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Archive for February, 2013

Cllr Rabina Khan is an ex-Labour and now Independent in Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet. She lives in Lindley Street, Stepney, and runs her own media and consultancy business. Her website is here, where it tells us more about her:

Hello, my name is Rabina Khan and welcome to my website. 

I am a Writer, Producer and Creative Consultant, living and working for many years in Tower Hamlets, London. I’m involved in a range of writing, speaking, film, moving image and creative projects and I enjoy what I do. 

Over the years my writing and creative work has developed into film treatments, script writing, film making and managing commissions.

Creativity really is her forte, there’s no doubt about that. How else to explain a cab fare of £120.63 for a 1.5 mile trip from the Town Hall in Mulberry Place to Mile End Park on March 28 last year? As the Tories point out, the 277 bus would have taken her there directly…in 15 minutes. For £1.35.

And how else to explain a return trip from her home to Hackney Town Hall for £76 last May? On June 20, she even billed us £20 for a taxi from Mulberry Place to Mulberry Girls School, where she is a governor. Let’s hope it was in relation to her role as cabinet member for housing.

Date Fare From To Other
17.11.11 £33.35 Lindley St and Jamaica
Street
House of Commons (With Cllr Alibor Choudhury)
17.11.11 £40.00 House of Commons Lindley St and Jamaica
Street
(With Cllr Alibor Choudhury)
12.1.12 £11.80 John Scurr House Angel House, E14 John Scurr is opposite the entrance
to Limehouse DLR, Angel House is close to South Quay DLR
12.1.12 £11.50 Mulberry Place Sadler House
20.1.12 £83.31 Mulberry Place Quin Close, E1
14.3.12 £39.18 Anchorage House Brabner House
14.3.12 £25.25 Brabner House Mulberry Place
21.3.12 £36.58 Anchorage House Conisborough College, SE6
21.3.12 £88.26 Conisborough College, SE6 Lindley St Total of:
125.84 for this trip
28.3.12 £120.63 Mulberry Place Mile End Park The 277 Bus goes door to door !
17.4.12 £18.88 Mulberry Place Cable Street
17.4.12 £12.51 Cable Street Shackleton House
17.4.12 £15.58 Brodick Street Wickham Close
1.5.12 £11.80 Albert Gardens Newport House
8.5.12 £13.92 Leylan House Fisher House
15.5.12 £58.56 St Mathias Centre, E14 Ada House, E2
17.5.12 £13.22 Lindley St Hackney Town Hall
17.5.12 £62.81 Hackney Town Hall Lindley St Total Cost 76.03. The 277 bus stops
in Mare Street
30.5.12 £14.16 Anchorage House Byng Street
30.5.12 £12.04 Byng Street Mulberry Place Easily reached by bus or DLR from
Town Hall complex
31.5.12 £14.40 Leylan House Candy Street
31.5.12 £20.30 Candy Street Dewberry Street
31.5.12 £19.12 Dewberry Street Welland Mews
31.5.12 £11.33 Reardon House, E1 Rochester Court, E2
11.6.12 £12.04 Emmott Close, E1 Bigland School
13.6.12 £28.56
13.6.12 £22.42 City Hall Mulberry Place 7 Minute journey on Jubilee Line
from London Bridge-Canary Wharf
18.6.12 £28.62 Mulberry Place Oxford House, E2
18.6.12 £15.34 Oxford House Lindley St
19.6.12 £21.00 Newton House, E1 St Matthias Centre, E14
20.6.12 £24.51 Mulberry Place Mulberry Girls School
25.6.12 £13.69 Cheviot House Velitri House
25.6.12 £26.43 Rushmead Mulberry Place
25.6.12 £50.68 Mulberry Place Chicksand St
26.6.12 £20.06 Mulberry Place PlacePlace Stratford Old Town Hall
29.6.12 £36.44 Mulberry Place Oxford House
Total  £1,088.58

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Following on from Lutfur’s cab claims, next up are the taxi fares Deputy Mayor Cllr Ohid Ahmed billed to the taxpayer in 2011 and until June 2012, just to make his life a little easier.

His annual allowance for his role is £25,000, and he lives in Oban Street, Poplar, which is about a 10-minute walk to the Jubilee Line at Canning Town station and a 12-minute walk to East India DLR.

Yet he has twice billed us more than £100 for functions at the Houses of Parliament.

One was a return trip from the Town Hall in Mulberry Place on Feb 10, 2011, that cost £121. Now, it takes about 26 minutes by DLR and Tube to Westminster for a return fare of £4.20. And lo and behold, according to AA Route Planner, by car it takes…26 minutes! And, according to this online minicab quote, a return taxi fare would ordinarily cost £50. So this means, our supposedly cost-saving council is using an extortionate limo service, or our supposedly cost-saving deputy mayor has been keeping the meter running while he attends his very, very important meetings in Westminster.

His second trip to Parliament was on July 14, 2011, when he ordered a cab to collect him from his home and then return him to the Shadwell Centre for £122.

And I wonder what the barons at Unison feel about him charging taxpayers £140 for a return trip from Mulberry Place to their Euston Road HQ on Dec 14, 2011. Maybe, like millions of others who have no choice but to suffer it every day, Ohid just dislikes the Northern Line.

