Archive for February 25th, 2013

I’ve said it many times before but the Tories in Tower Hamlets are, in terms of having an eye for what really grabs as a good story that resonates with ordinary taxpayers, a cut above the rest in this borough.

That’s in no small part down to their leader, Peter Golds. No wonder the likes of legal chief Isabella Freeman and allies of Mayor Lutfur Rahman have been so keen to pursue pointless complaints against him.

In the first of a number of posts on their latest findings, below is a table they have compiled from Freedom of Information requests and from leaked town hall documents detailing the taxi fares claimed by the mayor and several of his cabinet members since October 2010.

You’ll remember that midway through 2011, the mayor became fed up of hiring cabs and leased a Mercedes for himself, billing us taxpayers about £70 a day.

You’ll also note that Tower Hamlets has more transport links than most other boroughs: the DLR, the District/Hammersmith and City Line, the Central Line and the Jubilee Line, the London Overground/East London Line, and a whole range of bus routes.

Granted, getting from Bethnal Green to the town hall in Mulberry Place, Docklands, is a bit of a pain, but few of us can can afford the luxury of cabs.

Unless you’re in Lutfur’s administration, that is. Because then all you have to do is say you’re “very, very busy”–and important, of course–and the taxis are on us.

Last week, I asked the council’s press office what the policy was on the mayor and cabinet members booking cabs. Takki Sulaiman, the chocolate teapot “head of communications”, refused to answer and instead insisted the question was treated as a Freedom of Information request. That seems like an abuse of process and council resources to me and I wonder if any councillor will ask him to explain himself.

For a couple of days earlier, Peter Golds had asked the same question of the council’s head of paid service, Steve Halsey, who replied within hours thus:

Each individual request to book a taxi for a councillor must be agreed by the Service Head, Democratic Services or, in respect of Cabinet Members only, by the Head of the Mayor’s Office. In all cases when considering a request the Service Head/Head of Office will apply the following rules which have remained consistent for a number of years:-  

In normal circumstances, the basic allowance is expected to cover travel within the borough.  The Council will not pay for a taxi unless public transport is (a) not available, (b) is inappropriate (e.g. late at night) or (c) impractical in a particular case due to urgency – e.g. a Cabinet Member’s diary means they cannot otherwise get from one engagement to the next in time.  

Mr Halsey’s answer is illuminating.

First, if the £10,065 a year basic allowance to councillors is meant to cover their travel in the borough, then that must also apply to the extra £13,325 a year that cabinet members are paid for their additional work and travel. The deputy mayor, Ohid Ahmed, gets a special responsibility allowance of £15,518. And you’ll see that he rather likes his taxis.

And secondly, we learn that the person signing off all these cab fares is Murziline Parchment, the head of the mayor’s office. Now, she really does have form when it comes to signing off dubious spending by Lutfur’s cronies.

And to think she wanted to be our borough’s chief executive!

If you still think I was unfair in her about that, take a look at the taxi fares below. All the annotations have been done by the Tories.

I don’t think I need to explain much further. I asked the council’s press office why Lutfur claimed a £28.56 cab from McDonald’s in Commercial Road to the town hall on May 18, 2011, but answer came there none.

When scrolling through this list, bear in mind Lutfur lives in Old Montague Street in Spitalfields. That’s a few minutes walk from the East London Mosque.

And also bear in mind that the House of Lords is at Westminster…on the Jubilee Line from Canary Wharf. It’s quite a short journey actually.

And also remember that City Hall, the venue for a London Council meetings on May 10, 2011, is a short stroll from London Bridge station, which is again on the Jubilee Line. A number of other council leaders have confirmed they would never dare take cabs to such or similar business, if ever in fact.

His last cab on May 26, 2011, was for £121 from Mulberry Place to the Tower of London. Maybe it was a helicab.

