Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2013

The more regular readers of this blog will recognise and remember this image. I rather like it.
ostrich_head_in_sandIt seems to encapsulate attitudes among some to electoral fraud.

Further to yesterday’s post about the report of the Electoral Commission and the Metropolitan Police, I commend Andrew Gilligan’s blog on the matter here.

And since then the political parties in Tower Hamlets have issued their own press releases. Two recognise there is a problem, while the third….well….let’s say it takes something of an ostrich view.

Here’s Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s breathtaking take:

It’s official: Tower Hamlets has NO CASE TO ANSWER on electoral fraud

Mayor Lutfur Rahman and Tower Hamlets Council vindicated after Electoral Commission finds “insufficient evidence” to back opposition claims of widespread deception.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman today praised Tower Hamlets’ electoral safeguards as “robust and highly effective” after an Electoral Commission report into allegations of widespread electoral fraud in by-elections in April and May 2012 were found to be groundless.

Opposition councillors made an astonishing 154 separate allegations of which 151 were dismissed entirely and only 3 offered grounds for concern. An investigation by the Metropolitan Police found that there was “insufficient evidence to prove an offence” had been committed on any of these.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “These allegations were nothing less than a systematic attempt to discredit our robust and highly effective electoral safeguards. The Electoral Commission report is a vindication for this administration and the excellent council officers who impartially administer the electoral process in Tower Hamlets.”

The report indicated that a “breakdown in trust” between certain opposition councillors and the administration, based on “local political disagreements” was at the root of the allegations.

Out-of-date electoral registers used by campaigners and an inability to differentiate between Bangladeshi names were also to blame, the report found.

Cllr. Ohid Ahmed, Deputy Mayor said. “I’m pleased, but not surprised, that these allegations were found to be baseless. I can’t imagine a clearer case of sour grapes than this – attacking the system when it doesn’t give you the result you want. I hope all those responsible will publicly apologise for crying wolf.”

This is not the first time that Mayor Lutfur Rahman has been accused and then vindicated of voter fraud. In 2010 his beaten rival Helal Abbas claimed widespread fraud after Mr Rahman’s landslide victory in the selection to be Labour’s Mayoral candidate.

Cllr. Ahmed further added: “It seems that Labour and Tory opposition councillors can’t process the fact that the people of Tower Hamlets have rejected their divisive and self-interested politics. Instead of looking to their own failings they repeatedly try to discredit the system and are repeatedly proven wrong.”

“At a time of huge government cuts, what I’d like to see is how much these frivolous claims have cost the ratepayer – that’s the real crime.”

As I said, I like this image:
ostrich_head_in_sand

Sometimes I do wonder whether his press releases are part of some massive operation to wind me up and that Lutfur will one day reveal himself as an east London version of Joaquin Phoenix.

If not, I suspect that press release will cause deep, deep divisions between the Mayor and his friends in Respect because George Galloway and his aide Rob Hoveman were forever questioning the robustness of the electoral system in Tower Hamlets (eg p113 on this link). And so were many their Respect councillors back then. Oh, hang on, didn’t they include the likes of Oli Rahman, Shahed Ali, Lutfa Begum and Rania Khan….?

My, how they’ve managed to clean up the system since they’ve been in power!

Here’s Labour’s view:

The Metropolitan Police Service identified three cases involving five allegations where they thought electoral fraud may have taken place in relation to the April and May 2102 elections in Tower Hamlets. Sadly the MPS concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove an offence or identify a suspect and no further action was able to be taken in these cases.

In those cases two legitimate electors may have been deprived of their right to vote, and closer election results could have been subject to challenge.

The Electoral Commission stressed the importance of recognising that even one case of proven electoral fraud can damage confidence in the integrity of elections.  The Commission stressed that without taking steps now to begin rebuilding confidence and trust between the key participants in the election process, we are concerned that the May 2014 local elections will again be damaged by allegations of electoral fraud.

