Archive for January 16th, 2012

For those following the Shelina Akhtar affair, it seems that the Tory group will have at least some of its way with the motion it wants to submit for the full meeting of Tower Hamlets council on January 25.

John Williams, the council’s head of democratic services, seems to have said that all is OK apart from the call to suspend her, an action he appears to have said is not currently possible. The full text of Peter’s subsequent letter to legal head Isabella Freeman is copied below. It will be interesting to see if this motion is brought forward in the agenda on the 25th so that debate is guaranteed; equally, it will be fascinating to see how Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s band of independents vote. Who knows, Shelina herself may even turn up (if she’s not sick of course….).

Here’s the letter:

Dear Ms Freeman

Re: Shelina Akhtar (Aktar)

I am writing with regard to the motion to council submitted by myself and Cllr Archer on behalf of our group. Mr Williams has spoken to me and I have agreed an amendment, merely calling for this corrupt and disgraced individual to resign her membership of this council as I was told that as a council “we cannot suspend her”.

Shelina Akhtar was elected Labour councillor for the Spitalfields and Banglatown ward in May 2010 giving her address as Toynbee Street, E1. During April 2010, after her selection, the number of electors at Toynbee Street increased and subsequently all voted in the election.

Following her election she demanded that her name be changed on council records to Shelina Aktar and quickly left the Labour Party, joining the Independent group supporting the candidature of Cllr Lutfur Rahman as Executive Mayor.

In July 2010 Shelina Akhtar of Blackwall Way, E14 was convicted on three counts of benefit fraud. Of course, had anybody merely researched the name Shelina Akhtar she would might have escaped public scrutiny as she had insisted all entries on her regarding council information be changed to Aktar. Luckily for the public this ruse failed. 

In April 2011 she was charged on three counts of failing to notify a change of circumstances, which would have affected her entitlement to benefit.

Shelina Akhtar of Blackwall Way is the same Shelina Aktar of Toynbee Street. She currently appears to occupy two properties. In one case receiving a councillor’s allowance and in the other being convicted for fraud, whilst varying the name to, hopefully, prevent discovery.

In January 2012 she pleaded guilty to further charges of benefit fraud and is awaiting sentence.

She has without a shadow of doubt, brought this authority into disrepute.

I am therefore surprised that our existing Standards process has made no recommendation about her position. They currently have the power to suspend her membership of this council, indeed a councillor has recently been suspended for reasons which seem, somewhat arcane. I know for fact that there are at least five current investigations being undertaken by Standards which are vexatious and driven by malice on the part of councillors from the Independent members of whom Shelina Akhtar (Aktar) has been an active member as late as December 2011, attending Mayoral engagements and “group” meetings on a monthly basis.

The fact that she has been found guilty on two occasions (the first within two months of being elected) should have ensured that the Standards Committee met and considered her situation.

There are concerns amongst councillors and residents that her position will be supported to provide a prop for the Mayor in the budget process. How will this show Tower Hamlets if the Mayoral budget is approved on the vote of a convicted benefit fraudster?

She is convicted. This information is public; surely the Standards Committee could meet and take action before January 25th. After all they cannot change the verdict as she admitted a plea of guilty. They have also had eighteen months from the first conviction to consider her bringing the council into disrepute.

One reason the Standards regime has been fallen into disrepute nationally are the number of simply vexatious complaints which have seen councillors suspended for misplaced remarks or foolish “tweets”. Here we have a law breaker, who now appears to be permitted to take part in the budget process of an elective body spending over £1billion of public money.

In any other body, she would have been suspended. Why not here?

Yours sincerely

(Cllr) Peter Golds

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