Archive for October, 2011

Further to my last post, here’s part of the trail of correspondence over Peter Golds’ complaint to District Auditor Jon Hayes about East End Life. He had complained it breached the Local Government Code of Conduct.

This is Peter’s original complaint on August 29:

Dear Mr Hayes

Re: East End Life

I am writing regarding the London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ response to the recent guidelines approved by parliament, regulating council run newspapers. Tower Hamlets was the first to run a weekly newspaper and this organ, East End Life, has a reputation of being a notorious, publicly funded propaganda sheet. The veneer of TV listings, restaurant reviews and the description of “community newspaper” is an attempt to conceal the blatant propaganda.

The Code of Practice was published on March 31 and includes new guidelines to limit the frequency of council newspapers to a maximum of quarterly, prevent council newspapers from emulating commercial newspapers in style or content and limit content to information about business and amenities of the council or other providers.

When the government guidelines were introduced the administration of Tower Hamlets led by the Executive Mayor, Lutfur Rahman initiated a review of East End Life. This was conducted by the council’s paid Head of Communications, Takki Sulaiman who is responsible for writing East End Life, and meets weekly with the Mayor to discuss what goes in it. At this point it would be worth noting that as the author and driving force of the review, he would be unlikely to facilitate a review that recommended scrapping most of the responsibilities associated with his own paid position.

On 8th June this year, a report was bought to the meeting of the Cabinet (papers attached – Agenda item 10.2: East End Life Review – CAB 006/112) which presented the review and its recommendations. This was approved by the Executive Mayor, who has reserved all decision making to himself and was then ratified on July 6th, after Overview and Scrutiny had asked the Mayor to re-consider his decision. He made his July 6th decision in less than a minute, without publicly considering or responding to the concerns expressed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

You will be able to see that the entire report is misleading and ignores public and stakeholder opinions. Also notable is the fact that the few solid answers that were gained from executing the review were not taken on board. East End Life under the guidance of the officer responsible for East End Life conducted its own survey of residents, via itself.

In conducting this survey 624 people responded, out of a population of 250,000 in the borough. 88% of those responding did so through either an online survey or an open response via the council. But these two methods were advertised only on the Council’s own website and social media or through East End Life. Unsurprisingly there was a 64% positive view of the paper from this survey.

Residents who throw it straight in the bin are unlikely to notice the ad for the survey – or take part in it. However even this carefully managed sample indicated a 36% view to close the “paper”

In an attempt to manage the views of councillors, councillors attended a members’ forum on the paper. Those attending made their views extremely clear. The review notes of this meeting “it was felt that EEL has had successful history publishing local news to the wider community, and has been especially successful at promoting the work of schools.”

This is misrepresentation of a meeting where the recollection of those present is completely different to the comments published.

There are other serious errors of fact contained in the report.

The report claims that to abolish East End Life would cost the council £2.1million, and that reductions in frequency would also involve (lower) net costs to the council. The £2.1 million figure comes from the difference the council estimates it would cost to put its statutory advertisements in the local press and the internal transfer cost of advertising in East End Life. There are three things wrong with this approach.

The administration estimates the cost as if advertising in a range of newspapers. The East End has one newspaper, the East London Advertiser that has been running for 145 years and is sold in every newsagent and supermarket in the borough. Restricting advertising to this newspaper would clearly result in lower costs

The report bases the cost of advertising in the local press entirely from its rate card. Conservative councillors had already confirmed, in public at council meetings and in the review meeting that the East London Advertiser would offer the council a loyalty rate of £150,000 per year and make available two pages a week for 52 weeks. The review did not take this into account – because no-one involved in it bothered to contact the Advertiser to check this out.

Most astonishingly of all, the £2.1 million figure in this report doesn’t include the savings that will be made by no longer writing, printing and distributing the paper. The council already costs this at £1.5 million. Consequently the £2.1m is the gross replacement cost (i.e. counting extra costs only) not the net replacement cost which would take these savings into account.

