Two Tower Hamlets Labour councillors reported to the police for alleged breach of Localism Act

‘No issue to report to the police’

LW has made a formal complaint to the Metropolitan Police Service of possible criminal offences under the Localism Act 2011 by Labour councillors Cllr. Tarik Khan and Cllr. Asma Begum.

The decision to make the complaint came after several months of attempts to get to the bottom of numerous issues raised by our stories concerning Cllr. Tarik Khan (St Peters, Labour) and his statement that he was employed by the South London Procurement Network (SLPN), the existence of which was not established at the time of our original story.

Coincidentally, while Tower Hamlets council was investigating our concerns, the SLPN was registered as a Limited Company by officers from Canary Wharf Group at Companies House on 12th June 2019.

Clockwise from left: Azmat Hussain Director for Corporate Governance and Monitoring Officer, Mayor John Biggs, CEO Will Tuckley, Cllr. Asma Begum. Cllr. Tarik Khan.

After failing to be provided with an explanation using normal channels, LW resorted to making formal complaints to Tower Hamlets Council. The formal complaints procedures produced no reasonable explanation of Cllr. Tarik Khan’s conduct from Ms. Asmat Hussain, Director for Corporate Governance and Monitoring Officer.

On 25th May 2019 LW lodged a complaint with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman relating to the manner in which Tower Hamlets Council failed to deal with our initial complaint, specifically alleging that Ms. Asmat Hussain did not carry out any meaningful checks into the nature of the South London Procurement Network and that Ms. Hussain has failed to perform her legal duty as Monitoring Officer to ensure information declared by members is truthful.

Ms. Hussain did not inform us of the new company formation, a sharp-eyed colleague did. Ms. Hussain probably did not know.

Ms. Hussain did tell us that Cllr. Khan was no longer employed by the SLPN and so the information we required was no longer available.

Huh?

Clear as mud

To clarify. Cllr. Tarik Khan stated on his Register of Interests that he was employed by SLPN, the existence of which at the time was never proven but was linked to Canary Wharf Group. After complaints by LW, Tower Hamlets Council carried out an investigation during the course of which Cllr. Tarik Khan resigned from the seemingly non-existent SLPN and then South London Procurement Network Ltd was registered at Companies House by Canary Wharf Group officers. LW is then told by the person responsible for making sure the rules are followed at the Council that because Cllr. Khan is no longer employed by the organisation that never existed the information we wanted has vanished into thin air.

Confusing, innit?

Canary Wharf Group has been approached for comment. There is no allegation that Canary Wharf Group have been up to anything untoward, but we would just like to find out the facts about the SLPN.

Last week we asked the Council what action has been taken by either Chief Executive Officer Will Tuckley or Asmat Hussain, Director for Corporate Governance and Monitoring Officer, regarding the Register of Interests issue with Cllr. Khan and Cllr. Begum as highlighted in our stories. And had it been been reported to the police?

“No issue to report to the police”

The council replied that ‘We found the complaint did not merit a formal investigation’ and also that ‘There is no issue to report to the police and we are not aware that anyone has made a report.’

Well there is an issue and there is a report now.

After all, we would report Anti-Social Behaviour, so why not this?

LW Comment

The Council will no doubt complain that they have not been given enough time to deal with our complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman which they ‘are processing.’

Trouble is that every time we raise a complaint the response is blatantly flawed. So we raise another complaint about that and get another inadequate response and so it continues.

Stating that there is no issue to report to the police is symptomatic of the arrogance of the current administration. It brings to mind the previous Mayor who had the cheek to sit in Council and refuse to answer questions because by being forced to do so would breach his human rights. (Seriously. This happened.)

Mayor Biggs would like us all to believe that he and his administration operates in an open and transparent manner. This is not the case.

Mayor Biggs would also like residents to believe that his administration is completely different from that of Mayor Rahman.

What do you think?

The Long Story – Timeline

Localism Act 2011

The Localism Act 2011 has this to say about false or misleading statements of Registers of Interest:

(1) A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, the person—

(a) fails to comply with an obligation imposed on the person by section 30(1) or 31(2), (3) or (7),

(b) participates in any discussion or vote in contravention of section 31(4),

or (c) takes any steps in contravention of section 31(8).

(2) A person commits an offence if under section 30(1) or 31(2), (3) or (7) the person provides information that is false or misleading and the person —

(a) knows that the information is false or misleading, or

(b) is reckless as to whether the information is true and not misleading.

Cllr. Tarik KHAN

In his Register of Interests (http://bit.ly/2GP99cH Updated: 11 July 2018 Published online: 11 Dec. 2018 – BMcK) Stated that he was employed by the South London Procurement Network (http://bit.ly/2ZZjJmR). There is no mention of any other form of employment. Despite extensive searches, we have not been able to find any reference to the South London Procurement Network being either a registered commercial organisation, a registered charity or not-for-profit. It has an office in York Road, Waterloo.

