I’ve just been sent a response to a Freedom of Information request I lodged with Tower Hamlets council last month. Intrigued by Lutfur’s absence from the important Remembrance Sunday service at Tower Hill on November 14 (and by the refusal of £100,000 a year Takki Sulaiman’s to answer questions about it), I asked the town hall for a copy of all the Mayor’s diary engagements between his election and Christmas.
And what fascinating reading it makes! In fact, Takki seems to be his favourite officer, holding more meetings with him than almost everybody else. When I was at the East London Advertiser, we were always told that the council’s controversial freesheet, East End Life, was free of political independence. Somehow that didn’t ring true. And now that hunch seems to have been right. For every Tuesday now, Lutfur and Takki spend an hour together to “look at the proposed news list for East End Life”. The paper goes to print on Fridays. I’d imagine that the ELA might have something to say about that. I’m sure the council ensures it complies with the Local Government Act on publicity, however. Very sure.
Takki’s also been lending his considerable intellect in other ways, including on November 8 a discussion with Lutfur about how to “brand” the Mayor’s office. I’m sure the hundreds of council staff about to lose their jobs will most grateful about that.
On December 10, his diary has him spending three hours “media training” at 23 Gosfield Street, W1W. That’s the studios of the Sound Company, a voice-over and audio production studios just off Oxford Street. Yes, I shall be asking how much this training cost and, er, why the studios at the struggling Rich Mix studios in Bethnal Green Road weren’t used.
There’s plenty of other material in there as well. His date at Tower Hill on November 14 was marked as “attendance confirmed”, yet he was a no-show. We still don’t know why. As you’d expect from a Mayor, he attends an awful lot of community events, including on November 28 the “Darul Ummah Ceremony” (where, sadly, earlier this month people felt it necessary to hold a debate on whether Islam is compatible with football), and a “Clifton Awards ceremony” at his friend Siraj Haque’s restaurant in Osborn Street on December 14. there have also been plenty of mosques wanting to bend his ear, probably about help improving their often ramshackle facilities.
Others that caught my eye include an entry for December 19, when he had an appointment to visit the Ebrahim Community College in Whitechapel. This is a fee-paying Islamic sixth form college where fees are £2,500 a year. It is run as a charity and its accounts can be seen here. You’ll see that it is in a bit of financial bother and that it currently receives no grants from the council. In its latest accounts, its trustees state:
We are actively seeking funding to sustain our projects and to be able to continue providing subsidised courses to our members.
Its trustees are listed at the Charity Commission as MR M M UDDIN, SHAMS UDDIN and ZAFRAN MALIK. I don’t know any of them.
On the political front, deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed and Alibor Choudhary seem to be his favourite councillors, if his diary is anything to go by, but he also has time for some of his former Labour colleagues as well. On November 15, he had an hour meeting planned with Cllr Abdul Asad, while a week later he met Cllr Shafiqul Haque for an hour. I wonder what was discussed there…
As ever, dear readers, I’d value your own insights, intelligence, evidence and observations. You can read the full unexpurgated diary here.
Or, here are the other pages as jpegs.