This report commissioned by the Executive Mayor, and approved by him in under a minute, despite overwhelming reservation from members, results in the continuation of a paper that is not wanted, needed or required by the residents of Tower Hamlets.

I further enclose two copies of this newspaper with examples of how this paper is not all it purports to be. Whilst it does have information for residents, it also serves as the campaigning mouthpiece for the Executive Mayor, Lutfur Rahman.

You will note in the edition of 23-29 May, there is a supplement on pages 20 and 21 described on the front page masthead “A look back at the Mayor’s first six months in office”. The heading of “achievements” on the pages is indicative of a highly selective and partisan description of his administration. One could add that there is no mention of the many column inches that have filled the independent media on the somewhat more colourful aspects of this period.

In the edition of 11-17 July there is a feature “Why East End Life is here to stay”. This is again partisan and totally lacks any sense of objectivity.

Neither of these itemised features could meet any description of being even handed, objective or appropriate.

East End Life has no letters page, there are very few opportunities for non administration councillors to be featured in the wall to wall coverage of the Rahman administration. Indeed in one infamous issue a national journalist counted eighteen different pictures of Lutfur Rahman and there are well documented accounts of administration members arguing for ever more photographs of themselves.  

Local authorities are required by Section 4 (1) of the Local Government Act 1986 to have regard to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity in coming to any decision on publicity. A cursory examination of East End Life shows the council are ignoring the code, by continuing to publish on a weekly basis, giving the impression that this is a “newspaper” and acting as a propaganda vehicle for the administration.

This consultation has been fundamentally flawed and results in the continuation of a crude propaganda sheet, sent out weekly which will damage the local, independent media and potentially contravene the electoral process as no political party can have regular access to campaign funds equal to those available to a local authority.

Councillors are not seeking to be included in this paper. There is a majority of elected councillors from different political parties for it to cease and the funds saved be utilised for frontline services.

Under the Audit Commission Act of 1998 you, as District Auditor, have the power; to issue an advisory notice; to seek judicial review, to issue a public interest report or to make a written representation which the council needs to consider and respond to publicly.

I urge you to investigate this further and reach your own decisions as to whether following reading the review and our issues with it you are satisfied that the administration has sought to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources.

I can confirm that Ministers at the Department of Communities and Local Government are concerned about this disregard of the regulations as laid down by Parliament and I am copying this letter to Departmental Ministers.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information. Thank you in advance for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Peter Golds

Leader of the Conservative Opposition

London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Appendix 1:                  Report Submitted to Cabinet on 8th June 2011

Appendix 2:                  Printed Decisions of the Cabinet

Appendix 3:                  East End Life Review

Appendix 4:                  East End Life Issue 860

Appendix 5:                  East End Life Issue 867

This is Jon Hayes’ reply:

And here are the eight pages of Isabella Freeman’s letter to Jon Hayes:

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One of the most frightening Google Alerts I’ve ever received popped up in my inbox earlier today. It was a link to a piece in PR Week and as soon as it opened I was confronted with this image:

The caption, thanks to an excellent sub-editor with an ironic eye for the smug, read: “Takki Sulaiman: ‘Pleasing’.”

It perfectly illustrated the story, which I’m pasting below:

District Auditor Sides With East End Life

The district auditor has thrown out a complaint against Tower Hamlets’ weekly East End Life publication.
Tower Hamlets Conservative opposition leader Peter Golds first reported the council’s publication to the district auditor in July. It has now emerged that the district auditor wrote to Golds on 26 September to explain that it is not minded to take any further actions against the council-run newspaper.

The district auditor is understood to have written: ‘The council’s interpretation is very similar to my own,’ with regard to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. Among the code’s recommendations is one that suggests councils only print newspapers four times a year.

Tower Hamlets head of comms Takki Sulaiman responded: ‘East End Life has just come through a stringent review process where it not only had to ensure compliance with the Government’s new guidelines but had to ensure it was cost-effective.

