Southwark cabinet minister for housing Leo Pollak has quit after it emerged he had not been transparent about a Twitter account that he managed, which slammed community groups.
He has apologised to leader Cllr Kieron Williams for “a serious error of judgement that doesn’t meet the standards of openness and accountability that you would expect of a public representative”.
His resignation comes after the South London Press investigated an account under the name @SouthwarkYIMBY which promoted house building and council projects in the borough.
But it also criticised residents’ campaigns – without revealing who was making the comments.
In a tweet referring to a campaign to stop homes being built on green space at Priory Court, Peckham, the tweeter refers to “shabby attempts to concoct an anti-infill movement”; a “campaign of distortion”, and “a serial blusterer”.
The tweeter also says of one of the campaigners: “I happen to know he really does not speak for the estate.”
And as recently as February 11, the account refers to the Save Long Lane Ballcourt and Garden campaign as “pathetic nimbyism”.
The name of the account is a twist on the phrase “Not In My Back Yard” – or nimby – instead dubbing itself “Yes In My Back Yard”.
The South London Press wrote to Cllr Pollak and his leader pointing out that the account used an email address, which, though starred for anonymity, was remarkably similar to Cllr Pollak’s council one.
It also had a phone contact which shared the final two digits with his publicly-listed mobile number. And it retweeted a string of Cllr Pollak’s statements.
But it did not reveal whether Cllr Pollak was the @SouthwarkYIMBY author.
Southwark council’s own Code of Conduct, states under the heading of Accountability: “Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.”
The @SouthwarkYIMBY Twitter account has now been deleted.
The council issued a statement tonight, which revealed that in his resignation letter Cllr Pollak said: “It goes without saying that this represents a serious error of judgement that doesn’t meet the standards of openness and accountability that you would expect of a public representative, and I am writing to offer you all a full and unqualified apology. I have referred myself to the council’s monitoring officer and will accept any recommendations made.”
Cllr Pollak will continue to represent residents in South Bermondsey ward as a backbench councillor.
Cllr Williams, said: “Whilst it is right that Cllr Pollak has resigned following a serious error of judgement, we will miss his huge passion for improving the lives of everyone who lives in council housing.
“From driving forward our plan to build 11,000 new council homes, to championing local estates through our Great Estates programme, to campaigning tirelessly on issues like right to buy and land reform, Leo has worked relentlessly to improve the lives of our residents.
“However, in order to gain and retain our residents’ trust, it is essential that all politicians carry out their work in a completely transparent way. In this case, unfortunately Cllr Pollak’s behaviour risked compromising that trust, and that is why I have accepted his resignation as cabinet member for housing.”
No decision has yet been taken about who will take on the role of cabinet member for housing, and in the interim Cllr Williams will oversee the council’s housing work.
The monitoring officer will carry out a full investigation before reporting her findings publicly.
Priory Court campaigner Lewis Schaffer, who runs its Twitter account, said: “This shows the lack of support for building on green space in this borough – if Southwark feel they need to troll residents over this. If people supported this, he would not have needed to do it.”
Pictured: Priory Court residents protest as Southwark council digs investigative boreholes in the estate’s only green space. PHOTO: KIM NOBLE
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