Haringey Labour group has rejected calls for an independent investigation into possible fraud and corruption within the council amid concerns over property deals.

During a full council meeting on Tuesday (22nd), Labour councillors instead backed council leader Cllr Peray Ahmet’s proposal for an “independent external investigation into historical arrangements for property transactions”.

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison had tabled a motion to full council calling for the wide-ranging investigation into possible fraud and corruption following controversy over the authority’s handling of a development proposed for the site of former care home Cranwood House, in Muswell Hill.

Read more: Probe into Haringey Council Cranwood House care home deals

The council initially planned to knock down several terraced homes to make way for the Cranwood development and spent more than £2million purchasing one of the properties, but the planned demolition was later dropped.

A report by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), published in January, found the council failed to treat neighbours whose houses faced possible demolition even-handedly and told the authority to pay £1,000 in compensation to one of the residents for the stress and uncertainty caused by its approach to the development.

Separately, it emerged that the Metropolitan Police had been investigating allegations of fraud linked to an aspect of the Cranwood scheme. No arrests have been made.

Liberal Democrat leader Luke Cawley-Harrison (Credit Haringey Council)

Liberal Democrat leader Luke Cawley-Harrison (Credit Haringey Council)

Cllr Cawley-Harrison’s motion also raised concerns that decisions relating to other council property deals had been taken “without proper processes in place and without oversight”.

But council leader Peray Ahmet tabled an amended motion at Tuesday’s meeting which removed the call for an investigation into possible fraud and corruption.

Her motion acknowledged that the council “failed to fully co-operate with the ombudsman’s investigation” and “misled” a scrutiny panel about the timings of decisions relating to the Cranwood scheme.

It also noted that the police investigation into fraud allegations was “not linked to the findings of the LGO report”, and that the council had “committed to fully co-operating” with the Met’s inquiry.

Council leader Peray Ahmet (Credit Haringey Council)

Council leader Peray Ahmet (Credit Haringey Council)

Former council leader Cllr Joseph Ejiofor, whose decision to cancel the proposed demolition was described as “flawed” in the ombudsman’s report, has issued a statement noting that there has been “no suggestion from the police or the council” that he was “in any way connected” to what the police were investigating.

The former council leader also disputed the findings of the ombudsman’s report and said he did not accept his decision was flawed. Cllr Ejiofor previously insisted the decision “was a result of the council listening to residents” who had “opposed the demolition of their homes”.

The outcome of the vote at Tuesday’s meeting commits the council to co-operating fully with the inquiries, including the independent investigation into historical arrangements for property transactions.

Cllr Ahmet invited Cllr Cawley-Harrison to meet to discuss the scope of the external investigation. But during a speech to the meeting, the Lib Dem group leader said it was “disappointing” the Labour group had “seen fit to water down” his motion. He branded the leader’s amendment “a commitment to nothing serious at all”, adding “we won’t support that”.

Also speaking during the meeting, Cllr Ahmet said the inquiry she had proposed would “leave no stone unturned” and there should be “no unanswered questions” at the end of it. She added that she hoped it would allow the council to “draw a line under” the issue.