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This is not the most earth shattering post, but I have something of a tradition of publishing legal threats and other warnings against this blog.

Four days ago in a post about Lutfur Rahman’s latest legal developments I mentioned that he had hired eminent QC Ben Emmerson to fight his proposed judicial review against the Election Court judgment.

In the following two paragraphs I wrote this:

He has also engaged another lawyer of (a slightly different) note to help him fight the cost and freezing order: Saghir Hussain (right). He’s also a lawyer specialising in human rights and is based in Whitechapel. He’s also listed as a board member of Cage (formerly Cage Prisoners) and among his former clients was a certain Mohammed Emwazi, aka “Jihadi John”.

He represented Emwazi from 2009 and before he became one of the world’s most wanted. The full details are here. You’ll remember from the controversy earlier this year that Cage claimed that MI5’s hounding of Emwazi was a catalyst in him becoming Islamic State’s poster boy executioner.

Alongside those paragraphs I published this photograph:

Saghir HussainThat’s Saghir Hussain.

Yesterday, I received the following email from Cage:

Dear Sirs
We are writing in relation to a blog post recently uploaded to your site, the post in question can be seen here.

We note that you have used an image from our site, which contains our logo on it, without seeking permission prior to posting. Furthermore, the source of the image has not been adequately referenced, if at all. In any event, we have not and do not authorise the use of said image on your site.

We therefore request that you immediately take down the image and refrain from using our images in the future without seeking our express written permission beforehand.

We hope that this matter can be resolved amicably, without further escalation.

Kind regards

CAGE

I emailed back to ask which image they were referring. I followed this up a few minutes later with this:

Further to the below, I presume you’re referring to the image of Saghir Hussain.

If so, that’s a screen grab I took personally from a video already posted/published on YouTube. I’m not aware of any permissions I need from you for that.

If I hear no more from you, I’ll consider that the end of the matter.

Many thanks.
Ted Jeory

There was a clue to the source of the image in the URL for the photo (https://trialbyjeory.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/screen-shot-2015-07-19-at-21-58-55.png) but for Cage’s benefit, it was from this YouTube video published last year of a public event at which they had unfurled their banner.

I haven’t heard back. Perhaps they have more important things to do.

As they were busy writing to me yesterday, they were also reportedly considering defamation action against David Cameron for branding them ‘extremist’ in his speech on Monday.

Bigger fish to fry.

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As has been mentioned in the comments thread to the last post on this blog, Lutfur Rahman has now lodged his application for a judicial review of the April 23 Election Court verdict.

To recap, he was found guilty on seven of nine counts in the petitioners’ case. His JR seeks to have three overturned.

These relate to the findings of bribery in respect of grants and payments to the media, the payment of canvassers, and of undue spiritual influence.

He is not challenging (and in effect accepts) the finding of false statement (S106 of the Representation of the Peoples Act) against John Biggs (an offence for which he was found personally liable), and various findings of corrupt practices and electoral fraud (fraudulent votes and false registration etc) via his agents.

He is currently banned for five years from holding office because he was found personally guilty of a corrupt practice (bribery). If he overturns this finding his ban will automatically fall to three years, that being the penalty for the other lesser offences.

His ban would then expire April 23, 2018. That would prevent him from standing for mayor that year as the close of nominations for candidates would be a few weeks earlier. However, he would be free to stand as a councillor in a by-election after that date or indeed for Parliament in May 2020.

Ifs, ifs…

As for his hopes of succeeding in the JR, I’m by no means and expert and will leave that to other people to judge or guess. The grounds for his case are outlined in this document: Grounds for JR.

A useful summary is provided on p2 of that document, here:

p2 JR

So he is arguing there are findings of fact by Commissioner Mawrey for which there was no evidential basis in law. His JR also has a human rights flavour to it.

Ben_Emmerson_at_Chatham_House_2013For this, he has hired an extremely heavyweight QC, Ben Emmerson, pictured left, (who I don’t think has much experience of local government or election law, if that matters). Emmerson is the counsel for the current and controversial Child Sex Abuse inquiry.

