It is the belief of many in our community that Cllr Rock Feilding-Mellen may be inappropriately using his position of power on the Council for his personal benefit. In the Grenfell Action Group we share those concerns. We believe that Cllr Feilding-Mellen had prior knowledge of the detail of the Council’s forward planning for the regeneration of the Latimer area, and we believe his decision to purchase his current residence in Bramley Road may have been made in anticipation of the likely increase in the value of that property as a direct consequence of the Council’s regeneration policy, over which he now exercises considerable power and influence as Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration.
We believe that the the purchase price of the property bought by Cllr Feilding-Mellen would have reflected the fact that this area of North Kensington has long suffered from under-investment and, as a result, house prices at the time of his decision to buy would have been considerably lower than in other more affluent areas of the borough. We therefore believe that Cllr Feilding-Mellen has a strong personal motive to push forward with plans for the regeneration of the social housing estates that surround his property, as the ‘gentrification’ of the area will inevitably lead to a steep rise in property prices, and a significant increase in the value of his own property.
We do not believe that Cllr Feilding-Mellen will be incentivised to properly consider the objections of local residents of social housing estates who oppose plans to demolish their homes and we believe that he has a direct and significant conflict of interest as he seeks to apply RBKC legislation that would see the destruction of the social housing estates surrounding his property, the displacement of working class communities resulting from the increased ‘gentrification’ of the area, and a consequent significant increase in the value of his own property in Bramley Road.
We also have concerns about the several small companies declared by Cllr Feilding-Mellen on the RBKC register of members interests. Two of these companies are registered at his address in Bramley Road. Neither appears to be profitable or to be engaged in any actual business worthy of note. One of the companies in question, VIMV2 LLP, has existed as a small company for several years but appears never to have declared a profit, and despite having assets of nearly £6million, it appears currently to be £122,000 in the red. The very existence of these companies therefore raises questions as to their possible purpose. Might they exist primarily in anticipation of emerging opportunities for property speculation in the Latimer area, or perhaps in other parts of the borough, the redevelopment of which Cllr Feilding-Mellen will oversee as Cabinet Member for Housing Property and Regeneration? We simply don’t know, but we believe we have a right to be concerned, and to raise those concerns with the Council.
We believe that residents are entitled to be reassured by RBKC that Cllr Feilding-Mellen will be recused from any decision making process involving housing regeneration from which he stands to profit personally. We are also seeking reassurances that neither he nor the companies in which he has an interest will be permitted to buy or sell property in areas of the Royal Borough subject to regeneration or likely to become so.
On 23rd March we made a formal complaint to the RBKC Chief Solicitor and Monitoring Officer, LeVerne Parker, requesting that the issues detailed above be investigated as a matter of urgency and seeking reassurances that Cllr Feilding-Mellen’s personal and business interests would not be allowed to influence decisions concerning plans to ‘regenerate’ RBKC social housing estates. We received the following initial response from Ms Parker;
“I acknowledge receipt of your complaint of today’s date.
Although your complaint does not expressly refer to it being a complaint alleging that Cllr Feilding-Mellen has breached the Members’ Code of Conduct, as your complaint is about an elected councillor, I will deal with it as such and I attach a copy of the Council’s procedures for dealing with code of conduct complaints.
As the first step I am required to consider whether your complaint merits formal investigation and the attached document sets out the criteria I will take into account in coming to my decision. I will also consult the Independent Person and the Chairman of the Audit and Transparency Committee.
I will advise you of my decision on or before 3 May 2016 but, if you have any queries in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me.
As soon as we have further news to report we will do so without delay, but we aren’t holding our breaths in expectation of a satisfactory outcome. We have learned from bitter previous experience that persuading the RBKC Standards Committee to criticise or sanction an RBKC councilor is a lot like trying to get a proverbial camel through the eye of a proverbial needle.