Council refuses to publish dossier on racism and sexism allegations

Havering Town Hall

In a meeting on Wednesday night, Havering councillors were told they could not view a 400-page dossier detailing discrimination allegations. Pictured is council leader Damian White. - Credit: Archant

Havering councillors have been banned from viewing a 400-page dossier detailing alleged discrimination within the council.

Councillors will be asked to sign off next week on a plan to tackle the problems, but were told on Wednesday, November 10, that they could not view the complaints which provoked it.

A report presented to the cabinet meeting said that in the interests of “candour”, the council had commissioned a “warts and all” exercise to uncover discrimination.

But the resulting “400-page internal self-assessment” is being kept under wraps.

Council leader Damian White said that when staff members were responding, “no one thought that would then be released”.

“To betray those members of staff’s confidences would not be something that we would wish to do,” he said.

Councillor Damian White, leader of Havering Council. Picture: Mark Sepple/Havering Council

Councillor Damian White is inviting residents to take a minute to remember the Covid-19 victims. - Credit: Mark Sepple

In September, the Romford Recorder obtained a “feedback report” by Local Government Association (LGA) inspectors who had uncovered a “disturbing” culture at Havering Council, where racism and sexism were “normalised”.

Whilst praising senior leaders for their willingness to fix the problems, the report said inspectors heard anecdotal evidence of discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality and disability.

Cllr Ray Morgon said he did not see how the HSE could be sure it was getting the full picture.

Cllr Ray Morgon said he did not see how the HSE could be sure it was getting the full picture. - Credit: Archant

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But Ray Morgon, leader of the opposition, told Wednesday’s meeting that the feedback report left him “not quite knowing where the issues lie”.

“Is this mainly an internal problem, or are there problems outside?” he asked. “Does it include councillors? Not include councillors?”

“It’s very generic in many senses,” he said. “And the solutions appear to be quite generic as well. I’m not overly optimistic that it will address the problems.”

Local Government Association report on Havering Council

The Local Government Association published a report in September detailing discrimination claims - but a 400-page internal council dossier is being kept secret - Credit: Charles Thomson

Sandy Hamberger, assistant director of policy, performance and community, said of the council's 400-page dossier: “The reason that’s not in the public domain is that it’s from the grassroots up… It’s not evidenced or factually corroborated.”

She said the cabinet and party leaders had been invited to an LGA briefing where, “in the spirt of openness and transparency”, inspectors disclosed details withheld from their report.

The Recorder had already requested a copy of the dossier under Freedom of Information laws, with any personal information redacted. A decision is due next month.

For more, read:

'Disturbing': Report finds culture of 'normalised' racism and sexism at council

Investigation launched into 'serious' racism allegations at council

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