Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Council insists former leader's job at developer does not risk 'impropriety'

Ex-leader Clare Coghill will not work on any projects in the borough while still a councillor

Hero for Council insists former leader's job at developer does not risk 'impropriety'
An artist's impression of the Lea Bridge development from the station plaza (Credit: Hawkins Brown & Exterior Architecture)

Waltham Forest Council insists there is "no question of any impropriety or conflict of interest" after its former leader took a job at a housing company.

In September, councillor Clare Coghill, who announced her resignation as leader in June, joined the board of affordable housing provider Square Roots.

Square Roots is a subsidiary of developer London Square, which won a bid in May last year to be the council’s “delivery partner” for the creation of a new “local centre” in Lea Bridge .

This entails building 345 new homes in towers of up to 26 storeys, commercial space and a new plaza for Lea Bridge Station, a project that is still awaiting planning permission from the council.

At a full council meeting on 9th December, Conservative councillor John Moss asked if the “close” relationships between the former leader, London Square and the council could create "impropriety".

He also asked whether there will be an independent audit to make sure taxpayers and residents aren’t “disadvantaged by the presence of a former leader of our council in the management team” of Square Roots.

Councillor Williams said the council’s monitoring office Mark Hynes has advised that there is “no question of any impropriety or conflict of interest”.

She added: “Given Cllr Coghill has now stepped down as both leader and from cabinet it is unlikely that any conflict of interest will arise in her continued role as a councillor.

"However, should such a conflict arise, the monitoring officer’s advice would be sought in terms of the necessary declarations that would need to be made by Cllr Coghill so that she is not put in a position where her integrity is able to be challenged.

“London Square Ltd have confirmed that Cllr Coghill will not be involved in any work in Waltham Forest, including the Lea Bridge Station redevelopment scheme, whilst she remains a local councillor in the borough.”

Cllr Williams added that councillors have the right to persue “gainful employment” while in office, as many other councillors do, and that Cllr Coghill intends to stand down from the council at the local elections in May 2022.

The council leader also wrote that London Square was chosen as development partner after a “robust open market tender process” that was decided by a panel of council officers.

In July this year, a month after Cllr Coghill’s resignation was announced, the council’s legal director upheld a code of conduct complaint against her for failure to declare a conflict of interest.

The council have since clarified that the complaint was related to “outdated information” on the sale of her former home and her change in partner, and that no further action will be taken.