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Every month councillors are required to submit a timesheet detailing the work they claim they’ve been doing to collect their allowances and special responsibility allowances from the public purse.

Well, let me clarify that: they’re meant to submit them and they collect their allowances regardless of the work they actually do; the timesheets and their pay are not in any way related.

So in some ways, these timesheets are meaningless.

However, they are somewhat illuminating because they shine a we light on a councillor’s character. Some take them very seriously and submit them as regularly as clockwork. Some are also completely honest about what they state on them.

For example, Labour’s excellent Bow East councillor, Marc Francis, falls into both categories. His timesheets are pretty much up to date and you can read his latest one for January 2014 here:

Screen shot 2014-03-08 at 09.23.10In fact, this probably understates the work he does.

In contrast, let’s have a look at the latest Tower Hamlets turncoat, the newly Independent Anwar Khan, who will now stand against his own sister-in-law in Bow West.

The last timesheet he appears to have submitted (and hey, as a management consultant he knows full well the importance of well kept timesheets) was in September 2011. In fact, in the 46 months since he was elected as a councillor, the council only displays records for nine months.

And in that time since he’s been a chief whip for the Labour group, one of whose duties was to ensure colleagues kept up with their timesheets.

Perhaps he was just too busy to submit them. I mean, he’s a really busy man, it seems.

Have a look at his timesheet for September 2010, the month before Lutfur was elected mayor and when he would have presumably been spending an awful lot of time on party, not council, business.

Screen shot 2014-03-08 at 09.40.59

Wow. A hugely impressive 144 hours on councillor business that month. That’s 36 hours a week–a full time job in itself. How he managed to combine that with raising a young family and a high-powered job in the City, I’ll never know. He must have understanding employers.

I wonder whether his timesheets for them include such guff as 15 hours on “community events”. In fact, he states 15 hours per month on every sheet he’s submitted. It’s a lovely catch-all phrase is ‘community events’.

But out of the various councillor records I’ve looked at, his isn’t the worst. His latest enemy and fellow Bow West councillor Ann Jackson takes that prize: she hasn’t submitted once since January 2010.

Councillors may think these timesheets futile but they are among the few scraps that their voters have to examine what they’re doing.

Here’s a little table of the records for Respect and the independents:
Screen shot 2014-03-08 at 10.02.04

I’ve put a N/A by the name of Gulam Robbani (who has had some previous difficulties with his timesheets, remember) because the council’s website has none next to his name. Shurely some mistake?

I don’t have time to go through all the other councillors, so maybe someone else can help.

However, among the group leaders, we see this:

Labour’s Sirajul Islam – Dec 2013

Tories’ Peter Golds – Sep 2013

Lib Dem Stephanie Eaton – Sep 2013.

And unless I’ve missed it, I can’t see any timesheet section for Mayor Lutfur Rahman himself. Maybe he just uses a tachometer.

 

 

 

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I’m a bit late with this news but it merits recording, not least because it reminds us just how closely linked Tower Hamlets is to the City of London whose the borders still contain pockets of deprivation.
Friday before last, Cllr Shiria Khatun was made a Freeman of the City of London. It’s a rare honour (although more common than I’d thought: some 1,800 people a year are granted the privilege) and one which dates back to 1237.
It was carried out in a court room at the Guildhall, where her guests included councillors Sirajul Islam, Rajib Ahmed, Helal Abbas and Bill Turner. Toynbee Hall chief executive Graham Fisher and David Goodhart, the Demos director and author of The British Dream, were also there, as was Munsur Ali, the chief executive of the Limelight Film Awards, whose new film Shongram about the aftermath of the 1971 War of Independence in Bangladesh is being shown at a private screening at Rich Mix tomorrow evening.
The ceremony itself lasted only a few minutes and was all quite fun, albeit slightly strange. It was conducted by Murray Craig, the Clerk of the Chamberlain’s Court, who I think fancies himself, with some justification, as a stand-up comic. In fact, it was all perfectly civilised and pleasant, but I must say I much prefer the violence and poison of the Tower Hamlets council chamber.
Contrary to popular legend, Shiria does not now have the right to drive sheep across Tower Bridge, but she does have the right to draw her sword within the City boundaries.
There’s more about the tradition here
One of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today is the granting of the Freedom of the City of London. It is believed that the first Freedom was presented in 1237.
The medieval term ‘freeman’ meant someone who was not the property of a feudal lord but enjoyed privileges such as the right to earn money and own land. Town dwellers who were protected by the charter of their town or city were often free – hence the term ‘freedom of the City.
From the Middle Ages and the Victorian era, the Freedom was the right to trade, enabling members of a Guild or Livery to carry out their trade or craft in the square mile. A fee or fine would be charged and in return the Livery Companies would ensure that the goods and services provided would be of the highest possible standards. In 1835, the Freedom was widened to incorporate not just members of Livery Companies but also people living or working in the City or there was a strong London connection.
The Freedom in the City today is still closely associated with membership of the City Livery Companies. Visit the Livery page for an insight into the fascinating history and modern role of the Livery.

Modern Freedom

Today most of the practical reasons for obtaining the Freedom of the City have disappeared. It nevertheless remains as a unique part of London’s history to which many people who have lived or worked in the City have been proud to be admitted.

Prior to 1996, the Freedom was only open to British or Commonwealth Citizens. Now, however, it has been extended globally and persons of any nationality may be admitted either through nomination or by being presented by a Livery Company. There is a long standing tradition of admitting women.

The City of London is keen to maintain the Freedom as a living tradition. The Freedom is open to all who are genuinely interested and invited or born to it. The City Freemen are a very broad cross-section of the population​.

photo 2Sorry, I’ve been a bit of a tease, haven’t I? The question you’re all asking is, ‘Why?’
Well, for the past couple of years, Shiria has been working with residents on the Portsoken estate which is in the Aldgate area and so within the City boundaries. In fact, it falls within the ancient Ward of Portsoken.
She’s been helping families, and women in particular, who are suffering isolation and mental health issues. She’s also been helping the City Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) carry out the Prevent agenda of the Government’s counter-terrorism and extremism policy.
This has impressed elected figures in the City, two of whom Deputy Henry Jones and Common Council member John Fletcher. This is what John sent me by way of explanation:
I have known Shiria for more than two years, since when she has been working with residents in the Portsoken estate. Her role is very crucial when it come to engaging with residents on improving health as well as promoting and signposting them on to other services.

Shiria has been working with the ‘hard to reach’ residents, mainly women whose English is not too good. She has done an amazing job in reaching out to them and as a result these women are now participating in activities as well as volunteering.

Shiria has gone the extra mile by working with the City Police Prevent Team on engaging with women and families on how to engage with Prevent. As a result, Shiria went on to become the chair of the Shanaz Network which was set up by Acpo and the Home Office. It is the first network giving women all over the UK a platform to unite against terrorism of all kinds.

Shiria was nominated on to the network by the City Police Prevent Team. She does this on a voluntary basis and it’s in addition to her work with the City residents and her role as a Tower Hamlets councillor. She has gained the respect of residents and the City Common Councilmen and Aldermen here in the Ward of Portsoken as well as other City wards.

Shiria has contributed immensely to improving health of residents through engaging with them and facilitating activities that residents want to do. Shiria’s hard work and commitment to the residents of the City has resulted in us awarding her the Freedom of the City which she deserves.

And here’s Shiria’s own explanation:

I am really honoured and privileged to have been nominated for the Freedom of The City of London. I have been working with residents of the City for the last two years via Toynbee Hall.

The City is truly a fascinating place. It’s not all about the corporate industry, there are some amazing people living there too. Walking around the City you get to see some of the historical buildings that still exist as well as new emerging glass type office buildings.

My work involves working with residents of the Portsoken estate (previously many years ago was part of Tower Hamlets).

When I first came to this estate two years ago I was amazed to see how residents co-existed with each other in harmony. Neighbours supporting and helping each other as family members would. As it’s a small ward/estate, the majority of the residents know each other well and this makes it easier to know who’s who and what’s what.

You might be asking where the issues are? Well, there are significantly high health issues and this is where my role comes in to place. Working with residents and City of London departments I have been trying to reduce health issues/inequalities affecting residents of Portsoken. What are some of the health issues you ask? Well, like the neighbouring borough Tower Hamlets, residents of Portsoken have/are experiencing something similar such as diabetes, heart disease, physical inactivity and mental health problems.

I must say it is impressive how the City of London has been supportive of its residents in Portsoken to reduce those health issues. Through key interventions there has been a visible reduction in physical inactivity. For me this is rewarding knowing that I have been able to help many residents to better their lifestyles through healthy eating, exercise and the many other interventions on offer.

I decided to go even further by giving up some of my extra time beyond my working hours to work with the City of London’s PREVENT team, who nominated me on to the Shanaz Network which was initially set up by ACPO and the Home Office approx two years ago (I have only been involved with the network since last November). It is the first network of women from all over the UK countering terrorism and radicalisation of all forms.

The women on the network like myself have been nominated by local/regional PREVENT teams. I am the Chair of this network.

Now you’re probably asking where I find time to attend/deal with Shanaz Network business? Well I take annual leave for all this; yes, I do because I feel this is an important piece of work and for the first time we now have a platform for women to come together and have their say.

After all, who better than women to know what’s happening in their communities and how best to keep it safe? I was invited to attend the last Extremism Task Force meeting where I made my contribution.

As stated before I am honoured to be awarded Freedom of The City of London. My family, friends and colleagues have shown immense enthusiasm and support.

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Shiria with City of London Clerk Murray Craig

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Here’s an interesting insight into the mindset of Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

On December 7, Giles Broadbent, the editor of The Wharf newspaper, wrote a strongly worded opinion column detailing his exasperation with Lutfur’s refusal to answer questions from either members of the public or councillors at full council meetings.

At the previous meeting, opposition councillors fired a whole series of allegations his way, questioning whether council resources had been misused to help his re-election campaign. The council also voted to launch an investigation into claims by the Love Wapping blog that people purporting to work for Tower Hamlets Homes were canvassing for Lutfur during the day.

On each of these questions, Lutfur, though visibly reddening and seething, remained silent. Instead, he exercised his “right” to delegate the answers to his cabinet councillors who then stumbled and mumbled their way through the explanations.

Giles quite rightly thought this shameful.

Here’s part of what he wrote:

And what did the man himself have to say about all this at a recent council meeting when challenged? Furious denial? Tearful apology? The mayor said nothing. Being made to answer to the people “is contrary to his human rights”.

To the rest of the world, this continuing policy of silence is a joke, a punchline to a risible tale of East End lunacy. To the residents of Tower Hamlets, it is a serious and barbarous insult that damages their prosperity.

Compare Tower Hamlets to Newham. Both struck by terrible social and structural problems. Yet Newham – far from perfect – is at least outward looking and positive. It has embraced the Olympics and the Docks in order to share the dividends of growth.

Mr Rahman’s Tower Hamlets is backward, self-indulgent and dim. It is ripped apart by factionalism and stymied by cronyism. And the mayor, who sits atop this stinking pile, has nothing to offer but a sulk – truly a slap in the face for the residents who crave a future, not a
fiefdom.

It is to be hoped in the 2014 election the man who has tried so hard to undermine the principle of democratic accountability will feel the potency of its sting.

Lutfur took this rather badly and feeling the sting of The Wharf’s right to free speech in an opinion column based on the events of a full council meeting, Lutfur penned a letter of reply, which has been added to the original article. Here it is:

“Your column, ‘Spiral Notebook’; ‘Rahman’s insult to Tower Hamlets’, contains a series of gross inaccuracies and unfair innuendoes.

Surely, The Wharf has a responsibility to report and comment fairly? On the basis of this particular column it would appear that neither you nor your newspaper intends to do so in the run up to the Mayoral and local government elections in May.

You made no attempt to contact this council’s communications department or me, before publishing what amounts to a series of gross inaccuracies and innuendoes.

