When They Go Low, We Go FoI!

NHS manager as cuckoo chick.

The Grenfell Action Group have contacted the RBKC to raise our concerns that a senior Council Officer may have a serious conflict of interest by virtue of being employed by the Local Authority while occupying a place on the Board of Governors of the Kensington and Chelsea College, at a time when the Council was negotiating the purchase, for demolition and redevelopment, of the Wornington Road campus of the KCC:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/save-wornington-college/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/saveworningtoncollege

The Town Clerk, Nicholas Holgate, did not disappoint us after we predicted that he would respond to our concerns by claiming that there was no conflict of interest and that the Council, and the officer in question, had both behaved properly. We have decided to publish Mr Holgate’s response to us below:

From: Nicholas.Holgate@rbkc.gov.uk
Sent: 16 January 2017 10:34
To: ********
Subject: RE: Complaint regarding RBKC and K and C College.

Dear *******,

Tony Redpath joined the Board at the College’s request. They sought his membership because they valued his knowledge and experience. It is not unusual for officers to take on such roles. But conscious of the possibility of conflicts of interest arising, before joining the Board, Tony met the then Principal and the College’s Clerk on 25 February 2014 at which they reached a clear understanding that he would not act on the College’s behalf on any matter concerning the Council.  Accordingly, he played no part in discussions about the Council’s purchase of the Wornington Green site.

As further evidence of the care with which he has managed any possible conflicts of interest, he suspended his membership of the Board in February 2015 because he was involved, as a Council officer, in the London Area Review of Further Education. The Review has now concluded and, after taking advice from the Head of Legal Services, he has agreed to re-join the Board from the start of this year. Coincidentally, he was therefore not a member of the Board during the period when the College and the Council agreed the sale of the Wornington Green site. Nor did he play any role in advising the Council on the purchase: that was a matter for the Corporate Property department.

In short, we have taken care to ensure that there has been no conflict of interest.

Nicholas Holgate

Town Clerk

The Grenfell Action Group do not accept the Town Clerk’s explanation of Mr Redpath’s involvement with the Board of Governors at Kensington and Chelsea College and we have responded to the Council’s assertion that they “have taken care to ensure that there has been no conflict of interest” by writing back to the Town Clerk and to the Council’s Information Governance and Management Officer to raise the points below and request the following information:

Dear Mr Holgate,

Thank you for your response to my concerns regarding Tony Redpath and a possible conflict of interest in regards to his involvement with Kensington and Chelsea College.

I wrote to Robin Yu on 13th January requesting the following information from the Council:

“Under legislation contained in the Freedom of Information Act I would like the Council to provide me with any information held by RBKC concerning any matters relating to the Kensington and Chelsea College going back to January 2013 .

I would expect to be provided with any documents, minutes of meetings, written reports, email correspondence, records of telephone calls or any other information that relates to the purchase of the freehold of Kensington and Chelsea College in Wornington Road between the period of January 2013 and the present (13/01/17). 

In particular, I would expect to be provided with any documents, minutes of meetings (including Cabinet Meetings Part A and Part B), written reports, email correspondence, records of telephone calls or any other information that could have involved Tony Redpath in his role as Director of Strategy and Local Services that are, in any way, related to the purchase of the College’s freehold. 

I would also expect the RBKC to provide me with any documents, minutes of meetings, written reports, email correspondence, records of telephone calls or any other information that relate, in any way, to Councillor Feilding Mellen, Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration and the purchase of the College freehold.

I would also expect the RBKC to provide me with any documents, minutes of meetings, written reports, email correspondence, records of telephone calls or any other information that relate to Richard Egan, Interim Head of Corporate Property Services and matters that relate in any way to the purchase of the College freehold.

I would expect the RBKC to provide me with any documents, minutes of meetings, written reports, email correspondence, records of telephone calls or any other information concerning the Council’s involvement, in any way, with the purchase of the freehold of the Kensington and Chelsea College in Wornington Road that took place between the following individuals Cllr Feilding Mellen, Richard Egan and Tony Redpath. 

I would expect the Council response to my Freedom of Information request to contain the above specific information that I have requested but not to be limited by it. 

As I have stated previously I am requesting that the Council provide me with any information held by RBKC concerning any matters relating to the Kensington and Chelsea College going back to January 2013 . In addition to the above information, I would like to use Freedom of Information legislation to request that the Council provide me with details of all Council Officers who occupy similar positions on any external Boards or Committees or any such independent positions of influence in RBKC.

 I would like to request that the Council provide me with any information, details of meetings, copies of minutes, emails, written reports, record of telephone conversations or any other communications that relate in any way to Mr Redpath joining the Board of Governors at Kensington and Chelsea College, his leaving the Board of Governors between February 2016 and his recent reinstatement.

I would expect to be provided with details of the communication that invited Tony Redpath to join the College Board at their request, minutes of the meeting held between Tony Redpath and the then Principle and College Clerk that took place on February 25th 2015 and copies of any correspondence relating to any legal advice regarding his membership of the Kensington and Chelsea College Board that the RBKC issued to Mr Redpath during this entire period.

I would like to remind the Council that it is not only necessary for Councillors and Council Officers to avoid a direct conflict of interest but it is also incumbent upon them to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest.  I would suggest that the explanation that you have provided me with falls far short of satisfying this later condition.

I would like to repeat that I fully intend to refer this matter to the Independent Local Government Ombudsman if I am not entirely happy with the outcome of my formal complaint.”

The Grenfell Action group do not believe that it is appropriate for a senior Council Officer to sit on the Kensington and Chelsea College Board of Governors, especially at a time when it was known that the KCC was in financial difficulties and RBKC had an interest in buying the Wornington Road campus, with a view to its demolition and redevelopment as a housing complex. We do not accept the Town Clerk’s assurance that Mr Redpath has no conflict of interest and we intend to use the Freedom of Information Act to uncover any evidence that indicates our suspicions are well founded. 


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