Statement on Investigation into Former Cabinet Member

There have been a number of allegations, well known in Birmingham political circles and within the Pakistani community regarding Councillor Waseem Zaffar circulating for some time. We have no way of knowing the truth of these allegations, and are in no position to comment on them, but it was concerning to read over the weekend of the existence of an internal Labour Party report from 2009 which concluded that he was not a fit and proper person to be a candidate.

Given the nature of the Cabinet role with which he was entrusted it is important that we know what steps the Leader of Birmingham City Council took to establish his suitability for the role before appointing him. It is also important that any such inquiry into these allegations and into Cllr Zaffar’s recent actions is fully independent, open and transparent. To that end Cllr Ewan Mackey and I have written to the Leader of the Council, Cllr John Clancy, asking that certain information be made public at the earliest opportunity.

FULL TEXT OF LETTER TO CLLR CLANCY

Dear Cllr Clancy,

We have been very concerned to read of the events surrounding the resignation of Cllr Waseem Zaffar from the post of Cabinet Member for Transparency, Openness & Equality. His recent actions, which suggest interference with a school’s uniform policy and the matter of religious faith were not only ill-judged given recent history but have caused further reputational damage to Birmingham at a time when enough damage has already been done. Reports in the press at the weekend are also concerning as they suggest that there was a prior knowledge and adverse conclusions drawn within the Labour Party about historical allegations.

Now that Cllr Zaffar has resigned and an investigation is to be launched we hope you will adhere to same spirit that you wished to promote when you created the position he occupied until last week – namely that of openness and transparency. To that end we would like to request that you make public the following information:

1.The terms of reference of the inquiry – including all the historical allegations Cllr Zaffar refers to in his resignation statement.

2. Your prior knowledge of the historic allegations against Cllr Zaffar (including the 2009 Labour Party report referred to in The Times on 4th March) at the time you appointed him to the cabinet and what steps you took to reassure yourself that he was a fit and proper person to hold this position. This should include any correspondence relating to the matter.

3. The full text and date of both the letter received from Dame Louise Casey regarding the school uniform issue and your reply to her

4. All correspondence between officers and members, officers and officers, members and members, and officers, members and the school relating to the school uniform matter, obviously with names redacted as required. If any information was disclosed during verbal conversations then a record of the dates, times and participants in these conversations should also be provided.

5. Any other information pertinent to the investigation and the events leading up to Cllr Zaffar’s resignation and the historical allegations against him

We hope that recent events have shown that the best way to establish the truth and to learn lessons is to be completely open and transparent. We look forward to your response at the earliest opportunity so that all of us who are concerned about this matter can be clear about how things will proceed.

Regards

Cllr Matt Bennett

Cllr Ewan Mackey

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