Monday 22 June 2015

Kilburn councillor's attempt to represent residents thwarted by 'Big Brother' Brent officer action

A funny thing happen to me over the weekend, I received a email from a senior officer in Brent council, telling me about a meeting to discuss the HS2 train link running under Kilburn and the placing of the vent shaft.

The email said:

“Please accept this meeting request for discussions on the HS2 Vent Shaft issue that has arisen.

XXXX has called this meeting to ensure you all have the opportunity to be factually briefed on the issue, especially from the South Kilburn Regeneration perspective.

The meeting will be held at xxxxx. xxxxx (full address below). Please ask for XXXX XXXX upon arrival”.

I accepted the invitation to the meeting and believed I should inform the Chair of the local residents to highlight the fact that I was attending and therefore assuring them that their voice was being heard. So I forwarded the email to the Chair of the local residents a Mr F and merely added “FYI”. Believing that I had acted as a good councilor, I then prepared to enjoy my weekend.

However on Friday night I received this letter from a Senior Director, which he had cc the leader of the council. Saying that he noticed I had forwarded his email stating.

Dear Councillor Duffy,
This is a private briefing for the new MP, the Leader, and relevant Lead Members from the cabinet and ward councilors only. It isn't an open meeting for members of the public or wider party members. I would wholly expect one outcome of the meeting to be wider consultation and engagement on the issues and we can discuss the approach to this at the meeting.

Can I leave you to inform Mr F of this situation please?
Thanks - see you next week

I was initially taken back by what I saw of an invasion of my private correspondence with a Constituent. However it would seem that Brent council operate a system that traces any person to whom they have sent an invitation to and any other person that the recipient forwards it onto. This despite the fact that the email did not state it was private or secret.

Because of my concern about this I then forwarded this note to two other colleagues asking them to advise me about what I saw as intrusion into my private email correspondence with my constituents.

To my amazement I received another email from the Director, which was sent to all of the three of my constituents I had emailed. Which said:

Dear Mr P, Mr G, MR K,

I understand that you have been forwarded a notification of the above meeting by Cllr Duffy.

Regrettably this meeting is a private briefing for local politicians and therefore attendance is restricted and I am afraid that you won't be able to attend.

One of the purposes of the meeting is to discuss how we best engage and consult with the many different residents and partners who have an interest in this issue with a view to ensuring that everybody's voice is heard.  I will make sure you are all notified of the relevant consultation meetings when they are set up.

Many apologies for the misunderstanding.”


It is clear the officer involved believes he alone controls the meeting; his way of dealing with councilors is by dictating to them and believes he can instruct councilors to obey him, because presumably he is an officer

The way the officer has handle this situation and the tone of his emails is of great concern to me, it reeks of “big brother ” and his interference by directly emailing my constituents is frankly unbelievable. It is as if I had been a very “ bad boy “ and he is telling me off. It is condescending and I believe undermines the respect officers should show to elected representatives.

I am sure there are many Cabinet Members and Councilors, who believe they should just obey officers’ instructions and do what ever they say, and do not stand their ground. This officer seems to have confused me with one of them.

I was quite happy to attend the meeting itself. I never invited anyone else contrary to the officer’s wild allegation. This meeting is about the vent shaft for HS2.  There are two options being discussed: one in Queens Park  (next to the station) and the other in South Kilburn next to St Mary’s RC School in the middle of the regeneration area that has been blighted as a building site for the last nine years.

I however do not accept the implicit suggestion from these officers that this will be sited (as indicated in their first e-mail) in the South Kilburn regeneration area. These residents have lived on a building site for last 9 years and have been shafted by the Tory government over the years by cuts in services, the bedroom tax and family credits etc. So I will attend the meeting to do my best to ensure the residents of South Kilburn are not literally “Shafted” again by both the Tory Government and over zealous Officers.


  1. Well said, Cllr Duffy!

    The officers' attitude to South Kilburn residents reminds me of attituddes toward disabled peoples' empowerment within what has now become Jobcentre Plus within the Department for Work & Pensions [sic].

