Controversial whistleblower housing report blocked in Merton Council meeting

A highly-contested report into whistleblowing allegations in a Merton housing association’s repairs and maintenance service was blocked for discussion during this week’s council meeting.

During the meeting, the Labour-led council tried to introduce a 3-page amendment to the Conservatives motion that had demanded the independent report to be published as soon as possible.

Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats claim that Labour then refused their councillors time to read and consider the proposals, however the issue has become a tit-for-tat mud slinging opportunity, as Labour accuse them of blocking the debate.

The opposition parties sought to hold a 10minute adjournment to allow them to consider the proposed text, however this suggestion was apparently rejected by the Mayor and the other Labour councillors.

Simon McGrath, chairman of Merton Liberal Democrats, said: “How little confidence must Labour have in their own proposals if they won’t let opposition councillors read them?

“This investigation into charging for housing repairs is a massive issue and needs to be investigated fully.”

Mr McGrath said the Liberal Democrats will demand an urgent change to Council rules, meaning future amendments will need to be distributed to all parties at least one hour prior to the meeting.

Conservative parliamentary candidate Paul Holmes, who watched the meeting as it was broadcast, said: “This is another example of the Labour administration in Merton trying to use Merton Council as a campaigning organisation.”

He said he had been contacted by many residents about the poor state of repairs, and had been calling for the immediate publication of the report, adding that he was shocked that it has not yet happened.

At the meeting, Labour Councillors put forward proposals to force senior officers at Circle Housing to attend a Scrutiny Committee to address the allegations about the repair’s service.

However these amendments were not discussed as the other groups refused to debate the issue at such short notice without, as they claim, being given the opportunity to go through them.

Councillor Stephen Alambritis, Leader of the Labour Council, said what happened was not out of the ordinary.

He added that it was common practice for amendments to be proposed during meetings and called out the Conservatives in particular.

“It is a disgrace that the Conservatives would not allow debate on this very important issue,” he said.

“Residents won’t be happy that the Conservatives shut down democracy and stopped us agreeing a common approach to holding Circle Housing to account.”

With the election less than three weeks away, parties will continue to blame each other for their own misgivings and failures, but hopefully residents will have their concerns addressed.

Picture courtesy of Jeff Eaton, with thanks

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