Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2013

I know the phrase “you couldn’t make it up” is used with justifiable frequency in Tower Hamlets, but the following email I’ve just received really does defy belief.

Subject: Asking to apologise for vindictive, inaccurate and one sided in your blog-

Dear Ted Jeory,

I have been deeply offended by claims made by you in your blog about me in recent days. While I am obviously pleased that as a result of the the intervention of the council’s chief legal officer, you have removed the claim that I have ‘stolen’ money for taxis from the Authority from your blog, I remain deeply offended by both the nature of the claims made by you and how you have chosen to report them.

I also wish to make it clear that the original claim made by in connection to me and my use of taxis in pursuit of council business is obviously potentially libellous. 

I am in discussion with my lawyers and would like to offer you an opportunity to correct this claim in a prominent position on your blog. I would also ask that you now aplogise for making this claim. It is quite clear that the claims you have made, have been taken up by other publications

There is and always has been a clearly established system for the booking and use of taxis in LBTH, as there is in every local authority in the country. In recent months, the Mayor has reviewed and tightened the system still further. The taxis that I used were in accordance with these rules. To suggest otherwise is to allege criminal intent. It would also suggest that the Local Authority has been complicit in criminal activity.

As a councillor, with many years experience of serving the community, I have not claimed other expenses and have continued to use my own car, at my own expense, in pursuance of the majority of these activities.

Finally, it is my opinion that far from trying to present an objective account of events on your blog, it is increasingly vindictive, inaccurate and one sided.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Ohid Ahmed
Deputy mayor

I’m not sure what intervention there has been from the council’s chief legal officer, nor what I’m supposed to have removed. I think he’s referring to this post in which I said, “Quite why going to a BME event allows you to steal from the taxpayer is anyone’s guess”.

I know Ohid’s spoken English is not the best, but I had hoped as someone who, according to his latest timesheet, claims to spend up to 40 hours a week reading council papers, his comprehension was a bit better. Maybe his inability to understand the subtle meaning of words and figures of speech is why he takes so long.

He also seems completely unable to understand the sheer crime of his taxi bookings. Yes, crime, Ohid. Crime against the taxpayer. He asks me to apologise. Perhaps he should learn from his colleague Oliur Rahman who had the political nous and decency to say sorry for his own cab usage.

So, here’s a reminder yet again of Ohid’s use of taxis (he lives in Oban Street).

Date Fare Venue Comment
22.10.10 £17.17 Ocean Estate Photocall
13.12.10 £52.13 House of Commons
15.12.10 £25.89 Cable Street
10.2.11 £121.71 House of Commons Return to Mulberry
12.2.11 £106.43 Baden Powell House, SW7 Return to Oban St
22.3.11 £63.75 Brick Lane Return to Mulberry
28.3.11 £50.61 Bethnal Green Tech College Return to Oban St
28.3.11 £30.68 Bethnal Green Tech College Return to Oban St, seems
to have been charged twice – see above?
26.4.11 £59.44 Shadwell Childrens Centre Return to Mulberry
11.5.11 £52.90 Ocean Youth Centre Return to Mulberry
16.5.11 £86.14 London SOAS Return to Oban St (1-way,
Lutfur also went,returned separately, Lutfur’s total was £64.08)
14.7.11 £122.65 House of Lords/Shadwell
centre
Oban St to House of
Lords/House of Lords to Shadwell Centre
14.7.11 £3.30 Shadwell centre Return to Oban St
2.8.11 £51.69 Pudding Mill Lane DLR To and from Oban St
9.11.13 £22.18 Bethnal Green Police
Station
From Oban Street
6.9.11 £36.11 House of Commons From Oban St
9.11.11 £90.85 London Councils, London
Bridge
To and from Mulberry
11/1111 £59.45 City Hall To and from Oban st
12.11.11 £66.93 Mansion House To and from Oban St
14.12.11 £140.89 Unison Centre, Euston Road From Mulberry return to
Oban St
28.3.12 £68.44 Government Hospital From Mulberry return to
Stepney Green
18.4.12 £33.97 Royal London Hospital
17.5.12 £32.74 The Royal regency, Manor
Park
This seems to be a
function/wedding type venue
17.5.12 £56.34 O2 Centre Collected from the Royal
Regency
14.6.12 £29.74 The View, E3 Collected from Oban St,
returned (7pm) Chrisp St
TOTAL £1,482.13

And as for his last sentence (oops, better be careful about using that word), this is a blog. It’s not Hansard.

