Former Tower Hamlets leader appeals after being suspended from council

The former leader of Tower Hamlets council is locked in a bitter fight to clear his name after the town hall suspended him for complaining about the conduct of a council officer.

Cllr Helal Abbas was removed from his post after the standards committee decided he had breached its rules by “disclosing confidential staffing information”.

But the Labour councillor has since appealed to England’s independent standards body, the First Tier Tribunal, and is back in his post while the case is investigated.

Questions are now being raised within the council as to whether his suspension was justified.

Cllr Abbas, who represents Spitalfields and Banglatown ward, said: “The protocol the committee used does not apply in this case. Those are the grounds I’ve used to appeal.”

The furore is over information Cllr Abbas gave to the Labour party’s National Executive Committee last year about council officer Hira Islam.

In the dossier, he had questioned Mr Islam’s conduct during the May elections.

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It was part of the same dossier which led to Lutfur Rahman, who is now independent mayor of the council, being deselected as the Labour party’s Tower Hamlets mayoral candidate.

There are suggestions among Labour councillors that the standards committee has no jurisdiction to take action on such a matter because it was a private, party-political issue.

The Labour party said Cllr Abbas was “not present or represented” at the committee’s vote on December 6 but on being told about the sanctions against him “immediately took legal advice”.

It added in a statement: “The sub-committee agreed to suspend Cllr Abbas for one week, with the possibility of extending the suspension to one month, if he failed to issue a full apology to the complainant. All sanctions against him have been temporarily dropped until the appeal has been heard.”

The standards committee is made up of both councillors and independent members.

A spokesman for Tower Hamlets council said: “It was alleged that Cllr Abbas disclosed confidential staffing information regarding a council officer to a third party in September 2010.”

The sub-committee found that constituted a breach of the members’ code of conduct, he added.

The First Tier Tribunal, which is part of the Ministry of Justice, said a decision should be made on the appeal within 16 weeks.

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