Row Over Council Leader Escalates

Conservative councillor urges Chief Executive to investigate

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There are calls for a formal investigation into Ealing's Council Leader and his housing arrangements after growing concerns over an apparent lack of transparency.

Councillor Julian Bell has been criticised after it was revealed he owns a five-bedroom house in Acton and also has a joint secure tenancy with the A2Dominion Housing Group for another property.

In the last few weeks e-mails were circulated showing that Councillor Bell had received a loan from Ealing Council. The loan was secured on the property he owns but the amount recorded with the Land Registry was redacted. It was suggested that this loan related to a Disabled Facility Grant. An email sent out to Councillors stated that this was not the case and that the loan related to care charges for an elderly relative.

Conservative opposition leader, Councillor Greg Stafford has now written to Ealing's Chief Executive, Martin Smith with a number of questions which he says need clarifying through a full investigation.

He says: '' The recently received second communication regarding the Leader of the Council’s housing arrangements, has in the opinion of the Conservative Group, escalated the issue from uncomfortable and embarrassing to there being a definite case for Cllr Bell to  answer.''

In December, Cllr Bell issued this statement :

''On the issue of my current housing situation, I am keen to make absolutely clear that all the arrangements relating to my social housing tenancy with A2Dominion Housing Association are completely appropriate and transparent.

''Over a number of years, I have had to make a number of decisions regarding my family's housing situation to enable my wife and I to care for frail and elderly relatives with complex care needs, a situation exacerbated by a number of extremely challenging issues relating to our house move. I have always been completely open with Council colleagues throughout what has been a difficult time for my family and I.”

Councillor Greg Stafford says: '' It is a concerning that Cllr Bell has made no public statement to the Council on this matter and has sought to dismiss the claims without giving a reasonable explanation or allow himself to be questioned in public.

''I am therefore writing to formally request that you institute an independent investigation into Cllr Bell’s housing arrangements and the nature of the loan received by him from the Council. I would ask that the investigation both conduct its enquiries and provide its results in public so that residents’ confidence can be restored.''

An Ealing Council spokesperson said: " The council's chief executive is reviewing the letter sent this morning from Councillor Stafford and will respond to him directly. "

18th March 2015