On 18th May the Grenfell Action Group published a blog that drew attention to Rock Feilding-Mellen’s apparent conflict of interest with regard to Notting Hill Prep School, evidenced by the fact that the children of the RBKC Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration are on the waiting list to attend this exclusive private school. Cllr Feilding-Mellen was closely involved in, and may have had a decisive influence on, the Cabinet decison in November 2015 to lease the North Kensington Public Library building to Notting Hill Prep School for a period of 25 years. We subsequently made a formal complaint to the RBKC Monitoring Officer alleging a breach of the Councillors Code of Conduct due to Feilding-Mellen’s failure to declare his personal interest in NHP.
We were surprised and appalled by the response to our complaint that we received from RBKC which raised more questions than it answered. Decision letter Cllr Feilding-Mellen In her response to us, Leverne Parker, the Council’s Chief Solicitor and Monitoring Officer confirmed that Cllr Feilding-Mellen had indeed failed to declare that he had an ongoing personal interest in Notting Hill Prep, but claimed that this failure did not breach the Code of Conduct. Our readers should note that Cllr Feilding-Mellen was directly involved in the decision to lease the North Kensington Library building to NHP and was the only RBKC Councillor consulted on the matter. They should also note that the decison by Cabinet to award the lease to Notting Hill Prep was made on his recommendation to Cabinet.
Our initial complaint had referenced Cllr Feilding-Mellen’s earlier involvement with the award of the lease in 2014 of the Issac Newton Centre to the Alpha Plus Group for use as a private prep school (Chepstow House School). Councillor Feilding-Mellen had declared a personal interest at that time stating that his children were on the waiting list for both private schools involved in the bidding for the Isaac Newton Centre (ie Alpha Plus Group and Notting Hill Prep). Feilding-Mellen had stated that although he had a personal interest in both schools he did not believe that this constituted a conflict of interest. This claim may well have been technically correct at the time, in the narrower sense, as it could be argued that his interest in both rival bidders had the effect of cancelling out any potential conflict of interest favouring one or other of the two.
However we would argue that a more serious and fundamental conflict of interest, on this occasion and again in 2015 when the North Kensington Library building was leased to NHP, occured in the decision of Cllr Feilding-Mellen to recommend the leasing of both the Issac Newton Centre and the North Kensington Library building, both public community resources, to two private schools in which he had personal interests. Meanwhile, his Cabinet colleagues colluded and concurred, apparently without even considering, let alone questioning, his impartiality.
What we have now discovered, and find most unsatisfactory, is that Feilding-Mellen, who was closely involved in the recent award of the lease for the North Kensington library building to Notting Hill Prep, this time with no rival bids because it was a private deal with no competitive tendering process, chose not even to declare his interest in NHP. There is no doubt that Feilding-Mellen has a significant personal interest in the future of NHP as his children are likely to become pupils there in due course. In our view this certainly constitutes a significant conflict of interest which is more pertinent and more pernicious than was the case with the earlier lease of the Isaac Newton Centre in 2014.
We are very concerned that Cllr Feilding-Mellen appears to have committed with impunity a clear breach of the Councillors Code of Conduct and we are wondering why he declined to declare his personal interest at the Cabinet meeting in November 2015, when he recommended awarding the lease to NHP. We are also wondering why LeVerne Parker, as Monitoring Officer for the Council, allowed Feilding-Mellen the benefit of any doubt on this issue. We believe that, in the interest of openness and transparency, Feilding-Mellen should have declared his personal interest, and should have recused himself from any involvement in the negotiations. Instead, through his recommendation to Cabinet, he may have significantly contributed to the success of the NHP bid, to his own personal benefit and that of his children, who are likely to attend as pupils at NHP in due course.
In her response to our complaint LeVerne Parker stated that;
“In my view a fair-minded member of the public who is aware of the facts would not consider Cllr Feilding-Mellen had a significant interest which could give rise to a conflict of interests.”
We beg to disagree. In our view LeVerne Parker’s statement is completely contrary to the common sense view which, from our perspective, is that any fair-minded member of the public would likely conclude that Feilding-Mellen did have a significant personal interest in NHP and that his failure to declare this interest has given rise, at the very least, to a perception in our community that a serious conflict of interest has occurred. How can a serving Councillor, the Cabinet Member for Housing Property and Regeneration, be objective in his decision making if he has an interest in furthering the ambitions of this institution, the success of which will serve the private education of his own children?
We will be writing to the Town Clerk at RBKC to escalate our complaint and will be forwarding the information regarding the conduct of Cllr Feilding-Mellen to Private Eye and other investigative journalists. We pray that the axe will soon fall on the nefarious activities of Tory RBKC councillors who seek to forward the interests of the rich and privileged via the exclusion of, and at the expense of, the local working class community.
It is well known that Councillor Feilding-Mellen comes from a wealthy and privileged background and we think it highly unlikely that his rapid promotion to the RBKC Cabinet was earned on merit. There is little social or ethnic diversity among the ranks of the Tory Councillors who form the Ruling Party at Hornton Street, just as there is little social or ethnic diversity among the pupils of NHP. This is a prime example of wealth and privilege protecting the next generation of wealth and privilege and it is happening now to the great detriment of the largely working class and multi-ethnic residents of North Kensington.
Notting Hill Prep School constitutes the next cohort of our privately educated future rulers and business leaders and they will learn early the dark art of asset stripping as their prep school seizes, with the collusion of Councillor Feilding-Mellen and his Cabinet colleagues, the precious public resources of the working class communities of North Kensington. All the while these spoilt, privileged and socially disconnected children of the rich will enjoy the special patronage of the over-privileged, and mostly white, rulers who wield power as of right and with impunity at the Town Hall in Hornton Street.