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This post was updated on Saturday, October 19, following a demand from Mark Seddon, the “media adviser for Mayor Lutfur Rahman”. See bottom of post.

Robin de Peyer of the East London Advertiser has the story:

A town hall chief earned £115,000 for 46 days’ work, prompting a government minister to accuse Tower Hamlets Council of paying him “footballer’s wages”.

The council, which is facing budget cuts totalling £100million over three years, has been criticised by local government minister Brandon Lewis after it paid its interim chief executive £2,500 a day during the stint last year.

Aman Dalvi’s role ended after just six weeks, but he received his year’s salary at taxpayers’ expense. He then landed another top council job, earning an extra £119,000 as a corporate director for development and renewal.

His total publicly-funded remuneration package for the financial year 2012/13 – published in a public council document – topped £256,000 once pension contributions were added.

Mr Lewis said: “The fact that the chief executive of Tower Hamlets can be paid more in two weeks than the average household in the borough earns in a year is astounding. Paying a council official the same rate as a premiership footballer is an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The average household income is less than £30,000, according to a council-backed report. Mr Dalvi was appointed as interim chief executive after councillors could not agree on a permanent candidate for the job. The position has since been scrapped as the town hall tries to trim its £1.2billion annual budget.

A spokesman said: “The council has complied with its statutory requirements in the preparation and publication of the annual accounts. We will not be commenting further.”

Mr Dalvi could not be reached for a comment.

In fact, there’s a fair bit more to it.

The figures are taken from the council’s Audit Committee report on September 26. The relevant page is 113.

Here’s a screen grab from it.

tower hamlets council, aman dalvi

Aman, who is close to Mayor Lutfur Rahman remember, was appointed interim chief executive on September 26, 2011. Prior to that he was the director of ‘development and renewal’. When he stepped up, the council promoted someone else his development job on a temporary basis.

So in the financial year 2011/12 (April 6, 2011 – April 5, 2012), Aman was paid the best part of six months for his development job (about £64k) and a further £90k as interim chief executive, ie about £155k in total. But there’s no note in the 2011/12 accounts to explain that.

For the next financial year, it’s substantially different.

The 2012/13 accounts state Aman earned £115k as interim chief executive, a role he performed until May 21, 2012. As Robin reported, that’s £115k for 46 days’ work in that financial year. He then returned to his development job, for which he earns £131k a year.

Whereas his rate of pay for 193 days’ work as chief exec in 2011/12 was £466 a day (equivalent to about £170k a year), in 2012/13, that jumped to £2,500 a day.

It just doesn’t add up. If he’d remained on his £466 daily rate, he should have earned about £21,400 for those 46 days.

He seems to have earned some kind of bonus worth about £94,000 in 2012/13 (ie £115k – £21k). (And if that is the case, the accounts are misleading – I wonder whether this was discussed during the audit process.)

But what was the ‘bonus’?

In January of this year, Robin reported this:

A corporate director at Tower Hamlets Council has been named as the recipient of what is believed to be a six-figure compensation payout after settling a discrimination claim with the Town Hall.

Aman Dalvi, who is corporate director for development and renewal, brought the claim against the council and Labour group leader Cllr Joshua Peck in September after Labour councillors voted to block his appointment to the chief executive position at the Town Hall.

But Mr Dalvi – who earns more than £125,000 per year in his role at the council – settled the claim in December at an estimated cost of around £100,000 to the tax-payer.

A statement released by those involved said: “Following agreement between the parties Mr Dalvi’s Employment Tribunal claim against the Council and Cllr Joshua Peck has been withdrawn and dismissed by the Employment Tribunal.”

The dispute arose after Mr Dalvi failed in his attempts to replace former chief executive Kevan Collins, who left the £195k top job in July 2011.

Despite enjoying the support of Mayor Lutfur Rahman, Mr Dalvi was unsuccessful in his attempts to take the job after Labour and Conservative councillors blocked the move.

The council had then faced the prospect of intervention from Town Hall trouble-shooter the Local Government Association after an exodus of senior officers caused concern over its ability to function effectively.

But at a behind-closed-doors vote last Wednesday councillors unanimously agreed to approve the extension of acting head of paid services Stephen Halsey’s contract until after the 2014 Mayoral election.

So now we have the proof that his pay-off was about £100k.

