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Archive for November, 2013

The Tower Hamlets Labour party yesterday issued the following statement about the series of posters that have appeared in Bow smearing ex-Lib Dem councillor and pro-Lutfur community activist Nigel McCollum.

Labour condemn smears against former councillor Nigel McCollum

Responding to reports of a poster smear campaign against former Tower Hamlets councillor Nigel McCollum Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Sirajul Islam, said:

“I totally condemn these utterly atrocious attempts to smear a hard-working and respected former councillor. Whilst we may have our political differences with Nigel nobody should ever be subjected to this kind of abuse and we hope that those responsible will be swiftly bought to justice.

“To baselessly imply without any reason or cause that this is related to any exchange of opinions in the Council chamber does neither them, nor Nigel, justice. Now is not a time for politics, it is about finding those responsible and ensuring they face the consequences of their actions.”

Labour’s Candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said:

These attacks on Nigel McCollum are disgusting and unacceptable. I and the Labour Party stand firmly in support of him and against such cowardly homophobic behaviour. Anybody found to be behind these attacks should face the full force of the law.

“I and the Labour Party defend absolutely his right to challenge any public spending decisions under whatever administration. However, anybody attending the Council meeting will be aware that Labour members clarified that his claims were in our view ill-informed and misleading and were a rather clumsy political attack by one of the Mayor’s supporters.

“To link our disagreement with this attack against him is a slur. One of the reasons I am standing for Mayor is to challenge the nasty tendencies that often lurk in East End politics. This sort of conduct has no place in civilised society.”

Here’s a reminder of what Mayor Lutfur Rahman said yesterday:

“He [Nigel] had raised what he believes to have been the scandalous role of some local Labour councillors in wasting £1.6 million on developments in the Roman Road the previous evening at a meeting of the full council.

Both Lib Dem leader, Councillor Stephanie Eaton and I are urging the police to mount a full and thorough investigation. Both Stephanie and I wish to condemn what Nigel and ourselves believe to be a serious homophobic attack, and one that may well be politically charged. I have spoken to Nigel and offered him both our sympathy and our full support.”

And a reminder of what Lib Dem councillor Stephanie Eaton said:

Nigel and I believe this to be a serious homophobic attack, and one that is aimed at stopping him from continuing his political activities. To post anonymous homophobic attacks about a resident and former councillor simply because he has raised legitimate questions about public spending is cowardly and unacceptable.

I’ve no idea what evidence they have to link the attack to Labour but as responsible leaders, I’m sure they will provide it to detectives.

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Nigel McCollumTower Hamlets police have launched an investigation into a homophobic smear campaign against former Lib Dem councillor Nigel McCollum.

Posters appeared in bus shelters near his home in the Old Ford Road area of Bow late on Wednesday night, Thursday morning and again today. In total, about 10 have been found.

The posters, which include a recently taken photograph at him at an event in Bow attended by the Duchess of Gloucester, label him a ‘paedophile’. They gave his address and phone numbers.

They also went into more details which I’m not publishing. All are false.

He is openly gay and delivered a petition on behalf of other residents in Bow at Wednesday’s council meeting, which also heard a series of people and youngsters condemning homophobia in the borough.

Although a former Lib Dem, as regular readers of this blog will know, he is now a supporter and good friend of Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

The mayor has just posted comments about the incident on his blog today. That he failed to condemn the homophobic rants against Tory Peter Golds at previous council meetings in no way detracts from the gravity of his words.

Here’s what Lutfur says:

I have been appalled to learn of the quite shocking and potentially criminal actions that have directly followed the public intervention of one of our borough’s prominent and respected residents, former Lib Dem councillor, Nigel McCollum, in the full council meeting in the Town Hall on Wednesday night.

I understand the police have launched an immediate investigation in to who is behind the posting of deeply offensive leaflets, picturing Nigel McCollum, and claiming that he is a ‘paedophile’. These posters have been posted in and around public areas near to where Nigel lives.

Fortunately, Nigel was alerted by concerned neighbours and friends upon waking on Thursday morning.

