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Archive for April, 2011

This story here ran on the front page of today’s Sunday Express.

In the article’s central thrust, you’ll see that Tower Hamlets Council’s East End Life has been carrying adverts for an “Islamic education centre” operated from a building at 32 New Road, Whitechapel, which is owned by Anjem Choudary’s elder brother, Yazdani.

The Centre for Islamic Services there involves Anjem. His brother has been the recipient of Government contracts worth more than £1million, I have been told.

Yazdani, who is more frequently known as Dani Choudary, has hired to work for him someone who was convicted of terror related offences in 2008. His name is Shah Jalal Hussain.

Tower Hamlets Council told me they made checks before deciding to run the adverts.

What sort of checks?

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I’ll write more about last night’s full Tower Hamlets Council meeting when I have more time, but the tensest exchanges came during a debate about the infamous character reference Mayor Lutfur Rahman gave to a crown court judge on behalf of minicab molester Zamal Uddin.

You’ll remember that after I reported on the reference here, Lutfur wrote to me to give his explanation here.

After last night’s council meeting, the East London Advertiser’s Mike Brooke, who is a former BBC journalist, asked the Mayor about the issue.

Mike reports here:

Mayor Rahman later told the Advertiser: “This man’s family tricked me. They wanted a character reference but didn’t say it was for a court case.I knew nothing about any criminal case—they switched the reference and used it in a court case.”

Yet, as Mike points out (although in the old school tradition of not crediting those considered journalistic rivals, he declines to mention the name of this “blogsite”), Lutfur told me in his letter last month:

Based on the information provided by the family I was told that the named person was in court due to a revocation of his driving licence as he was not currently insured. They made the case to me that this was an oversight and that a reference would help him to convince the judge that he be allowed to retain his licence as it was a one off mistake.

I’ve been trying to work out how the two statements can be consistent. Maybe Ken Livingstone’s former adviser Murziline Parchment, who is now Lutfur’s chief of staff and who was sitting in the public gallery last night, can help out…

 

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The East London Advertiser reports on Shelina Akhtar, the Tower Hamlets councillor who I first wrote about here. She was elected as a Labour councillor last May and was then expelled from the party after she declared her support for Lutfur Rahman’s independent Mayoral bid in October.

A serving Tower Hamlets councillor has been charged with fraud.

Shelina Akhtar, 32, of Blackwall Way, Poplar is accused of false representation and three counts of failing to notify a change of circumstances which would have affected her entitlement to benefit.

The independent councillor works for Spitalfields and Banglatown ward.

Hazera Akhtar, 21, of Glasshouse Fields, Limehouse has been charged with fraud by false representation and two counts of failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting entitlement to benefit.

They have been bailed to appear at Thames magistrates’ court on Tuesday 26 April.

It will be interesting to see if she turns up to the council meeting tomorrow evening. For legal reasons, I’m not allowing any comments on this thread. (Photo courtesy of Dan McCurry.)

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Lutfur’s taxi bill

Oh dear…despite having the DLR, the Tube and an extensive bus network, Mayor Lutfur Rahman doesn’t seem to be a fan of the public transport network that his pal Ken Livingstone so frequently boasts he improved.

The Tower Hamlets Tories have just issued the following press release which reveals that despite having to make savage public spending cuts, he’s been spending £400 a month of our money on taxis for himself.

PRESS RELEASE

Mayor of Britain’s poorest borough spends £2,191 on taxi fares

Since his election as Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman has charged the residents of Britain’s poorest borough £2,191.04 on taxi fares, according to information received by way of an enquiry, up to the end of February 2011.

Enquiries from council members show that Mayor Rahman, his deputy and two other leading members have racked up substantial taxi fares.

Black Cabs have regularly been seen outside the Tower Hamlets Council offices with Lutfur Rahman written on card and placed in thier windows. Mayor Rahman is paid £65,000 a year and owns a very smart car which he regularly used and parked at the town hall.

Councillor Peter Golds, leader of the Conservative Group has asked for furthrr details of both hirings and journeys and how much has been paid to taxis to wait outside of buildings.

Says Councillor Golds:

Administration members driving around in taxis when they have cars and the right to park in both residents bays and Civic buildings throughout the borough, is ridiculous. For a council which constantly complains about  “cuts” and has reserves of over  £68 million, why is the leadership wasting this money on taxi fares?”

