Former Labour whip Cllr Afzal Akram given six month committee ban in Waltham Forest for trying to fix planning vote

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Cllr Afzal Akram tried to fix a planning vote. Cllr Afzal Akram tried to fix a planning vote.

A leading councillor who was found guilty of trying to fix a controversial planning application vote will not be allowed to sit on any council committees for six months as his punishment.

Last month a disciplinary panel found that Cllr Afzal Akram had tried to influence a decision on controversial plans to convert Leytonstone's Colgrave Arms pub into a mosque during a meeting in September.

Cllr Akram, formerly the Labour chief whip and cabinet member for the economy, sent a text message to his Labour colleague on the planning committee, Cllr Karen Bellamy, saying "I hope you are going to support this one".

The bid was subsequently approved, in line with the recommendation of council officers, but the chair of the planning committee, Cllr Peter Barnett, made a formal complaint about Cllr Akram.

Following the hearing the panel, made up of Labour councillors Paul Douglas and Shameem Highfield, along with Conservative Cllr Geoff Walker, decided it would leave his punishment up to the Labour Party.

The party has now revealed the six month committee ban and also confirmed Cllr Akram has lost his job as chief whip.

He has been replaced as whip by Cllr Gerry Lyons but remains a member of the party.

Cllr Akram has also been ordered to step down from posts on other public bodies.

Cllr Akram was also accused of attempts to fix other applications relating to mosques but was cleared of those allegations.

He has not responded to the Guardian's requests for a comment.

Under current legislation the council disciplinary panel could itself 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.

Cllr Akram denied all the claims. He said there was either a "wider conspiracy" at the council to get rid of him or that Labour colleague Cllr Barnett had a grudge because he lost his position as chief whip in 2008.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “The Labour Group resolved unanimously to take action.

"Labour Party rules exist to ensure the highest levels of probity, integrity and honesty amongst its members and the group’s decision illustrates that failure to meet these standards will not be tolerated.“

Comments (9)

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2:43pm Wed 27 Feb 13

mdj says...

The fact that a disciplinary panel of this council subcontracted its penalty powers to an outside body is bizarre enough, and possibly unlawful.
But what is the legal status of this penalty as regards the Council, unless the panel has endorsed it as a Council penalty in its own right?
I don't know what committees Mr Akram may have been sitting on when this issue arose; but if he chose to ignore this Labour Party penalty and turned up to attend, (risking party expulsion presumably) what grounds would the Council have to exclude him?
The Labour Party is not a member of this Corporation, however much its high-handed representatives may try to blur the distinction.
Is this another case where we should suspect that the council is being given defective legal advice? Can the Labour party go to court to uphold a penalty relating to the internal affairs of an entirely separate organisation?
And it gets even stranger:
'Cllr Akram has also been ordered to step down from posts on other public bodies.'
Ordered by whom? Is Mr Akram forced to resign his numerous lucrative chairmanships of local PCTs, even though these organisations have made no complaints against him?
Does the Labour party's writ run throughout the public sector? We are on some very strange ground here.
The fact that a disciplinary panel of this council subcontracted its penalty powers to an outside body is bizarre enough, and possibly unlawful. But what is the legal status of this penalty as regards the Council, unless the panel has endorsed it as a Council penalty in its own right? I don't know what committees Mr Akram may have been sitting on when this issue arose; but if he chose to ignore this Labour Party penalty and turned up to attend, (risking party expulsion presumably) what grounds would the Council have to exclude him? The Labour Party is not a member of this Corporation, however much its high-handed representatives may try to blur the distinction. Is this another case where we should suspect that the council is being given defective legal advice? Can the Labour party go to court to uphold a penalty relating to the internal affairs of an entirely separate organisation? And it gets even stranger: 'Cllr Akram has also been ordered to step down from posts on other public bodies.' Ordered by whom? Is Mr Akram forced to resign his numerous lucrative chairmanships of local PCTs, even though these organisations have made no complaints against him? Does the Labour party's writ run throughout the public sector? We are on some very strange ground here. mdj
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2:53pm Wed 27 Feb 13

Trevor 2 says...

A joke punishment of the first order!
A joke punishment of the first order! Trevor 2
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3:28pm Wed 27 Feb 13

SXH says...

Last month a disciplinary panel found that Cllr Afzal Akram had tried to influence a decision on controversial plans to convert Leytonstone's Colgrave Arms pub into a mosque??

Is this correct as far as the community are aware in this area Colgrave Arms pub IS being used as a mosque?.
Last month a disciplinary panel found that Cllr Afzal Akram had tried to influence a decision on controversial plans to convert Leytonstone's Colgrave Arms pub into a mosque?? Is this correct as far as the community are aware in this area Colgrave Arms pub IS being used as a mosque?. SXH
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3:33pm Wed 27 Feb 13

fjms says...

