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Decision on investigation into council leader postponed at the last minute

PUBLISHED: 17:19 01 October 2020

Havering Council leader Damian White (centre) must wait to hear whether he will be investigated over an alleged gerrymandering plot, after Timothy Ryan (right) pulled out of a meeting and chairman Matt Sutton (left) postponed the decision.

Havering Council leader Damian White (centre) must wait to hear whether he will be investigated over an alleged gerrymandering plot, after Timothy Ryan (right) pulled out of a meeting and chairman Matt Sutton (left) postponed the decision.

Archant

A decision on whether Havering’s council leader should face further investigation over gerrymandering allegations has been postponed at the last minute.

Council leader Damian White was secretly recorded in February claiming he had been allowed to Council leader Damian White was secretly recorded in February claiming he had been allowed to "influence" the council's electoral boundary proposals, to make them "politically advantageous". Picture: Havering Council

A meeting was due to be held this afternoon over two formal complaints against Conservative council chief Damian White.

The complaints were filed after Cllr White was secretly recorded in February, claiming in a Tory group meeting that he had been allowed to “influence” the council’s electoral ward boundary proposals, to make them “politically advantageous”.

A three-councillor panel was due to decide at 4pm today whether he should face further investigation, as recommended by an independent investigator.

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The Romford Recorder revealed on Tuesday that two of the councillors were Conservatives and one – Timothy Ryan – had been actively involved in the meeting where Cllr White made the controversial comments.

The meeting began half an hour late this afternoon. Moments after the live feed started, Cllr Ryan pulled out of the meeting, citing the Recorder’s coverage.

He said: “I would like to express an interest of obviously being noted in the transcript and also the local newspapers. So I feel that my input into this meeting – I wouldn’t like to in any way, shape or form digress from the integrity of this meeting. So I would like to excuse myself from this meeting please, Mr Chairman.”

Fellow Conservative Matt Sutton, chairing the panel, responded: “That is a reasonable request and, I think it’s fair to say, for it to be granted.”

A council officer said Cllr Sutton and independent Linda Van den Hende were entitled to continue as a two-member panel, but Cllr Sutton said he would prefer to adjourn.

A new date for the meeting has not yet been announced.


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