So, if he wants to sue, bring it on. But please don’t steal any more taxipayers’ money doing so.

I don’t know who put him up to sending such a chaotic and feeble email, but they’re clearly taking the piss.

UPDATE – Monday, 9am

I understand that Ohid also threatened the East London Advertiser prior to the publication of this article (see below for Ohid’s quotes). Very stupid. It’s the kind of intimidation tactic that Trotskyites used to indulge in. Now, I wonder who in the Mayor’s circle is from that background… . Dan McCurry in the comments section of this post hints these bullying tactics are due to Labour’s plan to use the taxi business in their campaign next year. “Taxi for Mayor Lutfur”.

Councillors have come under fire after the taxpayer footed the bill for a £140 taxi ride for them to attend a birthday celebration with civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

Tower Hamlets deputy mayor Cllr Ohid Ahmed shared a cab with Cllrs Shahed Ali and Kabir Ahmed from the town hall in Poplar to an event at trade union UNISON’s headquarters in Euston, triggering calls for an investigation.

Opposition members claim the function – organised by the Labour Party – is political, and have called on Independent Cllr Ahmed to reimburse the public for the trip.

In a letter to council chiefs, Tory group leader Cllr Peter Golds said: “There is no way this event could be considered as anything but political.”

The seven mile journey would cost around £30-£40 in a black cab, according to online calculators.

Euston is also accessible from East India DLR station near the town hall in around 30 minutes on public transport, Transport for London estimates.

Cllr Golds said the fare could only be explained by the possibility of the councillors leaving the cab outside the event, which was in December 2011, with the metre running while they attended.

But the deputy mayor claimed it was his assistant who booked the taxi, and justified it because of his busy schedule that day.

He said: “There’s a huge BME (black and ethnic minority) community in this borough. When they see someone like Jessie Jackson they are inspired and they like it – it’s not a political thing.

“Because of the nature of council business, sometimes you just jump in a taxi because of the time pressure.”

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Unknown

Isabella Freeman, the council’s £115,000 a year head of legal, has been something of town hall phantom in recent weeks. Her presence has been felt in the colder and gossipy corridors of Mulberry Place, but as a physical form, she’s not really been seen.

This morning, however, as daylight broke over Anchorage House opposite the town hall, she reappeared–and the three large bags of files she was carrying gave us a clue as to what she’s been up to during her time off work on full pay.

It’s not unusual for a lawyer to be at an Employment Tribunal, of course, but this being Tower Hamlets, there’s always a catch. Ms Freeman, who has recently returned to work, is not defending the council against an aggrieved employee (and there have been plenty of those over the years): this time, she’s the one suing.

The exact details of her case are still unknown because today’s hearing, as Judge Jonathan Ferris himself worried, was “a public hearing in secret”. Due to what even the judge said was a convenient alliance between Ms Freeman, the council and their respective lawyers, the public gallery was barred from seeing any of the witness statements and other documents that were constantly referred to and read quietly during the three hours of legal wrangling.

It means I can’t tell you what Ms Freeman is actually complaining about.

That said, Judge Ferris, who has seen all the documents, sighed he’s pretty much none the wiser either.

“I’m struggling to understand where the thrust of the claimant’s case is,” he said in answer to a request by the council’s barrister John Bowers QC to have the case struck out.

Mr Bowers said: “The claimant is a senior lawyer and she is being advised by a QC. We were expecting some feeling of what this case was about. It should not go to trial because it’s chaotic.”

Judge Ferris: “I don’t know about chaotic, but it looks pretty feeble.”

Ouch! “Chaotic”, “feeble”? Anyone who’s had the pleasure of receiving an ever-so-measured and carefully proofed email threat from Ms Freeman will surely know that accusation is really, really just not fair.

And that’s what her barrister Peter Oldham QC said as well. “That’s not fair. We feel we have a strong case.”

Well, he’ll get his chance to improve it. Judge Ferris ruled against the council’s ‘striking out’ application and set a hearing date for late autumn.

