Independent investigator appointed to probe claims leader of Brent Council ‘hid death of councillor’

Cllr Muhammed Butt will be investigated by Richard Penn

Cllr Muhammed Butt will be investigated by Richard Penn - Credit: Archant

An independent investigator has been appointed to look into claims that the leader of Brent Council covered-up the death of a councillor to stall a by-election.

Cllr Tayo Oladapo died following a long illness

Cllr Tayo Oladapo died following a long illness - Credit: Archant

Richard Penn will probe the allegation that Cllr Muhammed Butt purposely hid the news that Cllr Tayo Oladapo had died until an announcement was made in March.

Cllr Oladapo, a 34-year-old Labour councillor in the Kilburn ward, died on January 29 following a long illness.

His mother formally registered his death this month after arriving in the UK from Nigeria.

According to an email leaked to the press Cllr Butt delayed announcing his death until March for political reasons.

Cllr Butt vehemently denied the claims and sent an email to his fellow councillors saying: “I do find it offensive and we have now gone to such lows that a friends and comrades death is being used for political point scoring.”

Mr Penn will also look into the events leading up to the announcement of Cllr Oladapo’s death and the town hall’s policy regarding councillors who are continuously absent from council meetings.

Cllr Oladapo last attended a meeting in November 2014.

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His subsequent absences from meetings were approved by the council until his death was confirmed.

Under current rules any councillor who fails to attend mandatory council meetings for six months, except certain exceptions, automatically loses their position and a by-election is called.

The investigation, which starts on Tuesday, is expected to take three weeks to look into the council.

Mr Penn’s findings and any recommendations he has will be revealed at a full council meeting in July.

The probe into Cllr Butt’s conduct will last around five weeks and will be reported to the council’s standards committee.

Mr Penn is a former local authority chief executive of two major metropolitan authorities with 35 years of public sector experience.