Thursday, 2 January 2014

Concerns in the light of Brightons' own Golli-gate

It is my intention to send a copy of the following to the CEO of Brighton & Hove City Council, Penny Thompson CBE. If you wish to co-sign this letter, please contact me at

In addition I am preparing another letter to the same addressee with regards to the closing of the Hearing by the Standards Panel. The secrecy surrounding the hearing is concerning for two reasons.

  • Due Process and Procedure requires that reasons be given for invoking the mechanism that allows for the closing of a public meeting to members of the public and press. No reason was given though the mechanism for closing the meeting was given as the reason. This now means that the precedence for declaring all meetings, ostensibly open to the public, as closed purely on the basis of quoting the mechanism is now established.
  • The Public cannot scrutinize a decision that was reached in secrecy, behind closed doors. Considering the strength of feeling, as evidenced by the various responses to articles on the subject in the Evening Argus, it is clear that the public does want to be able to scrutinize the reasons behind the conclusions reached by the Dawn Barnett hearing on 19th December 2013.
I will put that on this blog in due course.

Dear Ms Thompson,
I would ask that you consider the fact that the BMEWF is a workplace forum open only to employees of Brighton & Hove City Council. Membership of this forum is not possible for any person who is not employed by the City Council; with neither agendas, minutes of meetings, its membership list nor the composition of its Steering Panel being open to public scrutiny.

I hold that the BMEWF has grossly overestimated its remit. Ms D. Barnett is not an employee of Brighton & Hove City Council but an elected representative of residents of this city. It is therefore not appropriate that the BMEWF go to the extent of placing a complaint against Clr. Barnett unless she acts directly against the interests of working conditions.  
Further, the refusal of the BMEWF to consider any resolution aside from a Full Panel Hearing, including its refusal to consider any meeting with Clr Barnett until after said full hearing lays the BMEWF shows a level of intolerance, segregation and lack of conciliation that does not sit well with the concept of a multicultural community.
Enclosed you will find the reasons for concern as highlighted by the conduct of the BMEWF. As CEO of Brighton & Hove City Council I would request you ensure that the BMEWF engages to ensure that it does not overstep its remit in future.

Having read all the documentation provided for the now deferred Standards Panel meeting 28 November 2013 there are some grave concerns regarding the position adopted by the BMEWF. The context being that there were three complaints from private individuals.

  • Mr D. Hermitage – who requested that Cllr D. Barnett be placed on an Equality & Diversity Training Course.
  • Mr T Read – who requested Cllr D. Barnett undergo Diversity Training and provide an apology for her comments.
  •  Mr N. Madhar – who requested that Cllr D. Barnett be ‘immediately expelled’.
 There is one additional complaint from the BMEWF, claiming to act in response to some concerns from members of staff. Further, it is made explicit that the BMEWF consider their complaint to be a staff complaint rather than a private individual complaint as evidenced by the email from Richard Butcher Tuset dated 16 September 2013 17:32. The complaint from the BMEWF has caused concern for a number of reasons.

Putting these concerns in context:·        

  • The BMEWF wrote a Letter of Concern to Cllr G. Theobald, Leader of the Conservative Group via email on 05 September 2013 12:15. 

  • Cllr G. Theobald responded to this Letter of Concern via email on 06 September 2013 17:00 informing the BMEWF that he could not respond on the matter as Cllr Barnett was at that time subject of an official Standards Complaint. 

  • Ms S. Cartwright, BMEWF Steering Group, responded by contacting Richard Butcher Tuset by email on 16 September 2013 16:30 imputing a history of publicised racist views, unsubstantiated, to Cllr D. Barnett; requesting that their Letter of Concern to Cllr G. Theobald on 05 September 2013 12:15 be accepted as an official complaint from the BMEWF.In addition it seems that they are not aware of the nature of the Standards complaint referred to by Cllr G. Theobald in his email of 06 September 2013 17:00. 

  • Mr B. Foley proposes a possible course of action to conclude the complaint in an emailed letter dated 27 September 2013 to the BMEWF. 

