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'I'm not a racist': Rainham's Cllr Jeff Tucker distances himself from comments suggesting black and white council staff couldn't work together

PUBLISHED: 10:07 27 November 2013 | UPDATED: 10:41 27 November 2013

Cllr Jeffrey Tucker

Cllr Jeffrey Tucker

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Embattled Independent Residents' Group leader Cllr Tucker this week sought to distance himself from comments in last week's Recorder which suggested black and white council staff could not work together.

Cllr Michael WhiteCllr Michael White

In face-to-face meetings with the Recorder he repeatedly insisted that he was “not a racist” and that his controversial comments had been misconstrued by the media, politicians and some members of the public.

Last week, Cllr Tucker phoned the Recorder to voice his concerns about the recently-proposed money-saving merger of back-office staff at Havering and Newham councils. It is due before Havering’s full council tonight.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” he had said. “I can’t see the two councils being able to work together.

“We’ve got 95 per cent white English workers in Havering Council and Newham Council is 95pc not white English.

Andrew Boff. Picture: PAAndrew Boff. Picture: PA

“It would be like putting two football teams together – an African team and an English team – and saying: ‘Get on and work together’.”

His comments provoked outrage from an array of political quarters, with Greater London Assembly Conservative member Andrew Boff branding his remarks “extraordinarily offensive” and “dangerous”.

But this week, Cllr Tucker said in a letter, in full below, that he felt the Recorder had afforded him “twisted” and “offensive” publicity.

The comments he had made had nothing to do with the “colour of one’s skin”, he wrote, but was instead a misunderstood analogy.

He wrote: “Using an example on how teams operate differently, an English football team and an African football team, one is defensive, passes the ball and strikes, the other is full on attack.”

Cllr Tucker explained his worries about the merger was three-pronged: that “20 per cent” of Havering’s back office staff would be sacked; that that depleted workforce would spend more time dealing with Newham’s “problems”; and that an alleged pay disparity between the two council officers would cause friction.

Cllr Jeffrey Tucker’s letter:

I wish to respond to the twisted, offensive publicity you gave me last week and I furthermore wish to express my disappointment in the way your paper (Romford Recorder) reported this story and I request you let me put the record straight.

Before I report on the merging of Havering’s back-room services with Newham, I would like to state the set up of the two councils and regarding on how the two teams operate has nothing to do with the colour of one’s skin. To use an example on how teams operate differently, an English football team and an African football team - one is defensive, passes the ball and strikes and the other is full-on attacking. Again on this point, this also has nothing to do with the colour of the player’s skin.

The press, Havering Council’s leader, Cllr Michael White, London Assembly member, Andrew Boff and co. reported it was.

It is these twisted reports and the comments by the press and these leaders that are dangerous and extremely offensive. Without doubt, it is they who should be apologising to the public.

Moving on to the issue of the merger, unless my Independent Residents’ Group and I can somehow stop this by the time the residents read this paper, the two councils would have already merged. This would put our lean but well-run council at risk, sacking 20 per cent or more of our council back-office staff, and once merged our shrunken workforce will inevitably be spending more time dealing with Newham’s problems rather than our own.

The two councils will be required to work together on different wage rates for the same job with the Newham officers taking home the higher pay.

These are just some of the issues now facing our council. These are the reasons I am losing sleep and as said these are the reasons I can’t see how the two councils will be able to work together. This is nothing to do with colour, but finally it must be said, these are just some of the reasons Havering will be in the deep end because once in, it will be extremely expensive to get out.

I am sorry, I tried to warn you all, but the powers-that-be played the race card.

The voice of the people.

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