Louis Minster: councillors met behind closed doors in ‘political’ decision to dismiss me
By Mark Conrad and Nick Fielding | 11 February 2013
Detectives on ‘Operation Fernbridge’ are investigating the circumstances surrounding the sacking of Richmond council’s director of social services in 1984.
Louis Minster, who ran social services at the council for nine years from 1975, told Exaro that his abrupt departure was unrelated to historical allegations of child sex abuse in the borough between 1977 and 1983 under investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit.
Exaro has established that an emergency meeting of the full council in October 1984 decided on Minster’s sacking after councillors discussed his position behind closed doors at the town hall of the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames.
The Met’s ‘Operation Fernbridge’ is investigating allegations that boys in care were sexually abused at Grafton Close children’s home, which was run by the council, and at nearby Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London. Police are investigating alleged child sex abuse by MPs and other VIPs at the guest house.
Minster, who is 81 and has retired to Malta says that he knew nothing about the allegations during his term in office despite big newspaper headlines about them at the time.
Allegations first surfaced about the sexual abuse of children at Elm Guest House in 1982 following a police raid. The following year, Haroon and Carole Kasir, the husband and wife who ran the venue, were convicted of running a brothel.
Minster put his dismissal down to the Liberal-SDP alliance, which took control of the council 11 months earlier, after the Conservatives had long run the authority. “A very strong political move,” he said of the decision to fire him.
“The Liberals came in, and there was a fight for power. In particular, they were up for fighting about social services,” he said. “The politicians became involved in a number of professional issues, professional judgements.
“They were offering beds to old people in old people’s homes, it was not left to the staff.”
He clashed in particular with Jenny, now Baroness, Tonge, who was then a Liberal councillor and chaired Richmond’s social services committee. “They made life a little intolerable,” Minster added.
“There was never any misdemeanour – of any nature, or any sort.” His sacking was entirely political, he said. “There was no professional issue raised.”
Records of the council meeting on October 30, 1984 unearthed by Exaro show that a vote was taken at the outset to decide to hold the discussion in closed session because of the “confidential nature of the business to be transacted”.
The council’s then chief executive and town clerk, Michael Honey, submitted a report on what was described as “a staffing matter affecting the council’s organisation”.
The motion on dismissal said: “1) That the employment of the director of social services be terminated prematurely in the efficient exercise of the council’s functions on the terms approved by the ‘early retirement panel’ and reported by the chief executive and town clerk.
“2) That pending a new appointment a temporary appointment of director be made by the chief executive and town clerk in consultation with the director of social services, the committee, the two leaders and Cllr [Norah] Millar.”
The council had 27 Liberal-SDP councillors and 25 Conservatives. In the vote, 35 councillors were in favour, while 10 Conservative councillors were against, with two abstentions. Five councillors were not present at the meeting.
A meeting of the social services committee, then chaired by Tonge, held a week later on November 7, recorded a vote of thanks to Minster.
The minutes say: “The committee thanked Mr Minster for his services to the council since his appointment as director of social services in 1975 and paid tribute to his many contributions to social services in the borough. The committee wished Mr Minster well in his new appointment.”
It noted that a temporary replacement for the position had been made.
Minster said at the time that he had agreed to early retirement.
But he made clear to Exaro that he was forced to agree to leave, and said that he had a £10,000 pay-off. He went to a job at a college near Glasgow to train social workers.
But councillors behind the move to sack Minster gave contrasting reasons to Exaro for his dismissal.
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