Havering councillor Fred Osborne: “I’ve been stabbed in the back by being kicked off top committee”
A Romford councillor has hit out at the local Conservative leadership over his dismissal from a top committee, in part for failing to get involved with canvassing work – because he was recovering from open heart surgery.
Cllr Fred Osborne (Conservative, Brooklands) was removed from chairmanship of the Towns and Communities committee earlier this year – partly, according to council leader Cllr Michael White, because of his failure to help with canvassing for the Mayor of London elections in May.
But Cllr Osborne, who underwent surgery for a double heart bypass and replacement valve in January, said the leader was discriminating against him because of his health. The recovery period for heart surgery can be up to a year.
Cllr White argued Cllr Osborne was “not a well man” and therefore “unable to do his job as a chairman of a committee”.
He added his job as a manager was to “promote new talent”. Cllr Osborne, 76, was replaced as chairman by newly elected Hylands councillor Damian White, 26.
Cllr White said Cllr Osborne’s replacement was down to “a combination of a number of things” but criticised his failure to take part in telephone canvassing.
“You don’t have to leave your home to make a telephone call,” he said.
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Cllr Osborne said this wouldn’t have been possible.
“My voice was fading,” he said. “Any length of conversation would have enhanced the cough that I was left with from the operation.”
During his surgery, Cllr Osborne’s lungs were collapsed, leaving him short of breath, physically tired and unable to walk or stand for long periods.
Cllr White pointed to the fact Cllr Osborne had managed to take part in other council work.
“He was still able to come in here and spend three hours chairing a committee meeting two days before the election,” he said.
Cllr Osborne said the committee meeting, which actually lasted for 95 minutes according to the council website, was different from canvassing because it did not put him under stress.
“I can control how much I speak at a meeting,” he explained. “Telephone canvassing can go on and on and on.
“Talking on the phone constantly for two hours isn’t possible, but I can still have a 15-minute conversation with a resident in a relaxed situation.”
Cllr Osborne – now serving his second term after enjoying a two-thirds increase in votes in 2010 – said: “If I weren’t doing a job properly I wouldn’t hesitate in resigning.”
He added: “I’ve been stabbed in the back.”
But the council leader added: “I have a number of colleagues who are ill – one who is much more ill than Cllr Osborne and suffering from cancer, and yet she was able to sit at home and make telephone calls.”
Cllr Osborne said: “I wouldn’t stoop so low as to compare the health of different councillors.”