Camden Labour and Tories accuse each other of ‘stitch up’ over vote on £1bn CIP development scheme

Crowndale Centre. Picture: Creative Commons/Philafrenzy

Crowndale Centre. Picture: Creative Commons/Philafrenzy - Credit: Archant

Tempers boiled over during a vote on whether to hold a panel to review the Community Investment Programme (CIP).

Hampstead Town councillor Oliver Cooper was told he was unable to stand in for Lib Dem Luisa Porritt a week ago (Wed).

He was told it would be against Camden's rules. Both Labour and the Conservatives have accused each other of trying to "stitch up" a vote over CIP.

CIP is Camden Council's 15-year £1billion project to redevelop parts of Camden, building homes, schools and community centres. It has faced controversy over its cost and deliverability. A housing scrutiny committee a fortnight ago heard it was £100m in debt.

Labour chief whip Lazzaro Pietragnoli, who sits on the committee, said the swap was illegal as it would alter the political balance of the panel by bringing in another Conservatives.

A council official also checked with the borough solicitor Andrew Maughan on the evening in question, and agreed with Cllr Pietragnoli, but this was not passed onto the room by chair Andrew Parkinson. In response Cllr Cooper said the Local Government Act would allow him to substitute.

A council spokesperson reiterated its legal opinion to the Ham&High yesterday.

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Cllr Parkinson tried to allow a vote to take place, but Cllrs Danny Beales and Richard Olszewski weighed in to tell him he would be out of order if he allowed Cllr Cooper to vote. The meeting was abandoned.

Speaking afterwards Cllr Cooper said he believed this was to try to stop a review of CIP taking place.

"It was febrile and angry," he said. "If I had been allowed to sit and the vote had taken place, the panel would have voted in favour of it. The administration were so scared of that they tried to get me kicked off the committee."

Cllr Beales said he would welcome a review of the scheme but that "you can't claim transparency but not be transparent about the advice given".

The leader of Camden Tories said he had since got legal advice from his party and Local Government Association officials that backed up his view.

He has written an eight-page letter to Mr Maugham setting this out saying: "There is no provision in law for Cllr Cooper to have been prevented from taking his place on the Committee as a substitute duly designated by Cllr Porritt."

The vote will now take place at the next Resources and Corporate Performance scrutiny committee on October 10.