is an incredible extension of what constitutes insider trading by the FSA. It’s quite an astounding pattern of behaviour by the FSA.”

Ian Hannam, former global chairman of equity capital markets at JP Morgan, was fined £450,000 by what was then the Financial Services Authority.
Ian Hannam, former global chairman of equity capital markets at JP Morgan, was fined £450,000 by what was then the Financial Services Authority.

When the authority first brought the case against Hannam, Davis had no financial relationship with his friend, who was considered one of the most powerful people in the Square Mile for his ability to make deals happen. But this was to change a year later when Davis was appointed to the supervisory board of a German company, Mansfelder Kupfer und Messing (MKM), which describes itself as the “leading European manufacturer of primary and semi-finished products made of copper and copper alloy”.

Davis listed his position – for which he “anticipated remuneration of approximately £34,000 per annum” – in the register of MPs’ interests on 10 June 2013 and disclosed that the role was for six days work a year. The disclosure was made a month after Hannam bought MKM via a company called Copper 1909. MKM confirms on its website that it is owned by Hannam & Partners.

In further updates to the register of interests, Davis acknowledged that he received a series of payments from Copper 1909 – each for around £7,000 – until he stood down from the company on becoming Brexit secretary last year. The Observer estimates that he may have earned more than £100,000 from the arrangement, based on his anticipated remuneration of £34,000 a year.

In July 2013, a month after he accepted the position at MKM, Davis made a very public show of support for Hannam when the banker sought to have the FSA’s decision overturned. The former shadow home secretary sat behind his friend, formerly JP Morgan’s global co-head of UK capital markets, when his appeal was heard. The FSA’s decision to fine Hannam was upheld in 2014 by the upper tribunal, the ultimate arbiter of authority decisions. There was no suggestion that Hannam was acting for private gain and he was granted a licence to continue operating in the Square Mile after the decision was handed down.

The FSA’s case against Hannam was based on two emails in which he revealed that his client, Heritage Oil, had struck oil before the discovery had been announced publicly, and that it was a potential bid target.

Commenting after the appeal was dismissed, Tracey McDermott, then director of enforcement and financial crime at the FCA, said: “This has been a long and complex case but the tribunal’s substantial judgment is a landmark. It should leave market participants in no doubt that casual and uncontrolled distribution of inside information is not acceptable in today’s markets. Controlling the flow of inside information is a key way of preventing market abuse and we would urge all market participants to pay close attention to the judgment.”

Davis was one of several people Hannam thanked for their support after the tribunal’s ruling.

The Observer put a series of questions to Davis, including requests for him to confirm how much he had been paid by Hannam’s company, what the work entailed and whether he believed the position had opened him up to any conflicts of interest. Davis declined to comment. However, his friends said he has made no attempt to hide his friendship with Hannam and that all his appointments, and income received, have been declared in accordance with MPs’ rules.

The Observer approached the Committee on Standards in Public Life. A spokeswoman said it would not comment on individual cases but confirmed that the committee was exercised by the issue of MPs holding second jobs.

The spokeswoman said: “We are currently collecting evidence and will feed our findings into the review of the MPs’ code of conduct in due course.”


Ministers and revolving doors

“The number of former ministers taking up jobs outside parliament has risen by nearly 60% in a year, official figures disclose.

The increase, from 33 former ministers to 52, coincides with complaints that lawmakers are routinely making use of a “revolving door” to pursue lucrative contracts in the private sector.

Francis Maude, the former Cabinet Office minister and industry minister, appears to have taken up the highest number of external roles over the past year, with nine posts.

Ed Davey, the former energy secretary, declares eight different commissions from his independent consultancy, which specialises in energy and climate change.

The data has been disclosed in the annual report of the ministerial jobs watchdog, the advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba).

Former ministers are required to seek and abide by the committee’s advice before taking up appointments in the two-year period after they leave office.

The report found that the committee advised 52 former ministers in relation to 104 appointments in the year to March 2017. During the previous year, 33 former ministers took up 123 jobs.

Maude’s jobs include being an adviser on Brexit to the international law firm Covington and Burling, an adviser to OakNorth Bank, the chair of an advertising agency, and adviser to the business intelligence firm GPW. He has also set up his own consultancy.

