The Mayor advised that in accordance with the criteria set out in the Constitution, he had accepted the following as an urgent question:
From Councillor Neville to Councillor Taylor, Leader of the Council
“As is now public knowledge, Councillor Nesimi Erbil was convicted last year of two fraud related offences. Can the Leader tell the Council:
(1) When did he first learn of the then pending prosecution of Councillor Erbil for two fraud related offences?
(a) On learning of such pending proceedings (if he did) what action did he take as to the allocation to Councillor Erbil of committee places, having regard to the serious nature of the pending proceedings and in particular his membership of the Licensing Committee?
(b) When did he first learn of the conviction of Councillor Erbil for the two fraud related offences, which I understand took place last September at Southwark Crown Court?
(c) On learning of those convictions, what action did he take to remove Councillor Erbil from, in particular, the Licensing Committee where in the ordinary nature of the work of that committee, Councillor Erbil, a convicted fraudster (for offences connected with his own licenced taxi,) would be sitting in judgement on the licensing of others?
(d) When did he report Cllr Erbil to the Councillor Conduct Committee, if at all?
What other action did he take, if any?
(2) Does he agree with me that in the light of the conviction of Councillor Erbil for two offences of effectively dishonesty, that Councillor Erbil is in those circumstances not fit for public office and that there is no place for him on this Council and that he should therefore resign his seat?”
Councillor Taylor provided the following written response, tabled at the meeting:
“I have dealt with this set of issues in exactly the same way I would deal with all such issues and allegations of misconduct. This is in line with advice and the rules from my National party.
On receipt of any allegations I discuss with the Chief Whip of my group the allegations and the member is interviewed by the Chief Whip. If the matter is of a nature which is beyond the remit of the local group it is referred by the Chief Whip to the National party. They take a view as to the best course of action. Such a referral took place promptly after the member informed me of the matter on January 21st.
On 22nd January, the National Party decided to issue an administrative suspension and the Councillor has been removed from all of the committees he sits upon. As you will be aware this requires the Council to approve the changes which it will do this evening. The National Party statement re the suspension has been widely covered in the press and there is no benefit in me simply repeating it.
It is now for the National Party to take the action it sees fit and it is not a matter of local group determination.
With regards to any reference to the Councillor Conduct Committee I understand that the Monitoring Officer is seeking clarification of the issues raised in the press coverage before considering what course of action should be followed.
Of course, like Councillor Neville, I treat the reputation of the Council most seriously but I recall that in the case of Councillor Joannides, it took some time for the Conservative Party to carry out a full review after he was suspended, presumably because it was following due process. While I recognise there was no conviction in that case I simply make the point that rules of natural justice and a proper investigation should always take place. I would anticipate that being concluded in the near future.
From my recollection when Councillor Joannides was suspended from the Conservative group it was anticipated that the investigation would last about five weeks which I am sure was to ensure a fair and proper process was followed. I believe that it took a significantly longer time for it to reach a conclusion within the Conservative Party.
I trust that this makes clear that as far as the local Labour group is concerned this is a matter for the National Party.”