I’m sure Private Eye’s Rotten Borough won’t mind me reproducing here for free their lead item from the current issue:
BITTER internal squabbling continues to cost the taxpayer dear in Tower Hamlets, one of Britain’s most deprived boroughs.
Last month the local East London Advertiser (ELA) ran a story, followed up gleefully by the Daily Mail, about the council’s former “interim” chief executive, Aman Dalvi. Mr Dalvi, it said, had “earned £115,000 for 46 days’ work”, or £2,500 a day, while in the temporary post. Local government minister Brandon Lewis accused the council of paying “footballer’s wages”.
Tower Hamlets press office put out a statement saying the story was rubbish and Dalvi’s daily rate hadn’t been anything like that. Yet council accounts clearly state that his “salary, fees and allowances” for the post in 2012-13 had been £115,007, plus £3,884 pension contribution.
He did the job for 46 days in that financial year. The ELA duly did the maths.
So what was the money for? The Eye can explain. About £25,000 of it was pay — at a more modest £550 a day. The other £90k was in settlement of a “racial discrimination” claim brought by Dalvi against the council and its former Labour group leader, Joshua Peck.
Dalvi was appointed to become the council’s interim chief exec in 2011 and took up the job, but failed to secure the permanent post in May 2012.
Some councillors objected to Dalvi
because, they alleged, he was a crony of the borough’s “Independent” mayor, Lutfur Rahman (Eyes passim).
Dalvi claimed some Labour councillors’ attitude was racist and started employment tribunal proceedings; Peck and the council agreed to settle to avoid an astronomical legal bill. Confidentiality clauses all round!
Dalvi got his dosh, but it was confusingly entered in the accounts under “salary”. Peck’s £9,225 bill from law firm Slater Gordon was paid under the heading “miscellaneous expenses” authorised by the council’s “head of paid service”, Stephen Halsey.
Dalvi was miffed because he thought he had secured the top job and then had it snatched away.
It is hard to feel too sorry for him. He got his £90,000 – and went back to his old job as the borough’s “development and renewal director” on £137,000 a year. In all he was paid £256,452 by the council last year.
The ELA had, we understand, put detailed questions to the council press office about the misleading entry in the accounts, but received a “no comment” brush off from the press office – so it was a bit rich of the council to moan about the “inaccurate” story when it appeared.
The Eye asked the press office for an explanation but – much to our surprise – they were unable to comment!
Much of this was detailed on this blog last month, of course. Lutfur’s team of advisers have all been very excited by it because they’ve been whispering conspiratorially that because Josh Peck’s legal fees were paid for, there must have been a backroom deal between him and senior officers to ensure Aman’s appointment was vetoed in favour of a white man.
They’ve been claiming it’s further evidence of racism at the top of the council. This seems to be a fundamental narrative of Lutfur’s re-election campaign.
His opponents, however, allege his administration is characterised by cronyism. He denies it but such allegations do need proof and investigating.
Take this latest issue that’s been highlighted to me.
At the last full council meeting in September Josh Peck tabled this question to Mayor Lutfur Rahman about the Malmesbury estate in Bow.
8.27 Question from Councillor Joshua Peck
Whether he intends to complete Decent Homes works on the Malmesbury and Alfred Estates by May 2014?
It really goes without saying that Lutfur declined to answer it. Instead, we have been given this characteristically measured response from his cabinet member for housing (and wannabe MP), Rabina Khan:
As Cllr Peck will know from our response to his party’s inaccurate and inflammatory press statement on Decent Homes that was so gleefully used as propaganda by the EDL, every single council house in the borough will receive Decent Homes works in the next two years.
It is estimated at present that the internal works on 457-527 Mile End Road properties will be completed in year 3 of the programme, by 31 March 2014, and external works are programmed for year 4 2014/15. The remainder of the estate is currently being programmed, this process will be concluded at the end of September 2013.
So one block has had its revamp work already started, while the rest of the estate had not even been programmed. Was this block in some dire need? No, according to Labour councillors: they’d not had one inquiry from that block, while they knew from their own eyes that other parts of the estate were in far worse condition.
So, a mystery.
But a very fortunate one for the people who live in that block, including a one Abjol Miah.
The former Respect boss who backed Lutfur in October 2010 and whom Lutfur backed in the Weavers by election in May 2012.
This is all probably just a lucky coincidence, I’m sure.
Aman Dalvi is in charge of regeneration at the council and his team is responsible for deciding which blocks have their work done first.
Perhaps one of his people can explain and point to the underlying surveyors’ reports.
Labour are asking questions.