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Iceland Banks

 e-Mail to Cllr Bianco

From: Hillingdon-Watch [mailto:petersilverman@hillingdon-watch.org.uk]
Sent: 09 April 2010 14:49
To: 'Cllr Jonathan Bianco'
Subject: LB Hillingdon's Investment in Icelandic Banks

At the Council Question Time meeting on 2nd February 2010 you said in response to a question that had been submitted in advance about the Councils investment with Icelandic Banks:

“However our internal audit team undertook a full investigation of the council’s treasury management policies and they reported to our audit committee that all policies and procedures had been followed and there were no breaches of the treasury management strategy, and further Deloittes were appointed and undertook an independent review of Hillingdon’s practices and found the same.  Whilst it is disappointing that we are in the position we are we did not break any rules getting there”. (See note 1 below).

Deloittes are of course LB Hillingdon’s external auditors.

On 10th March I submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for a copy of the Deloittes report/review document

On 9th April, after the maximum time allowed by the FOI Act for responses, I was told that you had been referring to an Audit Commission review of “treasury management arrangements for money held on deposit by English local authorities in which Hillingdon were not identified as being non-compliant”.  (Note 2)

However:

This review was not produced by “Deloittes”
It was not “a review of Hillingdon’s practices”
It did not find “the same” i.e. that in respect to Hillingdon  “ all policies and procedures had been followed and there were no breaches of the treasury management strategy”
It was not judgemental about  the treasury management arrangements of specific councils.
In particular, it did not identify any specific councils as “being non compliant” or otherwise.

Coming on to the “full investigation” by the Council’s own audit team I note that a report was submitted to the Audit Committee meeting of 18 February 2009 entitled REPORT ON THE COUNCIL’S INVESTIMENTS IN ICELANDIC BANKS. Under point 3. It says “An internal investigation was conducted as soon as this situation arose which confirmed that all procedures and decisions were taken in line with agreed policy”.  However no further details or documentation was provided in regard to this investigation.  It all boiled down, it would seem, to this one sentence!   In the minutes it just said “Resolved -1.To note the report” (Note 3)

Have I missed something?  Otherwise it would appear that your statement at the public meeting was, to say the least, a trifle misleading.

I would appreciate your comments.


Notes
1. This was taken from the recoding available at www.hillingdon.gov.uk/media/mp3/f/h/questions2feb2010_1.mp3
2. For details of the request and the response please go to http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/investment_in_icelandic_banks_de#incoming-79402
3. www.hillingdon.gov.uk/ctteedocs/other_decisions/audit/rep_audit_18feb09.pdf


Peter Silverman
www.hillingdon-watch.org.uk   
20 Kingsend, Ruislip, HA4 7DA
01895 625770

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e-mail to Director of Finance & Resources

From: Hillingdon-Watch [mailto:petersilverman@hillingdon-watch.org.uk]
Sent: 13 April 2010 11:11
To: 'Christopher Neale'
Subject: Iceland Banks - internal investigation

Attn Christopher Neale
LB Hillingdon –Director of Finance & Resources


Under point 3 of  “REPORT ON THE COUNCIL’S INVESTIMENTS IN ICELANDIC BANKS” presented to the  Audit Committee meeting of 18 February 2009 it says “An internal investigation was conducted as soon as this situation arose which confirmed that all procedures and decisions were taken in line with agreed policy”

Could you please let me have a copy of the “internal investigation”  report or, if it was recorded in any other way, the relevant document(s)
In respect to each significant investment (over 100,000) in an Icelandic bank by LBH  in the last 4 years:

1. Could you please let me have a copy of any document recording the decision to so invest.

2. Could you please let me know who made the decision in each case.

Please note this request is being posted on the www.whatdotheyknow.com

I look forward to hearing from you.

Peter Silverman
www.hillingdon-watch.org.uk   
20 Kingsend, Ruislip, HA4 7DA
01895 625770



From: Hillingdon-Watch [mailto:petersilverman@hillingdon-watch.org.uk]
Sent: 30 April 2010 11:06
To: Gus Miah (Deloittes LBH Auditors)
Cc: Nick Hurd (MP For Ruilsip Northwood)
Subject: LB Hillingdon - Icelandic Investments - Deloittes

Dear Mr Miah,

This is for your information as head of LB Hillingdon’s external audit team at Deloittes.

On February 2nd Cllr Bianco, London Borough Of Hillingdon Cabinet Member for Finance and Business Services, stated at a public meeting  in answer to a question submitted in advance about the Council’s  Icelandic investments:

“..... our internal audit team undertook a full investigation of the council’s treasury management policies and they reported to our audit committee that all policies and procedures had been followed and there were no breaches of the treasury management strategy, and further Deloittes were appointed and undertook an independent review of Hillingdon’s practices and found the same”.

