The curse of Evelyn: the strange recurring cases of the errant Lewisham councillors

Serving Evelyn ward can have a strange effect on councillors

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An unenviable streak of bad luck has hit the Lewisham council ward of Evelyn in recent years – at least as far as its local politicians go.

There’s been scandal, outrage, absenteeism and even deselection in the ward, which sits on top of the borough like a hat.

Back in 2013, a row broke out at a byelection after a member of the People Before Profit party referred to “an ethnic mafia”.

That byelection itself was called following the resignation of another councillor, Joseph Folorunso, who hadn’t turned up to any meetings for almost six months.

He quit a week before he would have been forced out, stating he was going to run an orphanage in Togo.

His replacement didn’t fare much better. Olufunke Abidoye was deselected just a few months after her election when it was discovered she faced disciplinary proceedings by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Then Jamie Milne stepped in. He had tried previously to serve on the council as a Labour candidate in the 2010 local elections when he was only just kept out of Lee Green ward by a Liberal Democrat incumbent (remember when there was an opposition in Lewisham?).

Once he gained the nomination for Evelyn, he was duly elected in the die-hard Labour ward, along with two other councillors from the same party.

The early signs were positive in 2014 and then into 2015 (when Milne received £13,499.27​ for his councillor duties). Milne’s attendance record was strong. He sat on various committees, including one of the three planning groups, as well as scrutiny and public accounts. In short, he seemed to be balancing his responsibilities as a councillor with his official job as the head of the constituency office of Heidi Alexander, the MP for Lewisham East.

Had the Evelyn effect lifted?

In 2016 things changed, official attendance figures show. Of the 50 meetings from January to early November where Milne’s presence was expected, he showed up to just 29.

The Guardian previously pointed out that Milne was not at an important committee meeting last September to review the compulsory purchase order for the controversial New Bermondsey development scheme.

Jamie-Milne-council-website
Jamie Milne as seen on the Lewisham Council website

 

In fact if Mr Milne was due at a council meeting, the chances of actually seeing him there were only slightly higher than one in two (58 per cent to be precise).

And of the 21 meetings he didn’t go to, he sent his apologies to only nine.

It’s not quite the staggering seven per cent attendance rate of Mr Folorunso – but engaged local residents were perhaps hoping for a higher bar.

Lewisham Lately didn’t wish to highlight this if there were extenuating circumstances so we emailed Milne (no response) then contacted him at Heidi’s Alexander’s office to check.

There was no particular reason for his absences, he said – just “work and family commitments”. He confirmed he wouldn’t be standing for reelection in 2018.

Until then, Evelyn residents may feel more inclined to direct queries to the two other councillors, Joyce Jacca and David Michael. And what of Jamie Milne’s successor? Will the mysterious absentee blight of Evelyn strike again?