Monday, 20 May 2019
Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Deputy Leader objects to selected chief executive

Courageous councillor challenges Leader's pre-determined choice

Report and photographs: Paul Janik
The Appointments Sub-committee and Linda Walker

Slough Council's Appointments Sub-committee

This sub-committee was tasked with selecting a new council chief executive. It consists of 5 elected councillors chosen by Slough's chief councillor (also known as the Leader of the Council) Cllr Sohail Munawar.

Cllr Munawar could have included more councillors, especially those with useful skills and experience, but it is believed Cllr Munawar's small selection was motivated by what many honestly believe to be his pre-determination to appoint his friend Roger Parkin to the job.

The Slough Times understands there were a total of 15 candidates, some of whom were noticeably superior in attitude, ability, intellect, foresight and commitment than Mr Parkin; yet Mr Parkin won. The only dissenter was Cllr Wayne Strutton.

Objection to Roger Parkin as Chief Executive.

A public speech delivered to the council's Appointments Sub-committee, on 30 October 2017, by the Deputy Leader of Slough Council, Cllr Sabia Hussain.

  1. Before I precede any further the sub-committee should be made aware that the process has not been as fluid as they may believe.
  2. As a member of the Cabinet I received my notification of the sub-committee's chosen candidate on Thursday, 12 October at 5pm, and the letter I received stated the last date for objections was Friday 13 October (24 hours after the notification) not the 3 full working days I should have been provided as per the council's Constitution.
  3. Furthermore, once I met with the Leader to verbally raise my concerns regarding the appointment, I was given until 4pm that day, Monday 16 October 2017, to formally send-in my objections; or as the leader told me, to retract my objections so an extraordinary council could be called to confirm Mr Parkin's appointment.
  4. I have tried to contact the relevant officers but have only received confirmation from the interim Monitoring Officer [Linda Walker] that I did indeed have until Wednesday 18 October to raise my objections formally.
  5. The rush, I believe, was entirely so that officers and the Leader could arrange an extraordinary council meeting to ratify the sub-committee's recommendation.
  6. So you will need to forgive me if I cover more then my main objections due to having to rush to submit these objections by 5pm on 16 October.
  7. I was wrongly advised by the Leader that supporting information would provided to me once I submitted my objections. However Democratic Services [headed by Catherine Meek] have refused to provide this information, even though it relates to my objections. The information might have resulted in me retracting my objections, but I guess now we will never know, will we ?
  8. I should clarify that as the sub-committee's remit is to make a recommendation to Full Council [an official meeting of all the councillors]. In the interests of the public all councillors are elected to represent, I should have been provided with the requested information as it related to my objections.
  9. The council's Constitution [a collection of rules and policies] makes no provision for objections to be handled by this sub-committee.
  10. However I will proceed with what I know so far regarding my substantive objections:-
  11. It is common knowledge amongst members of the council that Mr Parkin's performance, assessed by external recruitment advisers [Penna], was the poorest of all the candidates. This information was not provided to the stake holder panel [who are ????].
  12. Certain members of the sub-committee have prejudged the outcome of this recruitment process and made it clear they are determined to appoint Mr Parkin as the council's next Chief Executive. The pre-determined members of the sub-committee should no longer participate in the recruitment process.
  13. The Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) Regulations 2001 (2001 / 3384) require that the approval of Full Council be given to the appointment to the post of Chief Executive [in law known as the Head of Paid Service]. The Regulations also require that the council's Proper Officer [in this context Catherine Meek] to notify all members of the executive [the Cabinet] of

    1. the name of the proposed appointee;
    2. any other particulars relevant to the appointment and
    3. the period within which any objections to be made by member of the Cabinet.
    If the Appointments Sub-committee is satisfied that any objection received from a member of the council's Cabinet is material and well founded, the Appointment Sub-committee will not confirm their decision and a formal offer will not be made.
  14. The test for the sub-committee is whether

    A well founded objection must be material and supported with sufficient evidence as to why the selection is objected.

    The test criteria is on the balance of probabilities.
  15. Before I set out the detail of my objections, it is important for you to understand the role of a Chief Executive.

