IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Town Hall veil of secrecy as whistleblowing prompts inquiry

Public need to know, union tells council

07 June, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

A PROBE into conduct at Islington Town Hall – sparked by whistleblowing complaints – has been shrouded in mystery, with council chiefs refusing to reveal why a top QC has been brought into help investigate.

The council has gone into full lockdown mode over the case, releasing only scant details such as the recruitment of an unnamed barrister, des­cribed as having “relevant experience in local government and employment law”, to examine the complaints.

The QC will be assisted by a junior counsel reviewing activity inside the Town Hall.

On top of this, it has been revealed a second external independent investigator was appointed on April 29 to begin a review of the council’s human resources processes.

The investigation was confirmed at an audit committee meeting on Monday, but its chairman, Councillor Nick Wayne, dealt with the matter in less than two minutes. He said:

“Papers have been laid in respect of that matter. The committee has been asked to formally agree the matter. Do we agree it? We do. If we can then move on.”

The council has also stone-walled efforts by the GMB union to get further information on the investigations.

A GMB spokesman asked: “Is this going to come out? Otherwise, it is all just kept in-house and we’re none the wiser. Members of the public need to know. If there are certain things going on in the council, with people whistleblowing, then members of the public should know.”

He added: “How long is this investigation going to take? How many complaints have they re­ceived? How much is being spent on both investigations? Surely, we should be allowed to know some kind of detail on what the complaints are?

“The council has questions to answer.”

A council spokesman said that the Town Hall would not make any further comment on the case but referred the Tribune back to section 3 of the report to the audit committee.

It states: “Whistleblowing arrangements are a key element of the council’s overall governance arrangements. Whistleblowing allows employees, members, contractors and others to confidentially raise concerns surrounding fraud and corruption.

“The council takes all allegations of impropriety very seriously and in this instance is recommending the appointment of an external investigator to ensure that an independent and robust investigation is undertaken.”

The findings of the independent investigation will be reported back to the audit committee at a future date.

The Tribune asked when this would be, but the council did not provide an answer.

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