How much will that cost Lutfur, has been the cry in the comments section on that blog. Well, the answer to that lies in Lutfur’s other ongoing and related predicament: the outstanding cost order against him. You’ll recall that Mawrey ordered Lutfur to pay £250,000 of costs incurred during the Election Court trial. Not a penny of this Judgment Debt has yet been paid.

In court documents prepared for a recent freezing order on his assets (we’ll come to those later), it emerged that he expects his full costs of a judicial review that proceeds to a hearing will be about £160,000. Of that Ben Emmerson QC would collect about £61,000. Lutfur’s solicitors K&L Gates would earn around £55,000, while the junior counsel in the case would pocket about £34,000.

No wonder lawyers love Lutfur. One day, I’ll try and calculate how much his profession has earned from his since the day he took Labour to court in the 2010 mayoral selection process.

Saghir HussainHe has also engaged another lawyer of (a slightly different) note to help him fight the cost and freezing order: Saghir Hussain (right). He’s also a lawyer specialising in human rights and is based in Whitechapel. He’s also listed as a board member of Cage (formerly Cage Prisoners) and among his former clients was a certain Mohammed Emwazi, aka “Jihadi John”.

He represented Emwazi from 2009 and before he became one of the world’s most wanted. The full details are here. You’ll remember from the controversy earlier this year that Cage claimed that MI5’s hounding of Emwazi was a catalyst in him becoming Islamic State’s poster boy executioner.

Hussain tweeted during the Election Court trial in March that the case against Lutfur was about the Establishment wanting to crush “all uppity Muslims”.

Saghir Hussain tweet

If Lutfur wins his JR, it’s likely the Judgment Debt of £250k will be reduced from its original penalty. In addition (and a lawyer can correct me on this if I’m wrong) the petitioners would also become liable for all or some of his JR costs; I’d imagine they would be offset against the new Judgment Debt.

If he loses the JR his liability to the petitioners increases of course by any money they have to spend on the JR.

So that brings us back to the question of how he’s going to pay for it all. The petitioners lawyers say that he has yet to disclose how much has been donated to the fighting fund set up at the Water Lilly rally in April, a fund being chaired by the suspended Labour NEC member Christine Shawcroft.

There is also a running argument over the Lutfur’s property interests and these have been detailed well by Love Wapping here. Lutfur lives in a six-bedroom family home in Old Montague Street with nine other adults and one child and the petitioners argue that his outgoings towards bills in that house (owned by his father and brother) must be low.

During his time in office his register of interests disclosed he owned two investment properties bought 10 years ago. These are 30 Deal Street in Whitechapel (bought for £272k) and 3 Grace Street, a small terraced house he bought for £230k in Bromley-by-Bow. But his wife now claims she owns all of 30 Deal Street and 74 per cent of 3 Grace Street, so she argues they can’t be used to pay her husband’s debt. She also owns the neighbouring property at 5 Grace Street; Lutfur has not disclosed whether he has any interest in that.

According to Zoopla, 30 Deal Street is now worth about £572k, while 3 Grace St is estimated at about £420k.

Apparently both are rented out. Again according to Zoopla, the estimated annual rents are £26,400 (£2200 per month) and £22,992 (£1916 per month).

The petitioners’ lawyers have alleged Lutfur is trying to hide his assets and are seeking more information about any other large assets he might own. Lutfur has denied this.

It was also alleged in the Election Court that Lutfur owns a stake in the Bangla City Cash and Carry, off Brick Lane in Spitalfields. This stake is estimated at £100k. But Lutfur denies any such stake.

[As an aside, is there an argument for councillors to disclose all properties they own (both in the UK and abroad), not just in the borough in which they serve? How many own properties abroad, e.g. Dubai, I wonder.]