To hear a recording of this statement please go to www.hillingdon.gov.uk/media/mp3/f/h/questions2feb2010_1.mp3   and move to slider to 30 minute point.

Following an FOI Act enquiry I understand that Deloittes did not in fact carry out any such a review.

For back ground to the issue including my e-mail to Cllr Bianco of 9th April, to which I am still awaiting a reply, please go to www.hillingdon-watch.org.uk/html/icelandic_bank_loss.html  

Peter Silverman
www.hillingdon-watch.org.uk   
20 Kingsend, Ruislip, HA4 7DA
01895 625770




From: Hillingdon-Watch [mailto:petersilverman@hillingdon-watch.org.uk]
Sent: 07 July 2010 11:51
To: Raj Alagh (Borough Solicitor - LB Hillingdon)
Subject: Iceland Investments - Complaint against Cllr J Bianco - Deloittes claim

Mr Alagh, I am writing to you on your capacity as London Borough Of Hillingdon Monitoring Officer.( www.hillingdon.gov.uk/index.jsp?articleid=14775 )

I  believe that a Cllr Jonathan Bianco failed to observe the requirements of the Members Code of Conduct (  www.hillingdon.gov.uk/media/pdf/g/e/codeofconduct  ) when answering a question, which had been submitted well in advance, on the Council’s investments in Icelandic banks.  This took place at  the Council Question Time meeting on 2nd February 2010 at Ruislip High School.

He said that “.. all policies and procedures had been followed and there were no breaches of the treasury management strategy, and further Deloittes were appointed and undertook an independent review of Hillingdon’s practices and found the same”.

In fact neither Deloittes, who are LBH’s Auditors, nor any other independent body had been appointed by the Council to produce a report on Hillingdon’s treasury management practices as they related to the Icelandic investments.

I e-mailed Cllr Bianco on 9th April asking for an explanation. I received no acknowledgement or reply.  I e-mailed him again on 7th May. Again my e-mail was neither acknowledged or responded to by Cllr Bianco. A copy of both e-mails are attached.  Please refer to the points made in the first e-mail which are submitted as evidence.

A tape of Cllr Bianco’s statement at the meeting can be heard at www.hillingdon-watch.org.uk/html/bianco_tape.html   and on the Council’s web site.

He was in my opinion in breach of the following provisions of the Code:

Part I General obligations 3. —(1) You must treat others with respect.
He was disrespectful in failing to acknowledge or reply to an e-mail on a substantial matter from a justifiably concerned member of the public.

Part I  5. You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute.
He made a false statement at a public meeting. 

Ten Principle of Public Life

2. Honesty and Integrity -  Members should not place themselves in situations where their honesty and integrity may be questioned, should not behave improperly and should on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour.

He placed himself in a in a situation in which his honesty is being questioned by making a false statement and by failing to respond when questioned.

4. Accountability  - Members should be accountable to the public for their actions and the manner in which they carry out their responsibilities, and should co-operate fully and honestly with any scrutiny appropriate to their particular office.
By not responding to my e-mails he failed to account for his actions in making the false statement

5. Openness -Members should be as open as possible about their actions and those of their authority, and should be prepared to give reasons for those actions.
By not replying to my e-mails he was not open about his actions and failed to give reasons for those actions

I look forward to hearing from you

Peter Silverman
www.hillingdon-watch.org.uk   
20 Kingsend, Ruislip, HA4 7DA
01895 625770





From: Peter Silverman [mailto:p@petersilverman.com]
Sent: 19 July 2010 10:59
To: Lloyd White
Subject: Complaint Against Cllr Bianco

Dear Mr White,
I am writing to you in Mr Alagh’s absence
I note from the sections of the Constitution that he kindly sent me that the Monitoring Officer prepares a report for the Assessment Committee.
Could you please send me a copy of that report by e-mail.
Can you tell when the Committee will consider the report or,  if it the meeting has already taken place, when it took place.
Are these meetings open to the public as I would like to attend if they are.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Peter Silverman
20 Kingsend, Ruislip, HA4 7DA, UK
01895 625770



From: LLoyd White [mailto:lwhite3@Hillingdon.Gov.UK]
Sent: 19 July 2010 12:00
To: Peter Silverman
Subject: Re: Complaint Against Cllr Bianco

Dear Mr Silverman,

As detailed on the complaint form, the Standards Committee has established three Sub-Committees to carry out the process of assessment and adjudication as follows:

         an Assessment Sub-Committee which will make the initial assessment of your complaint and decide if it is valid e.g. against a Member of the Council and about a matter covered by the Code of Conduct.
         a Review Sub-Committee which, if requested by you, will review the decision of the Assessment Sub-Committee if that Sub-Committee should reject your complaint, and
         a Hearings Sub-Committee which will actually conduct the Hearing into the complaint, if appropriate, and determine if action is required.