He had raised what he believes to have been the scandalous role of some local Labour councillors in wasting £1.6 million on developments in the Roman Road the previous evening at a meeting of the full council.

Both Lib Dem leader, Councillor Stephanie Eaton and I are urging the police to mount a full and thorough investigation. Both Stephanie and I wish to condemn what Nigel and ourselves believe to be a serious homophobic attack, and one that may well be politically charged. I have spoken to Nigel and offered him both our sympathy and our full support.

There can be no place for homophobia and hate in Tower Hamlets. Those who attempt to promulgate it must know that there will be consequences to their actions.

And here’s what Lib Dem councillor Stephanie Eaton says in the press release she’s just issued:

Former Liberal Democrat Councillor Nigel McCollum has been the subject of anonymous smears and lies following his presentation of a petition to full council on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, a number of posters were found in Bow making untrue and homophobic accusations against Mr McCollum. The police have launched an immediate investigation in to the production of the posters, which included a recent photograph of Nigel McCollum and his contact details. The posters were posted in public areas near to where Mr McCollum lives.

Liberal Democrat Councillor, Dr Stephanie Eaton said: “I am appalled to learn of the shocking and potentially criminal actions that have directly followed the public intervention of one of our borough’s respected residents, Nigel McCollum, in the full council meeting in the Town Hall on Wednesday night. Nigel McCollum had raised what he believes to have been the scandalous role of some local Labour councillors in wasting £1.6 million on developments in the Roman Road the previous evening at a meeting of the full council.

Nigel and I believe this to be a serious homophobic attack, and one that is aimed at stopping him from continuing his political activities. To post anonymous homophobic attacks about a resident and former councillor simply because he has raised legitimate questions about public spending is cowardly and unacceptable. It is an attack on all people involved in local politics, and one which has the potential to deter LGBT people from public service.

There can be no place for homophobia in Tower Hamlets and in Tower Hamlets politics.”  

Notes for Editors

Nigel McCollum was a Tower Hamlets Councillor from 2002-2006 representing the ward of Bow East. He is a gay man in a long term relationship with his partner.

In 2005/2006 Nigel McCollum was subjected to anonymous hate mail making similar homophobic accusations. At the same time anonymous defamatory statements were also circulated to the Police, media and local politicians. The intimidation and harassment was a key reason in Nigel’s decision not to stand for re-election in 2006. As soon as this decision was announced, the harassment stopped.

Whether it was politically motivated or just some evil idiot with another grudge should be easy to prove. Plenty of CCTV in the area in question.

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The firs part of this article is a cross-post from Mark Baynes’s Love Wapping blog.

[For a bit of context, my opinion of Ohid Ahmed hardened in August 2008 at a big screen showing in Victoria Park of the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony. Only some 100 residents turned up and they all sat around on the grass mingling with each other. In the middle of all this, the council had erected a small marquee with a fenced off garden specially for ‘VIPs’. With free food and drink of course. In that marquee were three councillors, two of whom are now Lutfurites, Rofique Ahmed and Ohid Ahmed. Not once throughout the entire event did any of them set foot outside to talk to residents. For them, it was just about prestige and freebies. It was mentioned in a report for the East London Advertiser at the time.]ELA Aug 2008

Here is Mark Baynes’s piece.

Deputy Mayor Cllr. Ohid Ahmed health scare update

I am sure that residents of Wapping take a great interest in the health and general wellbeing of our elected representatives.

So it is with great relief that I can report that Tower Hamlets Deputy Mayor Cllr Ohid Ahmed has got over his recent bout of flu.

“What flu?” I hear you asking.

The flu that prevented the Deputy Mayor from turning up to the St Katharine’s and Wapping Community Safety Walkabout on Friday 22 November at 4pm.

Cllr. Ohid Ahmed was on the list of attending officers but after a slight delay we were told that he had flu / was feeling unwell so the walk went ahead without him.

And very interesting it was too.

