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Archive for December 17th, 2012

Google the definition of “racism” and the following is returned:

1. The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as…

2. Prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.

Five former Labour councillors who were expelled from the party after they defied the whip and joined Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet should reflect on this.

It is a powerful word, so it would be wise to keep it that way. Lutfur’s councillors have developed a disturbing and unhealthy habit of chucking it around so freely and without thought that it loses its bite.

Here’s a press release issued by Mayor Rahman last week:

From Office of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets

For immediate release – 13 December 2012

Independent Councillors condemn Joshua Peck’s “Labour” for double standards

Selective application of rules undermine Ed Milliband’s ‘One Nation’ message

Five Bangladeshi Councillors expelled from the Labour party say that the ruling stinks of a stitch up.

All five were expelled for working with non-Labour candidates in local elections but two deny the charge and the others have cited several other examples where doing the same has not led to any disciplinary consequences.

None of the Councillors attended their appeals, instead submitting written statements.

Cllr. Abdul Asad, who serves in Independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet, has served as a councillor for 23 years, 22 of them with Labour, said: “Labour Peer Lord Alan Sugar used a column in the Murdoch press to openly campaign for Boris Johnson against Labour, but no action was taken.

“Journalist and Labour member Dan Hodges did the same in his column in the Telegraph but again no expulsion.”

“We have evidence that in Middlesborough many local party members have campaigned for Independent Mayor Ray Mallon against their own party in three separate elections without any consequences. Indeed, direct complaints to the local and regional leadership fell on deaf ears. So why are five Bangladeshi councillors being expelled by Joshua Peck and his ruling clique, when others get off without even a slap on the wrist?”

Cllr. Shahed Ali, who also serves on Mayor Rahman’s cabinet added: “My appeal was based upon fact.  The party ‘auto-expelled’ me, citing the only reason being a breach of Clause 2.1.4.B of the party rules.  If this is the case, then my question is simple, why has this rule not been applied to the likes of Sir Alan Sugar, Dan Hodges and Ken Livingstone?

“Unfortunately, it has become obvious to me by these actions that elements of institutional racism and discrimination are still entertained within the Labour party”.

One of the expelled five, Cllr. Rofique Ahmed said: “I deny this charge. I did not campaign for a non-Labour candidate. I am engaged in legal action to fight this accusation.”

Shahed Ali needs to grow up and concentrate on campaigns against genuine racial discrimination. He was kicked out of Labour because he broke the rules during a very acrimonious split in which the leadership was determined to send a clear message. It was the same message that deterred Marc Francis from crossing the Rubicon: Marc toyed with the idea of joining Lutfur but knew it would be the end of his political career with Labour.

Shahed is right, however, to question why the party didn’t discipline Ken Livingstone over his campaigning for Lutfur. But isn’t it significant he doesn’t also ask why it failed to take action over Lord Nazir Ahmed’s open support for Lutfur during that campaign? I suppose that wouldn’t quite fit with his ‘racism’ argument though, would it?

No, I suspect the real reason he and others were booted out was because they weren’t important or good enough. But “institutional talentism” isn’t a phrase I’ve heard bandied around before.

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Separated by about 180 miles, the south Yorkshire town of Doncaster and Tower Hamlets don’t at first sight have that much in common. Both failed to become Diamond Jubilee cities this year and both have claims to historic Roman roads (although Tower Hamlets’s is characteristically dubious), and they each share notable industrial heritage. But apart from that, there’s little to link the two areas.

Except, of course, for their shambolic local politics.

In June 2010, then new Communities Secretary Eric Pickles completed a process started by his Labour predecessor John Denham by appointing a new chief executive for Doncaster council. The new man was tasked with mopping up the mess left by “15 years of poor governance and dysfunctional politics”.

It was the last time the Department for Communities and Local Government has intervened in a council’s affairs–and it is now seriously considering doing so again in east London.

