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
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
From Oban Street
6.9.11 £36.11 House of Commons From Oban St
9.11.11 £90.85 London Councils, London
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
This seems to be a
function/wedding type venue
17.5.12 £56.34 O2 Centre Collected from the Royal
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.”

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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?)

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



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.


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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


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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.”

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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.



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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.

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I first wrote about the Coalition’s irritation with East End Life in October 2011, when I wrote:

I think the Government is a touch fed up with East End Life and Tower Hamlets Council’s defiant little attitude to how it spends our money – and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see all these town hall publications brought under some form of new statutory footing that properly governs how often they can publish.

And so it has come to pass.

On the day Margaret Thatcher died on Monday, Eric Pickles signalled the end for East End Life (hat tip to David Boothroyd). Eric Pickles has launched a four week consultation aimed at putting town hall publications on a statutory footing.

The proposals would give the Government the power to make directions to councils they believe are abusing their duty to communicate with residents via overtly political publications. They would do this upon evidence that councils were not complying with the Publicity Code for local government…and it would be enforced, if necessary, by court order.

Here’s the announcement from Eric Pickles, who, surprise, surprise, has singled out dear old Tower Hamlets for special mention:

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles proposes a toughening up of rules governing local authority publicity.

The Secretary of State today (8 April 2013) announced his intention to legislate council publicity rules in order to preserve a strong, vibrant and independent local press.

Although required to comply with the ‘Code of recommended practice on local authority publicity’, brought in by this government, Mr Pickles is seriously concerned about a rogue number of local authorities who continue to flout the rules and abuse taxpayers’ money by publishing “political propaganda”.

In the broadcast media, regulator Ofcom recently concluded that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets had breached ‘The Communications Act 2003’, the ‘UK Code of Broadcast Advertising’ and the ‘Code on local authority publicity’. However there are no such restrictions which stop political advertising in print.

The consultation, launched today, is seeking views on how best to frame the new legislation to stop politically contentious advertising campaigns, municipal newspapers and the hiring of lobbyists by councils.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:

“Some councils are undermining the free press and wasting taxpayers’ money which should be spent carefully on the front line services that make a real difference to quality of life. It should not, under any circumstances, be used to fund political propaganda and town hall Pravdas and yet a hardcore minority of councils continue to ignore the rules despite public concern.

“The line in the sand is clear, publicity material straying into propaganda clearly crosses that line, and this legislation will stop this disgraceful misuse of public money, which damages local democracy and threatens an independent, free and vibrant local press.”

This is a victory for local Tory leader Peter Golds who has been begging Whitehall to intervene for years.

The full details of the consultation are here.

But for ease of use, here they are (points 9 to 14 are the most interesting):


1. The government is consulting on proposals to protect the independent press from unfair competition by introducing legislation providing the Secretary of State with powers to make directions requiring one or more local authorities to comply with some or all of the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity’s (the “Publicity Code’s”) recommendations.

The Publicity Code 

2. Section 4 of the Local Government Act 1986 provides that the Secretary of State may issue codes of recommended practice on local authority publicity. That section also provides that local authorities must have regard to any such code that is applicable to them when taking decisions on publicity. 

3. On 31 March 2011 the Secretary of State issued a new Publicity Code, a copy of which is at the Annex to this paper. This Code replaced earlier Publicity Codes that were applicable to local authorities in England. It was issued after both Houses of Parliament had approved a draft of the new Code, this draft being prepared following a public consultation initiated in September 2010, and reflecting recommendations of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s Inquiry into the Publicity Code undertaken during the first Session of this Parliament. 

4. The new Publicity Code applies to all local authorities in England specified in section 6 of the 1986 Act, and to other authorities in England which have that provision applied to them by other legislation. These local and other authorities include county and district councils in England, London Borough councils, parish and town councils, national parks authorities, the Broads Authority, and the Manchester Combined Authority. 

5. The origin of this new Publicity Code is the Coalition Agreement, ‘Our Programme for Government’, commitment for the government to “impose tougher rules to stop unfair competition by local authority newspapers” and the general election manifestoes of both Coalition parties. Such unfair competition, funded by the local taxpayer, can prove damaging to the continued sustainability of local, independent, commercial newspapers that are an important element of effective local democracy. 

6. The new Publicity Code therefore, includes specific guidance about the frequency, content and appearance of local authority newspapers, including recommending that principal local authorities limit the publication of any newspaper to once a quarter and parish and town councils limit their news letters etc. to once a month. 

The new Code also represented a major reshaping of the earlier Codes, for clarity grouping the guidance under 7 principles. These principles are that local authority publicity should be lawful, cost effective, objective, even-handed, appropriate, have regard to equality and diversity, and be issued with care during periods of heightened sensitivity.

7. Underpinning this new Publicity Code is the recognition both that good, effective publicity aimed at improving public awareness of a council’s activities is entirely acceptable, and that publicity is a sensitive matter because of the impact it can have and the costs associated with it. It equally reflects the government’s view that local authorities should focus their resources on frontline services, reducing resources expended on publicity such as newspapers, and above all that it is wholly inappropriate for taxpayers’ money to be used to pay for material that could be perceived as political or competing with the independent press and media.

What we are proposing and why 

8. Where local authorities comply with the recommendations of the Publicity Code, local taxpayers can be confident that any of their money spent by their council on publicity is being used appropriately; and local independent newspapers – important contributors to sustaining a vibrant local democracy – will not be at risk through unfair, taxpayer funded, competition. Whilst the majority of local authorities comply fully with the Publicity Code’s recommendations, it is a matter of concern to the government that there are still cases where this is not so – for example, continuing cases where there are weekly publications of council newspapers, or concerns about the political character of a council’s publicity. Local taxpayers and electors should be able to be confident that the statutory framework for local government provides an effective safeguard against any council using taxpayers’ money inappropriately or acting in a manner potentially damaging to others – the independent press – who have important roles in a democratic society.

Proposals for giving greater force to the Publicity Code 

9. Accordingly, in the Structural Reform Plan for the Department for Communities and Local Government the Government has included a commitment to give greater force to the Publicity Code by putting compliance on a statutory basis. The Plan indicates the intention to introduce legislation providing the Secretary of State with a power to make a direction requiring compliance with some or all of the Publicity Code’s recommendations to protect local commercial newspapers from unfair competition from municipal publications. To fulfil this commitment and intention, the government is proposing, at the next convenient legislative opportunity, to legislate as described below. 

10. This legislation would provide the Secretary of State with powers to make directions requiring one or more local authorities to comply with one, some, or all of the Publicity Code’s recommendations. It is proposed that a direction could apply to a single named authority, to a number of named authorities, to all authorities in a particular class, or to all authorities to which the Publicity Code applies. In this context the reference to authorities includes both local authorities and those other authorities to which the Publicity Code applies. 

11. It is proposed that the Secretary of State would be able to issue any such direction whenever he considers it appropriate to do so. The Secretary of State may, for example, consider it appropriate to direct a particular council to comply with some specific recommendation of the Publicity Code because from the information available to him he considers the authority is not, or there is a risk that it might not, comply with that recommendation, compliance which the Secretary of State considers important. Equally, the Secretary of State may for example issue a direction requiring all or a class of authorities to comply with one or more recommendations, compliance with which the Secretary of State considers to be particularly important. 

12. It is envisaged that prior to issuing a direction, the Secretary of State would be required to give notice to the authority or authorities in question of his intention to issue a direction to them. This would give the authorities an opportunity to take any action they considered necessary to prepare for such a direction, or to make representations to the Secretary of State as to why in their opinion a direction should not be issued. In the case of a direction to all or a class of authorities, the notification could be given to such representatives of the authorities concerned as the Secretary of State considers appropriate. 

13. A direction would be given in writing to the authority or authorities in question. The direction may, but need not, specify the time for compliance and / or the steps that the Secretary of State considers necessary for the authority or authorities to take in order to secure compliance with the Publicity Code recommendations concerned. A direction could be withdrawn by the Secretary of State. Where a direction applied to a category of authorities, the Secretary of State would take such steps as he considered necessary to bring it to the attention of the authorities concerned. 

14. Once a direction had been issued, enforcement of any continued failure by an authority to comply with the recommendations concerned would be through any interested party obtaining a court order. 


• Views on the proposed legislation are invited, and in particular do consultees see the proposals as fully delivering the commitment to give greater force to the Publicity Code by putting compliance on a statutory basis?

• If there is alternative to the power of direction, how will this meet the aim of improved enforcement of the code? 

• This consultation invites evidence of the circumstances where the code was not met and the implications of this on competition in local media.

Who we are consulting 

15. We are consulting the Local Government Association and the National Association of Local Councils. This document is also available on the Department for Communities and Local Government web site at https://www.gov.uk/dclg and we will be drawing it to the attention of all principal councils in England, the Newspaper Society and local newspapers. It is open to all to make representations on the proposals, which will be carefully considered. 

16. Responses to this consultation must be received by 6 May 2013. A response form is attached at the end of this consultation document and is saved separately on the DCLG web site. 

You can respond by e mail to:


When responding, please ensure you use the words “Publicity Code consultation 2013” in the e mail subject line 

Or write to: 

Mark Coram

Publicity Code consultation 

Council Conduct and Constitutions Team

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Just a short post, but worthy of one in itself.

I asked Lutfur for his views on Labour’s selection of John Biggs for Tower Hamlets mayor next year.

Here’s his statement:

John has a lot of catching up to do, he’s been out of touch with Tower Hamlets politics for some fifteen years and a lot has changed. We’re yet to see if he can adapt to the radically different climate in local government. 

Personally, I think he made his contribution in the nineties and I can’t see that he’s got anything new to offer.

I have always believed that the split with the Labour group was about values and principles. There are clear dividing lines between John and the progressive left and we’re hoping that’s what the campaign will focus on.

The people of Tower Hamlets need a radical progressive vision for the future and look forward to Labour abandoning their destructive policy of opposition, at any cost, that has seen them work hand in glove with the local Tories, at the expense of local people; and work with me to fight off Cameron-Osborne’s war on the poor and vulnerable.

So, as I predicted in my last post, he’ll portray Biggs as out of touch and policy ideas may well come into it (although how they influence people’s voting patterns is another question…).


John Biggs has made this reply on Twitter:

@TedJeory Residents don’t want to see politicians trading insults they want to know what we stand for. I Look forward to having that debate.

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So barring any huge surprises from the Tories (and I hear they may well be lining up a good candidate), it will be Lutfur versus John Biggs for the Tower Hamlets mayoralty come May 2014.

The “Merc” versus the Morris Minor, if you like.

Actually, I’m not even sure John drives a car so it might be a culture shock should he be triumphant and see the princely wealth of resources Lutfur would have amassed for him in Mulberry Place.

This contest could well be the most interesting fight in local government next year.

Biggs, a former council leader, ousted in 1995 by colleagues who still have (or, as some say, think they have) a fair degree of sway locally (Michael Keith etc). He then went on to make a name for himself as the London Assembly’s biggest ankle biter, first as a thorn in the side to an Independent Mayor Ken Livingstone (although he was a loyal ally when Ken rejoined the Labour fold), and then as an attack dog on Boris Johnson, who I’m told, both likes him and his bulldog sarcasm.

When the Tower Hamlets mayoralty was up for grabs in 2010, John saw it as his chance to have one last Big Job in politics (Westminster was never for him), and when the London Labour party anointed Helal Abbas amid the chaos of the Lutfur (non)-selection that year, he may well have thought his opportunity had gone forever.

However, Abbas’s defeat reopened the door, but how will he fare against an opponent who seems increasingly impervious to mainstream criticism and scrutiny and who is raiding precious council reserves to fund a re-election campaign?

It will boil down to ideas, charisma, resilience and that hardy Tower Hamlets perennial: race.