What was the dispute? In February, I wrote this post when I reported that Aman and Josh Peck had had a private row during the process to appoint a permanent chief executive. Josh had been concerned that Aman was too close to Lutfur, that he was too malleable, particularly over nominations and appointments to external regeneration bodies.

Add in Isabella Freeman’s questionable legal advice to councillors during this appointment process (more about her delightful deal at the Homes and Communities Agency very soon) and the entire episode adds up to a costly shambles.

Over the next few months as Lutfur steps up his re-election campaign, we’ll hear a lot about his One Tower Hamlets bollocks, how he has been “progressive” and how he repelled the EDL, but the fact is he’s a terrible man manager, one who has cost taxpayers a small fortune in payoffs to senior officers.

In 2008, he effectively sacked Martin Smith at a cost of some £300,000. Aman Dalvi got a £100k bonus for being Lutfur’s failed first choice when Kevan Collins jumped ship, and then there’s all the headhunter fees thrown down the drain.

I suspect he’s wasted around £500,000 on top level personnel issues. Or to put it another way, that’s 1,250 of the £400 educational maintenance allowance grants he boasts as his proudest achievement.

PS Here are two more screen shots of the council’s accounts for your interest.

This one shows the number of staff earning more than £50,000.

accounts salaries

And this one shows the breakdown of the £8million paid out in redundancies to 320 staff over the past two years.

redundanciesScandalous, really.

UPDATE: October 19

A few people people have called or emailed to say they think this post is “unfair” on Aman Dalvi. They assure me he’s a professional, that he’s been hard-done by and he was handed a £100k payout because he merited it.

Well, he gets paid £131,000 a year, which is quite a lot of money. He was warned by those with experience of these matters that he wasn’t suitable for the job of chief executive, yet, encouraged by Lutfur (for whatever reason) he chose to apply.

He then chose to sue the council, ie the taxpayer. I haven’t seen the detail of the legal arguments, but in my view, there would have to have been an egregious slur on his integrity to warrant suing a council he admitted in his own private and public offerings was suffering from financial problems.

Greed seems to have got the better of him. He could easily have made his legal point, if there was one, then handed back the money.

I’m not the only one who will now be scrutinising his actions from now on.

One of those to contact me was Mark Seddon, the famous journalist and former editor of Tribune, who is now Lutfur Rahman’s £55,000 a year communications guru…(a fact never disclosed when he does newspaper reviews on BBC Sky News).

mark seddon

This was his email on Thursday.

The East London Advertiser has withdrawn a story which made the claim that a former chief officer of the council, Aman Dalvi OBE, had been paid £115,000 for 46 days work.

The request is that you immediately do the same.

The claim is simply untrue. Unfortunately, for legal reasons, Mr Dalvi cannot speak to you, in order for the record to be set straight.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Seddon
Media Adviser to the Mayor Lutfur Rahman

This was my reply:

Perhaps you can demonstrate how what I have written is untrue?

As you know, I’ve expanded on what the ELA wrote. I’m q happy to update the blog with your response, but I’m currently happy that I’ve simply reported what’s in the accounts with some additional fair questions.

Can I also please ask why you are acting as spokesman for Aman Dalvi? I thought you were the media adviser to the mayor. How is this your remit?

He then repeated his original email without answering those other questions.

The East London Advertiser did withdraw its article, which was, as I demonstrated, misleading, but it then replaced it with this more accurate version.

Since then, however, MailOnline regurgitated the original piece adding further inaccuracies, prompting this warning to national newspaper newsdesks today:

Information has been published in some media outlets relating to Mr Aman Dalvi an employee of the Council. The details published are not accurate. 

In particular and by example only, there is the suggestion that Mr Dalvi was paid £2,500 per day as an interim chief executive which is incorrect. 

Continued publication of the alleged figure earned by Mr Dalvi and other factual inaccuracies is damaging. This is unacceptable and the Council is seeking advice from its lawyers.

While I agree with the council sending out this warning, what is not acceptable is the threat to spend more taxpayer money on another legal fight of its own making.

Aman chose to have a gagging clause preventing him from commenting…because he bagged a large payoff. And the council’s press office failed to guide the East London Advertiser when its journalist approached them with the outline of its original story prior to publication.

They really do create their own horrible mess.

No wonder Mark Seddon felt compelled to go outside his remit and appoint himself spokesman for a poor (well, not so poor) senior council officer…

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