Canning Town councillor suspended following fraud allegations

A councillor has been suspended by the Labour Party following allegations of fraud.

The accusations emerged during a trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court last month where Cllr Paul Schafer, who represents the Canning Town North ward, gave evidence on behalf of Newham Council in a prosecution against Mark, 39, and Michelle Hackett, 42, of Barkfield Drive, Barking, who worked for Newham Community Recycling, known locally as The Wombles, and skip hire operator Nathan Gooden, 31 of Grays, Essex.

Serving employees of Newham Community Recycling also gave evidence on behalf of the Council.

The trial was stopped by Judge Murray Shanks and Newham Council is appealing the decision in the High Court to stay the proceedings.

Afterwards, Cllr Schafer was placed on administrative suspension from the Labour Party.

Newham Labour group whip Cllr Steve Brayshaw, who represents the Royal Docks ward, said: “He is still a member of the Labour Party and a Labour councillor until such time as he has been given a fair hearing and a chance to clear his name.

“I have taken the decision not to comment and not to say very much about this at all because it could become a police matter and I could be called to give evidence.

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“Cllr Schafer has proclaimed his innocence and he should be given the opportunity to prove the allegations untrue.”

Newham Council has launched an internal investigation into issues raised following the trial, and it has begun a forensic analysis into all payments made by the Council to The Wombles.

Officials have also written to the chair of the Standards Advisory Committee regarding Cllr Schafer’s alleged conduct and interests and they have sought advice from a prosecution barrister.

A Newham Council spokesperson added: “We are disappointed that the prosecution has stalled and intend to appeal that decision. The Council will not tolerate any fraud or corruption of Council Tax payers irrespective of the source.

“We have reported our concerns to the police and have begun an internal investigation.

“Where there is any evidence of criminal activity we will fully support any investigation or prosecution.”

The Council has also given notice to end their working relationship with The Wombles and services previously provided by them have been taken back in house.

The Recorder approached Cllr Schafer but he did not wish to comment.