Posts Tagged ‘tower hamlets labour’

This is a guess post by Independent councillor Shahed Ali

UnknownI attended John Biggs’s first Mayoral Assembly held at Swanlea School on January 21 2016.  Although a step in the right direction, it soon became obvious to me it was nothing more than a ‘talking shop’ which would achieve nothing more to deliver our greatest need – building affordable rented housing.

The Whitechapel Vision aspires to deliver 3,500 new homes over several sites identified for private development. Our local plan, which clearly dictates our planning policies, requires developers to provide a minimum of 35% affordable housing on-site, or 50% affordable housing off-site. Of this, a ratio split of 70/30 must be affordable rent/intermediate housing.  

The latest developer to submit plans for development is ‘Sainsbury’s Whitechapel Square’.  This proposes a mixed development including residential housing to provide 608 new homes including a now revised towering 28 storey building, originally pitched at 33 storeys in height.  

However, if approved, it will only delivery 60 affordable rented homes [Note: Sainsbury’s has sent me the following comment: We are proposing to bring forward 89 social rent units, not 60 affordable rent units as Cllr Ali states. As I’m sure you’re aware, socially rented units are rented out at a cheaper level than affordable rent units.] So if we apply the same calculation to the total new homes Whitechapel Vision seeks to deliver, residents will get only 345 affordable rented homes of the total of 3500 new homes.  If our local plan housing target of 35% was to be met, residents could get 1225 new affordable homes, of which 856 could be affordable rent.

Mayor John Biggs response to concerned residents’ questions about the Sainsbury’s site was: “Our hands are tied by planning policy, but we try our best to get a better deal.  For example we managed to negotiate a reduction in height of the tower block from 33 storeys, down to 28 storeys.”

This is my view is a weak and defeatist response. For me, it raises serious questions as to the entire planning process and Tower Hamlets Labour group’s inability to challenge and get a much better deal for our community.

The question from John Biggs should be: “Is a viable development able to be built on this site?” And not: “Is this specific scheme viable?”

Anything can be made to look unviable, but it does not mean viable alternatives are not possible. Developers come with the attitude of: “How much could we get out of this site? How much profit are we losing as a result of following planning policies?”

So they start with packing as much as possible on to any given site and work back from there, instead of starting off with the local plan in the first place! Developers can still make a perfectly respectable profit by following the plan – because the plans themselves are viability tested.

I believe if developers feel they cannot do it according to our local plan, then they should not buy the land in the first place. Let someone else develop the site who will respect and follow the rules.


Whitechapel Vision

So how do developers get away with it? Developers claim their schemes are not commercially viable, and must submit a financial viability assessment explaining why the figures do not stack up. In simple terms, this assessment takes the total costs of a project, and subtracts them from the total projected revenue from sales, based on current property values.

What’s left over is called the “residual land value”.  The value of the site once development has completed, must be high enough to represent a decent return to the landowner. It is therefore in the developer’s interest to maximise its projected costs and minimise the projected sales values to make its plans appear less profitable.

With figures that generate a residual value not much higher than the building’s current value, the developer can wave “evidence” before the council that the project cannot be delivered if it has to meet our affordable housing targets.

A crucial failure of Tower Hamlets council is that developers’ viability assessments are hidden even from councillors and protected from public scrutiny on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality”.

Developers argue revealing the figures would compromise sensitive trade secrets. But I believe these reports do not tend to be scrutinised effectively by our planning officers either, and the confidentiality argument makes no sense because build costs are well-established in the public domain via the BCIS database, the industry standard tool everyone relies on.

Sales values are easily obtainable yet developers and local councils spend huge resources fighting to keep the figures in these viability assessments secret. I have requested viability assessment reports from the council myself, and it makes me wonder exactly what they are trying to hide?

Consultants know how to fiddle the figures in their client’s interest and planning departments are simply not resourced to scrutinise against the likes of specialist consultants such as BNP Paribas who have dedicated full-time teams working upon specific developments.

Many consultants are now paid bonuses for successfully reducing the number of affordable housing units on a scheme.

Local councils have lost the plot on this. All the things that are supposed to determine the best use of land – mix of uses, massing, density, social mix – have been trumped by finance.  It’s a form of financial modelling that’s hidden from view, entirely determined by the developers themselves.

Southwark and Greenwich councils were recently forced to disclose viability assessments after the determination of local residents’ battle that ended in tribunals awarding landmark decisions in favour of releasing the documents for public scrutiny.

Greenwich council, to its credit, has recently proposed introducing a policy that would require all viability assessments to be open to public scrutiny following calls for transparency.

It is a step in the right direction but simply making the information public so people know why the council is conceding its policy on affordable housing levels is not good enough. The fundamental basis of viability itself has to be challenged effectively. It is not simply an issue of transparency.

Braeburn Estates is a consortium led by Canary Wharf Group and Qatari Diar, developing a scheme known as the Shell Centre. That council’s planning policy aims for 50% affordable housing, but the Shell Centre will provide just 20%. It is the result of another viability assessment that pleads poverty to the council, while trumpeting the scheme as a lucrative opportunity to potential investors in the same breath?

This viability assessment was only disclosed when the project went to public inquiry.  To the council, flats were listed with an average sales value of £1,330 per sq ft, while a presentation aimed at investors suggested they would sell at an average of £1,641 per sq ft, representing a disparity of £234m across the scheme!

I was gobsmacked to sit and watch as Tower Hamlets incumbent planning committee gave approval for the huge Wood Wharf site neighbouring the Canary Wharf estate, outline planning consent with a requirement to provide only 25% affordable housing, for a development which will only come to completion in several years’ time, if not at least a decade away?

Surely house prices will have increased significantly, especially with the arrival of Crossrail at Canary Wharf?

These viability assessments conclusively prove that we cannot rely on developers to build affordable housing, and they are standing in the way of other groups who want to build it – the community land trusts, housing associations, co-housing groups – by preventing them from getting access to the land.

Instead the industry is wilfully inflating land values and forcing ill-resourced local council planning officers to recommend permission for schemes that fail to meet our local plan.

I get astonished by either the absolute silence, or silly questions that some of the committee members come up with at planning meetings.

It is obvious some do not bother reading the committee reports, nor has the knowledge or experience of being in a position to make such important decisions which will affect our generations to come.

It is a complete mockery.

These failures are actively contributing to the pace of ‘social cleansing’ being accelerated to the point of no return.  As a parent of two young girls, I am seriously worried about their future inability to remain living in Tower Hamlets.  However instead of allowing opposition members to actively contribute to these committees, the Labour group pitifully chooses to use its majority to effectively reduce and ‘take-out’ members who challenge such planning applications. I myself have become such a victim.

Coming back to the Sainsbury’s scheme, it seems likely that Barrett’s will be the development partner as they have worked in partnership with Sainsbury’s on other schemes.

The Mayor has set-up what he calls the ‘Housing Policy and Affordability Commission’.  Opposition councillors are excluded from this forum. However developers are most welcome, including Barrett’s’ Regional Managing Director, Alastair Baird.

Clearly this is a conflict of interest as I cannot imagine Barrett’s would be pro-active in championing the demonstrated flaws contained within viability assessments?

The Mayor needs to seriously take immediate action and engage the expertise required to comb through the viability assessment figures in detail when developers argue they cannot meet our policy requirement on affordable housing provision.

Viability is completely destroying the ability to build mixed communities, all on the grounds of spurious financial models, a legalised practice of fiddling figures that represents “a wholesale fraud on the public purse”.

It is critical that Tower Hamlets council develop the expertise in-house to tackle it now.

(I am now an excluded member of the Strategic Development Committee.  Due to changes to the political composition of group members, the council’s proportionality reduced a committee member.  However instead of affording the Independent Group the (good practice) opportunity to choose and decide which committee they would like to reduce a member within, the Labour group leader decided that the SDC committee should lose a IG member, which now gives Labour members an increased two-member majority on the SDC.  Never has the SDC had a political group with a 2 member majority on the SDC.)

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A parking warden claimed Councillor Anwar Khan threatened to fetch a machete and kill him during a row over a double yellow line infringement.

On the other hand, Anwar says he was the one fearing for his life after the warden had threatened him with that old East End promise of “I know where you live”.

Anwar says the warden is lying. I tend to believe him; he says he doesn’t even own a machete. After all, he’s an accountant, not a butcher.

But although this is all just normal knockabout stuff for Tower Hamlets politics, this incident in Spitalfields last June has a bit more significance to it.

This was the row that played a large part in the de-selection of Bow West councillor Anwar Khan from the Labour slate for May’s elections. It became the subject of a council investigation (as yet unresolved, as far as I understand) which was brought to the attention of Labour’s interviewing panel via Cllr Carlo Gibbs, the Tower Hamlets chief whip and now Anwar’s chief enemy.

The dispute was used a further evidence that Anwar–who, as the group’s previous chief whip, last year dragged Abdal Ullah back into the council chamber during a crucial budget vote–had an attitude problem.

After a series of interviews he was deselected in favour of his sister-in-law Asma Begum, a decision he didn’t really like.

He decided to take revenge clear his name and has set about accusing the Tower Hamlets Labour party of a form of institutional racism. I reported here that he thinks John Biggs is a control freak who doesn’t like clever and outspoken Bengalis like him, that old John Biggs likes his Bengalis Uncle Tom style–yes sir, no sir, three bags full stir.

Which I think is a bit bollocks really, but that strain of thought is genuinely out there.

Whatever the truth, Anwar is currently a Very Angry Man. And after he was sacked from Labour’s front bench, he issued this press statement last week:

Cllr Khan responded to Labour Leaders claims that the allegations of a stitch up was baseless, Khan said: “What more proof do you need the emails were black and white? I spoke out and was sacked and silenced. John Biggs rules the Labour councillors with an iron fist and the Group leader Sirajul Islam is just a puppet who’s there for the diversity shot.”

Khan has served as councillor for Bow West ward, alongside Joshua Peck and Ann Jackson, since 2010, and spent three years as the party’s Chief Whip as well as 3 years as Shadow Employment Spokesman. His deselection and demotion appear to stem from a bitter feud with Carlo Gibbs, councilor for St Peters and protégé of Labour Mayoral candidate John Biggs.

Gibbs succeeded Khan as Chief Whip and was responsible for preparing reports on each prospective candidate. It is understood that Mr Gibbs is now under official investigation himself after allegations of dishonesty.

Cllr Khan said: “I’m a proud member of the Labour party but in Tower Hamlets the culture of dodgy dossiers and secret trials is destroying the party – not just in Tower Hamlets, but in Harrow, Hackney and anywhere there’s a large ethnic minority population. Just a few weeks ago, Biggs wrote to me to say I was one of the ‘sharpest’
minds in Labour Group. Now I’ve been deselected and demoted for speaking out.” This is hypocrisy.

Cllr Khan also revealed the extent of divisions in the Labour Group: “Biggs has surrounded himself with bullies and double-dealers and sitting councillors are increasingly worried about their seats.”

Cllr Khan also confirmed that John Biggs had taken image and presentation advice from him on a number of occasions after concerns were raised about the Mayoral candidate’s personal manner: “John has some interpersonal and presentational issues and I’ve advised him in the past on how to talk to people from diverse communities without alienating them. Clearly some of those lessons haven’t sunk in.”

I love the bit about John seeking “presentational advice”. From Anwar.

Which brings us back to High Noon in Spitalfields.

What follows is a lengthy transcript of Anwar’s interview with the council’s “independent” investigator, known here as MD. He’s a council officer.

You’ll see from the account that Anwar had partially parked on a double yellow as he dropped off his family in Spitafileds. He had left the engine running and says he had asked the warden for a few seconds while he tended to his child.

The warden apparently said ‘Computer says No’, Anwar said ‘Don’t you know I’m a councillor’, the warden said ‘I don’t care if you’re the Prime Minister’, Anwar said ‘I’m going to call Head of Paid Service Steve Halsey to tell him you need some customer service training and you might lose your job,’ and the warden then got a bit angry, allegedly.

I don’t have the warden’s version, but if Anwar’s is a fair account of what happened, then, although he might have been a bit high handed with his ‘I’m a councillor’ retort, I reckon sympathies might well lie with him.

All this is playing into Lutfur’s hands of course. He thinks he was the victim of a similar injustice by the Labour party. And that he never did anything wrong…

But for the avoidance of doubt, Anwar says there is no way he will defect or help Lutfur. Although he doesn’t deny Lutfur’s people are helping him drive a machete into Labour’s heart right now.

Here’s the transcript for your amusement.

Date 16/07/13
Time: 19:12-20:15

Investigation into a complaint made against Civil Enforcement Officer THxxx by Cllr Anwar Khan.

Process: MD explained that he was appointed by Mirsad Balokavic Head of Parking Services to carry out an investigation in to an alleged incident 20th June 2013. AK questioned whether MD believed that he was under pressure from his Service Head, Mr Jamie Blake. MD claimed this was not the case. AK reassured MD that he has taken steps to ensure the allegations made by Mr. Blake have been actioned and prior to the meeting, the Head of Paid Service confirmed that Mr. Blake will no longer play any part in this investigation due to the perceived interest he has. AK advised MD of the steps he should take if he feels threatened by Mr.Blake and should disregard his email not to seek any further information from AK.

Background: MD explained the context of his role as an independent investigator and gave Cllr Anwar Khan a brief on a number of investigations carried out in the past. AK reassured MD that he should not feel pressurised by the unorthodox intervention by his Service Head and that matter has been dealt with and the person removed. The reason for removal AK explained was due to breach of constitution by the officer.

MD:​ When you arrived into Casson Streetwas the CEO already there?

AK​: I parked up in front of my house I could see CEO through my windscreen. In the meantime, I unbuckled my son and held him in arms, I waited for CEO to approach, when CEO approached I asked him for some time (30sec) to drop son in to house which was approx less the 2 meters from the car. I asked him very politely and believed it was acceptable for such interaction with officers. the CEO’s tone was angry, he seemed annoyed at being asked a question. The CEO said “no you have no time and will have to move immediately or get a ticket”.

AK and his family were petrified at the response, AK states that he was confused that the officer was not following policy, as he states that there is allowance of 5 minute observation time. AK could not understand why the CEO was so angry. AK states had the CEO been honest and forthcoming providing accurate advise the altercation would not have arose. AK states that he believes that is the root cause of the matter, had the CEO followed the training he received training on customer services, then this situation would have been avoided. He questioned the officers ability to communicate clearly and felt that the officer should not performing a front line role if he cannot communicate. AK also commented that the officer presented an immediate risk to health and safety to the public and should be removed from duty. AK continues to worry about his safety, and states that he has not received the risk assessment Taft has been done and any written confirmation of what has been done to ensure his safety.

MD: ​You state that you were in the process of helping your family out of the Vehicle was the car was empty at the time the CEO arrived?

AK: ​My son was in the car seat, he was asleep, I was in the process of getting my son out of the car seat, the engine was still running, I requested for 30 seconds to drop son off. The CEO said no you must move your car now. AK asked politely and was shocked at the response. He was mortified that an officer could be so rude. The CEO’s response was “I will do what my job says, I don’t care if you are the Prime Minister, I will still put a ticket now unless you move it”.

AK said that he worked for the council and understood the councils observation policy and said that he will raise the matter with the Head of Paid Service that the CEO was not complying with policy. AK was very disappointed with the service that tax payers were receiving.

MD:​ Where were you when you first noticed the CEO?

AK: ​I was on site by my car waiting for CEO to arrive so I could speak to him. I asked the CEO politely if he could allow 30 seconds. The CEO asked me to move or I will get a ticket and started to make notes in his Pocket Book, I told him I need to take my son in to house, I left my son with family members at the door step and came back to move my car and park correctly.

MD: ​You state that your vehicle was half in the bay with the rear wheels on the double yellow line. Could you perhaps be mistaken of the position of your car?

AK: ​My car was half in bay and half on DYL, I made a genuine attempt to park correctlyin bay and managed to get 75% of the carin the bay. AK states that it was genuine attempt to park the car, as a responsible driver he assessed the corner and believed it was adequate for emergency vehicles to pass through.

MD: ​Why was your engine still running if you could get no further into the bay?

AK: ​Because I was planning to move into another bay after dropping family members off. It was going to be a 30 second process – to literally walk 5 meters to put my son to bed and return to park try car.

AK added when during peak times, there is a shortage of parking, he has an arrangement with a friend who has a driveway off Buxton Street. There was no intention for his car to be left there for longer than 30 seconds, probably less. AK added, in his 12 year driving career he has only had received 2 tickets.

MD: ​Once you had dropped your son off inside the house and returned to your car did you say anything to the CEO?

AK: ​Yes I said I will call the council to speak Steve Halsey to clarify the policy. I asked the CEO for his name and Number herefused. I had to catch sight of his number as he was walking away towards Chicksand street.

MD: ​Did you say “you can’t issue me with a ticket? If you try it I will show you. You don’t know who I am I will make sure you lose your job”.

AK​: No, I said I know council very well andas a Labour Cllr I will never say something like that. I know very well the council policy is 5 minutes Observation time. There were no red line or kerb marks which I know is a different policy.

AK added that the CEO made comments, “I don’t care who you are, even if you are prime minister you will get a ticket”, AK was in the process of making a all to Mr. Halsey and at no point made those comments.

MD: ​What did you say to the CEO when he slammed the door against you? What was your reaction?

AK​: I was shocked and astonished; therewere scaffolding on street between him and my car. I did not think CEO will conduct himself so badly. He challenged me to put a report in to the council and that he will fight it all the way. He said he has been doing the job for 20 years andnobody has ever reported him for this kind of stuff.

MD:​ Was there any injuries sustained and if so did you seek medical attention?

AK had to rest for several days. He did not require to take time off work as he was on annual leave.

MD: ​At the time that the officer slammed the door against your arm and shoulder, you state that the car directly in front of you moved away. Did the driver of the car in front witness any of this incident?

AK:​ He must have as he was walking to thecar; there were two members of public

MD​: Why did he not assist you?

AK: ​I did not know the driver of car. There was nothing to assist even though the officer was violent and threatening – however people expect such violence from CEO’s.

MD: ​When the officer said to you “Come here tomorrow, I will kill you” were there any witnesses to this?

AK: ​CEO was on opposite side of the street my wife and mum were witness. Somalian woman who I saw next day said that she heard a parking attendant shouting although she could not hear what was said.

AK states that his wife and mother witnessed this. They were all frightened and required additional security measures applied to the property to ensure the officer cannot return.

MD: ​Did the police take statements from these witnesses?

AK​: There was no witness at the time I saw a Somalian lady the next day.

MD:​ Did the police take a statement from your wife?

AK: ​No she had gone out. They also did not ask, otherwise she would have been happy to do so.

MD:​ The officer states that you got into your car and moved it back approximately 12 inches and said “See I told you, you can’t do me”

AK:​ No, because he could have still given me a ticket if he wanted. I didn’t say anything like that. I had to move my vehicle to let other car out. The officer is desperate to make anything seem like a material point, there is nothing contradictory to the Highway Code for reversing to allow another vehicle pass. This is a nonsense point.

MD:​ Where were you when the police turned up?

AK: ​I was across the road trying to get CEO Name & Number while I was waiting for police.

MD:​ The police told you the Civil Enforcement Officer had made a counter allegation. Do you know what that was?

AK: ​Something like I was going to get a machete to kill him, this allegation was made after police informed him I made an allegation.

MD: ​Do you have a CAD or incident number from the police?

AK: ​Yes in I have it in the Car. Can you tell me what the number is? I no longer have this. Anyway this is not a matter for public perusal.

MD: ​Have you contacted the police regarding their investigation?

AK: ​No they sent email to stating not enough evidence to pursue the case. Could I possibly have a copy of the email?

