The resignation of council leader raises questions to which the public is entitled to get answers
20 April, 2017
• I HEARD by text from a friend on the evening of April 5 that the leader of Camden Council, Sarah Hayward, was to stand down on May 2.
My immediate reaction was that my friend’s message was a late April Fool’s wind-up.
As someone who worked for the Cities of London and Westminster for nearly three decades, I’m only too familiar with the way London local government instinctively goes into public relations mode in such situations.
However in her email to Labour group members she only gives as the reasons for her decision that “[in 2014] I promised myself (and my husband) that I’d do just one more term as a councillor” and that “now is the right time to pass on the baton of leadership”.
In your John Gulliver column (There was just no easy way for Sarah to say goodbye, April 13) you rightly asked: “What’s the real reason?”
On April 22 last year you reported on “Leaked emails questioning Town Hall leader Sarah Hayward’s personal management style…” which referred to events going back as far as September 2015. But we have since heard little more about these emails.
I am reliably informed that an investigation was commissioned by the council and this was conducted by an external barrister; is it possible that it was the contents of a resulting report which triggered her surprising resignation?
If there is such a report, then the Camden electorate surely has a right to see it, even if redacted to protect the anonymity of any complainants.
Greater transparency is needed to limit harmful speculation and any further reputational damage to our council.
The contents of any report would also indicate whether it is appropriate for Cllr Hayward to also step down now as a ward councillor: in her resignation email to Labour group members she states her intention to stay on as a council member until the May 2018 elections.
It is my intention to also contact members of the Labour group to question whether they are aware of the “report” and, if so, whether they will support my objective of seeing its conclusions and recommendations made public in the interest of transparency and sound local government?
A duty of confidentiality…
A CAMDEN Council spokesman said: “We neither confirm nor deny the receipt of complaints against officers or councillors – and this is for good reason.
“Camden’s complaints process is designed to allow the parties involved to have a fair opportunity to state their case. The fact that a complaint has or has not been lodged and is or is not being investigated says nothing about its ultimate validity.
“Adverse conclusions from the lodging of a complaint can be unfairly damaging and it’s for these reasons that our processes are subject to a duty of confidentiality.”