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AN exchange of emails: the Haringey AGM, the Council Leader and the Leader of the Opposition ~

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor, current council leader, photo ex-Ham & High (Polly Hancock)

Cllr Liz Morris, then Leader of Opposition (up to May 2020); photo ex-LibDem website

THE effort of the Haringey Council Leader to delay the AGM and safeguard £275,000 worth of SRAs

DUE to the practical effects of Coronavirus, around the world democrats and dictators alike—for good and less good reasons—have sought to delay scheduled elections.

In the north London Borough of Haringey, the pandemic was the ostensible reason for an unprecedented arrangement that has been dubbed the Ejiofor-Peacock Pact.

Using justification of Covid-19—and exploiting an inadequate Council Constitution—the “pact” was a formal agreement between the Leader of Haringey Council, Joseph Ejiofor and the Mayor Sheila Peacock to delay the council AGM for one year.

However the excuse of C-19 was the tip of an iceberg.

The less obvious motivation, was to postpone any challenge from within the Council Labour Group to the two Councillors’ positions; to safeguard their Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs)—totalling more than an extra £50,000—and to safeguard the SRAs for all of the Ejiofor-appointed Cabinet Members, totalling more than an extra £225,000.

It needed the agreement of just those two Councillors, but the Council Opposition LibDem Group might be informed …

Below is the written correspondence between the Council Leader and the then Leader of the Opposition (Liz Morris) on the matter of the one-year delay and possible alternatives.

All 57 Members of Haringey Council have either read the exchange below or were able to see it (plus the Chief Executive and Chief Legal Officer).

I have redacted phone numbers and set out the emails in chronological order. The five emails cover a period of four weeks from late April and I publish them as a matter of, and in, the public interest.

A few emails between JE and LM only and prior to the exchange, are absent. And during the period of the exchange that was shared with the whole council, one email is missing and unavailable.

That one concerns the truth of Joseph Ejiofor’s accusation (in his email of 24 April) that a member of the Labour Group had leaked private information to the Leader of the Opposition.

Although Joseph Ejiofor was prepared try to humiliate Liz Morris in front of all 57 Councillors—demanding to know the identify of the perpetrator (himself)—his subsequent apology to her has been concealed.

 

The main points

  • The Council Leader (JE) was determined, regardless, to delay the AGM for one year (to May 2021)
  • The Opposition Leader (LM) strove to seek a compromise over possible dates and was reasonable to a fault
  • Early Clarity—JE claimed that, “[by delaying the AGM by one year] we are just providing early clarity for officers, Councillors and the wider public.”
  • JE accused LM of having received “an internal Labour Party document” and demanded to know who leaked it (as though an Opposition Leader would provide such information in any event).
  • Laughably, the direct source of this (bungled) “leak” was none other than Joseph Ejiofor himself
  • We can see evidence that on 24 April, JE sent a private apology for this fresh foolishness, however his acknowledgment of his blunder is not disclosed
  • As if to underline the consistency of his bumbling, he later wrote, the discussions that occur within the Labour group, will remain private between Labour Councillors and shall not be shared with you.
  • Any Council Member who did not read the full exchange, or who read only JE’s final email on the matter (22 May), might have concluded that LM wanted only certain dates and was intransigent
  • As is clear from the exchange, JE represented the position of the Opposition untruthfully.
    In context, the misleading is wilful
  • The final word of the autocratic council leader was:
    Suffice to say that the next Council AGM will be on Thursday 20th of May 2021
  • Although the Leader’s closest cronies would have been happy with this, it is now apparent that not all Members of the Labour Group were content
  • Since this email exchange and (presumably robust) exchanges of views within the Majority Group, the AGM date has been changed for a second time and will now be held on 24 September (2020)
  • This means perforce that—against Joseph Ejiofor’s expressed aim—his Group will need to have held a meeting with elections in early September
  • A website linked to Cllr Ejiofor has characterised the drive to hold an election as a ‘racist coup’ led by ‘right-wing’ Councillors

The email exchange

————————————————————————————————————

2020–04–24 at 15:34

——————————————————

From: Cllr Morris Liz u>Liz.Morris@haringey.gov.uk>
Sent: 24 April 2020 15:34
To: Cllr Ejiofor Joseph u>Joseph.Ejiofor@haringey.gov.uk>
Cc: Lib Dem Councillors u>LibDemCouncillors@haringey.gov.uk>; Labour Councillors u>LabourCouncillors@haringey.gov.uk>; Ryan Bernie u>Bernie.Ryan@haringey.gov.uk>; Etheridge Zina u>Zina.Etheridge@haringey.gov.uk>
Subject: Full Council AGM

Dear Joe,

I am writing further to our previous discussions about the date of the Council AGM, but this time copying in all councillors, as this is a matter which concerns all of us.

As you are aware, we have had discussions about when the meeting should be. It was common ground that Coronavirus meant the previous plan to hold it next month was no longer practical. It also appeared to be common ground that the meeting should be in the summer or autumn of this year. On behalf of my Group, I was making the case for it being in July; whilst you several times indicated a preference for September, most recently in an email on Monday.

We had been repeatedly advised by officers to identify a date which would command cross-party agreement.

I was, therefore, surprised to receive an email from you this morning indicating that you had made an apparently unilateral decision to cancel the AGM for the 2020/21 municipal year and not hold such a meeting until May next year.

Not only had your preference radically changed in a matter of days but it was to a date which had not even been mentioned previously.

My Group and I have entered into dialogue on this matter in good faith. In order to play a constructive role in the dialogue on this matter. We went away and have held several internal discussions and votes to make sure we could present a clear view and weigh various options.

For the avoidance of doubt, whilst the Lib Dem group believe the meeting should be held in July, we unanimously agree that the September date would be vastly preferable to delaying the meeting for over a year. A fact, I would have made plain had the possibility of the meeting being cancelled been raised.

I am unclear what has changed since Monday which has invalidated the rationale you set out for preferring September 30th/October 1st 2020. Nor why May 2021 has so rapidly moved from not being discussed to an apparent done deal.

I should also note that this dramatic step would put us out of line with the majority of London boroughs, which are either proposing much shorter postponements or in at least two cases I know of have already held virtual AGMs. Whilst the crisis is putting strains on Councils, it is clearly important, especially given how long it may last, that we maintain democratic accountability.

In order to return to a more co-operative approach to making such decisions, I propose that all councillors be allowed to express a view on when the Annual Council should and that the consensus decision should be implemented.

Kind regards

Liz Morris

Councillor Highgate Ward

Leader of the Haringey Liberal Democrat group

Mobile: 07818 zzzzzz

Email: liz.morris@haringey.gov.uk

Twitter: @lizmorris4

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential, may be subject to legal privilege and are intended only for the person(s) or organisation(s) to whom this email is addressed. Any unauthorised use, retention, distribution, copying or disclosure is strictly prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please notify the system administrator at Haringey Council immediately and delete this e-mail from your system. Although this e-mail and any attachments are believed to be free of any virus or other defect which might affect any computer or system into which they are received and opened, it is the responsibility of the recipient to ensure they are virus free and no responsibility is accepted for any loss or damage from receipt or use thereof. All communications sent to or from external third party organisations may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation.

 

2020–04–24 at 16:56

——————————————————

From: Cllr Ejiofor Joseph u>Joseph.Ejiofor@haringey.gov.uk>
Sent: 24 April 2020 16:56
To: Cllr Morris Liz u>Liz.Morris@haringey.gov.uk>
Cc: Lib Dem Councillors u>LibDemCouncillors@haringey.gov.uk>; Labour Councillors u>LabourCouncillors@haringey.gov.uk>; Ryan Bernie u>Bernie.Ryan@haringey.gov.uk>; Etheridge Zina u>Zina.Etheridge@haringey.gov.uk>; Cllr Blake Barbara u>Barbara.Blake@haringey.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: Full Council AGM

Dear Liz,

Thank you for your email, the contents of which have been noted.

It has to be said for the record, that you offered no flexibility when you twice expressed to me the position of the Lib Dem group during our first two discussions on an alternative Council AGM date. July 13th. That was it.

When I put forward the thoughts of a date in September, you were unequivocal in your desire, and the desire of your Lib Dem group of Councillors that you wanted to have a timetable that led to the AGM being held in July.

Let us remember, governance is not being suspended in Haringey. We are not becoming Hungary. In the short term, Cabinet will still meet in public, and there is an agreement that Cabinet members will still appear in front of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Furthermore, we will continue to hold the meetings that this Council needs to have to deliver the services to protect and support Haringey residents. And let us not forget, that is why we got elected, and we should be supporting the capacity of this council to deliver the best services possible, and to support and protect our residents as best as we can in this time of crisis.

However, though I sought to find consensus, cross party, as well as intra-party, it simply has not been possible to come to an agreement on a date.

The vast majority of London Councils are not even considering setting a date for their AGMs until after the summer, or after the global coronavirus pandemic passes the UK; this means that they will be looking at dates in November or December (around the time that budgets are being set), or in February or March (just before the next AGM).

By taking the decision now to move the Full Council AGM to next May, we are just providing early clarity for officers, Councillors and the wider public. We are taking a decision that a number of Councils already have, and the vast majority of Councils will eventually have to take.

Finally, just to reiterate, this decision was taken fully in line with the Council’s constitution. This is the document that determines the processes, and practices which define the way that Haringey Council conducts its business.

Haringey Council Constitution, Part 4, Section A, Paragraph 26 says:

  1. ALTERATION OF DATE/TIME OF MEETING

The Mayor or Deputy Mayor may in any case when he/she considers it necessary following consultation with the Leader, and provided due notice can be given, alter the date or time of the meeting of the Council.

The intention was always to seek consensus and agreement to look for an alternative date for the Annual General Meeting. In the absence of such consensus being present a fully constitutional decision was taken, and a decision fully in line with the relevant legislation, to move the next Council AGM to the 20th of May 2021.

Just noted from your email, you the dates you quoted, “September 30th or October 1st”, were dates I proposed in an internal Labour Party document shared only with the Executive of the Labour Group. When we spoke, we talked about dates in “mid-September”. Could you kindly let me know who leaked this internal Labour party document to you please.

Regards

Joe

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor

Leader | Haringey Council

Labour Councillor for Bruce Grove

020 8489 zzzz | 079 4000 zzzz

Please consider the environment when deciding whether you need to print the contents of this email.

This email may include confidential information and is solely for use by the intended recipient(s). If you have received this email in error, you must not disclose, copy, distribute or retain any part of the email message or attachments and you are kindly requested to notify the sender immediately.

 

2020–04–25 at 11:13

——————————————————

From: Cllr Morris Liz
Sent: 25 April 2020 11:13
To: Cllr Ejiofor Joseph u>Joseph.Ejiofor@haringey.gov.uk>
Cc: Lib Dem Councillors u>LibDemCouncillors@haringey.gov.uk>; Labour Councillors u>LabourCouncillors@haringey.gov.uk>; Ryan Bernie u>Bernie.Ryan@haringey.gov.uk>; Etheridge Zina u>Zina.Etheridge@haringey.gov.uk>; Cllr Blake Barbara u>Barbara.Blake@haringey.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: Full Council AGM

Dear Joe

Firstly I wanted to acknowledge the follow up email you sent last night and accept your apology for the accusation that I, or my fellow councillors had received the proposed Sept/Oct dates via a leak from one of your Labour colleagues, when these dates had in fact come from yourself directly to me in an email on Monday.

To reiterate the point I made previously - my group's preference for the July date is following discussions and then a vote on dates in our most recent Lib Dem Group meeting, all of which we are now holding virtually, after being asked by both yourself and officers to confirm our preference for when the AGM could take place so that the date was agreed based on input from members.

For full transparency, our group discussed four possible dates: May 2020, Jul 2020, Sept 2020 and May 2021, after which a vote was carried out, with two thirds in favour of Jul 20, one third Sept 20 and no votes in support of either May dates.

I assume that you have already held such discussions and votes within Labour group, and I would be interested to know the outcome of your group's vote that indicates that May 21 is now the majority preferred date for the AGM ahead of all others. Whilst the Mayor has the power to confirm a change of date in line with the constitution, I would like to think that this decision is based on democratic input as was the indication at the start, rather than a single decision maker.

I appreciate that you were trying to find consensus amongst members in both groups and I think this can still be achieved if dialogue is reopened. If the options are now either September 2020 or May 2021 for a Full Council AGM then our group would fully support September. If you have enough councillors who would also support September out of the 2 options then our two groups would be able to jointly agree to the revised date.

We are all working through unprecedented times here and I think it's incredibly important that as members, and respective group leaders, we maintain good working relationships, which includes transparency, trust and open dialogue. I, and my fellow members, would be extremely concerned if there was a shift towards unilateral decision making after the initial promise of continued democracy.

Kind regards

Liz Morris

Councillor Highgate Ward

Leader of the Haringey Liberal Democrat group

Mobile: 07818 zzzzzz

Email: liz.morris@haringey.gov.uk

Twitter: @lizmorris4

 

2020–05–20 at 09:41

——————————————————

From: Cllr Morris Liz u>Liz.Morris@haringey.gov.uk>
Sent: 20 May 2020 09:41
To: Cllr Ejiofor Joseph u>Joseph.Ejiofor@haringey.gov.uk>
Cc: Lib Dem Councillors u>LibDemCouncillors@haringey.gov.uk>; Labour Councillors u>LabourCouncillors@haringey.gov.uk>; Ryan Bernie u>Bernie.Ryan@haringey.gov.uk>; Etheridge Zina u>Zina.Etheridge@haringey.gov.uk>; Cllr Blake Barbara u>Barbara.Blake@haringey.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: Full Council AGM

Dear Joe

As of today I have received no response from you to my email below of 25 April which is disappointing.

Please could you come back to me on my request that the 2 AGM date options (Sept 20 and May 21) are properly discussed with my group given that May 21 was never part of the discussions that you and I had.

And I asked what discussions and/or vote has taken place in the Labour Group regarding a new Full Council AGM date - and that an all councillor ballot is held.

I would appreciate it if you could respond to me on these points.

Kind regards

Liz Morris

Councillor Highgate Ward

Leader of the Haringey Liberal Democrat group

Mobile: 07818 zzzzzz

Email: liz.morris@haringey.gov.uk

Twitter: @lizmorris4

2020–05–22 at 11:24

——————————————————

From: Cllr Ejiofor Joseph u>Joseph.Ejiofor@haringey.gov.uk>

Sent: Friday, May 22, 2020 11:24:01 PM
To: Cllr Morris Liz u>Liz.Morris@haringey.gov.uk>
Cc: All Councillors u>AllCouncillors@haringey.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: Full Council AGM

Dear Liz,

During the brief discussion that you and I had, it was apparent that no consensus agreement was possible, since you told me very clearly that the Lib Dems first choice was July, and that your second choice was…erm…July as well.

I have always been explicit, clear and consistent that the July proposal was unacceptable.

The discussions that occur within the Labour group, will remain private between Labour Councillors and shall not be shared with you. Suffice to say that the next Council AGM will be on Thursday 20th of May 2021.

Regards

Joe

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor

Leader | Haringey Council

Labour Councillor for Bruce Grove

020 8489 zzzz | 079 4000 zzzz

Please consider the environment when deciding whether you need to print the contents of this email.

This email may include confidential information and is solely for use by the intended recipient(s). If you have received this email in error, you must not disclose, copy, distribute or retain any part of the email message or attachments and you are kindly requested to notify the sender immediately.

Tags: AGM, Catherine West, Council, David Lammy, Group meeting, Haringey, Haringey Council, Joseph Ejiofor, Liz Morris, Mayor, More…Momentum, SRA, Sheila Peacock, Special Responsibility Allowance, democracy, elections

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