Updated story: Greenwich Council is investigating claims that its staff were asked to help organise a Labour fundraiser featuring the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner.
The event last December was a fundraising dinner for Greenwich Labour Women. Staff are said to have been asked by the council’s deputy leader, Averil Lekau, to help drum up interest in the event, and they used their council email addresses to sell tickets.
Senior officers at the council have known about the allegations for some time. Anthony Okereke, the council leader, said last night that an investigation was taking place.
There is no prohibition on all but the most senior council officers being members of political parties when they are away from work. Some can be seen in social media images taking part in the event, the Tories say. But officers are not allowed to use council facilities for party political purposes.
The event was documented on social media by guests including Labour councillor Lauren Dingsdale and the Erith & Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare, who posted a selfie with Rayner in the back of a taxi near North Greenwich station.
While Labour has run Greenwich since 1971, it took until 2014 for the borough to have its female leader, Denise Hyland, and the council was known for a macho culture in the years before that.
But the fundraiser came after unprecedented success for Labour women in last May’s council elections. More than half of all Labour councillors – 28 out of 52 – are women. Of three Conservative councillors, just one is a woman. Pat Greenwell was also the only woman out of nine Tories elected in 2018.
Hartley told 853 that the allegations amounted to an “outrageous misuse of taxpayer resources”.
He added: “This is just the latest example of the blurred line between Greenwich Council and the Greenwich Labour Party. Council officers are funded by the taxpayer to provide services to residents, not to help organise Labour Party fundraising events – and they should never have been put in this position by Labour councillors.
“The fact that this comes at a time when Labour councillors are proposing to increase local residents’ council tax bills by a full 4.99 per cent, and hike council rents by 7 per cent, just adds insult to injury.
“I have asked the leader of the council to investigate how this ethical breach occurred under his watch, and to take immediate steps to protect taxpayer resources from being misused in this way.”
After being contacted on Monday, Greenwich Council said it was unable to respond until Thursday’s council meeting. Lekau did not respond to a request for comment made on Wednesday.
Story updated on Friday to take in last night’s council meeting.
Help 853 continue reporting on public interest issues in Greenwich and southeast London – we are the only outlet regularly producing original journalism in the borough, and we can only do it with your funding.
Please join over 100 donors who use Steady, PressPatron or Patreon to give a little towards our costs every month. The money pays the bills, a wage for the editor and pays others to write for the site.
You can also buy the editor a coffee at ko-fi.com. Thank you.