Council leader under fire in row over Town Hall chief's exit
COUNCIL leader Lutfur Rahman faced a barrage of hostile protest in East London tonight, beseiged with questions in a rowdy Town Hall debate over the controversial exit of Tower Hamlets’ chief executive Martin Smith. He ran the gauntlet of Opposition councillors from three parties and a packed public gallery when quizzed about Smith’s pay-off from public funds during the half-hour exchange
SPECIAL REPORT by Gemma Collins
COUNCIL leader Lutfur Rahman faced a barrage of hostile protest in East London tonight, beseiged with questions in a rowdy Town Hall debate over the controversial exit of Tower Hamlets’ chief executive Martin Smith.
He ran the gauntlet of Opposition councillors from three parties and a packed public gallery when quizzed about Smith’s pay-off from public funds during the half-hour exchange.
Opposition councillors lost confidence in the Labour administration, they told him.
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Cllr Rahman denied that Mr Smith was “forced out” after disagreement over how the authority was being run.
Smith was known for keeping tight reigns on spending and preventing profligate budgeting. He even won the authority four-star rating from Government inspectors during his brief two-year watch.’
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The three Opposition parties insisted Smith didn’t want to go, but Rahman kept repeating that his departure was “mutual.” They didn’t accept Labour’s line.
NOT SMITH’S CHOICE’
“It was no way the choice of Martin Smith,” said Lib Dem group leader Stephanie Eaton.
“It was not his choice to go. It is misleading to say it was a mutual’ agreement. It was not.”
Rahman dismissed her accusation as hearsay’ and turned his answers to how amazing’ Tower Hamlets—Britain’s most deprived inner city borough—was with all its achievements.
So what were the “changes needed” referred to by Rahman? she demanded. There was no direct answer, except repeating that Smith’s departure was “mutual.”
Tory group leader Peter Golds said: “If you don’t give a responsible answer, you have lost my confidence.”
He tried asking another question—but was rebuffed by the Labour Mayor fighting to keep order in the 30 minutes allowed for questions about the issue that appeared to be getting out of control.
Respect Opposition group leader Abjul Miah demanded to know how many senior officers have had “golden handshakes” in the past, while angry spectators in the public gallery called out “shame” when Rahman refused to be drawn when challenged that Martin Smith was pushed out.
It was the first time Rahman had spoken on Smith’s departure after weeks of silence following a leak to the East London Advertiser on June 4.