So, what is the case all about? Ms Freeman feels she has been discriminated in some way and her complaint is very much connected to the incorrect legal advice allegedly given to the human resources committee during last year’s costly failure to appoint a new chief executive. A fuller account of that can be read herehere and here.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s team have claimed the failure to appoint regeneration director Aman Dalvi has already cost the council in excess of £100,000.

If Ms Freeman is successful, that figure will rise massively. As well as engaging John Bowers QC, who is regarded as one of the country’s top barristers in employment, the council has also hired the biggest (and possibly most expensive) name in employment law for local government: Mark Greenburgh of Wragge & Co solicitors (and a former leader of Buckinghamshire County Council). Talk about aiming howitzers at their own head of legal..

So, if Ms Freeman loses, she’ll face an almighty bill for costs.

Will she blink? (Come to think of it, can she?)

Read Full Post »

..you can see them on the City Hall website here. The details for his latest claims are here.

j-biggs

£5.

If anyone needs reminding of the fares claimed in that same financial year by his Lutfurite opponents, they can read all about them here:

Lutfur Rahman, including a £28.56 cab from McDonald’s in Commercial Road (total £2,789 + £70 a day chauffeured Mercedes).

Deputy Mayor Ohid Ahmed: here and here (total £1,482, including £140 to celebrate Jesse Jackson’s birthday).

Rabina Khan here (total £1,088, including £220 for a 1.5mile trip to the park).

Oli Rahman here (total £1,400, including trips to Channel S; so far he is the only one to apologise).

Now, if I were John Biggs, I’d be putting all this on an election leaflet. It’s the kind of thing that people understand.

 

Read Full Post »

In February, I highlighted this taxi claim by Ohid Ahmed, Lutfur’s deputy mayor.

And I wonder what the barons at Unison feel about him charging taxpayers £140 for a return trip from Mulberry Place to their Euston Road HQ on Dec 14, 2011. Maybe, like millions of others who have no choice but to suffer it every day, Ohid just dislikes the Northern Line.

A couple of weeks later, Ohid, in trying to actually justify this spending said how dare people criticise him for going to a “BME event”. Quite why going to a BME event allows you to steal from the taxpayer is anyone’s guess.

Thanks to our industrious Mulberry Mole, we now know what this event was: a 70th birthday party for Jesse Jackson – organised by Labour’s Ethnic Minority Task Force, which is chaired by MP Keith Vaz.

Peter Golds, in a letter to council boss Stephen Halsey today, complains the event could not have been anything other than political and, as such, he has demanded Ohid repay the money and an investigation.

Remember again, that even if Ohid was so desperately busy that he couldn’t take the Tube, the standard black cab fare from the town hall to the Unison building is about £25, according to online calculators. How he got to £140 is yet to be explained.

Here is Peter’s letter to Mr Halsey..

Dear Mr Halsey

Re: Cllr Ohid Ahmed, Council funded taxi for political purposes

On 14th December 2011, Cllr Ohid Ahmed charged the council for a taxi fare of £140.89. This was to travel from the Town Hall to the Unison Headquarters, 130 Euston Road, NW1 2AY.

The event, held at the Unison HQ, was organised by the Labour Party and Cllr Ahmed was invited by Keith Vaz MP. The Rt Hon Ed MIliband MP was also in attendance. I attach a copy of the invitation.

There is no way that this event could be considered as anything but political. The Unison office are within a few minutes walking distance of Kings Cross Underground, which can be reached from Mulberry Place, at that time of the day in about half an hour by taking a DLR to Bank and changing to the Northern Line. At 6.30pm there was no shortage of trains.

Last week the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cumbria came under fire and issued an apology for using a hired car to travel to non official functions. At full council last Wednesday Ohid Ahmed expressed his interest on Lord Nolan’s Seven Principles of Public, which do not include charging tax payers for using taxis to attend party political events.

I believe that this needs to be fully investigated and that Ohid Ahmed should repay the £140.89 and give a full explanation as to some of the other fares in the  £1,482 he charged the public between in a period of eight months.

I look forward to hearing as to how this will be investigated.

And here’s the invitation:

KVaz letter

 

Read Full Post »

My post yesterday on Sir Robin Wales appears to have caused a bit of a stir, most of it within his own party.

