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Town Hall or us? Estate management group seeks to ballot Bemerton residents

Claim council “illegally” seized control of the organisation and “intimidated” board members

12 December, 2016 — By Koos Couvée

The Bemerton Estate

AN estate management organisation wound up over failing to tell the council its former chairman was a prolific paedophile is seeking to ballot residents on its future.

Islington Council took over the Bemerton Villages Management Organisation (BVMO) on the grounds that it only told the council of chairman Geoffrey Gex’s conviction for child sex offences after details were published online, despite having been aware of it for at least six weeks.

But now the group is seeking a return to management. Last week, chairman John Bevin sent a letter to 800 Bemerton residents about a meeting on Wednesday to canvass support for an estate-wide ballot on which organisation should manage the estate. He said: “We could have an independent body to ask residents whether they want the BVMO or Islington. If they vote for us, we would use public opinion to try and persuade Islington to not delay further and reinstate the BVMO.”

In the letter Mr Bevin also said the council “illegally” seized control of the organisation and “intimidated” board members. Islington hit back with its own letter to residents, repeating it had taken over the running of the estate out of concerns over the safeguarding of children.

It said: “The council has already agreed in principle to an independent ballot of residents provided the BVMO Board agrees to accept the recommendations of the safeguarding report. We also asked the BVMO to agree to an audit – in part because concerns have been raised from within the BVMO about financial irregularities.”

Meanwhile, it has emerged that nine months before the row erupted prison authorities sent a memo to the council’s social services department stating Gex was a danger to children. The council said this information was not routinely passed on to the housing department. Gex, who was in prison at the time, was simply added to the children’s services database.

The 52-year-old, who for at least three years chaired the resident-led company, was exposed as a convicted paedophile who travelled the world to pursue his attraction to teenage boys. He was jailed for eight years after pleading guilty to sexually abusing two young boys online.

Wednesday’s meeting will be held at the Cally Youth Project in Copenhagen Street and will start at 6.30pm.

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