An embarrassing row has engulfed a Labour borough after a councillor was “dumped” from the authority following time off to cope with a difficult premature birth.
Newham claims it had no choice but to expel Charlene McLean after she failed to attend council meetings, despite her having been ill and then in hospital for months with her newborn child.
The borough admitted the Labour councillor was passed incorrect guidance on maternity leave entitlement but is still adamant she can only have her seat back if she wins a by-election.
Outraged grassroots party members accused the council’s Labour leadership of failing to protect her rights.
One angry member said: “This is a working class mother who had time off during a very difficult pregnancy and was then caring for an unwell, premature baby.
“Despite that, she was injudiciously dumped from the council. Charlene is a dedicated Labour member committed to her residents but not seen as a leadership loyalist. That’s valuable on a council with no opposition.”
Last summer Ms McLean stopped attending meetings after she fell ill while pregnant and when her child was born in August she spent a further three months in hospital.
She claims to have been advised by a council officer that she would be entitled to maternity leave and that she was in contact with officers during time away.
But on returning she was informed she had broken legal rules stating a councillor can no longer hold a seat if they fail to attend a meeting for six months.
Last night party members chose Ms McLean to be the Labour candidate to fight the by-election, now due on the same day as the General Election.
The Evening Standard contacted the councillor today but she declined to comment.
Normal statutory maternity leave does not apply to councillors but the borough admitted an officer had incorrectly issued guidance suggesting it did.
Councils can authorise a period of absence but only if it is specifically requested.
Newham claimed neither senior officers nor members were aware incorrect information had been provided to Ms McLean.
A spokesman said: “The Mayor and council are fully supportive of members who have become parents and would have agreed an extended period of absence for Ms McLean if she had sought it.”
He went on: “The Mayor has asked for a full review of the information provided to members who wish to take leave after a birth of a child to prevent this from happening in future.”
Article written by Joseph Watts for the Evening Standard 20 March 2015