Date Fare Venue Comment
22.10.10 £17.17 Ocean Estate Photocall
13.12.10 £52.13 House of Commons  
15.12.10 £25.89 Cable Street  
10.2.11 £121.71 House of Commons Return to Mulberry
12.2.11 £106.43 Baden Powell House, SW7 Return to Oban St
22.3.11 £63.75 Brick Lane Return to Mulberry
28.3.11 £50.61 Bethnal Green Tech College Return to Oban St
28.3.11 £30.68 Bethnal Green Tech College Return to Oban St, seems
to have been charged twice – see above?
26.4.11 £59.44 Shadwell Childrens Centre Return to Mulberry
11.5.11 £52.90 Ocean Youth Centre Return to Mulberry
16.5.11 £86.14 London SOAS Return to Oban St (1-way,
Lutfur also went,returned separately, Lutfur’s total was £64.08)
14.7.11 £122.65 House of Lords/Shadwell
centre
Oban St to House of
Lords/House of Lords to Shadwell Centre
14.7.11 £3.30 Shadwell centre Return to Oban St
2.8.11 £51.69 Pudding Mill Lane DLR To and from Oban St
9.11.13 £22.18 Bethnal Green Police
Station
From Oban Street
6.9.11 £36.11 House of Commons From Oban St
9.11.11 £90.85 London Councils, London
Bridge
To and from Mulberry
11/1111 £59.45 City Hall To and from Oban st
12.11.11 £66.93 Mansion House To and from Oban St
14.12.11 £140.89 Unison Centre, Euston Road From Mulberry return to
Oban St
28.3.12 £68.44 Government Hospital From Mulberry return to
Stepney Green
18.4.12 £33.97 Royal London Hospital  
17.5.12 £32.74 The Royal regency, Manor
Park
This seems to be a
function/wedding type venue
17.5.12 £56.34 O2 Centre Collected from the Royal
Regency
14.6.12 £29.74 The View, E3 Collected from Oban St,
returned (7pm) Chrisp St
       
TOTAL £1,482.13    

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I’ve said it many times before but the Tories in Tower Hamlets are, in terms of having an eye for what really grabs as a good story that resonates with ordinary taxpayers, a cut above the rest in this borough.

That’s in no small part down to their leader, Peter Golds. No wonder the likes of legal chief Isabella Freeman and allies of Mayor Lutfur Rahman have been so keen to pursue pointless complaints against him.

In the first of a number of posts on their latest findings, below is a table they have compiled from Freedom of Information requests and from leaked town hall documents detailing the taxi fares claimed by the mayor and several of his cabinet members since October 2010.

You’ll remember that midway through 2011, the mayor became fed up of hiring cabs and leased a Mercedes for himself, billing us taxpayers about £70 a day.

You’ll also note that Tower Hamlets has more transport links than most other boroughs: the DLR, the District/Hammersmith and City Line, the Central Line and the Jubilee Line, the London Overground/East London Line, and a whole range of bus routes.

Granted, getting from Bethnal Green to the town hall in Mulberry Place, Docklands, is a bit of a pain, but few of us can can afford the luxury of cabs.

Unless you’re in Lutfur’s administration, that is. Because then all you have to do is say you’re “very, very busy”–and important, of course–and the taxis are on us.

Last week, I asked the council’s press office what the policy was on the mayor and cabinet members booking cabs. Takki Sulaiman, the chocolate teapot “head of communications”, refused to answer and instead insisted the question was treated as a Freedom of Information request. That seems like an abuse of process and council resources to me and I wonder if any councillor will ask him to explain himself.

For a couple of days earlier, Peter Golds had asked the same question of the council’s head of paid service, Steve Halsey, who replied within hours thus:

Each individual request to book a taxi for a councillor must be agreed by the Service Head, Democratic Services or, in respect of Cabinet Members only, by the Head of the Mayor’s Office. In all cases when considering a request the Service Head/Head of Office will apply the following rules which have remained consistent for a number of years:-  

In normal circumstances, the basic allowance is expected to cover travel within the borough.  The Council will not pay for a taxi unless public transport is (a) not available, (b) is inappropriate (e.g. late at night) or (c) impractical in a particular case due to urgency – e.g. a Cabinet Member’s diary means they cannot otherwise get from one engagement to the next in time.  

Mr Halsey’s answer is illuminating.

First, if the £10,065 a year basic allowance to councillors is meant to cover their travel in the borough, then that must also apply to the extra £13,325 a year that cabinet members are paid for their additional work and travel. The deputy mayor, Ohid Ahmed, gets a special responsibility allowance of £15,518. And you’ll see that he rather likes his taxis.

And secondly, we learn that the person signing off all these cab fares is Murziline Parchment, the head of the mayor’s office. Now, she really does have form when it comes to signing off dubious spending by Lutfur’s cronies.

And to think she wanted to be our borough’s chief executive!

If you still think I was unfair in her about that, take a look at the taxi fares below. All the annotations have been done by the Tories.

I don’t think I need to explain much further. I asked the council’s press office why Lutfur claimed a £28.56 cab from McDonald’s in Commercial Road to the town hall on May 18, 2011, but answer came there none.

When scrolling through this list, bear in mind Lutfur lives in Old Montague Street in Spitalfields. That’s a few minutes walk from the East London Mosque.

And also bear in mind that the House of Lords is at Westminster…on the Jubilee Line from Canary Wharf. It’s quite a short journey actually.

And also remember that City Hall, the venue for a London Council meetings on May 10, 2011, is a short stroll from London Bridge station, which is again on the Jubilee Line. A number of other council leaders have confirmed they would never dare take cabs to such or similar business, if ever in fact.

His last cab on May 26, 2011, was for £121 from Mulberry Place to the Tower of London. Maybe it was a helicab.

So this is just a taster of what is to come…

Date Fare From To Comment
4.11.10 £38.82 Mulberry Place Marsh Wall, E14 Short bus journey, Can be walked in
15 mins
11.11.10 £15.53 Mulberry Place Canary Wharf Pier 277 Bus – door to door
22.11.10 £24.95 Mulberry Place Tarling Estate DLR, East India to Shadwell
22.11.10 £22.58 Tarling Estate Guildhall
22.11.10 £46.11 Guildhall Mulberry Place
23.11.10 £60.69 Fare paid but journey unknown
10.12.10 £77.31 Mulberry Place Gosfield St, W1 and return journey Apparently between journey 1pm and
4.30pm. Gosfield St is close to tube stns.
14.12.10 £30.58 Mulberry Place Great Queen Street
14.12.10 £73.60 Possibly conjoined with Great Queen
St
20.12.10 £25.48 Mulberry Place Roman Road
20.12.10 £25.95 Roman Road Mulberry Place
11.2.11 £26.43 Mulberry Place Home
18.2.11 £18.61 Mulberry Place Home
21.2.11 £15.58 Home Spitalfields Market Can be walked in 5mins
25.2.11 £26.20 Mulberry Place Whitechapel
28.2.11 £32.10 Mulberry Place Bethnal Green
28.2.11 £30.78 Bethnal Green Mulberry Place
1.3.11 £19.02 Mulberry Place Home
2.3.11 £87.79 Mulberry Place Hayfield
4.3.11 £51.92 Mulberry Place Bromley by Bow
7.3.11 £47.64 Mulberry Place House of Lords Journey direct from Canary Wharf is
11 minutes
7.3.11 £51.42 House of Lords E14 (Mulberry Place)
9.3.11 £25.72 Mulberry Place St Martin’s House
14.3.11 £58.34 Mulberry Place Old Montague St (Home)
14.3.11 £28.72 Home Mulberry Place £79.06 on a journey to home, can be
done by public transport
14.3.11 £18.68 Mulberry Place Four Seasons Hotel, Canary Wharf 277 bus goes door to door
15.3.11 £13.22 Home Stocks Place, E1
15.3.11 £53.95 East London Mosque Mulberry Place
17.3.11 £28.52 Home
Bank of America, Canada Square
17.3.11 £41.77 Bank of America Canada Square Mulberry Place 277 Bus goes door to door
22.3.11 £41.30 Mulberry Place Brick Lane
22.3.11 £21.71 Brick Lane City Hall
22.3.11 £10.62 City Hall Brick Lane
22.3.11 £4.01 Brick Lane East London Mosque Most extreme claim of all, this
journey takes under two minutes by foot
22.3.11 £4.96 East London Mosque Taxi waits
22.3.11 £19.82 East London Mosque Mulberry Place
24.3.11 £38.53 Mulberry Place Bethnal Green
24.3.11 £24.07 Bethnal Green Mulberry Place
25.3.11 £5.90 Home Dockside Road, E16
25.3.11 £4.48 Dockside Road Home
25.3.11 £26.67 Mulberry Place Home
28.3.11 £18.64 Mulberry Place Bethnal Green
28.3.11 £56.45 Bethnal Green Mulberry Place
29.3.11 ? Mulberry Place BFG School
30.3.11 £59.24 Oban St, E14 Taylor Place, E3
1.4.11 £30.52 Home Vesey Path, E14
4.4.11 £26.20 Mulberry Place Mile End Road
4.4.11 £23.60 Mile End Road Mulberry Place
6.4.11 £36.52 East London Mosque Mulberry Place
11.4.11 £40.15 Mulberry Place Whitechapel
11.4.11 £71.27 Mulberry Place Chrisp Street Can be walked in five minutes or
less
12.4.11 £22.66 Home Mulberry Place
12.4.11 £31.09 Mulberry Place Home
13.4.11 £30.65 Home Mulberry Place
14.4.11 £37.73 Home Mulberry Place
14.4.11 £40.53 Mulberry Place Home
18.4.11 £22.42 Cambridge Heath Road Ernest Street, E1
18.4.11 £53.41 Ernest St, E1 St Stephen’s Road
19.4.11 £35.84 Home Mulberry Place
20.4.11 £23.36 Home Mulberry Place
21.4.11 £47.20 Mulberry Place Nelson St, E1
21.4.11 £43.22 Home Mulberry Place
4.5.11 ? Mulberry Place Canary Wharf
5.5.11 ? Mulberry Place Home
7.5.11 £23.84 Home Victoria Park
9.5.11 £23.13 Home Mulberry Place
10.5.11 £33.75 London Councils Mulberry Place Jubilee line is 7 minute journey,
London Bridge-Canary Wharf
12.5.11 £30.08 Home Mulberry Place
16.5.11 £22.39 Mulberry Place Alfred Street, E3
16.5.11 £55.13 Alfred St, E3 Mulberry Place
16.5.11 £41.60 Mulberry Place SOAS, WC1
16.5.11 £21.48 SOAS Home
17.5.11 £46.19 Commercial St Canary Wharf
18.5.11 £25.36 Home Richard St, E1
18.5.11 £28.56 McDonalds, Commercial Road Mulberry Place
19.5.11 £53.95 Home Mulberry Place
19.5.11 £15.10 Mulberry Place Chrisp Street Can be walked in five minutes or
less
19.5.11 £13.69 Chrisp St Mulberry Place
20.5.11 £61.36 Unknown but paid for. Believe Cab
arrived and left after waiting before being cancelled
20.5.11 £10.86 Home Mulberry Place
24.5.11 £18.64 Mulberry Place Wapping
25.5.11 £33.75 Mulberry Place Home
26.5.11 £4.25 Cancellation fee for Com Cab
26.5.11 £33.78 Home Mulberry Place
26.5.11 £121.34 Mulberry Place Tower of London The DLR goes door to door; East
India to Tower Hill
Total: £2,789.01

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St Paul's Old Ford

 

As a break from the daily grease of Tower Hamlets politics, here’s some lighter news.

As I’ve said before, one of the borough’s main delights is its history and any effort to preserve and commemorate its heritage deserves applause. Over the past 17  years, the Rev Philippa Boardman, one of the first women to be ordained as a Church of England priest, has been helping to restore and renovate St Paul’s Church in St Stephen’s Road, Bow/Old Ford.

It had been closed, almost derelict for five years when she arrived in the parish in 1996 and rather than let it fall into the hands of property developers, she set about rebuilding work. With a fabulous modern interior designed by Matthew Lloyd Architects, it reopened with the help of various grants in 2004. It now has a thriving, lively congregation on Sundays, while during the week it acts as a community venue and coffee shop. The brilliant Ability Bow gym, which, scandalously, has been struggling with funding cuts, is also upstairs.

The church’s latest project is to collect old photographs and memories of the church spanning more than 100 years. They are trying to publicise this work so here’s their press release, which I don’t think has run in any local papers yet. So spread the word (right across Essex)…

Local Church Wins Funding to trace its History.

St Paul Old Ford has been awarded £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘All Our Stories’ programme to tell the story of the church and how it has served the whole community since it was built in 1878.

The funding will enable the church to work with tutors from York University who will teach sessions on ‘how to do online research’ and ‘how to store and archive historic records’, and the end result will be a touch screen with all kinds of information about the church and local community,  a phone app and a church trail for children.

As part of the research, St Pauls is eager to meet East Enders (including those who have moved away from the area) who have old photos of St Paul’s or photos of activities held here.

All are invited to a ‘Photo Sharing’ session on Friday March 1st from 1.00pm to 3.30pm at St Paul’s Church St Stephens Rd, London E3 5JL. Telephone 020 8981 4655 

Email:  venuemanager@stpauloldford.com

If you have photos but can’t come on that particular Friday please do e-mail Karen Diss the St Paul’s Venue Manager or phone her on:  020 8981 4655.

Vicar, Rev Philippa Boardman who received the MBE in 2011 for services to Heritage in East London commented:  “We are delighted to have received this funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. St Paul’s serves the local community here on a daily basis through the Gym, Educational centre, Café, daily Prayer and all the other activities.

“This research project will enable us to discover how St Paul’s has helped this community to flourish in all kinds of ways since 1878. We welcome EastEnders past and present to join us in making this project a lasting success and resource for future generations.”

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When we won a couple of awards at the East London Advertiser a few years back, we sent a cheeky press release about our achievements to Tower Hamlets council’s East End Life. “Local business wins national awards,” was its gist.

Slightly embarrassingly, I can’t remember if they ever published it (I seem to recall they did, but that might well owe more to my high regard for its editor, Laraine Clay, than any reality).

As the paper is quite rightly packed with little pieces about the work of Tower Hamlets residents being recognised at a national level, this morning I’m going to send them the following press release:

Bow man shortlisted for prestigious journalism award

Bow resident Ted Jeory has been shortlisted for the prestigious Paul Foot award for his Trial by Jeory blog about Tower Hamlets politics. The award was set up by Private Eye and the Guardian in memory of Foot’s passion for campaigning and investigative journalism.

Ted, who is also the Home Affairs Editor for the Sunday Express, has been named on a shortlist of eight campaigns, with the winner due to be announced on February 26. 

He established the blog in 2010, two years after leaving the borough’s main local newspaper, the East London Advertiser.

Since then, it has established a solid fan base, including Mayor Lutfur Rahman who regularly refers to it in the council chamber. 

It also features regularly in Private Eye, which highlights stories about council spending and expenses claims by senior town hall officers.

Ted said: “If this press release appears in East End Life, I’ll promise to say something nice about the council. And then carry on. Thanks to Tower Hamlets council for playing such a part in this recognition.”

I wonder.

