Council Leader Apologises Over Controversial Residents' Letter

Standards Committee accepts recommendation of independent inquiry

Merton Council leader Stephen Alambritis has apologised over a controversal consultation latter about a potential council tax increase.

The letter sent to people living in St Helier and addressed from "Your St Helier Labour Councillors" included a Freepost envelope to return a response to Merton Council.

It was posted to residents in that ward when the council was carrying out its formal consultation into using the precept allowed by the Government for it to raise £1.7m through to spend on adult social care in 2017-19.

The letter, which was sent last October, was signed by Councillor Alambritis and three other Labour Councillors.

Those responses were not included in the council's official consultation, but the use of the Freepost cost it £1,117.

Mitcham and Mordern Labour party paid the council back last year, but councillors agreed its Standards and General Purposes Committee should carry out an investigation.

An independent investigator's report concluded that Councillor Alambritis did not breach the Council's protocol on use of resources. It was a "breach for which he has already apologised", said the report.

It also found he didn't breach the Council's code of conduct in relation to its requirements for 'leadership' or 'objectivity'.

But it recommended he consider making a formal apology to the Standards and General Purposes Committee for his actions. It recommended the apology should recognise that the Labour party letter caused "confusion" among many of its recipients as well as damaging trust and confidence in the council generally and in him as Council Leader.

A second recommendation said the Council needed to ensure the requirements of the protocol on use of council resources are reinforced generally with the political groups.

The report's findings were agreed at a meeting of the Standards and General Purposes Committee on Tuesday (May 9).

Councillor Alambritis told the meeting that if recipients of the Labour Party communication felt confused, then he apologised for it. He also said he would do all he could to expediate the second recommendation.

After the meeting he added: "This was an important subject that people expect their elected politicians to have a view on, and I'd like to thank everyone who responded to my letter in that spirit, as their comments helped us councillors to make a balanced and fair decision."

What do you think? Why not comment on our forum?

May 12, 2017

Related links
Related Links

Stephen Alambritis