Cllrs Anna Mbachu and Victoria te Velde: register of Interests controversy re-surfaces UPDATED

Given the frequency over the years with which they have been discussed by this blog, it might be thought that councillors’ register of interests (RoI) forms now must be a non-issue – all present, up-to-date, and correct as to fact.

Yet, regretfully, this seems not to be the case.

Take that Town Hall veteran, Cllr. Anna Mbachu.

As readers of this blog will remember, her RoI has attracted reproval before.

Has she changed her approach?

Well, as of this morning, section 4 of her form reads as follows:

Screenshot 2020-06-22 at 17.08.02

So far so good. But a quick check via the Companies House website reveals that Anna Mbachu Educate Orphans & Support Widows Ltd. was compulsorily struck off and dissolved nearly a year ago:

Screenshot 2020-06-22 at 17.05.34

And then there is Cllr. Victoria te Velde.

Her RoI form’s sections 1 and 2 appear to be detailed and comprehensive:

Screenshot 2020-06-22 at 17.12.33

Yet far from being ‘dormant’, as Cllr. te Velde claims, Smart Squash Ltd. is currently listed by Companies House as very much alive and kicking, with the good councillor still very much actively at the helm, if apparently unconcerned by her mandatory duty to report annual accounts:

Screenshot 2020-06-23 at 12.35.24 

Screenshot 2020-06-22 at 17.13.48

It will be interesting to see what LBWF Director of Governance and Law, Mark Hynes, who is supposed to police RoI forms, makes of these inconsistencies. In November 2018, after the last contretemps of this kind (see links, below), Mr. Hynes briefed councillors in person about their responsibilities, and finished with a forthright summation of what failure to follow his advice could lead to:

Screenshot 2020-06-23 at 11.09.24

That sets the overall agenda now, but Mr. Hynes also will have to consider why the two councillors appear to be so insouciant about respecting Companies House rules, which are not only clearly stated publicly, but also communicated to all directors.

Cllr. Mbachu created a company on her own, and then appears to have lost interest, leaving Companies House to close it down, a process that must have cost at least some public money.

Cllr. te Velde’s behaviour is equally puzzling, particularly because the requirement to supply annual accounts is an absolute fundamental, which all of those in business will be familiar with.

And it is also worth underlining that Companies House provides adequate written warning about due dates, so neither Cllr. Mbachu nor Cllr. te Velde can fall back on the excuse that they were blindsided.

There remains, however, as regards Mr. Hynes, an unfortunate problem. For though a solicitor by profession, he, too, does not have an unblemished record regarding the reporting responsibilities that come with running a business, as these screenshots from the Companies House website in early December 2019 demonstrate:

Screenshot 2019-12-12 at 12.10.54 copyScreenshot 2019-12-12 at 12.10.35 copy
It is, as so often the case in Waltham Forest, all rather a mess.


My Hynes responds:

‘I have now completed my investigation int this matter and have liaised with Council’s statutory independent person Daniel Fluskey, as well as the chief Whip Steve Terry and the two councillors concerned.

Firstly can I thank you for taking the time to review the current register of Members Interests and pointing out the two areas of concern to you I relation to Cllr Mbachu and Cllr Te Velde.

I can confirm that Cllr Mbachu had declared an interest that no longer existed namely a directorship of a company Anna Mbachu Educate Orphans & Support Widows Ltd that has been struck off at Companies House and that the register of members interests should have been updated to reflect this. She should have advised me of this change and forgot to do so. I am of the view that this technical breach by Cllr Mbachu has not had any direct or indirect impact on any decisions that the Council has taken and has not created any conflicts of interest. I have therefore taken the step of  formally amending the Register and removed the reference to the company and reminded Cllr Mbachu of the need to notify me of any changes to her register of interest in the future.

In relation to Cllr te Velde the allegation is that  the wording of her declaration in relation to her company Smart Squash Ltd is incorrect in that she has stated that Smart Squash Ltd ceased trading on 31/8/18. It will be “dormant” for the foreseeable future’.

Companies House register describes the company as an ‘Active’ company.

In my view there is nothing wrong with the declaration by Cllr te Velde. Strictly speaking all she needed to declare was the fact that she was a director of the company – which she has done. The additional  information she has included stating that the company is dormant provides further openness and transparency about the company but is not a legal requirement to be included on the Members Register of Interests.  A company can be effectively ‘dormant’ in  terms of not actively trading but still be noted as an active entity at Companies House  in the sense it continues to trade as a going concern.

The reference to the fact that the company failed to submit its 2018-19 accounts on time is wholly irrelevant to her role as a councillor and is a private matter for her alone .

Cllr Te Velde register of interests now formally records that she is a director of Smart Squash Limited but does not include any further details.

I have taken this matter as an opportunity to write again to all members to remind them of the need to notify me of any changes to the Register of Interests and to review their individual registers and confirm to me that they remain accurate and up to date.

I propose to take no further action’.

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