Search

Campaign launched for auditors to take over Tower Hamlets planning after ‘bribery’ claims

PUBLISHED: 16:52 13 December 2017 | UPDATED: 00:24 14 December 2017

Press conference with Cllr Khan for People's Alliance (left), Lib Dem's Elaine Bagshaw and Tory Andrew Wood calling for planning decisions to be taken away from Tower Hamlets Council. Picture: Mike Brooke

Press conference with Cllr Khan for People's Alliance (left), Lib Dem's Elaine Bagshaw and Tory Andrew Wood calling for planning decisions to be taken away from Tower Hamlets Council. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

An opposition cross-party campaign is calling on the Secretary of State to take over strategic planning applications away from Tower Hamlets Council in the light of an alleged £2 million bribery attempt to get plans passed for a skyscraper.

People's Alliance group leader Rabina Khan addressing news-conference with Lib Dems and Tories over alleged planning bribery attempt. Picture: Mike BrookePeople's Alliance group leader Rabina Khan addressing news-conference with Lib Dems and Tories over alleged planning bribery attempt. Picture: Mike Brooke

The Opposition People’s Alliance group has joined forces with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on the council in calling for government-appointed audit commissioners to return to the town hall after their departure earlier this year.

They want commissioners to take over the local authority’s quasi-legal planning powers following a Sunday newspaper report of a Whitechapel businessman claiming he could swing a deal to get the 63-storey Alpha Square tower on the Isle of Dogs approved with under-the-counter payments.

But the overseas developers blew the whistle when they sent a recording of an alleged conversation to the town hall in 2015 which led to an independent audit the following year.

Yet the move to bring in the Serious Fraud Squad took another five moths and was kept under wraps by the Labour administration altogether for two years—until the scandal broke at the weekend in a Sunday newspaper.

Joint news conference called by Tower Hamlets People's Alliance with Tories and Lib Dems over attempted bribery allegations. Picture: Mike BrookeJoint news conference called by Tower Hamlets People's Alliance with Tories and Lib Dems over attempted bribery allegations. Picture: Mike Brooke

“I’ve written to the Secretary of State urging him to take planning out of the council’s hands until the police investigation is concluded,”Alliance group leader Rabina Khan told the East London Advertiser.

“Labour was quick to report the ‘missing’ £1m from council youth services under the previous administration.

“But they delayed reporting this attempted bribery allegation during their administration to police for a year.

“The mayor signed up to a protocol on transparency a month after the allegations—he needs to be consistent.”

Tower Hamlets Tory Cllr Andrew Wood with the Sunday newspaper report into planning allegations in his Isle of Dogs constituency. Picture: Mike BrookeTower Hamlets Tory Cllr Andrew Wood with the Sunday newspaper report into planning allegations in his Isle of Dogs constituency. Picture: Mike Brooke

Cllr Khan shared today’s news-conference with Tory group deputy leader Andrew Wood, whose constituency ward on the Isle of Dogs includes the Alpha Square scheme, and Lib Dem campaigner Elaine Bagshaw who ran for mayor against Labour’s John Biggs in the 2015 re-run election.

Cllr Wood spoke of being “deeply worried” by the police lack of action a year after evidence was passed to them.

“Allegations of bribery are serious crime,” he pointed out. “So why wait months before informing the police?”

It was outside auditors who recommended calling in the Met’s serious fraud squad, but added that took months to call in police when the trail went cold.

Lib Dem campaigner Elaine Bagshaw addresses Tower Hamlets People's Alliance news conference. Picture: Mike BrookeLib Dem campaigner Elaine Bagshaw addresses Tower Hamlets People's Alliance news conference. Picture: Mike Brooke

“A letter to the Home Secretary is also on our ‘to do’ list,” Cllr Wood added.

Lib Dem’s Loraine Bagshaw, a parliamentary candidate for Poplar & Limehouse, is demanding to know why it was auditors who said to bring in the police and why it took several months before passing it on to them.

She said: “It makes me sad that we’re constantly in the press for all the wrong reasons, dragged through the mud because of stories like this. When do we finally get to move on from all of the bad headlines?

The opposition councillors also want to hold the Labour administration to account over the mayor’s executive decision last month to spend £119m revenue from ‘Right to Buy’ sales to fund more housing without reporting to the cabinet or to the ‘best value’ procurement board and without going through the authority’s strict scrutiny procedure.

Cllr Rabina Khan calling for government commissioners to return to town hall. Picture: Mike BrookeCllr Rabina Khan calling for government commissioners to return to town hall. Picture: Mike Brooke

The commissioners left the town hall in March having been parachuted in by the Secretary of State in 2014 to oversee grants that the previous Lutfur Rahman administration was handing out to dubious organisations.

But they were not told of the alleged bribery attempt while they were there, it has been claimed.

The Mayor’s Office told the Advertiser that an informal conversation about the allegations had taken place with Commissioner Sir Ken Knight, but no action was taken as planning was “outside the commissioner’s brief”.

The allegations were not made public because of police investigations, the Mayor’s Office said.
But opposition councillors point out that police have taken no action or interviewed anyone in 12 months since evidence was passed to them.

They draw a parallel with the lack of police action raised at City Hall in March over fraud in the 2014 election which returned Rahman to office, until he was barred by the High Court in 2015 on evidence of election fraud and malpractice. There have still been no criminal proceedings from the now-void 2014 election.

Latest East London News Stories

One thousand people left their offices following a basement blaze in Canary Wharf this afternoon.

13:06

Campaigners have finally sunk plans for the controversial Enderby Wharf cruise-liner terminal going ahead which would have polluted a huge swathe of the Thames and the Isle of Dogs.

11:00

An advice clinic set up as a temporary free service at Stratford following cuts to legal aid has won a funding contract for a permanent operation.

Yesterday, 18:00

Optician director Jayesh Maru has seen his way to the ancient mountain-top Inca capital of Machu Picchu and has found his way back to east London.

Yesterday, 13:36

Children have spent four years researching the life of a pupil at their school more than 100 years ago who was later awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously after being killed in the First World War.

Yesterday, 09:54

Small businesses occupying railway arches in east London facing crippling rent rises as much as 350 per cent have been promised a tenants’ charter to safeguard their trading.

Yesterday, 09:00

The indie/folk band Bon Iver will close the second All Points East festival with a headline gig in Victoria Park on Sunday June 2.

Mon, 18:00

Live TV cameras are going behind the scenes at the Royal London Hospital to record how surgeons operate.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Are you a landlord looking for a fixed rental income, paid whether the property is empty or not? Steve Westley, general manager at estate agents Elliot Leigh, explains their Guaranteed Rent Scheme and how it takes the stress out of letting your property.

Newsletter Sign Up

East London Advertiser twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Docklands and East London Advertiser
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now