‘Extreme disquiet’ among Labour members over top councillor’s job with developer
Labour councillor says legal advice said he was clear to stay in the cabinet while working for company behind Camden Lock facelift
06 February, 2018 — By Richard Osley
CAMDEN Council leader Georgia Gould has been told by some of her own party’s members that there is “extreme disquiet” over a cabinet councillor taking a job with the firm behind one of the borough’s biggest redevelopment projects, it has been revealed.
She was asked to ”instruct” Abdul Hai to resign from his executive post at the Town Hall after he was hired by Market Tech, which is working on the major revamp around Camden Lock and Hawley Wharf. Internal papers show this request was made in a motion passed by members of Labour’s Highgate branch. Cllr Hai, who lives in south London but qualifies to be a councillor in Camden because he works here, has not broken any conflict-of-interest rules.
He joined the company last year, long after it secured planning permission for the redevelopment. But some party members are understood to have wanted to flag up their concerns over how his position might look to the public, with insiders suggesting that it could give the appearance of developers gaining a hotline to the council, even if this was based on perception rather than fact.
The motion from the Highgate branch of the Labour Party
Construction work is continuing on the Hawley Wharf redevelopment, a project which will change the face of Camden Town but which has often divided opinion. Supporters welcome a new look for the historic canalside and market patches, while opponents are worried that the facelift is at odds with the bohemian vibe which helps bring millions of visitors to Camden Town every year.
Cllr Hai has previously said nobody within the Labour Party has raised concerns with him directly and that he does not see a reason to stand down from his position of youth cohesion chief, which is not a role connected with planning issues. He said: “I sought advice from the council’s legal team from the moment I decided to take up my new job. They have confirmed that there is no conflict of interest between my job and my role as cabinet member.”
Cllr Gould said she had visited the Highgate branch to discuss concerns with members who had raised Cllr Hai’s private work. “Abdul has been transparent from start to finish,” she said. “While it was the borough solicitor’s view that there wasn’t a formal conflict with his previous cabinet portfolio, he moved portfolios to make sure there was no appearance of conflict.”
Cllr Gould added that Cllr Hai had “deep expertise” in his role.