    While on a period of 'Work Preparation' at Hendon College paid for by my [then Employment Service] Disability Employment Adviser in 1999 I asked my DEA for a copy of the Action Plan that I had agreed to so that I could be a truly active particpant in the programme, especially as the Action Plan would be relevant to the outcomes and review procedures. Her response was that all such paperwork involved was "confidential to the Employment Service and to the service provider. You can see a copy of the Action Plan in my presence, but cannot have a copy for yourself." Brilliant, especially as my disability involves short-term memory.

    Disability charity Skill (National Bureau for Students with Disabilities in post-16 education) affirmed to me by emial that that practice was contrary to my information rights; and the College took such a different view of the matter from the Employment Service point of view that they sent me transcript notes based upon the Action Plan allowed participants and allowed participants to review the exit reports made of them and even propose amendments to the draft exit report.

    That was 1999 and Skill closed in 2011 through starvation of funds. It seems to me that charities really need to be far more indepent from statutory funding to be enabled to continue informing, advising, guiding and speaking out for THEIR constituents. And we know what has happened to Government policy regarding disabled people since 2011, or at least I hope we do.

    And re South Kilburn residents 'living on a building site' for nine years, and their having been told back in 1997 that things were going to get better for them, that has made them all the more vulnerable. Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jr warned of "the tranquilising drug of gradualism."

    Dude Swheatie of Kwug

  2. Good luck with the blog, John. Though it's coming from a different political direction, may it keep up the irreverent investigative standards set by W****** M******

  3. Shameful and sinister that a council employee is snooping and interfering with the activity of a democratically elected Cllr.

    Two thoughts:
    Either A> at a time of the council choosing to make cuts we are wasting staff costs on an employee to snoop through 63 Cllrs email
    Or B> the employee has been given authority to do so and is targetting Duffy,

    Either way someone needs information governance training.

  4. Oh, dear being reprimanded by The Dear Leader and his officious flying Blairite monkey-weasels must really sting. It's almost like you believe he has a choice. He has no choice. He tells me this everytime we meet. I even offered him a fiver for his officious flying Blairite monkey-weasels.

    Read the standing orders. Read the DCLG guidelines. After the Delvani debacle of all people should stop whingeing

  5. On the contrary, just FYI-ing the invitation was an invitation to attend.

    You could have said that you would make sure a consultation would be carried out after you had been briefed.

    So the fault was yours.

    1. Clueless at 06.07, FYI plain common-sense says that if attendance at an event is to be restricted, this should be stated clearly in the e-mail /letter etc. Given that no such statement was made, we do seem to be overpaying the semi-literate lot that form the paid establishment of the council.

      For your further information, it would be always be natural to assume that where a meeting is to deal with a subject of public interest, members of the public would be welcome to attend.

      To quote that exposer of the nonsensical pretension that parades as 'management', Mike Hine -

      "Dear Residents
      We're having a meeting about an issue which concerns you but you shouldn't have heard about it and you can't come to it because you might want to engage with it and have your voice heard..
      'One of the purposes of the meeting is to discuss how we best engage and consult with the many different residents and partners who have an interest in this issue with a view to ensuring that everybody's voice is heard.'
      I hope this clarifies the position.

      XXXXXXXXXXX (name redacted in order to save the officer from universal ridicule)"

      With grateful acknowledgement to Wembley Matters - -hope I am not in breach of copyright Mike and Martin!!.

  6. Anthony Molloy29 June 2015 at 11:18

    Today Lancashire councillors went against their planning officers and refused Cuadrilla a fracking permit.
    Let's hope they don't hit oil under Kilburn High Road because I don't have as much confidence in Brent councillors.
    Cuadrilla spent £12 million on this application. Where on earth did they spend all that?

  7. This is very interesting to read. I don't know if you have seen the work our campaign group Canterbury Works No to HS2 ( has been doing but it would be really great to meet with you to discuss it.

    I sent you an email (let's hope it doesn't get you into bother from big brother!) to let you know we will be at the South Kilburn Community Festival this Saturday 25 July. Will you be there? Or can we arrange to meet at another time? Please get in touch!

    Thank you,

    Canterbury Works Campaign Team