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Chaos as Tower Hamlets Council budget meeting ends in deadlock

PUBLISHED: 10:40 28 February 2013 | UPDATED: 13:01 28 February 2013

Chaos reigned at Tower Hamlets Council’s budget meeting last night as parties were left in deadlock, forcing an emergency meeting to be scheduled for next week.

At an ill-tempered meeting Labour and Tory councillors joined forces to secure a vote on Independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s budget as amended by Labour – but nobody in the chamber supported it in the vote.

Labour councillors insisted they could not back the proposals even with their own amendment, citing measures including a 60 per cent increase in funding for the mayor’s office and advisors as justifications.

But frantic discussions ensued among Labour councillors as they were told by officers they could not pass the budget as they amended it without the Mayor being given time ton consider it ahead of another emergency meeting.

The parties are now in deadlock as they struggle to hash out a solution before next Thursday’s meeting - knowing if they fail they face the prospect of central government intervention to determine the budget for the next financial year.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet members were jubilant after the meeting, branding the scenes on Labour benches reminiscent of political satire ‘The Thick Of It’.

Former solicitor Mayor Rahman joked to Labour group leader Cllr Joshua Peck: “You have to be a lawyer to understand it”.

Cabinet member for resources Cllr Alibor Choudhury added: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.

“They were prompted several times to vote for their proposal but they sat there like rabbits in the headlights. They are a liability and should not be allowed anywhere near the Council’s budget - they just don’t get it.”

Cllr Peck brought the meeting to a close complaining he had received conflicting advice from council officers.

“We have no support for a budget which we think does the wrong thing for this borough”, he added.

Key provisions in the Mayor’s budget include an increase in the budget for his staff and office from £424,000 last year to £700,000 next year – an increase Cllr Choudhury described as “well-deserved”.

The Mayor has also proposed a £3million multi-faith burial site outside the borough, as well as a further £1m in grants to make improvements to places of worship.

Councillors will vote on two budgets at the meeting - Mayor Rahman’s proposals, and those proposals as amended by Labour. A two thirds majority is required for the budget to pass.

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