Solicitors acting for former councillor Azhar Quershi (Labour, Baylis) have served notice on Slough Borough Council disputing ex-Cllr Quershi's dismissal for non-attendance, demanding his immediate reinstatement and insisting the by-election, currently underway to select a replacement councillor, is stopped.
With Polling-Day about to begin in less than 24 hours, at 7 a.m. on Thursday, 8 March, 2012, frantic activity is underway at Slough's Labour-run council how to respond to this extraordinary last-minute challenge and possible High Court proceedings.
Ex-Cllr Quershi was elected for Baylis ward in May 2006. In May 2010 he was re-elected for another 4 years until 2014.
At the meeting of the full council on Tuesday, 31 January 2012, a council solicitor announced Mr Quershi's dismissed as a councillor for alleged non-attendance at council meetings. The law states councillors must attend a minimum of one meeting every six months unless there is a good excuse.
Interestingly no one gave any explanation for holding a formal meeting of the borough council inside a tent lined with white curtain material with blue balloons floating near the tent's roof (Slough Council wouldn't let us photograph it). The council's tent was inside a hall in a council-owned building sub-contracted to the local sports centre. Slough has a reputation for having a strange council.
Despite the seriousness of the surprised announcement, the meeting's chairman and deputy mayor Christine Small (Labour, Kedermister) repeatedly prevented opposition councillors, from different political parties, asking questions about Cllr Quershi's sacking. It was a shocking example of Labour's arrogant rejection of transparency, public accountability and open government. Mrs Small's behaviour reminded the Slough Times of the Communist era in Eastern Europe.
Councillors wishing to enquire into the sudden decision of unelected council officials to remove one of Slough's 41 publicly elected councillors were effectively gagged. Labour's alleged 'democracy' had been replaced by Communist-style hard-liners desperate to conceal as much as possible from the public. See a reader's letter
According to ex-Cllr Quershi's solicitor, Mr Quershi left Slough in September 2011 on a short personal visit to Pakistan. The solicitor said Mr Quershi had intended to return to the UK in November 2011.
While in Pakistan Mr Quershi became inflected by a mosquito spread group of viruses known as Dengue fever. This fever is widespread in South Asia and can develop into a more severe form known as Dengue hemorrhagic fever. Dengue hemorrhagic fever can cause shock in victims and killing half those infected. Being a viral infection there is no cure. Only the symptoms can be treated.
On 20 November 2011 Mr Quershi sent a fax from Pakistan to Slough
Borough Council advising them of his illness and asking for a
from the effects of the Local
Government Act 1972 section 85 which can result in a councillor's dismissal
if the councillor fails to attend at least one council meeting in a six month
Mr Quershi's urgent communication was accepted by the council.
However sources told the Slough Times that the council negligently failed to fully and properly consider the implications of Mr Quershi's request for an exemption because of his ill-health and his inability to travel internationally back to England.
Sources allege the Government of Pakistan, in an attempt to limit the disease's spread and to reduce the quantity of future outbreaks has banned Dengue sufferers from travelling.
On 24 December 2011, Mr Quershi's doctor pronounced him fit to travel home to Slough.
Back home in Slough, Mr Quershi attended a Labour councillors' group meeting
on 5 January 2012 at which everything appeared normal. During the meeting there
were no indications the Labour leadership were silently waiting a few more
weeks before ousting Mr Quershi as a sitting councillor. If Mr Quershi had
known of the local Labour Party's secret plans to
throw him out, Mr
Quershi could have attended any council committee meeting. That would have
re-started the 6-month count-down period and prevented him being dismissed.
Foolishly Mr Quershi trusted his Labour buddies.
Sources also claim there was considerable under-hand pressure being exerted by
senior Labour councillors to ensure Mr Quershi was
chucked-out from the
council at the earliest opportunity because they questioned Mr Quershi's loyalty
to the local Labour Party's current council leadership of Cllr Rob Anderson and
Cllr James Swindlehurst.
The Slough Times can not verify this allegation but we aware that this week is the third week of a major Labour Party investigation into complaints of sleaze and corruption in Slough among Labour Party members.
Headed by a National Executive Committee member and assisted by the Labour Party's regional director and by 5 other Labour people from outside the area, the investigation results are expected never to be made public.
Mr Quershi's solicitors told the council they are instructed to apply for permission to bring a Judicial Review at the High Court in London of the council's behaviour, seek an injunction against the council as well as claiming damages, interest and Mr Quershi's legal costs.
Slough's less than impressive local council refuses to give the Slough Times any statement about any matter unless it something nasty and detrimental to opposition, non-Labour, councillors. That is why the Slough Times are unable to bring you the council's version of events.
Mr Quershi's solicitor told the Slough Times evidence exists that other Slough councillors who had not attended at least one meeting in a six month period were not dismissed. This strong assertion suggests unequal treatment of elected councillors. The Slough Times thinks the public should know what is happening in their name, at their expensive and at their very unpopular local council.
Monday 27 August 2012: