Responses to My Open Letter to Peter Mason

I got a reply to my open letter to Peter Mason[pdf], Leader of Ealing Council, and one of my local ward councillors.

Slightly oddly, he addressed it not just to me, but also to CASH (Clean Air for Southall and Hayes, and my neighbour Angela Fonso (who heads up the campaign group. You can see a record of all Mason’s Letters to CASH, if you’re interested in the history.

I’d also submitted two Freedom of Information requests(FOIs) to try to get answers, as I didn’t expect a reply (as he has never replied directly to any of my previous questions).

The FOI response on the developer Berkeley Group’s sponsorship of council events stated:

The Mayor of Ealing had sought sponsors for his Pride reception. Berkeley responded to this request and offered a £500 contribution to the event. However, while the offer was publicly acknowledged, the money was never accepted or received because the Council is committed to not accept sponsorship from Berkeley for corporate events.

The FOI response on the council’s relationship with developers was, to my mind, wholly unsatisfactory and generated a third FOI:

In other words, plain English perhaps, it took two years to put in place any formal procedure to uphold the Leader’s stated aims, and there is literally nothing to see to evidence that councillors are following the procedure, or will do. And the fact that there is nothing to see to evidence your claims is, you claim, an indication of the council’s commitment to transparency?

Anyway, here’s my reply to his reply (via his Head of Cabinet Office).

Thanks for passing on Cllr Mason’s response. Please pass this on to him.

I appreciate Cllr Mason’s honesty in acknowledging that the Mayor accepted Berkeley Group’s offer of sponsorship, contrary to council policy.

I also appreciate that the Mayor, councillors and officers have been reminded of the policy going forward.

However, the Mayor’s original tweet still stands, published, thanking Berkeley Group for sponsoring the event.

I would like to know why this tweet has not been retracted or clarified, because it continues to give what I am now asked to believe by Cllr Mason is a wholly misleading statement of Ealing Council policy, as well as free good marketing publicity for what is a proscribed organisation. That’s even worse than accepting sponsorship. (I hope that Berkeley Group were asked to donate their sponsorship directly to one of the Mayor’s charities instead.)

I would like Cllr Mason, the council leader, to ensure that the Mayor removes and publicly clarifies and apologises for his tweet, and mistakenly accepting Berkeley’s offer. I would like him to explain why it was a mistake and why it’s necessary to apologise.

In Southall, we’ve suffered, as Cllr Mason recently acknowledged in one of his self-promotion videos, six years of “many, many terrible smells and certainly some bad chemicals released into the environment”, which have undoubtedly caused long-term mental and physical health problems for residents young and old.

I hope I don’t need to remind anyone that Southall is home to by far the largest South Asian and Black community in Ealing, and the lowest average incomes, who are among the most vulnerable to the adverse health impacts of these “bad chemicals”. In addition, Southall residents live with some of the worst air pollution in Ealing from traffic congestion, FM Conway asphalt plant, and non-permitted incinerators. Some environmental justice campaigners describe this as a “sacrifice zone”.

So, it’s very hurtful, insulting and offensive to people in Southall, who have suffered and sacrificed so much, to see the new Mayor break the council leader’s pledge, and offer no public retraction, acknowledgement, clarification or apology. It’s as if his words have no consequences. It’s as if South Asian and Black lives don’t matter, or South Asian and Blacks don’t count.

I would also question how the offer of sponsorship came about. We all know that the person responsible for “Community Liaison” for Berkeley Group is Jags Sanghera, who was a Labour Party councillor candidate in last year’s local elections. Why is Jags, who came close to being elected as a councillor, offering sponsorship to the Mayor? It does make me wonder if councillors (and prospective councillors) have ever been told of the council policy, and when? Not to mention the obvious conflict of interest.

Will Cllr Mason establish a “zero tolerance” policy for accepting sponsorship, gifts and hospitality going forward (and, perhaps, apply it retrospectively)?

With regard to Cllr Jassal’s participation in Berkeley Group’s “Community Engagement” steering group, I’d have more confidence in Cllr Mason’s assertion that this is to hold them to account if the group wasn’t set up and controlled by Berkeley Group and Jags Sanghera. Were CASH invited to be members? Was I? No. Why not? Because as far as I can see, we are among the only people who do consistently try to hold Berkeley Group to account, and their relationship with the council.

As Cllr Mason addressed his reply to me to Angela and CASH as well, I’ve copied them in to this.


Open letter to Peter Mason