The Electoral Commission Report also made three key recommendations:

    • that the Registration Officer and Returning Officer for Tower Hamlets should immediately commence a review of all current electoral registration and election integrity processes to identify opportunities for further improvements to monitor potential electoral registration or voting fraud; to increase their capacity to respond to allegations of electoral fraud; and to improve transparency about their electoral integrity approach;
    • that elected representatives, political parties, candidates and campaigners in Tower Hamlets should immediately make a clear public commitment to following the Electoral Commission’s Code of conduct for campaigners, which sets out what is, and is not, considered acceptable behaviour at polling stations and in the community during the lead-up to polling day, and also recommends a process for raising and dealing with complaints or allegations about electoral fraud; and
    • that the Metropolitan Police Service should review its plans for policing elections in 2014 in conjunction with the ERO and RO for Tower Hamlets.

The Electoral Commission will monitor closely the plans and approach of the ERO and RO in Tower Hamlets and the MPS during the 12 months leading up to the May 2014 elections, to ensure that what they propose will be an effective response to improve confidence in the integrity of future elections. They will review and comment on any plans published by the ERO and RO for Tower Hamlets, including actions.

Chris Weavers, Chair of Tower Hamlets Labour Party and local Agent said:

“We welcome the seriousness with which the MPS and Electoral Commission took the concerns raised by residents and councillors in particular in the spring of last year, particularly during the Spitalfields and Banglatown by-election.  Sadly, while it appears that there were incidences of electoral fraud, no charges or prosecutions have been possible.”

“Improved monitoring and transparency on the part of the Registration Officer and Returning Officer and increased scrutiny on the part of the police is welcome and necessary and has long been requested by the Labour Party in Tower Hamlets.

“However, the primary blame for this problem must lie with the individuals who believe that electoral fraud is a legitimate tool in fighting elections in Tower Hamlets.  This report must be seen as a clear indication that such behaviour will never be acceptable and that the authorities will take action to prevent such abuses and to fully pursue legitimate allegations of fraud in the future.

“On behalf of Tower Hamlets Labour Party I am pleased to reaffirm our full commitment to the Electoral Commission’s Code of Conduct for Campaigners and urge the other political parties and Independent Mayor and councillors to do likewise without delay.”

ENDS

Information for Editors:

The three cases involving five allegations where the MPS thought electoral fraud may have taken place were as follows:

    1. Allegation that occupant said that two electors, shown on register as postal voters, did not reside at property. Two postal votes were cast at by-election.  The ballot papers were rejected but not suitable for forensic testing. Police called at the property and spoke to two occupants but were unable to identify a potential suspect.
    2. Allegation that postal votes were cast by two people who appear on the register as living at an empty property. Police confirmed that the property appeared empty and two votes were cast. The investigation concluded that the inclusion of these names on the register may be due to an administrative error. The names have been removed from the register. No further action – undetectable.
    3. Allegation that the two electors named on the register as postal voters were not resident at the property. Council pre-printed 2011 canvass forms were signed and returned. Both residents deny they signed the forms. This is an offence however the victims would not assist police and the offenders may be undetectable. Names removed from register.

And here’s the press release from Tory leader Peter Golds:

I welcome the detailed report by the Commission to concerns about the electoral process in this borough. Concerns that have been repeatedly raised by candidates, residents and the media over several years.

For too long these matters have been ignored or brushed aside. The Electoral Commission, in calling for significant changes to the management of elections in Tower Hamlets show that they have taken these matters on board.

More importantly are the criticisms of the Metropolitan Police in their “investigations” of malpractice. Even now it would seem that the investigating officer based responses from the council in reaching his conclusions. 

My evidence was not based on outdated registers, it was based on the official register used on both election days and on the relevant official postal vote return.

I have previously submitted evidence to the police and received no response.

With regard to 2012 I had a single interview, which I personally requested, weeks after the election, when any trail of malpractice would have gone cold.

I had spent considerable time and effort in undertaking detailed research, and I reiterate, using the registers and postal vote lists that were operative on both the GLA election day and April 19th, polling day in the controversial Spitalfields by election.

Despite this single interview, until receipt of this report, I had never been informed about the conclusion of the investigation.

The Met needs to establish a unit that understands not only election law but the electoral process, just as they have specialists in fraud.

The West Midlands Police were eventually castigated for their inability to properly investigate electoral fraud. With this in mind the Met must accept  the concerns of voters  and take action to properly police electoral malpractice.

The fact that the electoral commission make such firm recommendations show how they appear to share local concern about the integrity of the electoral process.

