I’d left by the time of this little outburst at last week’s full Tower Hamlets council meeting. It would have been nice to have posted a video of it, but the council has of course banned such transparency.
Anyway, well done to Mike Brooke and the East London Advertiser for staying the course and reporting this (which I’ve only just seen):
Families living next to east London’s Victoria Park have been shocked by a member of Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s administration urging them to move house if festivals in the park upset them.
Shahed Ali suggested they could go on a housing exchange register and swap with tenants living in his own Whitechapel neighbourhood.
The outburst came in a debate in which the council voted to call on the Mayor to “respect the democratic mandate of the authority” which has twice agreed to limit event days to six a year, end them by 10pm and put a cap on noise levels and crowd capacity.
But instead, the mayor has put out a tender inviting companies to bid for a three-year contract for up to 30 commercial event days.
Cllr Ali said: “I’d be interested to know if local ward councillors have considered asking these families if they would go on the exchange register.
“Many residents in Whitechapel would happily exchange with them and move into their houses. They can come and speak to me—I’ll help them make that move.”
The suggestion brought outrage from Labour’s Amy Whitelock, accusing him of “starting a class war” and pointing out the noise and disturbance reached a housing estate in Bethnal Green, not just families living by the park.
“Ali’s arrogance is unbelievable—it’s an outrageous remark,” she said. “It’s not a class issue, so why are you making it one?”
The row followed an earlier spat involving Cllr Ali during Public Question Time when resident Janet Wade asked why the Mayor failed to bring in the six-day limit agreed by the council.
Cllr Ali, speaking for the mayor, referred to “these difficult times” when priority was housing, education and protecting the most vulnerable from welfare reforms.
Mrs Wade slammed back: “We appreciate these are difficult times—but that doesn’t mean public parks should be used just to raise revenue rather than benefit people.
“We’re beginning to think the council isn’t a fit and proper body to manage the park.”
The big events were “not family friendly,” she maintained. They were too big, too noisy and go on too late.
Quite what Mayor Lutfur and his councillors have against the people who live near Victoria Park is really something of a mystery. But they do seem to be fond of making little digs against the “middle classes” they believe to live there.
I think they need to get out more. Talk to the people in Bow and Mile End, even. I’ve always liked Shahed, but well done to Amy Whitelock for having a pop at him in the council chamber. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if she raised Shahed’s own personal business interests.
His declared register of interests on the council’s website says he owns an events company called Global Arts Village Ltd. There’s more about this outfit on the council’s website here, where it says:
Established since 1998 to raise the media and public profile of Bangladesh and the Bengali arts industry, we have organised the biggest and largest Bangladeshi concert events at venues such as the former London and Wembley Arena’s, Royal Festival Hall, Millenium Dome and taken shows to the USA and Bangladesh, including outdoor events.
Founder of the BIMA AWARDS (Bangladesh International Media Awards) in the year 2004 as an annual event to recognise achievement in Bangladeshi talent worldwide.
This event is broadcast live to a 30 million+ audience worldwide. We have worked with all A-list celebrities of Bangladesh.
We have also produced TV drama’s for ethnic televison channels, filmed in locations throughout the UK and Bangladesh with a mixture of local talent and A-list celebrities.
Shahed Ali, the founder and Artistic Director, was born and brought up in Tower Hamlets, educated and still currently works in Tower Hamlets.
But the funny thing about this company is that it doesn’t actually exist. Well, not any more anyway.
According to records at Companies House, it changed its name to Arts Worldwide in June 2009 and was dissolved in September 2010.
So why is it still on Shahed’s declaration of interests? Well, that’s because he hasn’t updated it since October 10, 2007.
His form also says he has a substantial interest in Sangeeta Ltd, a books and CD distribution company. However, that, too, no longer exists. It was also dissolved in October 2010.
And the same goes for his declared political party: he says he’s a member of Respect….but oh, hang on a sec, having defected from them to Labour to Lutfur, that part is actually about right.
A declaration of interests that is six years out of date. And neither he nor the council have bothered to ensure it has been corrected in that time.
What we do know is that he runs a successful restaurant in Frinton-on-Sea in Essex (now there is a middle-class stronghold if ever there was one – how ironic).
But where else is he getting his income from? How are we able to check if he has any conflicts of interest in relation to big events in Victoria Park? A few years ago, he lobbied to take over the Boishakhi Mela from Shiraj Haque…
Shahed is a regular reader of this blog and he does, unlike other councillors, have the guts to comment under his own name, so perhaps he can explain why he hasn’t updated his register and maybe even take the opportunity to lodge a new one..right here on this blog.