Enfield Council urged by LJF to change date of Friday night meeting

Enfield Council told the JC: 'We can confirm an extraordinary meeting of Enfield Council will take place at 7pm on 19 March'


A north London Council  is under pressure to change the timing of an emergency meeting scheduled to take place on Friday night after being alerted to the fact that at least one observant Jewish councillor woud be unable to attend because of Shabbat.

An Extraordinary Meeting of Enfield Council has been scheduled to take place on March 19 at 7pm. It is due to include a motion of no confidence in the Labour administration tabled by the local Leader of the Opposition and the Conservative Group, Joanne Laban.

But after the date and time of the virtual meeting was set by the mayor, London Jewish Forum (LJF)  raised concerns on behalf of the Jewish community over the timing of council meetings that coincide with Shabbat.

A letter sent by the LJF co-chairs Andrew Gilbert, Adrian Cohen and its director Daniel Kosky to council chiefs confirmed that Shabbat “comes in at 17.57 on Friday 19 and for any council that has observant Jewish councillors there would be a religious prohibition from taking part in such a meeting as it would be ‘breaking the Sabbath laws’, and even for any Jewish person who in any way kept the Sabbath this would likely still prevent them attending.”

Responding to the letter, Enfield’s Director of Law and Governance Monitoring Officer Jeremy Chambers said he had written to the mayor and the three political group leaders relaying the concerns raised by the LJF in their emailed letter.

The letter also stressed that if meetings are to be held on a Friday and involved Jewish councillors they would need to be home at least 90 minutes before the Sabbath starts, meaning in this particular case the meeting should conclude by 16.30 at the latest.  Enfield Council’s own policies around diversity and equality were also referenced.

The JC understands that Nes Caliskan, the leader of Enfield Council, has responded saying that it would be acceptable for the meeting to rescheduled if the emergency motion was withdrawn.

But  Councillor Edward Smith, former Deputy Leader of the Conservatives, said:  "I fully understand your concerns and it is very regrettable that the two Jewish Members of Community First will be unable to attend the Extraordinary Meeting of the Council next Friday. Their contribution will be missed. "

Cllr Smith told the JC on Wednesday that he was aware the responsibility for setting the date and time of the meeting rests with the Mayor of Enfield.

Councillor Laban confirmed she had raised the issue of the timing of the meeting herself and has asked for the mayor and the Office Team to respond to concerns.

The Conservative leader had told local media that her group had called the vote because residents are “upset” with the council and feel their views are being ignored by the ruling Labour group.

But council leader Cllr Nesil Caliskan had branded the move a “futile stunt” and a “waste of council resources”.

The vote was called after a string of defections and resignations by Labour councillors that have cut the group’s majority on the council.

However Labour still holds a commanding majority on council, making a vote of no confidence unlikely to succeeed.

A spokesperson for Enfield Council told the JC: “We can confirm an extraordinary meeting of Enfield Council will take place at 7pm on 19 March. Details are available on the Enfield Council website.

“It only requires five councillors to call an extraordinary meeting of Enfield Council. Extraordinary Council Meetings have been called in the past by opposition groups.

“Unfortunately, because of the timing of the request for an extraordinary council meeting, the only available date before purdah started was Friday March 19.

“Council officers have attempted to accommodate all parties, but unless the councillors who have called the extraordinary council meeting permit the meeting being called after the Mayoral elections, it is required to go ahead.”

They also said political motions cannot be considered during the purdah period so a meeting date after 19 March and before 5 May was not possible.



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