I wrote here in February that Lutfur Rahman had authorised a search for a permanent chief executive of Tower Hamlets council, a position that would pay up to £194,000 a year. The position is currently held on an interim basis by former regeneration director Aman Dalvi.
After two months of searching, the council’s appointments committee was due to choose their favoured candidate from a shortlist of three on Monday.
But as with everything in the dysfunctional borough of Tower Hamlets, there is a problem with the process….and a touch of race.
Aman, who is on the shortlist along with two white men, the chief executive of another London borough and the boss of a large unitary authority in the south east of England (I know who both are but I think it’s only fair to them that their names remain confidential), is Lutfur’s favoured candidate. And, of course, this is a double-edged sword.
I’m told by several councillors he’s been doing a good job, that he’s been known to stand up to Lutfur and that they’d be happy for him to carry on. However, others believe he is too close to the Mayor and that a clean pair of hands is needed.
The position is the gift of the full council, so the process is this: a sub-committee of the Appointments Panel makes a recommendation to full council which then essentially rubber-stamps that recommendation. As such it is highly desirable for the sub-committee to reach a consensus.
But on Monday, that didn’t happen. The sub-committee was made up of Lutfur
, two of and one of his independents, Oli Rahman and deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed, Labour councillors Judith Gardiner and Motin uz-Zaman, and Tory member Gloria Thienel.
Labour leader Josh Peck, who I think was against Aman’s appointment, was meant to be on the committee but he was advised at the last minute by council legal chief Isabella Freeman that he ought to withdraw. More on that another time.
I don’t know how the vote split but I suspect Lutfur, Oli and Ohid plumped for Aman, while the two Labour councillors were against. It’s quite possible that Gloria would also have gone for Aman.
So what happens next? Well, because it is a council appointment, the three names will go to the next council meeting on May 16. In theory, councillors could vote from the shortlist of three but that would be highly risky because no incoming chief executive would want to take up the position knowing the council was split on the matter.
So it’s probable that councillors will simply move to extend Aman’s interim appointment by six months or so while their colleagues continue to squabble….and keep the headhunters in business.
Personally, I think it’s incredible anyone wants to come here with all this going on.
UPDATE, Saturday, April 28 10.30am
For the avoidance of any doubt, when I said “I think” Josh was against Aman’s appointment, I meant “I think”, it is my speculation (largely based on the fact that Aman is Lutfur’s favourite) and it is not something Josh has mentioned to me. I’ve not had any conversation with him about the recruitment process.