You are entitled to attend and speak at the Hearings Sub-Committee but not at the other two Sub-Committees.

Guidance issued by Standards For England makes it clear that initial assessment decisions, and any subsequent review of decisions to take no further action on a complaint, must be conducted in closed meetings. These are not subject to the notice and publicity requirements under the Local Government Act 1972. Such meetings may have to consider unfounded and potentially damaging complaints about Members, which it would not be appropriate to make public. As such, a Standards Committee undertaking its role in the assessment or review of a complaint is not subject to the rules regarding notices of meetings, the circulation of agenda and documents, public access to meetings or the validity of proceedings.

Instead, after the assessment or review sub-committee has considered a complaint, the rules require a written summary to be produced which must include:
         the main points considered
         the conclusions on the complaint
         the reasons for the conclusion

Accordingly, the Monitoring Officer, on behalf of the Assessment Sub-Committee, will notify you in writing of the result within 5 working days. At that time you will also be notified of the procedures to be followed should further action be required.

For your information the Monitoring Officer will normally place before the Assessment Sub Committee a copy of the complaint and any supporting paperwork requested by the complainant, a copy of the assessment criteria and the Members’ Code of Conduct (along with the Subject Member’s declaration to abide by the Code).

I trust this clarifies the position but please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

Yours
 
 
Lloyd White
Head of Democratic Services
London Borough of Hillingdon



From: Peter Silverman [mailto:p@petersilverman.com]
Sent: 19 July 2010 13:24
To: 'LLoyd White'
Subject: Complaint Against Cllr Bianco

Mr White,

Thank you for your prompt and helpful response to my e-mail.

However, I am still confused about where we stand with regard to my request for a copy of the report which the procedure rules say the Monitoring Officer will submit to the sub-committee.  You have explained what it usually consists of but you did not say whether or not you will be sending me a copy.

To avoid doubt I would like a copy even though you may feel it might not serve any constructive purpose.

Also, please don’t forget to let me know about the timing of the sub-committee meeting.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Peter Silverman
20 Kingsend, Ruislip, HA4 7DA, UK
01895 625770



From: LLoyd White [mailto:lwhite3@Hillingdon.Gov.UK]
Sent: 19 July 2010 13:50
To: Peter Silverman
Subject: Re: Complaint Against Cllr Bianco

Dear Mr Silverman,
 
Sorry for the confusion. To clarify, you are not entitled to any of the paperwork to be submitted to the Sub-Committee which will meet within 15 working days of the receipt of the complaint. The written summary will be sent to you within 5 working days after that.
 
Yours
 
Lloyd White
Head of Democratic Services
London Borough of Hillingdon
 



From: Peter Silverman [mailto:p@petersilverman.com]
Sent: 19 July 2010 14:12
To: 'LLoyd White'
Subject: RE: Complaint Against Cllr Bianco

Dear Mr White,
Thank you for that clarification
Under what legislation, or section of the constitution, prevents you from sending me the report
Kind regards

Peter Silverman
20 Kingsend, Ruislip, HA4 7DA, UK
01895 625770



From: LLoyd White [mailto:lwhite3@Hillingdon.Gov.UK]
Sent: 19 July 2010 14:19
To: Peter Silverman
Subject: RE: Complaint Against Cllr Bianco

Mr Silverman,
 
I think perhaps the easiest thing at this stage would be to refer you to the Standards For England guidance (see link) which explains the whole Standards framework. Although designed for Members and officers who are administering the process they should assist with understanding the regulations that govern these procedures.
 
If, after reading these you have additional questions then please do not hesitate to contact me.
 
http://www.standardsforengland.gov.uk/Guidance/Thelocalstandardsframework
 
yours
 
Lloyd White
Head of Democratic Services
London Borough of Hillingdon




From: Peter Silverman [mailto:p@petersilverman.com]
Sent: 19 July 2010 14:54
To: 'LLoyd White'
Subject: RE: Complaint Against Cllr Bianco

Mr White
You are withholding information from me and should therefore know the legal basis for so doing.
Can you please enlighten me?

Peter Silverman
20 Kingsend, Ruislip, HA4 7DA, UK
01895 625770



From: LLoyd White [mailto:lwhite3@Hillingdon.Gov.UK]
Sent: 19 July 2010 15:09
To: Peter Silverman
Subject: RE: Complaint Against Cllr Bianco

Mr Silverman - as stated in the complaint form the Standards regime is governed by the Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008.
 