To partly answer mdj. As far as Council committees are concerned the membership of each committee is decided by full council. As Labour has a majority in the council I assume what will happen is that he will be removed from whatever committees he's on at the next Council meeting. The only right to attend he will then have will be the same as any other Councillor who is not on a particular committee.
He cannot be excluded from full council and he will have to attend as otherwise he could lose his council seat on the basis of not attending a meeting for 6 months.
The same rules apply to any public body he is appointed to by the council. Membership of Public bodies not appointed to by the council is a private matter between the individuals concerned and those organisations.
To partly answer mdj. As far as Council committees are concerned the membership of each committee is decided by full council. As Labour has a majority in the council I assume what will happen is that he will be removed from whatever committees he's on at the next Council meeting. The only right to attend he will then have will be the same as any other Councillor who is not on a particular committee. He cannot be excluded from full council and he will have to attend as otherwise he could lose his council seat on the basis of not attending a meeting for 6 months. The same rules apply to any public body he is appointed to by the council. Membership of Public bodies not appointed to by the council is a private matter between the individuals concerned and those organisations. fjms
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5:21pm Wed 27 Feb 13

mdj says...

Thank you for this reply, but questions still remain.

'the membership of each committee is decided by full council.'
...which now appears to take its direction from an internal decision of the Labour party.'
If the Council were (hypothetically) to refuse to accept the penalty, what then?
'The same rules apply to any public body he is appointed to by the council..'

So does this mean that he was appointed to all those lucrative health Chairmanships by the Council (a total of about £45,000 p.a., from memory)?
On what basis of merit and open selection, one wonders?

What about all that fog of indistinguishable business promotion quangos? Will this include that strange gryphon-like mongrel North London Business, whose Chief Executive Mr Ince has mysteriously 'unresigned' since the scandal of his conflict of interest last summer?

There seems to be an alarming blurring of accountabilities here.
I'm still to be persuaded that the disciplinary panel's original outsourcing of Mr Akram's penalty to the Labour Party's internal procedures was lawful.
Thank you for this reply, but questions still remain. 'the membership of each committee is decided by full council.' ...which now appears to take its direction from an internal decision of the Labour party.' If the Council were (hypothetically) to refuse to accept the penalty, what then? 'The same rules apply to any public body he is appointed to by the council..' So does this mean that he was appointed to all those lucrative health Chairmanships by the Council (a total of about £45,000 p.a., from memory)? On what basis of merit and open selection, one wonders? What about all that fog of indistinguishable business promotion quangos? Will this include that strange gryphon-like mongrel North London Business, whose Chief Executive Mr Ince has mysteriously 'unresigned' since the scandal of his conflict of interest last summer? There seems to be an alarming blurring of accountabilities here. I'm still to be persuaded that the disciplinary panel's original outsourcing of Mr Akram's penalty to the Labour Party's internal procedures was lawful. mdj
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6:08pm Wed 27 Feb 13

Techno3 says...

"There seems to be an alarming blurring of accountabilities here."

I have no recollection of genuine 'accountability' at our council for many years.
"There seems to be an alarming blurring of accountabilities here." I have no recollection of genuine 'accountability' at our council for many years. Techno3
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6:29pm Wed 27 Feb 13

NT says...

"Labour Party rules exist to ensure the highest levels of probity, integrity and honesty amongst its members and the group’s decision illustrates that failure to meet these standards will not be tolerated.“

Surely the funniest comment on this website for many years?
"Labour Party rules exist to ensure the highest levels of probity, integrity and honesty amongst its members and the group’s decision illustrates that failure to meet these standards will not be tolerated.“ Surely the funniest comment on this website for many years? NT
  • Score: 0

7:05pm Wed 27 Feb 13

mdj says...

'Surely the funniest comment on this website for many years?'

Another quote from that fearless and forthright orator, the Anonymous Spokesman.
Does the reluctance to be identified reveal an unwillingness to be seen as the hand that wielded the knife? Do we see the same agency at work as the one that deposed a previous Council Leader the day he was absent at his mother's funeral?

As the next elections slowly loom over the horizon, Fairtrade, T.U.-made cutlery must be thudding between fraternal shoulder blades across the borough!
'Surely the funniest comment on this website for many years?' Another quote from that fearless and forthright orator, the Anonymous Spokesman. Does the reluctance to be identified reveal an unwillingness to be seen as the hand that wielded the knife? Do we see the same agency at work as the one that deposed a previous Council Leader the day he was absent at his mother's funeral? As the next elections slowly loom over the horizon, Fairtrade, T.U.-made cutlery must be thudding between fraternal shoulder blades across the borough! mdj
  • Score: 0

7:09pm Wed 27 Feb 13

mdj says...

'As Labour has a majority in the council I assume what will happen is that he will be removed from whatever committees he's on at the next Council meeting..' (fjms)
..which merely highlights that the outsourcing of this decision to a body that is not a member of the corporation was redundant, as well as of dubious legality.
'As Labour has a majority in the council I assume what will happen is that he will be removed from whatever committees he's on at the next Council meeting..' (fjms) ..which merely highlights that the outsourcing of this decision to a body that is not a member of the corporation was redundant, as well as of dubious legality. mdj
  • Score: 0

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