No need for concern

Since then the state of the Deputy Mayor’s health has been of some concern to us here at Love Wapping so it was great to discover via the wonders of Facebook that Cllr. Ohid Ahmed was looking fit and well only a few hours later that very same day!

A fit and well Cllr. Ohid Ahmed at a dinner on the evening of Friday 22 Nov 2013

A fit and well Cllr. Ohid Ahmed at a dinner on the evening of Friday 22 Nov 2013

In fact he had recovered from his flu so quickly that he was pictured enjoying dinner with friends at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London. (For those of you not on Facebook we borrowed the pic, but we are sure no one will mind given the circumstances.)

Trees are good

Oddly enough this dinner was for Trees for Change, a campaign to plant 30,000 trees in Africa. Great idea.

Wapping Woods has quite a few trees too so let’s hope that next time there is a Community Safety Walkabout in Wapping the Deputy Mayor is fit enough to attend.

UPDATE:

I’ve now had a look at Ohid’s Facebook page and see that this meal at the Marriott in the West End was a “pre-GPU meal”.

Ohid GPU

The GPU is the Islamic Global Peace and Unity event that’s been taking place at the ExCeL centre this weekend. Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has condemned those, including Boris Johnson, who have sent messages of support for it because its list of speakers contains the names of seven “extremist clerics”.

By way of example he picks out one:

The Sheikh claims the toleration of homosexuality is a sign of social regression:
 
“For those who have been around for a little bit longer than those who are eighteen or nineteen, look at how this own society and culture has evolved in the way it looks at homosexuals. In our own time, I remember as a kid in the eighties, which gives you an idea how old I was, growing up in the eighties I grew up, OK? I remember how homosexuals were looked down upon and the names that were given to these people, and how disgusted the average masses were with that segment of society. Now look, now look at how we have regressed, not progressed.”
 
http://tifrib.com/yasir-qadhi/
 
He says Jews control Islamic studies and want to destroy Muslims:
 
“You go to America, you find that 95% of the Islamic Studies professors are Jews, you know that? 95% of Islamic Studies [sic] are Jews. And 0% of Judaic Studies [sic] are Muslims. I am not advising any Muslim to waste his time studying Judaism but I’m saying, why are Jews studying Islam? There is a reason, not that they want to help us, they want to destroy us […] they want to bring about doubts, look at the doubts that exist, look at the divisions, the discord, look at the disunity, look at all these ideologies that are being spread (4). Know that the Yahood [Jews] and the Kuffar [Infidels] like this type of thing.”

Also on the list of speakers (the first name on the list, in fact) is Lutfur Rahman (who is not an extremist cleric). Actually, Lutfur was given star billing at the end of the conference, speaking this evening just after a Saudi princess.

So you can understand just why it was so important for his deputy, Ohid Ahmed, to drag himself off his deathbed and head to the West End hotel (by cab, I wonder…)

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This will be submitted by the Labour group to the full meeting of Tower Hamlets council on November 27:

Motion on Centenary of WW1

Proposer: Cllr Sirajul Islam

Seconder: Cllr Rachael Saunders

This Council Notes:

–       That 2014 will mark the centenary of World War One.

–       As time passes the personal memory of this event diminishes.

–       This was the first major conflict of the modern era in which civillain communities were attacked and this included Londoners.

–       Remembrance Sunday represents a unique and important point each year where we commemorate all of those who have and continue to fight for our country, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

–       We should also note the sacrifice and suffering of civilian communities.

This Council Believes:

–       It is important to our sense of community and legacy that the memory and knowledge of those events is never lost.

–       It is an important part of our cultural heritage to remember and share in the great history of our country and the contribution of East Enders.

–       That an appreciation of the decisions of the past gives us a better understanding of the world.

–       That the centenary presents an opportunity to share in collective commemoration of the role of East End communities.

This Council resolves:

–       To note the contribution and sacrifice of East Enders, both as civilians and as members of our and our allies Armed Forces.

–       To call upon the Speaker of the Council to work with the Head of Paid Service to organise a high profile commemorative event for next year’s World War One centenary.

