Wednesday, 22 May 2019
Tuesday, 14 November 2017
Updated 15 November 08:00

Council Leader's desperate white-washing attempts

Concerns grow about Cllr Munawar's choice for chief exec

Report and photographs: Paul Janik

Slough's chief councillor, Sohail Munawar, appears to be frantically attempting to convince councillors his endorsement of Roger Parkin as the authority's next chief executive is beyond reproach.

Increasingly isolated Cllr Munawar wishes to secretly spend tens of thousands of pounds of Council Tax payers money hiring consultants to justify his patronage of Mr Parkin.

It is almost certain Cllr Munawar will be voted-out of his prestigious Council Leader's job in 13 days time, 28 November, during a general meeting of all councillors.

Cllr Munawar is in trouble for distributing obscene video from his council supplied mobile telephone. It appears that despite a staff cover-up which avoided proper scrutiny, the National Labour Party decided it was serious enough to be investigated and promptly suspended Cllr Munawar.

Then Cllr Munawar was reported to the Labour Party for shouting at, and bullying, his woman deputy Leader Cllr Sabia Hussain. Cllr Munawar disliked Cllr Hussain exercising her right to object to Roger Parkin's appointment. A highly contentious appointment ridiculed by councillors from all parties. Only Cabinet members chosen by Cllr Munawar are permitted to formally object to Mr Parkin's unsuitability as the council's next chief executive.

On Monday 13 November, Cllr Munawar suddenly announced an independent review into the recruitment of the chief executive and senior officers. All the details were kept secret, even from elected councillors.

A Slough Times investigation can exclusively reveal Cllr Munawar's chosen review experts into staff matters are North London based Estate Agents.

No Review – give public proper investigation

A review usually depends on someone else's interpretation of facts. It examines what the previous investigator or decision maker did – not the original circumstances and never the original evidence.

A review is never as thorough as an independent investigation.

The Slough Times believes all the original facts and circumstances should be independently investigated including Cllr Munawar's apparent obsession to inexplicably give the chief executive's job to his pal Roger Parkin.

Psychometric testing abandoned

Worrying new concerns have emerged suggesting Cllr Munawar and council staff friends of Mr Parkin may have conspired to dumb-down the chief executive selection tests by removing the usual obligatory psychometric and leadership testing.

An Australian web site The Institute of Psychometric Coaching Pty Ltd trains people to pass employers' psychometric testing. That web site states:

Psychometric tests are a standard and scientific method used to measure individuals' mental capabilities and behavioural style.

Psychometric tests are designed to measure candidates' suitability for a role based on the required personality characteristics and aptitude (or cognitive abilities).

They identify the extent to which candidates' personality and cognitive abilities match those required to perform the role. Employers use the information collected from the psychometric test to identify the hidden aspects of candidates that are difficult to extract from a face-to-face interview.

This is another reason justifying the necessity for a proper external investigation by a QC with no previous involvement with the council, any of the council's staff or with Cllr Munawar and his supporters.

A QC is a Queens Counsel; an advocate with much experience of cross-examining witnesses. A QC is technically a senior barrister and some often work as occasional or part-time court judges.

If Cllr Munawar truly desires transparency then there is nothing stopping him appointing a credible councillor to set-up an investigation headed by an independent QC. Such a robust investigation will inevitably avoid the appearance of cover-ups and inspire public confidence.

Inside help for Mr Parkin's job prospects ?

Sources say the council's de facto Head of Human Resources, Mrs Surjit Nagra, strangely titled HR Business Partner has been involved at every stage of the candidates' selection process. It is alleged Mrs Nagra has been a close supporter and friend of Mr Parkin for many years. It is further alleged Mrs Nagra has been assisting Mr Parkin during his candidacy for the chief executive's job. The Slough Times has put these matters to Mrs Nagra and asked for her comments.

The Slough Times is not accusing Mrs Nagra of bias or of interference in the chief executive's selection process – despite all the rumours. In the best traditions of journalism, we want to establish the facts for our ever curious readers.

With many serious accusations from multiple sources, we believe it is in the public's interest, and in the best interests of Slough Unitary Authority, for all concerns to be properly and carefully examined – not in secrecy by connected individuals lacking the public's trust and confidence.

For many years councillors and staff aware of corruption, sleaze and misconduct in public office have kept silent; afraid to speak-out. Their stories are amazing and sensational. Concealment of their claims perpetuates the culture of Slough Council wrong-doing with impunity.

