Community Service Leaders Forced to Apologise for Slurs

Council accused of "seeking to smear people" with legitimate concerns

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Care Services in Hammersmith and Fulham

Andy Slaughter

The Cowan Report

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Hammersmith and Fulham Council has been forced to apologise to two respected executives of the local Carers Centre.

Two members of the council's community services team have sent a letter to voluntary groups around the borough, apologising unreservedly for embarrassment caused to the Carers Centre chair, Kamaljit Kaur, and chief executive, Harbhajan Purewal.

According to the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle, the council slur dates back to June, when it decided to close down the Carers Centre in Hammersmith Road.

A letter sent out at the time to MPs, councillors and voluntary organisations made a number of allegations about Ms Kaur and Ms Purewal, including the false claim that Ms Kaur, who is herself a councillor in Hounslow, was the sister of a man who stood to gain financially from the deal

The Carer's Centre had fought a vocal campaign against the authority's plan to sell off their building and bring services back in-house.

In July, the accusations contained in the original letter were raised in Parliament by Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter, who accused the local authority of being "out of control and behaving in a highly improper way".

The council's opposition leader, Stephen Cowan, said the false accusation levelled against the Carer's Centre leaders was the worst example of the council "seeking to smear people when they raise legitimate concerns about the cuts".

He adds: " There needs to be a full explanation of what happened. Senior councillors and officials have allowed propaganda and smear to become part of the DNA of how H&F Council operates. Over the last five years it has regularly used tax payers' money to spread untruths and misinformation. This is one of the worst examples yet nobody will be sacked and nobody will resign. The public expect better than this. It has to stop."

Now the authors of the original letter, the council's community service leader, Joe Carlebach, and director of community services, James Reilly have sent out another apologising for the slur.

The letter said: "We wrote the letter in good faith and based on the information which we had at that time. It now transpires that there had been a misunderstanding of familial relationships.

"We now fully accept that Ms Purewal and Ms Kaur had no personal or personal financial interest in the bid and that they did not compromise their professional roles. We wish to apologise unreservedly to Ms Purewal and Ms Kaur for the embarrassment they have experienced."

Mr Reilly is understood to have left his post at the council last month.


March 31, 2011