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Dec 17 2013

Complaints Against a Harrow Councillor – Pointless

harrow_council_logoRecently, we submitted a complaint against a Harrow Councillor, which, up to this point, we’ve been unable to comment upon, as it may have affected the outcome. The final hearing was yesterday, so the time is now ripe to write about it.

Cast your mind back to when Harrow’s Labour Group split in two, and Independent Labour was formed. One councillor, Cllr Raj Ray, signed a resignation letter – along with a number of other councillors – to say he’d be leaving the group.

Within a matter of days, Cllr Ray then commented in the local press that “They misrepresented me. I do not recognise this Independent Labour Group. At Harrow Council, and in this country, we are one Labour. I never considered to join.”

We took exception to that: on the one hand, we had a signed copy of his resignation, yet, he says, he never “considered to join” the group. What really happened?

We emailed Cllr Ray, and, as is usual, had no reply. Cllr Raj, a man of clearly failing mental health, doesn’t ever, from what he says, check his email. But that’s odd: he distributes, he says, leaflets to residents in his ward, which contain that very same email address – the point on whether he actually does distribute leaflets is debatable: we’ve never seen one from him.

So, we filed a Standards Complaint, accusing Cllr Raj of telling porkies. Eventually, six months of nagging and chasing the council, it ended up with a hearing in the Civic Centre. Chaired by an Independent Person, with a panel of Cllrs Simon Williams (Conservative), Graham Henson (Labour) and Zarina Khalid (Independent Labour), myself and an investigator, Cllr Ray, the Head of Legal and someone from Democratic Services, we gathered in a meeting room to go through the paperwork.

Hopefully, a fuller report will come from the Council shortly, but the highlights were:

  • Cllr Ray’s comments that he had “never considered to join” were not intended to be misleading, but simply “lacked clarity”
  • Despite being trained as a councillor, a councillor since 2002, and significant experience in the legal profession, Cllr Ray was unable to comprehend exactly what he was signing.
  • The other councillors “had sympathy” with the number of emails a councillor receives, but “…by giving his email address to the public and then not reading his emails this denied them an avenue of communication. This represents a lack of accountability.”
  • Cllr Ray did comment that he does work with constituents, and gave an example where he intervened in a potential eviction case for one resident by offering to pay that residents rent arrears to the housing association himself, instead of seeing someone homeless.
  • Cllr Ray observes that he wrote a letter of apology about his lack of response – which never arrived, and, of course, a copy wasn’t produced at the hearing. We doubt it even exists, to be honest.

The outcome, as expected, was that the panel of three councillors, clearly determined to support one of their own, decided that no sanctions were needed, and that Cllr Ray merely needed assistance on how to set an ‘out of office’ type reply on his email to say he won’t actually read anything sent to him.

It’s prudent to point out that Cllr Ray is – or, perhaps, was, in a previous life – a solicitor and a barrister, so you’d perhaps be forgiven for thinking he might actually read something before signing.

So, there you have it: from this experience, it’s okay to say whatever you want to the local press, ignore your own constituents, and make up stories about whether you did or didn’t do something, because your fellow councillors will happily cover your arse if you land up in front of the standards committee – and why wouldn’t they? One for all and all for one, etc, etc.

If you were to think the whole process as being corrupt, pointless, and designed with all the aggression of a small kitten, you might not be far wrong. Still, it kept Democratic Services busy in producing a 70+ page report, had two highly-paid officers tied up for three hours and several days (maybe even weeks) of a solicitor’s billable time.

Pointless.

 

 

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7 comments

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  1. John Clement

    This guy has been my ward councillor for a number of years, and has never replied to or acknowledged anything I have ever sent him. Fortunateley Gerry Miles one of the other ward councillors is much more polite and zealous and
    always discharges his responsibilities.

  2. anonymous

    Try complaining against any of them. I’ve never met such a bunch of self serving ego maniacs. I get the feeling, that with a few notable exceptions, it’s the place where the unfulfilled numpties go to die! Sadly, we pay for these numpties

  3. Agreed it's pointless

    I can well appreciate your feelings Paul. I had a councillor blatantly lie about me on the front page of one of the locals a while back which was obviously very upsetting and I felt a slur on my character. I emailed the councillor concerned to tell her politely how I felt and in the absence of a response put in a complaint to the council.

    Did I ever get a response from the councillor? No, of course not and needless to say my complaint was not upheld. To hell with the electorate, we’ll do what the hell we like.

    Like you say pointless

    I have to agree with John, in my dealings with Gerry Miles I have found him to be one of the very few who bothers to answer emails and clearly has morals.

  4. packyourbags

    I agree with all the above comments.

    So many of our councillors (and you know who you are) are purely in this for;

    a) the ego trip,

    b) some sense of self importance, or

    c) feeling that you’ve made something of yourself for your family…

    … the purpose of serving the community is totally forgotten.

    Why do we employ them ? What is their purpose? Stop protecting each other, do none of you have any integrity ?

    As I have said in previous posts, lets remove the politics from local government and concentrate on doing what is right for the majority of council tax paying, hard working residents – these are the people who need protecting and not the free loaders who increasingly see Harrow as an easy target.

    Enough is Enough

  5. Marcello Borgese

    It’s difficult to comment without knowing every detail (which only those involved do) but assuming everything reported here is true then I am thoroughly disgusted with these proceedings.

    I suspect the councillors involved felt a little out of their depth and went for the easy and safe option of doing nothing. If Cllr Ray had been found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute (or whatever they call what naughty councillors do these days) then he would probably have appealed which would have created further farcical internecine struggles in the chamber as well as the possibility of the councillors involved being proved to have acted incorrectly. As a result of their judgement they will just be criticised by a few powerless residents most of whom don’t even live in their ward, rather than be over-ruled or disciplined by legally-empowered and knowledgeable council officers.

    I’m never disappointed by Lib/Lab/Con politicians. I expect these political parties to do nothing for the public’s benefit and that’s exactly what happens.

    MPs recently criticised the BBC (but did nothing) for giving high redundancy payments in the knowledge that they themselves will receive an 11% pay rise in what looks like a reward for being caught fiddling expenses (again, all talk and no action). Just today, another (ex-)MP has gone to prison (it was a judge who took action, not MPs).

    Some Lords are clocking in just to qualify for their £300 a day allowance and are back out the portcullis before you can say “money for old ermine”, probably off to do their real day job or for a sherry at their special members’ club (yet again, nothing done). Bear in mind we now have more Lords than ever before – some of which have served prison sentences or been suspended for fiddling expenses.

    The only thing party politicians ever do well is creating new political roles (EU president, EU Foreign Minister, Mayors, more MPs, MSPs, SPADs, etc.). Now that the Chief Exec and his super-salary are gone, the council leader will take on more power. I predict the council leader’s pay after next May will rocket, together with hiring a team of so-called advisors (who will probably turn out to be friends, party workers and donors). There will probably be a net cost to the taxpayer in this new arrangement.

    The only way to stop these Megalomaniacs taking more of our money and less notice of us is simply not to vote for them at next year’s borough elections. Just the prospect of us all voting anything but Lib/Lab/Con might make them realise they are in office to serve us, not themselves or their political parties.

  6. All things good

    To complain against any councillor or a Harrow Council officer, especially senior ones is indeed pointless. I have complained before over serious issues, but it is fruitless, especially when the complaints manager takes the side of the officers, and the rest cover each others backs. Everything is hidden and swept under the carpet all for the sake of keeping the ‘good name of the Council’!

  7. j p hobbs

    Sorry A T G What good name ? that went long ago .

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