Former Labour whip given six month committee ban for trying to fix planning vote (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Former Labour whip Cllr Afzal Akram given six month committee ban in Waltham Forest for trying to fix 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.“
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