Two weeks ago, High Court judge Mr Justice Edis ordered Lutfur to disclose income and expenditure going back five years. He also froze assets worth £350,000 and required him to disclose tax returns going back seven years. A review of the situation will take place in the near future.

The saga continues.

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Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 20.27.42Shortly before Ramadan in 2008, then Lib Dem councillor Stephanie Eaton fired off a complaint to those in charge of council committees about a memo they’d sent out asking members to change their eating habits. Back in those pre-austerity halcyon days, councillors were given free snacks to help them endure the messy business of part-time democracy: biscuits, tea and coffee were served at the side of the room. It was all very civilised.

But the memo in August 2008 requested committee members to refrain from gorging on food until the breaking of the fast during the forthcoming month of Ramadan. This, the memo said, was out of respect for Muslim councillors who may be fasting.

Stephanie, who I think later regretted speaking out (for the fuss it caused nationally) but not the point of principle, said on behalf of her group at the time: “We fervently believe that the rules of any one religion should not be imposed upon others.”

Many, including Muslim councillors, applauded her. It was seen as a mistake by do-gooding non-Muslim council officers.

I think it’s fair to say that there’s no other borough in Britain that is more sensitive to observant Muslims than Tower Hamlets.

A quick glance of the calendar of council meetings, for example, shows that many have been scheduled to start earlier during this past month of Ramadan.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 21.05.05

Yet there remain those who wish to exploit whatever perceived or minor insults they can for sad political reasons. Or even create insults for the same end.

Next Wednesday, it is Mayor John Biggs’s first proper full council meeting and the list of papers for it has just been published. They include a list of tabled questions to him from councillors.

This is what Cllr Ohid Ahmed, Lutfur Rahman’s former deputy mayor and someone who fancies the main role for himself in 2018, wants to ask.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 20.19.29

Throughout London and elsewhere these past four weeks fasting Muslims and non-Muslims and others have shared offices without even the slightest hint of tension or friction or breakdown in “basic etiquette” as people have simply got on with their daily lives. Some have fasted, most haven’t. Some in the latter group will have politely asked their colleagues if it’s ok to eat in front of them. The replies are likely to have been ‘Of course! Thanks for asking.’

Indeed, this has undoubtedly been the case in Mulberry Place itself.

AMOhid-AhmedBut there will always be those wanting to whip up or fabricate friction. I suppose someone or some people must have moaned to Ohid for him to learn about this meeting, but his language – is the stuff of parody.

“I believe morning breakfast [what other breakfast is there?] was offered…with much pomp and grandeur [what?? was it served by Royal butlers??] to the behest [I think he’s picked the wrong word here] of those who were observing their faith and those who felt left out and demotivated and somewhat belittled by the event taking place when they are obligated to fast.”

It’s the kind of stuff you see in exaggerated whip-lash claims. Or OTT constructive dismissal cases.

So what was this event that “belittled” people anyway? Well, it was work. More than 1,000 employees were asked to turn up to work.

As it has been explains to me, it was the Senior Management Development Conference. Lutfur used to hold it for fewer people in Mile End but this year Biggs and the council top team switched the venue to the Troxy and extended the invitation to 1,000 staff members, some 20 per cent of the workforce. It was aimed at informing the staff about developments at the council and listening to their feedback.

It lasted from morning until late afternoon, apparently and simple food was served for those who wanted or needed it. Sandwiches during the breaks/lunch, and tea, coffee, orange juice, biscuits and other snacks on arrival.

I was told speeches from Sir Ken Knight, the chief Commissioner, and John Biggs went down well. The latter was apparently cheered when he said there would be no more chauffeured mayoral car.

And I was also told (but I haven’t checked) that there was also an 80 per cent satisfaction rate from a survey at the end of the meeting.

Earlier this week, I was at the Arbour Youth Centre for an Iftar hosted by the committee there and by St Dunstan’s Church in Stepney. Many of the congregation of that church, as well as the rector, the assistant priest and the wardens, attended having themselves fasted throughout the day so they could share the breaking of the fast with their friends in Stepney’s Muslim community. (At one point John Biggs turned up to say hello before moving on to another Iftar elsewhere).

