Leader of Brent Council sparks democracy row by trying to axe election for his deputy

Cllr Muhammed Butt is the leader of Brent Council

Cllr Muhammed Butt is the leader of Brent Council - Credit: Archant

The leader of Brent Council tried to abolish an election for his deputy so he could appoint the person himself, the Times can reveal.

In emails seen by the Times, Cllr Muhammed Butt has been slapped down by the national Labour Party for attempting to axe the elections where positions are independently elected.

Cllr Butt presented councillors with his plan which would have handed him power to elect his deputy, a post currently held by Cllr Michael Pavey, but they refused to vote it through.

Instead a number of concerned councillors sought advice from their party to find out if Cllr Butt was allowed to introduce the changes.

A senior Labour councillor said: “Backbenchers were stunned when the plan to abolish elections for the position of deputy leader was unveiled earlier this month.

“Voting for the leader and deputy leader is one of the best opportunities we have to influence the political direction of the council.

“Removing this important check from the Leader’s power is an unnecessary and unjustified power grab and I’m glad the national Labour Party has stepped in to slap it down.”

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This was echoed by another councillor who did not wish to be named.

He said: “This seems to me to be an outrageous power grab by the leader as the deputy leader is an important check on their power and as the holder of the council’s purse strings I believe they should be directly accountable.

“The group were not informed of this in advance and when several of us in the group complained and asked this policy to be reversed we were stopped from moving a motion by the chair.”

Until last year cabinet positions in the council were voted for on an individual basis, so those interested in a position could throw their hat in the ring and one chose.

Councillors agreed to change the format last year where the group vote for a pool of eight cabinet members who are then assigned to portfolios by the leader.

Dan Simpson, regional director for the London Labour Party responded to concerns raised about Cllr Butt’s request. He said in an attached email: “The model standing orders are clear that the deputy leader is a group officer that must be elected at the AGM.

“I am therefore happy for the AGM to go ahead with the proviso that nominations are invited for the position of deputy leader, and an election held.”

A spokesman for the London Labour Party said: “We do not comment on internal party matters.”

Cllr Butt has not returned any calls or emails.

The AGM will meet on May 14 with a full council meeting on May 18.