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Labour HQ suspends Cllr Sohail Munawar

Labour act to prevent government intervention

Report and photographs: Paul Janik
Cllr Sohail Munawar

Top politician and Leader of Slough Council, Sohail Munawar, is finally suspended after several complaints extending over 16 months.

Three days after a highly audacious attempt by Cllr Munawar to force through his choice for chief executive, Roger Parkin, Labour Party HQ stepped-in and suspended Cllr Munawar's party membership.

This means Cllr Munawar is not an active Labour Party member. He is, for the time being, no longer Leader of the Labour Group comprising 33 councillors. Technically he remains Leader of the Council but without Labour Party support.

There is likely to be an emergency meeting of the Labour Group to determine whether the current deputy leader, Cllr Sabia Hussain, temporarily takes over during Cllr Munawar's suspension.

Background

Distributing "disgusting" and "obscene video" from his council funded and supplied mobile telephone, Cllr Munawar has been abusing his trusted position as Slough's chief councillor. Having appointed key officers, Cllr Munawar mistakenly thought he could do what he liked and no one could stop him.

Among other complaints, Cllr Munawar has been deliberately delaying advertising for a replacement chief executive. The previous incumbent resigned in November 2016. On 7 February 2017, the council was ready to advertise the vacancy but Cllr Munawar stopped it. Critics say Cllr Munawar wanted to give his biggest supporter, temporary chief executive Roger Parkin, more time to prepare for the job interviews and tests.

Despite the external employment consultants, and a Local Government Association representative, telling Cllr Munawar not to advertise the vacancy in August, six months after the council was originally ready to advertise, Cllr Munawar ignored their advice and went ahead.

From 15 candidates, some highly impressive, the Appointments Sub-committee, under Cllr Munawar's leadership and direction, judged Roger Parkin as the very best. This inexplicable decision shocked many people. Those who knew Mr Parkin's background called the decision corrupt.

Sub-committee chairman Cllr Munawar selected 4 sub-committee members – his friend Cllr Mohammed Sharif, a councillor with health issues, an inexperienced new councillor. The Leader of the Conservative Group was required to be given a place.

Despite the availability of experienced councillors, especially those with considerable practical experience, Cllr Munawar sought to confine sub-committee membership to those he thought he could control or influence.

On Monday 16 October, after a Cabinet Meeting, and in the presence of his Cabinet members, supporter Cllr Shafiq A Chaudhry and the Labour Group's council assistant, Cllr Munawar shouted at, and bullied, his deputy Cllr Sabia Hussain.

Cllr Munawar insisted Cllr Hussain withdraw her objections to the coronation of Roger Parkin or she must resign. Council sources were so disturbed by what happened, they alerted the Slough Times expressing their alarm and disgust.

Forgetful Cllr Munawar told everyone in June 2016 of his personal commitment to honesty, transparency, decency, public accountability and ethics. Yet all these wonderful appealing aspirations evaporated without trace, shortly after Cllr Munawar became the Leader of the Council.

Appointments Sub-committee meeting

On Monday this week, 30 October 2017, the Slough Times witnessed incredible scenes at the council's Appointments Sub-committee meeting held on the second floor of the expensive and disliked Curve building in William Street.

Cllr Sabia Hussain

Cllr Sabia Hussain, the deputy Leader of the Council, sat at a desk facing the 5 councillors sub-committee, articulated clearly and credibly, the long and impressive list of concerns about Mr Parkin's suitability as the next Chief Executive.

Any reasonable member of the public, hearing those concerns, would have no doubt there was something dramatically and seriously wrong with Cllr Munawar's sub-committee's recommendation that Mr Parkin was the best candidate. It was an incomprehensible decision because it was not based on facts.

Mr Parkin's loyal supporters ?

Sitting behind Cllr Hussain were the council's top officials. They abandoned their council desks at 16:00 hours to attended the sub-committee meeting. All are said to owe their council jobs to Mr Parkin. Sources identified:-

  1. Cate Duffy, Director of Children's Services, salary £120,000 p.a.
  2. Alan Sinclair, Director Adult Social Care, salary £110,000 p.a.
  3. Joe Carter, Director of Regeneration, salary £ not revealed
  4. Mike England, Contract Director of Housing, costing £130,000 p.a.
  5. Neil Wilcox, Director of Finance, salary £ not revealed
  6. Simon Pallet, Head of IT, salary £ not revealed
  7. John Griffiths, Housing official, salary £ not revealed

Cllr Munawar gags Cllr Swindlehurst

After Cllr Hussain finished speaking, former deputy council Leader Cllr James Swindlehurst wanted to make a statement. The revelations had shocked him.

However Cllr Munawar repeatedly refused to let Cllr Swindlehurst speak. Cllr Swindlehurst protested, saying he had given advanced notice to Cllr Munawar, by email, several hours earlier. Cllr Swindlehurst added the council's own rule number 30 authorised him to speak. Cllr Munawar again refused.

Linda Walker

Temporary Monitoring Officer and governance solicitor, Linda Walker, 59, incomprehensibly advised that the appointment of Roger Parkin did not affect Cllr Swindlehurst's ward any more than other wards, so he could not speak at the meeting. Cllr Munawar smiled.

Despite the staggeringly huge amounts of public money paid for solicitor Linda Walker's expert governance services to Slough Council, Mrs Walker's unfamiliarity with the council's Constitution, despite legally being responsible for it, meant she failed to comprehend she had unlawfully prevented Cllr Swindlehurst from speaking on a serious matter of major public concern.

Part 4.1 – Council Procedure Rules

30. Attendance of Non Members at Cabinet/Committees/Sub-Committees

30.3 A Member shall have the right to attend and speak at the Cabinet, Committee or Sub-Committee on a matter which directly and specifically affects his/her Ward.

In the Slough Times' opinion Linda Walker made another glaring mistake. Instead of upholding the council's rules published in the Constitution, Mrs Walker seemed to have abandoned professional impartiality to support Cllr Munawar's desperate attempts to silence all his critics.

Cllr Munawar's determination to reject all concerns and complaints about Mr Parkin's conduct and lack of ability was reminiscent of a Mafia boss bulldozing his wishes through the proper procedures, reasonableness and plain common sense. It was a shocking and disgraceful attempt to abuse local government for what seemed to be Cllr Munawar's personal obsession – his worship of, and dependence upon, Roger Parkin.

The Ultimatum

Sources told the Slough Times that Local Government Association officials had warned the national Labour Party to stop ignoring the sleaze and corruption at Slough Council or central government intervention was likely to take-over the running of the council.

National Labour immediately responded by suspending the party membership of Cllr Munawar.

Consequently Mr Parkin, always protected by Cllr Munawar, now finds himself in a critically vulnerable position. Council watchers wonder if Mr Parkin will resign before anticipated investigations commence.