‘The revised East End Life meets these conditions and it is pleasing that the district auditor agrees we have had regard to the new publicity code.’

In June, Tower Hamlets Council said it planned to continue publishing at the same frequency, explaining this would be the most ‘cost-effective and popular’ option.

Poor Takki. Having spent most of the past month at various party conferences, I strongly suspect that smile will soon be wiped off his face.

I think the Government is a touch fed up with East End Life and Tower Hamlets Council’s defiant little attitude to how it spends our money – and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see all these town hall publications brought under some form of new statutory footing that properly governs how often they can publish.

There’s also is growing irritation with the role of district auditors. It is felt they become “institutionalised”, that because they become so pally with the council officers they have to work with, they rarely dare to bite. They say they are on the side of the local elector but when did you ever see a district auditor question town hall spending in this borough after a complaint? Maybe their remit is too narrow but that probably suits them.

This issue of East End Life is a corruption of process in Tower Hamlets: the town hall – even in its letter to the district auditor, which was the result of a panel that included someone I know believes otherwise – misleads about its true cost and then refers to extremely dodgy self-selecting surveys to prove its “popularity”.

As I’ve always said, I think it is very well-produced and it beats some of its commercial competitors in appearance and, I’m sorry to say, in content. But that’s no excuse to use public money for what it also runs: political propaganda.

And when the District Auditor tries to refute that charge, he makes himself look foolish: we already know from the diaries of Mayor Lutfur Rahman and his “executive” deputy Ohid Ahmed how much time they spend sanctioning what appears each week. Even before Lutfur became mayor, Ohid as a mere cabinet member, actually used to shout at the council’s press officers if they tried to advise something was legally unacceptable to print. He was regarded as the most odious member of the administration.

The media world in Tower Hamlets is in a very dark place at the moment. With a couple of honourable exceptions, most of the Bengali media slavishly lap up council press releases and toe the Lutfur line. Many councillors feel that is sadly true of my former paper as well but I think it’s more question of resources and a lack of feel for the dynamics for the area, including what politics represents.

On the broadcasting front, Lutfur has Channel S sewn up, so I’m led to believe. Of course, that station has often fallen foul of Ofcom and it is run by a convicted fraudster who was allegedly duffed up and tortured by gangsters earlier this year. That man’s other company, Prestige Auto, which is based as the same site as Channel S in Walthamstow, was last week linked to another insurance scam, as reported in the Daily Mail here.

Meanwhile, Lutfur’s other major backer, Shah Yousuf, is also, I understand, about to find himself having to defend a libel action over wife-beating smears about former Labour leader Helal Abbas.

Anyone with a bit of principle and a bit more cash would find there’s a decent gap in the journalism market in Tower Hamlets at the moment (business angels, you know where I am…).

To prevent this post becoming too long, I’m going to publish all the correspondence between Peter Golds, District Auditor Jon Hayes, and council legal chief Isabella Freeman , in a separate entry. For those who like the detail, they’re well worth a read, particularly “independent” Ms Freeman’s contribution: as an exercise in the art of local government obfuscation, it’s unbeatable.

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Richard Beggs, the managing director of Moving Venue, which had invited bankers to booze by maritime war memorials, is now asking us to sympathise with his clients becaus ethey now have to find another venue at short notice.

Here’s his statement:

“Moving Venue fully understands the position the surprising comments made by Trinity House has placed London Borough Tower Hamlets Council in and we can confirm that we are withdrawing from the proposed events at Trinity House.

“Moving Venue had been told by Trinity House that they fully supported the project, confirming approval in June, and have, over the past eight months, looked at all relevant logistics of the event venue.  Acknowledging the sensitivities around the venue location, from the outset we had robust plans in place to preserve the dignity and safeguard the security of the memorial gardens, which had been reviewed by London Borough Tower Hamlets Council during our discussions.

