Evidence against councillor cleared of breaching conduct code was ‘not to be relied on’

Cllr Ann John OBE was accused of vote-rigging over planning application

Evidence given by a councillor after he claimed the leader of Brent Council breached its code of conduct was “not to be relied on”, an investigation has found.

Cllr Dhiraj Kataria (Labour) accused his party colleague and then leader of the Labour group Cllr Ann John OBE, of telling him to vote against a planning application for a Hindu temple in 2010.

But a report presented to the Standards Committee found Cllr John did not breach the council’s code of conduct.

Hazel Salisbury, who carried out the investigation, said: “I have found there is no corroborating evidence for any of Cllr Kataria’s allegations and his evidence is not to be relied on.

“I have found no evidence for improper manipulation of the membership of the planning committee.”

The allegations began when Cllr Kataria sent an email to a number of councillors including Cllr Paul Lorber, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, alleging that Cllr John had told him how to vote over the application for the Sai Baba Temple, in Wembley.

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He also claimed she had threatened to remove him from the planning committee if he went against her wishes and she had “slandered him” at a Labour group meeting by accusing him of emailing a copy of his complaint to Cllr Lorber.

However, a check of the council’s email system confirmed Cllr Kataria did email Cllr Lorber, who then made the formal complaint.

Ms Salisbury said: “Given the glaring inconsistencies in Cllr Kataria’s evidence, I cannot place any credence on any part of it.

“I do not know what his motive for writing and transmitting the email was and it is not for the investigation to determine that.

“He says that it was because he thought it the only way he could draw attention to Cllr John’s alleged manipulation of planning matters.”

Cllr John was exonerated by the independent investigation and this week joined the planning committee after losing the leadership to her former deputy, Cllr Muhammmed Butt.