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So what’s happened to that promise about Bonner School playground?

PUBLISHED: 15:41 17 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:27 05 October 2010

TWO years ago, in the face of local and national opposition, the council maintained its course and ploughed its PFI-funded bulldozers straight into heart of Old Bonner School in Bethnal Green. In place of the cherished Victorian building, they built a tarmac playground. And to soften the blow to the public, the council promised the new playground would be open to the local community out of school hours

TWO years ago, in the face of local and national opposition, the council maintained its course and ploughed its PFI-funded bulldozers straight into heart of Old Bonner School in Bethnal Green. In place of the cherished Victorian building, they built a tarmac playground. And to soften the blow to the public, the council promised the new playground would be open to the local community out of school hours. This clear pledge was minuted in the cabinet decision of October, 2006.

But it now seems that Bonner Primary School's headteacher Martin Tune, who was recently awarded a CBE for his education work, could be trying to squirm from that position. He has been telling parents, whose kids have been looking forward to using the new playground in the summer holidays, that it might not open after all.

When I approached the council about this, a press officer at first said it would be open "as long as a staff member is available to supervise". The spokesman then said this staff member would be "monitoring numbers" and that if they "dropped off" the council would "need to look at again".

But when I asked whether education chiefs had any target threshold for usage, he baulked. A day later, he promised it would "be open during all holiday times, regardless of the number of children and families using it".

Only if a staff member was unavailable on a particular day would the playground be closed, he added.

I wonder if this message and decision has reached Mr Tune, who judging by the answers he's been giving one inquisitive local parent, seems to have single-handedly attached a set of conditions to the cabinet's unequivocal decision of 2006.

Forgive the pun, but there's an important point of principle at play here: if the council makes a promise, it should be made to keep it.

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REMEMBER THE ALAMO

TOWER Hamlets Homes may call itself an "arm's length management organisation", or Almo, but tenants and leaseholders are quite rightly angry that, as I reported last week, £10,000 of their money has been spent paying the Town Hall's other arm, the council, for the design of its new logo. They'll also be happy to know that another £10k is going on repainting the new outfit's vehicle fleet and office signs.

Some £40k more will also go on a new "communications manager" for the Almo. This person will deal with all the press enquiries previously handled by the council's communications team. So will the council be trimming its communications budget (which includes East End Life)? The answer, I'm told, is emphatically 'no!'

Given the charity they're getting from residents, maybe they should call it an Alms Length Management Organisation.

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HOW MUCH LONGER WILL COUNCIL KEEP PROPING UP FREESHEET?

HERE'S a little poser for Tower Hamlets Homes. For months now, the council and politicians have been insisting the new Arm's Length Management Organisation is a separate legal entity.

The THH board, a mixture of tenants, leaseholders, other independents and councillors, has a duty to secure value for money.

The current issue of East End Life contains a number of adverts placed by the Almo to their non-conjoined cousins at the Town Hall.

These not only include recruitment ads for caretakers and "customer service" officers and the like, but also housing ads for the "choice-based lettings" system.

Choice-based lettings, for those unfamiliar with it, is the method by which residents on the housing list bid for council properties.

It is also the reason long used by councillors, including four of the Almo's new board, Denise Jones, Shafiqul Haque, Alex Heslop and Ohid Ahmed, as the major justification for publishing East End Life weekly. Where else, they cried, could residents find these details?

So it will be interesting to see exactly how much of an "arm's length" the Almo is from the council. Will the Almo be seeking quotes for their adverts from other newspapers in the area for example? They certainly haven't asked us yet.

And given the weight placed on those adverts during the council's East End Life debate last year, what would happen to our borough's beloved propaganda sheet should the Almo do residents a favour and find cheaper suppliers?

Such a major loss of "income" could fatally undermine East End Life; and if it closed, horror or horrors, the council would at a stroke actually save £1.5million.

Last stand at the Almo for East End Life perhaps??

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IF ONLY to prove to cynics and doubters that I've never a good word to say about Labour, I'll comment on two things. The idea by party activist Graham Taylor to convert Bethnal Green Library into a "Museum of the East End", as well as the home for the history library and archives, is excellent. And the £50 service charge rebate agreed by Labour to leaseholders is also a good move. Two other things: the £50 is a rebate on years of costs overcharged by Labour and something we've been highlighting during that time; and the museum/history library and archives combination was actually first floated in this column last year, when I suggested downstairs at Bancroft as the venue. So there you go, 'The Advertiser and Labour-Working Together for a Better Tower Hamlets'. Now pass the bucket.

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THEY maybe about marry, but it's still political war in the Eaton/Edgar camp. Confronting his doubters, Tower Hamlets Labour chair David Edgar has reassured party colleagues that his recent engagement to Lib Dem group leader Cllr Stephanie Eaton would not affect his political commitment.

"I sincerely hope she loses at the next election," he told them. To the political death us do part...

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P.S. I take back what I said about Cllr Shafiqul Haque, the new chair of the planning committee. I had warned he was unsuited to the position, but although his last meeting ended in chaos because he couldn't decide to use his casting vote or not, he conducted with a polite and dignified decorum previously lacking in these sessions.

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