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Camden's mayor hits back at criticism of council over cost of reception, accusing colleagues of misogynistic bullying

PUBLISHED: 18:37 28 June 2019

New mayor Cllr Maryam Eslamdoust and incoming deputy mayor Cllr Sabrina Francis at the mayor making ceremony. Picture: Vanessa Berberian/Camden Council

New mayor Cllr Maryam Eslamdoust and incoming deputy mayor Cllr Sabrina Francis at the mayor making ceremony. Picture: Vanessa Berberian/Camden Council

Vanessa Berberian 2019

Camden's new mayor has called out her colleagues for misogynistic bullying in the latest factional row to break out in the borough's Labour group.

Barbs have been traded between both those on the right and left of the group in the wake of the Ham&High's revelation this week that the 2019 mayor making reception had cost 61 per cent more than the previous year's.

In a near 600-word email to the other 40 members of the Labour group on Wednesday, Cllr Maryam Eslamdoust said colleagues had "disrespected" her through their strength of criticism about the spend. An unnamed Labour councillor had been quoted in this paper saying the bill was "excessive," adding: "Clearly socialism starts at home and socialists have very expensive tastes."

Cllr Eslamdoust also hit back at her colleagues for briefing "multiple false stories" and "spreading nasty rumours" about her.

She added: "[They] turned up to the mayor making reception in sloppy clothing which would not have been appropriate in an ordinary council meeting let alone the annual meeting of the council and finally succeeded in briefing a nasty and skewed article against me in an attempt to generate a public pile on."

The skirmish also sparked an email from Labour's chief whip Cllr Lazzaro Pietragnoli calling the attack "terrible behaviour" and saying he was "truly and honestly shocked".

The Camden Town with Primrose Hill councillor said: "This is part of a trend of anonymous briefing and leaks which is detrimental to our unity, our values and our cohesiveness as a group."

He also pointed out it was not the first time he had warned councillors about anonymously speaking to the press.

The row was ignited after a Freedom of Information request by this newspaper discovered that this year's ceremony cost £11,334.42 - a 61 per cent increase on the cost of last year's event.

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The bill included £2,000 of decor design and £1,000 for lighting and staffing.

A further £1,223 was spent on having the ceremony in the Crowndale Centre, where meetings are currently taking place while the town hall in Judd Street is being refurbished.

The unnamed Labour councillor had told the Ham&High it was "like a wedding reception. Looking around it felt that a lot had been spent".

In her email, Cllr Eslamdoust added: "The people who briefed this story and provided cowardly unattributed quotes are fully aware that I do not set the mayor's budget." It has not been suggested by this newspaper that Cllr Eslamdoust had any involvement in the mayor's budget or the bill for the event.

"They are also fully aware that the additional costs incurred at this year's mayor making are as a result of the town hall's temporary relocation," she said, "a project which Labour group members are aware I always had reservations about. Some of these costs were one-off costs as events officers wanted to use the mayor making to lay the ground to use Crowndale for future events which will gain income for the council.

"If group members had any real concerns about any of this then they could quite easily have asked me or officers rather than engaging in public hit pieces."

Cllr Eslamdoust, who represents Kilburn, pointed out that she had travelled by bus to events as deputy mayor last year, rather than getting the council to pay for "expensive" alternatives.

The councillor is a new mum, having recently had her first child with her husband and fellow Kilburn councillor Thomas Gardiner. She complained that councillors in the Labour group had used the timing to "publicly bully me because it suits their political agenda".

She also turned her fire on high-ranking members of the group for their conduct, and said politics in the borough had been "cut throat and rife with bullying".

"Much of this behaviour comes from people in senior positions of power," she said, "who should be focusing on their duties on the council, not on petty political games."

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