Beleaguered Council ducks away from latest safeguarding gaffe

In a month that is likely to prove very difficult for Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council its senior officers and political leadership has decided that shooting themselves in the foot, once again, is a suitable form of preparation.

Before the end of June, and possibly as early as next Monday (20th), the long-awaited Oldham CSE Assurance Review will be published (read more here). Because of the leaking of two key sections by stakeholders, that have been reported on elsewhere, it is already known that the Council [along with Greater Manchester Police] will face stinging criticism over what are grotesque safeguarding lapses and serious investigative failings (read more here). The attempted cover-up of both adds to the reader’s misery and incredulity.

As part of wider investigations into what the CSE Assurance is likely to report and, moreover, what it may well have missed or omitted, a search by the author of this article, Neil Wilby, landed on the list of the Council’s Licensing Committee for the present municipal year. One name on that page raised a big red flag: Cllr Montaz Ali Azad

Cllr Azad, to put it charitably, has a colourful background. Some of it painted in a most unattractive hue. He featured on this website just over a year ago and that gives a fairly complete picture (read more here).

Found guilty, in 2016, of a string of offences relating to tax irregularities and unregistered workers, the Labour Party withdrew the whip whilst he was a sitting councillor in Oldham and he then left the fold. He now sits on the Council as an independent having finally been re-elected in the Coldhurst ward last month following a lengthening series of failed and controversial attempts. One of which led to an award of £52,000 legal costs against him following an unsuccessful election petition against the election result in Coldhurst in 2021. It is not known whether that debt to Oldham Council has been settled yet. 

Local political analysts contend that the local Labour Party has done a ‘secret deal’ with Cllr Azad whereby he stands down at the May 2023 ‘all-out’ elections and backs a younger, female, Bangladeshi Labour candidate. A similar scenario to the ex-Cllr Sahr Abid farrago that occurred in the Medlock Vale ward earlier this year (read here). Miss Abid , elected as a Conservative councillor in May, 2021, despite her background as a Labour activist, stood down shortly before the May 2022 renewals and her uncle, Sajed Hussain (now Cllr Hussain and a Member of the same Licensing Committee), won the seat with the Tory candidates being obliterated at the polls in that ward. 

Immediately after the discovery that Cllr Azad had been appointed to the Licensing Committee despite his people trafficking and tax evasion background an email was despatched to the Oldham Council press office in the following terms:

“A short article will be published later today on the composition of the Licensing Committee for the municipal year 2022/23.

https://committees.oldham.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=125

“May I respectfully respect a statement from both the Leader of The Council and the Head of Constitutional Services regarding any due diligence carried out on its membership and consequent assessment of suitability?

“There is a particular concern over Montaz Ali Azad who has fairly recent Home Office Border Force findings against him regarding people trafficking and misuse of HMO’s (my own enquiries reveal that the published facts may not fully represent the extent of his offending) and a HMRC finding over tax evasion. There are also subsidiary issues of making a false statement on his 2018 election leaflet; making false claims during the 2021 election, in cohort with Raja Miah and Gary Tarbuck, over claims that Muslims were going to harm the last named; employing Raja Miah in his election office in Coldhurst during the 2022 local election.

“Cllr Azad has never shown any remorse that I can trace and continues to give the impression, quite overtly, that he is not an elected representative with whom such responsibilities should be vested.

“Given the grotesque safeguarding failings that are likely to be revealed later this month as part of the publication of the CSE Review this is a most unfortunate appointment and is certain to attract public opprobrium. It, therefore, begs the removal of Cllr Azad and an absolute assurance that the Council will take a great deal more care over such matters in the future.

“This is an exclusive of the class that I’m quite confident will be syndicated, particularly given its timing. In the circumstances, I would appreciate a response by 10am on Tuesday 14th June, 2022. If there is no response as requested, then it is entirely reasonable for this email to be circulated to the other members of that committee with an invitation to comment”.

The email did not even merit an acknowledgement from the Council’s press office, let alone any form of substantive response. The assumption being that, once again, managing failing reputations amongst their higher echelons trumps responsibilities towards Oldham’s long-suffering residents. 

As indicated in the email to the Council press office, the process of contacting individual Licensing Committee members now begins, as does the offer of syndication of this article.

Several leading political figures in the Region were contacted privately yesterday and they, variously, expressed shock, disgust and astonishment that the Council could be so utterly crass as to make such an appointment. Readers may find it very difficult to disagree with such robust sentiments. One sitting councillor, not on that committee, said: ‘I can’t believe that other members of the committee didn’t flag this. It’s terrible’. 

Cllr Azad has been offered right of reply. This article will be updated as and when responses are received from him and his fellow Licensing Committee members. They are:

Cllrs Pam Byrne, Angela Cosgrove, Chris Gloster, Chris Goodwin, Louie Hamblett, Jenny Harrison, Sajed Hussain, Colin McLaren, Umar Nasheen, Graham Sheldon, Graham Shuttleworth, Ruji Sapna Surjan (Chair) and Mark Wilkinson. The last named is also a well known Raja Miah cultist. 

Page last updated Tuesday 14th June, 2022 at 1055hrs

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2022. 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 Media, 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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