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Council battle tonight for hearts and minds of Tower Hamlets youth

18:38 21 September 2016

Labour's Mayor Biggs accuses Opposition of 'malicious and untrue rumours' about cuts

Labour's Mayor Biggs accuses Opposition of 'malicious and untrue rumours' about cuts

Archant

A Town Hall battle was expected tonight over the future of council youth services in London’s East End which are under investigation for corruption and malpractice.

Summer demo... youths protest on zebra crossing against closure of Harpley youth centre in Globe Road, Stepney Green, in JulySummer demo... youths protest on zebra crossing against closure of Harpley youth centre in Globe Road, Stepney Green, in July

But the rump of disgraced ex-Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman who remain on the council after his downfall weren’t present in the council chamber to challenge the new Labour Mayor over youth service cuts.

The Independent Opposition that used to run the administration before Rahman’s downfall 18 months ago had stormed out during a separate debate on changes to ‘mother tongue’ lessons that the council’s language service runs.

Their resolution calling for Labour mayor John Biggs to “govern in a transparent manner” and stop further youth centre closures was left on the agenda without discussion.

The original row over youth service corruption erupted at July’s council meeting when deputy mayor Rachel Saunders read out a list allegations of wrongdoing during the Rahman administration—including council premises being used for drugs.

It led to staff resignations and a management crisis which resulted in a complete overhaul, with some youth projects closing such as Harpley’s three projects in Stepney Green.

Labour inherited “an utter shambles from the previous administration”, Mayor Biggs told July’s meeting. It was a story of neglect and mismanagement over a long period, when large sums of money had been lost from bad practices including mis-use of council credit charge cards costing local taxpayers tens-of-thousands of pounds.

The council ordered an independent investigation which is now finished and due to be published in the morning.

Youth centres had previously been run by local bodies including Poplar Harca Housing and George Green’s Secondary School on the Isle of Dogs.

But Rahman took them over in 2012 and ran them from the Town Hall in the face of protests at the time, which was followed by the allegations of malpractice.

Teenagers caught up in the row over youth centres closing demonstrated outside Stepney Green’s Harpley centre in Globe Road when it closed in July, saying they felt betrayed by the council.

But their cause remained silent tonight from the Opposition walk out and shouting from Opposition supporters in the public gallery who brought the meeting to a halt for half-an-hour.

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