Archive for August 29th, 2013

isabella_freemanIt is with great sadness that I must report the impending departure from Tower Hamlets council of Isabella Freeman, the town hall’s esteemed head of legal services and monitoring officer.

In an official announcement at 3.41pm today, a senior press officer at the Homes and Communities Agency confirmed she had been successful in her pursuit of the soon-to-be vacant ‘head of legal services’ section there (the current incumbent is retiring). She will also be its ‘company secretary’.

What a fine addition to their team she will make (one of them, Richard Ennis, the head of corporate services, is, like Isabella, an alumni of Slough council).

Among the few who have been in the know about this, there’s been a mixture of delight and astonishment. The HCA is the regulatory body for housing associations and it’s an important government quango.

As such, the most senior appointments at least used to need approval from the Department for Communities and Local Government. And given what the current and recent crop of ministers there think of Ms Freeman, it’s difficult to see how they would have given their blessing.

But – and some might add ‘alas’ – the HCA tells me DCLG approval is not needed. They say they’ve had approval to recruit to “business critical” posts…and head of legal services for a regulatory body is deemed pretty critical.

What her new salary will is yet to be revealed: she’s currently on £115k.

So off Isabella goes. She’s resigned, so no payoff and no more of her threats and badly spelt emails of legal intimidation. I’ll miss them. And so will a few senior councillors.

And it’s also probably case that she’s deprived us all of what would have been the most fascinating employment tribunal the council has ever defended. You’ll recall she was suing her own employer – for what, we don’t know. And we may never know because it’s probable, though not definite, she’ll let that one quietly drop.

If I were the boss of the HCA, I think I’d have had a quiet word with her about it. It’s interesting that a law firm called Pinsent Mason, which has previously acted as a solicitor for the HCA, has been conducting research about her on the web. Whether that was connected to the appointment, I don’t know.

But who next for Tower Hamlets council? An interim appointment beckons while the search for a long term successor begins.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman would love to have his own person in the job, but given the debacle and failure in getting Aman Dalvi into the chief executive’s post (a fiasco in which Isabella played a significant part), he will have a battle on his hands.

The monitoring officer role must be agreed by the full council. And getting them to agree on anything has been pretty much impossible since 2010.

Anyway, to those reading at the HCA…..good luck!


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