“However, following the pressure on London Borough Tower Hamlets Council, who have acted fairly and impeccably throughout, from adverse media coverage, Moving Venue confirms that it will not be using the venue. We are now in the process of contacting those clients that had made arrangements to use the venue, helping them to ensure they are able to find a suitable alternative at such short notice.

“We fully understand the concerns raised and had little hesitation in withdrawing the events, but would reiterate that we were invited by Trinity House to consider the site as a venue”.

Richard Beggs
Managing Director, Moving Venue

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Well, this shows you the power of a good campaign. Yesterday, I called on Mayor Lutfur Rahman to overturn the decision by his council to rent out a national war memorial gardens to a catering company for a giant month-long bankers’ booze-up.

Tower Hamlets Council has just released the following statement:

Commenting on the Trinity Gardens proposals, Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “Staging events in the Gardens was an idea put forward by Trinity House who have been working with the Council and the proposed event organisers so I am surprised by comments made this weekend. The Council do not wish to cause any offence to any of the parties involved. As it no longer has the support of Trinity House and the maritime community I have put a stop this event.” 

Ward Councillor and Cabinet Member for the Environment, Cllr Shahed Ali, added: “These gardens are an important part of the borough’s heritage and I am extremely glad the Mayor has used his executive powers to stop the event taking place.”

Job done. Well done – and thanks to Jim Fitzpatrick for airing it in the first place. At least he had some common sense. I have no idea why no one at the council, which says it cares about the heritage of the borough, saw this as a crass idea from the outset. A really good politician who had a feel for the symbolic nature of the multicultural nature of the memorials, would have seen it that way and made capital by squashing the proposal at the beginning. And then publicising it.

Why is this council so reactive?

UPDATE – October 11, 8am

Tory leader Peter Golds has pointed out something curious in the council’s statement above, that Shahed Ali is described as the “ward councillor”. Shahed, who was kicked out of the Labour group when he joined Lutfur’s cabinet, represents Whitechapel, while Trinity Square Gardens is in St Katharine’s and Wapping.

As Peter asks, has Lutfur now assumed the powers to redraw boundaries – or is just another clue to how familiar he is with this historic part of London?

And another thing, as they say, the statement on the council’s website refers twice to Trinity Gardens; it’s always good to be accurate about these things isn’t it because it shows you care? The name is Trinity Square Gardens. Here’s the sign on the park entrance to help the council’s communications team:

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The Observer has placed the “Bankers to party on Trinity Square Gardens” that I broke here on Thursday on its front page today and the article’s author, Nick Cohen, has also devoted his column to the issue.

I’ve also done a piece on page 12 of today’s Sunday Express and there was some discussion about splashing on it. It’s one of those stories that beggars belief.

Richard Beggs, the managing director of caterers Moving Venue, which has lodged the licensing application with Tower Hamlets council, called me on Friday to try and justify the project. He said the war memorials “were extremely dear to our hearts”, that he would provide security, and that they are walled off and in a separate area with their own entrance, the last bit of which is essentially hogwash.

Mr Beggs also revealed they had been in discussions with officers at Tower Hamlets council for six months and they had been extremely supportive of the idea.

He said the council would be receiving an undisclosed but sizeable income stream from renting out the space, which he said would be useful for Britain’s poorest borough (well, gee, thanks!). And he fervently hopes Mayor Lutfur Rahman will be attending a lunch with him to celebrate the swish new marquee.

When the proposal to close Bancroft History Library and Archives was aired in 2008, it was clear that many people in the Town Hall were neither aware of the incredibly rich history of Tower Hamlets nor, frankly, cared.

We won that battle but the history lesson doesn’t seem to have sunk in. Earlier this year, when residents and some councillors, including Labour leader Josh Peck and the Tories’ Peter Golds, complained about the number of events being staged in Victoria Park, Lutfur acolyte Rania Khan – the council’s culture spokeswoman! – brushed them off as the moaning white middle-classes.

