Firstly, thank you to the new wind blowing through East End Life (and to the reader who spotted it) for providing me with a new banner photo for this blog. Historic.
Secondly, good luck to all the candidates for the bust-up on June 11. Peter Golds was selected as the Tory candidate on Monday after a hustings at the Bow Belles pub in Bow Road. He secured 33 votes against seven for the only other candidate Ahmed Hussain. Ahmed’s pitch was that the Tory party needed to show more that it can and does reach out to the Bengali community. It’s worth noting that he’s taken much flak from people he had considered friends for siding with the Conservatives and he has played an important role in recent events over at the Royal Courts of Justice. Fortune favours the brave.
This is the full list of candidates as per the close of nominations on Thursday afternoon:
The candidates in the post-Alibor Choudhury Stepney Green by-election are:
[Abu Chowdhury is the neo-Tower Hamlets First candidate. His LinkedIn profile is here. He used to be a caseworker in Lutfur’s office, his dad is a boss at the notorious London Bangla ‘newspaper’ , and worst of all he appears to be a Chelsea supporter. Anyway, good luck to him.]
Thirdly, over the coming days, Andy Erlam, John Biggs and Rabina Khan will be writing articles here explaining why they’re standing and what improvements they’d like to make to the way the council is run in the wake of the Lutfur Rahman eviction. Rabina’s article will hopefully explain why she’s insisting she’s not a “puppet” of Lutfur Rahman and very much her own woman, yet at the same time plastering his face all over her election leaflets (and engaging the dodgy invoice writer Cllr Ghulam Rabbani as her election agent, and appearing to fail to disclose who is promoting her leaflets and her campaign website):
Fourthly, there seems to be something of an edit war going on over Rabina Khan’s Wikipedia page. It’s had an awful lot of attention this month and as a result, it has this warning at the top:
There is a discussion about this among the Wikipedia editors here. One editor has questioned whether she, as a mere councillor, is actually “notable” enough to have a Wiki page.
The neutrality warning works both ways of course: it can apply as a warning to her or her supporters, for example, or to her enemies. Either way, over the past two weeks entries that have been critical of her have been added and removed several times.
The edit warring has been taking place, not surprisingly, over the section ‘Political career’. As of Saturday morning (today), this is how it stood:
In April 2015 following the discharging of office of the former Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman, Khan along with the remaining 17 Tower Hamlets First councillors were all named by Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC as being elected to Tower Hamlets Council as a result of corrupt and illegal practices.
At various other times references to her husband Cllr Aminur Khan’s association with the IFE have been added and deleted.
The same also applies to the taxi bills that Rabina racked up and which were later reported here on this blog. The following sentence has made its way on to the Wiki page, only to be deleted repeatedly within hours:
In February 2013 Khan was widely critized for her use of taxi’s at taxpayer’s expense whilst apparently undertaking duties as a councilor. On one occasion Khan billed the taxpayer for £120 for a journey of just 1.5 miles.
The reference number 20 at the end of that sentence is to the piece I wrote on this blog in 2013. Despite those figures coming directly from council papers, a Wikipedia editor stated that wasn’t a strong enough source and deleted the entry.
All this can be seen in the Revision History of Rabina’s wiki page here. In total, there have been 65 edits since April 25 when it was clear that Rabina would become Lutfur’s nomination.
So who’s been behind all these edits?
The revision history gives us a few IP addresses. One, which has been adding in some of the critical stuff, ie 18.104.22.168, is Tower Hamlets council IP address. So this is someone who works there. This IP address also matches an account called A Wikia Contributor at the London Birders Club. And on Wikipedia, this IP address has also been responsible for deleting information from the Wikipedia page of Labour councillor Shiria Khatun. I don’t know who this is and the IP address has never left a comment on this blog.
A couple of the other IP addresses listed on the revision history as having added in critical sections about Rabina also match IP addresses that have left comments on this blog before. Again, I don’t know the real names behind these people.
One of the most active critics has been a Wiki user called OneTowerHamlets, whose IP address details do not appear. Perhaps someone can help me with that.
Those who have been deleting the critical comments on Wikipedia fall into two categories: responsible Wiki editors who are trying to determine what’s accurate or not, e.g. PatGallacher; and those who have only a very recent Wikipedia editing account. One of those falling into the latter category complained that the taxi fares were being cited from a blog. They suggested this was against Wikipedia rules. Seems a silly rule to me. This same user was warned by another Wikipedia regular that their IP address appeared to be “very close to the individual in question”, ie Rabina.
The mystery of it all, eh? Politicos seem obsessed with editing Wikipedia. Such strange people.
Interestingly, of the challengers from the two other main parties in Tower Hamlets, only John Biggs has a Wikipedia entry. It’s small and straightforward (could make a Biggs campaign logo that possibly…).
Peter Golds, meanwhile, appears in another person’s Wiki entry – that of Norma Major. Here:
I wonder if Peter could persuade Sir John Major to bring his soap box for a bit of campaigning.
