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CALL-Ins are the prime check-and-balance on the overweening power wielded by Local Government Cabinets.
If at least five Councillors sign a form that is attached to Cabinet Minutes, within five days of their publication, then a Decision of Cabinet is "Called-In" to an unscheduled meeting of another council committee: Overview and Scrutiny.
This is what happened in respect of the recent Decision to dispose of a large, mainly council-owned site in West Green Road, called the Red House. The Call-In was heard last night (and has been referred back to Cabinet for re-consideration).
More often than not, a Call-In is made by Opposition Councillors. However on this occasion, 9 (nine) Labour Councillors signed the Call-In (below), which is their absolute Right under the Council Constitution.
Above: the signatories who are the Red House Nine
The current Council Leader—Joseph Ejiofor—is understood to have been livid about this temerity and threatened to impose the most severe sanctions, including Suspension of all nine Members from the Labour Group.
It is yet another instance of the quality of his judgement, as the threat to Suspend nine of his colleagues is credible by no one except Cllr Ejiofor. Because of the idleness of the threat, he weakens his authority further.
The merits of a Call-In are independent of the Right of (any) five councillors to Call-in a decision.
When the dictatorship and hypocrisy of the threat was pointed out, there was some back-pedalling. The fury has metamorphosed into merely an administrative question.
The following message was sent to me and is believed to be genuine. It appears to have been authored by Cllr Ejiofor on Sunday and was sent to me slightly redacted. In a sense, it sets out the difference between democracy and Labour Group democracy.
[to his earlier credit, Joseph Ejiofor actually led a Call-in on the Hornsey Town Hall Disposal Decision, hence the charge of hypocrisy. He's martialing the same arguments against the Red House Nine, as Cllr Kober used against him]
---------- Original Message ----------
From: Joseph Ejiofor
Subject: Red House Call-In and Labour group democracy
This is just a brief note to clarify a couple of issues surrounding tomorrow's Call-In of an agreed Labour group decision by 9 Labour Councillors. I note that some social media circles are dubbing them the "Red House 9".
I sent the following email to Labour group members, in response to an email sent by [...] to group the previous day. It is not for me to forward on [...] original email, but I think that it is important for [...] to have sight of my emailed response to him.
For the avoidance of doubt, I have not asked for any individual to be suspended, however, I have asked for the Chief Whip to investigate whether their actions broke any national Labour Party rules, or Haringey Labour group standing orders.
Subject: Red House and Labour group democracy
Thank you for your email, [...]
Unfortunately, having read and re-read the six documents you appended, and read the content of the Call-In, in amongst the smoke and mirrors, I was unable to unearth any “significant new information” that was unavailable to Labour group.
And it is the issue of “significant new information” that is important, because your decision to Call-In the Red House Yard proposals are not about the merits of the proposal itself. It is about Labour group democracy, Labour group integrity, Labour group cohesion. For democracy to work, once robust debate has occurred, and all concerned have come to a majority decision, those within the minority position have to accede to the majority position and abide by the conclusion. What is the point of having any discussion or debate otherwise, if only one side is committed to abiding by the outcome?
The content of the Call-In contained no “significant new information”. Our Standing orders are clear on this.
8.12 No motion to rescind a resolution of the group shall be valid within three months from the date on which the resolution was carried, except where significant new information has come to light since the original decision was reached.
You have sought to use the public Call-In process as a means of seeking to undermine a democratically taken decision by Haringey Labour group. Group had a briefing; group had a debate; group took a vote; group came to a settled view. If a two-thirds majority was needed [...] it would say so in the standing orders.
In amongst all of the different forums, different people were asked different questions; sometimes the same questions in different ways. I believe that all people answered honestly – However the fact that not all answers matched exactly over each session is not the required “significant new information” necessary to justify ignoring an agreed decision of our Labour group.
Red House Yard is not a private-public partnership taking in huge swathes of Wood Green and the Council’s commercial portfolio. It is one of the routes through which we will deliver the 1,000 additional Council homes within four years that we promised in our manifesto. It is clear through the Housing Delivery Plan that we agreed at the last Cabinet, that Red House Yard is not a blueprint for things to come. But it will deliver 46 new Council homes at least 2 years sooner than we can do ourselves. When you go back to your ward members, tell them why you called this decision in, a decision fully in line with our manifesto commitments. Tell them why you think it is OK for people who desperately need secure Council accommodation to wait at least an extra two years before having a chance of getting some. Tell them why you are happy for us to miss our target of an additional 1,000 Council Homes at Council rents by 2022. Make sure it forms part of your monthly report to members.
Again, since it is clear that with no “significant new information” provided within the Call-In, that you would fail under the 3-month rule to have this decision brought back to group to be reconsidered, the fact that you have used a public forum to oppose agreed Haringey Labour group policy, is a clear breach of at least two sections within the Labour Party rule book, and two sections of our own standing orders.
