Despite whinging on about no money and making massive cuts to public services in Ealing, Labour leader Cllr Julian Bell is able to find enough money to retain his own personal ‘slush fund’. Each year he allocates himself a hefty £70k to spend where he likes.
Ealing:RottenBorough can reveal that £10k of this public money went into the pockets of Harjinder Singh Randhawa otherwise known as Harry, a mate of Bell’s boss, Ealing Southall MP Virendra Sharma. Worryingly, we can also reveal that somewhat unusually there is no audit trail following this public money. Other than handing over the cheque to Sharma’s mate at Bell’s request Ealing Council has confirmed they have no records or receipts to show if or how the money was actually spent.
Responses to Freedom of Information requests reveal that in May 2012 Cllr Bell sent an urgent email to officers asking them to make out a cheque for £10k to A&H Events Ltd. The money was said to be for a community Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Party in Southall Park. Oddly, Ealing Council did just that and Bell arranged for A&H Events Ltd to come to Ealing Town Hall the next day to collect the cheque. A&H events Ltd (now dissolved) was run by Harry Randhawa. Randhawa was also the events organiser at the time for Southall Football Club which has strong links to Bell’s boss Virendra Sharma MP. Sharma has been the Club’s President and his son, Sanjeev (who also works for Ealing Council) is the club’s Managing Director/Treasurer.
It should be remembered that Bell has a second job working as researcher for Virendra Sharma MP for which he is paid a second salary. The fact that Bell continued to work for Sharma after he took on the full time role of leader of Ealing Council is seen as a controversial conflict of interest which causes Bell to favour Southall over other parts of the borough. Bell was heavily criticised in 2010 for finding £5m to allocate for a car park ‘white elephant’ in Southall that was not needed whilst simultaneously closing several libraries and cutting front line services to vulnerable residents. The critics have been proved right and the loss-making car park is now having to be sold off. Critics say Bell is controlled by Sharma, who, it is claimed, demanded the car park from Bell to please business men in his constituency whose backing he was after. A similar controversy arose in 2014 when the Khalsa Primary School in Southall and Southall Football Club both lay claims to Norwood Hall Sports Ground. Bell, who was on the board gave the ground to SFC but there followed great outrage and fierce complaints that due process was not followed and that SFC got the ground because of their links with Bell’s boss Virendra Sharma.
When public services are being cut to the bone and local authorities having to account for every penny spent it is disturbing that Ealing Council leader has access to public funds that he can get his hands on without providing invoices or receipts and it’s murky that he’s handing it to close associates of someone who pays him a salary.