Wednesday, 12 June 2013

West Ken: Greenhalgh to be formally cleared

A meeting at the Greater London Authority (GLA) will tomorrow rubber stamp the clean bill of health given to former H&F Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh, over allegations of a criminal conspiracy to skew the results of residents' surveys in favour of the controversial Earl's Court demolition plans, effectively by bribing them with promises of new homes if they agreed to support the Council.

The allegation, which was classified as a serious criminal charge, was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in light of Mr Greenhalgh's new role as Deputy Mayor for Policing. The IPCC found that there was no case to answer and referred the issue back to the GLA's Police & Crime Committee which, as the report above indicates, is left with no other option than to "resolve" the complaint "informally". Crucially, however, the IPCC did not investigate the matter itself, for example by taking the time to actually talk to the residents, but instead relied on evidence produced by Deloittes - which the Council had appointed and paid to investigate itself.

So what are we to make of this? Local Tories have responded angrily accusing Jonathan Rosenberg, the community organiser supporting the residents campaign to save their homes, of making malicious complaints in order to delay a legitimate planning process. Mr Rosenberg hits back with allegations about the nature of the IPCC inquiry itself.

Here's Mr Greenhalgh, who makes it clear the allegations were about politics, in his mind:

"The IPCC has finally concluded that there is no basis to these defamatory allegations which were entirely politically motivated. I am extremely proud of my record as Hammersmith and Fulham Council Leader and I remain focused on serving London in my important role as Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime."
Yet speaking last night, Jonathan Rosenberg was scathing:
"It is common knowledge on the estates that preferential treatment was offered to some tenants in return for supporting demolition: there are witness statements from those present at meetings where the Council admitted what it had done and from those who were made offers in return for backing the redevelopment.

The IPCC decided not to investigate the allegation of misconduct without obtaining evidence directly from the tenants. Instead it relied on the Deloitte investigation that was commissioned by the Council. This investigation was flawed because it excluded from any consideration and examination the two most critical sources of evidence ie direct accounts from the residents who alleged they had received preferential offers of Council accommodation and the contemporaneous paper and electronic records of the relevant Council officers.

It cannot be right that the Council seeks by subterfuge to contrive that no proper investigation of these allegations of serious and criminal wrongdoing takes place and that evidence is not taken from the key witnesses.

We have, again, asked the Council and the Police to investigate this matter properly by interviewing the tenants concerned".
I find it extraordinary that the IPPC was content to rely on evidence obtained by a company with a potential conflict of interest in doing so. Deloitte conducts consultancy work for local authorities, yet was asked to investigate the conduct of a potential customer. For the IPCC to think that that was fine to my mind brings their purpose as a robust and fearless investigator into question. They are clearly not, and this case adds to the long list of IPCC "investigations" that have been found wanting.

However looking at the report there are some fairly damning holes in the case presented by those alleging that the secret list of residents promised properties, including one person (on page seven) who admits that he made it up for effect. If that's true then natural justice surely does put Greenhalgh in the clear.

Either way we will never really know because it has never been properly, thoroughly or independently investigated - and I don't think that is fair either on the part of the residents making the allegations nor, actually, on Mr Greenhalgh who will always now have this question mark hanging over him.

A murky world. 

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