March 11 2014 Latest news:
Jane Ball, News Editor
Monday, December 2, 2013
A colleague of the councillor at the centre of a bitter race row has accused Havering’s ruling Conservative group of manufacturing the controversy as a distraction from its major job-shedding proposal.
Cllr Jeff Tucker, leader of the Independent Residents’ Group (IRG), caused widespread outrage when he suggested black and white council staff would be unable to work together.
It followed the announcement by Havering Council that it intended to merge some of its back-offices with Newham Council in a multi-million pound cash-saver which would see around 65 Havering employees lose their jobs.
Cllr Tucker contacted the Recorder to declare the merger a “terrible idea”.
He said: “We’ve got 95 per cent white English workers in Havering Council and Newham Council is 95pc not white English.
“It would be like putting two football teams together - an African team and an English team - and saying ‘Get on and work together’.”
The comments were branded variously “dangerous”, “wrong-headed” and “intolerable” by leaders from across the political spectrum. Cllr Tucker has repeatedly claimed his words were a misunderstood analogy.
Wading into the row this week, Cllr Tucker’s IRG colleague, Cllr David Durant, accused Havering’s cabinet of “creating a race row” to ensure their proposal went largely unchallenged at last week’s full council.
“The Independent Residents’ Group opposed the merger,” said Cllr Durant. “This panicked the Conservative cabinet who feared the proposal would be lost if looked at in a calm and rational way. And they were desperate to avoid a 0.6pc increase in council tax as an alternative to the merger which would threaten their lucrative re-election hopes in May.
“And that’s why they created a race row to intimidate all councillors to support the merger to avoid accusations of racism.
“Their dirty deed worked and only your [the IRG] voted against.”
Havering Council leader Cllr Michael White described the claims as “ludicrous”.
“They are trying to re-write history,” he said. “From my understanding it was they who contacted the Recorder. In fact I’m quite annoyed the real issue of the merger has been deflected: the council will save £4m year-on-year.”
Last Wednesday’s full council ended with ugly verbal volleys between members of the council, and Cllr Tucker being physically restrained by some of his own party, when he refused to apologise for the comments.