St Agnes Place benefit/film night Sun26Feb

Gerrard Winstanley office at
Thu Feb 23 13:16:36 GMT 2006

This Sunday (26th Feb) there's a benefit and film showing for the 
longtime, St. Agnes Place squatters rights campaign at the Jammm Club, 
261 Brixton Road, Brixton, SW9 6LH.
Call the Jamm club on 0207 274 5537
or Matthew Warrior on 07980 470596

Have a look below at the rampant housing dept. fraud and other housing 
corruption in Lambeth Council which is the background to last 
December's eviction - and may even be behind yesterday's highly 
suspicious arson attack on the remaining building being investigated 
by the London Fire Brigade today.


see also


Lib Dem quits over fraud scandal
Sat 18th Feb 2006

Disgraced Lambeth Lib Dem housing boss Cllr Keith Fitchett has been 
forced out over a massive fraud scandal. Fitchett was in charge when a 
fraudster stole £3 million from Lambeth's Housing Department last 

When investigators blamed weak management under his leadership, 
Fitchett tried to let more junior staff take the blame. But after 
clinging on for seven months, mounting public anger has finally forced 
him out.

Lambeth has been run by a Lib Dem and Tory coalition for the past four 
years. The scandal-hit Lib Dems and Tories have left Lambeth Housing 
in meltdown. Four of the five most senior managers are now on long-
term leave, suspended or have resigned. After causing a financial 
crisis the Lib Dems have frozen repairs on all estates until April. 
And not a penny of the £3million stolen last year has yet been 

Cllr Fitchett launched a bitter attack on his own Lib Dem and Tory 
colleagues as he resigned. He claimed their arrangements for running 
Lambeth Housing were not working. The question being asked now is why 
the weak Lib Dem council leader allowed this man to hang on for so 
many months when it was clear he was not up to the job.

This is what you get when you vote Lib Dem locally. Its no wonder that 
in Wandsworth Labour is the winner or the challenger to the Tories 
everywhere in our borough.


£3m town hall scandal: the battle against fraud must be a top priority 
Oct 7 2005

I AM sure readers will have been as distressed as I was to read of the 
return of serious fraud to Lambeth ("£3m fraud scandal, South London 
Press, September 30").

As a former leader of the council, who led the fight to eradicate 
fraud from the borough in the mid-1990s, I am dismayed that lessons we 
learnt then appear to be in danger of being forgotten. With all-party 
support, councillors first set up an effective "corporate anti-fraud 
team" to take on fraudulent people and practices across the council.

We then worked to make sure that an anti-fraud culture took hold at 
all levels of the organisation, with tighter management procedures and 
whistle-blowers encouraged to come forward and report fraud.

By the late 1990s, whatever else people might have thought of Lambeth, 
polling showed residents began to have faith that financial dishonesty 
was being fought hard and with success.

I fear these latest disclosures, coming soon after the conviction of a 
former Lib Dem councillor for fraud [Gabriel Reis-Fernandes admitted 
housing benefit fraud in 2004] illustrate what can happen when members 
and officers drop their guard and stop making the fight against fraud 
a top priority.


Massive fraud scandal rocks Lambeth Liberal Democrats
September 2005

Internal fraud at Lambeth council

Almost £3million has been stolen from Lambeth's Lib Dem-Tory run 
council following a massive example of internal fraud. Administrative 
incompetence meant a Housing Department employee was able to arrange 
for £2.8 million of council money paid to a company that he had set up 
himself. The money was supposed to pay for heating repairs for council 
tenants. When questions were finally asked about why the work had not 
been carried out, the fraudster disappeared.

Basic checks on the fraudster's background were not made when he was 
employed at the council and he was even promoted, following his 
employment. In March 2005 he convinced his bosses to write 28 cheques 
to his own West Country based company. 

The administrative incompetence shown by Liberal Councillors in charge 
of the Housing Department has lead to calls for their Executive Member 
to resign. Councillor Keith Fitchett, who is in charge of Housing is 
refusing to step down despite the fact that he has presided over one 
of the largest single examples of fraud in the history of Local 

Statement from Councillor Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth's Labour 

"It appears our Liberal Democrat Council hired a convicted fraudster, 
handed him the Council's cheque book and let him sign millions of 
pounds over to himself without anyone checking what he was up to. As a 
result of this staggering incompetence, Lambeth has now lost nearly £3 
million that should have been used to improve our council housing." 

