Lancaster west EMB is in crisis. Most residents of the estate know nothing about this because they‘ve been told nothing – in fact they’ve had little feedback about the activities of the EMB for several years, and it is likely that some residents have no idea what the EMB is, or what it does, for this very reason. Many of you will, however, have noticed that the EMB, which supposedly manages this estate on behalf of its’ residents, has been conspicuously silent on most of the major issues that we have faced in recent years. They’ve had nothing to say about the KALC project, nothing to say about the interminable delays to the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, nothing to say about the recent electrical problems affecting Grenfell tower, or the water supply problems etc etc etc.
The most obvious sign of the current EMB crisis is the simple fact, made public by Councillor Blakeman, that the EMB has not met since last December. This is because it has been inquorate since that time (ie has lacked the minimum number of elected members required to do business). However, this simple fact is just the tip of an iceberg that hides a multitude of other sins – the EMB is secretive to the point of paranoia, but also arrogant, incompetent and corrupt.
Corruption – The Baseline Studios Scandal
In March 2011 one of our members uncovered evidence of improper use of two office units at Baseline Studios by senior board members of the EMB. Both the Chair and the Vice-chair had been allowed to use these units for the conduct of EMB business, and both were misusing them to run private commercial business ventures instead. These were serious breaches of the trust placed in them as EMB officers, and acts of criminal fraud perpetrated against the residents of this estate. Despite repeated efforts by our whistleblower these matters were covered-up and were not brought to the attention of the EMB board. It took more than a year, in the face of continuous obstruction by board members, TMO managers, and RBKC officers to force an investigation. By the time of the investigation, by a team from RBKC Property Services, the Vice-chair of the EMB had already been booted off the board (for some unrelated misbehaviour), and so the investigation, when it finally happened, was confined to the activities of the Chair of the EMB, Bob Bryans. The outcome of the investigation was eventually brought before the board in October 2012, and despite strong denials of any wrongdoing by Bryans, the evidence against him was fully vindicated, and it was proved that he had for several years allowed his step-daughter, a fashion photographer, to use the office studio entrusted to him as her professional photographic studio, and as the registered address of a limited company of which she was a director, and which produced an exclusive fashion magazine of which she was the executive editor. Despite this damning verdict the Board, perversely, voted to take no punitive action against Bryans.
Secretiveness, Arrogance and Incompetence
Unhappy with the decision of the Board our whistleblower demanded that the matter be brought to the attention of the Management Association at the AGM which was many months overdue at that time. The board refused. They had cynically decided to withold from the Management Association all information that would in any way embarrass the EMB, including and especially evidence of serious wrongdoing by the most senior officers of the Board. In our view this course of action was unjustifiable and unprincipled and we strongly believe that those who voted to withold this information were totally lacking in integrity, and arrogantly betrayed the residents who had elected them, and to whom they were supposed to be accountable for their actions as board members.
Digging deeper into the recent affairs of the Board our whistleblower discovered other disturbing irregularities. There were signs, for instance, that EMB policy was being decided, not in properly convened and minuted board meetings as it should be, but by an exclusive clique of board members who met secretly in Bryans office at Baseline Studios.
A study of the minutes of board meetings also revealed evidence of routine breaches of the EMB constitution, particularly quorum rules – for example many of the board meetings held in 2012 were inquorate. He also noted that embarrassing details, such as the resignation of several board members during 2012, and the sacking of the former Vice-chair, were not minuted at all – yet another breach of protocol. Given that the EMB had long since stopped producing newsletters, and that board minutes were the only public record of what they were doing, the net effect of this was to censor and conceal crucial information about the state of the board, and the morale of board members, and to completely isolate the EMB from the community it was supposed to represent.
Things came to a head over the issue of the botched board election and AGM in December 2012. The AGM was attended by only six EMB members, but was declared quorate, and therefore perfectly legal, by the Director of Housing at RBKC. Our whistleblower had made a series of complaints to RBKC on this and related issues. The Council’s response was at best ambivalent and at worst hostile, and was clearly biased in favour of the Bryans regime. It became abundantly clear that Bryans and his mafia enjoyed the protection and collusion of powerful forces at the TMO and RBKC who were determined to prop up the corrupt and incompetent EMB regime – presumably for their own ulterior motives. History has now shown the RBKC dismissal of our complaints to have been completely wrongheaded and unjustified, as the EMB has been inquorate since December 2012, and is incapable of functioning at all.
So Where Does This Leave Us Now?
The EMB cannot be a dictatorship. In order for it to function effectively, and to survive through time as a healthy and representative organisation, it is essential that an open, imaginative and effective system of outreach to, and engagement with, the resident community is fostered and nurtured at all times. Without this healthy and open interaction with the community the EMB inevitably becomes isolated and self-serving, the election process increasingly fails to attract the intelligent and competent new intake it needs year on year, and Lancaster West EMB soon degenerates, just as it has done, to become the Lancaster West Zombie.
The current crisis is extremely serious. If the EMB fails the alternative will be a hostile takeover by the TMO, which few here would wish or welcome. Under these circumstances the bona fides of the TMO and RBKC cannot be trusted, and there is good reason to believe that they are conspiring together, as they always have, to undermine and ultimately destroy the EMB in order to facilitate a TMO takeover. Lancaster West residents cannot afford to tolerate or accept this state of affairs and the total disempowerment that it would entail.
We must come together now, as a community, and organise to resist our enemies both within the EMB and outside of it at the TMO and the Council. In doing so we have every right (ironically) to expect the full support of the Council in reforming and resuscitating the EMB and we should demand that support in no uncertain terms.
There is no time for procrastination or delay about this. On 25th June the EMB once again sent out election nomination forms to Association Members, but the forms were sent without any additional information that would explain the function of the board, or the crisis it now faces, and the desperate need for quality candidates to step up and volunteer to serve. In other words this is just another repeat of the same negligent and incompetent botching of election and AGM arrangements that caused the current crisis and that the current EMB regime is clearly incapable of changing or improving.
It’s past time we kicked these useless bums out, but in doing so we must also lobby hard for RBKC to provide this community with a programme of information, training and real support which is needed to reform, replenish, and resusitate the EMB as a competent and truly representative body, fit to manage this estate on behalf of its’ residents, and in partnership with the TMO and RBKC.
Coming soon part two of this expose – called “WHO KILLED BAMBI” – in which we will attempt to explain the convoluted history of the EMB, and the machiavellian intrigue at the root of its’ disempowerment and demoralisation