From what I hear about Newham’s mayor, he is regularly attacked as “divisive”, which seems to the untrained eye as odd when you consider he’s been running the borough continuously since 1995 and when all 60 councillors are from his party. But as I say, I’m not that yet very familiar with the borough: I plan to learn more.

And on that note, I’ve heard rumours about Robin’s ambitions for City Hall for more than a year, so I just presumed he’d confirmed them to someone somewhere. But apparently not.

In my post yesterday, I wrote that he’d admitted he wants to follow Boris Johnson as London Mayor (using his Newham experience and policies as a manifesto) but I provided no quotes to back that up.

They’re at the end of this post, and it’s worth looking his claim that what’s happening in Newham will be replicated by a future Labour government.

However, a bit more background is probably useful. In 2011, he launched a policy document based on ‘Resilience‘, the concept that underpins the thinking on “migration management” that I detailed for the Sunday Express and which has been praised by David Goodhart.

It’s worth looking at some of this before reading his thoughts on City Hall. So, according to the Newham council website:

Our approach to building resilience in Newham

Newham is the second most deprived borough in the country and we face enormous challenges. Our approach to transforming the lives of our residents is unique. Through building resilience; personal, economic and community, we will make a positive and lasting impact, working towards the people of Newham having the same life chances as those in other parts of London.

In 2011, following our consultation A Strong Community: Building Resilience in Newham, we launched Quid Pro Quo, Not Status Quo, Why we need a welfare state that builds resilience (pdf). It was our delivery plan for building the resilience of our residents and community.

Since then we’ve committed to embedding resilience in everything we do as a council. We have made great progress in building a more resilient Newham and we have now launched Resilience Making it Happen – An update on delivery (pdf) which outlines what we have achieved so far.

We are building resilience in Newham by:

  • Jobs through our local employment scheme, Workplace, which gets 5,000 people a year into work, half of which are long term unemployed.
  • A comprehensive Every Child programme. This includes a groundbreaking programme which gives children in Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7 the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument, at no cost to parents.
  • Free universal school meals for all primary age children;
  • A guarantee of one to one tuition for primary children falling behind with reading;
  • Free theatre-going and sports participation, including Every Child a Chess Player.
  • Our elected Councillors with our residents will have real control over physical assets and local services. From now on they’ll direct the biggest council-run volunteering service in the country. They’ll be able to pro-actively approach hub co-ordinator officers to share ideas about what will make their neighbourhood better, and then participate to get changes made.
  • The country’s first borough-wide licensing scheme for private rented sector landlords. Better quality housing will mean healthier residents, better community relations and a higher quality physical environment.


A more resilient future for Newham

The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games brought the world’s attention to our doorstep. We’ll always fight for legacy from the Games and beyond. That means jobs and we’re delighted that we helped so many Newham residents get employment during the Games. Summer 2012 was a also a time for celebration as a our Lets get the Party Started programme supported residents from all walks of life come together and celebrate.

This is just the beginning of our work in this area and we’re making sure we’re supporting local people in the most effective ways possible. From helping young people to find work, to plans for a life-changing fund for local people who want to transform their lives, we’ll keep looking for new ways to build resilience in partnership with local people.

Understanding community resilience

To build our understanding of community resilience in Newham and the strengths, networks and connections in the borough we conducted a research project with think tank the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and The Campaigns Company.

That’s the background, as is the piece from yesterday, and here are some of the other quotes from my interview.

Asked whether his thinking was being plugged into Labour party head office, he said:

“Our values are trust, solidarity, fairness and reciprocity, and if you follow that those through, it happens that it works out in this area and it detoxifies immigration, so people think, ‘Do you know what, it’s not a bad thing.’ Properly managed, it can work really well, not only for the country, but where local people are, and also for the immigrant.

“So Resilience is what we believe, that sense of people doing things and us being their best buddies and helping them to do it. Then the stuff on private sector licensing, I think the Labour party is very keen on that and is very supportive of what we’re doing. The minimum wage and enforcing will be a party commitment, while the GMB have also been great on that.

“Many of the things we’re doing, the party recognizes but then many good Labour progressive authorities will do these things as well. Maybe we’ve put a narrative around resilience that’s much clearer than elsewhere. So we follow that.

“I think head office has a vision and our vision is similar to head office’s.

