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Archive for January 27th, 2014

Lutfur Rahman’s army of media advisers normally send me their press releases but I seem to have been left off the distribution list for this one that went out on Saturday:

Mayor to scrap council car

Transparency a top priority during election period

Mayor Lutfur Rahman has announced that he will be giving up the official car in the lead up to the 2014 local elections.

Mayor Rahman said: “Although I will continue to work hard and deliver for the people of Tower Hamlets up to 22nd May and beyond, I will naturally be attending more political meetings in the next few months.

“In order to ensure that the highest standards of probity and transparency are maintained, I will no longer be making use of the official car and I hope that the Labour Speaker of the Council will follow my example.”

Ends

Notes to editors:

Mayor Rahman is setting a precedent. Other local authorities provide transportation for Council Leaders and Mayors including:

· Lewisham, where the Mayor has a chauffeur driven car.
· Newham, where Robin Wales has use of a pool car.
· Kensington and Chelsea which maintains a £125,000 Bentley Continental.
· Redbridge which maintains £123,000 two stretch Jaguars.
· The car is leased and will be returned to the leasing company and the driver redeployed within the Council.

So the Mayor who has failed to answer a single question from councillors or residents in the council chamber during his entire time in office is now a great believer in “probity and transparency”.

The council stated here that the cost of the Mercedes it was forced to lease to meet Lutfur’s ego has been £42,300 a year. That’s £161 for every working day. During the three years he’s had it, the total bill to the taxpayer (during a time of heavy cuts from Whitehall remember) has been more than £120,000.

This £120,000 has come at the expense of frontline budgets. He’s made great play of proclaiming his Mayor’s Education Award, which allows a limited number of hard up students to apply for £400 cash bursaries. If he’d done what John Biggs said he’d do as Mayor and use public transport (or his own), Lutfur would have been able to give an extra 300 of those precious awards.

And look how Lutfur signs off with such grace:

I hope that the Labour Speaker of the Council will follow my example

The current Speaker is Cllr Lesley Pavitt, who is retired.

lesley pavitt

By pretty much universal opinion, she’s been the best chair of the council in many years, respected on all sides for the neutral way she’s tried to stamp out the immature behaviour of councillors from all parties.

I don’t know how she travels to ceremonial events at the moment, but I don’t think anyone (apart from the Thomas Cromwell convert Lutfur) would begrudge her anything less than a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, don’t you think?

In fact, here’s one that costs £120,000…

Labour have been good on this issue and were quick today with their response, which is below:

Lutfur Rahman bows to pressure and suspends use of tax payer funded Mercedes

– Last June John Biggs pledged to scrap car immediately if elected

– Rahman will only suspend car during election period

After months of pressure from Labour councillors Lutfur Rahman, the controversial independent Mayor of Tower Hamlets, has announced he would suspend his use of his £42,000 a year tax payer funded Mercedes until after the election.

Rahman’s u-turn comes after a damning report into the car from the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee and a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary which found the Mayor using the chauffeur driven car to collect dry-cleaning and travel distances as short as 0.2 miles.

Despite widespread criticism Rahman only pledged his intention to drop his car “in the lead up to the 2014 local elections” prompting Labour councillors to label it a “disingenuous election stunt”.

Labour believe the Mayor should make use of the borough’s extensive public transport system instead of wasting tens of thousands of pounds on a luxury chauffeured car. Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs pledged back in June that he would scrap the car if elected later this year.

Responding to Rahman’s call to scrap the Speaker of the Council’s car Labour highlighted that the Speaker is politically impartial and is not standing for re-election. They also pointed out that the Speaker is required to use a car in order to protect the Council’s ceremonial chains of office which are worth thousands of pounds.

Responding to Rahman’s u-turn Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Sirajul Islam, said: “This is nothing more than a disingenuous election stunt from Lutfur Rahman. If he had any integrity he’d permanently scrap his taxpayer funded chauffeured Mercedes and admit it is a total waste of money.

“It’s totally wrong that Lutfur Rahman thinks a taxpayer funded life of luxury is acceptable, especially in one of the country’s most deprived boroughs.”

Labour candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “Three years and over 100,000 taxpayer pounds later, Lutfur Rahman has decided to temporarily stop being chauffer driven around because his lawyers have told him he cannot stretch his misuse of public funds into the election period.”

“The best way to end this kind of abuse for good is to vote for me on 22nd May.”

 

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