The Doncaster decision was taken after the Audit Commission described the council as “failing”. Whitehall had already intervened in its children’s services department, but there were wider worries. In 2009, a controversial directly elected mayor was voted in. The relationship between Mayor Peter Davies (from the English Democrats, so a kind of ”independent”), and the majority Labour group became fractious, to say the least. It all came to head amid a deadlock between the warring parties over the appointment of a new chief executive…

Sound familiar?

Last Tuesday, Tower Hamlets held a confidential Extraordinary Council Meeting to try and appoint a Head of Paid Service. This position, which signs off the cheques, is a statutory role  normally performed by a chief executive.

But in Tower Hamlets, we don’t have a chief executive and there’s been a bit of a bunfight ever since Kevan Collins wisely bailed out in July 2011. A potted version of what happened next is probably needed, even for those who are more familiar with the saga.

Aman Dalvi, the director of regeneration was installed as the interim CEO and Mayor Lutfur Rahman was in favour of making his appointment permanent. However, the Labour group leadership was against this: they thought he was too close to Lutfur and that he wasn’t up to the job, so Dalvi was vetoed at a committee stage. The council then looked for someone else, but that process also failed.

So for the past few months, while the politicians fought among themselves, another council director, Stephen Halsey, has been acting as Head of Paid Service to prevent the town hall from going into default. At last Tuesday’s behind-closed-doors meeting, councillors voted to offer him a six month extension. However, within a couple of days, he had turned it down.

Five of Lutfur’s councillors have now triggered another confidential Extraordinary Council Meeting for this Thursday.

The issue has managed the impossible of making Tower Hamlets more of a laughing stock than ever before. So here’s what’s been going on.

After Dalvi was vetoed for the permanent position, he sued both the council and Labour group leader Josh Peck for what he claimed was a failure of process. Last week, I understand, that claim was settled out of court. I’m told that Dalvi has received an element of compensation and that the council has proposed to pay the legal costs for both him and for Cllr Peck. This bill is likely to be in the substantial thousands of pounds.

With his claim now settled, I understand that Aman is keen on getting the top job again–and so too is Lutfur. At last Tuesday’s meeting (scandalously timed to prevent Lutfur and his cabinet colleagues from attending the important annual staff awards dinner–see below), councillors were told only Mr Halsey had expressed an interest in being Head of Paid Service. However, behind the scenes Aman, who was close to settling his case, was also mulling re-entering the fray. With that knowledge, Lutfur’s group of independents tried to add his name to the list for a vote, but the three senior officers present–John Williams, the head of democratic services; monitoring officer Isabella Freeman; and finance director Chris Naylor–advised that was not possible.

As such, they now have to do it all over again on Thursday. I understand that Mr Naylor, an aspiring musician who will become the boss of the much saner Barnet council in February, is writing an “options” report for the evening. What he’ll suggest is not known, but if Aman Dalvi has officially declared himself, I’m fairly sure councillors will be asked to vote on his appointment. The stakes are getting high. Mr Naylor’s impending departure leaves a key position vacant and the anti-Lutfur camp believes Aman would too easily allow the Mayor to install his own person.

Lutfur’s crew, who accused the Labour leadership of racial discrimination against Aman after the last veto (Labour deny this), know there is a split in the majority group over this. If Labour vote against him, they will have to say why they don’t want him and that then risks further legal action.

Mr Naylor, who has just started his final working week, will probably have to offer a back-up plan. Mr Halsey might be persuaded to do it in an emergency. Quite why he declined last Tuesday’s offer is also not known for certain. Some think he’s been warned off, but there’s also a school of thought that he thinks Aman has been treated badly and deserves a fair stab at it.

And then there’s the nuclear option. I’ve written before that Eric Pickles and his senior team at DCLG have been monitoring Tower Hamlets very closely for quite some time now. They would intervene if they had the grounds to do so. And a council unable to appoint a Head of Paid Service could well be such grounds. In those circumstances, he could do what he did in Bradford and impose a top officer alongside a team of DCLG-appointed Commissioners; or he could go to the Local Government Association and ask them to nominate a Head of Paid Service.