  • There is no mention on record whether the members of the public, Mr D. Hermitage, Mr T. Read and Mr N. Madhar, who initiated the Standards complaint against Cllr D. Barnett, were proffered the option to accept this proposed conclusion to their complaint.
  • Ms S. Cartwright on behalf of the BMEWF Steering Group rejects this and demands that a full public hearing is the only resolution it will accept. This is despite the fact that it has been made clear that it is unlikely to result in any stronger measures being laid against Cllr D. Barnett in resolution to the complaint.
The substantive complaint against the BMEWF:
1.      The BMEWF is actively pursuing a course of corporate blackmail.
This charge is based on that the council is warned that accepting the proposed conclusion would amount to it once more ignoring racism within BHCC. Further there is an implicit threat of possible further action by the BMEWF. “BMEWF members feel very strongly that if your recommendations are followed, the Council will have yet again allowed discriminatory and racist behaviour and attitudes to go unpunished, which has been documented in the corporately-commissioned GHPO regarding BME people within Brighton & Hove City Council. The BMEWF would be very disappointed if these recommendations were followed, and may take further action. yet again allowed discriminatory and racist behaviour and attitudes to go unpunished, which has been documented in the corporately-commissioned GHPO regarding BME people within Brighton & Hove City Council.”[1]
2.      The BMEWF is evidencing a highly subjective and prejudiced ethos.
This charge is based on their presumption that a letter of recommendation, unseen, must of necessity be ignorant of either inter-racial relations or excuse ‘poor behaviour’[2] just because it was written in support of an individual that regulated body has voiced concerns about is unprofessional and undemocratic.
3.      The BMEWF is non-transparent.
We cannot read its minutes, see the membership list or discover who has been selected to sit on its steering group. Yet it is the general public of the City of Brighton & Hove that finance the BMEWF as members are attending meetings during work time. In addition it is the general public that provides the funds for their administrative support. 
4.      The BMEWF is non-conciliatory.
This charge is based on the fact that the BMEWF is unwilling to consider meeting with Cllr D. Barnett as per her suggestion in order that she may learn from the BMEWF and its members. They instead assume that this is a “Public Relations exercise”[3]. They are however willing to meet with Cllr D. Barnett following a full hearing. 
5.      The BMEWF ignores due process for the sake of a political agenda.
This charge is based on the distribution of the email sent by the BMEWF on 21 October 2013 09:48 to Mr B. Foley but cc’d to a large number of individuals and forums not involved in the complaints process. This email is clearly an attempt to steer the Council into adopting a more rigid standard then the one recommended by Central Government. 
It is felt that the conduct exhibited by the BMEWF around this complaint against Cllr D. Barnett has been highly questionable. Forcing through a full hearing when officers who deal with these Standards complaints on a professional basis, Mr B. Foley, the Monitoring Officer and the Independent Person have already expressed the opinion that it is unlikely that a full hearing will end in a different resolution to the complaint is not conducive to either social cohesion, equality or diversity.
Further, it shows a great disregard for the added financial burden to the already stretched budget.There is also grave concern about the political maneuvering exhibited by the BMEWF. Equality and diversity is not an issue that affects just the BME members of society. 
In addition it is felt that the BMEWF has stepped outside its own stated aims by using their formal body as a means to further complaints made by individual members of the public.
Brighton & Hove City Council's Black & Minority Ethnic Workers' Forum (BMEWF) is an organisation that represents Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) Council employees. Their aim is to:

  • ensure that BME staff have access to equal opportunities and receive fair treatment 

  • look to involve the many diverse ethnic minority communities in the city in the council’s work.

  • Support the personal development of members through training and empowerment opportunities.
  • Facilitate the involvement of BME staff in consultations about council policies - in particular employment and human resource issues.
  • Provide a confidential support network for members and a safe environment in which concerns can be discussed and addressed.
  • Increase awareness of BME cultures and issues among council employees and our city.
  • Build relationships between members, the council and communities in the city through events, communications and joint work.
  • Work with the LGBT[4] Workers’ Forum, the Disabled Workers’ Forum and the unions to jointly address issues that are of common interest to all.
  • Keep members up to date through regular bulletins and wider newsletters.
 (Source: date: 5 December 2013)

[1] Response to the suggested course of action – email from Sandra Cartwright to Brian Foley dated 07 October 2013 18:46
[2] ibid
[3] ibid
[4] Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender