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Archive for January, 2013

If medals were awarded for networking in Tower Hamlets politics, Labour’s Abdal Ullah would walk away with all the gold on offer in Dubai.

A former member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, he was elected to the council in 2006 and immediately became the borough’s Grand Chief of anti-crime, a post he held until Lutfur Rahman became mayor in 2010. Since then he’s been busying himself on his other great passion: finding a seat in Westminster.

Partly to that end, he established the Labour Faith Network, which has the backing of his former tutor Lord Glasman, in the past couple of years he has helped publish the British Bangladeshi 100. This list of 100 influential business people, politicians, celebrities and others in a celebration of the influence and success of the Bengali community in Britain.

The list, which was unveiled at a reception attended by Theresa May and Chukka Umanna last week, makes for fascinating reading. It’s not numbered so it avoids the squabbles of ranking, although it’s fair to say that Lutfur has been placed literally above Rushanara Ali for a reason.

I’m particularly interested in the Channel S entry, but more on that another time.

It’s slightly off-topic for this blog, but my other half, if I can risk labelling her so, has been engrossed in it…and wondering how to make the break-through next year.

So here it is in all its glory. It’s probably worth opening up the entire pdf via this link..Booklet-BBPower100-20132

Booklet-BBPower100-2013 1 Booklet-BBPower100-20132 Booklet-BBPower100-20134 Booklet-BBPower100-20135 Booklet-BBPower100-20136

 

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When the first video about the so-called Muslim Patrols in Whitechapel emerged on The Commentator website last week, I had, as the media began to latch on to it, the uncomfortable experience of for once tending to agree with Bob Pitt of Islamophobia Watch. His thrust was that it was being blown out of all proportion, something that would only serve to inflame the far right.

In criticising a MailOnline piece, he had this particularly nice line:

Their behaviour was no doubt upsetting for the people they targeted, and hopefully they will be identified and charged with harassment, but if a couple of prats pulling a single Candid Camera type stunt constitutes a serious attempt by Islamist extremists to “control London streets” then words have lost all meaning.

But then he went and blew it. In the same paragraph, he criticised the Mail for linking the “patrol” to Anjem Choudary:

Nor is there a “gang” harassing the citizens of Tower Hamlets over their alcohol drinking or way of dressing. As Richard Bartholomew has pointed out, the “patrol” appears to consist of just two individuals, one of whom is holding the mobile phone with which the video is taken. There is moreover no evidence that they are connected to Choudary’s minuscule band of nutters or indeed that they are part of any “extremist network” at all.

Well, there was: the video featured a “no alcohol” poster used by Anjem’s group. Bob Pitt likes to rant against journalists but maybe he should act like one sometimes. He could have contacted Anjem to ask if he was involved.

I did. I asked Anjem on Tuesday, after The Commentator published the second, homophobic video, whether he knew the group. Yes, he said, and then he willingly gave me the phone number for one of them. I called it but couldn’t get through. It may well have belonged to one of the pair arrested that day.

But then tonight, Sky News has been leading its bulletins on this story, so maybe Pitt was right after all. Is/was there a gang marauding Whitechapel as we’re being told? The police today published a photo of the man being taunted in the homophobic video. They’ve appealed for him to come forward. But it’s rare for them to do that: victims are normally protected from the public glare.

And also this evening, someone has alerted me to an article about all this on the Pink News website. It’s written by an old friend of mine…Wais Islam. He’s styled himself with his usual titles, harking back to his former glory days, ‘former’ being the operative word: “Former Labour councillor and the First Tower Hamlets Olympic Ambassador”. Quite why he feels the need to cite his former Olympic non-but-well-paid job in an article about religious tolerance is anyone’s guess. Delusions of grandeur perhaps?

And quite why the Pink News commissioned a piece from him on inflammatory and abusive language is also baffling. I suppose he does have some experience of it. I hope he’s not trying to weasel his way back into the Labour councillor fold. If so, it’s worth reminding everyone of his anti-Jewish take on my surname a couple of years ago. He said then he was taking a break from politics. Frankly, it should have been permanent.

Anyway, here’s his rather strange article in the Pink News (there’s not much in it about homophobia, I must say.)

In light of recent events in east London, Wais Islam, a former Tower Hamlets Labour councillor, says it’s important to remember the area belongs to people of all ethnicities, sexual orientations and religions.

As a British Muslim I strongly condemn the vigilante patrol group that has caused national outrage by making a video in which they harass non-Muslims with homophobic remarks and by forcing them to throw away their alcoholic drinks on the street as well as calling Whitechapel a Muslim area. I am against the idea of calling the group a Muslim patrol because they do not represent us in any form or with any approval. As a former Labour councillor for Whitechapel Ward and first Tower Hamlets Olympic Ambassador, I found the cowardly actions of these individuals to be totally against the principles of Islam as our Lord, Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an “let there be no compulsion in religion”.

Such an extremely small minority of abusive youngsters who have no understanding of Islam are simply unrepresentative of the Muslim community. I grew up in Whitechapel and it belongs to people of all ethnicities, cultural orientations and religions. It has more alcohol outlets including bars, restaurants and pubs as well as off licenses than much of Kensington and Chelsea and three mosques only! Whilst there is a large Muslim population in the area living primarily in social housing the majority of residents are non-Muslims, especially with the influx of working people and students. This gentrification does not define it as a Muslim area.

These are anecdotal incidents that are not tolerated by Muslims in the UK and we urge the media not to sensationalise it by giving these vigilante groups too much publicity because their views are neither representative of Muslims in general or Islam which advocates peace and tolerance for the entire humanity. Muslims ruled Spain for over 700 years where Christians and Jews were allowed to live harmoniously side by side and flourish in society. British Muslims are active citizens in British society and condemn such harassment by any vigilante group in the name of Islam. Local religious institutions have condemned it too, not all are mentioned in the press.

What must happen now is that London councils should encourage greater community cohesion amongst disaffected young people of all ethnicities. Tower Hamlets council should demonstrate greater commitment to the One Tower Hamlets community theme. For that to happen, some sort of Youth Cohesion initiative should be launched for Muslim and non-Muslim youths (or Christian and non-Christian youths) to integrate or assimilate more through social and educational activities while preserving their cultural values. Equally, adults should be encouraged to socialise through, say, tea sessions with others from different ethnic backgrounds. Islam has no ethnic barriers so the indigenous white non-Muslims and Bangladeshis and Somalis should mix more in Tower Hamlets.

To avoid the danger of isolating Muslim children from mainstream society and future employment, some Muslim parents should also consider the impact of religious schools (and white parents those of the new free schools) in the borough and how they influence social exclusion for innocent children who should otherwise thrive in secular Britain in terms of economic and academic prosperity.

This incident calls for greater debate on things like whether employers in Canary Wharf are doing enough to recruit local unemployed youth many of whom happen to be Muslim and often feel deliberately ostracised by the glass ceilings created by bureaucracies also in the City of London. Perhaps it is a feeling of isolation that these homophobic, although anecdotal, incidents keep happening which is why it is important to engage Muslim youth in mainstream society. We all have a moral duty towards creating Britain a more multicultural and liberal society where individual orientations are respected by people of all ethnicities and religious and non-religious backgrounds.

As Christianity and Islam are arguably the only two religions in the world that share the same Amen after the Lord’s prayer or supplications for God’s acceptance there’s absolutely no reason why members of both communities cannot continue to live side by side simply because a couple of bigots insult people in East End streets like the EDL because of their perceived ethnic and religious backgrounds. Local residents are saying they want to see Tower Hamlets Enforcement Officers, THEOs, in the area, not ‘theos’!

Wais Islam is a former Tower Hamlets Labour councillor and 2012 Olympic Ambassador.

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There are some press releases that take your breath away; some in a good way, some bad. The following falls into the former category.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Councillor Joshua Peck announces he won’t seek selection to be Labour Mayoral candidate in Tower Hamlets and endorses John Biggs

Labour Group Leader Councillor Joshua Peck announced today (Sunday) that he would not be seeking the nomination of the local party to be its Mayoral candidate in the 2014 election, and would stand down as Labour Group Leader as soon as a candidate is selected in April. 

Cllr Peck said he was standing down because he and his partner Laurence had just been approved to adopt a child and he would need to focus on this for the foreseeable future, leaving him unable to put in long hours as Leader of Group and a potential candidate for Mayor.

He said he was proud of his two years as Leader of the Labour Group, and listed campaigns to save Rushmead One Stop Shop from closure and to prevent deep cuts to the borough’s advice centres, as well as ensuring the expulsion of Labour councillors who had repeatedly broken the whip, amongst successes.

In doing so, he endorsed local GLA Member John Biggs as his preferred choice to be the Mayoral candidate, saying that he had the experience, the integrity and the record of public service to win the election and govern the borough for all of its residents.

He confirmed he would continue to serve as a backbench councillor for Bow West.

His full statement read: 

“I won’t be seeking the Labour Party nomination to be its candidate for the Mayoral election in 2014 and will stand down as Group Leader as soon as a candidate has been selected by members.

“I have taken the decision for the best of reasons: my partner Laurence and I have just been approved to adopt a child and I need to be able to give that my full time and energy.

“I am immensely proud of what we’ve achieved as a Labour Group in my two years as Leader. From running campaigns that saved Rushmead One-Stop-Shop from closure and forced the Mayor to back-track on swingeing cuts to the Borough’s vital advice services, to hosting job skills training sessions, we have demonstrated time and again that even in opposition Labour makes a positive difference to people’s lives in Tower Hamlets.

“We have been able to make sure that people are aware of how Tower Hamlets is now run – a dysfunctional administration that seeks to serve its associates and cronies above others, divides our community with communitarian politics, and mismanages the council’s finances to the point where there is now a £44million black hole in the budget.  

“I said when I was elected Leader in 2011 that there would be no place for councillors who believed that they could switch between parties for their own personal gain. I am pleased that the Party delivered on that promise, expelling councillors who had chosen to serve in an Independent Mayor’s cabinet rather than work with the party that got them elected. I hope that sends a clear message that, unless people have an abiding commitment to our party and our values, they shouldn’t consider trying to stand as a Labour Party candidate. 

“It’s now time for us to focus on electing the very best candidate we can to win in 2014. I will be backing John Biggs, our GLA member, who I have known and worked alongside for over 15 years. He is by far the most experienced candidate, with a track record of delivering success for the party, for example in winning the Council back from the LIberal Democrats, in fighting the BNP and in a whole range of housing and transport campaigns. He also has a strong record of serving the people of our borough with total integrity and commitment, in a way that has built respect for him across our community. I am clear that he is the strongest candidate, which is why I will be supporting him. 

“I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me within and outside the Party for the last two years. The 26 councillors I have worked with are a talented, dedicated and determined group of people without whom our borough would be all the poorer. Council officers in Tower Hamlets do incredible things under enormous political pressure – I have huge respect for those of them who manage to resist that pressure and maintain their integrity. I know it’s not easy and I hope they know that it won’t always be like this. 

“Labour is here to serve the residents of our borough as they face incredibly tough times. I look forward to supporting our chosen candidate as a backbench councillor and working hard to ensure that they are elected in 2014.”

Massive congratulations to Josh and Laurence. I’m told the adoption process, which has taken place outside Tower Hamlets, has happened relatively quickly and much faster than both thought. On that level, the timing in terms of local politics isn’t ideal. Josh has done a good job in difficult circumstances and I think he’ll probably enjoy a stint on the back benches, which will be an alien place for him (he joined Denise Jones’s cabinet immediately after being elected as a councillor in May 2006).

So where does this leave Labour? They have two major decisions to make in the next four months: who will be their mayoral candidate and who will lead the group.

As I wrote in my last post, the closing date for applications is February 22 and the local party membership will vote on a shortlist on April 4. About a month later, the Labour councillors will sit down to elect a new leader.

On the mayoral issue, while selection contests are always described at the outset as “healthy”, the reality is they rarely are. After the shambles and poison of last time, what a signal the party would be sending out if its leading figures, including potential candidates (John Biggs, Rachael Saunders, Helal Abbas, Motin uz-Zaman, David Edgar), were able to settle on one unifying figure before any contest. In that world, John Biggs could be the only choice, a man who is respected across all sides.

However, in the real world that’s not going to happen. Politics is about positioning for the next job, and selection contests are ideal arenas in which to raise one’s profile and tap on the door of power.

Clearly, the mayoral selection vote will have implications for the group leadership contest. If one of Cllrs Saunders, Abbas, uz-Zaman or Edgar were to win, it would be amazing if they then weren’t voted as group leader.

But what if John Biggs wins? He’s not a councillor so he couldn’t lead the group, but he could attend all its meetings as the overall boss leaving the council chamber work to nominated deputy/caretaker leader. He’d have a difficult decision to make at that stage, with his choice probably having to satisfy the Bengali/white/male/female paradigm.

Shiria Khatun has been unusually quiet recently…

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The mayoral elections may be more than 15 months away but the starting gun has been fired in the race to be Labour’s candidate for May 2014. Actually, ever since Lutfur Rahman pummelled Labour in the October 2010 polls, the party has been wondering how to stop him the second time around.

Labour pitbull John Biggs is seen by many as the front runner, and he’s desperate for a shot at one last big job in London politics, but he is likely to have two main rivals.

Helal Abbas, who disappointed last time round, has has been sounding members out for another stab at it; politics being politics, of course, Abbas has heard a lot of people saying, “Yes, go for it–I’ll back you… .” Even Shiraj Haque, the millionaire housing association tenant who backed Lutfur with cash, insults and smears against Abbas in 2010 has been encouraging his former foe after falling out with the Mayor.

And then there are some who think that Mile End East councillor Rachael Saunders will have a go. I hope she does: she’s an excellent networker who has done a superb job of promoting young people, particularly young women, to get involved in Tower Hamlets politics.

The Labour group leader, Josh Peck, is also being encouraged to put himself forward, but I suspect he’d see the mayoralty as a possible block on a Westminster career.

And then there those who want to see Lutfur become the Labour candidate.

One of those is Ken Livingstone, and at a meeting of the Organisational sub-committee of the party’s National Executive Committee today, the emphasis was very much on the word ‘one’. I understand that during an agenda item to set the timetable for the selection of Labour’s mayoral candidate in Tower Hamlets, Ken suggested a delay to give Lutfur a chance of getting re-admitted. Former NEC member Luke Akehurst reported on Twitter tonight that Ken was in a “minority of one”. I understand this committee comprises 28 of the 33 NEC members and that even Dennis Skinner laughed Ken’s proposal out of the room. (Lutfur’s ally from 2010, Christine Shawcroft, does not apparently sit on the committee.)

Instead, they agreed the following dates:

February 22: closing date for applications

March 4: interviews for shortlist by a panel that will also decide how many are shortlised.

April 4: polling of Tower Hamlets party membership.

The Labour membership list has been fixed as six months before January 15, ie July 15, 2012.

So all this leaves Lutfur very much in the cold again but because he controls the levers of power and money, he’s in a strong position. His latest wheeze, reported by the East London Advertiser here, is the creation of 17 “community champion coordinators” who will be selected to manage pots of £10,000 in each of the 17 wards, every one of them earmarked for “community projects”. Whether this is another localised vote-buying operation in the run up to May 2014 is yet to be seen: we need to know who these champions will be and how and by whom they will be selected.

The explanation of all this was included in a letter from Lutfur today. I’ve copied the text of it below, but I would just draw your attention to the sixth paragraph, which reveals the curious evolution of Lutfur the mere council leader in the early part of 2010 to Our Mayor and Dear Leader in 2013. Yes, we taxpayers in Tower Hamlets are now his citizens…Hail to the Chief! (Hat tip, Peter Golds)

Dear Sir/Madam,

In May of 2012 I wrote updating you on our Local Strategic Partnership, outlining the changes we made in order to meet the new economic climate and the changing brief from the government.  In the letter I made assurances to update you further on our new local governance structures once these were formulated further.

Over the latter half of 2012 we have been working hard to develop a local structure that is truly bottom up and provides our residents with a genuine community offer.  I am delighted now to be able to provide you with further detail on these developments.

A true community offer has to be more than words on a plan and has to have buy-in from residents and service providers, to enable us all to be strong now and for the future. The focus on the new structures has been on “local”, trying to think more deeply about what is meaningful to those that live here; the boundary that encompasses local schools, places of worship, the physical environment where people live, work and play in and a place that is meaningful to their daily lives.  As well as the place it is important to consider how those places work for our residents as cohesive communities in which we deliver the very best public services.  The new structures will create a greater ability to tailor services to the particular needs of a local area, with clearer criteria for prioritising services in the context of reduced spending and more services run by residents on behalf of residents, creating community ownership.

Today I am delighted to be launching the Mayor’s Community Champion Coordinators as part of our launch of the Local Community Ward Forums (LCWFs). There will be 17 Local Community Ward Forums – one in each of the borough’s wards – which will replace the 8 Local Area Partnership Steering Groups.

Each LCWF will be meeting 3 times per year.  These meetings will be public meetings which are open to all residents and run by residents.

The overarching aim of the new structure is to create a new relationship of accountability; this is both greater accountability with myself and my citizens of Tower Hamlets and between the citizens and their public service providers.  The first meeting will be for local residents to set local priorities, the second to co-produce solutions against those priorities and commission activity, and the third meeting will be to check the outcomes of these priorities and activities.  The community offer is about doing things differently; the responsibility on the residents is to be active participants and for public service providers to respond effectively.

The LCWFs will be co-ordinated by local Community Champion Coordinators who will act as local organisers for their communities.  Unlike elected members they will not represent their communities but be active community facilitators with a passion for creating change and prosperity for their communities.  We were very successful in recruiting over 100 volunteers for the Olympics over the summer and these residents played a critical role in ensuring a smooth games time for our borough, welcoming visitors and showing the passion we have for Tower Hamlets. In December 2012 we were delighted to receive the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award 2012 for our Olympic and Paralympic Community Champions, a great recognition of their efforts and hard work.  I have every confidence that we will recruit further volunteers to become Community Champion Coordinators to support our local structures.  If you would like further information on how to apply to become a Coordinator or are interested in getting a better idea of the role then please visit www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/volunteer.

The public sector has to make extraordinary levels of savings and there is no better time than now to ensure that our citizens are not only empowered but given the support to take more control and grow their own ideas and solutions to local problems.  With this in mind I am extremely delighted to be able to announce that every one of the 17 LCWFs will receive a local budget of at least £10k that will support residents to commission activity in the LCWFs through Participatory Budgeting.  This is closely linked into our desire to co-produce local solutions to local issues.  Local people know best what their own areas need and often have fantastic ideas about how to shape where they live.  By giving funding to local people, I hope that we’ll build a better borough for everyone.

In April 2013 we hope to be able to host the first of our Local Community Ward Forums and I welcome your support in making this a great success for Tower Hamlets.

Yours sincerely,

Lutfur Rahman

Mayor of Tower Hamlets

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The next monthly cat fight that is the full meeting of Tower Hamlets council takes place a week tomorrow. While the agenda isn’t yet available, the most significant part of the proceedings are likely to happen after the press and public have been excluded when our fine elected representatives discuss the most vexed question of who to appoint as Head of Paid Service.

I understand that the Local Government Association have a “heavy hitter” in mind to recommend should councillors find the problem to difficult to solve themselves. This heavy hitter would then be able to embark on the not unimportant quest to find a new finance director in these uncertain times. And also a new children’s and adult services director, of course, after the “first class” Isobel Cattermole cashes in her rather large retirement package in a couple of months’ time.

We’ll learn what we mere taxpaying mortals are allowed to witness in the open part of the meeting in the next few days, but in the meantime, to give you a flavour, I thought you’d like to see the questions and motions that the Conservative group has submitted.

While it is good to see that rare event in Tower Hamlets of a Tory on attack on Labour, I particularly like their two motions on housing associations. One calls for these “social landlords” to be subjected to the Freedom of Information Act, while the other wants an end to tenancies granted to people earning more than £80,000 a year. Now, whoever could they mean?

 

Tower Hamlets Conservative Group

Questions and Motions submitted to

Council Meeting; 23 January 2013

 

Questions

 

Cllr Peter Golds

In 2011 the Parliament approved the “Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity”. Tower Hamlets Council has chosen to ignore this code, in particular by continuing to publish East End Life at cost to the taxpayer.

The Government has announced that to ensure compliance of the Code of Recommended Practice legislation to is to be introduced which will empower the Secretary of State to make a direction requiring compliance with some or all of the Publicity Code’s recommendations.

Will the Mayor announce when he proposes to cease publication of East End Life, which contravenes the Code?

Cllr Zara Davis

What action has been taken by the Council to prevent Tunnel Runs occurring in the Westferry Circus underground roundabout, since the meeting between the Council and Police on 5th December?

Cllr Tim Archer

Will the Mayor outline what meetings he has had with London City Airport and who he has nominated to serve on the Consultative Committee to alleviate the problems faced by Isle of Dogs residents as a result of noise pollution from flights from the increased flights from London City Airport?

Cllr Dr Emma Jones

What is the Mayor doing to improve the lighting and remove the overgrown shrubbery in Wapping Woods?

Cllr David Snowdon

What steps is the Mayor taking to fix the potholes on the roads of the Isle of Dogs?

Cllr Craig Aston

In view of the interest by the Mayor in the career of George Lansbury, is the Mayor aware that when George Lansbury was inaugurated as Mayor of Poplar in both 1919 and 1937 the ceremony took place at Poplar Town Hall, Poplar High Street, which was also the venue for the meeting in which Poplar Council resolved not to levy the LCC and Metropolitan Police precepts, which resulted in the Local Authorities (Equalization) Act of 1921.

Therefore, would the Mayor explain to the public why he authorised the sale of this historic building at a low price to purchasers with close connections to him and his administration?

Cllr Gloria Thienel

What advice did the Mayor receive in regards to the ownership of the Henry Moore sculpture ‘The Draped Seated Woman’ prior to his aborted attempt to sell it?

 

Motions January 2013

 

Motion On Tower Hamlets Cultural Heritage

Proposed By: Cllr Peter Golds

Seconded By: Cllr Tim Archer 

 

This Council Notes:

  • That in 1962 Henry Moore sold to the former London County Council his bronze work of art, The Draped Seated Woman, which was presented to the people of Stepney and located in the Stifford Estate and became popularly known to residents as ‘Old Flo.’
  • That the sculpture passed to the former Greater London Council on April 1st 1965 and upon the abolition of the Greater London Council in 1986, it passed to the London Residuary Body.
  • That following the winding up of the London Residuary Body, assets were distributed for care amongst the 32 London Boroughs and the Drape Seated Woman was passed into the care of the London Borough of Bromley.
  • That in 1997 ‘Old Flo’ was moved by Tower Hamlets Council to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
  • That in 2010 Councillor Tim Archer undertook a survey amongst residents as to the future of the sculpture with the alternatives of selling the sculpture or bringing it back to Tower Hamlets. As a result of this survey, a Council Meeting in 2010 the Council unanimously agreed a motion proposed by Cllr Archer to return the sculpture to Tower Hamlets and display it for the benefit of all local residents.
  • That Mayor Rahman attempted to sell the statue, without consulting the people of this Borough or fully establishing the ownership, thereby placing the world renowned Auction House, Christies, in a potential legal minefield.
  • That the sculpture, following the winding up of the London Residuary Body, is in the care of the London Borough of Bromley
  • That the London Borough of Bromley wish the sculpture be returned to London and located in the Docklands Museum so it is available for all Londoners to experience.

This Council Further Notes:

  • The poor advice the Mayor and Cabinet received in their decision to sell the sculpture.

This Council Resolves:

  • To confirm to Christies that the sculpture is not available for sale due it not legally being owned by Tower Hamlets Council.
  • To undertake an Independent investigation as to the legal and ownership advice provided to the administration. That this investigation should examine all internal and external advice submitted to the administration and following this investigation, provide the Council with proposals to ensure that such a situation does not arise again.

 

Motion on Benefit Cap 

Proposed by: Cllr Tim Archer

Seconded by: Cllr David Snowdon

 

This Council Notes:

1 in every 3 pounds raised in taxes by the Government is spent on Welfare

That more money is spent on Welfare than the Defence, Education and Health budgets put together.

That the Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary told the London School of Economics in 2012;

“We are the Labour Party. The party that said idleness is an evil. The Party of workers, not shirkers”

Mr Byrne also told the Labour Party Conference in 2011;

“Many people on the doorstep at the last election felt that too often we were for shirkers, not workers”

The last Labour Government left a deficit of £170 billion and over a trillion pounds worth of national debt, and Liam Byrne MP, left a note at the Treasury for his successor which stated;

“Dear Chief Secretary,

I am afraid to tell you, there is no money left.”

Over the past 5 years those living on out of work benefits have seen their income increase by 20% while those in work have seen their income increase by just 12%.

This Council Believes:

That the Coalition Government were right to cap benefit rises at 1% for the next 3 years in line with public sector workers pay.

That the Coalition Government are right to get our public finances and deficit under control following the financial mess the last Labour Government left.

This council supports Liam Byrne’s speeches of 2011 and 2012 regarding welfare, as quoted above.

This Council Resolves:

To support the Government in their steps to help people get back to work.

To support the Government’s 1% up-rating of benefits for the next 3 years.

 

Motion On History Teaching

Proposed By Cllr Zara Davis

Seconded By Cllr David Snowdon

 

This council notes:

Only 11.7% of Tower Hamlets school children pass GCSE History at grades A*-C. This is the fifth lowest number in England, ahead of only Knowsley, Newham, Kingston-Upon-Hull and Manchester.

Over three times more school children achieve A*-C GCSE History in the top performing council in the country, Hammersmith and Fulham.

Tower Hamlets has the ninth lowest number of children passing A-Level History in England.

This council believes:

That the study of history allows our school children to develop high level analytical skills, and helps them to more fully appreciate the world around them. This in turn promotes civic and community engagement.

That in order to increase the number of Tower Hamlets school children achieving high grades in History, we need to increase the provision of History teaching in our schools.

This council resolves:

To instruct officers to write to all Head Teachers of schools within the Borough to make them aware of the Council’s support for a higher provision of History teaching.

To instruct officers to contact schools to investigate barriers to a higher level of provision of history teaching and report back to full council within six months.

To ask the Mayor to champion the cause of history teaching in Tower Hamlets and investigate what he can do to promote this objective

 

Motion: Social Landlords

Proposed By Cllr Dr Emma Jones

Seconded By Cllr Peter Golds

 

This Council Notes:

  • That the Minister for Housing and Local Government has praised social landlords such as Viridian and Home Group for their plans to publish expenditure over £500.
  • That the Minister calls on social landlords to follow Viridian and Home Group’s example and become more transparent.
  • That the Government is committed to a consultation with social landlords on whether to expand the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to apply to them.

This Council Believes:

  • That the example shown by Viridian and Home Group is a step in the right direction and that all social landlords should consider following their lead.
  • That the government should extend the Freedom of Information Act to apply to social landlords and all Housing Associations; so that they will publish spending over £500.

This Council Resolves:

  •  To support the government in its consultation.
  • To encourage and support Housing Associations/Social landlords in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to publish all spending over £500.

 

High Earners and Council Housing

Proposed by: Cllr Gloria Thienel

Seconded by: Cllr Tim Archer

 

This Council Notes:

  • There are some 6,000 Council houses across the UK that have tenants earning more than £100,000 a year living in them.
  • That it has been reported that there are 15,000 tenants in social housing earning more than £80,000 a year.
  • That there are a number of such tenants resident in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. These people including key supporters of the Mayor and his administration.
  • That the Minister for Housing and Local Government has brought forward plans that would give social landlords new powers to increase rents for high-income tenants.

This Council Believes:

  •  That these new powers granted to social landlords by the Department for Communities and Local Government will help solve this problem and return much needed social housing to those in need.

This Council Resolves:

  • To support the Department for Communities and Local Government in putting in place these new powers.
  • To encourage all Social Landlords in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets not to subsidise rents for those high earners earning over £80,000

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There have been a couple of developments since I last wrote about the changes to ward names in Tower Hamlets. The deadline for public objections to the dropping of Banglatown from ‘Spitalfields and Banglatown’, and St Dunstan’s from the proposed new Stepney wards is on Monday.

Do please write to the Local Government Boundary Commission at reviews@lgbce.org.uk if you have strong views on either. I submitted my letter yesterday.

While dropping Banglatown was a Tory proposal (one I think they now regret), removing the name of St Dunstan was a Labour idea.

The current ward name is St Dunstan’s and Stepney Green. The final Labour proposal, which has been provisionally accepted by the Commission, is Stepney East and Stepney West.

However, I understand that Labour councillors had actually wanted to call one of the wards ‘St Dunstan’s and Shahjalal’. Shahjalal (named after Shah Jalal, who is credited with the spread of Islam in Bengal) is the name of the popular but rather ramshackle mosque in Duckett Street, which over the past few years has also been a centre of feuding over various management and funding arrangements.

It was only after a vote of the wider party hierarchy that they decided on no religious names at all.

All this seems to sum up what is wrong with politics in Tower Hamlets. The Tories objected to something that wasn’t that objectionable in a move that was bound to create tension and ill-feeling, while, at the same time, Labour councillors were trying to earn their vote-winning spurs with the leaders of a local mosque. And when wiser heads realised that the inclusion of Shahjalal might be a bit controversial, they went with the lowest common denominator solution by dropping St Dunstan’s as well.

Including St Dunstan’s is, I think, more about honouring 1,000 years of history in the area than favouring one religion over another.

After writing my last post on this subject, two of the Stepney ward councillors, Oliur Rahman and Abdal Ullah, have supported the idea of retaining the name of St Dunstan’s, so all credit to them. In fact, I’m told that Labour has now resubmitted its proposal and suggested naming the ward St Dunstan’s and Stepney East.

The East London Advertiser reports on this issue today, here. As far as I am aware, Mayor Lutfur Rahman hasn’t made any pronouncements; if so, it’s in stark contrast to his campaign to retain Banglatown…

In the meantime, the Rector of St Dunstan’s and All Saints Church, the Rev Trevor Critchlow, has written the following letter to the Commission:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Tower Hamlets Proposed Ward Name : Stepney East

I write to object to the proposed new name for our ward, Stepney East.  The previous name of our ward was St Dunstan and Stepney Green, which it is now proposed be split into two new wards, Stepney East and West.

The removal of St Dunstan from the ward name is highly regrettable given that;

1.     Dunstan (909-988 AD) was a real historical figure, Bishop of London (958-960 AD) and holder / owner of the Manor of Stepney.

2.     Dunstan personally ordered that the wooden church of All Saints Stepney should be rebuilt in stone.  That church was later named after him and is today known as St Dunstan and All Saints Stepney.

3.     Dunstan became Archbishop of Canterbury (960 -978 AD) and after his death was canonised, becoming the most popular English Saint until the death of Thomas Becket (1170 AD)

4.     The name of St Dunstan’s Church and the association of the name with the local area has existed for more than 1,000 years.

Given this important and significant historical connection I would like to propose the name of new ward should be;

St Dunstan and Stepney East

I would also like to be clear that I’m not claiming any special privilege for the church where I serve as Rector but rather I’m arguing for the retention of St Dunstan’s name on the basis of a substantial, important and ancient link.

Yours Faithfully

The Reverend Trevor F Critchlow

Rector of St Dunstan’s Stepney

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