Well, there’s more to this crane and banner than meets the eye, it seems. Much more. I haven’t witnessed it myself yet but I’m told Tower Hamlets council has now done a U-turn and removed the banner from the crane because the owner popped up and threatened legal action. There is also a second banner on the gates of the Bangla City cash and carry that I understand will also be removed fairly sharpish.
On that second banner, I’ve been sent a fascinating email exchange between a Helal Rahman and a certain Chris Payne. I’ll reproduce it here in chronological order.
May 17, 6.58pm
Thank you for your email. The banner has already been installed and it is quite nice except the picture of the Mayor which resembles likes a piece of propaganda manifesto from a third world country. If we were aware that this picture was going to play such a prominent feature in the banner, we would have never agreed for this to be hung on our gate. This does not give a good image of the council’s cultural activities, as this is not the norm of an average council in the UK.
I hope that you understand our disappointment.
May 18, 11.40am
Thank you for your email below and I am pleased that you like the banner, though I do note your reservation regarding the image of the Mayor.
I have copied this reply to Takki Sulaiman, Head of Communications for London Borough of Tower Hamlets so he can register your disappointment.
May 22, 4.38pm
Thank you for your response. My partners have expressed their strong feelings against the current banner and would like to request you to either replace it with the copy that you initially sent to us or for you to take it away completely. We have no problems with the previous image which was proposed to us and feel disappointed that we were deceived such manner.
If you decide to change the banner to the original image please do it as soon as possible otherwise we would like you to remove it within three working days.
May 22, 5.08pm
Thank you for your email below, and I am pleased to be able to tell you that we will arrange for the removal of the Curry Capital banners with the Mayor’s image and replace them with banners without his image. We will do this as soon as possible, I am issuing instructions immediately after this email.
We will do our utmost to have this done as quickly as possible though please do bear with me on this.
What do we learn from this? Helal Rahman is, I’m told, the former Labour councillor who owns the Bangla City cash and carry. He had been approached by Chris Payne about installing a banner advertising the area as the Carry Capital 2012. Chris showed him a design that had no photo of the mayor and he agreed to it.
However, some time later, the Lutfur logo banner was installed, and to say it caused a degree of outrage is an understatement.
So who is Chris Payne? Well, longstanding readers of this blog and my former column in the East London Advertiser will know him as the advertising manager for the council’s East End Life newspaper. At one point he actually headed up the council’s communications department.
The last time I saw him was last October at the Curry Life Chef of the Year Awards where the likes of Eric Pickles and other MPs were guests. It was a Sunday evening and at the time I did think it odd he was there. Having spoken to him this morning, I now know why. He left the council last September and a month later established his new company, Fortuna Associates.
What does Fortuna do, I asked him. “It’s a consultancy specialising in income generation with public and private sector clients.” Advertising, then? “Yes. Raising money from advertising, marketing, sales and sponsorship opportunities.”
Was he commissioned by the council to work on the banner? “Yes, and for anything else on that, you need to speak to Takki Sulaiman. I’ve been working on this project since March.”
So he leaves the council, sets up his own consultancy and then starts touting for business from his former East End Life advertising clients in Brick Lane, and then five months later secures a deal to publicise the mayor from his former boss, Takki Sulaiman.
Chris told me no rules have been broken. I’ve asked the Department for Communities and Local Government for those rules. I’ve also asked the council how Chris’s contract was advertised and whether it was a tender.
It would also be interesting to know the value of that contract, why the photo of Lutfur was added to the banner, and how much it has cost the council to install and then take down,
Why is our council so consistently incompetent?