Redbridge Labour councillor cleared of alleged misconduct but council will not publish investigator’s full report

Redbridge Town Hall

Redbridge Town Hall - Credit: Archant

Redbridge Council’s transparency and openness has been called into question after it was revealed that a full report clearing a Labour councillor of misconduct will never be published.

The council yesterday afternoon (July 23) published the decision on its monitoring officer’s independent investigation into a number of allegation of misconduct made against Labour Cllr Roy Emmett by former Labour Cllr Aziz Chowdhury.

Released only hours before it was to be discussed at a governance and assurance committee meeting at Redbridge Town Hall, in High Road, none of the committee had the opportunity to read it in advance.

Monitoring officer Fiona Alderman also clarified that the document published was not the full investigation report - which was written on a confidential basis - but a “decision notice” that no further action would be taken.

There was “no intention” to make the full report available to either the public or to fellow councillors, she said.

Cllr Emmett, who sits on the committee, excused himself from the meeting room before the item was due to be discussed as a council officer distributed the document amongst the members.

Speaking at the meeting, Ilford resident Meenakshi Sharma said: “We’re very very disappointed that the decision notice was published today very, very late. So we didn’t have a chance to look at it.”

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She added: “The public can have no confidence in this decision because we have no way of knowing how you have come to reach that decision.

Responding to the her comments, Ms Alderman highlighted that the report was conducted by an experienced independent investigator.

She added: “There is also an independent challenge and check provided by the designated independent person appointed by the Localism Act.

“I consulted her throughout this process and discussed the findings of the independent investigator with her and she was content on the outcome.”

On December 16 2015, it was alleged that Cllr Emmett used his position to improperly influence the chairman of council’s regulatory committee on a planning application concerning opening hours of Jacques Hall community centre, in New North Road, during Ramadan.

In correspondence seen by the Recorder, he asked the chairman of the committee to “do your best” after highlighting that the applicant had supported Labour candidates in the past and wanted their support in return.

The report has found Cllr Emmett not to have breached the council’s code of conduct on the grounds that “there was no indication that he was ‘instructing’ the Chair to vote in a way.”

It cites that Cllr Emmett was not the chief whip of the Labour Party at the time he sent the email.

It also notes that he sent the email, rather than attending the meeting in person, because “at that time he was receiving medical treatment; this made talking particularly difficult.”

It did however state that Cllr Emmett’s email should have been sent to all members of the committee “to ensure openness and transparency”.

Ms Alderman clarified that she received the final version of the full investigation report at the end of last week, when asked by Conservative Cllr Michael Duffell.

“If we ever get anything like this in future, just try and get it out a little bit earlier,” said Cllr Duffell, adding: “I deal with conduct and investigation in my job and if I submitted this to my conduct committee basically two hours in advance, I would be torn apart.”

Ms Alderman also added: “The document is also a decision being reported rather than the committee being asked to make a decision on the conduct.”

A council officer added that the late publication of the report was due to an attempt to have it seen at last night’s meeting rather than wait until the next meeting in September.

“This wasn’t sort of sneaked in at the last minute so the committee couldn’t read it,” she said.

“It is transparent - it’s on a public website.”

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Roy Emmett said: “I was given an advanced copy of the report.

“I was confident that I had behaved properly and an independent investigator has found that to be so.

Asked his response to the transparency in which the documents have been released, he said: “I have no comment on that - I had to excuse myself.”