She effectively said that money was more important that tranquil green space and heritage: that the various music festivals, which helped ruined the park again this summer, generated wads of cash for the council.

Well, as Mike Brooke from the East London Advertiser reported last month, the nine events staged there this summer netted just £250,000 in income. Half of that amount has effectively gone on refurbishing Lutfur’s office and his new Mercedes Lutfurmobile.

I’ve no idea what the council is hoping to grab from Moving Venue but whatever it is it’s irrelevant. As Nick Cohen says in his column, there are some things that can’t be monetised.

I’ve neither any idea what Lutfur thinks about Trinity Square Gardens but his past record suggests not much: he failed to turn up at last year’s Remembrance Sunday service there without telling anyone why at the time.

However, he now has a chance to redeem himself by telling Moving Venue that their idea is rum, to say the least, and that they should withdraw their application.

Anything else would be like dancing on the graves of the Commonwealth war dead, including those of the many Bengalis who died serving the merchant fleet.

Here’s what Rear Admiral Sir Jeremy de Halpert, Deputy Master of Trinity House, the maritime charity whose HQ overlooks the gardens, told me for the Sunday Express

“You can’t plant an all-day bar, dining room and disco on top of the war memorial and expect the due reverence to be untainted. Can you imagine 350 people spilling out of there?

“This memorial is the centrepiece of the garden, which provides that cloak of respect and deference to those who died. People go into that park because it is tranquil. The whole ambience and reverence will be ruined.”

And this is what Captain Malcolm Mathison, vice-chairman of the Merchant Navy Association, said

“You would not put something like this in a cemetery, so why this? Our guys were lost at sea, their relatives don’t have graves to go to. This idea disrespects the men and women of the Merchant Navy and the fishing fleets. They gave their lives for our country.”

Wise words.

Peter Golds has issued this statement today:

The proposal to hold parties in Trinity Gardens is an affront to the thousands of merchant seamen who lost their lives in times of conflict. It was possible to join the merchant Navy aged 14 and the magnificent memorial commemorates, amongst many others, these youngsters who gave their lives.

A party in a Marquee will involve drink and noise. A prime reason for rejecting a licensing application is disorder, and the potential for disorder around the Memorial is extremely high.

The proposed date for starting these events is November 22. On November 13th Trinity Gardens will be the setting for the Borough’s main Remembrance Ceremonies. How appalling that wreathes will be removed to be replaced by canapés, champagne and fairy lights.

The current Tower Hamlets administration has form on this matter. Last year, despite a seat being reserved for him, Lutfur Rahman declined to attend the Remembrance Ceremony. His administration blocked off large parts of Victoria Park for money making events in the summer and his officers are supporting a new Hotel on Trinity Gardens – despite there being no facilities for deliveries.

Something needs to be done and Lutfur Rahman needs to understand that One Tower Hamlets means actions and not press releases.

I can see this issue building a serious head of steam.

(PHOTO: Courtesy of Roll of Honour)

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Jim Fitzpatrick is outraged by a new plan to stage all night Christmas parties on the site of a national monument to those who lost their lives at sea during the two world wars.

He has made a formal complaint to Tower Hamlets Council about an application by caterers Moving Venue to erect marquees on Trinity Square Gardens, near the Tower of London, during the forthcoming office party season.

Trinity Square Gardens were created by Act of Parliament in 1797 and restored in 2003. They are managed by the council, the Corporation of London and significantly, the War Graves Commission. They contain memorials inscribed with the names of hundreds of merchant seafarers, a large number of them Bengali lascars, who were killed while serving and supplying this country.

Moving Venue, it seems, wants to use the beautiful space to let bankers and other City workers booze away their bonuses while overlooking the Tower.

Their application seeks permission for alcohol and music entertainment during the hours of 11am to 1am  from November 22 to December 17.

Having been contacted by furious boss of Trinity House, which overlooks the square, Jim, who is the MP for the area, wrote the following letter to the council:

I have been contacted by Rear Admiral Sir Jeremy de Halpert who is Deputy Master of Trinity House, Tower Hill, regarding a proposal to allow licensed entertainment in Trinity Square Gardens at Tower Hill, adjacent to the National War Memorials.  The memorials are of particular note as they are dedicated to those members of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who lost their lives in the two world wars and have no known grave.  They are thus the maritime equivalent of, among other sites, the Menin Gate in Flanders.

You will, of course, have all the details relating to this matter, but I would like to emphasise how very inappropriate the proposals are to this area.  I echo Sir Jeremy’s sentiments in saying that the park includes two major National War Memorials two other significant memorials.  Such a site of entertainment would impact on the dignity of the memorials and the respect due those that are remembered there.  The marquee will dominate this very small park and deny the public access to one of the few open green spaces in this area.  The site is adjacent to residential properties within the City of London and the venue will impact on the residents.  The park is a Conservation Area and the erection of a marquee will impact on the bio-diversity of the area and on its scenic value, especially at a time when many visitors come to London in the run up to Christmas.  The proposed use is at odds with nearly all the Council’s own approved plans for the park.

Along with Sir Jeremy, I wish to register my own objection to this proposal.  I understand the cut-off date is 12 October.  Thank you for your assistance.

Yours faithfully

Jim Fitzpatrick MP

And this is how the rather officious licensing officer at the council responded:

Thank you for your email. I acknowledge and appreciate the concerns you have raised in relation to Trinity Square Gardens. 

Unfortunately, under the Licensing Act 2003 your email is not considered to be a valid representation. In order for your representation to be valid, you must make it clear how granting this particular application will have an impact on you only in relation to one or more of the following licensing objectives:
–         the prevention of crime and disorder
–         the prevention of public nuisance
–         public safety
–         the protection of children from harm

Under the above Act, for your representation to be valid, you must be one of the following:

–         a person living in the vicinity of the premises
–         a body representing persons living in the vicinity of the premises (i.e. residents association etc)
–         a person involved in business in the vicinity of the premises
–         a body representing persons involved in business in the vicinity of the premises
–         a responsible authority (i.e. Police, Environmental Protection etc)
–         a Ward Councillor

Also, please be advised that we require the full address of anyone making a representation. If you wish to represent an interested party, we would need to know their details.

This, quite understandably, has further upset Jim, who today wrote the following letter back to the council: 

I am writing to complain in the strongest possible terms that my representation against an ‘Entertainment Licence’ being granted on the site of Trinity Square Garden, which contains the National War Memorials, has been declared by you as, ‘…not considered to be a valid representation.’

Over 20,000 sailors’ names are recorded at the memorials.  For many, this is their only grave, as they died at sea.  Licensing entertainment and alcohol sales in the park is wholly inappropriate, and I believe my representation SHOULD be considered valid – not rejected out of hand by you.

I am copying this complaint to the Mayor’s Office, as well as to the Leaders of the Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dem Groups on the Council, and the press.

I full recognise procedures need to be observed, but your total disregard for the significance of this site as a national war grave is hugely disappointing.

I’ve called Moving Venue to see if they intend pressing ahead with their silly plan but I’ve yet to get a response.

However, I suspect their application has the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell of getting through the Tower Hamlets licensing committee.

UPDATE – Saturday, Oct 8

I’ve written an article on this for the Sunday Express tomorrow – more comments from Merchant Navy veterans. The managing director of Moving Venue, Richard Beggs, also told me he’d been working with Tower Hamlets Council for six months on this idea and that he had agreed a significant rental fee for “Britain’s poorest borough”.

He also said he was hoping to have lunch soon with Lutfur Rahman about the issue. Given the likely fallout from this idea, Lutfur might want to do what he did last time he was invited to Trinity Square Gardens….ie not turn up.