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2008/uksi_20081085_en_1
 
Yours
 
 
Lloyd White
Head of Democratic Services
London Borough of Hillingdon





 

Bianco_ R Alagh_30_07_10_800W
Bianco_ report_1_800W
Bianco_ report_2_800W

From: Peter Silverman [mailto:p@petersilverman.com]
Sent: 03 August 2010 14:06
To: Raj Alagh (Borough Solicitor - LB Hillingdon)
Subject: Complaint Against Cllr Bianco

Mr Alagh,

Thank you for your letter of 30th July

I would like to ask for a review of the sub committees decision

I have no further information to submit other than the fact that I would like you to pass on to the Review Committee a copy of this e-mail.   This is so that I can make them aware of my concern that the Witten Summary you have produced of the previous hearing does not show how each of the 5 points in my complaint were addressed.   For example if we take point 4 which read:

4. Accountability  - Members should be accountable to the public for their actions and the manner in which they carry out their responsibilities, and should co-operate fully and honestly with any scrutiny appropriate to their particular office.
By not responding to my e-mails he failed to account for his actions in making the false statement
 
The summary does not say why the committee felt that Cllr Bianco’s failure to reply to my e-mail did not constitute a breach of the accountability principle.

I look forward to hearing from you

Kind regards
Peter Silverman
20 Kingsend, Ruislip, HA4 7DA, UK
01895 625770




From: Peter Silverman [mailto:p@petersilverman.com]
Sent: 13 August 2010 09:50
To: Raj Alagh (Borough Solicitor - LB Hillingdon)
Cc: Lloyd White
Subject: Complaint Against Cllr Bianco

In addition to my e-mail of 3rd August could you please pass on this e-mail to the members of the forthcoming  Review Assessment Sub Committee.

My understanding is that the job of the committee is not to decide if the Code of Conduct of has been broken but to decide if there is sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation. 

I was therefore concerned to read in the summary of the previous committee meeting that “There was no information to suggest that Cllr Bianco had made a deliberate false statement… “ (my underlining).  In my complaint I merely said that the statement was false, not deliberately so.  A false statement could be made deliberately, implying an intent to deceive, or in error.  There are two views one could take. The first is that a false statement about such an important issue would in itself constitute a breach of paragraph 5 (bringing his office in into disrepute etc) or that the false statement must also to be deliberate.  In either case proof of the falseness of the statement or proof of its deliberate falseness is surely not required at this stage. The committee only has to decide whether the evidence presented represents grounds for further investigation to establish the facts on which a considered decision can subsequently be made.

The summary also says that “.. failure to respond to Mr Silverman’s e-mails, even if proven, was not capable of constituting a breach of the Code.”  I agree there is nothing in the Code to say that a member has to respond to e-mails per se however that that is surely not the point. The Principles of Public Life say members should be “accountable to the public” and that they should be “as open as possible”.  By not replying to my e-mails I contend he failed to “account” for the claims made in his statement and failed to be “as open as possible”.  It’s this lack of accountability and openness that constitutes the failure “to treat others with respect” and therefore a breach of Part 1 3 of the Code of Conduct.  Again the committee only has to decide if there is sufficient grounds for further investigation.

Thank you for explaining to me in your e-mail of 3rd August that  the Principles of Public Life, while they underpin the Members' Code of Conduct, do not form part of it as such and therefore the Code is not breached if one or more of the principles are not observed.  I had incorrectly included 3 breaches of the Principles as breaches of the Code in my formal complaint (see my e-mail 0f 7th July).  However, I believe the committee should disregard my error and consider if these breaches of the Principles might be indicative of breaches of the Code.  I have copied the points from my e-mail and added alongside the relevant breaches of the Code that I think are applicable as follows:

2. Honesty and Integrity -  Members should not place themselves in situations where their honesty and integrity may be questioned, should not behave improperly and should on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour. He placed himself in a in a situation in which his honesty is being questioned by making a false statement and by failing to respond when questioned. --- Breach of Part 1 para 5 of the Code.

4. Accountability  - Members should be accountable to the public for their actions and the manner in which they carry out their responsibilities, and should co-operate fully and honestly with any scrutiny appropriate to their particular office.   By not responding to my e-mails he failed to account for his actions in making the false statement.  --- Breach of Part 1 para 3 and para 5 of the Code.

5. Openness -Members should be as open as possible about their actions and those of their authority, and should be prepared to give reasons for those actions.
By not replying to my e-mails he was not open about his actions and failed to give reasons for those actions. --- Breach of Part 1 para 3 and para 5 of the Code

By deciding to pass the complaint on for further investigation it will give Cllr Bianco the opportunity to explain his actions which I am sure he would welcome.

I hope this will be of help to the Committee.

Kind regards

Peter Silverman
20 Kingsend, Ruislip, HA4 7DA, UK
01895 625770