Meanwhile, tomorrow it’s the Boishakhi Mela in Victoria Park. Le merde could be about to hit the fan on the running of that event…again. The Commissioners at a public meeting at the town hall this week decided to reject a £75,000 request for a council grant/subsidy because they were unhappy that fully audited accounts had not yet been provided for previous years and because of concerns the Mela was becoming too much of a commercial venture.
The man behind the Mela of course is our old friend, Shiraj Haque…Lutfur Rahman’s backer. He lost control of it in 2007 following a damning audit report commissioned by then council chief executive Martin Smith (would he ever return??) and then leader Denise Jones. After Lutfur became Mayor, Shiraj was able to take charge again (with the blessing of Stephen Halsey).
In the past couple of years, the trust/charity that runs the Mela (let’s see if the Charity Commission have a closer look at that arrangement) had more luck with its grant applications. In 2012, Lutfur gave it £180,000, in 2013 £170,000 and last year £100,000. The latter two amounts came from the infamous £954k slush fund identified by the PwC auditors last year.
The Commissioners will no doubt be blamed by some if as a result the Mela trust falls into the red, but good for them for being tough. Senior officers should have had more balls in the past.
The Mela is a great event and it’s right that it’s given the use of Victoria Park for free (a cost worth £25,000). The problem is with the people running it. I’m sure it’s not just me who’d like to see a full forensic audit carried out. Perhaps the council should just run it entirely again. After all, Sir Robin Wales runs a successful Mayor’s Day in Newham every year.
Meanwhile, the council continues to deflect any questions over scrutiny.
Here’s a Freedom of Information request that I asked on this earlier this year.
FOI 11843 Boishakhi Mela
Please supply all documentation, but primarily third party invoices, provided by the trust responsible for the Boishakhi Mela to support /justify its receipt of council money. I’d also like to see the trust’s detailed accounts. This request relates to four years: 2011-14. For example, in the case of the security company used for Mela, I’d like to see all invoices submitted by the hired contractor. I’d like to see the results of any council post-audit of its grants to the mela for each of those years.
In 2011 the Mela was run by the council and there is therefore no trust involved or information falling under the scope of this request.
For 2012 and 2013, invoices are held by externally commissioned auditors and we have asked for these to be provided to us. I will contact you once they are received. The invoices for 2014 are not yet collected.
The audit report for 2012 has been completed and is held by the Council However the Council is of the view that this is exempt from disclosure under section 41 of the FOI Act 2000, as information provided in confidence. The audit report disclosure would constitute a breach of confidence actionable by the author of that information. The Terms of Business under which the report was commissioned stipulate that that the report is confidential and for the exclusive use [of the Council] and must be used solely, for the purpose described in the Engagement Letter. Disclosure of the audit report would, therefore, constitute an actionable breach of confidence and the Council could be subject to claim for breach of contract as such. Section 41 is an absolute exemption.
It is also considered that section 40(2) would also be applicable to parts of the audit report as it contains personal data.
The requested information is (or contains) the personal data of other people. Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act sets out an exemption for third party data if disclosure of the information to a member of the public otherwise than under FOIA would contravene any of the data protection principles.
The first data protection principles states that we can only disclose the personal data if to do so would be fair, lawful and meet one of the conditions in Schedule 2 of the DPA.
This means that, if the disclosure would not be fair, the information must not be disclosed. It is considered that the provision of this information would not be fair as the person it relates to would not expect the information to be released in this way. This is an absolute exemption and the information cannot be provided to you.
Furthermore, the Council is of the view that it’s disclose is also exempt under Section 43 as its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of the Trust, auditors and the Council. This is because the report contains detailed information relating to the governance structure and accounting/banking arrangements of the Trust. It could, in our opinion, be prejudicial to the Trust’s commercial interests if this information was disclosed to a third party. Appendix 2 to the Report contains the Auditors Engagement Letter and thus sets out the confidential terms on which they agreed to perform the services for the Council. It contains details of the fee, engagement team and other terms of engagement. Such information is commercially sensitive and in the hands of a competitor is likely to cause prejudice in terms of tendering for future work.
This is a qualified exemption, and in considering the Public Interest the Council has weighed up the factor in favour of disclosure which are:
• further the understanding of, and participation in the debate of issues of the day;
• facilitate the accountability and transparency of public authorities for decisions taken by them;
• allow individuals to understand decisions made by public authorities affecting their lives and, in some cases, assist individuals in challenging those decisions;
On the other hand, the council has considered
* the impact on the commercial interest of Trust, auditors and the Council
* the need to obtain value for money which is likely to be compromised by disclosure
* the audit offers scrutiny and accountability to the process in accordance with the contract
I am sorry but based on these three exemptions we are unable to disclose the information requested
The 2013 audit is yet to be completed and the 2014 audit has not yet commenced.
The Trusts detailed accounts are not held by the Council and are the property of the Trust. You can access their published accounts at Companies House