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Archive for November 3rd, 2010

Nothing really happened while I was away last week did it?

Oh, just the small matter of Lutfur Rahman being formally appointed mayor, then complaining his former Labour colleagues were playing politics by cutting his pay packet from £75,000 a year to a mere £65,000. Playing politics? Shurely shome mishtake. Lutfur himself would never ever do any such thing, would he…

But what’s this? In June, a month after he was ousted as council leader by Helal Abbas and well before the shambles of the Labour selection process, he proposed a formal motion to his fellow councillors at the town hall. For ease of reading, I’m copying his letter and motion again here:

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.

Yes, that’s right, he was telling his colleagues that the newly elected Mayor should be paid 5 per cent less than the allowance for the then leader of the council, Helal Abbas, ie about £30,000. This was, of course, all in the interests of setting an example and saving taxpayers a bit of money – and nothing to do with playing politics to make himself look good – of course. I suspect that the rest of his colleagues who voted to reject the motion now regret they did so.

But cost-cutting is indeed now the name of the game. Following the Government’s comprehensive spending review, Tower Hamlets council is having to find tens of millions of pounds of savings. Lutfur himself recognises this. His mantra during the election campaign was that he would fight those cuts with all his heart.

Er, so what do you think his first edict was as newly elected Mayor? To order a brand new iPhone 4. Apparently his existing tax-funded Blackberry wasn’t good enough. According to a town hall mole, when Lutfur was told he would have to wait a week for his new Apple gadget, he threw his toys out of the pram and told council chief executive Kevan Collins to secure him one within 24 hours. Council officials were then ordered to leg it over to the Apple store in Covent Garden and shell out more than £500 of our money.

Not to be outdone, Deputy Mayor Ohid Ahmed also cried out for one. So that’s £1,000 (one council tax bill) of dodgy spending they’ve already racked up. Wonder if there’ll be any more….

PS…I’d typed up this post yesterday morning and was waiting for the council’s press office to confirm the iPhone orders before publishing. Almost 24 hours later, I’ve just received the response. “We aren’t going to be issuing any information about phones for members,” a spokeswoman said. Now, this is interesting. A few years ago, the council sent me a list of councillors who had been issued laptops and Blackberrys. So I wonder who’s ordered the change of policy? Silly people: as of January 1, the council will have to comply with Eric Pickles’s transparency edict and publish online all items of expenditure of more than £500. Seems like the iPhone 4 issue is the first sign of mild panic by Lutfur & co in the face of media scrutiny.

 

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