Role of the Chief Executive

  1. As you will all know the role and function of a Chief Executive is set out in the Council's Constitution. There are 7 key requirements of the job of which 4, I say, are critical.
  2. My objections are based on the inability of the chosen applicant [Mr Parkin] to satisfy the Council that he has fulfilled, or is capable of fulfilling, the 4 requirements which are:-
    1. Overall corporate management and operational responsibility (including overall management responsibility for all officers).
    2. Representing the Council on partnership and external bodies (as required by statute or the Council).
    3. Promote the importance of the ethical agenda and to sustain the highest standards of ethical behaviour on the part of the Council’s officers in the performance of their duties in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Conduct for Employees.
    4. Organisational Development and Human Resources (including Health and Safety and Trade Unions).
  3. The remaining requirements are:-
    1. Provision of professional advice to all parties in the decision making process. We have all heard about the poor quality of governance which remained poor for the last year when the selected applicant was this council's temporary Chief Executive.
    2. Together with the Monitoring Officer, sharing a joint responsibility for a system of record keeping for all the Council's decisions. We have all seen that these council officers cannot keep records or files in any proper order.
    3. Strategy and Engagement. Nothing new has been developed over the last 18 months - 15 months include Mr Parkin's time as acting Chief Executive.

Grounds for Objection

  1. I want to focus on the 4 key deliverables a Chief Executive as Head of Paid Service is expected to deliver on. In this capacity, Roger Parkin is obliged to deliver;

    1. Leadership: To work with elected members to ensure strong and visible leadership and direction to encourage and enable managers to motivate and inspire their teams.
    We have already seen the evidence to show Mr Parkin is not capable.
  2. It was documented openly that he called the Labour Group's Chief Whip and Chair of Planning [Cllr Haqeeq Dar] a fuck wit. Mr Parkin then pretended he did not say this but later apologised.
  3. What members will not know, is that in the presence of the Leader, myself and external parties he referred to another elected member, the ex-deputy Leader [Cllr James Swindlehurst] as a fat fuck !
  4. Therefore, as members, how can we trust that Roger Parkin respects us when he openly talks about us in this fashion ? What else has he said that has not yet come to light?
  5. One of the key responsibilities after previous Chief Executive Ruth Bagley left, was to stabilise the Council in terms of structure. That restructuring has only just commenced, a year on, and will take some to complete and fully embed.
  6. As Chair of the Constitution Panel, I requested Mr Parkin, almost a year ago, to commission an immediate update to the Constitution. I wrote to Head of Legal, the Leader, Head of Democratic services and the interim Monitoring Officer.
  7. The council and its political leadership faced huge criticism by officers and fellow councillors after issues were being raised with poor governance and flawed Constitution blamed for the failures. This is solely the Chief Executive's responsibility. The requested work remains outstanding, clearly demonstrating Mr Parkin does not listen to us or deliver on our requirements.
  8. Is this the kind of behaviour we should expect from our highest officer ? I do not think it is. Other members do not think so and nor should a responsible and reasonable Appointments Sub-committee.
  9. A Chief Executive is expected to:-
    1. Promote the importance of the ethical agenda and to sustain the highest standards of ethical behaviour on the part of the Council and its officers in the performance of their duties in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Conduct for Employees.
  10. We are all aware of the named whistle-blowing and grievances that have been made against Mr Parkin. We are all know they have not been investigated with any kind of rigour. I was sent a copy of whistle-blowing complaints, so I know what they say, as does the Leader. We know the matters are very serious and need to be investigated thoroughly.
  11. We also know the Leader sent to Mr Parkin's personal home email address a whistle-blowing complaint against Mr Parkin. Whether Mr Parkin asked the Leader to do this, we will never know.
  12. What we do know, is that the job of the Chief Executive is to promote
    • The ethical agenda and to sustain that highest standards of ethical behaviour on the part of the Council's officers.
    • Adhere to, and promote, the Nolan principles of public office, which are:
    1. Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
    2. Integrity – Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
    3. Objectivity – Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
    4. Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
    5. Openness – Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
    6. Honesty – Holders of public office should be truthful
    7. Leadership – Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
  13. I, and many of our members, feel that we have seen no sign of this during Mr Parkin's interim leadership as Chief Executive. We have all given Mr Parkin the opportunity to prove himself, and provided mentors, training, support and development and yet Mr Parkin still falls short of a reasonable person's expectations.
  14. Instead, the council has been subjected to one scandal after another for the last year and they have Mr Parkin at the centre of them. Yet there have been no investigations and no clean bill of health for Mr Parkin or his conduct.
  15. The Council's former Head of Legal and former Monitoring Officer, both of whom reported to Mr Parkin, separately raised grievances against Mr Parkin. We cannot just ignore that. We need to know what those grievances relate to and why the Council paid-off one while the other is bringing several employment tribunal cases against the Council.
  16. I have attached messages that have been sent to members showing the comments Mr Parkin was making about staff. What kind of Chief Executive calls his staff a little shit and then puts it in writing to junior staff ?
  17. Not only is Mr Parkin abusive, he mocks those with stress, a recognised disability. This is not the behaviour I would expect from anyone serving in public office and most definitely not from someone as senior as a Chief Executive.
  18. The Council has lost trusted staff, I believe because of Mr Parkin.
  19. There have been attempts to get transparency over what has been happening. Members are being kept in the dark and are being given excuses which just do not add up. When we ask questions we are given the run around. As members we have all been sent emails telling us all the issues around these allegations are in hand.
  20. Example: As members we commissioned the Penn report [dated November 2016] yet it was never disclosed to us. The MJ article last week mentioned the Penn report and Mr Parkin and suggests there is something to hide. If the Penn disclosures are authentic, then there is a recommendation to investigate Mr Parkin's role in removing his former boss. This should be investigated prior to this panel making a recommendation.
  21. How can we accept such a person who is known to be aggressive and will go to any means to remove the threats against him ?
  22. My challenge to you is, how can you recommend the appointment of an officer who is at the centre of so many allegations of unethical behaviour without understanding the allegations and being confident you are making the right recommendation to Full Council ?
  23. I am sure fellow Cabinet members will share their private concerns regarding this appointment, along with other members of the full council at the Full Council meeting.
  24. What we do know is that these allegations are not going away. If we appoint Mr Parkin and we find that allegations are true, what are we going to do ? Are we going to run another disciplinary investigation ? Are we going to have to pay-off yet another Chief Executive ? I do not want to be put in that situation. I want to be confident that any appointment made now will not regret it later.
  25. Another duty imposed upon the Chief Executive:-
    1. Article 12 of the Constitution clearly states the Chief Executive's areas of responsibility include
      overall corporate management and operational responsibility (including overall management responsibility for all officers).
  26. There are serious allegations of bullying against your selected appointee. Yet none to date have been investigated. What kind of message are we sending to our staff, from whom we expect so much, if we say that members do not care how our staff are treated ?
  27. Council staff obeying Mr Parkin's bizarre demand ?

