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THE Mayor, the Council Leader, the Constitution and the ongoing Haringey constitutional crisis

Mayor Sheila Peacock

Leader Joseph Ejiofor

YESTERDAY Dave Hill published on his OnLondon website a description of last Thursday's Haringey Council Labour Group (virtual) meeting. Multiple sources have confirmed to me the accuracy of this account.

A duly constituted meeting of the ruling group of a London Local Authority was actually boycotted by the Leader the Council, the Mayor, the Cabinet and about seven or eight other Councillors. Included in this extraordinary, orchestrated boycott, I speculate that the others were cronies, family members and the hardest-Left (including an influential Stalinist). They numbered 19, whereas the majority who did attend totalled 22.

The underlying reason for the boycott was the fear of the council leader, that in any Group election he could lose his position. Plus his friends and family might also lose their positions, all of which enjoy extra payments from the public purse, ranging in size from an extra £17,000 to an extra £34,000.

Most of the most valuable positions are directly under the control ("patronage") of the Council Leader who is the elected Leader of the Majority Group. He or she has approximately £230,000 to bestow on the Cabinet roles he or she distributes. It might surprise members of the public to know just how much the Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) influence these machinations. 

Of course, none of these grubby money matters would remotely be cited as the reason for the boycott.

Nor would be cited even the surface reason for the petulant boycott, which is that the leader feared losing a vote about the Council's Annual Meeting. He was right in that much. Bringing forward the date of the Council AGM was the first item of business on the Agenda and the Leader does not want to do that because it would reverse his earlier decision to delay and because of what it could lead to.

The Leader and the Mayor agreed between them to delay the Council AGM by 12 months (styled by resident Martin Ball as the Ejiofor-Peacock Pact, of which more below).

AGMs are normally held in May, but the Ejiofor-Peacock Pact re-scheduled it to May of next year. Note the typo mistakes in Council website calendar entry (above). That suggests to me that Council Officers may not be comfortable with the crude attempt to undermine democracy.

In order to hold a Council AGM, both Council Groups would have had to have held meetings, and elections for the elected positions, including leader. (The council minority Group have already held their elections on 1 July 2020).

The council leader used the excuse of the coronavirus to delay the Council AGM for an unnecessarily long 12 months, exploiting a clause in the Council Constitution that may never been used before. The Constitution allows for a previously fixed date for a council meeting to be altered by agreement between just two people: the Mayor (or Deputy Mayor) plus the Leader.

It is apparent that the Constitution envisaged a sudden force majeure, such as a fire or flood at the venue for the annual meeting, perhaps a day beforehand and requiring a quick decision to postpone the meeting for say a week or two until another venue could be arranged. Not a delay for a year, or in order to avoid a Group election.

The council would not be in the current governance crisis without the agreement of a craven Mayor. The incumbent Mayor enjoys the role, has occupied it repeatedly and gives the appearance of wanting to continue in the role indefinitely. The position of Mayor attracts an extra allowance of almost £17,000 and is also elected.

The Constitution never envisaged an AGM delay of 12 months.

If a 12 month delay were necessary—which it is not currently—then it ought to require the agreement of more than two Members of the Council. The Constitution is deficient and needs an overhaul in this and other respects.

Is it not clear, that the Mayor of the London Borough of Haringey has exploited her formal civic position—not only for Party purposes—but for internal, factional reasons? Is the Mayor—like the Leader—also keen to avoid an open competition? Does the Mayor want to remembered for suppressing democracy or could she rescind her decision?

The 12-monthly election of a group leader is in effect, a licence for a limited period and not a coronation valid until the king (or queen) is deposed.

Even at the best of times, the opportunity for scrutiny of council business is limited. Now we have virtual meetings that are significantly less effective. And on top of that, we have an autocratic Leader who is now even further beyond democratic control than before.

We are ill-served.

Tags: AGM, Borough, Constitution, Dave Hill, Haringey, Haringey Council, Joseph Ejiofor, OnLondon, Rotten, Sheila Peacock, More…crisis

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This is jolly interesting, bit of a boardroom power struggle, soap opera sort of thing. But presumably the absentees knew that none of it would make the slightest bit of difference. The Peacock-Ejiofor pact prevails, the nepotism continues, and little will change until May of next year, even, if then.

If Dave Hill even dimly remembered his former days as a Guardian journalist he might recall one of the tasks - to consider the implications of what's going on in Haringey. Or more likely failing to go on.

I suppose, Adrian, that if we have to rely on Mr Hill's thorough and resolutely self-congratulatory preening into the mirror then we might dismiss the Haringey events as "a soap opera"; or "a boardroom struggle". Comment and analysis? No thanks. Downsized-Dave shut that branch down.

So how supremely fortunate there's nothing much happening in Haringey at the moment. Nothing important or scary which might need new thinking. May need urgency; or openness and fresh-air. Or perhaps some cross-party and community cooperation.

Phew, that's okay then.
We can rely on the same faces, same voices, same banalities. Born free, the same mayors stay in golden chains. How about a new logo? Or some Leaderly town-twinning with Ruritania? Why not relax and drift merrily merrily down the stream?  Life is but a dream of Leaders-and-mayors-for-life. Golden slumbers kiss our eyes. Golden-hello-oh-it's-you-again-for-another-year.

ALTHOUGH the nepotism continues, it appears that the Ejiofor-Peacock Pact has collapsed and the three-month Constitutional crisis is now over.

The date of the Council's AGM has been rescheduled for the second time, effectively reversing the intent of the Pact to delay for one year.

The supposed reason for the delay was the coronavirus pandemic, notwithstanding that other meetings in Haringey and other Boroughs were able to continue, even if not quite as normal (i.e. virtually, by Zoom or Teams), even if without the usual pomp and ceremony.

Either Mayor Peacock has finally recognised that meetings are still possible, or the previously autocratic Leader has been overcome by feelings of democracy, or Ejiofor has been outmanoeuvred by more democratic members of his Group who actually wanted the Council AGM.

The delay in the Council AGM meant that the Ejiofor could also postpone the date of his own Labour Group AGM at which he was uncertain he would again be elected as Leader.

At the end of an exchange of emails on the subject, Joseph Ejiofor sent his final (written) word to the then leader of the Opposition, Liz Morris. It was copied to every Haringey Councillor:

Suffice to say that the next Council AGM will be on Thursday 20th of May 2021.

Email sent Friday
May 22, 2020
at 11:24:01 PM

There's an as yet unconfirmed report that the date of the AGM has been brought back to September 2020 in this....https://skwawkbox.org/2020/07/17/exclusive-right-chickens-out-of-ra...

Bob, I wouldn't take the Skwawkbox seriously for more than two seconds - at least on this topic.

How strange that people who self-identify as on "The Left" seem to have such a strong aversion to voting and democracy, debate and dissent.

Indeed. I posted a comment on the above skwawkbox thread which may be deemed contentious: 'It was indefensible to postpone the AGM (and any linked meetings) until May.' [I meant May 2021 of course].

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