Eric Pickles to send three commissioners to run Tower Hamlets over audit

Local government secretary Eric Pickles

Local government secretary Eric Pickles - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Tower Hamlets Council could be taken over by government-appointed commissioners following a damning report on “failures” in council governance.

The council has 24 hours to respond to local government secretary Eric Pickles’s proposal, announced in the House of Commons today, to send three commissioners to “oversee or exercise” council powers.

These powers include hiring and firing of staff, grant allocation, sale of public property and council publicity.

The announcement follows the release of an audit report into council finances by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), ordered by Mr Pickles in April, which found the council had failed to provide “best value for money” to residents.

The council and Mayor Lutfur Rahman have rejected the findings of the report, saying in their view there was “no evidence” of best value failures.

“There’s a clear picture that there has been a fundamental breakdown of governance in this Mayoral administration,” said Mr Pickles, speaking in Parliament.

“If unchecked it will allow unproper conduct to run rife, further undermining public confidence in the council, damaging community cohesion and ultimately put public services across the borough at risk.

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“My proposal is centred on putting a team of three commissioners who we’ll appoint and who will be accountable to me.

“Their role will be to oversee, or as appropriate exercise, certain functions of the council.

“I envisage that the commissioners will be in place until the 31 March 2017.”

Mr Pickles gave the council 14 days to make representations over the report and the proposals.

The council has yet to issue a response to the proposal.

More to follow

Read more:

Tower Hamlets rejects government audit report, saying ‘no evidence of fraud’

Auditors say Tower Hamlets ‘failed to provide best value’ for residents