Anyway, as I tweeted this morning, many thanks to all readers and anonymous tipsters. Keep those brown envelopes coming through…

Here’s how the Guardian reported the shortlisting this morning:

Eight campaigns are on the shortlist for the Paul Foot award, set up by Private Eye and the Guardian in Foot’s memory: Tom Bergin, Thomson Reuters (for reporting on tax avoidance by Starbucks); Jonathan CalvertHeidi Blake, Sunday Times (ex-generals lobbying for MoD contracts); Ted Jeory, Trial by Jeory blog (politics in one London borough); Alexi MostrousFay Schlesinger, the Times (tax avoidance schemes); Claire Newell, Graeme Paton, Holly Watt and Robert Winnett, Daily Telegraph (exam boards); Andrew Norfolk, the Times (sexual exploitation of teenage girls); Rob Waugh, Yorkshire Post (scandals involving local police and Acpo); and Stephen Wright, Daily Mail (15 years’ coverage of the Stephen Lawrence case).

Judged by Brian MacArthur (chair), Clare Fermont, Bill Hagerty, Ian Hislop and Alan Rusbridger, the £5,000 award for investigative and campaigning journalism will be presented on 26 February, with £1,000 going to each of the runners-up.

The judges also longlisted and commended: Kaya Burgess, the Times (Cities Fit for Cycling campaign); David Cohen, Evening Standard (Ladder for London campaign aiding young unemployed); Gareth Davies, Croydon Advertiser (Lillian’s Law anti-drug-driving campaign); Ed Hammond and Caroline Binham, Financial Times (the SFO and the Tchenguiz brothers); and Harry Wilson and Richard Tyler, Sunday and Daily Telegraph (interest swap mis-selling).

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If any further evidence was needed of just how closely ministers are watching the “basket case” of Tower Hamlets council, have a look at this excerpt from Hansard yesterday. Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis clearly has Mulberry Place in his sights.

Here’s the parliamentary question from Jim Fitzpatrick about Ofcom’s ruling on the council’s use of public money for political advertising on Bengali TV stations:

Jim Fitzpatrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what sanctions his Department is considering following the report by Ofcom into the political broadcasts of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets.

And here’s Lewis’s answer:

Brandon Lewis: In its ruling last month, Ofcom censured five television channels for running advertisements for the Mayor of Tower Hamlets which contravened the prohibition on political advertising. It noted that one of the television channels would have been fined with a “substantial statutory sanction” had it not already ceased trading and surrendered its broadcasting licence. The political advertisements were funded by taxpayers’ money.

Tower Hamlets’ political broadcasts were a breach of the Communications Act 2003, the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising and the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. Although Ofcom has the power to censure or fine broadcasters, it has no power to take any action against an advertiser.

The use of taxpayers’ money for political campaigning is simply not acceptable, and this is in addition to Tower Hamlets’ disregard of the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity through its continuing publication of its weekly propaganda newspaper, East End Life. Such actions are not just a misuse of public funds, they are ultimately harmful to local democracy and an independent, free press. It is also further evidence of a worrying pattern of divisive community politics and mismanagement of council staff and resources by the mayoral administration.

We are looking at putting the Publicity Code on a statutory basis to address this corrosive abuse of taxpayers’ money.

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Further to my last post, it’s not just the Tories and Labour who are facing splits after last night’s Commons vote on gay marriage. Respect are as well.

While their single MP George Galloway voted in favour of the proposed law, that doesn’t seem to have gone down well with his chief lieutenant in Tower Hamlets, its former leader and wannabe MP, Abjol Miah.

For why else would he create a discussion on his Facebook page highlighting the vote by his long time enemy and Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali, also in favour of gay marriage.

Hat tip to Graham Taylor, who today resigned from the Labour party over the issue, for pointing out the discussion. Graham has also gone one step further and written directly to George, who has seen his tweet about it, asking him to condemn many of the homophobic comments on Abjol’s page. Some of the comments suggest Rushanara has cast herself out as a Muslim for her vote.

Here is Graham’s letter to George:

Open Letter to George Galloway

George

In 2010 you and your party officials once condemned me and called on me to resign my (then) position as Tower Hamlets Labour Party agent for Islamophobic comments made by others on my Facbook page. In fact I withdrew the post as soon as this was brought to my attention.

Will you now condemn as Abjol Miah, The Respect Party’s parliamentary candidate in Bethnal Green and Bow in 2010, publicly and in as equally vociferous terms?

And here’s a copy of the Facebook discussion. The comments by a Mohammed Hussain are particularly thick.

 

UPDATE, Wednesday Feb 7, 9.30am

Rob Hoveman, George Galloway’s chief of staff, replied to Graham this morning. Rob says because Abjol hasn’t made any homophobic comments, he shouldn’t be condemned. I suppose the question is why hasn’t Abjol used his own Facebook page to condemn the homophobic comments? Rob, if you’re reading this, do you think Abjol should condemn them?

Here is Rob’s reply:

Dear Mr Taylor,

You have sent George Galloway a screengrab of a number of people exchanging views, none of whom appears to be Abjol Miah. Your suggestion that George Galloway should condemn Abjol Miah on the basis of the evidence you have supplied is palpably absurd.

As for the events of 2010, may I remind you that you referred to Tower Hamlets town hall as a centre of Islamic Fundamentalism on facebook, a claim that was an Islamophobic insult to every Muslim that worked in the Town Hall. You may have taken down the offending comments that you made and also encouraged but I do not recall any apology and you remained, of course, the Labour Party election agent for Rushanara Ali and the Labour council candidates.

Yours sincerely,

Rob Hoveman, Chief of Staff to George Galloway MP

UPDATE – Friday, Feb 8, 9am

Shortly after the last update above, Rob Hoveman emailed me with some clarifications about his discussion with Graham Taylor. They were a bit odd, so I asked Rob if he had anything else to add. He hasn’t.

So here’s his letter to me:

Dear Ted,

You have posted the first of a number of emails I sent to Graham Taylor this morning concerning his allegations. The email I was responding to had a screengrab of a number of people exchanging views on Rushanara Ali’s decision to vote to legalise gay marriage. In that first screengrab Abjol Miah had not in any way participated in this exchange, never mind made any homophobic comments. Mr Taylor then sent me a second screengrab with Abjol Miah stating that Rushanara Ali had voted for gay marriage, as did George Galloway. Again there was no homophobic comment attached to this plain statement of fact. I pointed out to Mr Taylor in response that there were no comments attached to this screengrab and therefore I was still at a loss as to what it was he expected George Galloway to condemn.

Mr Taylor then referred me to your blog where I have now seen a fuller screengrab. However, nowhere in this does Abjol Miah appear saying, encouraging or endorsing any homophobic comments. So I am still at a loss as to why George Galloway should in any way condemn Abjol Miah.

The issue of gay marriage is one on which people hold strong views. There are many people who have profoundly held religious convictions that gay marriage is wrong. The free vote in the House of Commons reflected that this is a matter of conscience. We should accept that there are people who oppose gay marriage without being homophobic and that it is perfectly reasonable to respect such views whilst disagreeing with them. That is why, after all, the law that has been passed exempts religious institutions which choose not to opt in to holding gay marriages. Of course, George Galloway and The Respect Party would condemn any homophobic comments where those comments are motivated by hatred and prejudice, but it seems to me that Mr Taylor is simply confusing matters.

Yours ever,

Rob Hoveman

Chief of Staff to George Galloway MP

The Rob Hoveman with whom I used to have regular contact when I was at the East London Advertiser would certainly agree that some of the comments on Abjol’s Facebook page were motivated by hatred and prejudice, eg this latest one:

Mohammed Hussain Brother Abjol miah! Your in big trouble now! She will set her gay friends on you now! Watch your back!!!

 

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It’s not just the Tory party which has split over last night’s Commons vote on gay marriage. Labour is experiencing a degree of internal turmoil as well.

Yesterday, Graham Taylor, a former chair of Tower Hamlets Labour and an ex-election agent to both Oona King and current Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali, tore up his membership card. It was in protest at Ed Miliband’s decision to allow his MPs a free vote on the issue, something he had been persuaded to do following complaints from, among others, East Ham MP Stephen Timms.

Graham believes this was a betrayal of Labour principles of equality and social justice.

He wrote the following letter to Iain McNicol, Labour’s General Secretary:

Dear Iain

My resignation from the party: Membership number

Today an historic vote took place in Parliament to give same sex couples the right to marry. Not least this is historic because it was tabled by a Conservative led administration and in recent history all advances in social justice and equality have been won by the Labour Party against opposition from the Tories.

I can understand why many Conservative activists and members opposed this measure – it’s in their blood to resist changing anything. What I cannot excuse is why the leadership of The Labour Party, a party that enshrines social justice and equality in its constitution allowed a free vote on this.

I’ve been a party member for 21 years.

I was immensely proud to work on Stephen Twigg’s campaign in 1997 and to be able to vote for an openly gay man to be the first ever Labour MP to represent the constituency I grew up in, Enfield Southgate.

I was immensely proud to campaign for Oona King, in Bethnal Green and Bow, in 2001 and to be her election agent in 2005. One of, then, only two black female MPs.

I was even more proud to help win back Bethnal Green and Bow in 2010 and defeat Respect (a party that thrives on religious and communal prejudice) as election agent for Rushanara Ali, our first Muslim women MP of Bangladeshi origin.

Why did I do all of this?

Unlike so many activists I meet, I’ve no ambition to become a politician. Nor do I hold some sort of outdated notion of building a socialist utopia. I did it because I believe in social justice and equality. And I thought the Labour Party did – these objectives are enshrined in word – in clause 4-2(b) the Labour Party constitution;

1. The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few; where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe and where we live together freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

2. To these ends we work for:

(b) a just society, which judges its strength by the condition of the weak as much as the strong, provides security against fear, and justice at work; which nurtures families, promotes equality of opportunity, and delivers people from the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and the abuse of power and they are enshrined in deed – carried through actions of the great Labour Party social reforming governments of the 40s, 60s and 90s/00s.

Today the Party leadership performed an act of political cowardice in not whipping this vote. A number of Labour MPs walked through the ‘no’ lobby or sat on their hands. One, Stephen Timms, is MP for a near neighbouring constituency to mine. I’ve a number of friends that live there who voted for him in 2010, thinking they were voting for a party that believes in equality – they won’t be voting for him again.

I can no longer claim that the party – and in particular its national leadership – believes in equality and social justice, and it is with regret that I resign my membership forthwith.

