LBWF councillors through the prism of their register of interest forms

The LBWF councillor code of conduct requires each member to answer questions on a register of interest form at the beginning of their term of office, and then update as necessary, with the results being published on the authority’s website.

In 2012, the Waltham Forest Guardian reported that councillors were finding this requirement challenging. Some had missed out crucial details, with, for example, the Leader, Chris Robbins, neglecting to mention his family home. Others – incredibly – overlooked their party membership. A few had simply failed to keep their forms up to date. The full story is here:

http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/9527377.WALTHAM_FOREST__Concern_over_councillors__register_of_interests/

Today, the form used is shorter and simpler. Some highly pertinent questions (for example, those relating to membership of outside organisations) have been quietly dropped. Altogether, this makes for a more anodyne read, though one that nevertheless is certainly not devoid of interest.

The table below summarises how councillors have answered two central questions – those that deal with paid employment, on the one hand, and ownership of ‘land’ – in reality, virtually always, property – on the other.

Before looking at this material in detail, a few words of warning. The register provides a snapshot – it illuminates the present, but says little or nothing about the past. Second, some councillors are permitted to withhold information because it is judged sensitive. Third, the focus as regards land/property is exclusively on Waltham Forest. Councillors may (and certainly do) own second homes, and rent out houses and flats in other locations, but they are not required to say so. Finally, the information supplied varies in character and scope, with councillors to some extent choosing how much, or how little, to reveal. For example, while Cllr. Pye clearly lists her part-time positions in some detail, presumably hoping to impress, Cllr. Siggers merely tells us he is ‘self-employed’.

What then do the forms indicate? As regards Conservative councillors, there are few surprises. Almost all are homeowners, and if they work, tend to be in comparatively well-paid jobs. The impression is of solidity and relative affluence

By contrast, what emerges about Labour is somewhat unexpected. The party was founded to represent the manual working classes. It still makes great play of its concern for the poor. But in Waltham Forest Town Hall, right now, Labour seems  to be, if anything, the embodiment of the comfortable middle. On the ‘land’ ownership question, five Labour councillors have withheld information. But of the 39 who have answered, 28 or just over two thirds, are homeowners, compared to the local average in the wider population of 50 per cent; while more surprisingly still, nine, no less than a fifth, own at least one further property in the borough.

The data on employment tell a similar story. Seventeen of Labour’s 44 councillors do not have a paid job, that is, they are either retired or subsisting on some other source of income. But of those that do earn, there is not a manual or unskilled worker in sight. Seven are employed in statutory or voluntary care of one kind or another; the same number do white collar work for the Labour Party, the trade unions, or neighbouring councils; five are in business; four are in the professions; and three rent out property.

Does any of this matter? We live at a time when there is constant talk about the importance of diversity. Yet here we have a situation where no employed councillor is working in a blue collar occupation. That surely must give pause for thought.

Under the leadership of first Cllr. Loakes, and then Cllr. Robbins, LBWF’s prime concern seems to have been holding down council tax, and efficiently dealing with bread and butter issues like emptying the bins.

In comparison, though social justice has been mentioned from time to time in Town Hall debates, it rarely seems to have been given operational priority. Indeed, as postings on this blog have shown, programmes which could have transformed lives in poorer wards – the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, the Better Neighbourhood Initiative, and Worknet, to name but three – have largely failed precisely because lack of council commitment and input.

Is it too fanciful to suppose that if there had been greater representation amongst councillors of those at the sharp end, this imbalance in priorities might have been considerably less pronounced?

I leave the reader to decide.