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I know some might accuse me of being on dodgy ground on this one but there’s something deeply troubling about the attitude of the current Tower Hamlets Council regime towards the media. During Lutfur Rahman’s election campaign possibly the most disgraceful advert that has ever appeared in what purports to be a newspaper appeared in a tawdry rag called the London Bangla.

The advert appeared in the name of a supposed refuge for women who had suffered domestic violence. It even provided a phone number for other victims to call. Of course, the entire ad was false. The advert said we needed to “Stop wife beating Mayoral candidate Helal Abbas”. Abbas was Lutfur’s Labour opponent. For those who never saw it first time around, here it is:

The rally it advertised never happened either. As a result of this advert, London Bangla’s then news editor Emdad Rahman resigned. At the time, I and other journalists asked Lutfur to condemn the advert. He never did, probably because the London Bangla was very much in his stable. It was a pitifully moral failure on the part of the mayor and one that he should be ashamed of.

The London Bangla was owned by Shah Yousuf. Since the election, Abbas has been considering his legal options and, quelle surprise, the London Bangla has disappeared to be replaced by another equally weird publication called the East End News. Shah Yousuf is listed as its editor and, disappointingly, Emdad Rahman has reappeared as its “executive editor”. Ex-Labour party member James Frankcom is listed as “news editor”.

It is effectively the same “newspaper”. So, as they say, imagine my surprise when I attended the last full Tower Hamlets council meeting a couple of weeks ago to find that this paper is being promoted in the Town Hall. Someone in the council – we’re not sure yet who – has given permission for the paper to be distributed free of charge from the same newspaper bin in the foyer of Mulberry Place as East End Life. Here’s a picture of the copy I picked up:

Crikey, what’s this sexual disease epidemic that’s hit east London “hard”? Let’s have a look at the article…

The NHS is promoting a sexual health awareness project to help solve the capitals (sic) growing sexual health problems.

The initiative is a response to recent research that shows London has the highest levels of sexual ill health of any city in the UK costing the taxpayer £500m per year. There are estimated to be over 35,000 people living with HIV in London – a third of whom are not tested and do not know their HIV status. Indeed, when Dr Lucien Herpes discovered his eponymous STD back in the 1920s he would have had no idea how soon his name would be on everyone’s lips. [GEDDIT? Lips, Herpes… .]

In addition, teenage pregnancy levels are among the highest in Western Europe and abortions, including repeat abortions in all age groups are 25% higher than the English average. [NOW, why would a paper want to talk about teenage pregnancies and abortions in an article about sexual diseases..?]

So in response a brand new sexual health intiative called Sex Factor Ideas 2012 has been launched.

Sex Factor Ideas 2012 is described in the associated publicity drive as a hands on initiative to promote Sexual Health awareness among young Londoners by inviting Lonodn’s young community to actually create the promotional campaign themselves. They are hoping to encourage as many young Londoners to get involved as possible.

[And now for the best part….]

The campaign comes as concerns were recently raised on a social media site about the potential for the upgraded Altab Ali Park to be abused by the East End’s growing army of “doggers”.

“Dogging” is a craze whereby men and women who are otherwise unknown to each other indulge in semi-public sex in the open air in places such as parks, car parks and gardens. Concern has grown after it emerged the new tree-stumps erected at the back of the park were mooted by dogging enthusiasts as a new potential shelter for their nocturnal activities.

Other sites across East London listed on popular dogging websites include the bushes around Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone, the area between Plaistow Station abd Valetta Grove abd two sites in Walthamstow; one on Coopermills Lane and the other on Forest Road near the doctors surgery.

I have to say that despite the dubious undertones this is one of the funniest articles I’ve read recently and I do wonder whether the East End News is the new Viz….but given the Abbas advert and the paper’s strong links to Lutfur, is it right that the paper should be given a free distribution point in Mulberry Place?

What do you think?

Should we be told of more places where we can go dogging-spotting?

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