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'Black and white council staff won't be able to work together' if Havering and Newham councils merge services - Havering councillor

PUBLISHED: 09:05 22 November 2013 | UPDATED: 09:29 22 November 2013

Cllr Tucker claims his comments were misunderstood

Cllr Tucker claims his comments were misunderstood

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White council officers from Havering will find it "awkward and uncomfortable" to work with their black counterparts in Newham if the two boroughs go ahead with plans to merge their back office services, a Rainham councillor has claimed.

His comments have been branded “dangerous” and “extraordinarily offensive” by a London Assembly member.

Cllr Jeffrey Tucker, who leads the Independent Residents’ Group that includes Havering’s only black councillor, said the proposed merger would be like putting “an African team and an English team” together.

He claimed that he has been losing sleep over the issue.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” he said, before heading into Havering Council’s cabinet meeting to discuss the issue on Wednesday. “I can’t see the two councils being able to work together.

“We’ve got 95 per cent white English workers in Havering Council and Newham Council is 95 per cent not white English.

“It would be like putting two football teams together – an African team and an English team – and saying: ‘Get on and work together’.”

He asserted that working with Newham Council officers would be like being “pushed in at the deep end” for Havering Council’s workforce.

Andrew Boff, the London Assembly’s Conservative group leader, said he was “dumbstruck” by the remarks.

“There’s an inference that people of African origin can’t get on with people who are ethnically white,” said Mr Boff. “That’s deeply offensive.

“I can’t understand why, in 2013, this councillor seems to think that an attitude that separates people because of race is OK.

“Havering is getting more diverse, and he needs to buck up his ideas.

“His comments must be terribly offensive to people in his ward with African heritage.”

Cllr Tucker has represented Rainham and Wennington since 2002, and in 2010 won his seat by the biggest majority in Havering.

The ward’s population is 16 per cent non-white, according to statistics from the 2011 census, which makes it one of the most diverse in the borough.

Mr Boff called for Havering Council to step in and offer Cllr Tucker some diversity awareness training.

The Recorder has requested a comment from Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales on Cllr Tucker’s views.

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