Archive for November, 2011

How heartening to report on some probity at Tower Hamlets council. When it emerged that officers had agreed to hire out Trinity Square Gardens to a catering company for bankers’ Christmas parties, I submitted Freedom of Information request asking for details of all hospitality in the relevant department, Communities, Localities and Culture.

The department is headed by Stephen Halsey and Cllr Rania Khan is its cabinet member.

Here’s the council’s reply:


1. There has been no hospitality either offered or received by Cllr Rania Khan, Stephen Halsey or any other officer in CLC directorate in connection with Moving Venue in 2011.

2. No date or venue for hospitality has been booked nor any costs associated with it.

3. No expense forms have been submitted by Stephen Halsey during 2011.

4. Stephen Halsey has not attended any lunch or dinner dates in 2011 with non-Council parties.

Clean as a whistle is Mr Halsey.

Or perhaps he needs to get out more.

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Ever heard of the Muslim Professionals Forum? Me neither. It has a slightly dated website here and it is run out of an office alongside the Limehouse Cut by a Mohammed Khaled Noor. He is an immigration lawyer and styles himself as a “barrister”; he may well be but he is not listed on the Bar Council’s directory.

It says its aims and objectives are:

  1. To build a common platform for Muslim professionals and to promote ethical values and understanding.
  2. To enjoy, achieve and learn an Islamic way of life and cultural heritage through open and intellectual engagement.
  3. To train and prepare Muslim professionals to face modern intellectual challenges.
  4. To promote dialogue and ethos of peaceful coexistence among cultures, ideas and people.
  5. To organise seminars, symposiums and cultural events and to publish articles and periodicals
And its website recommends the following links:
Mosque and Islamic Centre
London Muslim Centre
London Central Mosque

Oranisations and Institutes
Muslim Council of Britain
Mulsim Association of Britain
United Kingdom Islamic Mission
Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board
British Muslim Initiative
Europen Muslim Research Centre
Middle East Monitor
Cordoba Foundation
Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies
Chatam House

Civil Society and Human Rights
Amnesty International

Islamic Relief
Muslim Aid

Regulatory Authorities
Charity Commission
Solicitors Regulation Authorities
The Bar Council
Note the name Interpal.
On November 19th, this forum will be staging a debate entitled, The August Riots: Is Britain Broken? It will be held at the Davenant Centre in Whitechapel. Here's the poster for the event:

The keynote speaker is Bennite Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn from Islington, but it’s the list below his name which has caused many eyebrows to be raised.

Firstly, there's George Galloway's old pal, Anas Altikriti. He is the former head of the Muslim Association of Britain, often regarded as the UK arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. He's now president of the Cordoba Foundation which has friendly relations with Hizb ut-Tahrir, even to the point of distributing Tower Hamlets council money to them in 2008.

Then there’s Dal Babu, a policeman whose rise up the ranks of the Metropolitan Police over the last few years has been astounding. When I was at the East London Advertiser, he was a Tower Hamlets Chief Inspector in charge of press relations. I’m sure he must have been very good at his other roles but in his liaison role, he certainly was not. He regarded the council paper East End Life as the major outlet and he pretty much lost our trust, promising us one thing only to do another, although he did maintain very good relations with Galloway’s Respect team. He then moved to Scotland Yard, became chair of the Association of Muslim Police and two years ago he got the Harrow job.

Also speaking is Neil Jameson, the director of London Citizens, and two stalwarts from the Islamic Forum of Europe: its president, Dilowar Khan, and the ever-present Azad Ali, whose profile has been relatively low since he got into trouble with his bosses at the civil service and who once said of the now dead Al Qaeda mastermind Anwar Al Awlaki, “I really do love him for the sake of Allah, he has an uncanny way of explaining things to people which is endearing.”

Which does explain why many are concerned at the final name of the list of speakers: Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali. Some are worried that by attending she will be giving what they consider to be an event organised by front organisations for Jamaat e Islami a moderate and mainstream veneer. Some think she is being used, that she’s being set up. Others say she is being hypocritical: that she should not be engaging with what is largely an IFE event when they opposed her becoming an MP.

I’ve spoken to Rushanara about this and her position is quite clear: she is the constituency MP, a fellow MP is attending, she has nothing to gain by going, but that it is important to engage in debate and challenge “any intolerable views”.

Jim Fitzpatrick, the MP for neighbouring Poplar and Limehouse, takes a different view: he would never attend events with many of these people.

I can understand Rushanara’s view and I think I’d like to go along to the debate and listen to the views.

The thing is, I’d also like to take my friend. She’s female. I’d like to sit next to her so we can discuss together. But we won’t be able to because the event will be segregated. Maybe that’s how Broken Britain will stop the riots.

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Apologies for the lack of posts but the day job has been calling.

Over the past few days a couple of executive decisions taken by Mayor Lutfur Rahman have caught the eye. I’ll deal with his version of Educational Maintenance Allowance in another post but for the moment, let’s look at his news for Victoria Park.

On October 20, he signed off a deal with events organiser Live Nation to run gigs in Victoria Park during the Olympics next year. The decision document (it’s well worth a read) reveals much longer than anticipated negotiations with Live Nation over the past year and that there remains a significant degree of uncertainty about what will happen.

However, what we do know is this:

  • Live Nation, with the blessing of the council, will cordon off with giant hoardings a large section of the park for six weeks next summer
  • In the week prior to the Opening Ceremony on July 27, Live Nation are looking at staging three “commercial gigs” (ie you buy tickets) each with a 30,000 capacity. The report raises some doubt over whether these will actually take place, however.
  • On each day from from July 27 until the closing ceremony on August 12, there will be “free to access” gigs/screens/events that will be licensed from noon until 12.30am. These events will be ticketed but they will be free. There will be a capacity of 30,000 people at any one time. The council has negotiated a daily allocation of 4,000 tickets for Tower Hamlets residents who will have to pay a £3.50 booking fee for a maximum of four each.
  • Live Nation estimate 1.2million visitors to their Victoria Park events during the Games.
  • The gigs and events will be aimed at “young people, families and sport” (note that older people who have paid taxes all their lives don’t seem to be welcome, they’ll just have to endure the noise – welcome to One Tower Hamlets). There will be an allocation of tickets for athletes.
  • Tower Hamlets council, the GLA and Live Nation will each contribute £100,000 for “the programme content”.
The council admits the impact of the park will be “significant” but it boasts that it has secured a good deal for residents. Well, what is that deal? It had hoped to charge a venue hire fee of £600,000, according to the document, but that seems to have been over-optimistic. It appears that Live Nation has negotiated that down to £442,285, which is about £10,000 a day for the six week period that an area of the park will be closed off. The fee is equivalent to 36pence for each of the 1.2million people expected to attend.
The small print is also worrying. The council has secured an £80,000 refundable deposit from Live Nation as a bond to clear the mess and damage to the park, but in return the council has agreed to agreed to indemnify Live Nation up to £20million if certain clauses are breached.
This is a staggering sum, so what is the main clause they’re worried about? Answer, the unauthorised issuing of press releases by the council. The argument is that if the council goes ahead with its own publicity that could damage the worldwide reputation of Live Nation’s artistes. Clearly, Live Nation has been reading about Takki Sulaiman, the council’s hapless “communications chief”, on this blog.
Although I’ve complained here before about the council using the park as a cash cow, I think the Olympics has to be the exception. Vicky Park, which is only a 15 minute walk from the main stadium at most (depending on routes will be open) will be the centre for Games entertainment. I just hope that they provide something that caters for everyone not just the Lovebox crowd.
What do you think?

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