Hackney councillor faces panel over headteacher row

Cllr Brian Bell

Cllr Brian Bell - Credit: Archant

Accusations that a councillor refused to follow correct recruitment procedures when employing a headteacher has landed him in hot water with Hackney’s standards committee.

Cllr Brian Bell is due to appear at a town hall hearing tonight after complaints relating to his attitude and conduct at Parkwood Primary School in Queen’s Drive, Finsbury Park – where he was chairman of governors – were lodged last May.

Five members of the Learning Trust (LT) – including director of education Tricia Okoruwa – submitted grievances to the council’s independent standards committee’s monitoring officer, claiming they “felt marginalised” by Cllr Bell’s determination to recruit a new headteacher his “own way, to the exclusion of their expert advice”.

They also alleged he was “rude and overbearing”.

In June, the standards assessment sub-committee considered the complaints and decided the monitoring officer should write to Cllr Bell to ask him to apologise to members of the Learning Trust for his conduct – but he refused and an investigation was launched as a result.

In December, the decision was taken to refer four of the complaints to a full hearing if the Brownswood Ward councillor still failed to apologise by January 5, which he failed to do.

A report by independent committee member Jonathan Stopes-Roe pointed out that “presumably the rest of the governing body supported – or at least tolerated – the approach taken by Cllr Bell and approved the eventual headteacher appointment.”

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In his assessment, Mr Stopes-Roe said that “there does seem to be failures of policy and procedure by the governing body and its chairman in the headteacher recruitment process.”

He continued: “Cllr Bell may have treated the trust and education department officers in a dismissive and rebarbative manner, leading to a breakdown in working relationships.

“If that is so, Cllr Bell should reflect upon how his contribution to the work of both Parkwood and the council at large, might be improved by a more considerate approach.” He added that the matter should have been dealt with internally.

Twenty-nine of the 32 documents relating to the matter on Hackney Council’s website are restricted documents and cannot be accessed.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Hackney, Cllr Ian Sharer, said: “I don’t understand. The purpose of the standards committee is to make government more open. It seems to be making government more closed. What’s the point?”

Cllr Bell declined to comment.