Report found Town Hall response to alleged sexual harassment case 'disturbing'

Conservative sexual harassment complaint report

A 2019 report by the Conservative Party found a 'disturbing' failure by Havering Council to act on a sexual harassment complaint against a councillor. - Credit: Charles Thomson

A report into sexism at Havering Council this month was not the first to raise concerns about a “disturbing” culture at the authority, the Recorder can reveal.

Another report used the same word to describe the council's response to harassment allegations almost three years earlier.

Two weeks ago, a Local Government Association (LGA) report said sexism was “normalised” at the Town Hall.

But in early 2019, an investigation by the Conservative Party reached a similar conclusion.

The 2019 report was compiled by a disciplinary panel after Tory councillor Melvin Wallace was accused of sexually harassing fellow councillor Linda Trew.

Linda Trew and Melvin Wallace

A Conservative Party disciplinary panel looked into allegations that Cllr Melvin Wallace (right) had sexually harassed Cllr Linda Trew (left). - Credit: Steve Poston

Cllr Wallace – who, according to leaflets distributed in Gooshays, will seek re-election next year – denied the claims, but was permanently expelled from the party.

Mrs Trew showed the Recorder a copy of the ruling, which used similar language to the recent LGA report.

A spokesperson from Havering Council said because the 2019 allegation was not related to "council business", it was "always a matter for the Conservative Party to resolve".

The 2019 panel found Mrs Trew had reported Cllr Wallace’s alleged behaviour to the council.

It said "little appears to have been done adequately to correct or sanction" the alleged behaviour, and "the lack of support offered to the complainant is disturbing and a matter of concern to the panel".

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Mrs Trew said she decided to make the document public after reading about the LGA report.

She said she found it “laughable” that the council now said it was dedicated to tackling sexism.

“Their mantra is to brush it under the carpet,” she said. “It is normalised practice at the Town Hall.”

Havering Council said: “As the incident leading to this did not happen on council business, this was always a matter for the Conservative Party to resolve.

“The council will never condone any kind of sexual harassment. If this occurs during council business, any allegation will always be investigated thoroughly.”

Cllr Wallace did not respond to requests for comment.

For more, read:

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Havering councillor Melvin Wallace expelled from Conservative Party following sexual harassment investigation

Havering councillor says he was feeling 'naughty' in email after alleged sexual assault on ex-councillor