Complaints lodged against Havering councillors

Havering Council received 16 formal complaints about councillors’ behaviour over a 15-month period.

Twelve councillors faced a number of allegations, from racism and bullying to spreading disinformation and calling each other liars between December 2022 and March this year.

Eight were related to posts uploaded to social media while three concerned councillors’ conduct during meetings, monitoring officer Gavin Milnthorpe said in a report.

One councillor – identified only as Cllr A – received six complaints alone.

The allegations ranged from making misleading statements on Facebook to the bullying of another councillor and being implicitly racist on social media.

While the statements were not found to be misleading, they issued apologies over the allegations of racism and bullying.

Councillors and residents have been totally anonymised in the annual report, with each identified by an unrelated letter of the alphabet. It was discussed during a council meeting held on Wednesday morning (May 29), but it was closed to the public and press.

Eight of the complaints lodged by residents, while the other half were made by councillors against their Town Hall colleagues.

Only one resident lodged more than one complaint. Three councillors submitted more than one.

After a council meeting in March 2023, eight councillors lodged a complaint against a single colleague – ‘Cllr J’ – over allegations they incited antisocial behaviour. The representative in question will discuss their conduct further with the monitoring officer.

Other instances of disruption and disorder involved a councillor swearing during a meeting, councillors failing to respond to constituents, and one member apologised over allegations of blackmail and bribery in August 2023.

The complaints were resolved through a variety of means, though the most common route was for the councillor to issue an apology.

In the case of a member allegedly “spreading rumours and whispers” on Facebook in March 2023, they were “reminded of social media guidance” after an initial assessment.

Only in one instance was a councillor referred up to an assessment panel. Cllr A, the most complained about of Havering’s 55 elected representatives, was accused by two colleagues of being obstructive in January this year.

Three members of the adjudication and review committee will investigate the allegations further, and decide whether it will progress to a formal hearing.

On top of those formally lodged, the monitoring officer received more than 20 queries concerning the behaviour of members.

He said “quite a number” related to “inappropriate language” directed towards Havering Council employees, and the majority were made by councillors or staff.

Complaints issued against councillors are separate from those made against the authority for the services it provides, such as housing or social care.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter