Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe has told a Labour councillor to resign after she was found guilty of two charges of housing fraud.
Tonia Ashikodi, a councillor for Glyndon ward, was convicted yesterday at Inner London Crown Court on two charges of fraud by misrepresentation after she applied for council housing in October 2008 and accepted an offer of a home in Plumstead in May 2012 while owning three other properties in the borough.
She gave no evidence in the hearing, but her defence claimed she was only owning the homes in trust for her father, and that she was not the signatory to documents naming her as the landlord of the properties. She was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice, as was her father, Tony Ashikodi, on Monday after Judge Benedict Kelleher decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the charge.
Ashikodi will be sentenced on 4 March, so she remains a councillor. A sentence of three months or more would disqualify her from office, forcing a by-election. The prosecution in the trial said the council lost over £67,000 because of her fraud – the cost of putting somebody up in temporary accommodation for six years.
- Day 1: Greenwich councillor lied about owning homes, fraud trial told
- Day 2: Greenwich Council boss ‘sought to protect councillor from press’
- Day 3: Councillor’s father ‘kept kidney disease from daughter’
- Day 4: Councillor ‘let out rat-infested house while a council tenant’
- Day 5: Councillor and father cleared of perverting course of justice
- Day 6: ‘Political colluding’ could have led to councillor’s fraud trial
- Day 7: Greenwich councillor guilty of housing fraud
She was suspended from the Labour group on Greenwich Council after being charged in July 2018, but still sat with them in full council meetings – including the most recent meeting on 29 January.
Thorpe said in a series of tweets yesterday evening that “on behalf of Royal Borough of Greenwich Labour Group” that “I am pleased that the case against Cllr Tonia Ashikodi has now concluded”.
“At a time when we have 20,000 residents on our housing waiting list and more than a thousand households in temporary accommodation it is unacceptable for a councillor to have wrongly denied a resident a safe and secure roof over their head,” he added, echoing a press statement issued by the council’s chief executive, Debbie Warren, earlier in the day.
“While suspended from the Labour Party she has exercised her legal right to remain as a councillor while the legal process was taking its course. Now that a unanimous verdict has been reached by the jury the only option now is for Cllr Ashikodi to resign with immediate effect.
“While we await sentencing and any potential appeal we will be making no further comment on this case.”
Thorpe was close to Ashikodi and cried when he told councillors she had been charged at a town hall meeting in July 2018. He posed for a selfie with the councillor at a Black History Month event on 1 October 2018, the same day she appeared at Woolwich Crown Court for a pre-trial hearing – despite the fact she had been charged with defrauding his borough’s residents. A Woolwich Common councillor, Anthony Okereke, also posed with Ashikodi for pictures.
Earlier on Wednesday, the council’s Conservative opposition leader Matt Hartley also called on Ashikodi to resign. “This is an absolutely damning verdict, particularly for someone elected to represent others as a councillor,” he said.
“Today’s verdict also raises a whole host of serious questions that will need answering, and that we as Opposition councillors will be asking in the coming days and weeks.
“For now, the most important thing is that Tonia Ashikodi resigns as a councillor without delay. After this verdict she has lost the moral right to continue to serve as a councillor, and I hope she accepts that and resigns immediately.”
Ashikodi was still listed as a councillor on Thursday morning.
However, opposition parties are already gearing up to stand in Glyndon ward. Matt Stratford, of the Greenwich Green Party, tweeted on Thursday evening: “I can’t believe Tonia Ashikodi has not resigned yet. Greenwich Greens stand ready to fight a by-election.”
8pm update: Ashikodi was not present for tonight’s meeting of the housing scrutiny panel on which she sits. Only four of the eight councillors due turned up for the start of the meeting, and the chair, Abbey Wood councillor Clive Mardner, announced no apologies had been received. Her nameplate (above) had not been laid out for her.
Labour councillors Leo Fletcher and David Stanley joined their Conservative colleague Spencer Drury to hear the director of housing, Jamie Carswell – who Ashikodi’s counsel had suggested lied in court – discuss the council’s relationships with housing associations, and state that the council wanted to do more to combat fraudulent tenancies. As of this evening, Ashikodi remains listed as a councillor.
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