“We’re very supportive of the direction of travel for the Labour party is taking. We’ve got experience on the ground. As a Labour authority, we’re doing the things that a Labour government would do. So let’s get rid of these bloody clowns in [Coliation] and let’s have Labour in.”

Asked whether he would like to be Mayor of London, he said:

“My point is currently around resisilience at this point. I think we need to have a vision for London and we’re putting together a vision for London. The most important thing the Labour party has to do for London is have a vision.

“I argue it should be based on resilience, I’d argue the stuff we do on economic development and transport infrastructure, on housing. We plan to build lots of houses and lots on hoiusing; what a pity that the Mayor of London is not doing that.

“We think we’ve a very interesting offer. Now my argument would be when the general election is over (in 2015), we should pick the best candidate but the key issue should be what are our policies.

“And I think our policies I think are the right ones for London and we will be pushing that and saying this is what we want.

“So the answer is to, ‘Would I like to be mayor of London’, is of course I would, but the issue is what are you standing for, what is Labour going to stand for. I believe it should be based on resilience, based on the things we’re doing here and if we can get a good candidate who does that, I’ll be the first to support them.”

Read Full Post »

David Goodhart, the director of the Labourish think tank Demos, has a new book out on the immigration question, The British Dream. It’s caused something of a stir, as these things tend to do.

It draws on many examples from Tower Hamlets and, by way of disclosure, I helped with some of his research. Michael Keith told me he offered some of (largely critical) thoughts as well. And Cllr Abdal Ullah’s wife, the lawyer Ayesha Qureshi MBE, is also mentioned in the text.

In fact, both Abdal and Ayesha were at the launch of the book in central London last Monday night, as was Dr Abdul Bari, the chairman of the East London Mosque, who was another helpful interviewee.

The launch was chaired by Trevor Phillips, who in 2004, suggested David Goodhart was a racist for airing some of his thoughts then. Nine years later, Phillips has retracted those words, so much so that he has offered this quote at the top of the front cover of David’s book: “No intelligent person can afford not to read this book.”

Sitting alongside David and Trevor at the launch were Jasvinder Sanghera, of the Karma Nirvana forced marriage support group, former Home Secretary Charles Clarke, and Sir Robin Wales, the mayor of Newham.

While Clarke bellowed criticisms of the book, seeing it as an attack on New Labour’s record in this field, Wales was more supportive: he agreed with parts, and opposed others. But at the outset of Robin’s speech he turned to David and said: “They won’t stop calling you a racist.”

The rest of his speech was fascinating and I don’t think it would be unfair to say it was also somewhat of a manifesto for what he admits is his next ambition – to be Mayor of London.

I’ll write up more of his words when I have a bit more time to decipher some of the overlapping clauses and sentences that characterise his fast-thinking speeches: he’s quite passionate is Sir Robin.

And passionately opposed to what he sees happening in Tower Hamlets. He said it’s “appalling” what politicians are doing to Bengali kids here: he says they’re being encouraged to be separate and to think in terms of segregation and race.

So, I thought I’d write up a piece for the Sunday Express today: it’s mainly about policies but touches on Tower Hamlets for contrast. Two boroughs side by side, but in many ways, worlds apart.

The version that has appeared in print is here, but a slightly longer version (including far more quotes about Tower Hamlets) is copied below. A mayor of one borough criticising his neighbour so heavily is strong stuff.

DSX p13, 14-4-13.aspx

Ted Jeory

Home Affairs Editor

AT A gathering of the great and the good to launch his controversial new book on immigration last Monday night, the thinker and writer David Goodhart was asked by a panel that included former Home Secretary Charles Clarke and race relations king Trevor Phillips how he would tackle Britain’s “multiculturalism” problem.

Without any hesitation, he replied: “Make Sir Robin Wales the mayor of every city in Britain.”

A few minutes earlier, Sir Robin, the directly elected Labour mayor of Newham in east London, had won applause after detailing his bold approach to managing the effects of immigration in his own backyard.

In an attempt to create a shared British identity among the many ethnic groups in his Olympic host borough, Sir Robin, a Scot who wants to be the next mayor of London, listed a series of measures aimed at encouraging integration and rooting out the rogue elements that exploit and attract cheap foreign labour.

