Call for apology from council leader over ‘mistaken’ timing of lockdown prayer meeting

PUBLISHED: 09:59 21 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:31 21 August 2020

Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council. Picture: Francis Henry

Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council. Picture: Francis Henry


A former leader of Brent Council has called on the current leader to apologise for a joint prayer meeting held while lockdown restrictions were still in place.

On June 11, Brent leader Cllr Muhammed Butt was one of a number of people, including other Labour councillors, to attend Ealing Road Temple to mark a day of joint prayer or reflection.

At the time, the government’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions meant places of worship were closed to worshippers. Individual prayer was permitted from June 13 and from July 4 socially distanced communal worship was allowed.

Former Lib Dem council leader Paul Lorber has written to Brent chief executive Carolyn Downs, asking that Cllr Butt apologise and stand down. Ms Downs has since written back, saying he would need to submit a formal complaint.

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Cllr Butt told this paper: “I attended a small and socially distanced gathering at the Ealing Road Temple in support of Brent’s Multi Faiths Forum. It was subsequently suggested that the impromptu event might have inadvertently pre-empted by a couple of day’s government advice on religious activities. I do believe that the lack of consistent clarity from Whitehall during lockdown meant that people were unsure what they could and could not do.

“I see now that we were mistaken as to how our moment of joint prayer and reflection for all the people who tragically lost their lives during this pandemic aligned with that sanctioned by government and hope that our positive example of community cohesion does not get lost in any ensuing noise.”

Mr Lorber said: “The leader of the council has let the people of Brent down very badly.

“It’s a real shame he’s not man enough to make an unreserved apology and I hope the council will no longer use him to front the message of Covid-19 and preach to people how to behave.”

A Brent Council spokesperson said Ms Downs had taken legal advice adding: “The council does not have the legal powers to investigate alleged breaches of social distancing rules as these powers rest with the police.”

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