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Kingston Independent Residents Group

Residents call on Councillor to come clean after investigation finds evidence of racist abuse against child

The Kingston Independent Residents’ Group have called on a Lib Dem Councillor to come clean about her involvement in a racist incident. The call follows a Local Government Ombudsman report – uncovered by Surbiton Green Councillor, Sharron Sumner (LINK)  – which reveals a young child was racially abused by a swimming teacher at a council swimming pool in 2019. Although the swimming teacher is not identified by the Ombudsman, evidence points to Cllr Lesley Heap as the perpetrator. Lesley Heap has been a Lib Dem councillor in New Malden’s Beverley Ward since 2018.

Local newspapers reported that Cllr Heap was investigated for being ‘verbally and physically abusive’ towards a child in her swimming class at the Malden Centre in April 2019 (LINK). The child’s parent complained at the time and it has now emerged the Council and leisure contractor covered up the results of the investigation and did not reveal the results to the mother. As a result, the mother was forced to seek redress through the Local Government Ombudsman who, last year, formally investigated and reported on the incident.

The Ombudsman’s report makes clear – for the first time – the incident involved racist abuse with the Ombudsman stating, “the swimming teacher did not dispute it”. (Paragraph 9).

The Residents’ Group are calling for Councillor Heap to come clean and admit any involvement and – if confirmed – to resign. They are also writing to Liberal Democrat Leader, Sir Edward Davey, calling on him to take action and for the Lib Dem group to undergo training in issues of equalities and diversity if, as it would seem almost certain, one of their number was involved in racial abuse. 

Deepa Veneik, Equalities Officer of the Kingston Independent Residents Group said:

“Any reasonable person reading the newspaper and the Ombudsman reports would find it difficult to draw any other conclusion than it is one and the same incident. So it is now imperative that Cllr Heap and the Liberal Democrats confirm or deny her involvement. 

“If the Liberal Democrats have been sheltering Cllr Heap for nearly two years their silence would make them complicit in this racist act.

“There needs to be an urgent independent investigation so that this type of horrible incident can never happen again. 

“We all need to take action to stamp out racism.”

At the time of publication (10am, 9th February), Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Edward Davey MP has not responded to our urgent letter calling for an investigation into the matter.

Earlier media reports:

https://www.surreycomet.co.uk/news/17652555.malden-centre-confirm-investigating-complaint-abusive-behaviour/

https://www.surreycomet.co.uk/news/17654116.council-dismiss-need-act-malden-centre-allegation-citing-lack-evidence/

Ombudsman report:

https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/other-categories/leisure-and-culture/19-007-853

Paragraph 9 of the Local Government Ombudsman’s report reference RBKuT (19 007 853)

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