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Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman demands benefit fraud cllr Shelina Akhtar's resignation

PUBLISHED: 14:29 18 January 2012 | UPDATED: 17:12 18 January 2012

Shelina Akhtar

Shelina Akhtar

Archant

Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman has called for benefits fraud councillor Shelina Akhtar to resign.

Although Akhtar was counted among his circle of supporters after she defected from the Labour party to work with him, Lutfur Rahman finally heeded opposition calls to take a tough stance in his condemnation of her.

He announced yesterday he had “asked her to resign as well as to return the benefit overpayment.”

He added: “The council takes a tough stance against the misuse of public funds.”

Cllr Akhtar admitted three counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances when claiming housing and Council Tax benefits for a property in Blackwall Way, Poplar at Snaresbrook Crown Court on January 9.

She was convicted of similar offences in July 2010.

After her recent court appearance, Cllrs Josh Peck and Peter Golds, leaders of the Labour and Conservative groups respectively, called on the mayor to demand her resignation.

Meanwhile, politicians accused the town hall standards committee of ineffectiveness after it insisted it could not suspend Akhtar.

A council spokesman confirmed the councillor has been reported to its internal standards team but said because she is not due to be sentenced until February 6 it cannot take prior action.

This means Akhtar, who represents Spitalfields and Banglatown ward, is still free to claim expenses and vote on decisions.

Cllr Golds said: “Why has she not been put before standards? It puts the whole system into disrepute. People are incensed.”

Just a few weeks ago Labour Cllr Helal Abbas was suspended for complaining about the conduct of a council officer.

Mr Peck said there appeared to be an “unevenness” in the way Abbas’ case was dealt with in comparison to Cllr Akhtar’s.

The council spokesman said that because Akhtar is an independent she “is not subject to the rules of any political party or group.”

He added: “Constitutionally the mayor has no power to force Cllr Akhtar’s resignation.”

Despite continued attempts to contact Akhtar, the Advertiser has not been able to get a response from her.

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