A formal complaint has been lodged with the Town Hall by domestic violence charity Sistah Space alleging that the Mayor has breached the code of conduct for members of the council and has harassed the organisation through social media.
Evidence in support of the complaint, which has the backing of the local Green, Liberal Democrat and Women’s Equality parties, is still to be submitted to the council, but the accusation of harassment against the borough leader is said to hinge on the use of the official Mayor of Hackney Twitter account in the dispute.
Separately, the organisation has accused Hackney Council as a whole of race, class and gender discrimination for not letting them remain in the commercial workspace they currently occupy.
Following a long-running and heated public row over the charity’s future this year, which saw hundreds of protesters fill the Town Hall square to support Sistah Space, the council served the organisation with notice to vacate and return to their former shopfront site last week.
A spokesperson for Sistah Space said: “Supporting women experiencing domestic abuse requires confidentiality and so to see our name all over social media and in the press with the Mayor and council saying we are dishonest has badly affected how we support those in need, especially recently when Hackney Council press released and used social media to tell everyone that we are being evicted.
“The Hackney community have been amazing. They have told the council they want us to stay, they have raised the money for us to pay the rent on our current location, but Hackney Council refuse to listen.
“They have suggested that [our current] location is not suitable for a domestic violence charity but we are the experts on this, not them. They claim our old premises are more suitable, but we are the experts, not them.
“We are saying, and have said for years, that the old premises are completely unsafe for us and the women we support.
“We’re not going to give in. We can’t let down all those women who need our support and we know that the Hackney community is standing with us in demanding a safe place for Sistah Space in Hackney.”
The three opposition parties in an open letter last week expressed their “shock” at the use of the council website and social media to “discredit a charity that is a benefit to Hackney, not a hindrance”, threatening “additional steps” unless the organisation was granted a flexible lease at their current home and a public apology was issued, and urging the Town Hall to cease all use of its website and social media in the dispute.
A Hackney Council spokesperson confirmed that a complaint had been received, but was unable to comment further due to the process having been initiated.
The Mayor of Hackney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It is understood that the official mayoral Twitter account has sent tweets to Sistah Space on one occasion in late May since the dispute became public, with two formal letters sent to the charity by his office and all communication subsequently carried out through other senior councillors at the organisation’s request.
Any complaint made to the council is reviewed by the head of legal services as well as an independent lawyer outside of the Town Hall.
If it is found that the complaint is merited and that it warrants an investigation, it would then be referred to the council’s standards committee.
The Town Hall square saw around 500 people come out in support of the charity in July, with protest organisers Sisters Uncut, the London Renters Union and Black Lives Matter UK expressing their fears that the dispute “puts Black women’s lives in danger”.
Sistah Space is the only specialist organisation in London which specifically supports women and girls of African and Caribbean heritage affected by domestic violence, providing advocacy, advice and education.
The charity has been in conflict with the Town Hall over their return to their former shopfront site from their current temporary premises, which include a lift directly to the floor occupied by the group, safeguarded with a code, and a 24-hour security guard provided by the council.
Sistah Space has maintained since the dispute began that their former site is unsuitable and unsafe as well as voicing concerns about moving during the pandemic, though the council maintains that it has been “open and frank” that the arrangement with Sistah Space was temporary and would see the charity return once refurbishments were completed.
The organisation went on to accuse the Town Hall of sexism, classism, racism and of “wanting to continue to gentrify” the borough, arguing that they are being asked to leave because they do not “fit in” with the building.
The council has said that it does not offer commercial lets of buildings for profit, and that all income generated is invested back into its frontline teams as a “vital source of revenue to support council services”.
Sistah Space also complain at having learned of developments in the dispute secondhand through social media and the press, adding: “The Mayor and Hackney Council have used their media channels and email to brief against us and attack us in public rather than talking directly to us.
“As domestic violence experts, we recognise this as perpetrator behaviour and it is completely unacceptable from anybody but especially from the office of the Mayor of Hackney.”
The three opposition parties have also launched savesistahspace.uk, designed to allow people to easily contact their ward councillors and the Mayors of Hackney and London to prevent Sistah Space having to leave their current premises.
A joint spokesperson for the three parties said: “The Hackney community have been outraged by what is happening to Sistah Space and have been asking how they can get involved and support.
“We need Mayor Glanville and Hackney Council to change their course and do the right thing, and directly asking your ward councillors who have been elected to the council to represent you, to demand the eviction is stopped will have a big impact.
“The campaign to save Sistah Space has brought our three parties together along with so many in the Hackney community and we know from discussions with grassroots Hackney Labour activists and even councillors that there are many who are really uncomfortable with the Mayor and Hackney Council’s behaviour.
“We are appealing directly to you now to do the right thing and join us in demanding that the Mayor stops the eviction and secures a safe place for Sistah Space.”