‘Not our business’ says beleaguered council

Cllr Graham Sheldon in Chamber

A public question submitted to Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council on 16th May, 2022, by a well known local businessman and popular community champion, Tahir Mushtaq, has been rejected by the department which manages the process, Constitutional Services. 

This is the full text of what was submitted to the Council:

“Please ask this question of Cllr Sheldon, the Tory Leader: Is it right, Cllr Sheldon, that a convicted criminal, Khazir Rehman (better known as Kaiser), a man I know well and presently serving a suspended prison sentence for harassing a Labour councillor, and with a High Court finding against him for harassing and libelling another serving Labour councillor, should have been allowed to stand as a Conservative candidate in the recent local elections? Would you agree, Cllr Sheldon, that allowing such candidates onto the ballot papers bring the whole election process into disrepute and is deeply offensive to those whom Kaiser has been found to have harassed?”

The question also carried this Disclaimer as Mr Mushtaq, whose younger brother, Shaid, is an Oldham Council Cabinet Member, is associated with one of the town’s leading law firms, Longfords, as a land and property specialist.

“The contents of this email are the writers personal views and concerns. They do not reflect the opinion or views of any organisation to whom I may be associated”.

The reply from Constitutional Services, without a conventional closing or an officer’s name attached to it, might surprise some:

“The question is no (sic) a matter for which the Council has a responsibility ie. The suitability of candidates, if they meet the candidate criteria. We can however pass your question directly to Cllr Sheldon”.

The same Council and department that, very recently and bizarrely, went to considerable lengths to make changes to the Constitution, without consultation with those likely to be affected, to suppress questions from journalists not having a home or business address in Oldham.

Nevertheless, Mr Mushtaq has asked for his question to be passed to Cllr Sheldon Pictured above) and his response will be reported in an update to this article when available.

It may be a long wait as the record of the Oldham and Saddleworth Conservative Group in providing straight answers to straight questions is much less than satisfactory. Either via press request or via social media. On the latter, awkward enquiries usually result in the questioner being blocked. An answer to the former amounts to around a 15% chance.

For his part, and adding fuel to the the Group’s media lead, Cllr Dave Arnott, recently made representations to the Council’s Monitoring Officer, Paul Entwistle, regarding the rights and circumstances in which journalists could ask public questions of councillors. Without, of course, his own appalling record at responding to press enquiries being revealed in his email. Particularly in relation to Kaiser Rehman, of which there has been at least three. Rehman was convicted in August, 2021 of harassing Dr Zahid Chauhan, Cabinet Member and now Deputy Mayor of Oldham, and was sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment suspended for 18 months.

In February, 2022, The Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court ruled against Rehman and found that he had both defamed and harassed another Labour Councillor (and former Mayor), Riaz Ahmad. He faces a bill for costs and damages of around £200,000 (read more here) and is subject to a Penal Notice that on one reading could be interpreted as preventing Rehman, Dr Chauhan and Cllr Ahmad being in the same Chamber or ante-room (read more here).

But, for now at least, and despite some relevant history (read more here), the newly re-elected Group Leader, who represents the Saddleworth South ward, is given the benefit of the doubt in terms of providing a cogent reply that addresses a significant public interest issue.

In the event, Rehman, a former Labour councillor before he left the Party in controversial circumstances in 2018, was humiliated at the polls in this year’s local elections, in the Medlock Vale ward that he had previously represented. He left the election count in tears after realising at an early stage that voters had roundly rejected his flawed candidacy.

Page last updated Thursday 30th June, 2022 at 1425hrs

Thank you for reading and a polite request: If you wish to make a contribution to the running costs of this website it would be very much appreciated. Donations can made securely, via PayPal at this link.

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

Picture credits: Oldham Council

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.

© 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.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: