The Lambeth councillor who told a council cabinet meeting he had met two elderly siblings on Central Hill estate – when he hadn’t – has finally come face to face with them.
In a letter to the couple, who live on Oakwood Drive, Cllr Luke Murphy told them: “It was not my intention and for any hurt I have caused I am sorry.”
Cllr Murphy’s letter, and the text of a conversation he had at a meeting with the brother and sister following his letter, have now been made public on the Save Central Hill Community website – and provoked further outrage from Karen Bennett, who is secretary of the Central Hill tenants and residents association, in her post on the issue.
Karen, who attended the meeting between the siblings and Cllr Murphy was astonished to find that he was accompanied by Fiona Cliffe, a regeneration officer for Lambeth council, when he finally arrived at the elderly couple’s home.
Karen Bennett in her post describes Fiona Cliffe as: “a regeneration officer for Lambeth council who has been working hard for the last two years to convince residents that demolition of their homes was the best solution to replace an allegedly decrepit council estate.”
Of the conversation which followed – reported in full in the following story – Karen Bennett says: “As you can see, Luke Murphy was not concerned that he lied to cabinet, or that this may have affected the cabinet decision, or even that he has more than just (the elderly couple) to answer to for his deceitful actions.
“Following the disappointing but not altogether unexpected outcome of the scrutiny committee meeting in May (which upheld the decision to demolish the estate – Ed.) we discovered that ‘Private Eye’ magazine had got wind of the story surrounding the couple’s rebuttal of Murphy’s allegations at the cabinet hearing in March and published an article on 13th July 2017, entitled ‘LIE OF THE LAND’,
Interestingly, despite the deafening silence from Luke Murphy following the scrutiny committee meeting shortly after the publication of the ‘Private Eye’ article, Murphy contacted the couple directly by way of a letter dated 26th July 2017 which reads as follows :
Dear Mr Kingston and Ms Kingston
I wanted to write to you regarding my statement to Lambeth council’s cabinet on the decision to rebuild Central Hill.
In the statement I gave to Lambeth council’s cabinet, I included accounts of residents’ views including your own, which were provided by a colleague who had spoken to residents directly and made notes of their views in good faith. Since then, a different account of your views has been presented which contradicts the description I gave to cabinet.
As I said in my letter to you last week, I am very keen to speak to you in person regarding these issues having not done so already. However, if I have caused any upset, as I understand to be the case, for what was a genuine misunderstanding then I wholeheartedly apologise. It was not my intention and for any hurt I have caused I am sorry.
But I also wanted to say that at no point did I seek to misrepresent your views or make any fabrication, which is what has been alleged. The account I gave to cabinet was given in good faith based on the reports I received from a colleague.
I take my position as a local councillor incredibly seriously because I recognise that I was elected to represent the views of all the residents of Gipsy Hill and stand up for their interests.
I would welcome a discussion with you regarding this matter and the proposals for Central Hill more generally so please do get in touch should you feel able to and we can arrange a time that is convenient to you.
Yours sincerely Cllr Luke Murphy
Karen Bennett posted: “Somewhat bemused by the letter from Murphy, so long after the scrutiny meeting, the couple nevertheless contacted him agreeing to a meeting with him at their home.
“The sister, nervous of further misrepresentation by the councillor, also contacted me asking if I would be prepared to act as a witness to the meeting.” Karen agreed.
“Despite failed attempts to set a date (Cllr Murphy cancelled several times at short notice to be at a wedding, to get over a wedding, etc.) an appointment was eventually set for 10th August 2017 @ 11 am.
“As the couple and me waited for Cllr Murphy to arrive, purportedly to make good his apology, they could never have anticipated what happened next.
“The doorbell rang at 11.05 am, the sister answered the door, and Luke Murphy walked in…… not alone, but accompanied by Fiona Cliffe, a regeneration officer for Lambeth council who has been working hard for the last two years to convince residents that demolition of their homes was the best solution to replace an allegedly decrepit council estate.
“The waiting residents were astonished by the sheer effrontery of Luke Murphy to bring someone along without warning, but even more so that it was Fiona Cliffe.