Name

1. Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation that is carried on for profit or gain (including any activity from which any payments or benefits are received that are subject to income tax)’

‘6. Address of any land in which I, and/or my spouse or partner have a beneficial interest in Waltham Forest’

Masood Ahmad

Accountant/management consultant – self-employed 3 addresses listed
Liaquat Ali Private landlord

9 addresses listed

Nadeem Ali

Private landlord 1 address listed
Raja Anwar None

2 addresses listed

Mohammad Asghar

‘Retired’ 4 addresses listed
Naheed Asghar None

4 addresses listed

Millie Balkan

Paralegal, Mishcon de Reya 1 address listed
Peter Barnett None

2 addresses listed

Angie Bean

None 2 addresses listed
Aktar Beg Business manager, Koala Bear Day Nursery Ltd

1 address listed

Tony Bell

Teacher None
Karen Bellamy None

Withheld

Tim Bennett-Goodman

‘N/A’ None
Kastriot Berberi Legal consultant (OISC) / principal, translator/ principle

None

Roy Berg

Transport shift supervisor (relief) 1 address listed
Paul Braham COFELY CAD manager

1 address listed

Clare Coghill

Office manager, Barry Sheerman MP 1 address listed
Matt Davis Self-employed artist manager in the music industry

1 address listed

Shabana Dhedhi

‘Community leaders & engagement manager’,London Borough of Newham None
Paul Douglas None

None

Jacob Edwards

Self-employed criminal barrister 1 address listed
Patrick Edwards None

1 address listed

Stuart Emmerson

Programme manager, Social Enterprise Places

None

Caroline Erics

None 1 address listed
Marion Fitzgerald None

1 address listed

Jenny Gray

Senior advisor customer services, Tower Hamlets Council 1 address listed
Nick Halebi Property developer

1 address listed

Andy Hemsted

Corporate pension adviser, Friends Life 6 addresses listed
Jemma Hemsted Desk assistant, Deutsche Bank London AG

1 address listed

Peter Herrington

None 1 address listed
S K A Highfield Justice of the Peace

1 address listed

Whitney Ihenachor

None None
Tim James Tim James Executive Search Ltd

3 addresses listed

Ahsan Khan

None Withheld
Johar Khan Lloyds Bank

1 address listed

Khevyn Limbajee

Press officer, Labour Party 1 address listed
Sally Littlejohn Landlord of flat at 242A Ramsay Rd, E7 9ET

2 addresses listed

Clyde Loakes

Regional peer for LGA, London Waste & Recycling Board, London Councils 1 address listed
Gerry Lyons   None

1 address listed

Asim Mahmood

None None
Saima Mahmud None

Withheld

Anna Mbachu

Clinical manager, Barnet, Enfield & Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust 1 address listed
Bernadette Mill ‘Speechwriter/researcher, The Lord sheikh [sic], House of Lords’

None

Simon Miller

Head of governmental and regulatory engagement, Three None
Louise Mitchell Evaluation officer, Compassion in Dying

1 address listed

John Moss

Chartered surveyor, self -employed consultant 1 address listed
Yemi Osho Director, Rotvic Consulting Ltd

None

Marie Pye

‘Occasional short term add hoc freelance work for small charities for example for Disability rights uk [sic]’ etc. Withheld
Sheree Rackham Office manager, Dominic Hogg Agencies

1 address listed

Keith Rayner

None None
Chris Robbins None

1 address listed

Mark Rusling

Head of communications and public affairs, The Challenge Network Withheld
Alan Siggers ‘Self employed’

1 address listed

Alistair Strathern

Bank of England 1 address listed
Richard Sweden ‘Social worker Self employed professional singer Landlord’

3 addresses listed

Steve Terry

Regional Organiser, Unison 1 address listed
Sharon Waldron ‘Employed by LBN. Work for the GMB Trade Union’

1 address listed

Geoffrey Walker

Retired 1 address listed
Terry Wheeler Retired

1 address listed

Grace Williams

‘Community Engagement Worker, Hornbeam Environmental Centre Self-employed coach’

1 address listed

Related Posts

Documenting Past Failures: (3) NRF, EduAction and an open letter to Cllr. Chris Robbins

Documenting Past Failures: (4) NRF, EduAction, and the Youth At Risk programme

Documenting Past Failures: (5) The BNI – ‘We’re awfully sorry, folks. Mistakes were made about how we spent millions of pounds of public money. But it’s all in the past. Let’s move forward and forget it’.

Tackling worklessness: Newham v. LBWF

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