The two Haringey councillors sacked by their leader from his cabinet in the run-up to New Year have claimed they were punished for taking issue with policy directions they had concerns about, and one has denied apparent suggestions that she leaked sensitive documents about the council’s relationship with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club to the media.
Experienced Labour members Peray Ahmet and Zena Brabazon have told fellow Labour group members that Joseph Ejiofor, who the group elected to take the helm of the council after May’s borough elections, did not give them clear reasons for their dismissals, other than saying that the cabinet was not working well and lacked cohesion.
In a statement, Ahmet, who was cabinet member for adult social care and health, says that Ejiofor’s concerns were “never raised in a one-to-one with me and I was not given any prior warning”. She says the “only reason” she can think of for Ejiofor’s decision is “that I have opposed Joe on a number of occasions within the cabinet”. Ahmet describes her time in her cabinet role as “very enjoyable and challenging” and that this was “despite the battles to prevent policies that would have seen us veer away from our manifesto pledges”.
Brabazon’s statement says that Ejiofor had phoned her with the news on New Year’s Eve and had referred to an article about to a disagreement between the council and Spurs over the costs of clearing up the streets around the club’s new stadium after matches and other events. The article, published by the Observer on 22 December, quoted “confidential memos” and an unnamed Haringey councillor. Five days later, Ejiofor emailed Labour councillor colleagues demanding an end to persistent leaking of confidential material to journalists and warning that he would shortly “take a view” on how to address the issue.
In her statement, Brabazon, says: “It seemed to me Joe was implying that I was the source of the ‘confidential leak’. I told him I had not seen or received any confidential emails about Spurs”. She documents once asking a question at a meeting about responsibility for street cleaning in the area, but asserts: “I have had no contact with journalists on this matter”.
Ahmet lists a number of areas in her former brief where she believes she made progress, including contributing to the cabinet deciding to keep open the Osborne Grove care home as a nursing facility. She claims in her statement that “Joe has been keen to close it”.
Brabazon, who was cabinet member for civic services, says she suspects the “real reason” she’s been removed from that post is because of “my recent position on the proposed funding for Fortismere school,” a foundation secondary in Muswell Hill. She claims that a “proposed allocation of £35.9 million capital was slipped into the capital budget at the last moment without any prior cabinet discussion, with only a brief background general paper. I believe this scheme could expose the council to financial risk and as such I have a responsibility to raise questions”.
Brabazon claims that a failure by Efiofor to properly build a team meant “the new cabinet has been unable to work collaboratively”. She adds: “I recognise, of course, that cabinet meetings were disagreeable and fractious. You will know that I am direct and that I ask questions. I make no apology for either of those things.”