Labour to decide chief whip's punishment for planning fix attempt (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Labour to decide chief whip's punishment for planning fix attempt in Waltham Forest
A disciplinary panel which found that the chief whip of the Labour Party in Waltham Forest tried to fix a planning application vote says it will let his own party decide what his punishment should be.
Earlier this week Cllr Afzal Akram was found guilty of breaking the council's code of conduct after he tried to influence a decision on controversial plans to convert Leytonstone's Colgrave Arms pub into a mosque.
Cllr Akram sent a text message during a September 2012 meeting to his Labour colleague on the planning committee, Cllr Karen Bellamy, saying "I hope you are going to support this one".
The planning application was subsequently approved, in line with the recommendation of council officers.
Details of the 'determination sub-committee' disciplinary panel's verdict on Cllr Akram were not immediately published following its meeting, but have now been revealed.
The panel, made up of Labour councillors Paul Douglas and Shameem Highfield, along with Conservative Cllr Geoff Walker, decided it would not recommend any form of punishment.
A joint statement from the councillors recommended that "the panel’s finding is referred to the Labour Group to consider whether further action is required in accordance with its rules but taking into account the fact and length of Cllr Akram’s suspension from his role as chief whip".
Cllr Akram will also be sent a letter reminding him of the council's code of conduct, and a summary of the panel's findings will be published on the council's website.
Under current legislation the panel could have recommended to Cllr Akram's party that he be banned from being nominated to sit on any council committees in future.
It could also have put forward a full motion censuring him for breaching the code of conduct to the full council for a vote.
The panel cleared Cllr Akram of other allegations of trying to fix two other planning bids relating to mosques. The claims were made by the Labour chair of the planning committee, Cllr Peter Barnett.
Cllr Akram denied all the claims. He said there was either a "wider conspiracy" at the council to get rid of him or that Cllr Barnett had a grudge because he lost his position as chief whip in 2008.
The panel's statement added that it “found no evidence of deals or agreements being made in respect of any planning committee decision”.
The Labour group is expected to meet within the next few weeks to discuss Cllr Akram's future.
He has not responded to the Guardian's request for a comment.
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