A Greenwich Labour councillor lived in a council flat in Plumstead while being named as the owner of a house in Thamesmead which was not declared on her register of interests, an 853 investigation has found.
Tonia Ashikodi, who was re-elected in Glyndon ward in last month’s elections, was named as the owner of the home in Epstein Road, Thamesmead for more than 10 years before the ownership was transferred to her father last month.
Land Registry records list Ashikodi as owning the Thamesmead property on the day she stood for re-election in Glyndon ward, giving a council flat in Robert Street, Plumstead as her home address.
Council tenancy agreements state that tenants must use their council home as “your only home”, while Greenwich councillors must register any land they have a “beneficial interest” in – land they could profit from the sale of.
It is not clear whether Ashikodi had a beneficial interest in the Thamesmead home, and neither she nor Greenwich Council are commenting on the issue.
But the issue has led to controversy and accusations of a cover-up within Greenwich Council’s fractious Labour group – particularly among those unhappy that leader Danny Thorpe, who Ashikodi is close to, won the leadership by a single vote last month.
Who is Tonia Ashikodi?
Ashikodi, 29, first entered the council in 2016 after winning a by-election in Glyndon ward. That wasn’t her first entry into local affairs – as a teenager she sat on the youth council in neighbouring Bexley. She retained the seat in May 2018’s poll.
In both elections, she was listed as living in a council home in Robert Street, on the Glyndon estate.
But Land Registry documents show her as having been the proprietor of a home in Epstein Road, Thamesmead, since 28 November 2007.
The property was then transferred to her father on 22 May 2018 – valuing it at £333,000 – less than three weeks after she secured re-election and 13 days after she took part in the internal Labour vote that led to Thorpe’s election as council leader.
Thorpe won by a single vote after a councillor who was expected to vote for rival Averil Lekau failed to arrive in time. If the vote was tied, a new vote would have been taken.
Has she done anything wrong?
Ashikodi took possession of the property when she was just 18 years old, so it is entirely possible she was holding the property for someone else, something that does not have to feature on a Land Registry title document.
This would mean she did not have a beneficial interest in the property, so would not have to be listed on her register of interests.
However, if she did profit when the home was transferred to her father, then the property should have been listed.
There is also the question of how someone who already owned a property managed to get a council home in the same borough.
Greenwich Council’s tenancy agreement states: “During your tenancy you must not own or rent, alone or with someone else, any other home. If you inherit or otherwise acquire a property, you must notify us within 3 months of inheriting it, and we will advise you about your future options and responsibilities.”
On 3 May, the day Ashikodi stood for re-election, her register of interests at the time states that she had a council property – the address in Plumstead – while Land Registry documents showed her as the owner of the home in Thamesmead.
After the election, Ashikodi was given a place on the board of council services company GS Plus by leader Thorpe, which entitles her to an extra £4,000 a year on top of her council allowance.
What do Greenwich Council and the local Labour party say?
853 contacted Greenwich Council, local Labour Party organiser Jack Beddoe and Ashikodi herself to clarify the issue and get their sides of the story.
Greenwich Council sent a response from assistant chief executive Katrina Delaney which treated the enquiry as a personal complaint: “Thank you for your enquiry. The Council’s Monitoring Officer has replied as follows.
“Under the Localism Act 2011 and the Council’s Code of Conduct for Elected Members, Royal Borough of Greenwich Councillors are required to register particular interests set out in the Act and the Code. Councillor Ashikodi’s Register of Interests is available on the Council’s website.
“If you believe that there has been a failure to register interests, it is open to you to make a complaint under the Code. A link to the complaints form, together with the procedure for considering complaints, is included below.
“In line with our usual procedures, we will be forwarding a copy of your enquiry, together with this reply, to Councillor Ashikodi for information.”
Beddoe, who is a paid employee of the Labour Party, did not respond.
‘Not worth stressing myself’
Ashikodi’s email account sent an out-of-office message stating she would be absent for nearly three weeks until 4 July. However, when contacted by phone on 22 June, she confirmed she had been told by the council’s communications team about 853’s enquiry.
She declined to comment, saying: “I know myself, it’s not worth stressing myself.”
However, while this story was being researched, Ashikodi’s father sent an email – copying in Danny Thorpe – claiming he had been told about a Land Registry search of the Thamesmead property, and including a link to a blog post about beneficial interests.
He said: “It is good you are making the inquiry in your personal capacity which you are entitled to do, just as anyone is entitled to inquire about you as well.
“At least it will help you to know when the property was last in the market and purchased by me, and that my property is mortgage free. I learnt it will be delivered to you at your [name of a street in Greenwich borough] address.
“I hope you educate yourself with the government link below as well, before you make a mockery of yourself.”
The Land Registry has told 853 it does not tell landowners if their properties are the subject of a historical search such as the one undertaken on the Thamesmead address.
4pm update: An extra paragraph has been added to the story about the Land Registry’s policy on telling landowners about historical searches, after a question from a reader.
2.30pm Saturday: In light of some strange claims being spread on social media following this story, the image of Tony Ashikodi’s email has been enlarged so the full wording is clear.
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