“The conversation that followed was truly bizarre and showed the intention of Luke Murphy, who had not expected me to be present at the meeting, was not to apologise at all, but to manipulate the couple into altering their stated view of the regeneration project… and he brought Fiona Cliffe along to do the dirty work.
“As you can see, Luke Murphy was not concerned that he lied to cabinet, or that this may have affected the cabinet decision, or even that he has more than just this elderly couple to answer to for his deceitful actions.
“Luke Murphy is just determined to see Central Hill estate demolished in line with the Lambeth Labour council’s plans and will go to any lengths, however underhand to see that happen.”
CLLR MURPHY HAS BEEN ASKED FOR A RESPONSE BY NEWS FROM CRYSTAL PALACE. NONE HAS BEEN FORTHCOMING.
EDITOR’S NOTE: There are other questions which need to be answered including the obvious one: WHY did Cllr Murphy tell cabinet he had visited the brother and sister’s home when clearly he hadn’t?
Lambeth council’s code of conduct for staff, outside contractors etc states: 1.15 The council reserves the right to take action against any employee whose actions and/or behaviour, inside or outside work could reasonably be regarded as bringing the council into disrepute.
2.1 Lambeth council expects integrity and honesty from its employees and prospective employees at all times. Supplying false information or documents, or attempting to deliberately mislead an interview panel, could result in disciplinary action being taken against you and may lead to dismissal.
Lambeth council’s code of conduct for its councillors includes the following: As a member of Lambeth council, my conduct will in particular address the statutory principles of the code of conduct by: Championing the needs of residents – the whole community and in a special way my constituents, including those who did not vote for me – and putting their interests first. • Dealing with representations or enquiries from residents, members of our communities and visitors fairly, appropriately and impartially.
2. Roles of councilors g: To represent the views of their ward constituents. h. To be responsible to the electorate and to serve until their term of office expires.
IRONICALLY there is nothing in the councillors’ code of conduct which relates to supplying false information – or anything about taking action against any councillor which “could reasonably be regarded as bringing the council into disrepute.”
Further reading: Loony Lambeth – One: COUNCILLOR SLAMMED OVER FALSE CENTRAL HILL ESTATE CLAIMS May 5, 2017
On March 23rd last year Cllr Murphy told the cabinet meeting which approved the hugely controversial decision to demolish the Central Hill estate: “I have spoken with many tenants and leaseholders who live on the estate about the future of Central Hill……
“…..They include an elderly brother and sister, tenants, who live on Ridge Way. “They support the decision because of the persistent mould in their home, which covers their walls and they fear is affecting their health.
“Now elderly and infirm, they also feel the new properties would be better adapted to their needs……”
But a meeting of Lambeth council’s overview and scrutiny committee held on Wednesday May 3rd which upheld / rubberstamped the decision (depending on your point of view) to demolish the estate heard that:
Cllr Murphy had NOT visited the brother and sister mentioned – although his fellow ward Cllr Jennifer Brathwaite had (and she had not gone into their home)
There as no mould on the walls of the siblings home – but they did complain to Cllr Brathwaite about mice – and two small patches of mould
Both brother and sister oppose the estate demolition and want to stay where they are.
Karen Bennett, secretary of the Central Hill residents and tenants association, as she read out a prepared statement signed by the sister, part of which reads:”We were asked about mould, and Bill (brother) told Cllr Brathwaite that the only mould we have is in the corner of the living room ceiling, and a small patch on the ceiling by the window in one of the bedrooms.
“We do not and never have had mould on the walls and do not consider the mould to be a risk to our health. “We certainly don’t think it’s a reason to knock down the flats.
“We DO think, the council, as our landlord should come and sort out the patch of mould and deal with the mice.
“We are not THAT old and we are certainly not infirm, and at no time have we suggested that we require a home more adapted to our ‘needs’. “We actually think Cllr Murphy is very rude to say this.”
Further reading: Loony Lambeth – One: COUNCILLOR SLAMMED OVER FALSE CENTRAL HILL ESTATE CLAIMS May 5, 2017 (Words in bold type by News From Crystal Palace).