Conservative councillors decide to delay vote that could topple Labour-run administration until after local elections, reports James Cracknell
An extraordinary council meeting that had been called to discuss a motion of ‘no confidence’ in the Labour administration at Enfield Council has been postponed, amid controversy over its timing.
The meeting had been set to take place on Friday at 7pm, a time that had been heavily criticised by a leading Jewish group because it would have precluded two Jewish councillors from taking part, coinciding as it did with the Jewish Sabbath that begins at sunset every Friday.
Because of the controversy over the timing, the Conservative group confirmed today that it had withdrawn its motion, agreeing instead to wait until after the May elections, when three council by-elections are set to take place, alongside the London mayoral and assembly votes.
A row has now erupted over who was to blame for the meeting being scheduled on a Friday night. Purdah rules that restrict party political debate in the council chamber in the run-up to elections come into force next week, meaning Friday was the last day the debate could have been held.
The Conservative group, however, claim their motion was submitted with enough time for the meeting to have been scheduled earlier this week. Leader Joanne Laban told the Dispatch: “We would have been happy to meet on Friday afternoon or morning, even though some members of the group work full-time. Unfortunately the Labour group were not wanting to do that and went with the 7pm time instead.”
Cllr Laban also said that the Conservative motion was submitted within enough time for the meeting to have been arranged earlier this week. She added: “The mayor [of Enfield] sat on our request for this meeting for seven days and therefore the only day it could then happen was Friday.”
A council spokesperson refuted any suggestion that the usual procedures on scheduling meetings had not been followed and said: “Enfield Council can confirm that all processes in calling the extraordinary council meeting followed legal and constitutional guidance.”
The ‘no confidence’ motion from the Conservatives had been submitted following the latest in a series of resignations and defections from the Labour group over the last nine months, as well as a number of policy issues that Tory councillors said residents were concerned about.
For the motion to have succeeded, it would have required at least nine Labour councillors to vote with the opposition Conservative and Community First groups.
The two Jewish councillors who would have not been able to take part if the meeting had gone ahead were both Community First members.
Council leader Nesil Caliskan said: “Finally the Conservative group have done the right thing and postponed the meeting they called, so that councillors of all faiths and backgrounds can reasonably attend and vote.
“It has been in the Conservative group hands for a number of days while Labour and others tried to convince them to drop their political stunt and to put residents first.
“It was clear the Conservative group’s insistence that the meeting went ahead on Friday at 7pm had caused hurt to the Jewish community, so this is a welcome U-turn.”