24 October 2011
In an unprecedented move following the resignation of former Councillor Andrew Lamont who is facing criminal charges, the Labour Opposition Group on Kensington and Chelsea Council have asked the Borough Standards Committee to investigate complaints about the way the Council Leader Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell and his then Chief Whip, Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown handled the matter. Labour Leader Cllr Judith Blakeman and Deputy Leader Cllr Emma Dent Coad claim that their behaviour could have brought the Council into disrepute as they had not acted in accordance with the Council’s Constitution.
Specifically, they claim that the two councillors had:
- Permitted Cllr Lamont to take unpaid leave of absence for 11 months without following correct procedures and in breach of the Council’s Constitution
- Failed to tell members of the Council or the residents of Norland ward that Cllr Lamont had been absent since November 2010
- Not ensured that residents contacting Cllr. Lamont for help were informed that he was unable to respond to them
- Failed to encourage him to resign immediately it became apparent that he could be facing serious criminal charges
- Allowed him to attend a committee meeting in March while on unpaid leave of absence; and
- Appointed to him a scrutiny committee while on unpaid leave without informing the committee’s chairman that he would be unable to take up his duties.
Cllr Blakeman expressed regret that her Group had been obliged to take this course of action. She said “I have tried to resolve these matters in private with the Leader of the Council, without success. In a similar case last year two councillors were asked to resign immediately. We can only assume that Cllr. Lamont was permitted to remain on the Council because the Conservatives wished to avoid a further embarrassing by-election for as long as possible”.
Cllr Dent Coad said “we have asked detailed questions and have not received satisfactory answers. We believe the Council Leader and his Chief Whip did not act in compliance with the Members’ Code of Conduct nor with the Council’s Constitution and this could seriously damage the way the public perceives the Council’s activities”.