"This is one of the biggest fraud cases in the history of British 
local government, and it's happened because the Liberal Democrats are 
incapable of running the Council. Lib Dem Cllr Keith Fitchett is 
responsible for this service." 

"It is his failed stewardship that has led to this disaster, and he 
must now resign. If the Liberal Democrats don't think incompetence on 
this scale is a resigning matter, then what on earth is?"


£2.8m housing fraud claims second scalp 

Feb 17 2006

By Greg Truscott

THE political head of housing in a borough has resigned in the wake of 
a multi-million pound fraud scandal.

Liberal Democrat councillor Keith Fitchett announced yesterday that he 
had resigned as Lambeth's executive member for housing after a £2.
8million fraud in the borough's housing department.

Cllr Fitchett will remain councillor for Prince's ward and intends to 
stand as a candidate for the ward in May's local government election.

His resignation follows that of director of housing Stewart Holton, 
who left the council last month.

He said he had taken the decision to stand down because he felt a 
disciplinary investigation into last year's fraud had treated council 
staff unfairly.

Cllr Fitchett said: "I have decided to resign as executive member for 
housing because I think the previous director of housing was treated 

"He had made a big contribution to the housing department and could 
not have been expected to check every single invoice in his 

He added: "The housing department had been turned around and is now 
among the best in London.

"I have also decided to go because I am not happy with the current 
arrangements that have been put in place in the housing department 
following the departure of Stewart Holton."

Opposition Labour councillors had called on Cllr Fitchett to resign as 
political head of housing after it emerged a fraudster had won a 
trusted job in the council and made a multi-million pound payout to a 
phantom company he had set up.

The alleged fraudster was dismissed after auditors smelt a rat, but 
police were not called until days later. He has been on the run ever 

Cllr Fitchett's powers as political head of housing were stripped by 
council leaders after the scandal.

But he continued to draw a £15,000 special responsibility allowance 
for doing the job.

Cllr Fitchett said he continued to draw the allowance because he was 
still involved in "99.9 per cent" of all housing decisions.

Opposition Labour leader Cllr Steve Reed said he was pleased that Cllr 
Fitchett had resigned.

Cllr Reed said: "Fitchett has finally been forced to do the right 
thing but only after months of clinging on.

"He is clearly still in denial about the chaos he left housing in and 
his statement exposes the disarray within the Liberal Democrat and 
Conservative administration.

"The question now is why council leader Cllr [Peter] Truesdale didn't 
do anything about this earlier."

Fraud scandal rocks Lib Dems
April 2005

Streatham Guardian coverage of the Liberal Democrats cover up

The findings of an investigation into a disgraced Liberal Democrat 
Councillor are being covered up by his political allies in Lambeth 
town hall. As reported in the local press in December 2004, the same 
Councillor has already been convicted of Housing benefit fraud in 

Nearly two and a half years ago, Lambeth council began its own 
investigation into allegations of fraudulent activity by former Lib 
Dem Councillor Gabriel Fernandes. No report has been published, 
arousing suspicions that it has been hushed up by the Lib Dem 
leadership. At Wednesday night's council meeting, Labour Leader Steve 
Reed asked to see the findings of the investigation. 

The Liberal Democrat Leader of the Council, Peter Truesdale, answered 
that "The Council will not be publishing the report because of the 
constraints of the Data Protection Act 1998 and, in any event, the 
publication of such material would clearly prejudice any legal 
proceedings the Council might consider instituting." 

Liberal Democrat Councillors have offered protection to Gabriel 
Fernandes (above)

It has taken two and a half years for Lambeth to fail to publish the 
findings of its investigation. Ealing Council completed their 
investigation into Fernandes in a much shorter period and then 
successfully prosecuted him. Labour Councillors are concerned that the 
delay in Lambeth is politically motivated. The Liberals did not tell 
anybody about the status of the report until Councillor Reed's 
question forced them to explain what had happened to it. 

Councillor Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth Labour, said:

"Right from the very start, Liberal Democrat Councillors have offered 
protection to Gabriel Fernandes in an attempt to limit the political 
damage of his criminal activities."

"Now they are covering up this report and I fear this is for the same 
reasons. Either criminal proceedings are commenced urgently or they 
must publish the report. Lambeth residents have a right to know."

You can read more about how ex-Lib dem Councillor Gabrielle Fernades 
fraudulently obtained housing benefits in a case brought by Ealing 
Council at Acton Magistrates court by reading the story of the Ealing 
Council website.

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