M:D ​There was no mention of any witnesses in the statement made on the day to THEO THxxx

AK: ​Other than family

MD:​ You supplied the names of some witnesses and you mentioned that there was a plain cloths police officer attending to a domestic. Do you know why this officer did not intervene at the time this incident took place?

AK: ​He did not see the incident he only saw tail end of me requesting name & Number from the CEO. He didn’t give name or number so I followed him to Chicksand Street.

MD: ​Did you have conversation with Member of Public who had just received a ticket from this officer.

AK: ​No

MD: ​How did you know he was a plain cloths police officer and did you manage to get his name?

AK: he showed his card to the officers who came to restrain the violent officer. Note that the officer was running away from the incident when they arrived, police had to shout after him and run after him.

The above statement is true and made to the best of my knowledge and belief.

Signed ………………………………..Date…………………..

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It’s being said the biggest problem John Biggs is going to have in beating Lutfur Rahman this May is his skin colour. Race and accusations of racism haunt Tower Hamlets politics like nowhere else.

The allegation is chucked around like confetti by politicians who really should be guarding and upholding the meaning of the word for those who are truly victims of it.

Very often those who feel so wronged are also sadly blind to the teeny-weeny possibility it’s they who might just possibly be the racist.

But are all parties institutionally racist to some degree? That’s possible as well.

anwarTake the case of Bow West councillor Anwar Khan. I wrote about him here last month when he was finally dropped as Labour candidate for the May election. I’d previously written that would have been a shame because as a successful professional in the City, he was a role model for young Bengalis.

At that time, I wasn’t aware he was in dispute with the council he represents over a parking issue. The allegation is that Anwar abused a parking  attendant, but Anwar says it was he who was abused. There’s an ongoing investigation.

Separately, there was another parking matter in which Anwar had been raising a number of member’s enquiries to argue a case for a constituent. Cllr Carlo Gibbs, Labour’s chief whip, made reference to that to the party’s selection panel, but apparently got his facts wrong. That said, there does seem to have been some concern in Labour circle about Anwar’s temper.

I’ve also been told that Anwar was involved in some smear campaign against John Biggs last year led by a former enemy of the Labour mayoral candidate. Anwar denies that as well.

When the deselection decision came through last month, Anwar said he would maintain a dignified and noble silence. He told me he’d maintain the moral high ground and wait to fight another day. He scoffed at the suggestion he might stand as a Lutfurite or help in the mayor’s campaign. He said he would make a more detailed statement in the New Year and when I asked him about the parking issue, he said he was unable to comment.

That conversation took place on December 11.

Yesterday, he sent me a press release that he’d sent out on December 18 in which he re-iterated comments he’d made that day at a press conference he’d called in Spitalfields. He forgot to invite me.

What he did say is detailed painstakingly here. This is a straight copy and paste from his press release and it’s worth reading all of it.

Labour Councillor Anwar Khan, representing Bow West in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, confirmed at a press conference in his home ward of Spitalfields that he will not be standing in the 2014 Local Government Elections.

Councillor Anwar Khan challenged John Biggs AM, City and East to provide valid reasons for his deselection and felt that the bullying that he has been subjected to has been an injustice to the community that he has served for the last four years.

Councillor Anwar Khan raised serious questions about the integrity of the selection process. Councillor Anwar Khan attached an email that went to the Labour Party selection committee from the current serving Chief Whip, Councillor Carlo Gibbs representing the St. Peters ward.

In that email, Councillor Anwar Khan confirmed that there were false accusations and lies that influenced the decision of the committee.

Councillor Anwar Khan said “there has been a false allegation made about a parking ticket incident, which is not true. I have not received a parking ticket for about 4 years”.

He continued, “Looks like John Biggs and the Labour superiors haven’t learnt from the dodgy dossiers in 2010. We have yet another set of lies and another dodgy dossier. This certainly is a déjà vu moment, one dodgy dossier is bad enough, but two goes to show the heart of Labour politics needs be more transparent and removed of the nastiness”.

Councillor Anwar Khan said “ if that wasn’t enough, Carlo Gibbs, Johns Biggs Chief Whip, hit the nail in the head with an email suggesting that he has the power to “stitch me up” if he wanted to. The exact quote from Carlo Gibbs is “if I wanted (or still did want) to stitch you up, I could easily have given them some of the emails”.

I am disgusted and horrified that John Biggs and Carlo did not allow the course of the selection process to work and this email just proves, the selection process overseen by John Biggs wasn’t whiter than white”.

Councillor Anwar Khan also questioned, it seems odd, that John decided to deselect genuine hard working Labour Councillors in favour of defected Respect activists. He said “Hard working sitting Labour councillors and activists are ditched in favour of Respect members, this doesn’t make sense”.

See attached email evidence from Carlo Gibbs – “stitch up email” and the “dodgy email” about the parking ticket.

Councillor Khan stated that on one hand, Johns Biggs AM (also proxy Leader of Labour Group) talks about, making politics in Tower Hamlets healthier and cleaner, such as the motion agreed in council on the allegations against the Mayor on paid canvassers in the last council meeting.

Councillor Anwar Khan said “it strikes me that John Biggs is accusing others of nasty politics, when he needs to get his house in order first”. The lies and false information from the Chief Whip shows that this isn’t the case and this is certainly not healthy for the good people of Tower Hamlets.

Councillor Anwar Khan said, “what was stopping John from asking me, whether I received a parking ticket or not and why did he feel the need to use Carlo to do the dirty work and write these false emails”.

Councillor Khan also confirmed that he was given an additional interview, which was one more than everyone else, which is unfair to all those who only got one.

He said, “it looks like they have been after me and simply fishing for a reason, in the additional interview, a regional officer, who was supposed to be an observer led the questioning, I think that was quite unfair, and I am concerned that he may have been subject to information that was provided by third parties, he even said that he was only an observer and won’t do any questioning”.

He went on to say “it is also surprising that others were only interviewed once, then why was I interviewed twice.”

Anwar Khan continued “in the Whips report that was prepared by Carlo Gibbs, once again there was reference to a “disciplinary matter”, that disciplinary matter, was actually me trying to do my job as a councillor to help a resident get a parking permit. If Carlo just asked me, why I have been challenging officers, I would have given him an explanation, that it was an ongoing issue for about 4 years where the resident has been misled about his car parking permit, I have tried to help the resident and the council have been unreasonable, as the resident was lied to that his new house offered a street permit, when in actual fact it was a car free zone.

Why and how that becomes a disciplinary matter is quite beyond belief, I was just doing my job to serve my constituents, what I was elected to disciplinary matter. And how can this be a disciplinary matter, they didn’t give me a chance to explain that.

All very botched up and this isn’t the reason I came into politics, I came into politics to represent people and that’s exactly what I did. I am a community councillor, not a town hall technocrat or bureaucrat”.

Councillor Anwar Khan, said, “there have been no reasons provided to me with regards to the reasons for my deselection. I have worked hard for the people of Bow, and I am confident there is not a single complaint against me from the community. I have one of the highest member’s enquiry rates”.

Member’s enquiries are a key measure of how effectively councillors are representing their constituents. He said, that the community should decide on which Councillors are hard working and which Councillors aren’t, they should review the members enquiry numbers for themselves.

Councillor Anwar Khan said “as his Shadow Cabinet Lead for Employment, I led the policy forum on economic growth and employment in Tower Hamlets.,

John talks about helping young graduates into jobs in the City and Canary Wharf, I am a local graduate working in the City and have helped many people into jobs in Canary Wharf, then why has John deselected me, it seems to me, that as soon as they fear that someone from the Bengali community is outspoken, and can challenge John’s politics, they easiest thing to do is to remove them. Why remove someone who has achieved something that you want other young people to achieve.

– ENDS – 


1. Councillor Anwar Khan was elected in 2010 in the ward of Bow West, winning a conservative seat from Anwara Ali, a local GP.

2. Councillor Anwar Khan has lived in Tower Hamlets all his life, went to Osmani Primary School, Swanlea School. He studied in Newham Sixth Form and later achieved his undergraduate degree in Cass Business School, and has a Masters in Global Politics.

3. Councillor Anwar khan, lives in Spitalfields with his family

4. Councillor Anwar Khan works in the financial services industry in the City of London

5. Councillor Anwar Khan also served in Shadow Cabinet in all years, including holding the role of Shadow Cabinet Member for Resources and is currently the Shadow Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Regeneration and Employment.

6. Councillor Anwar Khan was the Chief Whip for the first 3 years. During his term he also served as the Chairman of the Pensions Committee.

7. Councillor Anwar Khan has been one of the longest serving Chief Whips in the Labour Group. 

A lot to take in I agree and such injustices, but I was grabbed by this line in particular:

as soon as they fear that someone from the Bengali community is outspoken, and can challenge John’s politics, they easiest thing to do is to remove them

I asked him if he genuinely believed what amounted to an allegation of racism and he said he stood by his words. He said John wanted a group he could control, people who went ‘yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir’. He said John had reacted badly when he, Anwar, challenged John’s choice for a health scrutiny role. John would dump anyone who stood up to him, he added.

And then came the poisoned arrow.

He asked how many of the current crop of Labour Bengali councillors are unemployed or “have ever had a proper job”. He said John was encouraging young people to go to university and look for a job, yet he was picking candidates who were the very opposite of that while deselecting him and Mizan Chaudhury, a professional civil servant.

So I asked a friend of his who he had in mind. Well, said this friend, look at the following:

Cllr Abdul Mukith Chunu – unemployed, serves as board member for Spitalfields housing association 

Cllr Rajib Ahmed – mini cab driver

Cllr Abdal Ullah – unemployed/ BBPower100 consultant/ President of Stepney FC/showboating councillor who does community radio

Cllr Motin Uz Zaman – long term unemployed 

Cllr Helal Abbas – Charity Outreach worker

Cllr Siraj Islam – works part time for two days a week at East London Business Alliance

Cllr Khales Uddin Ahmed – owns a restaurant in Bexley Heath

Cllr Helal Uddin – director at Bromley by Bow centre

Sanu Miah – St Peter’s candidate – long term unemployed and unsuccessful businessman

Faruk Ahmed – Whitechapel candidate – Works for Sonali Otith football club  

Cllr Shiria Khatun – community worker 

I suggested that many of these jobs, eg Rajib working as a minicab driver, meant they were more likely to be in touch with constituents than full time City professionals like Anwar. But the friend said “at least he lives in Tower Hamlets”.

