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Archive for September 21st, 2010

The Mayoral Salary

Before today’s events, I was going to report on the row at last night’s meeting of the Labour group at Tower Hamlets council.

In June, I wrote this post. Back then, strangely, new council leader Helal Abbas was seen as the favourite to become the Labour candidate for mayor. As a result, Lutfur Rahman and his chief lieutenant Cllr Marc Francis lobbed him and colleagues a hand grenade. They proposed a motion to their colleagues that the new mayor’s salary should be capped at about £30,000 a year. The pair said that would be a sign to voters that politicians (unlike Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales, who bags a salary of £81,000) were doing their bit for the recession.

For ease of reference, here’s the wording of that motion:

Dear colleague

As you will have seen from the agenda for Monday’s Labour Group meeting, i am bringing a motion introducing term limits on any Labour directly-elected Mayor and reducing the Special Responsibility Allowance for that post and other Cabinet positions.

This motion is itself fairly self-explanatory, but i will explain my reasoning in a little more detail on Monday.  I would obviously welcome your support for this motion, so please don’t hesitate to let me know if you any queries before then.

Yours

Lutfur

Motion – Directly-Elected Mayor

Proposed:            Cllr Lutfur Rahman

Seconded:            Cllr Marc Francis

This Labour Group notes:

  • The referendum result in support of a Directly-Elected Mayor and the election for this position will be held on 21st October;
  • That in other local authorities the introduction of an Executive Mayor in place of the Council Leader has resulted in an increase in the Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) for that position;
  • That, as well as an Executive Mayor, Newham has 16 Cabinet Members and Mayoral Advisers, each in receipt of an SRA;
  • That some directly-elected Mayors are now beginning their third consecutive Term of Office;
  • The new Conservative / Lib Dem Coalition Government is expected to require around £10 million in “in-year” cuts from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, as well as significant additional savings thereafter.

This Labour Group believes:

  • That it is important for the Labour Party and its elected representatives to take on the burden of any necessary savings before considering imposing cuts in frontline services;
  • A Mayor, Deputy Mayor and eight Cabinet members is a sufficient Executive body for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets;
  • George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had it right in establishing the convention of a two-term limit for the President of the United States, now enshrined in law by the 22nd Amendment.

This Labour Group therefore resolves:

  • To peg the SRA of the Directly-Elected Mayor for 2010/11 and 2011/12 at the current level of the SRA to the Council Leader less 5 per cent;
  • To peg the SRA for the Deputy Mayor for 2010/11 and 2011/12 at the current level of the SRA to the Deputy Leader less 5 per cent;
  • To peg the SRA for Cabinet Members for 2010/11 and 2011/12 at the current level of the SRA to Cabinet Members less 5 per cent;
  • To require that the Mayor appoint no more than one Deputy Mayor and eight Cabinet Members to serve on the Executive;
  • That no Labour Mayor should seek a 3rd Term of Office.

The motion was rejected.

At the meeting of the full council last Wednesday, politicians had another attempt to agree pay. What about £65,000, a cross-party group suggested? Er, no. Labour councillors rejected that as well.

So, last night, when it seemed certain that Lutfur would be mayor, they had another go. Incredibly, by a majority of 20 to 18, Labour’s supposedly cost-conscious public servants voted to recommend a salary of £75,000. Now, who would be so keen to see such massive pay inflation? According to one of Lutfur’s supporters, it was, er, Lutfur’s new club of supporters. They said a pay package well below that of Newham and of Hackney would “reduce the dignity” of the Tower Hamlets office.

Whereas Marc Francis showed consistency and voted against the proposal, Lutfur abstained.

Abbas, meanwhile, voted against. So, we now know one thing, at least: Abbas will not accept a £75k salary if elected on October 21.

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One of the saddest aspects of Tower Hamlets politics is the view among some politicians that voters can be directed to vote along racial lines. It’s patronising, divisive and borderline racist.

Bodrul Islam was the groom at the wedding that Jim Fitzpatrick infamously walked out of last year. He subsequently joined Respect, but failed in his attempt to win a council seat in Bromley-by-Bow last May.

Here’s his Facebook take on the Lutfur Rahman/Helal Abbas saga:

Bodrul Islam The tower hamlets labour party seems to prioritise naked self interest at the expense of democracy. Abbas, that castrated prostitute has no mandate to stand as a mayoral candidate. Part of me wants to laugh at the dismantling of the labour party but the serious part of me sees the grotesque injustice against lutfur. I personally think he should do what ken livingstone did, stand as an independent. With his popularity he will win, as the block bengali vote will be activated like never before.

Sigh.

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Well, that’ll teach me to go to the gym: while I’d shut myself away for a couple of hours, Labour’s NEC was doing its own bit of exercise in power.

Apologies if credit is due elsewhere, but I think [UPDATED Weds, Sep 22]Operation Black Vote broke the story that Lutfur Rahman has been suspended as Labour’s candidate for the elected mayor of Tower Hamlets.

Here’s the press release from Labour HQ:

NEWS FROM LONDON LABOUR PARTY

Following a meeting of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee today, a spokesperson said:

“Having received a number of serious allegations concerning both the eligibility of participating voters and the conduct of  Lutfur Rahman, the NEC has decided to investigate the allegations made.

“As a result, administrative action has been taken to remove Lutfur Rahman as a candidate pending the investigation. Nominations for Tower Hamlets mayor close this week and in the circumstances the NEC had no option but to impose another candidate.

“The NEC has voted to select Helal Abbas Uddin as Labour’s candidate.”

Nominations for candidates for mayor close at noon on Friday, which leaves less than 72 hours for further developments. And there will be.

Here’s what has happened. The London Labour party recently received a lawyer’s letter on behalf of one of the losing candidates containing what a Labour source told me was a “lengthy and detailed” list of allegations about the eligibility of party members who voted for Lutfur in the selection process. I understand that one of the question marks is over a family member of Lutfur’s.

Contributions to that dossier were made by a number of the losing candidates. I can also reveal that the lawyer who presented the dossier was instructed by none other than Helal Abbas, the current council leader and the man that the party has now imposed as its candidate.

You’ll recall that Lutfur’s winning margin in the vote earlier this month was massive. In his winning fifth round, he had a margin of 182 over the second placed candidate, John Biggs. For ease of reference, that fifth round result was: Lutfur 433, Biggs 251, Abbas 157. Some of the losing candidates quite frankly did not believe the result and suspected foul play.

So how big “lengthy” exactly was the list in the Abbas dossier? According to my source, “more than 100 voters”. Which is indeed big.

The NEC considered two main things this morning:

1. The dossier and the propriety of Lutfur’s win.

2. Lutfur’s record as council leader from 2008-2010: according to one well placed source, “there were worries about the friends he kept”.

These are incredibly serious allegations and two things are highly likely (and fully expected by Labour HQ):

1. Lutfur will be consulting his lawyers right now. There is a strong chance that this will go to the High Court again.

2. If Lutfur is not a candidate he repeatedly describes as “the great Labour party”, he will run as an independent…or even Respect.

UPDATE – 6pm, Tuesday

Cllr Helal Abbas is not wasting anytime getting his new campaign into gear. He has sent this text to party members this afternoon. He’s holding a rally at 7pm tonight. Wonder if Lutfur will be going.

Dear comrades, we are inviting you to the Tower Hamlets Mayoral Campaigns meeting today the 21st Sept 2010, 7 pm @ Labour party rooms, 349 cambridge heath road, london E2. With very best regardr, Cllr Helal Abbas, Leader of the Concil


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