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First Bangladeshi woman elected speaker of Tower Hamlets Council

PUBLISHED: 18:18 18 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:26 19 May 2017

Civic reception for Tower Hamlets' first Bengali woman council speaker Sabina Akhtar ready to cut the cake, joined by councillors from all parties and even a Parliamentary candidate. Picture: LBTH

Civic reception for Tower Hamlets' first Bengali woman council speaker Sabina Akhtar ready to cut the cake, joined by councillors from all parties and even a Parliamentary candidate. Picture: LBTH

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The first-ever Bangladeshi woman speaker of Tower Hamlets Council was elected without opposition at last night’s annual general meeting at the town hall.

Mayor John Biggs with new Tower Hamlets Council speaker Sabina Akhtar and deputy mayor Rachael Saunders. Picture: LBTH Mayor John Biggs with new Tower Hamlets Council speaker Sabina Akhtar and deputy mayor Rachael Saunders. Picture: LBTH

Cllr Sabina took up the post unopposed at the meeting which also saw the mayor’s reshuffled cabinet for the new municipal year.

“Tower Hamlets is the most exciting borough in the UK,” Cllr Akhtar told the meeting. “There are so many opportunities here.

“I look forward to working with the mayor, the people, charities and organisations over the coming municipal year.”

Her appointment was welcomed by mayor John Biggs, who also announced his reshuffle after two councillors stepped down from the cabinet.

Sharia Khatun and Mayor Biggs at Whitechapel rally for knife-death victim Sayed Islam as Tower Hamlets community safety cabinet member. Picture: MIKE BROOKE Sharia Khatun and Mayor Biggs at Whitechapel rally for knife-death victim Sayed Islam as Tower Hamlets community safety cabinet member. Picture: MIKE BROOKE

One leaving was Shiria Khatun, who has held cabinet responsibility for community safety during a fraught year when the East End’s knife crime has risen sharply.

Among her most recent public roles was with the Mayor at last month’s rally at Whitechapel’s Altab Ali Park to mark 20-year-old Sayed Islam’s death who was stabbed outside his home at Mile End. Her community safety role has gone to Asma Begum.

Ayas Miah has also left the cabinet as environment member to take up the role of deputy council speaker to Cllr Akhtar.

Joining the cabinet is Abdul Mukit for culture and youth and Amina Ali for environment.

Deputy Mayor Siraj Islam... responsible for Tower Hamlets response to government's welfare changes. Picture: MIKE BROOKE Deputy Mayor Siraj Islam... responsible for Tower Hamlets response to government's welfare changes. Picture: MIKE BROOKE

The Mayor said: “We have a wealth of talent, experience and backgrounds in this cabinet as well as some fresh ideas about how to make this one of the best places in London.”

Other cabinet posts include statutory deputy mayor Sirajul Islam who continues with responsibilities for the local authority’s response to the government’s tough welfare changes. He also works with the East End’s faith communities and heads the council’s community language service. Rachael Saunders continues as deputy mayor with responsibility for health and adult services.

Remaining posts are Joshua Peck on work and economic growth, Rachel Blake for strategic development, Amy Whitelock Gibbs on education and children’s services, David Edgar on resources, Abdul Mukit for culture and youth and Amina Ali for environment and for setting up the council’s Somali task force.

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