Now both local officials and the police need to work on this and not dismiss concerns out of hand, as has been so common in the past. Both need to regain the confidence of the public in the electoral process in this borough.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Election matters

Tower Hamlets really is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s always delightful to return from holiday to find a large inbox of issues to write about…and the usual brown envelope on my doorstep.

So where do we start?

Well, in journalism school they teach you to begin with the freshest news, so how about a bit of electoral fraud for you? Joe Churcher, of The Press Association, reports this evening:

A police investigation has found no evidence of widespread voting fraud in a London borough but action is needed to “restore trust and confidence” in future polls, a watchdog said.

The Electoral Commission called in Scotland Yard amid scores of allegations of postal vote scams in Tower Hamlets – including reports a dead person had cast a ballot in 2012 local elections.

Detectives found evidence of possible bogus postal votes in three of 64 cases they investigated but none was sufficient to identify suspects or bring prosecutions, the Commission said.

It called however for “significant changes” to address both a “breakdown of trust” between senior election officials and some councillors in the East London borough as well as “scepticism” about the Metropolitan Police inquiry.

Officers received nearly twice as many reports of fraud from the borough alone than the total for any other force in the country – mostly from local councillors – sparking an investigation that involved inquiries at more than 60 properties.

One from which postal votes were sent was empty, another no longer housed the people whose votes were considered suspect and those at a third denied applying for postal votes and would not assist further.

It was decided there was no prospect of tracking down suspects or getting sufficiently concrete evidence.

Many of the other complaints appeared to have been sparked by people referring to out of date registers.

The investigation also looked into media reports that a prisoner and a dead man had also “voted” but found no crime had been committed – the second individual having died after returning his postal vote.

In its report, the Commission suggested that some of the allegations may have been sparked by the “very diverse” nature of the local community – where a third of residents are Bangladeshi.

Some false claims of multiple entries on the register at the same address were found by the police to relate to people “who had identical first names and surnames but different middle names”, it suggested.

The Commission demanded an urgent review by the electoral registration and returning officers to find ways by May to improve fraud detection, transparency and systems for dealing with allegations.

Elected representatives “should make a clear public commitment to follow the Commission’s new code of conduct”, it said.

And Scotland Yard needed to review its plans for policing the next elections there in 2014.

The Metropolitan Police should review plans for policing elections in 2014 and improve its communications strategy to ensure an “appropriate balance” between keeping complainants informed about investigations and “more general assurance that the police are responding to concerns about electoral fraud and thoroughly investigating”, it said.

Commission chair Jenny Watson said: “Even a small number of cases of fraud can damage public confidence and there’s clearly been a breakdown of trust. Steps must now be taken to begin rebuilding trust to avoid future elections being damaged by allegations of electoral fraud.

“All politicians and campaigners in Tower Hamlets, including independent candidates, should also make a clear public commitment to follow the Commission’s new code of conduct. This code includes commitments about campaigning outside polling stations, handling postal votes and dealing with allegations of electoral fraud.

“We will be monitoring the situation closely and will publish our first progress report in July 2013.”

She also used the report to renew the Commission’s call for ministers to consider requiring photo ID at polling stations.

“Only so much can be done to give people reassurance when the system we have at the moment is largely based on trust.

“That’s why we called in 2010 for the Government to review the case for requiring photo ID in polling stations.

“We are disappointed they have not taken this forward. But last autumn we started a comprehensive review that will consider this alongside a number of other options for strengthening our voting system. We will publish our findings in in time to introduce legislation in the life of this Parliament.”

Of course, all this relates to complaints made during last year’s Spitalfields and Banglatown by-election in which Gulam Robbani romped home by 43 votes. While the investigation by Scotland Yard and the Electoral Commission found “no evidence” of fraud, they have pretty much said “we think it is dodgy and we’ll get you next time”.

The report is damning about the democratic state of Tower Hamlets where it recognises a breakdown of trust between councillors and senior election officials, one of whom is the currently absent monitoring officer, Isabella Freeman (the town hall’s press office refuses to say whether she is currently performing that role; so let’s just say she’s away from duties at the moment).

And note the specific reference to “independent candidates” in the Commission’s warning to behave at polling stations in 2014. I wonder if that’ll be mentioned at Mayor’s next election strategy meeting.

