Redbridge Tories call for council reform after monkey costume scandal

Redbridge Conservative Group Leader Cllr Linda Huggett urged Cllr Jas Athwal to guaranteed that the

Conservative Group leader Cllr Linda Huggett has called for Redbridge Council to move to a committee model. - Credit: Ken Mears

Redbridge Conservatives have called for reform to the borough's system of governance following a controversy over an "inappropriate" monkey costume worn at a children's event. 

There was widespread outrage after the costume, which included genitalia, was worn at an event at Redbridge Library to promote reading earlier this month.

The incident led to apologies from Redbridge Council, which called the costume "inappropriate", Vision RCL (which runs the library), as well as Mandinga Arts, who were contracted to run the event. 

Both the council and Vision are conducting investigations into what happened.

Cllr Linda Huggett, leader of the Conservative group on Redbridge Council, claimed that the scandal was “not an isolated incident” and that it was “symptomatic of a failure in governance”. 

She alleged that there has been "a lack of effective scrutiny", the "marginalisation" of councillors and the exclusion of residents from the decision-making process since Labour took control of the council in 2014.

Like many local authorities around the country, Redbridge Council operates on a council leader and cabinet model, in which the council elects a leader, who then appoints a cabinet, usually from the ranks of the majority party. 

Decisions are then made in consultation with this cabinet. 

Under the Localism Act 2011, some authorities are allowed to return to decision-making by committees, the method used for all councils before 2000. 

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Cllr Huggett said the Conservative group will be proposing a move to a committee system at the next council meeting, saying it would "encourage diverse talents and listen to the views of councillors and residents across the borough."

She claimed: "The leadership model at the heart of Redbridge Council is no longer fit for purpose, fit for the 21st century, and above all fit to serve the residents and communities across Redbridge."

Both Redbridge Council and council leader Jas Athwal have not responded to requests for comment.

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