Yours truly,

Graham Taylor

Cc:

Baroness King of Bow

Rushanara Ali MP

Jim Fitzpatrick MP

John Biggs AM

Cllr Joshua Peck

Chris Weavers CLP chair

And he issued the following statement today:

Yesterday an historic vote took place in Parliament to give same sex couples the right to marry.

Not least this is historic because it was tabled by a Conservative led administration and in recent history all advances in social justice and equality have been won by the Labour Party against opposition from the Tories.

Unlike so many activists I meet, I’ve no ambition to become a politician. Nor do I hold some sort of outdated notion of building a socialist utopia. I’ve been a Labour movement activist for 25 years because I believe in social justice and equality. And I thought the Labour Party did.

The Party leadership performed an act of political cowardice in not whipping this vote. 38 Labour MPs walked through the ‘no’ lobby or did not vote. One, Stephen Timms, is MP for East Ham. I’ve a number of friends that live there who voted for him in 2010, thinking they were voting for a party that believes in equality – they won’t be voting for him again.

I can no longer claim that the party – and in particular its national leadership – believes in equality and social justice, and it is with regret that I have resigned my membership forthwith.

 

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Last month, Andrew Gilligan blogged about a debate called by former Local Government Minister Bob Neill in Westminster Hall in which the MP used Parliamentary privilege to accuse Tower Hamlets council’s legal chief Isabella Freeman of aiding and abetting an abuse of the standards regime by Lutfur Rahman-supporting councillors.

For more than a year now, council taxpayers have been underwriting the appointment of various outside consultants and Elizabeth Laing QC to help investigate complaints made against the likes of Peter Golds, the leader of the Tory group, and Josh Peck, his Labour equivalent.

How much has been spent on these vendettas is as yet unknown, but today we had conformation that one of them was a complete waste of time. Under Freeman’s direction, the council had tried to take Peter Golds to court. But it lost.

The following was issued by the Upper Tribunal today.

The Upper Tribunal
(Administrative Appeals Chamber)

Upper Tribunal Case No: GLGSE/2861/2012

 

Ruling on Withdrawal of Appeal

Tribunal Procedure (Upper Tribunal) Rules 2008, rule 17

 

  1. The appellant has applied to the Upper Tribunal to withdraw the appeal in this case on the ground that this tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear the appeal.  
  2. The Upper Tribunal’s consent is required for an appellant to withdraw an appeal.
  3. I give that consent.
  4. The proceedings in this case are now at an end. The oral hearing listed for 7 February 2012 is vacated.

 

Signed on original
on 5 February 2013

Edward Jacobs
Upper Tribunal Judge

What this means is that the council, after taking some very expensive advice from a top QC, decided at the last minute to withdraw its appeal to the tribunal, an appeal against a decision that had cleared Peter Golds.

Whoever decided that going to the tribunal was a good idea might well be in a bit of trouble tonight…

And then we have the longstanding complaint against Josh. For more than a year now, the council has been keeping secret from the glare of voters a long running internal battle involving town hall director Aman Dalvi, Ms Freeman, Josh and Cllr Alibor Choudhury, who is Lutfur’s cabinet member for finance.

I won’t go into too much detail now but here’s a bit of background. Aman Dalvi wanted to be the new council chief executive following the departure of Kevan Collins in late 2011. At the beginning of 2012, Josh became concerned that Aman was too close to Lutfur (I know what triggered this concern, but I won’t go into detail here).

Josh and Aman had a private row. The precise wording of that row was disputed, but only Josh and Aman were there. However, in June 2012, Alibor seems to have been convinced by someone that Josh had acted out of turn. So he submitted a hefty complaint against Josh to the council’s Standards body accusing him, among other things, of being biased against Aman and of bullying the Labour group into supporting his view.

The reason this mattered is because a formal recruitment and assessment process was taking place to appoint an interim chief executive. There had been an impasse in that process. Labour, as the largest group, had the constitutional right to dominate the appointing Human Resources panel; however, Lutfur was threatening to boycott it. It would have been impossible to have a new chief executive who did not have the mayor’s support, so Josh agreed with Lutfur to give up Labour’s majority position in return for Lutfur’s participation.

There was one condition, to which they both agreed: that any vote by the Human Resources committee would have to be unanimous. Both agreed, as did the committee itself.

However, whoever advised the committee that that was lawful turned out to be very wrong. Calamitously wrong. The panel interviewed two candidates: Aman and AN Other. There was a split vote and when AN Other was informed of this, he withdrew. That left Aman as the only choice, and although the panel had voted unanimously that Aman was “suitable”, they had not unanimously voted for his appointment. Ms Freeman then provided some new advice to councillors: that they must appoint Aman.

This new advice infuriated a number of Labour members, including Josh…and to cut a long story short, we still have no chief executive but a temporary head of paid service…and a legal chief who is not trusted by several senior members.

So back to Alibor’s complaint. Josh had been advised by his own lawyers that as a result of his row with Aman, he should withdraw from the appointment process and avoid using his position as leader to influence or whip others.

Alibor alleged he had misused his position to plot a campaign to veto Aman.

Alibor’s complaint was rejected on all counts.

I’ve had another of those lovely brown envelopes through my door. The last one, about Murziline Parchment, sparked a leak inquiry and I suspect this one will as well. The document in that envelope was the full and confidential report on Alibor’s complaint by external investigator, Belinda Shaw.

