Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Standing up for Phil Maxwell

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 24th September, 2009

There was an interesting political line-up at Toynbee Hall in East London this evening, when I (representing the Liberal Democrats) spoke alongside Peter Tatchell (Green Party candidate for Oxford East), Cllr Peter Golds (Leader of the Conservative Group on Tower Hamlets Council) and a member of staff from local Respect MP George Galloway’s office, at a meeting chaired by UNISON’s John McLoughlin. A Labour councillor was expected to attend, but apparently got sat on by his party before the event, which is maybe not surprising as the subject was the shabby treatment meted out by the Labour-run Council to Phil Maxwell, the officer who has for the past decade been running its award-winning waste education project in schools. The Council is now set to privatise the operation — in which Phil Maxwell will be the only person transferred out — and has awarded the contract to the multinational corporation Veolia, reportedly without putting the contract out to competitive tender, as it is obliged to do under European law.

That in itself would be fishy enough, but Phil Maxwell (who is also an acclaimed photographer and film-maker, as well as a former Labour councillor) is convinced that the Council wants to get rid of him, not only because of his union activism but also because he is gay. The Council does of course have a full equalities commitment, but the question there is whether the fine declarations of intent hide a less savoury reality. Phil Maxwell says his request for a detailed internal inquiry into the matter was brushed aside. It is a tribute to his work and character that so many colleagues, friends and well-wishers from across the political spectrum rallied around him this evening, almost filling the main Toynbee Hall. All this adds more spice to what look like being extremely interesting local elections next May, in a London borough that recently ousted (at great cost) its Chief Executive and has seen a whole raft of inter-party defections and candidate deselections.

Link: www.philmaxwell.co.uk

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