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No consultation—just Town Hall spin!

PUBLISHED: 09:48 28 August 2008 | UPDATED: 13:34 05 October 2010

Dear Editor, IN ADDTION to receiving Tower Hamlets council's East End Life through my letterbox every week, I can look forward to receiving the newsletter from Tower Hamlets Homes (oh joy!). From the opening sentence I could tell what to expect: "Tower Hamlets Homes has been set up by the council following extensive consultations with residents, which showed strong support for the plans." There was no "extensive consultations" in support of setting up an arms length' housing management organization

Dear Editor,

IN ADDTION to receiving Tower Hamlets council’s East End Life through my letterbox every week, I can look forward to receiving the newsletter from Tower Hamlets Homes called Open Door (oh joy!).

From the opening sentence I could tell what to expect: “Tower Hamlets Homes has been set up by the council following extensive consultations with residents, which showed strong support for the plans.”

There were no “extensive consultations” and what consultation that did take place was not in support of setting up an arms length’ housing management organization!

Sometimes you lose sight of the bigger picture. On such a big issue as your home, it should not be a matter for consultation, but for public debate at public meetings hosted by the council.

That never happened.

In due course, there should have been a democratic vote by tenants and leaseholders.

That never happened.

The only people who voted on the matter were Labour cabinet members of Tower Hamlets council.

Five Labour councillors sit on the board of Tower Hamlets Homes. The chairman is Chris Creggan, who the newsletter says is an “independent member of the board” and a former councillor in Tower Hamlets. Yes, but he is, in fact, a former Labour councillor.

Also part of the bigger picture is the purpose behind setting up such an entity as arms length’ housing management, its purpose to obtain £200 million from the Government to fund repairs and renovation.

But tenants and leaseholders should not have to jump through hoops and rings like an Olympic athlete to obtain the revenue to which they are entitled.

All that is necessary is for the Government to uphold the Council of Europe’s 1988 European Charter for Local Self-Government.

This charter ordains that public administration should be kept as close to citizens as possible, allowing local authorities to introduce a local’ tax to fund their services.

Local authorities should be left “with discretion in adapting their exercise of powers to local conditions.”

Scandinavian countries put the ordinance in operation, which is why they have the best social services in Europe. In Denmark, 70 per cent of their finances come from a local income tax, 22 per cent by central grant and the rest from a local property tax. Such a system gives Danish local authorities a sense of belonging.

Unfortunately, the mindset of the British Government is still rooted in the 1970s and Loony Labour’ councils.

The Labour Government when it came into power in 1997 did include the Charter of Local Self-Government, but did not put it into practice.

So it comes as no surprise that Gordon Brown’s government prevented the Charter being implemented as it would have meant relinquishing control of the purse strings.

It is, then, rather ironic that Brown said in a speech in December, 2005, “the new politics cannot be a reality unless we make local accountability work by reinvigorating the democratically elected mechanisms of local areas-local government.”

The best way that can be done is returning to local government the power to finance itself.

Above all, the idiocy of arms length’ management is there for all to see. There is no guarantee that it will receive £200 million it seeks.

Like Billy Bunter's postal order—it is money that may never arrive.

Terry McGrenera

Devons-road, Bow Common

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