Davey, who lost his seat in May 2015 but returned to parliament at this year’s general election, established an independent consultancy, which has taken on work from companies including Engie UK, SIT Group, and NextEnergy Capital.

George Osborne, the former chancellor who stood down as an MP in July, was severely criticised in May for taking up a job as editor of the Evening Standard without waiting for advice from Acoba.

Since leaving office, Osborne has also worked in a £650,000-a-year advisory post at the investment bank BlackRock, got a professorship at the University of Manchester, become a fellow at the McCain Institute in Arizona, and been paid £75,000 to attend speaking engagements.

Since leaving Downing Street last year, David Cameron has taken up four roles. He is on the books of Washington Speakers Bureau, is president of the Alzheimer’s Society, and has taken up an unpaid appointment as chairman of the LSE-Oxford Commission on Growth in Fragile States.

Acoba was branded a “toothless regulator” in April by the public administration and constitutional affairs committee, amid calls for a much tougher system of independent checks.

A National Audit Office report issued this week found that rules that are meant to stop civil servants abusing their contacts and knowledge in the private sector are not being consistently applied or monitored.”


“Committee on Standards in Public Life to review local government standards”

Oooh – now this will spoul breakfast for some people! Wouldn’t it be interesting if the watchdog got a few teeth!

Get that evidence folder started now.

“The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) is to undertake a review of local government standards during 2017/18.

In its Annual Report and Forward Plan 2017/18, published this week, the watchdog said it “maintains a longstanding interest in local government standards, and regularly receives correspondence from members of the public expressing their concern about this issue”.

The CSPL added that it was actively conducting research and engaging with partners on this subject throughout 2016-17.

It said the review would be based around a consultation that will be launched in early 2018. “Based on the submissions to this review and meetings with key stakeholders, we intend to publish our findings and recommendations in 2018.”

The CSPL revealed that it would be publishing in late 2017 the findings of research it had conducted as a follow-up on its 2014 report and 2015 guidance on ethical standards for providers of public services.

“We will use this opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of ethical standards issues in the delivery of public services across all providers.”

Other areas the watchdog plans to cover include how developments in social and political communication and media are shaping public life. It also plans to keep a watching brief on issues surrounding conflicts of interests and good governance in academies, and on standards issues in the NHS.”


“Hammond could land £1.5m in green-belt housing deal”

“The chancellor, Philip Hammond, who helped spearhead the government’s housebuilding programme, could make more than £1.5m in a previously undisclosed deal over a possible housing development on green-belt land.

Land Registry documents reveal Hammond has agreed an option with a housebuilder on about three acres of land he owns next to his home in Surrey … ”

Sunday Times (paywall) page 10

He says it is a standard provision and doesn’t need to be declared … the former Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life disagrees.

Easy to guess who will win that one.

“Judge lifts stay on council continuing investigation into conduct of councillor”

“The claimant in Hussain v Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council [2017] EWHC 1641 (Admin), Cllr Mahboob Hussain, was alleged to have been engaged in various transactions in early 2012 which involved procuring the sale of council assets to family friends at a substantial undervalue.

The councillor, an elected Labour member of the Labour controlled authority, was also alleged to have used his power and influence as a senior politician within Sandwell to have parking tickets issued to his family expunged.

The council’s audit committee had commenced an investigation after various allegations circulated in 2014 in the press and on social media that there had been serial and longstanding wrongdoing by elected members.

An external firm of solicitors were brought in to assist. The firm interviewed Cllr Husssain on two separate occasions about the allegations.
“Regrettably, towards the end of the process, the solicitor conducting the investigation made a personal and derogatory observation about the claimant and his family to the chief executive,” Mr Justice Green said.

The chief executive, Jan Britton, then considered whether it was proper to continue with the firm given the risk of bias. It was decided that – with the investigation at an advanced stage – the work should be completed. But it was also decided that the evidence and report should be submitted to leading counsel for independent advice.

The solicitors’ report was presented to Sandwell Council in April 2016. A QC then advised in May 2016.

“The gist of the advice was that there was a serious case to be met by the claimant and that the solicitors report and the opinion should be placed into the public domain to address criticisms then being made in the press that the authority was suppressing wrongdoing and not taking its obligations seriously,” Mr Justice Green said in a press summary of the ruling.
Counsel also advised that a formal investigation of the allegations against the claimant under the Localism Act 2011 be initiated.