A heavy-hitter from Whitehall would be in the perfect position to assess the wider situation in Tower Hamlets…and amass more evidence.

But who would they go to? Former CEO Christine Gilbert has just become acting head of Brent Council, so she’s out of the running. What a shame we don’t have someone like Derrick Anderson, the black chief executive of Lambeth council, available.

Meanwhile, in an illustration of how fraught this has all become, have a look at this following email exchange between Lutfur cabinet councillor Shahed Ali and Chris Naylor. Shahed is clearly not a happy bunny, and neither is Naylor. The exchange was triggered after John Williams sent councillors an email last Friday requesting their attendance for this Thursday’s meeting.

From: JohnS Williams
Sent: Fri 14/12/2012 7:37 PM
To: Abdal Ullah; ‘Abdal Ullah’; Abdul Asad; ‘mukitmbe’; Ahmed Omer; Alibor Choudhury; Aminur Khan; ‘khanaminur’; Amy Whitelock; Ann Jackson; Anwar Khan; Bill Turner; ‘; Carli Harper-Penman; Carlo Gibbs; ‘craigaston; David Edgar; David Snowdon; ‘; Denise Jones; Emma Jones; ”; Fozol Miah; ‘cllrgrthienel’; Gulam Robbani; ”; ‘harun.miah’; Helal Abbas; Helal Uddin; Joshua Peck; Judith Gardiner; Kabir Ahmedx; Khales Uddin Ahmed; Kosru Uddin; Lesley Pavitt; Lutfa Begum; Lutfur Rahman; ‘mdmaium’; Marc Francis; ‘cllr.mizan.chaudhury’; Motin Uz-zaman; Ohid Ahmed; ‘cllroliur.rahman’; ‘cllrpetergolds’; Rabina Khan; Rachael Saunders; Rajib Ahmed; ‘rajibahmed’; Rania Khan; Rofique Ahmed; Shafiqul Haque; Shahed Ali; ”; Shiria Khatun; Sirajul Islam; Stephanie Eaton; ‘Tim Archer’; ‘Zara Davis’; Zara Davis; Zenith Rahman; John Pierce
Cc: Stephen Halsey; Aman Dalvi; Isabella Freeman; Chris Naylor; Isobel Cattermole; Simon Kilbey; Takki Sulaiman; Kelly Powell; Laraine Clay; Anaclette Austrie; Dee Burnett; Matthew Mannion; Evelyn Akoto; Lynne Spillett; Theresa R Berecz; Murziline Parchment; Numan Hussain; Carole Saich; Lorraine Husbands; Beverley McKenzie; Ross Archer; David Courcoux; Patricia Attawia; Colin Hicks; Janet E Wood; Muhammed Uddin; Marie Geddes; Paul Harvey; Jean Waterson; Katherine Fleming
Subject: Extraordinary Council Meeting: Thursday 20th December 2012 at 7.00 p.m.

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

EXTRAORDINARY COUNCIL MEETING:  THURSDAY 20th DECEMBER 2012

Further to the decision of the Council on 11th December 2012 to invite Stephen Halsey to continue as Head of Paid Service for another 6 months, you may be aware that Mr Halsey has written to the Mayor and the Group Leaders to advise them that he has decided to decline the Council’s offer.

The Council is therefore currently without a Head of Paid Service and the Monitoring Officer has advised me that an Extraordinary Council Meeting must be called to seek to resolve this vacancy before the Christmas/New Year break.

The Speaker of the Council has also received a requisition from five Councillors in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 3.1.4, requesting an Extraordinary Council Meeting.

I therefore write to advise you that an Extraordinary Council Meeting will take place on Thursday 20th December 2012 at 7.00 p.m. and your attendance is requested at the meeting.

