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Labour Candidate Condemns Lib Dem Ineptness to Act on Racist Assault and Calls on Councillor Fenwick to Resign


Friday 14 March 2014


Emily Brothers, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Sutton and Cheam has condemned Lib Dem run Sutton Council for failing to act on the conviction of Councillor Stephen Fenwick (Worcester Park) for racially aggravated assault.
Following Councillor’s Fenwick’s year-long conditional discharge being handed down earlier this week by Westminster Magistrates, Ms Brothers raised her concerns with Sutton Council’s Leader and Standards Committee. However, Ms Brothers’ request was refused yesterday.
Sanjay Prashar, Executive Head of Legal and Democratic Services/Monitoring Officer, advised Ms Brothers that the Council's Code of Conduct for Members is only applicable if at the time of the act giving rise to the complaint, the Councillor concerned was acting in his official capacity. As Councillor Fenwick was acting in his private capacity at the time of the incident, it was held that the Standards Committee would not have any formal jurisdiction over this matter.
Ms Brothers was also told that given that the next meeting of the Standards Committee is not being held until 9 July, there would not in any event be any purpose in raising the issue for discussion at that meeting given the intervening elections.
Ms Brothers says this response is outrageous, saying:
“I wanted Councillor Fenwick to have a fair hearing before the Standards Committee, as clearly not all of the facts are in the public domain.
“I do not see why the Standards Committee can’t be convened to deal with this complaint without all the dither and excuses being put up; they are simply trying to avoid embarrassment.
“Moreover, the Lib Dem Council is trying to sweep this under the carpet, opting for process over principle.
“It’s wholly unacceptable that the Lib Dem Council is appeasing racist behaviour.
“I’m left with no option other than to call on Councillor Fenwick to resign immediately.”
As a result, Ms Brothers has written today directly to Councillor Fenwick to ask him to resign.
Ms Brothers further remarked:
“Councillors need to represent and support all of their constituents, yet how can this be possible when a Lib Dem acts in a racist manner?
“As a public figure representing the Council, I consider that Councillor Fenwick has brought his public office into disrepute – so he should go without delay.
“Councillors have responsibility as Corporate Parents for looked after children, so how is that compatible with unacceptable racist behaviour?
“I also think Councillor Fenwick is in breach of the Authority’s Equality Policy, unless that is just another Lib Dem paper tiger.
Ms Brothers understands that the Council’s Lib Dem Group did not take any disciplinary steps before Councillor Fenwick resigned the Whip and they have no intention to refer the matter to the Standards Committee. Ms Brothers said:
“The Council’s Lib Dem Leader, Councillor Ruth Dombey, Fails to recognise the serious nature of this offence, hides behind red tape and her officials, dodging accountability and transparency.”

On 10/03/14 Councillor Stephen Fenwick, Worcester Park, was convicted by Westminster Magistrates for racially aggravated assault, receiving a year’s conditional discharge. Councillor Fenwick was elected in 2010 and held the Lib Dem Whip until days before his conviction, yet remains in office with Independent status.


On 11/03/14 Ms Brothers wrote to Ruth Dombey, Lib Dem Leader of Sutton Council, expressing her concern and asking that the matter be considered by the Standards Committee. This was a complaint appertained to Section 27(2) of the Localism Act (2011), bringing into effect the Council’s Code of Conduct from 1 July 2012.


On 13/03/14 Sanjay Prashar, Executive Head of Legal and Democratic Services/Monitoring Officer, advised Ms Brothers that her referral to the Standards Committee has been refused, as the incident did not take place within Councillor Fenwick’s official duties.


On 14/03/14 Ms Brothers wrote to Councillor Fenwick directly to ask him to resign.

 

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