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Archive for January 18th, 2012

Well, it took our Dear Leader eight days, but Mayor Lutfur Rahman has at last called for his friend and benefit fraudster Cllr Shelina Akhtar to resign as a member of Tower Hamlets council. Why he didn’t do it sooner is a mystery and it again underlines both his reactive nature to events and also the ineptitude of his army of highly paid political advisers.

Here’s the full story from the East London Advertiser, which ran an excellent front page editorial last Thursday calling for her to go (let’s see if they dress this up as their victory tomorrow…).

The mayor of Tower Hamlets has demanded a councillor convicted of benefit fraud earlier this month resign from her position immediately.

Despite counting independent Cllr Shelina Akhtar among his circle of supporters since she defected from the Labour party to work with him, Lutfur Rahman finally heeded calls from the opposition to take a tough stance in his condemnation of her.

He announced yesterday he had “asked her to resign as well as to return the benefit overpayment.”

He added: “The council takes a tough stance against the misuse of public funds.”

Cllr Akhtar admitted three counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances when claiming housing and Council Tax benefit for a property in Blackwall Way, Poplar at Snaresbrook Crown Court on January 9.

She was convicted of similar offences in July 2010.

Immediately after her recent admission, Cllr Josh Peck and Cllr Peter Golds, leaders of Tower Hamlets Labour and Conservative parties respectively, called on the mayor to demand she quits.

Meanwhile as the mayor’s announcement came in, politicians accused the town hall’s standards committee of ineffectiveness after it insisted it is powerless to suspend Akhtar.

A council spokesman confirmed the councillor has been reported to its internal standards team but said because she is not due to be sentenced until February 6 the case is officially still waiting conclusion and it cannot take action.

This means Akhtar, who represents Spitalfields and Banglatown ward, is still free to claim her councillor’s expenses and vote on decisions.

Cllr Golds said: “Why has she not been put before standards? It puts the whole system into disrepute. People are incensed.”

Just a few weeks ago Labour Cllr Helal Abbas was suspended for complaining about the conduct of a council officer.

Mr Peck said there appeared to be an “unevenness” in the way his case was dealt with in comparison to Cllr Akhtar’s.

The council spokesman said that because Akhtar is an independent she “is not subject to the rules of any political party or group.”

He added: “Constitutionally the mayor has no power to force Cllr Akhtar’s resignation.”

Despite continued attempts to contact Akhtar, the Advertiser has not been able to get a response from her.

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This from today’s Independent. If anyone has more details on what happened, let me know.

Students attending a debate about sharia law were told they would be “hunted down and killed” by a man who burst into their lecture theatre and filmed them on his phone.

A man in a dark hooded top said he knew the identities of the 40 guests present and knew where they lived, before claiming that they would be tracked down if anything negative was uttered about the Prophet Muhammad.

The incident took place on Monday evening at a meeting organised by the Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society at Queen Mary University in London.

The society’s president, Jen Hardy, said when the man left the room, two members of the audience applauded.

“The same man then began filming the faces of Society members in the foyer and threatening to hunt them down if anything was said about Muhammad, he added that he knew where they lived and would murder them and their families,” she said.

“On leaving the building, he joined a large group of men, seemingly there to support him. We were told by security to stay in the Lecture Theatre for our own safety.”

The meeting, where Secular Europe Campaign supporter Anne Marie Waters was due to give a speech, was cancelled.

“This is the first time this has happened, it’s really very frightening and you don’t know what else it’s going to turn into,” she said.

“I’m not worried about repercussions, but I’m worried about it happening again.”

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association condemned the “shocking” intimidation, saying: “Free expression, the free exchange of ideas and free debate are hallmarks of an open society; violence and the threat of violence should never be allowed to compromise that, especially in our universities.”

Queen Mary Students’ Union said: “Our students’ safety is of absolute priority and we take such reports very seriously. We are confident our processes have been followed in organising the event and will be supportive of any investigations carried out by the Police or Queen Mary, University of London.”

Enquiries by Tower Hamlets police are ongoing. A Scotland Yard spokesperson said: “Police were called at approximately 19:00 on Monday 16 January to a building on Mile End Road following a report of a man being threatened by another man. Officers attended and the victim was spoken to.”

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