'Unprecedented' number of complaints over Luton lockdown breach, HR director tells standards committee

Luton Borough Council has received an "unprecedented" number of complaints about the behaviour of three councillors who broke lockdown rules, according to the authority's head of human resources.

By Euan Duncan
Friday, 31st July 2020, 10:20 am
Updated Friday, 31st July 2020, 10:46 am

Proceedings against borough councillors Tahir Malik, Waheed Akbar and Asif Masood are underway, a meeting of the local authority's standards committee heard yesterday.

The trio issued a public apology after attending a large gathering in the town, without wearing face masks or social distancing.

Councillor Malik, the mayor, who has refused to resign, had a face mask under his chin.

Images of the lockdown breach have been shared across social media

Many news reports appeared across local and national media, as well as social media, according to the council's director of human resources and monitoring officer, Angela Claridge.

"I've received a lot of complaints that those three members have breached the code," Ms Claridge told the committee.

"I'm currently acknowledging all the complaints and working my way through them," she explained.

"Some are more detailed than others. And I think it's fair to say there's likely to be a local assessment panel fairly soon.

"We'll be in contact with you looking for members who're able to sit on that panel. It's the usual process.

"But there has been an unprecedented number of complaints coming in."

The local assessment panel is a sub-committee of the council's standards committee, which has overall responsibility for the behaviour and conduct of councillors.

Labour Limbury councillor Rob Roche asked about the complaints procedure, explaining that ward members were receiving complaints from the public as well.

Ms Claridge replied: "What's happening is some members of the public are complaining to councillor Simmons, as the leader.

"Some are complaining to ward councillors. Some to me, and some are doing all of the above," she said.

"So they're coming in through different routes, they're trickling in every day.

"When I spoke to councillor Simmons on Tuesday (July 28) she was up to date with them all."

Ms Claridge added "There are also complaints going to the Labour Party, which has its own disciplinary process - separate from the complaints process we monitor through the standards regime."

The local assessment panel has both Luton councillors and members of the public, known as independent or co-opted members, sitting on it.

It determines whether the complaint should be rejected, whether a more in-depth investigation should be carried out, or if it should be referred to another agency or organisation.