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Outrage as Havering Council chooses former worker to investigate corruption

The Havering Residents Association has called for Daniel Fenwick to be replaced with an independent investigator

Opposition councillors in Havering have criticised the appointment of a former council employee to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of corruption. 

Daniel Fenwick, who now works as a monitoring officer for Newham, has been chosen to investigate allegations of gerrymandering related to the leader of Havering Council, Damian White. 

But Havering Council believes Mr Fenwick “will bring a rigour to the review”, as he was not involved in the Boundary Commission process.

The investigation was announced after a recording was leaked of Cllr White seemingly discussing plans to influence changes being proposed to ward boundaries in Havering to help his party perform better during local elections. 

During a meeting with other conservative councillors in February 2020, Cllr White suggested the councils chief executive, Andrew Blake-Herbert, had allowed him to shape the council’s preferred option. 

Havering Council leader, Damian White, has been accused of gerrymandering

Both Cllr White and Mr Blake-Herbert deny any wrongdoing and argue the Boundary Commission makes its decisions independently. 

However, there have been claims Mr Fenwick cannot be impartial as he previously worked for Havering Council.

The Havering Residents Association (HRA) says Cllr White was on the interview panel which originally hired Mr Fenwick and say he worked under Mr Blake-Herbert during his time at the council. 

The MP for Dagenham and Rainham, Jon Cruddas, has also raised concerns about Mr Fenwick’s position at OneSource which provides back office support to both Havering and Newham.

As a OneSource director, he regularly presents papers to the OneSource joint committee which Cllr White has sat on since 2015. Mr Cruddas argues this may compromise his ability to be impartial. 

Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas

“These are serious allegations that demand transparency,” said Mr Cruddas. “Which is why it is of the utmost importance that an officer is appointed who has no prior connections to the London Borough of Havering or the Council Leader.”

The HRA has written to Havering Council’s monitoring officer calling for Mr Fenwick to be replaced with an independent investigator. 

“As you will be fully aware, this is a matter of significant public interest,” said Councillor Gillian Ford. “However, by looking at this from the residents perspective, an independent review would require the reviewing officer and the subject of review to be independent of each other.

“As Andrew Blake-Herbert was the Chief Executive and employer of Daniel Fenwick, with an ongoing relationship through OneSource, the public are therefore unlikely to consider this as an impartial appointment or in the public interest.”

Havering Council says Mr Fenwick can remain impartial because he did not have any dealings with Havering’s Boundary Commission Process. 

“We have received an objection from the Havering Residents Association which has been noted,” a Havering Council spokesperson said. 

“However, we do not agree with this view as the complaint will be reviewed by the Monitoring Officer for the London Borough of Newham and as such is a Statutory Officer employed by that authority.

“He has had no dealings, whatsoever, with Havering’s LGBR and will be able to look at this matter impartially.

“We are content that the relationship with Havering Council is a distant one and as Newham’s monitoring officer is a Director of some standing, he will bring a rigour to the review that will be expected.”

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