  28. One example I was given about Mr Parkin's leadership was when he suggested brown paper bags be put on the heads of those staff who did not want their pictures on the staff directory.

    • Are you all saying this person is fit to lead the staff ?
    • Is this the level of respect our hard working staff deserve ?
    I think not, hence my objection.
  29. From the experiences of the last year, I have no trust that your choice for Chief Executive has the ability to change what we all know is the council's toxic culture.
  30. If anything, morale in the workforce has hit rock bottom. There are allegations of:

    • favouritism,
    • bullying and
    • dishonesty.
    We are all receiving the anonymous complaints from staff too afraid to come forward.
  31. I also know that a name change and Constitution update of the whistle-blowing policy has done little to build the necessary confidence of staff and of outsiders.
  32. I also understand it took a formal complaint to have a person who worked in Mr Parkin's department to be removed from their post. Again, what kind of message are we, as members, sending-out if we endorse this candidate ?
  33. We need a Chief Executive able to gain and retain the respect of the staff they lead and members. Your chosen candidate does not.
  34. Another of the Chief Executive's requirements is:
    1. Partnerships: To lead and develop strong partnerships across the local community to achieve improved outcomes and better public service for local people
  35. I was left with no choice but to lodge an objection to Mr Parkin's appointment following a meeting of the Children's Social Care Improvement Board.
  36. Mr Parkin's behaviour and conduct generally, and at meetings, has been unacceptable and embarrassing to the council's reputation. I was therefore compelled to speak out and not turn a blind eye as I was being asked to. I could not continue ignoring everything just for a quiet life.
  37. I am part of the new Leadership. We took-over power last year [from previous council leader Cllr Rob Anderson and deputy Cllr James Swindlehurst] on a platform for change, transparency and accountability.
  38. The failure of Children's Services was our key driver for that change.
  39. The Children's Improvement Board was set up in August 2016 and from then until January 2017 our former Head of Legal Services chaired it, because the interim Chief Executive [Mr Parkin] lacked the ability to chair the group. Mr Parkin was not even a member of that group. Instead he chose to receive only it's minutes.
  40. This speaks volumes how seriously Mr Parkin took the new political Leadership's key area of improvement, which takes me back to his failures at point 1, namely