You have made direct allegations relating to the use of branded letters.

Such allegations are very serious and potentially imply a breach of electoral law.
The actual complaint relates to unbranded, council acknowledgement letters sent pursuant to casework.

The allegations that bogus representatives from the social housing company were using their access to residents in Wapping to flog [my] re-election bid are also completely untrue.

Cllr Alibor Choudhury categorically refuted these allegations, also made by the local Labour Party, in Full Council on 27 November. I also categorically refuted these claims in Cabinet on Wednesday 4 December. My rebuttal and that of Councillor Choudhury were carried in the East London Advertiser on Monday 2 December.

How, in these circumstances, you could run with these heavily contested and baseless allegations, let alone print them without putting them to me, is beyond me.

Similar claims have been made before, and the resulting police investigations have consistently found them to be baseless and a waste of police time.

Your comparisons between Tower Hamlets and Newham are insulting and inane. You may be interested to learn that not a single question has been asked of Mayor Sir Robin Wales, in any meeting of full council in the past seven months. In Tower Hamlets most of the political parties are represented. In Newham, all sixty councillors are from Sir Robin Wales’ party.

Perhaps The Wharf prefers a ‘one party borough’ solution?

I have never claimed that answering questions would ‘breach my human rights’ as you claim. I simply delegate the business of council to lead councillors, as is common-place in other local authorities.

I attend hundreds of public meetings where I am directly accountable to electors (rather than to opposition parties who were roundly rejected at the last election but by mere virtue of the electoral cycle continue to boast a majority in the chamber) and hold frequent press conferences where you and other journalists are welcome to hold me to account.

As a regular contributor to The Wharf, I had come to expect a whole lot better from your newspaper. I do hope that normal service may be resumed shortly.

Some who have read that last paragraph believe it’s an implied threat to withdraw his frequent offers of editorial magic. I’m not so sure it is, but if so…how the editors of the Bengali press must quake…

And as for his statement he holds frequent press conferences, does he? I don’t think I’ve ever been invited to one.

Anyway, let’s all applaud Lutfur’s determination to hold himself to account and also his championing of free speech.

I mean, free speech without intimidation and threats is a good thing right?

So what was Lutfur’s response to Anjem Choudary’s trip down Brick Lane last Friday when his Shariah Project groupies handed out mock-legal leaflets warning Bengali restaurateurs they faced hellfire or 40 lashes (take your pick!) for selling booze?

The East London Advertiser reports him saying:

We strongly believe in the right to free speech and association, and I am pleased that, with the police’s support, this group were able to exercise that right whilst upholding respect for our communities, which is the hallmark of our ‘No Place for Hate’ pledge.

He has to be kidding, right? Exactly what respect was Anjem showing to those he wants burnt in hell? Let’s remember that included in Amjem’s band of supporters are those convicted or terror and hate-related offences.

Only nine days ago, Anjem was reported in the Standard as saying the Muslim Patrol thugs who were convicted this month for abusing and attacking non-Muslims in Tower Hamlets deserved a “pat on the back”.

So isn’t Lutfur effectively saying, ‘You’re welcome to come back to protest and intimidate in Tower Hamlets any time you like?’

Which is a bit different to the message he rightly sends to that other fascist group, the English Defence League, which also claimed it merely wanted to exercise free speech.

I wonder if Lutfur, with this potential ‘one rule for one’ mentality secretly wants to provoke another visit by the EDL before next May.

By way of contrast, here are the thoughts of Labour group leader Sirajul Islam and the Muslim Council of Britain on Anjem’s visit:

Cllr Sirajul Islam, leader of the Labour group, said: “While Muslims may choose to abstain from alcohol, it is not right to forcefully push one view upon others.”

He added: “Provocative attempts to push a radical Sharia agenda will serve only to widen the divide between our communities, especially in light of the recent challenges we have faced from the EDL and so called ‘Muslim patrols’.”

Salman Farsi from the London Muslim Centre said: “While Islam may prohibit the consumption and sale of alcohol for Muslims, it is not for any particular groups to impose those views on others, nor bully other communities.”

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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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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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