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Posts Tagged ‘takki sulaiaman’

Well, here’s a blast from the past. Do you remember my favourite thin-skinned council spin doctor, the one who ordered security guards to frog march me out of a council meeting because I told him quietly he was acting like a prick by stopping me doing my job?

The one I believe tried to get me sacked from the Sunday Express because I had used one of its scanners to copy a leaked council document?

The one who wasted £123,000 of council cash hiring PR consultants Champollion to try and undermine John Ware’s BBC Panorama documentary on Lutfur Rahman?

The one who spun the true £1.6m cost of producing East End Life?

The one who before he took up his £100k a year job at Tower Hamlets council was a Labour councillor in Haringey where when in charge of social services he complained about regulators giving his department a zero star rating in the wake of the Victoria Climbie scandal?

There are many other fond memories of dear Takki Sulaiman, I’m sure.

When it became clear that the writing was on the wall for Lutfur, Takki quickly deserted the sinking ship and in January 2015 headed for the head of communications job at Aberdeen council. Not surprisingly, his £80k appointment immediately caused a political row.

A little over two years later and after what appears to be a mixed record with the council, his post was made redundant. He now runs some sort of holiday home on the shores of Loch Awe, according to the Press and Journal. Good luck to him; I’m sure the Trip Advisor ratings will be fabulous.

And the newspaper has this gem: that his golden goodbye settlement was £63,000. That’s £63k of public money – £30k tax free.

I don’t think any more comment is needed.

Here’s the full piece from the Press and Journal’s John Hebditch.

A former city council spin doctor was given a £63,000 golden goodbye when he left the authority last year.

Former head of communication and promotion Takki Sulaiman, who was known as the authority’s “happiness tsar”, departed last May.

New figures from the Taxpayers’ Alliance have shown he was paid a salary of £80,697 – and received a pay-off of £63,000 when leaving.

Mr Sulaiman was formerly a Labour councillor in the scandal-hit London borough of Tower Hamlets.

The opposition SNP and Liberal Democrat groups criticised his appointment in November 2014, but the Labour-led administration at the time insisted that the HR team had not been told of his political background.

SNP group leader Stephen Flynn said: “The administration was told that the council did not need a spin doctor but they pushed ahead and the cost borne by the people of Aberdeen is eye-watering.”

But Aberdeen Labour council co-leader Jenny Laing hit back: “Although Mr Sulaiman’s stay with the council was short he did help create the successful 365 project which has brought forward the Great Aberdeen Run, tour cycle race and Nuart which have all contributed to the cultural offering of Aberdeen.”

The spin doctor position has since been abolished.

It is understood that Mr Sulaiman how runs a self-catering property on the shores of Loch Awe on the west coast.

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For a council perpetually under the cosh, Tower Hamlets doesn’t exactly help itself in the matter of public perception.

While I and many other journalists are used to being delayed by the Communications and Freedom of Information departments (actually, it sometimes seems they are one and the same), it’s probably not a good idea to deploy similar tactics with Government appointed inspectors.

Last week, I revealed that PwC had asked Eric Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government for another month to file their emergency report on transparency and governance.

Some on this blog speculated it was because the auditors had pre-booked holidays to honour. But it doesn’t work like that.

Today, Mr Pickles explained the delay to the House of Commons:

The investigators PwC have informed me the council has considerably delayed the investigation by delaying the provision of key information or simply not providing it at all. This is simply not acceptable and I am consequently extending the period for PwC to report. The cost will be met by the council. Whether the council likes it or not, this investigation will be thorough and comprehensive and I will update the House in due course.

Yes, there’s an element of politics in the language, but given it is PwC itself telling the Secretary of State the delays have been caused by the council, it’s serious stuff.

I have no idea what information the council is failing to provide. It could be a deliberate delaying tactic by the town hall’s lawyers (loose-tongued interim monitoring officer Meic Sullivan-Gould is in charge, so fear not taxpayers!); there’s some speculation they are considering an expensive Judicial Review on the audit.

That could also be the reason why the council is also refusing to supply me and other journalists a key spreadsheet. The day after the Panorama programme, Takki Sulaiman, the Head of Timely Communications, issued a statement to say the BBC had got its sums wrong. He said only £1.6m of the latest grants round had been awarded to organisations which had a Somali or Bengali CEO, chair or applicant. Panorama had accused Mayor Lutfur Rahman of increasing funding to Bengali and Somali groups by £2.1million to £3.6million.

We asked the council for a detailed breakdown of its numbers.

Last week, they refused the FoI request by relying on a Section 22 exemption, namely that the “information is being re-evealuated and it is intended to publish the information through the appropriate channels”. When I called for an explanation, an officer told me they were waiting for the PwC audit to finish because this information was being examined by them.

So I asked Will Kenyon, the PwC partner in charge of the audit, whether he had been consulted about the FoI request/refusal and whether he had asked for the answer to be delayed.

He replied:

As far as I am aware, your FOI request to the council has not been raised with us at any stage, nor has there been any discussion concerning the publication of the information you refer to.

So while the council was exceptionally quick to fire off its “rebuttal” statement in the wake of Panorama, it has been characteristically slow in providing the proof.

And still they complain when people ask “What have they got to hide?”

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