    Leadership: to work with elected members to ensure strong and visible leadership and direction to encourage and enable managers to motivate and inspire their teams.

  41. Mr Parkin has been chairing the Children's Improvement Board after our Head of Legal refused to carry on in Mr Parkin's place, because the Council was not delivering on its promises.
  42. When I sat there listening to him, it reminds me of the old failed Corporate Management Team meetings, of which Mr Parkin was part of. I do not want a Chief Executive who fails to deliver on his own change program and is unable to build the good relationships essential for productive and beneficial working with our partners.
  43. At one Well-Being board meeting Mr Parkin referred to people who were overweight as lazy couch potatoes who needed to get up off their backsides.
  44. During a press conference with the Slough Children's Services Trust last year, in the presence of the press, Mr Parkin made a joke about exploitation. In case members are not quite sure what type of exploitation, it was children's exploitation. Members of the panel will know the amount of work that it took to regain trust with the Department of Education.
  45. At the first Head Teachers conference, he made a joke suggesting his words may be slurred that morning as he had too much Guinness the night before.
  46. At last year's Slough Young People's awards he made horrendous jokes about the names he was calling out for the awards. He was so offensive, the young people never want him to be invited to present awards again! With such a large young population in Slough that's not a good sign.
  47. The Chief Executive is responsible for organisational development. Yet we have all seen the emails, which show others drafted the new council's structure for him last year. He deleted his own job when he did not need to do that, as his role was now better suited to regeneration and urban renewal.
  48. Shortly after the new Leadership took over, we commissioned the Local Government Association (LGA) to undertake a Communications Peer Review as it was an area the Council needed to improve upon. The LGA peer reviewers presented their recommendations to the Cabinet. We were told an external consultant implement the changes and lead a restructure. This person was managed by the interim Chief Executive [Mr Parkin] and failed to ever provide any evidence of the work he was contracted to do. A responsibility that Roger Parkin failed to do, and almost a year on, the council cannot explain what value that external contractor added to our organisation. The contractor was asked to leave and this failure was buried out of sight.
  49. The Council is not able to attract the calibre of staff it needs because of the damaged reputation and partly responsible is the interim Chief Executive. Again we have turned a blind eye to this worrying problem.
  50. Only last month in Full Council we were openly criticised for paying-off staff. There is no doubt some of those pay-offs needed member scrutiny – but none of them were. Instead the interim Chief Executive decided everything.
  51. If we appoint someone who cannot command our confidence, the confidence of staff, the confidence of our public and the confidence of our partners, we are setting ourselves up for further years of expensive employment disputes ? Is this what this Council wants or needs at this time ?
  52. In conclusion I can not endorse the appointment of a person against whom there are so many very serious questions marks that concern his behaviour, conduct and ability.
  53. Any decision to appoint this candidate cannot occur until the outcome of any independent investigation into his conduct, on the range of matters we are all aware of, has occurred. This will include the outcome of a forthcoming employment tribunal case, notwithstanding the Penn report.
  54. I have acted on my serious concerns by taking the step of making a formal objection, and it has not been an easy one. It is the right thing to do, in the best interests of this Council and of the public whom trust us to act at all times in a thoroughly ethical manner.
  55. I therefore cannot sacrifice my integrity just to keep people happy.
  56. I have presented sufficient concerns to this Appointments Sub-committee to ensure you are fully aware of the grave issues facing your recommendation. I urge you to up hold the councils ethical standards and code of conduct when making your final decision.
  57. I trust you will accept that my objections are well founded and material to the proposed appointment.

Cllr Sabia Hussain
Deputy Leader
Slough Borough Council.