On the South London Procurement Network ‘About Us’ page it clearly states that it is ‘… a free business support service that is funded by the Canary Wharf Group plc and Qatari Diar Development Company (UK) Ltd.’

Complaints

5th April 2019 response to our initial complaint

Ms. Hussain email said that:

‘Whilst we understand the concerns you have raised, both myself and the Independent Person have concluded that your complaint does not merit formal investigation.’ and

‘Councillor Khan has informed me that the South London Procurement Network is a not for profit company sponsored by various bodies. He appreciates the concerns you have raised in relation to transparency and has volunteered to include in his Register of Interests a list of sponsors for his employer to the extent that he is aware of them, even though this is not a statutory requirement.’

LW responded that our understanding is that South London Procurement Network is not a not-for-profit or any other registered organisation, and Cllr Khan failed to include the list of sponsors in his Register of Interests after promising to do so.

25th April 2019

I asked Ms. Hussain for to ‘provide me with exact name of the not for profit company and the appropriate registration number for the not for profit. Could [you] please also supply me with the names and registration bodies of the sponsoring bodies.’

25th May 2019

LW lodges a complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman against Tower Hamlets Council alleging that:

  1. Tower Hamlets Council failed to properly deal with my initial complaint.
  2. Ms. Asmat Hussain did not carry out any meaningful checks into the nature of the South London Procurement Network.
  3. Ms. Hussain has simply asked Cllr. Tarik Khan if he has done anything wrong, he has said no, and that has been accepted as a valid answer.
  4. In her role as Monitoring Officer Ms. Hussain has failed to perform her legal duty to ensuring information declared by members is truthful and has not carried out any checks into the veracity of the information provided by Cllr. Tarik Khan in his declaration of interests.

12 June 2019

South London Procurement Network registered as a Limited Company 12047375 12 June 2019, registered office as One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, United Kingdom, E14 5AB with senior officers of Canary Wharf Group as current officers.

24 June 2019

I received this email from Ms. Hussain.

‘Further to our request about SLPN and Councillor [Tarik] Khan, I can confirm that I have been in contact with Councillor Khan and he has updated his form which is published on line. The information you required is no longer available as he is no longer employed by SLPN [South London Procurement Network]. I refer you the decision of 5 April 2019 and am now closing the file.’

We suggested she did not close the file. At the time I was unaware of the 12th June 2019 registration of the South London Procurement Network until a colleague on another publication brought it to my attention.

In response to the email from Ms. Hussain I went to check the Register of Interests of Cllr. Tarik Khan (http://bit.ly/2ZZkhsV) and his partner Cllr. Asma Begum (http://bit.ly/3039zBP) and was surprised to see that the ‘Employment, Trade or Profession’ box on his Register of Interests was now blank.

Cllr. Khan had put ‘see Cllr. Asma Begum’s declaration’ in the Other relevant person (husband/wife/co-habitating partner) box.

We checked Cllr. Asma Begum’s declaration. In the ‘Employment, Trade or Profession’ box of her Register of Interest it says see Cllr. Tarik Khan’s Declaration.

In summary, at some time during the investigation by Asmat Hussain:

  1. The South London Procurement Network was registered as a limited company by Canary Wharf Group
  2. Cllr. Khan and Cllr. Begum both removed their previous references to South London Procurement Network from their Register of Interests.
  3. Since then the Register of Interests of both Cllr. Khan and Cllr. Begum have no stated employer, trade or profession as required by the Localism Act 2011 as can be seen here. 
  4. Each councillors Register of Interests refers to the others Register of Interests, neither of which is properly completed.

In addition Cllr. Khan has put ‘see Cllr. Asma Begum’s declaration’ in the following sections of his Register of Interests:

  • Sponsorship
  • Contracts
  • Land
  • Licences
  • Corporate Tenancies
  • Securities

Cllr. Begum has referenced the Register of Interests of Cllr. Khan in the Other Interests section but there is a discrepancy here as she states that her husband is a Trustee of the BFA (Bangladeshi Football Association) but this is not declared by Cllr. Khan.

Cllr. Asma BEGUM

In her Register of Interests published on 8 June 2018 Cllr.Begum also declared that her partner works for SLPN South London Procure Network.

Emails to LBTH Council Communications Team

3rd July 2019

I emailed LBTH Council in reference to my published story (http://bit.ly/2X8AlM7) and asked:

1 What action has been taken by either CEO Will Tuckley or Asmat Hussain, Director for Corporate Governance and Monitoring Officer, regarding this?

2. Has this been reported to the MPS?

5th July 2019

Response from LBTH Council:

  1. Your complaint regarding this matter has been received and a response was provided by the Monitoring Officer in April 2019. We considered the complaint in accordance with the Code of Conduct and consulted an independent person who carefully considered the issue raised. We found the complaint did not merit a formal investigation. We understand you have lodged a complaint with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman which we are processing.

  2. There is no issue to report to the police and we are not aware that anyone has made a report.

On 9 July 2019

LW made a formal complaint to the Metropolitan Police Service of possible criminal offences under the Localism Act 2011. Localism Act

 


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