The summons and agenda for the meeting can be viewed at http://moderngov.towerhamlets.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=309&MId=4094&Ver=4 and hard copies are being delivered to all Members today. An officer report for consideration at the meeting will follow as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

John S. Williams

Service Head, Democratic Services

This is Shahed’s tired and emotional reply at 2am Saturday morning. (He’s really unhappy about having to earn his £24,000 allowance.)

From: Shahed Ali

Sent: 15 December 2012 02:08
To:JohnS Williams; Abdal Ullah; Abdal Ullah; Abdul Asad; mukitmbe; Ahmed Omer; Alibor Choudhury; ; Aminur Khan; Amy Whitelock; Ann Jackson; Anwar Khan; Bill Turner; ; Carli Harper-Penman; Carlo Gibbs; craigaston; David Edgar; David Snowdon; Denise Jones; Emma Jones; cllremmajones; Fozol Miah; cllrgrthienel; Gulam Robbani; ; harun.miah; Helal Abbas; Helal Uddin; Joshua Peck; Judith Gardiner; Kabir Ahmedx; Khales Uddin Ahmed; Kosru Uddin; Lesley Pavitt; Lutfa Begum; Lutfur Rahman; mdmaium; Marc Francis; cllr.mizan.chaudhury; Motin Uz-zaman; Ohid Ahmed; cllroliur.rahman; cllrpetergolds; Rabina Khan; Rachael Saunders; Rajib Ahmed; ; Rania Khan; Rofique Ahmed; Shafiqul Haque; shahedali;Shiria Khatun; Sirajul Islam; Stephanie Eaton; Tim Archer; Zara Davis; Zara Davis; Zenith Rahman; John Pierce
Cc: Stephen Halsey; Aman Dalvi; Isabella Freeman; Chris Naylor; Isobel Cattermole; Simon Kilbey; Takki Sulaiman; Kelly Powell; Laraine Clay; Anaclette Austrie; Dee Burnett; Matthew Mannion; Evelyn Akoto; Lynne Spillett; Theresa R Berecz; Murziline Parchment; Numan Hussain; Carole Saich; Lorraine Husbands; Beverley McKenzie; Ross Archer; David Courcoux; Patricia Attawia; Colin Hicks; Janet E Wood; Muhammed Uddin; Marie Geddes; Paul Harvey; Jean Waterson; Katherine Fleming
Subject: RE: Extraordinary Council Meeting: Thursday 20th December 2012 at 7.00 p.m.
Importance: High

Dear Mr. Williams and Ms. Freeman,

I wish to express in the strongest possible terms the incompetence of both Labour and Conservative group councillors, and officers for the weak advice and recommendations presented at the last Extra Ordinary Full Council Meeting.

First and foremost, it was absolutely inappropriate to have held this meeting on the night of the annual staff awards.  It is crystal clear that this was a pitiful and childish move by Labour group councillors to intentionally clash the two events so as to obstruct the Mayor and his Cabinet from attending this important awards ceremony.  As you are all aware, due to a reduced budget for the event, most non-executive members were excluded from the event along with a large number of staff members that otherwise have attended previously.  Especially due to the nature of the FC meeting being called to discuss staff issues, it was equally ridiculous that we could not even offer our gratitude in the success of our staff members going that extra mile in their respective duties.  We should without a doubt be ashamed of ourselves, particularly those members who were responsible for calling for this FC meeting knowing very well we also had the awards event taking place on the same night.

