Well, it took our Dear Leader eight days, but Mayor Lutfur Rahman has at last called for his friend and benefit fraudster Cllr Shelina Akhtar to resign as a member of Tower Hamlets council. Why he didn’t do it sooner is a mystery and it again underlines both his reactive nature to events and also the ineptitude of his army of highly paid political advisers.
Here’s the full story from the East London Advertiser, which ran an excellent front page editorial last Thursday calling for her to go (let’s see if they dress this up as their victory tomorrow…).
The mayor of Tower Hamlets has demanded a councillor convicted of benefit fraud earlier this month resign from her position immediately.
Despite counting independent Cllr Shelina Akhtar among his circle of supporters since she defected from the Labour party to work with him, Lutfur Rahman finally heeded calls from the opposition to take a tough stance in his condemnation of her.
He announced yesterday he had “asked her to resign as well as to return the benefit overpayment.”
He added: “The council takes a tough stance against the misuse of public funds.”
Cllr Akhtar admitted three counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances when claiming housing and Council Tax benefit for a property in Blackwall Way, Poplar at Snaresbrook Crown Court on January 9.
She was convicted of similar offences in July 2010.
Immediately after her recent admission, Cllr Josh Peck and Cllr Peter Golds, leaders of Tower Hamlets Labour and Conservative parties respectively, called on the mayor to demand she quits.
Meanwhile as the mayor’s announcement came in, politicians accused the town hall’s standards committee of ineffectiveness after it insisted it is powerless to suspend Akhtar.
A council spokesman confirmed the councillor has been reported to its internal standards team but said because she is not due to be sentenced until February 6 the case is officially still waiting conclusion and it cannot take action.
This means Akhtar, who represents Spitalfields and Banglatown ward, is still free to claim her councillor’s expenses and vote on decisions.
Cllr Golds said: “Why has she not been put before standards? It puts the whole system into disrepute. People are incensed.”
Just a few weeks ago Labour Cllr Helal Abbas was suspended for complaining about the conduct of a council officer.
Mr Peck said there appeared to be an “unevenness” in the way his case was dealt with in comparison to Cllr Akhtar’s.
The council spokesman said that because Akhtar is an independent she “is not subject to the rules of any political party or group.”
He added: “Constitutionally the mayor has no power to force Cllr Akhtar’s resignation.”
Despite continued attempts to contact Akhtar, the Advertiser has not been able to get a response from her.