Labour Councillor Suspended After Newspaper Report

Gurpal Virdi denies he leaked information on Councillors' workload to the press

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A Hounslow Labour councillor was suspended from the party after being accused of leaking information on the amount of casework being taken on by councillors in the borough according to a report in the satirical magazine Private Eye.

In the 'Rotten Boroughs' section, the Eye writes that Gurpal Virdi who currently represents the Cranford war has been told he will not be allowed to stand in the next election. He says that he is requesting an inquiry into what he called the "bullying tactics" of certain members of the Hounslow Labour Group.

According to Private Eye it happened after a newspaper report last year printed a story which gave details of how much casework individual councillors during the year. Cllr Virdi admitted that he had sought the figures from council officials which he is entitled to do, but was adamant that he was not the journalist's source for the story.

Private Eye said the councillor was brought before what the magazine described as "a kangaroo court" headed by Labour's chief whip. The Labour group in Hounslow say this was a special meeting of all 49 Labour Councillors. The magazine said that he was found guilty of "leaking potentially damaging documents to the media" and bringing the group into disrepute.

He was suspended from the party, removed from his position as chair of the Standards Committee and will be unable to stand for Labour in the next election.

Gurpal Virdi told that he had worked hard for his constituents in the Cranford ward but there had been a failure to acknowledge his work and he had instead been falsely accused and suspended.

"Now that the public are aware of the nasty ordeal my family and I are going through, they will understand that being in public office is not all good. This reflects badly on local politics which is supposed to fair, open and transparent to improving the lives of residents.

"Despite the local journalist who wrote the article about councillors casework figures, stating that I did not leak the data, the Hounslow Labour Group, still persisted with this bizarre behaviour. I am currently appealing to the Labour Party to conduct an inquiry into certain members of the Hounslow Labour Group as they need to be held accountable for their bullying tactics.

"I have been ordered not to speak to the press or give my views without going through the Hounslow Labour Group. This is bad for democracy as is suppressing data that the public should be provided every year. This data is no different to the public knowing about our expenses, attendance of meetings or declaring our interests."

The article was published by the Hounslow Chronicle in August 2016 under the headline 'How busy is your councillor in solving local issues?'

It stated that Hounslow Council leader Steve Curran raised 477 pieces of casework through the council's computer system during 2015/16, while 14 councillors - nearly a quarter of the 60 in the borough - submitted fewer than 10. Cllr Virdi was second highest on the list with 240.

It was pointed out that it was important to note that the figures were not necessarily an accurate reflection of how much work councillors are taking on. This was because some raised issues by social media such as Twitter or Facebook

Councillors' casework can include issues brought to their attention by residents and businesses, ranging from faulty paving to housing complaints, or matters members have identified independently.

The Cranford councillor is no stranger to controversy. Mr. Virdi is a retired police officer who was cleared of sexually assaulting a prisoner almost 30 years ago and who claimed the charges against him were part of a vendetta by Scotland Yard.

He has won two employment tribunal cases against the Metropolitan Police, one after he claimed to have been framed by colleagues, and the other after claiming to have been victimised.

Cllr Steve Curran, Leader of the Labour Group said, "An allegation was raised against Cllr Virdi for breaching Labour Party rules. An internal investigation was undertaken by the Chief and Deputy Whip, which resulted in Cllr Virdi being asked to appear before a special meeting of the Labour Group (49 Councillors). This gave Cllr Virdi the opportunity to give his side of the case, but also gave other Councillors the opportunity to ask questions of the Chief Whip. At the end of the meeting, after a secret ballot was held, the allegations made against Cllr Virdi were found proven. As a result, the whip was suspended from Cllr Virdi for 4 weeks.

"Cllr Virdi had the right of appeal, which he exercised, and his appeal was heard by a panel set up by the London regional Labour Party where Cllr Virdi again had the opportunity to put his case. The decision of the appeal panel was to uphold the original decision of the Labour Group, and therefore the suspension stood.

"Cllr Virdi's suspension has now ended, and he is a full member of the Labour Group. I
should also add that to date, Cllr Virdi has not provided any evidence to support his allegations of bullying and unfair treatment."


March 27, 2017

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