During this last Labour selection contest, a former deputy leader of Tower Hamlets council, Jalal Ahmed, distributed what was even by this borough’s standards one of the most poisonous and loaded character assassination pamphlets I’ve seen. The document was full of personal history between the two men and as it was also full of libels I won’t reproduce it, but it demonstrated the extent to which people will go to smear a rival.

I wasn’t in Tower Hamlets in the Nineties so I’m not familiar with the details of that period, but the accusations in the document bore no resemblance to any of the conversations I’ve had with John since he started snapping at me in 2006.

But the document was perhaps a clue as to how the next 12 months will unfurl: “What’s he ever done for the Bengali community?”

Maybe his many Bengali admirers, including London Assembly member Murad Qureshi, or Cllr Abdal Ullah, or even, once-upon-a-time, a certain Lutfur Rahman, or indeed Ken Livingstone, may like to answer that.

When Len Duvall, another Labour London Assembly member, announced at Stepney’s Positive East building last night that John was the party’s new candidate, there were barely 30 people in the room. The earlier than expected announcement had caught many of the activists–still down the pub or in the nearby coffee shops–by surprise. As such, the applause was surprisingly muted. Perhaps, most of those there at that time were supporters of Rachael Saunders, understandably disappointed by losing a close race.

It was close and for the record, here are the results:

Round 1: Rachael Saunders 261, John Biggs 257, Helal Abbas 207, Sirajul Islam 26.

Round 2 (after Abbas and Sirajul eliminated and second preference votes redistributed): John Biggs 328, Rachael 319.

Two narratives are being peddled about this. Firstly, that Rachael had benefited from a “bloc” vote controlled by Lutfur, who, the theory goes, perceived her as his least dangerous opponent, or as someone who could knock out Biggs in the first round. And secondly, how can Biggs be the “unity candidate” when he was the first choice of barely a quarter of the party membership: that the Labour party is now split like never before, that there will be further defections to Lutfur’s camp and we will see a contest fought on Bengali versus White next year.

On the first, as one of Rachael’s backers put it to me, it must have been galling for many to see a young white woman do so well: she couldn’t possibly have amassed that much support all by her little self. While there may have been some strategic voting go on by some (who knows how many), given that Lutfur trounced Abbas last time, why wouldn’t he have ordered his mates to get him selected again?

And on the second…well, it’s deal time. As Josh Peck is standing down as group leader in May, Labour have a vacancy to fill. Yet the party now finds itself in the odd position of having a leader locally who is not a councillor. Biggs will have to be the boss but outside the group: he will have to get involved in strategy decisions and on how to take on Lutfur and his cabinet over the next year.

No doubt some will question how he can remain an Assembly member, which is a full time job, and find the time to do “council” work. But his answer will surely be that most councillors have full time jobs anyway. It is possible that a selfless Labour councillor could resign to allow him a seat for the next year, but while it would be fun to see him in the chamber, I don’t think a forced by-election would be an appropriate use of our money.

So that means he needs a close ally to fill Josh’s shoes, someone who can straddle the different factions and someone who may eventually become his deputy mayor. Abdal Ullah is certainly up for such a role and maybe, after all these years, his time has finally come. Having a Bengali on the “ticket” would certainly help John.

Abbas would also tick the boxes, perhaps more so given his experience and strong showing in the selection process. But would he be interested?

Perhaps Rachael is the most deserving, but as this is Tower Hamlets, having two whites run the party would create an obvious opportunity for Lutfur’s race-obsessed groupies.

Cllr Shiria Khatun maybe??

And how John manages the Labour group will be intriguing. I can’t see him stomaching the covert alliance with the Tories that has proved so effective for Labour. Imagine what Boris would say to him…

But how will Team Lutfur attack Biggs, though? After all, for the past two years, his supporters have often pointed out that Biggs was also an injured party in the 2010 selection process. And as he hasn’t been part of the Labour group that they so bitterly criticise in the council chamber, that line of attack isn’t open to them either. Maybe they’ll say he’s been out of Tower Hamlets politics for too long: that would be an irony.

Heaven forbid, will it actually come down to policy ideas?

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