Yes, he does have them. That brown envelope contained the extremely interesting minutes of their first meeting last May. Here they are:

LR strategy 1

LR Strat 2LR strat 3lr strat 4So the “campaign leader” is Shazid Miah, a youth worker who I listed here as Lutfur’s £44,000-a-year “community liaison officer”. His main task was to get the independent councillors to find 10 “support people” in each of their wards who would help tap into local mosques and other “multifaith groups”. I wonder who they found? Surely none would double up or be linked to the 17 “Mayor’s Community Champions Coordinators“, a recruitment scheme launched by Lutfur in January in which each ward will be given £10,000 to spend on various projects before the election.

I’m sure all would declare any interest.

Also, note the language in point 1, that each ward councillor should identify local “multicultural” issues and deliver. What exactly does this mean? What’s a “multicultural issue”? Surely by inserting the word “multicultural” they believe there are non-multicultural issues…and these are to be ignored. Maybe Lutfur’s councillors can explain. Surely they can’t mean “Bengali issues” can they…

And in point 4 on page 2, how generous of our cabinet members to donate £100, presumably monthly, of their taxpayer-funded allowance towards campaign funds. Still, they do get their taxis for free, I suppose.

And how interesting on page 3 that they considered forming a group. Presumably, they decided against such a move. Maybe they couldn’t decide on a name.

What would you have called them? Answers in a brown envelope please.

Read Full Post »

When I first started reporting on Tower Hamlets council in 2005, two councillors in particular caught my eye, both of them impressive in their own ways. Back then, Simon Rouse, the lone Tory, was most talented debater in the chamber, while Oliur Rahman, the lone Respect member, was its most pugnacious.

Curiously at times, the pair fed off each other as they trumped the tired, declining Lib Dem opposition and gave the dominant Labour administration (remember those days?) a bit of a fight.

After the 2006 elections, Oli became a leading member of the 12-strong Respect group but within a couple of years he had fallen out with his former friend George Galloway and broke away to form a SWP-backed mini group of four councillors alongside Rania Khan, her mum Lutfa Begum and Ahmed Hussain. These four soon realised they were in political no-man’s land and while Ahmed completed his odyssey by defecting to the Tories, the other three joined Labour.

And then in 2010, they had the Lutfur dilemma and by backing him, they effectively expelled themselves from Labour.

Oli is currently the cabinet member for schools and families, a role for which he is paid about £13,000 on top of his £10,000 annual basic allowance. He has been one of the loudest critics of Government cuts and of the need to extract value from every penny.

In his day job, he works at a Job Centre Plus in Tramway Avenue, Stratford. It is 2.8 miles away from the Tower Hamlets town hall in Mulberry Place. Door to door by car, it takes about 10 minutes. By public transport, the journey takes around 25 minutes if the DLRs at Stratford High Street and Canning Town are being kind. A standard minicab quote for a late afternoon fare is about £13.

The Tories have broken Oli’s taxi bookings into two types: those that start or end at his workplace, and those to and from the fraudster-dominated Bengali television station, Channel S, in Walthamstow.

Between February 2011 and June 2012, Oli’s fares to and from Stratford cost taxpayers £851.

They’re here:

Date Fare From To
22.2.11 £53.88 Mulberry Place Stratford
22.2.11 £17.70 Stratford Mulberry Place
4.3.11 £25.69 Stratford St Paul’s Way School
4.3.11 £15.58 St Paul’s Way School Stratford
4.3.11 £36.34 Stratford Mulberry Place
8.3.11 £18.64 Stratford Mulberry Place
5.4.11 £18.64 Stratford Mulberry Place
3.5.11 ? Stratford Mulberry Place
16.5.11 £20.77 Stratford Mowlem School
17.5.11 £17.94 Jobcentre Mulberry Place
24.5.11 £21.24 Stratford Mulberry Place
16.6.11 £19.82 Stratford Mulberry Place
21.6.11 £18.17 Stratford Mulberry Place
23.6.11 £19.59 Stratford Mulberry Place
27.6.11 £17.23 Stratford Mulberry Place
28.6.11 £17.94 Stratford Mulberry Place
4.7.11 £14.87 Mulberry Place Stratford
28.7.11 £27.75 Stratford Mulberry Place
1.8.11 £23.84 Stratford Mulberry Place
11.8.11 £23.13 Stratford Mulberry Place
12.8.11 £32.66 Stratford Berner Centre
18.8.11 £28.46 Stratford Belgrave St, E1
9.12.11 £17.23 Stratford Mulberry Place
22.12.11 £21.71 Stratford Mulberry Place
12.1.12 £32.10 Stratford Mulberry Place
16.1.12 £15.81 Stratford Mulberry Place
26.1.12 £15.34 Stratford Stifford Centre
27.1.12 £15.58 Mulberry Place Stratford
6.3.12 £16.52 Stratford Mulberry Place
19.3.12 £24.78 Stratford Mulberry Place
22.3.12 £22.66 Stratford Mulberry Place
27.3.12 £17.94 Stratford Mulberry Place
3.4.12 £28.32 Stratford Mulberry Place
25.5.12 £27.14 City Edge Training Stratford
28.5.12 £17.70 Stratford Mulberry Place
11.6.12 £22.42 Stratford Mulberry Place
11.6.12 £23.98 Mulberry Place Stratford
13.6.12 £27.75 Mulberry Place Stratford
13.6.12 £14.87 Stratford Mulberry Place
TOTAL £851.73

When I first challenged Oli on this, he explained he had tight schedules and that making late afternoon cabinet or other management meetings at the town hall was not easy while holding down a job. He realises now his claims were wrong and his full statement and apology is below, but at least there was a semblance of a rationale argument there.

However, when it comes to his fares to Channel S, a TV station dominated by insurance fraudster Mahee Jalil Ferdhaus and the feature of an Evening Standard article today, he has no choice but to throw up his hands.

Channel S is based in Clifford Road, Walthamstow, and it isn’t the easiest to get to by public transport. But appearing on a dodgy TV channel is not council business; if he wished to big up his personal profile, then he had no right in billing taxpayers for it.

I now understand that these bookings–signed off by Murziline Parchment remember–were largely booked via ComputerCab, which is a black cab company. The 11-mile fare from Mellish Street on the Isle of Dogs to Channel S is about £45 one way (minicabs charge about £30). So you can see how five or six trips back and forth add up to the £541 uncovered by the Tories.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a black cab, watching the meter tick away is one of London’s most uncomfortable experiences. It seems incredible that a councillor could fail to see what fares were building up. It’s particularly hypocritical when that councillor is one of the loudest critics of Government cuts and of the need to extract value from every penny.

The fares are here:

Date Fare From To
14.4.11 £103.00 Mellish Street Channel S, E17, return to Mellish St
5.5.11 £42.95 Mellish Street Channel S, E17
5.5.11 £48.38 Channel S, E17 Mellish Street
26.7.11 £43.19 St George’s Town Hall, E1 Channel S, E17
26.7.11 £52.86 Channel S, E17 Mellish Street
1.3.12 £47.44 Mellish Street Channel S, E17
1.3.12 £55.46 Channel S, E17 Mellish Street
26.3.12 £36.82 Mulberry Place Channel S, E17
21.6.12 £61.36 Mellish Street Channel S, E17
21.6.12 £49.56 Channel S, E17 Mellish Street
Total: £541.02

I wasn’t at last week’s full council meeting, but I’m told that councillors Rabina Khan and Ohid Ahmed were most indignant that their cosy little travel arrangements, at our expense (here and here) were being questioned. Absolutely no humility and no apology, I’m told.

Well, at least Oli has had the grace, and political nous, to realise he was wrong.

Here’s his statement:

In recent days, I have been criticised in some quarters over my former use of taxis in connection with my public duties as an elected Councillor and Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Families for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Serving as a Councillor and Cabinet member is a substantial commitment on top of looking after my young family and a busy job outside of the borough, and I frequently have to attend and speak at back to back meetings.

In order to fulfill numerous appointments in various places, I used to take taxis. I should have been more aware the fares which are so outrageously high. The taxis were booked through the council and I will be investigating with the taxi firms why taxpayers were charged so much money. My understanding is that substantial charges were levied for any waiting time whether authorised or not, and I have since discovered that one of my Councillor colleagues lodged a complaint with the taxi company at the time. I will be asking the officers to review the contract of the current taxis company and to look into making savings which could be spent on the services provided to the residents.