There’s a few more things I could write from my discussions but I think this is enough for now!

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With the fluid movements between the various parties over the years, Tower Hamlets politics has always been a bit of an incestuous affair, but the Labour’s new slate of 45 candidates for the May 2014 council elections has taken it to a new level.

We seem to have couples, mums and sons and brothers at war everywhere. It’s like Dallas and Dynasty combined. John Biggs, the Labour puppet-master, has become JR.

The candidates were announced last night. As mentioned before, Judith Gardner has stepped down; Bill Turner has moved to Barking and Dagenham where he’s secured a candidacy for that council; Kosru Uddin and Ahmed Omer are departing; Mizan Chowdhury has been axed, as has Anwar Khan, who is in dispute with the council over an alleged fracas with a parking attendant…something he denies.

So there are many fresh and young faces, which in part reflects a determination to bring in a new generation. Robbie Scott will be interesting to watch: I don’t think he’ll shy away from confrontation.

And I’m told Amina Ali, a BBC journalist selected in Bow East, might well be a star of the future. If she’s elected of course.

Standing with her in Bow East are Cllr Marc Francis and his wife Rachel Blake.

Anwar Khan’s place in Bow West is taken by his sister-in-law, Asma Begum, who is married to Anwar’s brother, Tarik Khan, who is a lovely placid chap.

Raju Rahman, who has been selected in the new ward of Island Gardens, is also said to be a bright rising star; he’s the son of Cllr Zenith Rahman, who is married to ex-Councillor Helal Rahman.

Cllr Carlo Gibbs and Cllr Amy Whitelock Gibbs were married earlier this year.

Cllr Rachael Saunders is married to Tower Hamlets Labour chair Chris Weavers, while Cllr David Edgar is married to Lib Dem Cllr Stephanie Eaton.

It’s not just Labour, of course. Among Lutfur’s camp, Cllr Aminur Khan is married to Cllr Rabina Khan, while Cllr Rania Khan is the daughter of Cllr Lutfa Begum.

The latter two were in Respect, as was ex-Cllr Mamun Rashid, who has been selected for Labour to stand in Shadwell, where he has a big following. (Rashid and Lutfur, by the way, have past links…I was once handed a tape recording transcript of Lutfur, when he was fighting to become the Labour parliamentary candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow in 2007, calling on Allah to bless Mamun and another Respect colleague for helping him fight the eventual victor, Rushanara Ali. I must dig it out).

If you want to see all the pictures of Labour’s candidates see here, here and here.

I’ll try to find time to do some substantial analysis of the slate; if anyone has any inside info, do please email me.

In the meantime, here’s a list (Y/N signifies sitting councillor or not).


Amy Whitelock Gibbs  Bethnal Green Y Married to
Carlo Gibbs
Abdirashid Gulaid  Bethnal Green N
Sirajul Islam  Bethnal Green Y
David Chesterton  Blackwall &
Cubitt Town
Iqbal Hossain  Blackwall &
Cubitt Town
Candida Ronald  Blackwall &
Cubitt Town
Rachel Blake  Bow East N Married
to Marc Francis
Marc Francis  Bow East Y Married
to Rachel Blake
Amina Ali  Bow
Asma Begum  Bow
N Brother-in-law
of Cllr Anwar Khan/Married to Tarik Khan
Joshua Peck  Bow
Zenith Rahman  Bromley North Y Mother
of Raju Rahman
Khales Uddin Ahmed  Bromley
Danny Hassell  Bromley South N
Helal Uddin  Bromley South Y
Shahaveer Hussain  Canary Wharf N
Debbie Simone  Canary Wharf N
Raju Rahman  Island Gardens N Son
of Zenith Rahman
Andy Cregan  Island Gardens N
Rajib Ahmed  Lansbury Y
Shiria Khatun  Lansbury Y
Dave Smith  Lansbury N
Catherine Overton  Limehouse N
Rachael Saunders  Mile End Y  Married to TH Labour chair Chris Weavers
David Edgar  Mile
Y Married
to Stepanie Eaton
Motin Uz-Zaman  Mile End Y
Kahar Chowdhury  Poplar N
Mohammed Mamun Rashid  Shadwell N Was
‘married’ to George Galloway
Farhana Zaman  Shadwell N
Helal Uddin Abbas  Spitalfields &
Tarik Khan  Spitalfields &
N Brother
of Cllr Anwar Khan/Married to Asma Begum
Mohammed Ayas Miah  St. Dunstan’s N
Abdal Ullah  St.
Denise Jones  St. Katharine’s
& Wapping
Robbie Scott  St. Katharine’s
& Wapping
Clare Harrisson  St. Peter’s N
Sanu Miah  St. Peter’s N
Carlo Gibbs  St.
Y Married
to Amy Whitelock
Victoria Obaze  Stepney Green N
Sabina Akhtar  Stepney
Abdul Mukit  Weavers Y
John Pierce  Weavers Y
Faruque Ahmed  Whitechapel N
Jamalur Rahman  Whitechapel N
Robert Robinson  Whitechapel N



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I was told the Labour party selection process for next May’s Tower Hamlets council elections is currently something of a “bloodbath”.

