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Council tight-lipped over alleged ‘corruption’ probe

PUBLISHED: 07:01 08 November 2018 | UPDATED: 17:31 08 November 2018

The council offices at Newham Dockside. Picture: Ken Mears

The council offices at Newham Dockside. Picture: Ken Mears

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Newham council is remaining tight-lipped about a reports it is launching a “truth commission” to explore allegations of corruption within its ranks.

Rokhsana Fiaz~1Rokhsana Fiaz~1

Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz intends to set up a barrister-led inquiry into a string of allegations made about historic council activity, according to magazine Private Eye.

It reported the scope of the inquiry includes the influence of organised criminals and ex-police officers on the council’s enforcement, procurement and planning departments.

But Newham Council, which has stated its commitment to openness and transparency, would not answer detailed questions about what was taking place.

However in a statement Ms Fiaz said: “The interim chief executive is taking forward plans to improve our culture and practices and members have briefed on this.

“Some individuals have raised concerns regarding historic issues in relation to council dealings, and I have asked officers to look into them, as we would do with any concerns raised about the council.”

In July this year, following the publication of a report into “flawed” decision-making over Newham’s £40m investment in the Olympic Stadium, the council announced a broader review into the “culture and practices” that had allowed the “decision-making and governance processes… to go unchecked”.

At a meeting of full council that month, the mayor said she would give an update in September on related work to ensure “the future well-being of the London Borough of Newham”.

Former councillor Mike Law, who worked to expose the theft of council “law enforcement” uniforms by crooks issuing ‘spot fines’ in 2012, said: “This is highlighting all the issues with corruption at Newham that were brought to my attention by members of staff, that I raised years ago.

“I was told (at the time) it was all fabrication. I find it quite amazing that suddenly they have turned around.”

He added that there should be a “blanket investigation” into all contracts signed off under the previous administration.

Since Ms Fiaz’s election in May, public questions have been re-introduced at full council while the directly elected mayoral structure will also be reviewed.

As part of her manifesto pledge to clean up the budget, a detailed ‘Finance Health Check’ has also been carried out for Newham by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

The final report has yet to be published, but among the key recommendations are that the council “address weaknesses in governance and financial control at both member and officer levels”.

Meanwhile, a separate ‘Newham Legacy Investments (London Stadium) Scrutiny Commission’ has been resurrected and the membership approved. It includes all lead members of the scrutiny committee.

Two councillors’ expressions of interest in ‘the Commission’ were rejected on the grounds that their “previous and/or current commitments… might be seen as compromising their independence”.

Other councillors have previously spoken out about perceived endemic issues at Newham, including Cllr John Whitworth, who has written about a “culture of complacency” and lack of scrutiny.

In a blog post, he stated that the co-ordinated struggle to remove former mayor Sir Robin Wales from power “did not constitute a simple left-right conflict - it was rather one of democrats versus fixers”.

Sir Robin, who led the council as Labour leader and then mayor for 23 years and now works for centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, has been contacted for comment.

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