I have since bought a car. I do not take taxis any more and I do not claim for petrol money or sundry travel expenses from the borough.

I sincerely apologise for my earlier use of taxis, which I am sure will upset many residents. In recognition of that concern I shall be making donation to CTC, the National Cycling Charity, and in furtherance of its campaign to make our roads safer for cyclists.

Read Full Post »

Labour moved a step closer tonight to deciding who will be their candidate to challenge Lutfur Rahman as Mayor of Tower Hamlets in May next year.

I’m told by a couple of sources that a panel of eight members, including four from Tower Hamlets, have picked the following four to go to a vote of the local party on April 6:

  • Cllr Rachael Saunders
  • Cllr Helal Abbas
  • Cllr Sirajul Islam
  • London Assembly Member John Biggs

Among those kicked out at the interview stage are councillors David Edgar and Mizan Choudhury, ex-councillor Doros Ullah, and Sanu Miah.

I’m not sure yet who was on the selection panel (do let me know), but if I were David Edgar, I’d be feeling a little cheesed off right now.

It’s going to be an interesting contest. Wonder if there have been any complaints yet….

Read Full Post »

The basic job of a journalist is to report what people have said, not what you think they should have said. The latter belongs in the category of spin and public relations.

Which is why when you read quotes from a council meeting in, say, the East London Advertiser, you can be fairly confident they’re accurate, while those reported in East End Life have to be treated a little sceptically.

The following email exchange between the council’s press office and Tory councillor Tim Archer this afternoon is enlightening in several respects.

Tim is initially being asked by Kelly Powell, the town hall’s “head of media”, whether she has an accurate report of the words he used at Wednesday’s full council meeting. She explains  these quotes are for an article they’re running in this Sunday’s East End Life. (This is itself is interesting because the costs of Kelly’s time–and those of other press officers–are never billed to East End Life, which means the paper’s costs are understated. Here we have proof of the work they’re doing.)

Then after Tim agrees the quote is accurate, the press office says actually they can’t report it because the council finance chief (the section 151 officer) doesn’t agree with it. Tim is then told what he is allowed to say in East End Life.

So what we have is East End Life, a paper that costs taxpayers £1.5million a year to run, effectively censoring the democratic debates held on behalf of taxpayers in its own council chamber.

No wonder its critics dub it Pravda.

Here’s the email exchange in chronological order:

From: Kelly Powell

Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2013 10:57:05 +0000

To: Peter Golds, Tim Archer

Cc: Takki Sulaiman>; Emily Blackshaw<; Ross Archer>

Subject: Request for quote approval for EEL

Dear Councillors

Further to Wednesday’s budget Council meeting, we are running an article in East End Life summarising the proposals and next steps in the budget setting process.

We would like to include a quote from you and have the following comment you made on the night:

Cllr Tim Archer, said: “In effect this budget is seeking to mortgage the future and the budget black hole grows to £94 million in 2017.”

Cllr Peter Golds, said: “East End Life should be closed immediately as the government will soon be introducing legislation to prevent councils from printing newspapers.”

Please could you let me know asap if you are happy for this to be used in the East End Life article.

With apologies for the tight turnaround, I would be very grateful if you could come back to me by 4pm today in order to meet the paper’s print deadline.

Kind regards

Kelly

Kelly Powell

Head of Media

Tower Hamlets Council

From: Tim Archer

Sent: 01 March 2013 11:56

To: Kelly Powell; Peter Golds

Cc: Takki Sulaiman; Emily Blackshaw; Ross Archer

Subject: Re: Request for quote approval for EEL

Hi Kelly, I think the quote was ‘by 2017’ not ‘in 2017’.

Could you let me know the context of the quote, ie the para preceding and after where you plan to use it?

Thanks

Tim.

From: Kelly Powell <>

Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2013 12:13:37 +0000

To: Tim Archer, Peter Golds

Cc: Takki Sulaiman>; Emily Blackshaw, Ross Archer

Subject: RE: Request for quote approval for EEL

Hi Cllr Archer

Thanks for the swift response.

The context is that there will be a pull out box in the article, which describes the Conservative Group’s amendments and then the quotes from both you and Cllr Golds (subject to Cllr Gold’s approval).