Cllr Sohail Munawar promised everyone Transparency and Public Accountability. Please Cllr Munawar give the public of Slough what you promised.

Can Slough Council be trusted ?

Council press spokeswoman Katherine Pratt is refusing to tell the Slough Times the remit of Cllr Munawar's surprise plan. All Mrs Pratt will publicly state is the unknown review will be done by Gravitas Consultancy. No other details are forthcoming.

Where oh where is the TRANSPARENCY promised by Cllr Munawar when he became the council's Leader on 6 June 2016 ? Was it a hoax to fool the public who trusted him ?

If a review, or investigation, is to be creditable, it can not be controlled by the people whose actions and decisions are being questioned. It has to be properly independent.

Cllr Munawar's review is being conducted by Gravitas Consultancy – a small London N1 company run by two members of the Nijhar family. The company specialises in:

  • Buying and selling of own real estate
  • Management consultancy activities other than financial management
  • Other service activities not elsewhere classified

The latest company accounts, for 2016, shows increasing company debt and a loss of £98,106.

All attempts to find Gravitas Consultancy's web site and their business telephone number have failed. One wonders how Cllr Munawar found them.

An anonymous council source helpfully provided this link to a High Court case involving Gravitas defending a property dispute:

Is Roger Parkin really the best ?

An avalanche of protests followed temporary chief executive Roger Parkin giving his favourites significant salary increases, a drinking pal the job of chief finance officer and allegedly paying-off staff with £95,000 gifts of Council Tax payers' cash.

Concerns continue to be expressed about the attempts to close down the council's legal department and give their work to more expensive HB Public Law whose business development manager is Linda Walker, the council's current Monitoring Officer.

The Slough Times has been unable to obtain more details because Mr Parkin has deliberately stopped council staff answering our Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. However, the Slough Times sleaze and corruption investigation will continue.

Inevitably one wonders why councillors have abdicated their legal responsibilities to run the council in an ethical and trustworthy manner.

In the Slough Times honest opinion, Mr Parkin has things to hide from public scrutiny and public accountability.

Seemingly Mr Parkin and Cllr Munawar share the same delusion they own The Council and can use its resources to do whatever they like with impunity.

Cllr Munawar's failed ethical standards

When Cllr Munawar's deputy, Cllr Sabia Hussain, bravely stood-up for decency, accountability and high ethical standards at Slough Council, she was howled-down by Cllr Munawar. Subsequently she received unpleasantness from at least two of Cllr Munawar's loyal councillors. This utter disrespect for women councillors is a worrying feature associated with Sohail Munawar's leadership's style and approach.

In sheer revenge for daring to tell the Appointments Sub-committee, in public, some of the many shocking truths about Roger Parkin, Cllr Munawar sacked his hard-working deputy Leader Cllr Sabia Hussain.

Does Cllr Munawar think a woman's job is in the kitchen, looking after the children, cleaning the house etc. ?

Its time Slough's women told Cllr Munawar and his gang, women have brains too and sometimes women's brains easily outshine the abilities and over-inflated egos of Slough's failing Asian male politicians – all Labour.

Cllr Munawar's press statement

13 November 2017

The leader of Slough Borough Council, councillor Sohail Munawar, has ordered an independent review into the recruitment of the chief executive and senior officers.

The review, which will be undertaken by Gravitas Consultancy, follows political volatility at the council and will include the council's whistleblowing policy.

Councillor Munawar, said:

It is unfortunate political differences, personalities and opinions have damaged the reputation of the organisation we all hold dear and I have decided, in the interests of the council, our residents and businesses we should have an independent review of our most critical and urgent business.

The council's work is continuing every day and for many staff it is business as usual.

We have an excellent senior leadership team led by the interim chief executive supported by a diverse and committed workforce, who are collectively leading the way in providing services and improving the town for everyone.

But these political wranglings only serve to bring our wonderful borough down, cause a difficult working environment and invite doubt in our abilities and those of our wonderful hard working communities.

I have listened to all the concerns raised and reflected on them and I believe this review is what we need.

It will be entirely independent, will review and offer recommendations which should answer all the issues people have raised, all their concerns once and for all, meaning we can continue to drive forward with our vision for the town.

He added:

I would like to thank everyone who is supporting me as leader of the council.

Slough is a great place to live and work and I want to continue our excellent work unhindered.