The judge said the investigation then became ‘political’ in the sense that the investigation was used by members against each other during elections of a new Leader of the council. The solicitors’ report and the QC’s opinion were leaked.

When the council said it intended to publish the two documents, Cllr Hussain sought permission for judicial review and an order prohibiting publication.
The High Court refused permission for a judicial review challenge, but the Court of Appeal went on to grant permission. Sandwell’s investigation was stayed by the High Court pending the outcome of Cllr Hussain’s challenge. This also prevented the authority from convening a standards committee investigation to hear and then rule upon the allegations against him.

The claimant advanced a number of grounds of challenge. The judge said these raised issues about the scope of the powers of local authorities generally to investigate alleged wrongdoing under the Local Government Act 1972 and the Localism Act 2011 and the interaction between these measures and the Data Protection Act 1998.

The claimant argued that:

The investigation was and remained flawed and unlawful because it was infected by bias, politically motivated, oppressive, irrational and unreasonable.

There was no lawful power to investigate alleged misconduct pre-dating the coming into effect of the Localism Act 2011 (1 July 2012), and no power more generally to invoke the powers in the Local Government Act 1972 and the Localism Act 2011 in support of investigations into this sort of alleged misconduct.

In relation to the decision to place the solicitors’ report and the QC’s opinion into the public domain, this was an irrational and politically motivated act, that it was infected by bias, and in any event the decision was unlawful under data protection legislation and violated the rights of Cllr Hussain and his family under Article 8 ECHR.

Dismissing the claim for judicial review, Mr Justice Green said: “On the evidence before the Court there is a serious prima facie case against the claimant. The allegations should now be investigated properly in accordance with the formal arrangement instituted by the council under the LA 2011 [Localism Act].

“The council has ample powers to conduct investigations into this sort of impropriety. The argument that Parliament intended an amnesty to be accorded to those engaged in wrongdoing before the coming into effect of the LA 2011 (on 1st July 2011) is rejected. The decision to publish the solicitors report and the opinion were fully justified and in the public interest and were not prohibited by data protection laws or Article 8 ECHR.”

The judge said he had also decided that even if he were wrong in his analysis of the powers of the local authority and that it had in the past acted unlawfully that none of these breaches would be material or have any real impact on the fairness of the investigatory procedure going forward.
“A striking feature of the case is that the standards committee, which will hear and adjudicate upon allegations made against the claimant, has not yet been convened, due to the stay that the claimant successfully obtained from the High Court,” Mr Justice Green said. [His emphasis]

“When the stay is lifted, which it will be by Order of this Court, the claimant will have a full opportunity to present his case and establish that the allegation against him are to be rejected.”

The judge said he agreed with the position adopted by the council that the allegations were serious and that there was a powerful public interest in those allegations being thoroughly and fairly tested and adjudicated upon.

“The fact that the issues have acquired a ‘political’ flavour to them is not a reason for the council, as a body, to act differently. On the contrary it must act independently and objectively throughout, as it has done,” he noted.

The stay on all proceedings was lifted.

Commenting on the ruling, Sandwell’s Britton said: “We welcome the judgment that the claim for a judicial review has been rejected in totality and that the council’s case has been vindicated.

“Now legal issues have come to a conclusion, the council is able to proceed with its standards process.”


Kensington and Chelsea Housing councillor had been complained about by estate residents prior to fire

The councillor referred to – Rock Fielding-Mellor, the Deputy leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Housing Property and Regeneration, has apparently fled his home

“We recently lodged a formal complaint with LeVerne Parker, the Chief Solicitor and Monitoring Officer of RBKC, in hope that it would lead to some scrutiny by the Standards Committee of the property holdings and business interests of Rock Feilding-Mellen, the Deputy leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Housing Property and Regeneration.

We subsequently received a formal response from the Monitoring Officer in which she dismissed our complaint and declined to refer the matters we raised to the Standards Committee. We then prepared a rebuttal of the arguments she used to justify her dismissal of our complaint which we sent back to her, asking that it be escalated for the attention of the Town Clerk. We strongly recommend that you read her response via the link here:


in tandem with our rebuttal below [read further on at this link for more information here]: