MP Reed ordered investigation of councillor emails at Lambeth

Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North, had a fellow Labour councillor’s emails spied upon when he was the leader of Lambeth Council last year, according to an official answer provided at Brixton Town Hall.

"Have you checked your emails, Ed?": Steve Reed, MP for Lambeth South, on a recent tour of Crystal Palace with the Labour party leader Ed Miliband, minister Chuka Umanna (right), and the leader of the Labour group on Croydon Council, Tony Newman (left)

“Have you checked your emails, Ed?”: Steve Reed, MP for Lambeth South (holding booklet) on a recent tour of Crystal Palace with the Labour party leader Ed Miliband, minister Chuka Umanna (right), and the leader of the Labour group on Croydon Council, Tony Newman (left)

Kingsley Abrams, who was then councillor for Vassall ward, was suspended from Lambeth’s Labour group in May 2012 as a result of the investigation, which found that he had passed information to a group which was protesting against cuts being made to services at Reed’s “co-operative council”.

Abrams, a member of the national executive of the Unite trades union, has since resigned from Labour and left Lambeth Council.

At the time of his suspension, disciplinary action against Abrams was taken by the chief whip of the Labour group at Brixton Town Hall, Councillor Matthew Bennett. These days, Bennett doubles up on his Lambeth duties by working as “Head of Office” on Reed’s parliamentary staff.

At the time of the email investigation, the opposition LibDems at Lambeth Council described Reed’s Labour group as being “paranoid about any dissension” and “determined to clamp down on independent thinking”.

The formal answer was provided by Lambeth Council earlier this month to a question posed by Councillor Jeremy Clyne.

In May 2012, Lambeth Council had reported that, “Where we suspect any non-compliance by any officer or member there is an unqualified right to investigate the use of the council’s IT systems which is sanctioned by the council’s internal audit team.

“A recent discreet investigation was carried out, following concerns of confidential information being leaked, with emails from a handful of officers and members audited to ensure they were adhering to the ICT protocol. It was as a result of this investigation that a councillor was found to be acting in contravention of this policy.”

The formal answer provided to Clyne went on to identify who had prompted the investigation that would ultimately force Abrams out of the Labour party: “Concerns were raised by the then Leader of the Council”, the council response stated, meaning Reed, “… regarding a suspected breach of the Council’s ICT policy. In line with the protocol, the then Chief Internal Auditor sanctioned enquiries to be carried out.”

No need for the NSA at Lambeth Town Hall, it would seem.


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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