It was harmonious, sharing, respectful and friendly. I wish Ohid had been there. I suspect many in the Muslim community will find his cheap attempt at entrenched identity politics embarrassing.

In the meantime, below are the other questions for next Wednesday’s meeting. They are the usual mix of sycophantic, silly and sensible. I’ll let you decide which is which.

TO RECEIVE WRITTEN QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL

And Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim readers. Don’t hoot your horns too wildly tomorrow…but then again why not!

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This article originally appeared yesterday on Open Democracy under the headline ‘The neo-colonial plot to halt Bengalis in Tower Hamlets’. I’m reproducing it here via its Creative Commons Licence.

It is written by Ansar Ahmed Ullah, described on Open Democracy as “a community activist who has lived and worked in the East End of London since the 1980s. He has worked as a youth, social and community worker and has been an active anti-racist campaigner. He is currently involved with the Nirmul Committee, a campaign group set up to challenge the rise of religious fundamentalism.” As a disclaimer, he is also my brother-in-law.

Ansar Ahmed Ullah

Ansar Ahmed Ullah

Following and prior to the recent 12 June Tower Hamlets mayoral election results, it seems some on the liberal and white left are asserting that racism and Islamophobia were at play. But such well-wishers are in fact colluding, appeasing, empowering and encouraging the most right wing, reactionary and corrupt fundamentalist elements of the Bengali/Muslim community in Tower Hamlets. It seems that there is a group of white leftists, trade unionists & Christian faith leaders who would prefer to keep the Bengali community insular, ghettoized and away from the mainstream. They ignore the history of the Bengalis who came to Tower Hamlets as economic migrants during 1950s and 1960s to better their lives and those of their children, and overlook the history of that community’s stand against ghettoization by the GLC in the 1970s.

These self-appointed saviours talk as though the Bengali community is unable to resist racism. They forget how, following Bengali factory worker Altab Ali’s murder in 1978, it was the Bengali community that fought the racists off the streets of the East End  physically almost on a daily basis, dealt with the unannounced arrivals of the National Front and  Combat 18, and later the BNP – without the protection of 3,000 police.

altabalimetpoliceappealFor the Brick Lane Bengali community, who were under constant attack from the racists as early as 1975 – 1976, the murder of Altab Ali in 1978 was a turning point, especially of its youth. It led to their mobilising and politicisation. They began to organise youth groups, community and campaigning groups, linked up with other anti-racist movements and groups. The year 1978 saw the emergence of second-generation Bengali community activists who entered mainstream politics in the 1980s to bring about meaningful changes to their lives.

Defenders of Tower Hamlets First ignore the fact that the Bengali community elected Rushanara Ali to represent them at the House of Commons. They also ignore the large number of Labour councillors (including many Tower Hamlets First councillors who were once Labour councillors). Today Tower Hamlets Council can boast the largest number of elected Bengali councillors in any one borough with a total of 25 Bengali councillors. This didn’t happen overnight.

The community had to struggle within a political process for a long 20/30 years to reach this stage. The Bengali community in the 1980s forged alliances between the first and second generation Bengalis. The second generation’s strength was consolidated in the formation of Federation Bangladeshi Youth Organisations (FBYO) in 1980, a national umbrella body that spearheaded campaigns for better housing, health and education and stood up against institutional racism. The Federation was the first truly national campaigning organisation that made a public representation of Bengali interests and spoke for Bengalis across the borough and nationally. At the same time Bengalis also built alliances with activists outside the Bengali community, such as other ‘Asians’ from Hackney, Newham, Camden, Southall & Bradford, and those from the white majority community of the East End.