He revealed:

*foreign language newspapers have been banned from public libraries

*free translation services have been all but eliminated from council services

*learning English is being actively encouraged

*British history is being promoted

*priority on housing lists is being given to those in work over those on benefits

*employers dodging the minimum wage are being pursued

*funding for single-ethnic and single-religious groups is being refused

*private landlords are now required to be licensed

*and local people are being prioritised for local jobs.

For Mr Goodhart, the director of the left-leaning think tank Demos who has been branded a racist for daring to doubt the wisdom of mass migration in his book The British Dream, the speech was a brave and refreshing blueprint for London and beyond.

For Sir Robin, who has ruled Newham since 1995—at the last election in 2010, his party won all 60 council seats–the policies are the results of years of research that is now being fed into Labour’s policy machine.

He believes immigration is good for the country, but unless it is managed well, the impact on local communities can be negative.

The subject needs “detoxifying”, he says, and that requires analysing the complex factors at each local level.

He attacks the “extreme left” for playing the race card whenever the issue is discussed and cites the neighbouring borough of Tower Hamlets, which is frequently highlighted as the basket case of segregated societies, as a case in point. There, where Bangladeshis are the largest population group with 32 per cent of residents, and where Mayor Lutfur Rahman and his ruling cabinet all hail from that community, public money is even being used to teach Bengali “mother tongue” classes instead of English.

It is also where some councillors have poor English, where Bengali is sometimes spoken in the council chamber, where debates frequently descend into false accusations of racism, and where town hall grants are doled out to community groups that cater for just one section of the population.

“It’s appalling what’s happening there,” Sir Robin, 58, said. “They’re trying to create a society that really doesn’t exist.

“We know people from other communities struggle to get jobs but if we encourage them to be segregated and separate, it will be even harder for them to have lives that are fulfilling.

“They are doing damage to young people. I think it’s unfair – they’re not giving the kids in the Bengali community the chance, and that’s not right.

“The kids should be getting experience outside of the experiences their parents have. They are fundamentally wrong.”

Although Tower Hamlets council refutes such suggestions and claims to promote “community cohesion”, it is those observations that have helped shape a different outlook in Newham where the population of 307,000 is even more diverse: white British is the largest group by ethnicity, but at just 16.7 per cent of residents.

Sir Robin, who earns £80,000 a year, says people want the same things, regardless of race or background: clean streets, good education and a safe place to live.

Delivering those to everyone fosters solidarity and integration, he argues.

His buzzword is “resilience”, management-speak for helping people to look after themselves instead of relying on the state.

In Newham, that means applying a few sticks, as well as dangling carrots.

Since 2010, the council has slashed translation service costs by 72 per cent, spending just £17,000 last year.

Only vital services, such as tackling child abuse, now supply free interpreters.

Sir Robin, whose own mother was German, said: “If someone comes to my surgery who can’t speak English, they have to bring their own translator. We won’t fund that.

“We’re very clear about English being important, not just for jobs but so they can take part in our society and community.”

Similarly, he refuses to fund single-ethnic or single-religious groups.

During the Olympics, the council helped to organise more than 1,000 community events, which he said created a shared sense of belonging.

However, one group asked him to subsidise a Bangladeshi-themed street party. “Fantastic,” he told them, but when they said it would only be for Bangladeshis, he replied, “No thank you, you can do it by yourself, but we won’t be contributing.”

One of his next targets is to build a large “language lab” in East Ham where as many people as possible will be able to learn English, and which will also be fitted out with British history books.

“It’s about cultural references,” he said. “Every time I go abroad, I buy a book on the history of the place, so I understand a wee bit more about the people, and that’s’ what I want to encourage.

“We will support integration. If there are people who are not working but who want to learn English then that’s a good thing—we’ll support that because it will connect them to our society.”

He says his policies are working.

In January, Newham became the first authority in the country to require private landlords to hold a licence, a measure geared at clamping down on squalid, overcrowded homes that are often filled with illegal immigrants.

A staggering 38 people, 16 of them children, were found living in one property alone.

His officers are also pioneering raids on rogue businesses that act as a magnet for cheap foreign workers by paying less than the minimum wage.

“Newham jobs for Newham people,” is the mayor’s mantra.

“It’s about fairness, a value that cuts across the immigration issue. It’s about managing that issue, and you often don’t understand the issue until you get down to the local area.”

