Council puts record straight over recruitment of interim chief

Following the appointment, subject to Full Council approval, of an interim chief executive, exclusively revealed elsewhere on this website (read here), a disgraced ‘political activist’ from neighbouring Tameside launched, within minutes, a series of his now familiar on-line attacks on the person and the process.

These included smears against the person appointed by Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, the highly respected Harry Catherall, together with criticisms of all those involved in both the recruitment and interview processes, and, of course, the author of this article, Neil Wilby, whom, it is falsely alleged, is either obtaining information from the council by nefarious means or being used as the Council Leader’s paid stooge.

The truth is much less dramatic: Finding, and confirming, exclusives is down to an investigator’s nous; tedious, plodding journalism; developing a strong network of reliable local contacts and good relationships with public authority press offices.

But, setting all that aside, it was the familiar contrived, stretched narrative of Raja Miah, based on grains of truth, but high on hyperbole, skinny on facts and evidence. Smattered with the his constant gangster (or mobster) conspiracy theory and, regrettably, the inevitable defamatory attack on his nemesis, Jim McMahon MP (read more here).

The disgraced Recusant Nine (R9) platform on Facebook, operated by Miah, has now been exposed as little more than a Raja money-making cult, leveraging persistent, mendacious lies for subscriptions, or contributions via Paypal’s ‘buy me a coffee’ scheme, or the opportunity to purchase outrageously expensive merchandise from an on-line shop. His disciples appear to be, in the main, the vulnerable, those of limited intellect or aligned with far-right political views.

R9 is also an outlet for his extreme narcissism. In East Lancashire history, few men or women in the public eye can have actually been more gratuitously self-adoring. It will be of high public interest to learn whether Greater Manchester Police buy into his invincibility (or saviour) complex when he surrenders bail tomorrow (Friday 20th August, 2021), following his arrest last month over suspicions of racially aggravated public order and malicious communications offences.

In the meantime, Oldham Council press office was approached for a statement on the background to the appointment of Harry Catherall. The response was returned promptly and this is their position: 

“The Council followed appropriate process for recruiting to an Interim position at this very senior level in the organisation.

“This did not consist of ‘headhunting’ as such, but we used the routes available to us to attract people with the right experience and skillset while, in the longer term, we look at attracting people to the permanent post.

“This consisted of using our framework contract to use an agency who specialise in interim appointments at senior level in public service. We also sought assistance from the Local Government Association (LGA), who represent and support local government and are charged on behalf of the government via the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in helping all authorities find solutions and focus on improvement.

“Both forms of support reached out to their contacts to seek expressions of interest and this resulted in nine people being considered suitable. However, some people dismissed themselves as a consequence of living too far away to have a physical presence in Oldham and others did not have the match of experience that was sought, particularly in terms of working in a single tier authority.

“This left three candidates considered to have a good match of skills and experience. Due to various commitments, the Committee decided to proceed with interviewing their one preferred candidate who was agreed, unanimously, as a great match for our requirements. As a consequence, he has been recommended to Council for approval at an meeting of Council on 25th August, 2021 (read Agenda and associated report here).

“The permanent role of Chief Executive will be advertised soon”.

Which leaves just one unanswered question: Who leaked some of that information to Raja Miah’s plush Mossley lair. 

It sits uneasily with this journalist’s certain knowledge of other Council documents and emails that are being leaked to members of the public, by both Council officers and Members. The list of suspects is small, from this quarter at least, and it is a matter about which the interim chief executive should issue a stern Civic Centre warning upon taking up his role.  

Page last updated at 0825hrs on Thursday 19th August, 2021.

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

Photo credit:

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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