Sandwell councillor and Watson employee ‘involved’ in irregular housing allocation

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Simon Hackett (L) and Tom Watson MP

Simon Hackett is a councillor in Sandwell and Chair of Sandwell Labour’s LCF (local campaign forum), which has been suspended by the Labour Party after allegations of anti-democratic behaviour by key figures. He is also an employee and close ally of Labour MP and deputy leader Tom Watson.

The SKWAWKBOX has obtained evidence of a potential breach of the ‘Allocation of Housing Regulations’ under the Housing Act, in the form of a note from the council’s housing management system.

Those regulations forbid the involvement of any councillor in housing allocations in the ward which they serve as councillors – they can advise, but not participate in decisions:

Elected Members’ Involvement in Allocation Decisions

5.8 The Allocation of Housing (Procedure) Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/483) prevent an elected Member from being part of a decision-making body at the time an allocation decision is made, when either:

  • the accommodation concerned is situated in their division or electoral ward, or
  • the person subject to the decision has their sole or main residence there

5.9 The regulations do not prevent an elected Member from representing their constituents in front of the decision making body, or from participating in the decision making body’s deliberations prior to its decision. The regulations also do not prevent elected Members’ involvement in policy decisions that affect the generality of housing accommodation in their division or electoral ward rather than individual allocations; for example, a decision that certain types of property should be prioritised for older people.

But a screengrab of a note in the council’s housing management system provided to this blog by a council source says that Mr Hackett was ‘involved’ in a decision to transfer a property to an existing council tenant, bypassing the council’s normal ‘bidding’ process for applicants:

sandwell housing hackett redacted

The note appears to indicate Mr Hackett’s involvement in the agreement – in other words, decision – to approve the allocation to an existing council tenant then living in another property. Both properties are in his Friar Park ward, raising serious questions of a breach of the allocation regulations.

The SKWAWKBOX asked Councillor Hackett on Wednesday to comment on the matter and in particular to clarify whether he has any relationship with the person who benefited from the non-standard transfer. He has not responded, in spite of a reminder on Thursday.**

Tom Watson was also asked for comment. He has not responded.

Mr Hackett is currently the subject of at least one other complaint involving legal action against Sandwell Council over a serious data protection breach confirmed by the Information Commissioner as an ‘inappropriate’ release of personal information.

Another close Watson ally has already been suspended from the party over allegations of serious improprieties, while a third is the subject of complaints after the alleged harassment of new members in Watson’s West Bromwich East constituency.

** A solicitor for the council commented today (22/6/2018): “An internal review into the issues you have raised has been carried out by the Local Authority following a referral earlier this year. As a result I can confirm that there is no evidence to substantiate an allegation that Councillor Hackett intervened and improperly used his position to secure a Council property for an individual or that he improperly facilitated the individuals [sic] subsequent move to another Council property.”

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2 responses to “Sandwell councillor and Watson employee ‘involved’ in irregular housing allocation

  1. I met him once when there was a Hope not Hate event in the 2009 Euro elections.

    It was really run by the Labour Party but I felt that they, quite rightly, were more concerned with stopping the BNP than plugging the Labour Party.

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