The London region held interviews for all those who applied last weekend after which a long list was drawn up. Those who failed to make it have the right to make an appeal next weekend. After that, the party will start the tricky process of picking the 45 candidates to stand in the 20 newly drawn wards.

Labour recognise they have a problem.

I’ve been sent an internal party report that shows that of the 108 applications received, a heavily disproportionate number were from Bengali men. Only 23 women applied.

Here’s the commentary on that fact from the report (which is called ‘Equalities, Employment Status and Trade Union Analysis of the Applications received for the Tower Hamlets Panel of Local Government Candidates 2014’):

The breakdown can best be described as disappointing but not unexpected. While the membership of the Labour Party in Tower Hamlets is substantially male, the number of women applicants does not even reflect the proportion of women members, let alone the population of the borough as a whole.

The report then concludes that for LGBT and disability representation, the applications are in line with averages.

Around 60 per cent are in full time employment, some 25 per cent are part-time workers, while about seven per cent are unemployed.

Just over 50 per cent are members of trade unions, with Unite, the GMB and Unison dominating, while, according to the report:

The group with the lowest propensity to be a member of a trade union are Bangladeshi men.

On age, the majority of applicants were aged between 30 and 49, while about 20 people aged between 18 and 29 also applied.

But then we have the most interesting section of all–ethnicity.

The report first states the latest census data for the borough, that ‘whites’ comprise 53 per cent of the population; 43 per cent are classified ‘White British’. Bangladeshis are 30 per cent, Chinese 3 per cent, ‘Other Asian’ are 5 per cent, and Blacks are 7 per cent (within that Somalis are 2-3 per cent).

Here’s the breakdown of applicants:

Labour report


And here’s the report’s commentary:

It can therefore be seen from the above chart that the applications received from members of the Bangladeshi community far outstrips that of the population as a whole or indeed the percentage of the local Labour party membership.

Taking into account the disproportionate numbers of applicants from the Bangladeshi community the relative numbers of applications from other communities are reasonably representative of the ethnic make-up of Tower Hamlets.

It should, of course, be stressed that far from the numbers of Bangladeshi applications being unwelcome, the best way to achieve a range of applications would be to increase the number of applications from people of other ethnicities. Indeed the desire on the part of the Bangladeshi community to serve the community should be applauded.

It should be noted that there are no applications from other south Asian backgrounds despite there being established Pakistani, Indian and Sri Lankan communities–of which are reflected in the membership of the Labour party.

Finally, no applications were received from the Chinese community–unsurprisingly given the lack of Chinese members of the local party.

What is the significance of all this?

Well, the lack of female applicants, particularly Bengali women, has to be a real concern. The likes of Shiria Khatun have been excellent standard bearers and I know she has been working hard to encourage others to follow her lead. But while Labour has just two Bengali women (Zenith Rahman being the other), Lutfur’s much smaller group has three.

Labour’s rules mean one third of the candidates must be women, so of the 23 who applied, only eight will be disappointed. As three of the current women councillors are standing down (Carli Harper-Penman, Lesley Pavitt and Ann Jackson, as I understand it), we could well see a wave of fresh female faces in the chamber next year).

When it comes to the question of Bengali males, surely this has to be seen as a Labour success story. Their active engagement in Tower Hamlets politics has been rewarded with position and power. Those in the white and other communities have plenty to learn: those who complain about under-representation should get involved in the process.

But numbers only tell part of the story. In the past eight years I’ve covered Tower Hamlets politics, the calibre of the majority of Labour’s Bengali male councillors has been lamentable. Many have struggled to communicate in English (some of those have now been rewarded by Lutfur)–and frankly that should bar them from being a candidate.

They should be picking people who truly engage with the theme of the party’s candidate for mayor, John Biggs…One East End. When Lutfur picks his candidates for his Tower Hamlets First party, his bias towards the Bengali community will be, or should be, a source of embarrassment.

He’ll have the odd Trotskyite/SWP oddball, I’m sure, but it will be easily characterised as Tower Hamlets Bengalis First (actually, many believe that’s a vote-winner for him).

So it’s for this reason why I’m a little surprised that two of the most articulate of Labour’s Bengali councillors have failed to make the long list. I hear that Mizan Chaudhury and Anwar Khan have received rejection letters.

Mizan did make a bit of a fool of himself during his stint as Speaker, and he is a bit of a hothead, but at least he’s passionate about politics. He’d be a loss.

And Anwar, I’d have thought, is exactly the kind of councillor Labour needs: a highly educated banking accountant who is a role model of success to younger Bengalis.

I’m told both have appealed. Good luck to them.


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