Chingford News

Ex-Labour councillor who tried to influence planning decision picked as Tory deputy

He left the council in 2014 and joined UKIP after being banned for sitting on committees for six months
By Victoria Munro

New group leader Emma Best and deputy leader Afzal Akram (credit: Waltham Forest Conservatives)
New group leader Emma Best and deputy leader Afzal Akram (credit: Waltham Forest Conservatives)

A former Labour cabinet member has returned to Waltham Forest Council after almost a decade – as one of its leading Conservatives.

In 2014, Afzal Akram stood down as councillor shortly after being banned from sitting on any committees for six months for trying to inappropriately influence a planning decision.

A year later, he re-emerged in Ealing as the chairman of the local UKIP party, claiming he was “disenchanted” with Labour.

At this month’s local election, he finally rejoined the council as the Tory councillor for Valley and, at a meeting of the Conservative group on 16th May, was chosen as its deputy leader.

The group’s former deputy leader, Cllr Emma Best, was voted leader at the same meeting, taking over from Cllr Tim James.

On his Twitter, where he describes himself as a “politician, entrepreneur and TV/radio presenter”, Cllr Akram wrote: “Thank you to all my colleagues who trusted me with this responsibility and to God and all my friends for your prayers and best wishes. I will do my best not to let you down.”

In a statement sent to the Echo, group leader Cllr Best added: “I want to congratulate Cllr Afzal Akram… I’ve always benefited greatly from his experience and advice and look forward to working closely with him.”

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Regarding her own appointment, she wrote: “It is an honour… I step into the big shoes of previous leaders who have created the strong legacy of this group.

“Not least those of our retiring leader, Cllr Tim James, who has been magnificent, both in the council and on the campaign trail.”

Following the original publication of this article, which stated Cllr Best had ousted him as leader, Cllr James contacted the Echo to explain that he chose not to run again.

He added: “The role deserves more time than I could give to it. Emma has been a fantastic deputy and we’ve worked well together over the last year so it was an obvious choice.

“We had a good showing at the election, especially when you look at the picture across London. As an Assembly Member, Emma is the ideal person to take us forward and build on that result.”

As reported previously by the Waltham Forest Guardian, Cllr Akram was disciplined in 2013 for trying to influence a decision over plans to convert Leytonstone’s Colgrave Arms pub into a mosque.

He was found to have sent then-planning committee member and Labour colleague Cllr Karen Bellamy, who still sits on the council, a text reading: “I hope you are going to support this one.”

The application was approved but the then-chair of the committee, Cllr Peter Barnett, chose to make a formal complaint.

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