So this is just a taster of what is to come…

Date Fare From To Comment
4.11.10 £38.82 Mulberry Place Marsh Wall, E14 Short bus journey, Can be walked in
15 mins
11.11.10 £15.53 Mulberry Place Canary Wharf Pier 277 Bus – door to door
22.11.10 £24.95 Mulberry Place Tarling Estate DLR, East India to Shadwell
22.11.10 £22.58 Tarling Estate Guildhall
22.11.10 £46.11 Guildhall Mulberry Place
23.11.10 £60.69 Fare paid but journey unknown
10.12.10 £77.31 Mulberry Place Gosfield St, W1 and return journey Apparently between journey 1pm and
4.30pm. Gosfield St is close to tube stns.
14.12.10 £30.58 Mulberry Place Great Queen Street
14.12.10 £73.60 Possibly conjoined with Great Queen
20.12.10 £25.48 Mulberry Place Roman Road
20.12.10 £25.95 Roman Road Mulberry Place
11.2.11 £26.43 Mulberry Place Home
18.2.11 £18.61 Mulberry Place Home
21.2.11 £15.58 Home Spitalfields Market Can be walked in 5mins
25.2.11 £26.20 Mulberry Place Whitechapel
28.2.11 £32.10 Mulberry Place Bethnal Green
28.2.11 £30.78 Bethnal Green Mulberry Place
1.3.11 £19.02 Mulberry Place Home
2.3.11 £87.79 Mulberry Place Hayfield
4.3.11 £51.92 Mulberry Place Bromley by Bow
7.3.11 £47.64 Mulberry Place House of Lords Journey direct from Canary Wharf is
11 minutes
7.3.11 £51.42 House of Lords E14 (Mulberry Place)
9.3.11 £25.72 Mulberry Place St Martin’s House
14.3.11 £58.34 Mulberry Place Old Montague St (Home)
14.3.11 £28.72 Home Mulberry Place £79.06 on a journey to home, can be
done by public transport
14.3.11 £18.68 Mulberry Place Four Seasons Hotel, Canary Wharf 277 bus goes door to door
15.3.11 £13.22 Home Stocks Place, E1
15.3.11 £53.95 East London Mosque Mulberry Place
17.3.11 £28.52 Home
Bank of America, Canada Square
17.3.11 £41.77 Bank of America Canada Square Mulberry Place 277 Bus goes door to door
22.3.11 £41.30 Mulberry Place Brick Lane
22.3.11 £21.71 Brick Lane City Hall
22.3.11 £10.62 City Hall Brick Lane
22.3.11 £4.01 Brick Lane East London Mosque Most extreme claim of all, this
journey takes under two minutes by foot
22.3.11 £4.96 East London Mosque Taxi waits
22.3.11 £19.82 East London Mosque Mulberry Place
24.3.11 £38.53 Mulberry Place Bethnal Green
24.3.11 £24.07 Bethnal Green Mulberry Place
25.3.11 £5.90 Home Dockside Road, E16
25.3.11 £4.48 Dockside Road Home
25.3.11 £26.67 Mulberry Place Home
28.3.11 £18.64 Mulberry Place Bethnal Green
28.3.11 £56.45 Bethnal Green Mulberry Place
29.3.11 ? Mulberry Place BFG School
30.3.11 £59.24 Oban St, E14 Taylor Place, E3
1.4.11 £30.52 Home Vesey Path, E14
4.4.11 £26.20 Mulberry Place Mile End Road
4.4.11 £23.60 Mile End Road Mulberry Place
6.4.11 £36.52 East London Mosque Mulberry Place
11.4.11 £40.15 Mulberry Place Whitechapel
11.4.11 £71.27 Mulberry Place Chrisp Street Can be walked in five minutes or
12.4.11 £22.66 Home Mulberry Place
12.4.11 £31.09 Mulberry Place Home
13.4.11 £30.65 Home Mulberry Place
14.4.11 £37.73 Home Mulberry Place
14.4.11 £40.53 Mulberry Place Home
18.4.11 £22.42 Cambridge Heath Road Ernest Street, E1
18.4.11 £53.41 Ernest St, E1 St Stephen’s Road
19.4.11 £35.84 Home Mulberry Place
20.4.11 £23.36 Home Mulberry Place
21.4.11 £47.20 Mulberry Place Nelson St, E1
21.4.11 £43.22 Home Mulberry Place
4.5.11 ? Mulberry Place Canary Wharf
5.5.11 ? Mulberry Place Home
7.5.11 £23.84 Home Victoria Park
9.5.11 £23.13 Home Mulberry Place
10.5.11 £33.75 London Councils Mulberry Place Jubilee line is 7 minute journey,
London Bridge-Canary Wharf
12.5.11 £30.08 Home Mulberry Place
16.5.11 £22.39 Mulberry Place Alfred Street, E3
16.5.11 £55.13 Alfred St, E3 Mulberry Place
16.5.11 £41.60 Mulberry Place SOAS, WC1
16.5.11 £21.48 SOAS Home
17.5.11 £46.19 Commercial St Canary Wharf
18.5.11 £25.36 Home Richard St, E1
18.5.11 £28.56 McDonalds, Commercial Road Mulberry Place
19.5.11 £53.95 Home Mulberry Place
19.5.11 £15.10 Mulberry Place Chrisp Street Can be walked in five minutes or
19.5.11 £13.69 Chrisp St Mulberry Place
20.5.11 £61.36 Unknown but paid for. Believe Cab
arrived and left after waiting before being cancelled
20.5.11 £10.86 Home Mulberry Place
24.5.11 £18.64 Mulberry Place Wapping
25.5.11 £33.75 Mulberry Place Home
26.5.11 £4.25 Cancellation fee for Com Cab
26.5.11 £33.78 Home Mulberry Place
26.5.11 £121.34 Mulberry Place Tower of London The DLR goes door to door; East
India to Tower Hill
Total: £2,789.01

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