First Labour (via Josh Peck) and now the Tories. Tower Hamlets Opposition leader Peter Golds has raised his concerns about Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s plan to divert £3m of a £3.7m emergency Whitehall grant to the council’s reserves.
He has written to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, calling on him to withhold the grant if Lutfur presses ahed with his policy. No doubt, Peter would have consulted Eric’s office before penning his letter, so the reply will be interesting.
(To put in the boot, Peter also highlights in his letter the council’s previous decisions to spend £42,000 hiring celebrities for staff award ceremonies – as broken here on Saturday.)
Dear Secretary of State
Re: Government Settlement for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Obviously the reduced grant to local authorities will cause difficulties for administrations. My group has worked hard to identify savings that can be made in this borough and that will not impact on front line services to residents.
My group is impressed that your department, having assessed the very special needs of an authority like Tower Hamlets, has awarded a “Special Transition Grant” of £3.7 million. We would be surprised if the Mayor or his administration were to publicise this fact, or reign in vanity expenditure such as the council’s weekly newspaper.
In fact the Mayor amazingly on a brief provided by officers stated that certain local authorities were receiving increased grants, he named West Oxfordshire and Tunbridge Wells, for partisan purposes. I have checked the public information and intend to correct him on this subject.
However, buried within his budget proposals to be agreed by council is the interesting plan to divert £3 million to reserves. Our current reserves are within the “prudent range” and therefore existing reserves are more than sufficient and certainly do not need to be increased.
It is generally thought that the transitional grant will be mainly saved, and probably used, if the current year is an example, to make grants to certain favoured “third sector organisations”
We believe that this grant is to maintain front line services such as children’s centres and care for the elderly, which are threatened with reduction of funds.
Thanks to Freedom of Information we have uncovered extraordinary expenditure by a “cash strapped” and “poor” authority. Namely the hiring at considerable expense for personalities at internal council events as can be seen from the chart below.
DATE CELEBRITY EVENT FEE Jul-05 Athlete - Kris Akabusi Support Staff Conference £3,000 Nov-06 Swimmer - Sharron Davis Annual Staff Awards £6,000 Nov-07 Athlete – Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson Annual Staff Awards £7,500 Nov-08 Actor - Barbara Windsor Annual Staff Awards £13,000 Jun-09 Businesswoman - Camila Batmanghelidjh Workforce Development Conference £1,000 Nov-09 Comedian - Shappi Khorsandi Annual Staff Awards £8,050 Jun-10 Esther Rantzen Children’s Workforce Development Conference £4,000
If the Mayor persists in this misguided policy of using the Transitional Grant to bolster reserves then we would request the Grant be withheld until the Mayor confirms that it will be used for the purpose intended
Councillor Peter Golds
Blackwall and Cubitt Town Ward
No public funds have been used in the postage of this communication