Greenwich Council leader faces new resignation call after claim he threw keys at cleaner

News Shopper: Councillor Chris Roberts Councillor Chris Roberts

GREENWICH Council's leader is facing new calls to resign after being forced to deny allegations he hurled a set of keys at a cleaner who woke him up.

The claims against Councillor Chris Roberts, already embroiled in an internal investigation into bullying following an abusive voicemail left on a colleague's phone about the Run to the Beat race, were made on a local television programme at the weekend.

It is claimed that, back in 2009, Councillor Roberts was sleeping in his town hall office when he was woken by cleaner Barbara Clarke.

Her son Jerome told the programme that his mother, who died last year, had apologised, not realising there was anyone in the room, and asked for the keys.

Mr Clarke said: "He just went berserk, went into a tantrum and just threw the bunch of keys at my mum.

"The keys were almost going for her face and she put her hand up to protect herself and the keys just smashed on her wrist."

Mr Clarke said her wrist was left bruised and sprained.

When asked by News Shopper at the time about the alleged incident, Cllr Roberts denied throwing keys or sleeping in his office, denials he has repeated this week.

Greenwich Council also claims the cleaner, who put in a complaint that was eventually retracted after three meetings with chief executive Mary Ney, later changed her story, saying the keys were thrown to her and she overbalanced.

And they said the cleaner’s complaint came 10 days after the incident and was not consistent with the version of events she described on an accident report form, where she had not complained of a wrist injury.

But Unite branch secretary Onay Kasab, who represents council workers, has called for the embattled leader's immediate resignation.

He also claimed Mrs Clarke was denied union representation at her meetings with the chief executive, one of which was attended by Cllr Roberts himself.

He said: "It was me who Barbara Clarke came to for assistance following the incident - she described it exactly as her son did on the programme.

"I advised Barbara to make the complaint and assisted her with the process.

"Once the complaint went in, the council excluded me from the meetings with the chief executive."

Mr Kasab went on: "The council claims it does not tolerate acts of bullying - it tells staff that bullying is a disciplinary offence.

"Nobody can take this seriously while Roberts remains in the town hall."

Two Labour councillors have announced they are standing down this year, citing a bullying culture at the council.

News Shopper has previously called for Cllr Roberts to resign following a string of allegations about his conduct.

MP Sadiq Khan, Labour's shadow minister for London, told the programme any allegations made would be investigated.

A spokesman for the council said Mrs Clarke opted for an informal resolution and did not want Mr Kasab representing her.

Cllr Roberts said: "The incidents referred to in the report are either several years old or are the subject of ongoing internal inquiries within the machinery of the Labour Party.

"While I am not the subject of those inquiries, like all members of the Labour Party I am bound by principles of confidentiality which for over 25 years I have abided by. Where the language I have used has been inappropriate I have apologised to those concerned.

"However, I categorically reject the statement made by Mr Clarke which does not accord with the version of events related to me by his mother."

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