TAXPAYERS shelled out £15,000 for the investigation into alleged institutional racism at the council - a ‘waste of public money’ according to a new local political observer group.

Former Harrow borough commander Retired Chief Superintendent Dal Babu found “no evidence of institutional racism” at the authority following his three week long internal probe into workings and procedures at Harrow Civic Centre in Station Road, Harrow.

He was appointed on March 17 and filed his report on April 10, making nine recommednations.

The report was published by the council online two days later.

In a Freedom of Information Act response to Dr Pravin Shah, chairman of Marlborough and Wealdstone Independents who never actually stood as promised in the May 22 local elections, the council said: “The cost of the investigation was £15,000, which is the fixed price agreed with the investigator for the review work, and additional costs not exceeding £600 for such things as off-site room hire.”

The review was announced in October last year by then-council leader Councillor Susan Hall (Conservative) the month after her Tory group deposed, with Labour’s help, the same breakaway Independent Labour group (ILG) who made the accusations of institutional racism in the first place. ILG actually helped vote the Conservatives into power ahead of arch-rivals Labour.

Ms Hall’s short-lived minority administration had to rely on ILG in February to push through the 2014/15 municipal budget in the face of Labour opposition and the following month she signed off the review remit that led to Mr Babu’s appointment ahead of two other candidates, whose identities have not been disclosed.

Independent ward councillor for Canons, Councillor Husain Akhtar
 

The Marlborough and Wealdstone Independents, who have rebranded themselves the Harrow Monitoring Group since the election, said in a statement: “We deplore the waste of public money on the investigation that adds nothing to what was already known, and which probably was to keep the ILG, who asked for the investigation, happy because it was the ILG vote that voted in and kept in power the short-lived Tory group administration, and tried to help them by dividing the Labour vote.”

A Harrow Council spokesman said: “Harrow Council takes its equalities policy very seriously, so when allegations of racism inside the organisation were made, we had a clear duty to investigate them.

“To do that in a thorough and independent way, we commissioned a former senior police officer with a national track record in diversity and race issues.

"The investigation involved sifting claims and sensitive information around various alleged incidents and interviewing a number of staff.

"The fee agreed was proposed by the successful candidate and was a one-off cost for delivering a comprehensive report in a limited timescale.

"Other candidates proposed a longer timescale and consequently a higher fee.

"We believe the cost agreed strikes a fair balance between the obligation to investigate serious allegations and the need to limit costs for the taxpayer."

n What do you think? E-mail ian.proctor@trinitymirror.com