When you stood as a Labour group officer, you committed yourself to “contribute to group unity and cohesiveness” and to “Maintain the Labour group’s integrity”. Your actions belie the sincerity of these commitments. You simply cannot pick and choose which decisions of Labour group to respect, and which you feel comfortable ignoring. Quite simply, either EVERY member of our Labour group is bound by ALL Labour Party rules and standing orders, or NONE of us are bound by ANY. I know what the national and Regional party feel about that binary choice.
Red House Yard is not the Haringey Development Vehicle. The proposal here is fully in line with our manifesto commitments to deliver 1,000 Council homes by 2022. Labour group have had a briefing, group have had a debate; group have taken a vote; group have come to a settled view.
The fact that you didn’t like the outcome, is no justification for publicly opposing what is now Labour group policy in the way that you are.
Cllr Joseph Ejiofor
Leader | Haringey Council
Red House Call-In supporters outside Haringey Civic Centre
Public members of a Delegation to the Red House Call-In
From left: two Council officials; two Councillors: Chair of the Overview
& Scrutiny Committee Lucia das Neves and Vice Chair, Pippa Connor
Call-in Councillors: three of the Red House Nine
Two Cabinet Members: (left) previously disgraced Cllr Adje, recently promoted to lead Member for
Finance as well as Strategic Regeneration (right) Cllr Ibrahim, Housing and Ex-Deputy Leader
Presumably when this goes back to cabinet they will simply say how right they were all along and carry on as though nothing had happened.
Yes. We'll soon know: the unscheduled Cabinet Meeting—to consider Scrutiny's recommendations—is tonight at 18:30.
The venue has been switched from the Council Chamber to George Meehan House, further up the road on the other side (formerly Woodside House).
Conveniently for the Leadership, there are no webcast facilities there.
Open to the public and photography, of course.
All the publicity I have seen for this disposal says that the council housing stock will be increased.
Para 4.27 says the developer has complete control over the specification of the buildings to be erected, and the council might buy them, as indeed might anyone else.
Para 4.30 says this is just a land sale.
Para 4.32 says "the freehold of these new build units will then be acquired (by the Council)"
So LBH will, or might, but doesn't have to, buy the Paul Simon Magic New Builds , but it will , without any question at all, increase the available council housing stock in the most efficient way possible.
Current Haringey Council Leader, Joseph Ejiofor
ARE the council not appearing to try to get around procurement rules, by characterising this peculiar deal as simply a straightforward land sale?
As expected, the Cabinet met in the newly refurbished Woodside House and rubber-stamped their earlier decision.
From answers given at the Call-In to Scrutiny, the council seems to be depending on the goodwill of PS Magic Homes to sell new houses back the council. The whole business is bizarre.
It was right that the #RedHouseNine Called-In this strange, municipal property disposal, but questions remain and are unanswered. As far as the council leader is concerned, the deal is done and dusted.
All that remains is to decide how to discipline the #RedHouseNine: i.e. the nine Labour Councillors who had had the audacity to ask questions. His earlier hinting that he would Suspend all nine was never credible. He may instead try to single out a few of the nine, in order to make an example of them.
His democratic instincts are not entirely obvious.
THE latest development in connection with the Call-In of the controversial Red House Disposal appears to involve anti-semitism: within the Council Cabinet:
THE question for the current council leader (Joseph Ejiofor) as to how to discipline the #RedHouseNine, has been overtaken by events. The disposal has been controversial and that argument was heard also in a pre-Cabinet meeting.
Official Cabinet meetings, held in public, are stage-managed, stilted-theatre, normally with no discussion among Cabinet Members. However, in a private, pre-Cabinet meeting about Red House, former Whip Gideon Bull is alleged to have offered anti-semitic insults at the sole Jewish member of the cabinet, the Deputy Leader Zena Brabazon.
A formal Complaint is understood to have been lodged with Labour Party HQ.
As is often the case with such matters, witnesses will be needed. And therein lies the rub:
What evidence will Cabinet Members supply to Labour Party investigators?
Or will it pan out roughly along the lines of the film 12 Angry Men?
It was a private meeting chaired by Joseph Ejiofor. The Council Leader dramatically sacked Cllr Brabazon on New Year's Eve (together with Cllr. Ahmet). However, since May 2019, Cllr Brabazon is back in Cabinet as Deputy Leader, following a vote in the Majority Group (replacing Cllr. Ibrahim).
All other Cabinet members owe their title, status and £25,000 extra-allowance to Joseph Ejiofor.
THERE are three versions (modes or stages) of a Haringey Council Cabinet meeting:
The third version is held for official recording purposes. There is little to no meaningful discussion among cabinet members and the leader seeks ritual agreement. (The current leader would likely sack anyone who publicly disagreed with him). This is why these rubber-stamp meetings are so stilted and Delegations by the public have so little influence.
This is what passes for democracy, in Haringey.