As a matter of fact Bengali political activism dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Evidence of the early activism of Bengalis in London can be seen in the formation of organisations such as the Society for the Protection of Asian Sailors in 1857 and the Indian Seamen’s Welfare League in 1943. The Bangladesh Welfare Association was formed in the 1950s, the largest community organisation with a membership of over 40,000. It was activists of the Bangladesh Welfare Association who went on to establish the historic Brick Lane Mosque in 1976. The East London Mosque was built by a very different group of people with outside finance.

As Bengali community activism grew, many activists took prominent roles in community politics. Brick Lane became the center of Bengali activism. Today Brick Lane has become merely a global icon, a branding concept as in ‘Banglatown’ and ‘the curry capital of Europe’.

Supporters of deposed mayor Lufur Rahman and his allies talk about Islamophobia but intentionally or conveniently ignore Islamism, working with Islamists who include those responsible for war crimes and other violence in Bangladesh. Thus these white activists and men of peace are colluding with the most extreme reactionary elements, inspired by fascism and far-right ideology, rehabilitating them and giving them legitimacy.

One such war criminal, who was recently found guilty by a Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal, got a clean slate by a Christian activist with utter disregard for Bangladesh’s judiciary. He called him a man of integrity! A man found guilty of the killings of Bengali intellectuals by aiding the Pakistani military in setting up killing squads. Another Christian faith leader even posed the question ‘What is Islamism?'(!) Far from challenging or distancing themselves from the fundamentalists they are colluding in the name of ‘engaging with neighbours’, for a quick gain of access to large ethnic audiences.

To highlight this point let’s revisit the general election that took place in 2005, when the local Islamists switched sides from the Labour Party and aligned themselves with George Galloway’s Respect Party which came out of the Stop the War coalition, a front organisation of the SWP. The SWP/Stop the War Coalition built up relationships with Islamists during the anti-Afghanistan/Iraq war demonstrations. Galloway used the religious sentiments of the local Bengali Muslim community in the East End of London for his own personal political gain. In his quest to challenge New Labour at the general election, he went into an un-holy alliance with the SWP and local fundamentalists, who went against their fellow Bengali Muslim candidates.

_78799875_shocks_2005_oona-king_george-gallowayDuring the election campaign the sitting MP for Bow & Bethnal Green at the time, Oona King, felt the justified anger of the electorate because of her support for the war in Iraq. Talking to a journalist she said there were other, less legitimate reasons for her unpopularity, too. “When you graft racial stereotypes and bigotry and religious stereotypes on top of everything else…We have a huge amount of Islamophobia in this country, and possibly as a response to that we have a huge amount of anti-Semitism.” Bizarre rumours kept surfacing during the campaign that she wanted to ban halal meat. “And this was on top of the usual, exaggerated Jewish conspiracy theories. A similar thing happened in 2001, when there were rumours spread that I was funded by Mossad…”

The white liberal left leadership has refrained from condemning the Islamists. These whites are themselves showing a colonial mentality and playing a dangerous game of divide and rule by fostering divisions within the community by supporting one section against the other. The community can do without these self-appointed spokespersons for the Bengali community. The 81,000 Tower Hamlets Bengalis can and have looked after themselves without the patronising intervention of white advocates.

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In 2007, a balding George Galloway and a few other bald men fought over the comb that was the imploding Respect/SWP “the Unity coalition” party. Due to a spat with the SWP about who owned the rights to the precious Respect name, Galloway’s main rump called themselves Respect Renewal. Separately, a gang of four councillors, largely cheesed off with the way their group leader Abjol Miah was running the show, split off to form a new group called Respect (Independent).

Eight years later and history is (kinda) repeating, albeit with some different faces and the musical chairs moving in different directions.

Back then the gang of four comprised Oli Rahman, Lutfa Begum, her daughter Rania Khan and Ahmed Hussain. Not long afterwards, Ahmed joined the Tories, where he is still well regarded, while the other three were bought off/recruited by Labour.

