Labour-run Islington Council tried to gag Green Party’s Caroline Russell over Fabric

Critical: Green party Assembly Member Caroline Russell> Photograph: GLA

Gagged: The Green Party’s Caroline Russell. Photograph: GLA

Islington Council has apologised after bizarrely warning Caroline Russell, a Green councillor and the sole opposition voice at the Town Hall, that she was barred from speaking about Fabric.

The iconic nightclub is reopening after the Labour-run council struck a deal with its lawyers which will involve a strict new licensing regime being established.

Cllr Russell, who is the only councillor in Islington who is not a member of the Labour Party, also sits on the London Assembly. She tweeted yesterday that she had effectively been gagged by the Town Hall’s legal department.

She said she received an unsolicited call from a council lawyer “instructing me not to tweet, Facebook or speak in public” about the Fabric decision.

The intervention of this lawyer undermined democracy, she warned, adding that they had “no grounds to bind me or even to call in the first place”.

Her views were backed up by Greg Foxsmith, a former councillor in the borough, who called the apparent attempt to stop Cllr Russell from speaking about the nightclub “baffling”.

The council has now admitted its legal department’s approach to Cllr Russell was wrong.

An Islington Council spokesperson said: “A joint statement was issued by Islington Council and Fabric Life Limited about the Fabric appeal. Neither the council nor Fabric will be making any further statement in relation to the appeal.

“As Cllr Russell is an opposition councillor, she cannot speak for the council and is therefore free to speak as she wishes on the matter. We have apologised to Cllr Russell for the advice she was originally given.”

The closure of Fabric was a high profile cause célèbre and was the subject of a relentless social media campaign by people concerned about the demise of London’s nightlife, with some people even leaving flowers outside the doors of the Farringdon venue to mark its passing.

The club was closed after police forced council-led review of its licence amid concerns about serious crime and following the deaths of two young men linked to the club.

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