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This motion will be submitted for debate at next Wednesday’s full meeting of Tower Hamlets council:

Protecting community pubs

Proposer: Cllr Amy Whitelock
Seconder: Cllr Denise Jones

This council notes:

  • That in addition to the provision of its own services the Council should support through its policies and the exercise of its powers a network of well-run community facilities, including shops, pubs, advice centres, places of worship and other local forums and services which are valued by residents. As an example of these, community pubs provide a valuable community service for those who choose to use them. 
  • Twenty-six pubs close every week across the country. In Tower Hamlets many pubs have already been converted to flats or stand empty.
  • Recently local pubs such as The Sun in Bethnal Green and the Britannia pub in Mile End have closed down, to the disappointment of local residents.
  • Pubs inject an average of £80,000 into their local economy each year and support almost one million UK jobs, 46% of whom are 16 – 24 year olds.
  • That whilst some pubs can have anti-social behaviour problems which the Council should challenge, the majority offer a positive contribution to our borough and are part of a balanced and inclusive community offering that helps to define the local quality of life.

This council further notes:

  • The recently adopted Managing Development Document policy DM8 specifies that social and community facilities, such as public houses, will be protected where they meet an identified local need and the buildings are suitable for their use.
  • That while conversion of pubs to residential use would be resisted as contrary to planning policy, this does not automatically mean such applications would be rejected.
  • Residents often feel they have no opportunity to prevent their local pubs from being sold off or converted to flats.
  • The demolition of pubs is classed as “permitted development” means planning permission is not required. Between 2003 and 2012, 414 former pubs were demolished in London alone.

This council believes:

  • Local pubs are a hugely important community hub, bringing local people together and providing social inclusion opportunities.
  • While pubs that cause antisocial behaviour should be subject to enforcement action, well managed community pubs should be protected by the council.

This council resolves:

  • To work with residents to list local pubs as Assets of Community Value under the Localism Act, giving greater protection against pubs being sold off to developers.
  • To support the Sustainable Communities Act proposal: “That the Secretary of State help protect community pubs in England by ensuring that planning permission and community consultation are required before community pubs are allowed to be converted to betting shops, supermarkets and pay-day loan stores or other uses, or are allowed to be demolished.”

To work together with Local Works and the Campaign for Real Ale to gain support for the proposal from other councils in the region and across the country.

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Labour’s Abdal Ullah will submit this motion, time permitting, to the full meeting of Tower Hamlets council next Wednesday.

Tackling crime in Tower Hamlets

Proposer: Cllr Abdal Ullah

Seconder: Cllr Shiria Khatun

This Council notes:

–       That by the Metropolitan Police’s own figures crime in Tower Hamlets has increased 9% since 2010.

–       Over the same period crime in neighbouring Hackney was down 3% and in Newham down 6%.

–       In 2011/12 there were almost 20,000 reported incidents of anti-social behaviour.

–       Tower Hamlets has the second highest levels of anti-social behaviour in London (p. 149)

–       Figures in the Community Safety Plan, buried on page 130, show that between October 2009 and September 2012 robberies were up 50%, knife crime was up 49%

–       In the 2013 Annual Residents Survey 41% of people said crime was one of their top three concerns, this was the biggest overall concern from residents.

–       The Mayor’s Community Safety Plan makes no reference to the significant increases in crime and ASB nor does it give a true appreciation of the key challenges facing the borough.

–       The Mayor vetoed Labour’s proposal at the 2011 Budget to fund 17 new police officers.

This Council Believes:

–       That the Mayor’s complacent approach to crime has meant the Council has not been focused on tackling what residents see as the most important issue facing our borough.

–       The borough needs a Mayor who will show leadership in facing up to and challenging anti-social behaviour, tasking council officers appropriately and working in partnership with other organisations including the police.

This Council further notes:

–       Neighbourhood policing has been essentially destroyed – many wards now have just one PC and one PCSO.

