Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Lewisham Labour Council in abuse of power row.
Lewisham Council is under fire after its Deptford market staff helped publicise a Labour-run event ahead of the election.
Deptford stall holders were handed flyers by market inspectors publicising last week's public meeting on issues facing traders in Deptford High Street.
The event was organised by local Labour councillors and included an appearance by the party's parliamentary candidate for the Lewisham Deptford seat Vicky Foxcroft.
People Before Profit - whose parliamentary candidate Helen Mercer, along with all other non-Labour candidates, was not invited - have put in a complaint that council staff, by publicising the event, were effectively campaigning for Labour and gave the impression it was organised by the council.
And the council has since admitted its staff's behaviour was "inappropriate".
Trader Leslie Faizi, who has previously campaigned alongside People Before Profit and attended the meeting, said the agenda made it clear it was organised by Labour - something the flyer did not.
He said: "Whilst I am no expert on the legality and duties of public office, these councillors' blatant disregard for political boundaries in the run up to an election smacks of arrogance.
"It seems to me that, because their party dominates the political posts in Lewisham, they think that they can rewrite the rules to suit themselves.
"I really can't imagine that this type of behaviour would be tolerated were there councillors from other political parties to keep them in check."
However, Councillor Joe Dromey has defended the event he organised, saying it raised issues about parking and promoting the high street, was not a Labour event and did not use council resources.
Coun Dromey, who accused People Before Profit of "trying to score political points", said: "Given the popularity of the event, we're going to be organising another in around six months time, where we'll feed back on what we've done, and invite other organisations - perhaps Cathedral, the developers of the Deptford Project."
A spokesman for Lewisham Council said: "The officers in the markets team had the good intention of telling market traders about a public event, led by local ward councillors, on issues that traders have long held a strong interest in.
"They handed out leaflets to traders on licensed stalls but now understand that it was inappropriate to distribute a leaflet that drew attention to a prospective parliamentary candidate and the team will ensure there is no recurrence."