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Southwark Labour Concillors Nick Dolezal (left) and Barrie Hargrove (right) against whom formal complaints have been made
Letter to Nunhead & Peckham Community Council Chair:
14th July 2016
Dear Cllr Chopra,
Formal complaints against two Southwark Labour Councillors for behaviour at Nunhead & Peckham Community Council, 29th June
On 29th June, the Nunhead & Peckham Community Council meeting, chaired by yourself, witnessed appalling behaviour by two Southwark Labour Councillors, resulting in formal complaints against them from ourselves and others.
First, Eileen Conn of the Peckham Planning Network (PPN) and Peckham Vision made a courteous presentation requesting more information, genuine public consultation, more understandable planning applications and mutual co-operation.
Cllr Barrie Hargrove’s response? To ask contemptuously: “So, are there any planning applications that you have ever agreed with??”
Eileen Conn is a planning expert who has worked tirelessly for over a decade to improve Peckham planning processes.
At least Cllr Michael Situ thanked her for all her hard work over the years and that it had been very helpful in improving life for Peckham communities. But Cllr Hargrove’s response was shameful.
Then we were unexpectedly called as the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries to present - we had only come to support Eileen.
I spoke of Southwark’s destruction of the woods, nature, graves and history of the Camberwell Cemeteries for the sake of inner city burial. 12 acres of inner city woods are to be cleared, two acres of woods already gone, to mound over public graves, then dig up all the old private graves for resale as ‘new’. I echoed Eileen’s call for proper Public Consultation.
As you heard, I reported Cllr Ian Wingfield’s refusal to publish that all ‘new’ burial plots being sold in Camberwell Old Cemetery are over the dead – unsuitable for burial for many faiths. I said the public have a right to know what they are buying.
Then as you saw, Cllr Nick Dolezal replied, claiming the information is published (which it isn’t). A member of our group stood up to say that was untrue and that a Council that denies people information about their religious obligations by race and faith is racist.
Then, witnessed by all present, Cllr Dolezal shouted at us to ‘F*** off!” and started to come round the table as if to attack us in some way.
Many residents came up to us in the break to support us and say how appalling Cllr Dolezal's behaviour had been.
Today, we (and others) have made formal complaints against Cllr Barrie Hargrove and Cllr Nick Dolezal (attached) under Southwark’s Code of Conduct. We hope they are dealt with swiftly.
As you are aware, the Council’s Code of Conduct requires Councillors to treat members of the public and their representations with respect, based on Nolan Committee's Standards in Public Life.
We feel that it would have been more than appropriate for the Chair to reprimand immediately any Councillor behaving in such a manner.
Unfortunately, blatant misconduct like this by Southwark Labour Councillors when it goes unreprimanded only highlights the bullying response Peter John’s Southwark Labour Council has in store for any residents who dare to speak out.
Chair, Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries
The Save Southwark Woods Campaign
07731 304 966
Facebook Page: Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries - The Save Southwark Woods Campaign
In a nutshell: Trees, woods and green spaces too valuable to be used for burial plots - we need more not less, for health and well-being and climate change adaptation; Burial over the dead not an option for many - discriminates against many residents' burial needs, plot buyers not being told; history and heritage of those buried and their families must be respected and preserved; fair burial provision is already available at a fraction of the environmental, financial and social cost.
At the Nunhead & Peckham Community Council on 29th June, Southwark’s Planning Chair Cllr Nick Dolezal told the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries to ‘F*** off!’
The Friends Group has made a formal complaint.
Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries, incorporating the Save Southwark Woods campaign, were called on – unexpectedly – to make a presentation about the Camberwell Cemeteries.
Chair Blanche Cameron spoke of Southwark’s continuing destruction of the woods, nature, graves and history of the Camberwell Cemeteries - just for the sake of inner city burial.
Two acres of inner city Grade I SINC woods have been cleared, ten more acres of woods are to go, to mound over public graves, then dig up all old private graves for resale as ‘new’.
Ms Cameron said Cemetery Councillor Ian Wingfield had refused to publish that all ‘new’ burial plots being sold in Camberwell Old Cemetery are over the dead, making them unsuitable for many residents because of race or faith. She said the public have a right to know what they are buying.
Ms Cameron said Southwark’s Cemetery Strategy is discriminatory and unfit for purpose and called for full and proper Public Consultation and a borough-wide Burial Needs Assessment.
Cllr Nick Dolezal responded by denying the information is not published on Southwark's website. Another member of the Friends Group stood up to say what he was saying was untrue and that a Council that denies people information about their religious obligations by race and faith is racist.
Then Cllr Dolezal shouted at the group to ‘F*** off!”
"He started to come round the table as if to attack us in some way,” says Ms Cameron. “Other Councillors moved to restrain Cllr Dolezal, it was disgraceful behaviour by someone in public office. Many residents came up to us in the break to support us for standing up to the Council.”
Earlier in the meeting, local planning expert Eileen Conn of the Southwark Planning Network and Peckham Vision had also been treated with contempt by Cllr Barrie Hargrove, Member for Communities & Safety. She made a courteous and learned presentation on planning processes, requesting more information and genuine consultation with the community.
The first response, from Cllr Barrie Hargrove was filled with contempt, designed to belittle Ms Conn:
“So, are there any planning applications that you have ever agreed with??”
"The failure by Chair Cllr Chopra," said Ms Cameron, "to reprimand Councillors for such appallingly rude and disrespectful behaviour sends the message that blatant bullying, in this case by two senior Southwark Labour Councillors, is an acceptable response to residents daring to speak out."
The Council’s Code of Conduct requires respectful communication and treatment of residents at all times. The Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries and others have filed formal complaints.
But does a Council complaint form really cover the seriousness of the behaviour and its implications for Council culture?
FOCC SSW's formal complaints and letter to Chair Cllr Sunil Chopra are below.