–       The positive impact of the Safer Neighbourhood Teams which were introduced by the Labour Government and Labour Council in Tower Hamlets. That the SNTs helped to not only reduce crime in Tower Hamlets but also increased public confidence in the police.

–       The changes introduced by Boris Johnson which have cut Safer Neighbourhood Teams to the bone by cutting the teams to one police officer and one police community support officer per ward, down from six officers under Labour.

–       The CSP figures show that incidences of arson in the borough are down 31% since 2009/10.

–       Boris Johnson continues to pursue his plan to close half of the borough’s police stations as well as closing Bow fire station and halving the number of fire engines at Whitechapel.

This Council further believes:

–       The neighbourhood policing model introduced by the last Labour Government and piloted by the Labour council was a strong and successful model for local policing.

–       Under the current Mayor of London neighbourhood policing has been significantly dismantled.

–       The current Mayor of Tower Hamlets has completely failed to protect the community policing model which was so successful after Labour introduced it.

–       Boris Johnson’s cuts to police and fire stations in the borough will have a detrimental effect on community safety.

–       The closure of Bow and cuts at Whitechapel fire station will not only reduce capacity but also put additional pressure on the remaining stations and staff. This will in turn reduce their ability to undertake fire prevention outreach work and could threaten to reverse the positive gains made over previous years.

This Council resolves:

–       To condemn the Mayor of Tower Hamlets for his failure of leadership in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.

–       To reassert the importance of strong and locally integrated neighbourhood policing team and to support Labour’s approach to reassert a neighbourhood policing model.

–       To reiterate Labour’s call for the Mayor to support and fund new police officers as opposed to additional THEOs.

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This motion will be submitted to the next meeting of Tower Hamlets council on November 27.

Dealing with the cost of credit

Proposer: Cllr Anwar Khan

Seconder: Cllr Rachael Saunders

This Council notes:

–       The UK-wide campaign to end ‘legal loan sharking’.

–       The outrageous interest rates charged by some pay day lenders

–       The way in which these loans trap people in spirals of unmanageable debt.

–       That as Christmas approaches these companies will seek to use public advertising to target people in our borough who are struggling to make ends meet.

–       That unaffordable credit is extracting wealth from the most deprived communities.

This Council believes:

–       That the lack of access to affordable credit is socially and economically damaging.

–       Unaffordable credit is causing a myriad of unwanted effects such as poorer diets, colder homes, rent, council tax and utility arrears, depression and poor physical and mental health.

–       That there is a need for better regulation of the payday lending sector, including a cap of the total cost of credit.

–       That until such regulation is introduced Tower Hamlets Council should work with partners to do all it can to protect people from usurious lending.

This Council Resolves:

–       That payday loan firms should be banned from setting up businesses in commercial property owned by the local authority. 

–       That pay day loan firms should be banned from advertising in property owned by the council.

–       That payday loan firms should be banned from advertising in Council publications or on Council owned advertising boards, from all public computers.

–       To promote credit unions in Tower Hamlets as community based organisations offering access to affordable credit and promoting saving.

–       To work with school, community organisations, housing providers, faith organisations and  providers of debt and money management advice to ensure that every resident of Tower Hamlets has access to financial advice and support.

–       That the Council writes to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Sir Peter Hendy (Commissioner of Transport for London) and Vernon Everitt (Managing Director, Customer Experience, Marketing and Communications) informing them of the Council’s decision to ban payday loan advertising in the borough and asking them to consider amending the TfL Advertising Policy to include a similar ban on all London public transport.

–       Instructs the Corporate Director, CLC, to report in writing to the next full Council meeting, the steps the Council or Mayor could take to limit the proliferation and impact of high street credit outlets in the borough.

–       To call on the government to introduce caps on the total lending rates that can be charged for providing credit.

–       To call on the government to give local authorities the power to veto licences for high street credit agencies where they could have negative economic or social impacts on communities.

–       To request the Heads of Planning and Licensing to report to the next Council meeting on ways in which officers can use powers at their disposal to ensure that the Council is doing all it can to prevent the promotion, publicity or opening of payday loan outlets or providers.

 

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