LibDems slow to accept doctor’s remedy after failing ‘smear’ test

Dr Chauhan Mark Kenyon Louie Hamblett

An excursion from local politics into forensic accounting by two Oldham councillors has had dire consequences that no-one could possibly have foreseen.

The press release that followed what, taken at its face, was a diligent, well-founded investigation by Liberal Democrats, Cllr Louie Hamblett and Cllr Mark Kenyon, resulted in legal action not only being taken against the latter but also against one newspaper, and two other well known individuals in the area (read more here).

The subject of the investigation, Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE, a fellow Oldham councillor and nationally known health campaigner instructed lawyers to write pre-action letters to Cllr Kenyon, The Oldham Chronicle and two infamous on-line conspiracy theorists, Paul Errock, who previously ran a perennially failed political party styled as Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth (widely known as the POOS), and long term unemployed and former Tandoori takeaway worker, Raja Miah, who lives outside of the Borough.

The Chronicle and ‘Boots’ Errock quickly, and amicably, settled matters with JMW Solicitors, the lawyers instructed by Dr Chauhan (read more here).

The two LibDem Shadow Cabinet members, Cllrs Kenyon and Hamblett have today (24th March, 2023) belatedly issued a clarification of their original press release, at the heart of the dispute, which detailed OMBC payments to Bardoc Ltd and the role of Dr Chauhan.

They say: “We previously described Bardoc Ltd as Councillor Chauhan’s ‘own’ company and whilst colloquial and not a legal definition ‘own’ can be taken to imply the idea of ownership. While Cllr Chauhan is a director of Bardoc Ltd., he is not a shareholder as Bardoc is a community benefit organisation. We are sorry to have confused matters. We confirm that it was not our intention to call into question Cllr Chauhan’s integrity or commitment to public service and the press release should not have given that impression”.

Adding: “On a second point, whilst at the time we very clear to say that there was no allegation of criminal misconduct and that Cllr Chauhan did declare his interest to colleagues, we did say that Cllr Chauhan failed to declare an interest in Bardoc’s payments received from the council several times. We are willing to accept Cllr Chauhan’s position that compliance with the Council’s rules can be achieved by informing the Council’s monitoring officer [Paul Entwistle], which we accept that Cllr Chauhan did. We’re also happy to acknowledge that Cllr Chauhan publicly recused himself from a cabinet meeting on 28th February, 2022 which discussed the awarding of the community outreach testing contract. The recorded minutes state that Cllr Chauhan “left the room and took no part in the debate or decision making thereon.”

The LibDems conclude: “We understand that Cllr Chauhan and his family have been targeted with abuse since our initial press release. We wholeheartedly condemn those who confuse holding to account those in power with abuse and harassment.”

Cllrs Kenyon & Hamblett have made a contribution to Cllr Chauhan’s legal costs by making a donation to a charity of his choice, namely the Oldham Foodbank.

That just leaves Bradford-born Raja Miah as the only party not to compromise the pre-action letter. Indeed, on 17th January, 2023, JMW Solicitors issued a claim, on behalf of Dr Chauhan, at the High Court in London against the Mossley resident. Amongst a range of remedies sought by JMW are £50,000 damages, aggravated damages and costs.

A full analysis of the claim and the defence as filed at court by Miah can be read here. He continues to defame Dr Chauhan long after that claim was issued.

Any remote hope he had of successfully defending the claim has disappeared with the compromising of their own claim by the Liberal Democrats. Having the effect, one might very fairly say, of bringing down Raja Miah, where many others, so far at least, have tried and failed.

The Borough Solicitor, Paul Entwistle, has been previously and exclusively identified by Neil Wilby Media, and not for the first time, as the senior paid officer at whose door the blame can be laid for the misunderstandings over Dr Chauhan’s declarations of interests (read full story here). He made a similar mistake over declarations of interest of former Leader of the Council, Arooj Shah. Although that was four years ago, she still receives abuse and defamatory remarks over the matter to this day.

Both serious matters over which there has been no investigation – and the lawyer has received no sanction, whatsoever, whilst continuing to sit in judgement of others as the Council’s Monitoring Officer. A role in which he repeatedly disappoints and over which other senior paid officers, and particularly the Council’s chief executive, Harry Catherall, and his assistant chief executive, Shelley Kipling, are content to take no action.

Cllr Kenyon was asked to explain the delay in compromising legal matters with Dr Chauhan, particularly in the light of settlements with two other parties being made months ago, and whether the delay is connected with LibDem Central HQ withdrawing support in dealing with JMW and with the settlement, ultimately.

He said: “We are not commenting further at this time”.

The optics of which, for a political party that repeatedly complains about the lack of transparency of its political opponents, appear particularly opaque.

Paul Entwistle was afforded right of reply. A spokesperson responded, saying:

“I can confirm that the Director of Legal will not be taking up the right of reply to your article but on the issue of reports that Mr Entwistle is leaving the council I agree that we need to avoid any unhelpful speculation. As a result I can confirm that no such agreement has been made. Any such agreement would have to be approved by the Council’s Appointments Committee, membership of which includes the Leader, Deputy Leader, Leader of the Conservative Group and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group”.

In typical OMBC ‘cover-up’ fashion, it did not address three core issues: (i) Why Paul Entwistle is not taking up the right of reply? Or offering a public apology or reparation. (ii) Why has he never faced investigation over two serious mistakes with such far reaching consequences (iii) Why, when he has been found repeatedly to be in breach of ethical and professional standards, becomes confused over facts and evidence, and he, and his Legal Services Department, is deficient in key areas of the law is he still employed by the council?

Page last updated Monday 27th March, 2023 at 1310hrs

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: Manchester News Today

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 2015-2023. 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.

One thought on “LibDems slow to accept doctor’s remedy after failing ‘smear’ test

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: