Merton Council cabinet member for education sacked
A leading Merton councillor and senior Labour party activist has been sacked from his role as education chief.
Councillor Peter Walker, the cabinet member for education, was dismissed by the Leader of the Council, Stephen Alambritis, this morning.
In a statement, Coun Alambritis said Coun Walker's conduct was "wholly unacceptable" after he was filmed ripping down a poster promoting a campaign group against the redevelopment of Dundonald Recreation Ground.
Coun Alambritis said: "Peter Walker has done excellent work on Labour’s policy of expanding our best performing schools to provide more places for local children.
"However, I regard this conduct as wholly unacceptable. It is not the way the Labour administration does business."
Jenny Baulkwill, who lives in Graham Road, said she was "dismayed" after she saw Coun Walker ripping down the posters for a community event, organised by her 15-year-old son, Ben.
After putting up ten posters on railings around the Rec before Easter, she said her posters had been mysteriously torn down while others were left alone.
After complaining to friends and putting up new posters, an anonymous person captured the councillor, who lives nearby, tear down the posters during a morning jog this week.
She said: "Is this chilling behaviour setting a good example to local children – a local representative caught in the act of vandalism and endeavouring to stymie a local community event for children?
"Because of Peter Walker’s negative actions we have no option but to postpone the event."
Before being dismissed Coun Walker said this morning he was adamant he had done nothing wrong.
He said: "Fly posting and graffiti spoils the environment in areas like Wimbledon, and I will always take legal steps to prevent it.
"As a local resident who for many years has actively been involved in protecting the Rec and its facilities I object strongly to fly-posting in my local recreation ground.
"'Save our Rec', like those who support the expansion of Dundonald Primary School, have every right to put their views across in a legal manner.
"However, I cannot condone resorting to illegal fly-posting as they and their supporters have been doing.
"I call on Save our Rec to publically call on their supporters to desist from this illegal activity."
His duties will be taken over by Councillor Maxi Martin, who will combine her current role as cabinet member for children's services with education.
Councillor Debbie Shears, the leader of Merton's opposition Conservative group, said the ruling Labour group should take one step further and sack Coun Walker from being a councillor altogether.
This afternoon, Merton Council's standards committee was sent a complaint about Coun Walker for misconduct and bringing the council into disrepute - the second time such a complaint has been made about him in as many years.
Coun Shears said: "This is not the first time Peter Walker has opposed the rights of residents in having views different to his own.
"He ignored the results of a public consultation on a new school and in the proposed expansion in Dundonald Recreation Ground.
"This blatant act caught on YouTube brings further into question his suitability of remaining a councillor.
"He should resign immediately and Coun Alambritis should apologise to residents for his behaviour."
Coun Shears' remarks were echoed by Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, who said: "Coun Walker’s actions were utterly wrong. They showed a complete lack of respect.
"The suspicion is this is nothing to do with illegal fly posting and all to do with someone opposing Coun Walker’s plans."