Notes to Editor:-

  • Cllr Golds received a response to a formal enquiry made on March 24th and numbered 526 573 579, which confirmed from taking up office on Monday 24th October 2010 and February 28 2011 the council had paid a total of £2,191.04 for taxis for Mayor Lutfur Rahman.
  • In addition Deputy Mayor Cllr Ohid Ahmed used taxis for atotal of £102.72 and Cllr Rania Khan £138.29 and Cllr Oliur Rahman, £51.18. Both Cllrs Khan and Rahman are cabinet members.

Perhaps he just prefers being driven around so he can play with his Apple iPhone4 in the back seat?

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While the nation excites itself over the AV referendum, the Tower Hamlets Labour party will next month engage in its annual bout of first-past-the-post regicide. For as the days grow longer, that time of year is here again when the clouds descend on the incumbent leader of the borough’s most comical political group.

It was this ritual fight to the death and its frequent changes in the council leadership that persuaded many to move to a directly elected mayoral system. This year, of course, is the first since the early Nineties when Labour has found itself out of power. The winner of the party’s Annual General Meeting contest in four weeks’ time will merely be crowned Leader of the Opposition.

Since losing to Lutfur Rahman last October, current leader Helal Abbas has known his time has been up, or as he told me today: “It is time to hand over to other people and for a fresh team to lead and hold the Mayor to account.”

He is still an influential mover and shaker of course and he is till trying to get his favourites in the leading positions, more of which in a bit.

Who are the runners and riders? At present, I’m being told there are possibly four candidates: current deputy Josh Peck, finance guru David Edgar, council chairman Motin uz-Zaman, and possibly former anti-crime spokesman Abdal Ullah.

With the party still split and in turmoil about whether to readmit Lutfur, the election is being seen by some as a bellwether of its resolve. However, I’m not so sure. Lutfur’s fate in that regard is linked more to Ken Livingstone’s potential future at City Hall next year. (Indeed, Ken also needs Lutfur’s connections to the East London Mosque and the criminal linked Channel S television station – this is one of the reasons why so many of Ken’s cronies have taken up roles in the charmless world of Mulberry Place.)

So who will emerge triumphant next month? Josh is considered the front-runner; David has a strong chance; Motin can de discounted completely; and Abdal is trying to play a kingmaker’s game. Fourteen votes are needed and it’s all about deals, innit.

Josh, who is firmly opposed to Lutfur’s readmission, is said to have the support of the likes of Rachael Saunders, Carli Harper-Penman, Denise Jones and five others.

I hear that Abdal believes he has the support of the seven rebels who broke the party whip at the council budget meeting last month (Shahed Ali, Rofique Ahmed, Marc Francis, Shafiqul Haque, Kabir Ahmed, Ahmed Omer and Abdul Asad were all told by regional party boss last week that any more rebellions would be curtains, by the way).

David’s position is more intriguing. Formerly known as one of those closest to ex-leader Michael Keith, he avoided four years of poison having cleverly lost his seat in 2006. He can therefore afford to be more open-minded about Lutfur’s future and straddle two camps…but is more compromise what Labour needs?

Curiously, it is the position of deputy leader that is actually the more crucial in this election. With most believing that either Josh or David will win, it is a certainty that both will want a Bengali as their number two. Shiria Khatun, who has managed to get herself selected as a GLA candidate in Tory Havering and Redbridge, has all but declared her hand. She craves the position and Abbas told me tonight that she “would make an excellent deputy”. It is thought she could team up with Josh Peck and form what they think would be the dream ticket.

Abdal Ullah, meanwhile, who also wants to run for the GLA, would also, I’m sure, want to join the group’s top team. My guess is that he will back David Edgar and that could well trump the dream.

Thank goodness for Labour, eh: what would we do without their silly games?

UPDATE – Friday, April 9, 9am

A councillor has pointed out to me that Abdal Ullah of course avoided having to make the tricky decision of voting with or against the party whip at the council budget meeting because he was ill that night. To be fair to Abdal, he has never broken the whip and that enhances his chances of getting on the GLA list. Another councillor, this time one from his own party, also tells me that Abdal was also absent, presumed ill, from last week’s showdown with Ken Clark and Len Duvall. “They seek him here…..”…

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