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Independent Residents’ Group boycott Havering council meeting in protest against Newham merger

Leader of the Independent Residents' Group, Cllr Jeff Tucker. Leader of the Independent Residents' Group, Cllr Jeff Tucker.

Friday, February 28, 2014
1:15 PM

Empty seats set tongues wagging at Wednesday’s full council meeting, as the Independent Residents’ Group staged a no-show in protest against the back office merger between Havering and Newham councils.

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Cllr David Durant.Cllr David Durant.

During proceedings, fellow councillors took turns to slam the group for missing “one of the most important” meetings of the year, in which budget proposals were debated and eventually passed.

But Independent Residents’ Group (IRG) member, Cllr David Durant confirmed that the absence of all three party representatives was a deliberate protest against the merger, which he claimed was “driven through on the back of a race row” and not publicised.

He said: “We have raised the issue a number of times and don’t feel it’s being reported. Maybe now it will.”

The merger has seen Havering Council merge all of its back-office administrative services with Newham Council.

In November, IRG leader, Cllr Jeffrey Tucker, sparked a race row by saying white council officers would find it “awkward and uncomfortable” to work with non-white colleagues in Newham.

Yesterday (Thu), Cllr Tucker contacted the Recorder from a business trip in Thailand to say although he had never missed a full council meeting in 12 years, even if he had been in the country, the “one-off” protest would have gone ahead.

“The way the council is being run stinks,” he said, “You work hard to put a good idea through and it is discredited.”

After labelling the merger as the “worst ever decision,” Cllr Tucker added that his ejection from January’s full council - for shouting “bullies” in the chamber - also played a part in the decision.

“Of course,” he said. “I am not a dog to be kicked. Kick me enough and I am going to bite back. And they have kicked me too much.

Commenting on the party’s absence, Cllr Lesley Kelly suggested that the group “couldn’t find their crayons.”

Deputy leader, Cllr Michael Armstrong, said: “It’s appalling that they don’t turn up. It shows a lack of commitment.”

To read the Recorder’s stories about the merger and the IRG’s stance, click the links on the right.

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