It runs to 38 pages and in the interests of transparency and full public interest disclosure I’m making the entire document available for download from this blog. It contains fascinating detail, including some clear rifts within the Labour group. At one point you can see that David Edgar, who announced his candidacy for Labour mayor yesterday, disputed Josh’s version of events at one point.

However, the most important detail comes on p7 of the executive summary and in particular the final paragraph 1.6:

Having carefully considered Cllr Peck’s conduct, it is my view that he

- did not fail to treat others with respect

- did not bully another person

- did not bring his office or authority into disrepute

- did not use his position as councillor improperly to secure an advantage for another person

- did not fail to disclose the existence and nature of a personal interest at a meeting of the counci.

As such it is my view that Cllr Peck did not fail to comply with the Code of Conduct.

And as such, that seems Game, Set and Match.

Now we need to know how much it all cost. Maybe the Cabinet Member for Finance can tell us….

Anyway, here are the first few pages in jpeg format and all pages are available in pdf via the links below. Happy reading.

 

 

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About a month ago, I tweeted this:

I didn’t think it was worth blogging about at the time because, well, I suppose everyone’s entitled to spend their hard earned cash how they like. But I did think I’d raise it if ever it became relevant.

And then today I saw this article by the excellent Robin de Peyer, of the East London Advertiser.

Lutfur sport

Whitechapel Sports Centre has been slammed by opposition councillors for displaying material promoting Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman in its foyer.

Labour councillors hit out after the discovery of leaflets in a traditionally impartial environment.

The development comes just weeks after Tower Hamlets Council was censured by Ofcom for using public money to take out television advertisements amounting to a party political broadcast promoting the Mayor.

The leaflets set out how Mayor Rahman is “delivering on his promises” despite government funding cuts.

Labour group leader Cllr Joshua Peck called on the sports centre to ensure such material is removed from its premises.

He said: “It is important that community facilities are not used to promote political parties.

“After we learned the Mayor wasted taxpayers’ money making illegal political adverts there is obviously a concern that this is yet another attempt to use resources to promote his political agenda.

“It is important that staff and management at leisure centres and other community facilities recognise the need to remain impartial and do not allow political leafleting like this”, he added.

Nobody from the sports centre, in Dunward Street, was available to comment.

But Tower Hamlets Council denied it was responsible for the distribution and production of the leaflets. A spokesman declined to comment on who produced the leaflets and how they came to be in that location.

“The council only promotes publicity materials containing public information about local services and activities”, he said.

“Our contractors have been asked to remain vigilant on the content of public display stands.”

So we have a publicly funded Mercedes-driving Mayor who is voting with his feet and eschewing the delights of his local council sports centre in Whitechapel by paying what is likely to be about about £115 a month membership of the luxurious and brilliant Virgin Active gym in Canary Wharf…but then having the cheek to use the lowly local to boast he’s making us all “better off”.

Well, I suppose he’s making the Whitechapel regulars better off by giving them more space to exercise (and that’s not even counting the groupies he takes with him: last Friday night, I also bumped into Cllr Gulam Robbani in the Virgin foyer).

One person I haven’t seen there yet is the England football fanatic Cllr David Edgar. He’s probably been too busy planning his strategy to become mayor. Today, he followed Rachael Saunders and John Biggs by announcing his candidacy for the Labour pick.

He issued the following press release, which significantly makes no attack on Lutfur…and that’s because he takes a softer approach than most in the Labour to the mayor. And that’s also one reason why he has the backing of Cllr Marc Francis in this contest. Respect chair Carole Swords will be delighted: for her, David was public enemy number one during the 2006-2008 Housing Choice when he was lead member for housing; while Marc was number two on her hit list, so much so she once lobbed a glass of water over him in the council chamber.

But I digress. Here’s David’s press release:

Councillor David Edgar today confirmed he will stand for selection to be the Labour candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets.

Speaking from his home in Limehouse, Cllr Edgar said: “Fifteen years of representing the people of Tower Hamlets has given me a deep understanding of the challenges and aspirations of our community. I know how keen young people are to go to college or university and get good jobs. I know how important a decent, affordable home is to everyone. I have a clear picture of what is needed to make residents’ lives better.”

Announcing his decision, Cllr Edgar said: “My experience as a campaigner and my commitment to local people make me a strong choice to be Labour’s Mayoral candidate. The unfair cuts to the Council’s funding by the coalition government mean that my wide experience of overseeing budgets is vital to protect our community from the impact of the cuts.”

Cllr Edgar concluded by saying that: “I will work to bring new jobs and homes to Tower Hamlets and I will encourage small businesses. I will be a champion for Tower Hamlets at City Hall and Westminster. Tower Hamlets can make progress on education, the local economy, the environment and healthcare. Improvements are not out of reach but strong and collaborative leadership is essential to achieve them. I can provide that leadership.”

ENDS

Notes for editors:

Councillor David Edgar works as a Director at The Young Foundation – a charity based in Tower Hamlets. He is a qualified accountant. He was first elected to Tower Hamlets Council in 1994, and has been Lead Councillor for Housing, Lead Councillor for Resources and Deputy Leader of the Council. He lives in Limehouse, the ward he represents.

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