While that may be good advice to fellow council leaders, he also has a warning for the Government.

Because he believes so strongly that learning English is a major key to successful cohesion, he is astonished by Coalition cuts to funding for ESOL classes (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

“The attack on that funding is a disgrace,” he said.

It is a view shared by his new fan, Mr Goodhart, who also urges ministers to continue ploughing money into the language in primary schools.

As the Sunday Express revealed last week, £270million was spent in 2012 teaching English to the 577,000 primary pupils whose parents speak other languages at home.

While some may baulk at that figure, Mr Goodhart describes it as a “fantastic investment”.

The social and economic costs of not teaching them might well be far higher.

* Disclosure: Ted Jeory was a contributor to The British Dream.

 

 

Read Full Post »

With all the ostrich-like denials that there’s no vote fraud problem in Tower Hamlets, I thought it would be useful to publish this guest post by Mike Cobb, a journalist living in the Bow Quarter development, off Fairfield Road.

The right to vote was a hard-won thing for many of us. It is only recent history that anyone under 21 could vote, and not much earlier than that that women could vote at all. So it comes as a shock when it appears someone has taken that right away from you.

This is what happened to my wife and I in 2012 when someone de-registered us from the electoral roll and registered themselves in our place.

We should have worked out that something was wrong when the forms for registration failed to arrive. (We thought maybe it was our punishment for failing to vote for the Mayor in October 2010.) However, we just dismissed it.

But then a voting card with the name of someone we had never heard of arrived in the post a couple of weeks before the election for London mayoral elections in May 2012.

So I rang Tower Hamlets council. I wanted to vote and also give the man whose name adorned the card I’d been sent his chance to take part: surely, he’d just filled in the wrong address. 

Tower Hamlets were very helpful, but not all that understanding of the situation.

It’s a little confusing at first to be told you don’t live in the home you’ve occupied continuously for 10 years. It’s even more so when told a man you’ve never heard of lives there instead.

But confusion became annoyance when we were told the person who had claimed to be living at our address had in fact de-registered us in the process of moving into our flat as the invisible man.

I was told perhaps a neighbour had done it by mistake. Tower Hamlets would put us back on the register and strike off the other person, as long as I sent them a mail proving this.

At first, this sounded reasonable and I hung up. But some thinking led me to a different conclusion.

The first thing that struck me was we’d lived in our home for 10 years and we knew our neighbours well and the man on the card, whose name was pretty memorable, was definitely not one of our neighbours. And he never had been.

Secondly, Tower Hamlets had asked us for proof that we lived here. Had the man who had registered himself at our address had to do the same?

I called back and pushed a bit. When had we been de-registered? I was told in November 2011. When they dug a bit deeper, the circumstances they gave changed too.

At first, I was told the canvasser had probably made the mistake, only to be now told the form had been filled in and sent back.

Hang on: a form that should have been delivered directly to my door had got into the hands of someone who didn’t even live in my block? And worse, while I was being asked for proof of address to be put back on the list, this person had required none.

I asked how that was possible.

There was confused mumbling down the phone; a belief that Royal Mail may have been at fault held no water with me. Even if the form had been delivered to the wrong address, it seemed unlikely that someone would go through the trouble of crossing people off a list and putting themselves on the list without at least checking they had the right form.

And why didn’t anyone at Tower Hamlets require the same burden of proof as I was asked for?

There was no answer to this one except that simply filling in the form was all it took. Different circumstances, different rules.

I put it to Tower Hamlets that the filling in of a form in the knowledge that you didn’t live there was fraud. And much to my surprise they agreed.

What didn’t surprise me was their solution. They would call the number on the form, a mobile, and see what the now de-registered person had to say for themselves.

I take my right to vote seriously. I can’t help thinking that if someone claims to live where they don’t so they can vote, and takes away someone else’s right to vote as a result, this is something for the police to investigate, not just a call to a mobile that probably doesn’t work.

When I pointed this out, I was told I could call the police myself.

Mild incomprehension greeted my explanation that it wasn’t me who was being defrauded but Tower Hamlets.

So that’s where I left it.

I’m told they will get back to me. And at the time of writing, I’m still waiting.

In the meantime I check under my bed, just in case my mysterious flat mate has taken up residence once more without telling me.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: