Councillors to seek policy changes after Chalcots whistleblower revelations

Chalcots estate, Tom Simon, Gio Spinella

Camden's Lib Dem leader Tom Simon (inset, top) and Conservative leader Gio Spinella (inset, bottom) will seek reviews of council policy following the Ham&High's revelations about the Chalcots estate - Credit: Archant

Councillors will seek reviews of Camden Council’s policies after the Ham&High revealed that potentially critical evidence about safety problems on the Chalcots estate were deleted long before a promised public inquiry.

Lib Dem and Conservative leaders said they would raise questions about data retention and whistleblower policies.

We reported last week that during the refurbishment of the Chalcots estate between 2006 and 2009, a contractor repeatedly raised concerns with the council.

The man sent a string of emails to officials in which he made serious allegations, including claims about safety problems.

Nine years later, an inspection uncovered safety issues so severe that more than 2,000 people were evacuated and Camden later filed a £130m lawsuit against contractors.

It accepted a £19m settlement from several firms last week, none of which accepted any blame.

In his emails, sent in 2008, the whistleblower urged the council to investigate and said he had evidence supporting his claims.

But Camden Council refused to answer questions about whether his allegations ever were investigated.

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The authority admitted that it had deleted the emails, blaming a policy under which all Camden Council emails are deleted after seven years.

“This is something that I’m going to have to bring up, at the very least, to the Audit and Corporate Governance Committee in the near future,” said Conservative leader Gio Spinella.

Cllr Spinella said the fact that the problems on the Chalcots estate were not uncovered until more than seven years after the works showed seven years was sometimes not long enough to wait before deleting messages.

"I appreciate that, like for everybody else at work, 75% of your emails will be rubbish,” he said. “But some of the emails that go to councillors and officers should not be treated cavalierly.”

Lib Dem leader Tom Simon said: “Clearly, there may be some areas where the council and other public bodies need to think twice before deleting things.

“Obviously, you can’t keep all records forever and there needs to be some kind of policy, but some things should perhaps be kept longer than others.

“That is an area we are going to have to look at.”