Haringey Council has broken its silence over allegations that a senior officer described Tottenham as a “war zone”.
Labour councillors privately expressed dissatisfaction at the comment, which they say was made by director of regeneration Lyn Garner during a presentation and bus tour of the borough for new councillors on June 21.
Until today, Haringey Council has declined to offer any clarification over the remark, though its chief executive, Nick Walkley, claimed in response to a complaint that it had.
In a letter sent today to Tottenham Hale resident Martin Ball, Mr Walkley confirmed that a remark referring to a part of Tottenham as a "war zone" was made, but said it had been “taken out of context”.
He wrote: “The director of regeneration has made no statement in public or private referring to Tottenham in general as a war-zone.
“The comment your allegations refer to is taken out of context and specifically related to the appearance of one area during major disruptive works.
“The council has made a statement confirming that the comments attributed have been taken out of context.”
The council has been under pressure from current and former councillors for more than a month to break its silence over allegations that Ms Garner described Tottenham as a “war zone”.
Shortly after attending the event, newly elected councillor Denise Marshall expressed her anger on Facebook, writing: “I have now left the meeting before things turned nasty and I had to get all vexated and rowdy”.
Former councillor Alan Stanton went on social networking site Twitter to condemn the remark, while Councillor Lorna Reith described the comment as “completely inappropriate” at a meeting of the Tottenham and Seven Sisters Area Forum on July 22.
Sharon Grant, the chairman of Haringey Citizen’s Advice Bureau, called for either “clarification or an apology”, and said: "I don't think it's very helpful for people to close ranks. Someone's made a mistake, and we need clarification on what has happened.
She added: "I don't know why the council have opted not to talk about it, but my concerns are for the reputation of Tottenham.
"It might have been made as a joke, or in a certain context, but we need an apology or we need a clarification.”
When asked for a comment again today, a Haringey Council spokesman said: “Everyone at Haringey Council is clear that Tottenham is a great place, and that it has great potential.
"Local people have told us their priorities for Tottenham, and we’re committed to major long-term regeneration that will deliver the changes and improvements that our residents deserve.
“These remarks have been taken out of context. They were made by an officer at a private event focusing on a number of improvements being delivered to Tottenham, including at sites that are currently undergoing extensive building work.”
Mr Walkley’s letter to Mr Ball asked whether he would like to pursue his complaint despite not being at the event.
He wrote: “As your complaint relates to a comment made in a different context to that alleged, at a private event you were not present at, where none of those attending have complained, I am now uncertain what the basis for a formal complaint might be.
“I do not therefore intend to take any further action unless you are able to clarify what the further basis for a complaint might be.”
Mr Ball, a member of the Bruce Grove Stakeholder Regeneration Group (BGSR), said: “This is procedural semantics by Mr Walkley and shows that the council cares little that the Tottenham community has been insulted. You don't have to be present when an insult is made to complain."