Tower Hamlets student grants saved in deal with Government commissioners

Tower Hamlets council

Tower Hamlets council - Credit: Archant

Grants dished out by the local authority in one of Britain’s poorest areas for poor families to keep children on at school have been saved at the 11th hour. Government commissioners going through the books of Tower Hamlets Council in London’s East End have agreed to let the Town Hall continue paying out the local ‘Educational Maintenance’ allowance.

Deputy Mayor Rachael Saunders

Deputy Mayor Rachael Saunders - Credit: Archant + TH Lab Pty

The move has been welcomed by Deputy Mayor Rachael Saunders after hard bargaining with the commissioners.

“The process we’ve gone through to clean up the council’s grants is important, given the severe concerns over awards under the previous administration,” she said.

“There is still work to be done, but we have been able to secure the allowance which supports young people to complete their education.”

The commissioners were sent in by the Communities Secretary of State last December over worries about how the now-deposed Mayor Lutfur Rahman was handling the public coffers against a background of allegations of mismanagement of public funds and assets and deals made behind closed doors. He was ousted in April when the High Court barred him from office for five years.

No new awards were to be made until a stringent review was completed, it had been decided in May, before the new mayor took over. But the commissioners who were sent in to oversee the grants process have now agreed to keep the allowances, to encourage youngsters from poor backgrounds to remain in education.

Cllr Saunders, who is also the Cabinet member for education and child services, added: “We wanted to get it right, and I’m glad the grant is continuing for the coming year.”

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The new mayor to took over in June, John Biggs, promised: “The allowance will continue to support youngsters while they complete their education and will contribute towards their success.”

Ironically, it was Lutfur Rahman who first brought in the local grants as a snub to the Coalition government which cut the weekly £30 student maintenance grants in 2011, with many East End families finding it hard to keep their kids on at school after 16.

He found money to pay out £400-a-year grants 400 eligible students aged 16 to 19 who attended at least 95 per cent of their lessons.

But concerns emerged about how the grants were being allocated, so they were one of the items being scrutinised by the commissioners.