Secondly, the FC meeting itself was a complete shambles.  It was absolutely clear to any sensible person that having convened this extra ordinary FC meeting, which by the way does cost the council money in both resources and officer time, that Labour and Conservative group members are incapable of even making a concise decision!  I attempted in vain to ask for a point of clarification in order to try avoid a situation where we are forced to convene another extra ordinary FC meeting because it was obvious to me that the decision the Labour group were moving forward with would not provide a conclusion to the purpose of the meeting.  The Speaker of the council did not allow me to make my point, and Mr. Williams did not also allow me to rightly present my point of clarification prior to the shambles of a vote the Labour group forced upon this meeting.  What should have happened is that the recommendation that the Labour group voted for, should have been written or amended so as to allow an alternative course of action in the event that Mr. Halsey does not accept the invitation the recommendation ONLY sought to offer him.  If I was permitted to speak, rather than Labour group bullying the Speaker to abruptly pre-maturely moving to the vote, then perhaps we would not have been in this situation where another extra ordinary FC meeting is being convened due to the incompetence of Labour councillors.  This means more waste of resources and money in lieu of officer time, simply because we have a bunch of incapable idiots in Labour and Conservative groups, obsessed with their personal vendetta against individuals with no regard to wasting taxpayers money, particularly in times of austerity.  Furthermore, officers should have rightly pointed out the consequences of Mr. Halsey declining the offer the recommendation was seeking to achieve, and should have advised FC otherwise in order to avoid a re-run of what should have been easily resolved on the night without the need for another extra ordinary FC meeting on 20 December.

I wish for my comments as above to be recorded within the report or minutes of the FC meeting on 20 December, which unfortunately I will be forced to attend rather than celebrate my Birthday with my family.

Councillor Shahed Ali

Cabinet Member for Environment

c/o: Muhammed Uddin.

Councillor Support Team

Which certainly riled Mr Naylor who sent this email at 11am on Sunday:

From:  Chris Naylor

Sent: Sun 16/12/2012  11:14 AM

To:Shahed Ali; JohnS Williams; Abdal Ullah; Abdal Ullah; Abdul Asad; mukitmbe; Ahmed Omer; Alibor Choudhury; Aminur Khan; khanaminur; Amy Whitelock; Ann Jackson; Anwar Khan; Bill Turner; Carli Harper-Penman; Carlo Gibbs; craigaston; David Edgar; David Snowdon; ; Denise Jones; Emma Jones; Fozol Miah; cllrgrthienel; Gulam Robbani; harun.miah; Helal Abbas; Helal Uddin; Joshua Peck; Judith Gardiner; Kabir Ahmedx; Khales Uddin Ahmed; Kosru Uddin; Lesley Pavitt; Lutfa Begum; Lutfur Rahman; mdmaium; Marc Francis; cllr.mizan.chaudhury; Motin Uz-zaman; Ohid Ahmed; cllroliur.rahman; cllrpetergolds; Rabina Khan; Rachael Saunders; Rajib Ahmed;; Rania Khan; Rofique Ahmed; Shafiqul Haque;; Shiria Khatun; Sirajul Islam; Stephanie Eaton; Tim Archer; Zara Davis; Zara Davis; Zenith Rahman; John Pierce

Cc: Stephen Halsey; Aman Dalvi; Isabella Freeman; Chris Naylor; Isobel Cattermole; Simon Kilbey; Takki Sulaiman; Kelly Powell; Laraine Clay; Anaclette Austrie; Dee Burnett; Matthew Mannion; Evelyn Akoto; Lynne Spillett; Theresa R Berecz; Murziline Parchment; Numan Hussain; Carole Saich; Lorraine Husbands; Beverley McKenzie; Ross Archer; David Courcoux; Patricia Attawia; Colin Hicks; Janet E Wood; Muhammed Uddin; Marie Geddes; Paul Harvey; Jean Waterson; Katherine Fleming
Subject: RE: Extraordinary Council Meeting: Thursday 20th December 2012 at 7.00 p.m.

Dear Cllr Ali

I am very disappointed with the tone and content of this email. I understand that you are unhappy with the outcome of the Full Council meeting last week, but I hope with hindsight you will reflect that is was not appropriate to share your perceptions about officers or their advice in this manner to such as wide audience. Accordingly I would ask you to withdraw this email.

In the meantime, I will write to you individually and in detail about the specific points you have raised.

Kind regards

Chris

Chris Naylor

Corporate Director of Resources

I love the way people put “Kind regards” when they mean nothing of the sort…

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