Kind regards

Kelly

From: Tim Archer

Sent: 01 March 2013 14:14

To: Kelly Powell; Peter Golds

Cc: Takki Sulaiman; Emily Blackshaw; Ross Archer

Subject: Re: Request for quote approval for EEL

Yes I’m happy with that.

From: Kelly Powell

Sent: 01 March 2013 15:28

To: Tim Archer’

Cc: Ross Archer; Takki Sulaiman; Emily Blackshaw

Subject: RE: Request for quote approval for EEL

Importance: High

Hi Cllr Archer

The Section 151 officer has reviewed all the figures in this article for EEL and has said that he can’t verify the £94m figure in the quote below. We can’t therefore include it in EEL as it’s currently drafted:

Cllr Tim Archer, said: “In effect this budget is seeking to mortgage the future and the budget black hole grows to £94 million by 2017.”

I understand that officers have advised that there will be further savings to be made after 2015/16 (paragraph 1.3 of the budget report), but without a revised forecast outlining specific figures/savings.

Can you please provide an alternative quote asap for use in EEL?

Thanks

Kelly

From: Kelly Powell >

Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2013 16:22:39 +0000

To: ‘tim archer

Cc: Ross Archer>; Takki Sulaiman< >; Emily Blackshaw< >

Subject: RE: Request for quote approval for EEL

Hi Cllr Archer

Further to my [last] email, can I suggest:

Cllr Tim Archer, said: “In effect the mayor’s budget is seeking to mortgage the future and in our view the budget black hole will grow to £94 million by 2017.”

Regards

Kelly

From: tim archer

To: Kelly Powell

CC: Ross Archer; Takki Sulaiman < >; Emily Blackshaw <Emily.Blackshaw >; cllrpetergolds < >

Sent: Fri, 1 Mar 2013 17:37

Subject: Re: Request for quote approval for EEL

So I thought you were quoting me from the budget meeting. I did not realise that a quote from a member had to be agreed by finance officers. Calls into question the impartiality of the reporting in eastend life really doesn’t it?

 

UPDATE – Saturday, March 2, 6.30pm

It wasn’t just the Tories who were cheesed off their quotes from the council meeting were being censored. Labour, as you can read below, were having a far spikier row with Takki on Friday afternoon as well.

This issue goes to the heart of what East End Life is about. According to its website:

East End Life is the council’s free weekly newspaper which is distributed to more than 83,000 homes and businesses across the borough each week, enabling us to keep residents up-to-date in an informal and accessible way on the work of the council.

The word “newspaper” is used deliberately and it claims to keep residents informed of the “work of the council”. At the very core of the work of the council is the debate in the council chamber. Yet on this issue, its spin doctors have tied themselves up in knots.

If they believed they were unable to report what is said in the council chamber (on the dubious basis that that’s political), then why did the paper’s bosses ask approval in the first place for quotes uttered in that debate? Wouldn’t it have been better simply to have asked councillors to supply fresh quotes? Or instead, if the Section 151 officer was unhappy with the members’ quotes, why not just have a few words from him or her on those particular points of fact?

As you can see from the following row between Takki and Cllr Josh Peck, we now learn that only “statements or outcomes of positive policy” emanating from the council chamber are reportable by EEL. So if you are a resident who traipses across the borough (on public transport) to submit a question or raise a criticism at a council meeting, that effort, and that cause,will never be reported in the very paper you pay for.

Here’s the row:

 

From: Kelly Powell

Sent: 01 March 2013 11:02

To: Amy Whitelock; Carlo Gibbs

Cc: David Courcoux; Takki Sulaiman; Emily Blackshaw; Joshua Peck

Subject: Request for quote approval for EEL

Dear Councillors

Further to Wednesday’s budget Council meeting, we are running an article in East End Life summarising the proposals and next steps in the budget setting process. 

We would like to include a quote from you and have the following comment you made on the night:

Councillor Carlo Gibbs, said: “This is a wasteful budget that makes promises that cannot be continued beyond a two year period. We want to see a truly sustainable budget that protects residents from the worst of the cuts by stopping spending on what we do not need such as East End Life and mayoral advisors.”

