VIDEO: Havering Council meeting over service merger with Newham erupts
PUBLISHED: 18:13 28 November 2013 | UPDATED: 18:16 28 November 2013
This video footage shows the incredible moment a councillor was physically restrained by members of his own party as order at a meeting discussing the merger of Newham and Havering councils’ back-office services crumbled.
There were ugly verbal exchanges between warring members when a bitter race row debate at Wednesday night’s Havering Council meeting descended into chaos.
Members feared violence would erupt at Havering Town Hall following Cllr Jeffrey Tucker’s refusal to apologise for comments he had made in last week’s Recorder suggesting black and white council officers could not work together.
He had previously called Newham streets “filthy” at a cabinet meeting.
He said: “Our residents understand we have to take our curtains down and wash our windows, but go around Newham and look at some of their curtains and they’re stuck to the windows. You look at the streets and they are filthy. You look at the shops and they aren’t clean like our shops.”
A motion, from the Conservatives, called on Cllr Tucker, leader of the Independent Residents’ Group, to apologise after he said white Havering Council officers would find it “awkward and uncomfortable” to work with non-white Newham colleagues if a back office merger between the authorities went ahead.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” he told the Recorder. “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 95pc 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’.”
Chairman, Mayor Cllr Eric Munday, abandoned the meeting shortly before 11pm as councillors shouted and jeered Cllr Tucker who had demanded the wording of what he was being asked to apologise for was included in the motion.
Issuing an apology without that, Cllr Tucker said, would be “like signing a blank cheque”.
An emotional and highly-agitated Cllr Tucker repeatedly demanded the Conservative group and Havering’s legal officer, Ian Burns, supply him with what he said, before adding that his remarks were “not said in that context”.
In extraordinary scenes after the end of the meeting, Cllr Tucker was restrained by his arms by other councillors after leaving his seat to confront Mr Burns.
An angry exchange took place between Cllr Tucker and Labour’s Cllr Denis Breading, with Cllr Breading telling Cllr Tucker to “bring it on”.
Speaking after the meeting, council leader Cllr Michael White (Con) said he had “never seen anything like it” during his 20 years in office.
Labour group leader Cllr Keith Darvill said he was worried the meeting, which lasted more than five hours, would “end up in some kind of punch-up”.
The authority’s motion for Cllr Tucker to withdraw his statement and “unreservedly apologise” never came to a vote but the merger of back office services between Havering and Newham was approved.
After the meeting Cllr Tucker again said he could not make an apology without knowing all details of what he was being asked to apologise for being included in the motion.
Havering Council’s podcast of the meeting until its official close can be seen here.
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