'Cover-up': Council withheld evidence from watchdog 'behind leader's back'

Woodside Avenue in Muswell Hill and Haringey Council leader Peray Ahmet

Haringey Council leader Peray Ahmet (inset) said she was never informed about an official investigation into a Muswell Hill development scheme - Credit: Polly Hancock

Haringey Council is facing multiple inquiries into an alleged “cover-up”, after it withheld evidence from an official investigation and then asked the investigator to censor its report.

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) last week said ex-leader Joseph Ejiofor improperly blocked the demolition of homes in Muswell Hill after millions had already been spent on a regeneration scheme.

The LGO was investigating why one owner was paid a huge sum for their home but another was not.

It asked Haringey for correspondence about how, when and why it decided to buy the house, valued at £850,000, for £2.15m.

But, it said: “The council has failed to provide any information about that contact, despite our repeated requests.”

Emails seen by the Ham&High shows the Information Commissioner’s Office has now accepted a complaint about the withholding of those documents and is in the process of assigning an investigator.

Other emails show council officers lobbied the LGO last year to omit Cllr Ejiofor’s name from its report.

It refused, saying it was “in the public interest” to name him.

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Current leader Peray Ahmet told the Ham&High that the request was made without her knowledge.

Cllr Ahmet said she was told the LGO had asked questions about the scheme last summer, then heard nothing more about it

She said: “I was not aware that there was an ongoing investigation or that my predecessor had been interviewed as part of that until early January 2022.

“This meant that any requests to remove Cllr Ejiofor’s name from the report, and decisions about the management of the process, were not discussed with me.”

Cllr Ahmet has asked Haringey's new chief executive Andy Donald, who starts next week, to launch a review into the council’s property acquisitions.

But Lib Dems want external investigators brought in.

“A full, independent investigation is needed into both this report’s findings and additional concerns around the council’s reaction to the report,” said Pippa Connor – vice-chair of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

“The report depicts a ‘cover-up culture’, where the council is refusing to submit to political oversight.”

The council offered no further comment.

Cllr Ejiofor did not respond to a request for comment.

For more, read:

Watchdog: Ex-council leader's conduct over housing development was 'flawed'