Lib Dems re­sign panel af­ter school hi­jab af­fair

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Carl Jack­son Coun­cil Correspondent

BIRM­ING­HAM Lib­eral Democrats have walked away from the city coun­cil’s stan­dards com­mit­tee claim­ing it is in­ef­fec­tive af­ter a row over hi­jabs in schools last year.

The group has relin­quished its seat on the panel which looks into com­plaints into coun­cil­lors’ code of con­duct.

It fol­lows a row last year when St Clare’s Catholic Pri­mary School, in Handsworth, re­port­edly ruled that a four-year-old girl could not wear a head­scarf.

The sit­u­a­tion made na­tional head­lines af­ter Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil’s then equal­i­ties chief Cllr Waseem Zaf­far (Lab, Lozells) told the school it was in breach of anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws when they were not. It prompted for­mer Gov­ern­ment in­te­gra­tion tsar Dame Louise Casey to write to the coun­cil con­demn­ing the ac­tions.

Cllr Zaf­far, who re­signed from the cab­i­net in the wake of the sit­u­a­tion, was ul­ti­mately cleared of any wrong­do­ing by the stan­dards com­mit­tee.

But the lack of a wider re­port into the case has led to the lat­est de­vel­op­ments.

Lib Dem group leader Jon Hunt did not say whether he agreed with the con­clu­sion, but stated ei­ther way the stan­dards com­mit­tee should have is­sued a full re­port back to other coun­cil­lors in or­der to pre­vent a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion hap­pen­ing again. He said: “We have had to make de­ci­sions on what com­mit­tees to sit on. We de­cided ‘stan­dards’ was not par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive. I have asked sev­eral times what has come out of the Cllr Zaf­far af­fair?

“It was ob­vi­ously a very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion which any coun­cil­lor could find them­selves in, be­ing asked to ne­go­ti­ate a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion.

“It raised sig­nif­i­cant is­sues over what is ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour; it was se­ri­ous enough for him [Cllr Zaf­far] to re­sign from the cab­i­net over and se­ri­ous enough for Dame Louise Casey to in­ter­vene.

“The stan­dards com­mit­tee needed to feed back to the coun­cil as a whole.

“We needed a lessons learned re­port. Just say­ing he was cleared of wrong­do­ing does noth­ing.”

> Cllr Waseem Zaf­far

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