EXCLUSIVE: Southwark housing chief quits after South London Press investigation of Twitter account

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”.

Cllr Leo Pollak

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.

Tweets

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.”

Tweets

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.

Tweets

“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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7 thoughts on “EXCLUSIVE: Southwark housing chief quits after South London Press investigation of Twitter account

  • 17 February 2021 at 10:53
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    Big shame. All he wanted to do was make life easier for renters and the next generation, and make Southwark housing better than the rest of the UK.

    The UK lags behind the rest of Europe and the “little englanders” that make up most people in politics across the spectrum are unwilling to see why (hint: our unique planning system makes it impossible to build enough housing where people actually want to live). They’ll go on about “penny pinching developers” when all they want is to preserve their property portfolio value.

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    • 17 February 2021 at 12:41
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      Nasrine, do you work for Southwark housing too? Your post reads like propaganda. What is happening in Southwark is a giant shift of public property into the grubby hands of the likes of privateers Lendlease, private equity hedge funds who care not one jot about local community in southwark just look at the Heygate Estate where a whole community was destroyed to make way for brick bank properties for rich investors. Are you paid to leave comments like this? Be honest.

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  • 17 February 2021 at 13:01
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    The only surprise is that people are surprised at Pollock’s actions. I have found him to be one the most arrogant disrespectful untrustworthy patronising condescending people around. Sadly he is typical of Labour Southwark councillors of today. Very very few, if any really want to help the people of Southwark. They are far more concerned trying to bring in wealthy outsiders at the expense of people who have lived here for decades. They constantly ignore the needs of the local people and honestly think they are above criticism. There are far more power crazy ego maniacs at Southwark council than just Pollock

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  • 17 February 2021 at 15:29
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    Thankfully we still have a local newspaper that can do proper journalism instead of simply printing what’s handed out by Southwark Council in press releases. Cllr William’s suggestion that council tenants trust Southwark Council is ridiculous.

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  • 17 February 2021 at 17:01
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    Leo Pollak, very foolishly hiding behind the Twitter name @SouthwarkYIMBY, trolled and criticised residents who had the audacity to disagree with him! Why is this a shame? It is an outrage that an elected Labour Councillor can use such underhand methods worthy of Putin. Where exactly is openness, honesty and democracy in all this? He remains as a Southwark ward councillor, which is ridiculous. If he has any gumption, Kieron Williams, Leader of the Council, must make him resign, and without the usual ££££ of Southwark’s golden goodbyes.

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  • 17 February 2021 at 17:06
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    Priory court is right next to Peckham Rye park one of the bigger parks in Southwark. You can see it in the background of the picture – its that close.

    The land in question is a small triangle of grass in between two roads, so not the best outdoor space. I would think it would be better used for homes if possible.

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  • 4 March 2021 at 12:44
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    Does one Councillor resigning or should I say half resigning change the mindset and behaviour of them all as this is more systemic than people think and been going on decades. Their way or no way and utter contempt for its residents law unto themselves Southwark Councillors and Council employees but I’m glad this article highlighted it just sorry to say it’s only the tip of the iceberg and only way to really change things for us residents is suppose ballot box!

    Reply

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