Waltham Council misconduct records deleted

Records of past allegations about misbehaving councillors have been lost forever by Waltham Forest Council after a number of emails were deleted.

Waltham resident Charles Edwards, 49, discovered the records do not exist after asking for a list of all councillors who have been investigated for breaching their code of conduct in the last five years.

As required under the Freedom of Information Act, the council gave Charles a list, but it only went back to February 2019.

It told Charles it could not provide any records of earlier investigations, because they have been deleted from the email inbox of legal director Mark Hynes.

Since then, a change to the email system means the council can still recover emails even if they are deleted by a member of staff.

A council officer said: “The director of governance and law has responsibility for all member breaches and has no emails before 2019, which have been deleted from his email folders.”

A spokesperson for the council said complaints which are not upheld are deleted, while more serious complaints are escalated to a public standards committee.

However, the only upheld complaint Charles received a record of – concerning former leader Clare Coghill – “did not need to be referred to the standards committee” as it was “satisfactorily and swiftly resolved”.

This complaint related to a “previously declared interest” and her “partner’s details”, which have now been corrected.

A Waltham Forest spokesperson said: “Councillors have to follow the rules set out in the code of conduct and any complaints received will be thoroughly investigated with the complainant updated with the result.

“If any complainant remains unhappy with the process followed then they can refer the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman.”

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter

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