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Councillor outs himself as Tory mole who secretly recorded boundary change plot

PUBLISHED: 17:00 15 July 2020

A former Tory councillor has outed himself as the mole who secretly recorded colleagues plotting how Havering's electoral wards could be changed to make them more 'politically advantageous'.

A former Tory councillor has outed himself as the mole who secretly recorded colleagues plotting how Havering's electoral wards could be changed to make them more 'politically advantageous'.

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A former Tory councillor has unmasked himself as the insider who covertly recorded his colleagues in a meeting earlier this year.

Bob Perry quit the Conservative group weeks after making the covert audio recording. Picture: Havering Council.Bob Perry quit the Conservative group weeks after making the covert audio recording. Picture: Havering Council.

A disgruntled councillor has outed himself as the Conservative mole who secretly recorded a meeting where his colleagues plotted a series of “politically advantageous” boundary changes.

Bob Perry wrote an open letter to the Romford Recorder in which he admitted to being behind the secret recording – and called for his former leader, Damian White, to resign as council chief.

In the letter, he wrote: “I had no choice but to record the meeting, as it was the only way of providing evidence of this wrongdoing.”

Both Cllr White and Havering Council have strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Council leader Damian White was recorded talking about how to make boundary changes 'politially advantageous' for the Conservatives - but insisted this was 'entirely normal'. Picture: Havering CouncilCouncil leader Damian White was recorded talking about how to make boundary changes 'politially advantageous' for the Conservatives - but insisted this was 'entirely normal'. Picture: Havering Council

Cllr Perry’s recording captured a private Conservative group meeting in February where councillors could be heard discussing the Local Government Boundary Commission for England’s (LGBCE) review of how Havering is split up into electoral wards.

Councillors discussed ways to rearrange borders and populations which would help the Conservatives in future elections, such as giving three councillors to traditionally Tory wards but only two to those less likely to vote Conservative.

Cllr White claimed on the recording that the council’s chief executive had allowed him to “influence” the proposals and had also agreed that council procedure could be used to “filter” four proposed options down to whichever one was most beneficial to the Conservatives.

Havering Council released a statement in which it “utterly refuted” Cllr White’s claims and insisted the chief executive had been impartial at all times.

The covert audio recording captured Havering Tories in a private meeting at the Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears.The covert audio recording captured Havering Tories in a private meeting at the Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears.

Cllr White told the Recorder that it was “entirely normal” for political parties to respond to consultations over boundary changes.

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But opposition councillors said there was a difference between responding as a political party and using council procedure to submit “politically advantageous” proposals as a formal council submission.

The Havering Residents Associations claimed the democratic process had been subverted by the actions discussed on the recording – but the council insisted all political groups had been given an opportunity to influence the submission.

The HRA has also called for Cllr White’s resignation.

Explaining his decision to record the meeting, Cllr Perry wrote to the Recorder: “When I was elected, I took an oath to serve the people to the best of my ability, to conduct myself in an honest manner and have the integrity to do right by the public.

“They put their trust in me and I would be failing in my duty to them by idly sitting by and doing nothing.

“In his actions, the leader of the council has shown his utter contempt for the public... I would urge Cllr White to finally do the decent thing and resign as council leader.”

Cllr Perry quit the Conservative group weeks after the recording was made, blaming a culture of “bullying and dictatorial behaviour” within the group – an allegation the group strongly denied.

Labour MP Jon Cruddas, for Rainham, demanded a “full investigation” into the “abuse of power”.

The LGBCE said it could not act on the tape recording and accompanying formal complaint because they related to “motives”, which were an issue it was unable to take into consideration.

It said its proposed alterations to Havering’s council wards would be published by the end of this month, after which residents would have 10 weeks to respond with opinions and suggestions.

The Recorder has contacted Cllr White for a comment on calls for his resignation.


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