The questions Sandwell council won’t answer re key Watson ally housing investigation

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In June, the SKWAWKBOX published evidence of the involvement of Sandwell councillor Simon Hackett – an employee and close ally of Labour deputy leader Tom Watson – in a potential breach of laws regulating the allocation of council housing.

The council’s housing system recorded Mr Hackett involved in a housing allocation, to a local woman, that bypassed the council’s protocols and waiting lists:

sandwell housing hackett redacted

The publication of the article triggered a rapid attempt from the council’s legal department to force the removal of the article, on the grounds that an internal review had found ‘there is no evidence’:

st hack1

The SKWAWKBOX responded that the information published was accurate and would not be removed and that Hackett had been given ample opportunity to comment – and also sent the following questions for immediate response from Mr Tour or the council:

Further to our emails below, please provide:
  1. a copy of the report that exonerated Mr Hackett – the investigation was conducted with public money and there is an obvious public interest, so there should be no issues at all in providing it
  2. the ICO confirmed that the council initially found Mr Hackett had committed a data breach but later ‘rescinded’ this. Who made the original finding and why was it overturned?
  3. Ms [redacted] was not on the waiting list for a property and was already a council tenant in adequate accommodation. Please clarify why she was even considered for the new property
  4. Mr Hackett was allegedly involved in Ms [redacted] obtaining tenancy in [redacted] Road. Please provide full details of the process by which she was allocated that address. She will not be named in any articles ensuing.

The emails containing the questions was sent 22 June.

Multiple reminders were sent – and Mr Tour has emailed very quickly to try to force the removal of other articles about the council in the interim – but almost four months later, he has not responded to any of the above questions of obvious interest to the public in the borough and beyond.

Simon Hackett also featured recently in controversy over the council leader’s recorded – but inaccurate – claim that an information leak by Hackett was not a breach of data laws, when in fact the Information Commissioner had ruled a definitive breach.

The legal firm that conducted the investigation into council leader Steve Eling subsequently took the blame for the false information in its report – but only after the SKWAWKBOX published details, when the council had been warned for months about the discrepancies in its report.

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4 responses to “The questions Sandwell council won’t answer re key Watson ally housing investigation

  1. Thirty years ago council housing was the butt of jokes, now it’s being fought over. This is the result of Tory policy which has erased two million council homes with the Right To Buy Scheme.

    • And about 35% of it is now in the private rented sector, and with each year that passes the percentage is increasing, and of course the Tories at the time – Thatcher & Co – KNEW that THIS is precisely what would happen. And much of it is multi-occupancy, with seven or eight or more people living in what was once a three-bedroom property for a family.

  2. Surjit Tour has an inglorious reputation for flexing his muscles on behalf of his employer, whoever that may be. At Wirral Council, when he wasn’t molesting courtroom bibles or branding FOI requesters “vexatious” he’d be firing off threatening letters to whistleblowers. Here is one such example, done a. to frighten innocent people and b. to frustrate the public interest:

    https://twitter.com/Wirral_In_It/status/1053328084303257600?s=19

    The reality then and now on Wirral is that the council, under the current leader has no reputation left to defend. This happened when the leader and a posse of senior officers including the then CEO repeatedly lied through their teeth to conceal the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds of EU grant monies.

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