Councillor Amy Whitelock: “Residents have lost trust in politics and politicians. We can only restore that trust by spending less on bureaucracy and propaganda and more on frontline services.”

Please could you let me know asap if you are happy for this to be used in the East End Life article.

With apologies for the tight turnaround, I would be very grateful if you could come back to me by 4pm today in order to meet the paper’s print deadline.

Kind regards

Kelly

Kelly Powell

Head of Media

Tower Hamlets Council

 

From: Kelly Powell <>

Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2013 15:21:09 +0000

To: David Courcoux< >; Joshua Peck< >

Cc: Emily Blackshaw< >; Takki Sulaiman< >

Subject: RE: Request for quote approval for EEL

 

Hi Cllr Peck and David

The Section 151 officer has reviewed all the figures in this article for EEL and has said that he can’t verify the £55m figure in the quote below. We can’t therefore include it in EEL as it’s currently drafted:

Cllr Joshua Peck, Labour Group Leader, said: “With a £55 million unfunded black hole – and massive pre-election spending – at the heart of the Mayor’s budget Labour councillors couldn’t support it. Our amendment starts to address this financial challenge and is a clear commitment to residents that we won’t play fast and loose with their money or services.”

I understand that the figure was thought to come from a Cabinet report in June 2012, but am advised that report showed a £44m gap to the end of 2016/17, but that the figure is now out of date and there is not a revised forecast published beyond 2015/16.

Can you please provide an alternative quote asap for use in EEL?

Thanks

Kelly

 

From: Kelly Powell >

Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2013 16:19:38 +0000

To: David Courcoux; Joshua Peck

Cc: Takki Sulaiman; Emily Blackshaw< >

Subject: FW: Request for quote approval for EEL

 

Hi both

I’ve spoken to David about the fact that this figure is in the agreed Motion, but I’m also aware that the S151 comments on the Motion state that the funding gap for 2016/17 has not yet been calculated.

Can I therefore suggest the following:

Cllr Joshua Peck, Labour Group Leader, said: “We believe that there is a £55 million unfunded black hole at the heart of the Mayor’s budget and Labour councillors couldn’t support it. Our amendment starts to address this financial challenge and is a clear commitment to residents that we won’t play fast and loose with their money or services.”

Please could you confirm asap if you are happy for this to be used.

Thanks

Kelly

 

From: Joshua Peck

Sent: 01 March 2013 16:45

To: Kelly Powell; David Courcoux

Cc: Takki Sulaiman; Emily Blackshaw

Subject: Re: Request for quote approval for EEL

I’m unimpressed, although not surprised to be honest, that you won’t just report a decision of Council. East End Life serves both the Council and the administration, and trying what are clearly political positions is nonsensical. I’ll go with: Cllr Joshua Peck, Labour Group Leader, said: “With an unfunded black hole estimated to be over £55million – and massive pre-election spending – at the heart of the Mayor’s budget Labour councillors couldn’t support it. Our amendment starts to address this financial challenge and is a clear commitment to residents that we won’t play fast and loose with their money or services.”

 

From: Takki Sulaiman

To: Joshua Peck

To: Kelly Powell

To: David Courcoux

Cc: Emily Blackshaw

Subject: RE: Request for quote approval for EEL

Sent: 1 Mar 2013 16:55

Hi Councillor Peck

The principle we’re trying to uphold is that EEL represents the council not only the council chamber – but we do try to report outcomes and statements of positive policy from the chamber.  EEL has never included an allegation about pre-election spending before and we do not cover political accusations made in the chamber.  This means we cannot run the phrase ‘and massive pre-election spending’.

If we included a similar phrase from the Executive about another party’s position we would rightly be criticised.  The minor deletion is suggested in red below.

Regards

Takki

Takki Sulaiman

Head of Communications

Tower Hamlets Council

 

——Original Message——

To: Takki Sulaiman

To: Kelly Powell

To: David Courcoux

To: Stephen Halsey

Cc: Emily Blackshaw

Subject: Re: Request for quote approval for EEL

Sent: 1 Mar 2013 16:58

Takki

You regularly include political statements from the administration, including in the Mayor’s column. You’re regularly, for example, carried the lie that there have been no frontline service cuts. That’s not only a political statement but its manifestly untrue.

Why the double standard?

Josh

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: