- new ‘centrist’ Council leader elected by a single vote
- councillor who voted for the leader implicated in serious property and electoral scandal
- a number of local Labour sources claim the investigation was delayed and/or kept quiet until at least after the council leadership election
- council initially denied any investigation was taking place but story subsequently changed
- council leader declined to comment – Greenwich council spokesperson insisted he has had no involvement
Greenwich Labour sources have alleged that the borough’s council ‘kept quiet’ a property scandal involving a key ally of the council leader. The SKWAWKBOX’s investigation has at the least revealed contradictions and an unwillingness to acknowledge the matter until there was no option.
Just after the local elections at the beginning of May, a Greenwich councillor – who is also a housing tenant of the council – was found to have ownership of several homes in the area. She had not declared them in her register of interests – potentially a criminal offence.
The same councillor subsequently voted for Danny Thorpe to become the council’s leader – an election he won by a single vote. In spite of talk of the allegations being common around the organisation and the councillor’s alleged failure to provide a credible explanation for the omission – which was not corrected before the election – the council does not appear at that point to have taken any action.
Three weeks ago, when internal interviews about the discrepancy were said to be underway, the SKWAWKBOX contacted the councillor to ask about the issue. Greenwich Council press office responded instead and in the course of conversations over several days denied that any interviews were taking place – and even that any such issue was known about.
The changing story
Reports continued to come in to this blog from various sources. When the SKWAWKBOX attempted to contact Council Leader Thorpe this week about the matter, he declined to comment. A call was then received from a senior council officer – and the story had changed somewhat.
Although the press office had initially denied that there was any issue or interview, the officer now said that no comment could be made on any investigation that might or might not be taking place.
She also confirmed that the councillor had voted for Thorpe as council leader but was at pains to state that any other councillor could also be the ‘decisive vote’ – Thorpe won by a single vote – and that “if there were something that has happened, the Leader of the Council never gets involved in those issues… and I’d be surprised if the Labour Party was aware of anything that may or may not be happening“.
The local perspective
Failing to include properties owned in a council register of interests is a serious matter and an offence under electoral law. Continuing a council tenancy when someone owns several other homes would also be a significant scandal for a councillor.
Labour figures in Greenwich allege that the council leader’s allies wanted to avoid news of the scandal emerging, because of the narrowness of his advantage on the council – the loss of a single supporter could be decisive.
Councillor Thorpe declined to comment, but a senior employee speaking on behalf of the council insists that the council leader has played no part in either the investigation or in any attempt to delay it or keep it quiet. It was confirmed, however, that a prompt suspension or sanction of the councillor could have had a material impact on the leadership election.
The SKWAWKBOX’s investigations continue.
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