Kingston councillor accused of verbal and physical abuse towards child retains backing of council

A Kingston councillor accused of verbal and physical abuse towards a child was backed by her council on Tuesday despite demands for her to be suspended.

Reports emerged on Monday that Liberal Democrat Councillor Lesley Heap was suspended from her job as a swimming teacher at the Malden Centre after a parent made a formal complaint that she verbally and physically abused a child whilst in her care.

Former Kingston deputy mayor and Kingston Independent Group (KIG) affiliate Mary Clark announced on Monday that she wrote to the Kingston Council demanding Councillor Heap is also suspended from her role as councillor while the investigation is ongoing.

Kingston Council issued a statement saying there was no evidence for the incident taking place and advised it is not something the council would be taking action on.

A statement from the council said: “Appropriate child protection procedures have been followed and subsequent to investigations undertaken by the local authority.

“We can confirm that there is no evidence that any child has been subject to serious or significant harm at the centre, neither has there been any incident involving any child which requires the council to take action in accordance with its statutory safeguarding responsibilities.”

The Malden Centre confirmed an internal investigation into the incident is underway.

A spokesperson for Places Leisure – which runs the Malden Centre – said: “We understandably take any reports of this nature extremely seriously.

“We are currently conducting a full investigation, including conversations with everyone present on the day, to ensure any appropriate action will be taken.”

Ms Clark said: “I am saddened I have had to raise this issue in public, but I have tried to get the council to understand this is an issue of safeguarding – not personality.

“If you can’t trust someone with a child at work – how can we be sure to trust them on council duties?

“Councillor Heap clearly has support from Sir Edward Davey and the Council leader Liz Green and I feel it shows a failure in judgement by them – they seem willing to turn a blind eye and sweep important issues under the carpet for the sake of party image rather than a commitment to do what’s right for local people.”

Councillor Heap was recently appointed as a council ‘mental health champion’ for housing and a member of the reserve committee dealing with child safeguarding issues.

Councillor Heap did not respond to a request for further comment.

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