This morning the group that used to be called Tower Hamlets First and which is now known as Independents suffered its first split. Abjol Miah, upset at not retaining his paid position as a member of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (instead, and incredibly, the job of scrutinising council business falls to grants king Maium Miah and the Prince of Narcissism Mahbub Alam), texted a couple of colleagues and then emailed John Williams, the council’s head of democratic services, to say he was quitting the group.

His move took some by surprise, not because he was defecting but because he was doing it alone. In the background there had been discussions about a few of them forming a new group. These talks had been taking place not just in the wake of Rabina Khan’s defeat, but also before it. What the disgruntled councillors had in common was a shared frustration at the way Lutfur Rahman (yes, him) was still effectively controlling things.

Last week, according to an insider, the Deposed Dear Leader met his former THF councillors to declare that Rabina would remain his candidate for mayor in 2018. Apparently his word was final, just as it had been when he selected her after his Election Court humiliation in April. No discussion, nada.

This, I’m told, was too much to stomach for some. To them, he was the cause of their current predicament – so how dare he not suggest an open and transparent selection process (ie a vote).

Lady Jane GreySo a number of them set about planning a split. I’m told that those planning to do so are the Independents’ group leader, Oli Rahman (the six day Acting Mayor and the Lady Jane Grey of Tower Hamlets politics); Shahed Ali; ex-deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed; Shafiqul Haque; and Mohammed Mufti Miah.

The first four were all Labour councillors. Whether Abjol would join them to make a group of six is not clear. bigpic

Were this to happen, their initial task would be to choose a name: Independents First? Independent (Independent)? Independent Renewal? Choices on the back of a postcard please.

More substantially (and I use that word advisedly), there would also be implications for the system of proportionality. The main Independents group would drop to 11 in number, while the new gang would have possibly six members. The former would lose entitlement to some committee positions, while the latter would gain some.

For the most part, and I think Abjol is the exception here, the possible defectors would like to return to Labour. Were that to happen, there would be so many dead bodies left in Labour the calls for a Tower Hamlets cemetery would become irresistible.

That said, it’s clear Lutfur is planning a long term comeback and that Rabina is working hard on strengthening her grassroots support. Labour is likely to have a fight on its hands in 2018, and by 2022 Lutfur will be eligible to stand as mayor again (in fact he could try for a vacated councillor position in 2019…if he’s not bankrupted by court costs, of course).

John Biggs at Labour iftarSo the aim of the game for John Biggs (and at an iftar for the Labour group on Tuesday night, pictured left, he made clear he’d want to stand again, although some tell me they’d like to see Sirajul Islam given a chance) must be to secure re-election, as well as running a decent council.

His hand is strengthened by weakening those of his opponents. Oli et al, believe it or not, do carry some votes. Deals that fall short of re-admittance to Labour can always be made.

Murky, but that’s politics I suppose.

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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? IMG_0819   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 campaignhttps://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.

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I texted John Biggs this morning to ask how his first week as Tower Hamlets Mayor had been. He replied with a very workmanlike text and it suggests a breath of fresh air. Here it is:

Got rid of car. Unfroze rich mix money (subject to call in).

Moving out of the mausoleum into a far smaller space.

Restoring a space for the speaker to host guests.

Went on two visits – primary school, housing opening. Need to do more – aim to get out at least once a day.

Did first surgery. Did a tour of the building to meet staff. (Need to finish last floor next week).

Forgoing £36,000 of mayor’s salary while still at City hall.

However that is early stuff, if important. By end Monday will have a cabinet.

Try to walk to work each day. Meet interesting people.

The selfie-count is reducing as the number of people impressed by my momentary fame declines.
JB

Meanwhile, here are some photos of the grand office Lutfur Rahman had built for himself. They were sent to me by council insider who tells me it was known as the Lutfur Bunker. John Biggs refers to it above as the ‘mausoleum’.

IMG_0790 IMG_0792 IMG_0791 IMG_0796 IMG_0797 IMG_0794 IMG_0798 IMG_0795 IMG_0799

 

 

 

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