A Greenwich councillor who is suspended from the Labour Party has come to only her second council meeting since being re-elected four months ago – and has been listed as a “guest” even though she did not take part in it.
Tonia Ashikodi, who was suspended from the party in July after being charged with fraud and perverting the course of justice, sat in the public seating of Monday night’s overview and scrutiny panel meeting to watch council leader Danny Thorpe take questions.
The Glyndon ward councillor has not attended any other meetings since 23 May – including ones she had been due to attend – when she attended the brief annual meeting which saw Thorpe formally installed as leader.
She sat alongside deputy chief executive Katrina Delaney and assistant director of communications and democratic services Stuart Godfrey, who were there to answer their own questions, during Thorpe’s 40-minute session. She then left the committee room shortly after Thorpe.
Ashikodi was not introduced to the public, not did she take any part in the meeting, which lasted two and a quarter hours in total. The committee’s web page lists her as a “guest”.
However, deputy leader David Gardner, who attended the later stages of the meeting and spoke briefly from the public seats to explain an issue, is not listed as taking part.
Thorpe’s grilling by councillors can be seen below. (Other sections of the meeting can be seen on this playlist.)
Even though Ashikodi is not a member of the overview and scrutiny committee, Greenwich Council says her attendance counts as fulfilling her duties as a councillor. Local government law states that councillors who do not attend meetings can be disqualified after six months, forcing a by-election.
A Greenwich Council spokesperson said councillors’ attendance at meetings were categorised in three ways: “The system has three options for attendance at meetings: present as expected – for members of that committee or panel; in attendance – for someone who took part in the meeting; and guest – for a member at a meeting who is not there to take part but is just observing. Cllr Tonia Ashikodi was listed as a ‘guest’ at Monday’s meeting of Overview and Scrutiny. However on the minutes it will show her there under standing orders.
“Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972 determines that attendance by a councillor at any meeting of a committee of a council, whether or not he/she is a member of that committee, counts towards fulfilment of the minimum attendance requirement imposed by section 85. Councillor Ashikodi’s attendance at the overview and scrutiny meeting on 17 September will count towards her attendance figures and this has been verified by our head of legal services.”
Asked about the omission of David Gardner from the list of attendees, the spokesperson said: “We apologise for the confusion. This was an oversight as Cllr Gardner’s name was missing from the sign-in sheet. He will be added as a guest when the minutes are drafted.”
Ashikodi was charged on two counts of fraud and one of perverting the course of justice in July after a town hall investigation into her Greenwich Council tenancy and the ownership of property. She was originally due to appear in court on Monday, but the case will now be heard at Woolwich Crown Court on Monday 1 October.
She has said on social media she will “robustly defend” the charges.
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