Some councillors seem to have been put on earth purely to entertain us. But are they having the last laugh?

In a recent Waltham Forest Echo story, Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor reports that one of Waltham Forest’s finest, Cllr. Alistair Strathern, is standing for Labour in the eagerly awaited Mid Bedfordshire bye-election, and while a bit hazy about local issues, believes he is an upgrade on the Tory incumbent, Nadine Dorries, because she has been a ‘“part-time M.P”’, presumably a reference to her novels and TV work.

A nice attack line, perhaps, but a somewhat strange one nevertheless. For since 2021, while Cllr. Strathern has been Cabinet portfolio holder for children and young people, one of the most demanding and important posts there is in local government, he also has been – wait for it – working part-time for no less than the Bank of England. 

Such a pratfall is a reminder, if any be needed, that some councillors seem to have been put on earth purely to entertain us.

Who can forget Cllr. Keith Rayner, Liberal turncoat, repeatedly failing to pay his council tax on time, and being summonsed? 

Or, as reported in the Evening Standard, Cllr. Ahsan Khan involving himself in private award ceremonies at the Town Hall, partly organised by the convicted fraudster ‘Lord’ Shaukat Khan, where the beneficiaries included religious extremists, and ‘one of my friends’? 

Or the other Cllr. Khan, Johar or Jo, the then finance director of the publicly funded E11 BID Co., telling his board colleagues that ‘All VAT, PAYE and tax matters had now been brought up to date’, only for the company’s spoilsport accountant later to reveal that the company had no payroll scheme registered with H.M. Revenue and Customs, was deducting income tax and national insurance, nevertheless, while also failing to submit VAT returns on time.

Chuckle? We did.

And then, of course, there is Waltham Forest’s answer to Nicola Adams, Cllr. Anna Mbachu, whose greatest hits include, when Mayor, publicly threatening to ‘slap’ her driver; repeated difficulties with her register of interest forms, requiring rescue by the kindly LBWF Director of Governance and Law, Mark Hynes; a judge at an employment tribunal observing that ‘I have not, thus far, found Ms Mbachu’s evidence reliable’; a spectacular court defeat over a claim she had been libelled; an even more spectacular failure to appeal that defeat (in part because the case had been ‘conducted in a disorderly and highly unsatisfactory fashion from the outset’); and summary ejection from the Labour Party just prior to the last local government elections.

But what makes Cllr. Mbachu so special, more special than all the others, is that she just keeps ploughing on, as the following amply illustrates.

In April 2022, Cllr. Mbachu took part in what was described as a ‘tell-all’ interview with the global media platform, Digital Journal, which at the time claimed to be publishing ‘upwards of 70,000 articles per month’, with a readership of ‘millions’.

Much of what was discussed focused on Cllr. Mbachu’s charitable work, with the opening paragraphs setting the scene:

Q. Hi, Anna Mbachu. It’s so nice to meet you in person. Let’s begin with a little introduction about yourself so that those who don’t know about you get some background

A. Thank you for giving me a chance to share my voice with the world.

My name is Anna Mbachu.

I am a mother, a clinician, and a politician, currently serving as an elected councilor.

Q. Thanks for sharing about you Anna. Can you please tell our readers about your Charity? We have only heard good things about it.

A. Sure. Through my charity, I Educate the orphans and Support the widow [sic]. It is registered under the UK Company House.

The name of my charity is Anna Mbachu foundation and it was borne out of the personal experience. I became a widow when my son was 3 years, having been an orphan after losing my parents.

These occurrences didn’t prepare me for the experiences I had to go through. I am especially grateful to have been residing in the UK, the same cannot be said of women in my home country, especially the Igbo-speaking South East Nigerians, who pass through grueling harmful widowhood practices at the demise of their spouses.

In order to give back to community service, I took it upon myself to support widows economically through empowerment. As well as support the young girlchild orphan with free education up to the secondary level, to protect them from child abuse, sexual and gender-based violence, and other vices. But we have not been able to fully enforce this due to the lack of funds’.

Cllr. Mbachu’s humanitarian sentiments are, as is the case with anybody who expresses similar, laudable. But it is when she descends to more detailed matters that difficulties start to arise.

On its Facebook pages, the Anna Mbachu Foundation claims to be an NGO, which apparently operates in Imo State, Nigeria. Several posts describe a ‘Widows Business Empowerment’ event held in August 2019, which aided 20 women, but there is no reference to anything similar having happened either before or afterwards. The last post on the site is dated 10 March 2022. Currently the list of alleged followers is ‘unavailable’.

As to her charity ‘I Educate the orphans and Support the widow’, which she says ‘is registered under the UK Company House’, that is presumably company 12321223, Anna Mbachu Educate Orphans And Support The Widows Ltd., incorporated in November 2019, with a single director, Cllr. Mbachu herself.  

If that is the case, what does a visit to the Companies House website reveal?

The news is not good. 

For company 12321223 is badly in arrears with its filings…

… has had a someone tempestuous history, with two near compulsory strike-offs…

…and according to the only accounts it has ever submitted, for FY 2019-20, was at that point absolutely skint… 

And, interestingly, there is a bit of a pattern here, because another of Cllr. Mbachu’s companies, Imo State Daughters Association Ltd., has a rather similar recent history:

In conclusion, the previous paragraphs provide plenty of grounds for mirth.

But an uncomfortable thought lurks in the background.

All of those named are still in post, and being paid from the public purse. Some have gained preferment.

As residents and council tax payers, we may poke fun.

But in the end perhaps the joke is really on us?

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