In his victory speech on June 12, John Biggs said he’d been elected as a Labour mayor, that he’d run the council as a Labour mayor, but he hinted strongly he’d also acknowledge the multicoloured coalition of voters who put him there. Very senior allies of his said that night that some kind of role would have to be found, for example, for Peter Golds. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the role of Speaker seemed to be the perfect fit but in the ensuing days the offer did not come about. Instead, the councillor who did more than any other elected member to bring down Lutfur Rahman has been made a senior member of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee with a special responsibility for probity and governance. I’m sure he’ll relish it and perhaps end up as Speaker next year… As it happens tonight’s full council meeting – the first with Biggs as mayor – was chaired by Cllr Moahmmed Adbul Mukit, or ‘MBE’ as he’s known among his colleagues – on account of his MBE of course. It’s his second successive term, as it is for his deputy Rajib Ahmed. I wasn’t there for the meeting but by all accounts it was a most sensible affair. Biggs was apparently cheered by Tory and Labour supporters alike in the public gallery when he announced he would be the ‘speaking variety of mayor’.
Missing from the proceedings was Rabina Khan. I don’t know why and I’m sure she has a good reason so please don’t judge. Ohid Ahmed was also missing (for the start), as was Mahbub Alam, who was posing by the Eiffel Tower earlier today according to his narcissistic Twitter feed. Tonight’s full council was to ratify the various appointments to cabinet and other committees. A Labour press release today said this:
Mayor John Biggs has announced his Cabinet. This leadership team draws on the knowledge, experience and dedication of Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets.
One of the key objectives of this Cabinet is to do away with the secrecy and opaque nature of decision making that plagued the previous administration.
Decisions will be taken transparently and openly, with cabinet meetings held around the borough; council meetings will no longer see the mayor sitting in silence; and councillors will be fully involved in the decision making process, ensuring that local ward knowledge is always fed into the process.
Mayor: John Biggs
Cllr Rachael Saunders: Deputy Mayor for Education & Children’s Services & the Third Sector
Cllr Shiria Khatun: Deputy Mayor for Community Affairs
Cllr Sirajul Islam: Statutory Deputy Mayor
Cllr Rachel Blake: Cabinet Member for Strategic Development
Cllr Joshua Peck: Cabinet Member for Work & Economic Growth
Cllr Amy Whitelock Gibbs: Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Services
Cllr Asma Begum: Cabinet Member for Culture
Cllr Ayas Miah: Cabinet Member for Environment
Cllr David Edgar: Cabinet Member for Resources
With forthcoming decisions such as the South Quay Masterplan, Rich Mix litigation and the upcoming report on the Medium Term Financial Plan, the Mayor and Cabinet will be diving straight in to the new culture of transparent and fair decision making.
And in early changes, the Mayor has got rid of the leased car used by his predecessor, agreed that the long-delayed report into the sale of poplar Town Hall be released to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, as required by a Council resolution over a year ago, and instructed that there be a long-delayed settlement with the Rich Mix Centre in Bethnal Green and that legal action pursued under the previous Mayor whose effect would have threatened the existence of the centre be ended.
Mayor John Biggs commented: “I’m very pleased to announce the Cabinet and I know we will all do our utmost to serve the residents of Tower Hamlets. I am incredibly proud to serve all people of this borough, but this is no time for complacency: whilst I have already made some changes such as scrapping the mayoral car, we are fully focussed on the big challenges ahead. As there was a period of time with no mayor, there was a pause in decision making.
“We must act now in an efficient and fair manner to sort out these decisions for the benefit of residents. I am beginning to clear the backlog of decisions, and to reverse some actions of my predecessor which were in my view unhelpful for the Borough. I have already held one mayor’s surgery to listen to residents’ issues and there will be many more of these meetings. And I have pledged a regimen of greater transparency and openness.
“It is vitally important that we now press on: serving the residents of Tower Hamlets fairly, transparently and efficiently.”
The other major appointment is Marc Francis as chair of the development and strategic development committee. With his wife Rachel Blake as cabinet member for housing, they’re going to have some pretty solid Chinese Walls at home. In other developments, two senior council officers have also been recruited. Zena Cooke, formerly of Maidstone Borough Council, will become corporate director for resources on August 1. And Melanie Clay, from Central Bedfordshire Council, will become the new corporate director for law, probity and governance on September 17. Meic Sullivan Gould will have to find another way of financing a new car. An advert for a new chief executive is also due to be published this week. Slowly but surely, the directions laid out by the Government to the Commissioners and council are being ticked off. They could well be unemployed by the end of the year.. And speaking of the unemployed, there are now a few redundant ex-Tower Hamlets First councillors in need of work. Actually, we really shouldn’t call them THF councillors because that party has been dissolved and they’ve officially formed an Independent group on the council. But what’s this email which dropped at into my Inbox at 9.35pm tonight? Spot the subconscious mistake…? Anyway, here’s the substance:
#Part-time Labour Mayor for Tower Hamlets during second wave of Tory cuts
John Biggs, the newly elected Labour mayor of Tower Hamlets, will be continuing his position as London Assembly Member, whilst the Conservative government threatens more cuts to social security.
Despite gimmickry of pay cut and spin, the fact is that John Biggs will still be taking home nearly £85,000 from combined salary despite being a part time Mayor for the people of Tower Hamlets.
Tower Hamlets, one of the poorest areas in London, is at high risk of being hit the hardest with extended cuts to public services, of which the survival of many rely upon.
The Independent Group, formerly Tower Hamlets First, revived services such as; Education Maintenance Allowance, which gives expenses to school leavers to support them through college; introduced the London Living Wage, which sees that employees in Tower Hamlets are given fair wages; and reduced child poverty by more than 15% since 2010.
Concerned for the future of Tower Hamlets under a Labour mayor, the Independent Group has made a pledge to hold John Biggs to account, on any decisions that may threaten the current services that protect the vulnerable and support the prosperity of the public.
Tower Hamlets was ranked first last year by Grant Thornton on its high growth index, and is also one of the top performing London authorities for the delivery of affordable homes, with 3980 affordable homes delivered and 1262 affordable/social rented homes for families delivered.
Cllr Oli Rahman, Leader of Independent Group, said: “If John Biggs is committed to keeping the borough united, as he has said before, he needs to acknowledge the devastating effects that the Tory cuts can and will make to the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community, and make it his priority to ensure that our residents can live, learn and work with dignity.”
Cllr Rabina Khan, Independent runner up in the Mayoral election, said: “We will continue to fight for the people of Tower Hamlets, and we will do that by holding John Biggs and his Labour cabinet to account. We are a local grassroots political movement and our focus is very much on the welfare of the community, not on building our careers in Westminster politics.” “Despite operating under the full brunt of Tory cuts, we will be leaving behind a legacy of services, the fate of which, lies in the hands of John Biggs and his Labour cabinet.”
Notes to Editor:
1. Cllr Rabina Khan, Independent candidate in June 2015 against Labour’s John Biggs secured 26,384 votes, against the backdrop of a most vicious and negative right wing campaign. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rabina-KHAN-for-MAYOR/792583084189426
2.Cllr Oli Rahman, preformed Acting Mayoral duties before election, is one of the youngest political Group Leaders in the United Kingdom – https://twitter.com/cllroliurrahman
When I used the word ‘substance’ above, I was being generous.