We welcome the decision of the Council to investigate the Leader for alleged breaches of his position regarding a planning application by fellow senior Labour official Dr Onkar Sahota.
The Leader’s decision to involve himself in this pre-planning application, has placed the Council in a position that it should not be in - namely the appearance that it’s not who you are, but who you know - a style of politics that has no place in Ealing.
There are serious questions to be answered by the Leader and the Conservative Group has compiled a list of 17 questions which we need the appointed investigator to examine thoroughly in order that the full transparency is restored. It is therefore vital that all the relevant questions are answered.
1. Why did the Leader feel the need to attend personally this initial pre-application and not any others? What was so special about this application?
2. Will the Leader outline fully the “correct procedure” that he described at Full Council on the 16th July which he was following?
3. Did the Leaders office in fact handle the initial enquiry from Dr Sahota? Or was it The Leader himself?
4. Who at the Council side set up the appointment? Was it with Dr Sahota personally or his office?
5. If the request for a pre-application meeting was made verbally, when and where was it made?
6. If the request was made in writing, was it by letter or email? If the request was by email, was it sent from Dr Sahota’s personal or private email address?
7. Who decided which Officers should attend? Were the Officers under instructions to attend?
8. How long did the meeting last?
9. Why were no notes of the meeting taken? Who decided on that course of action?
10. What “advice” did Dr Sahota actually receive about his application?
11. Did the Leader involve himself in any way with any planning officer before the report into the application was compiled and released?
12. Why did the planning officer who wrote the report suddenly resign from the department just before the report was presented to planning committee?
13. Will this planning officer be interviewed as part of the investigation and if not why not?
14. Did the Leader personally support the candidacy of Dr Sahota for GLA membership in 2012?
15. Did the Leader personally campaign for Dr Sahota at the GLA elections in 2012?
16. Has the Leader of the Council ever enjoyed any hospitality at Dr Sahota’s expense at any time?
17. Did the Leader discuss this application at any stage in any form with the Chair of the Planning Committee?
I have supplied these questions to the Legal Officer at the Council asking her to ensure that all these questions are answered fully before being brought to the relevant Standards Committee. It is vital in our view that this issue is set up to be as transparent and as thorough as possible.
If Cllr Bell and his conscience are clear, he will have no problem answering all of the above questions to the fullest extent. It is vital that clean politics is restored to the Planning Department at Ealing Council.
Councillor David Millican
Conservative Group Leader
Ealing Town Hall