Labour’s John Biggs challenges Lutfur Rahman in bid to take Tower Hamlets

John Biggs at the launch of his campaign for Mayor

John Biggs at the launch of his campaign for Mayor - Credit: Archant

John Biggs has thrown down his challenge to take on Lutfur Rahman in the fight to be next Mayor of Tower Hamlets with the launch of a tough drive on drugs and crime in London’s East End.

John Biggs and some of Labour's candidates for Tower Hamlets council

John Biggs and some of Labour's candidates for Tower Hamlets council - Credit: Archant

Labour’s candidate to oust the independent Rahman administration from the Town Hall at the polls in May pledged tough action on crime last night when he faced the media at Whitechapel’s Micro business centre.

“The current mayor doesn’t give crime priority—he’s too busy having his photo taken or giving grants to his favourite organisations,” the seasoned London Assembly member claimed.

“Crime and anti-social behaviour are the bread and butter issues the mayor should be focussing on, but there’s no evidence he does anything of the sort.

“We have a proud tradition in the East End of strong communities, but many people worry about rising crime.”

The challenger aiming to regain control that Labour lost in 2010 has a five-point plan to tackle crime and yob culture:

- Take personal control, working with the borough police commander

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- Get tough on “lazy landlords” who don’t take responsibility for safety on housing estates

- Cracking down on yobs outside bars and clubs by refusing licences to “irresponsible owners”

- A Local Safety plan in every neighbourhood with public meetings

- Review the current Mayor’s “attack on local youth service providers” and put power back into local organisations.

But he admits he can’t reverse last year’s Met policing cuts by London Mayor Boris Johnson which closed police stations and reducing front-counter services.

Limehouse was now only 9am-to-5pm, leaving Bethnal Green as the East End’s only 24-hour police station.

“That was a bad move and we can’t reverse that,” Biggs added. “We have to deal with the world as it is.

“Closing police stations or reducing hours was the wrong signal and increased the sense of public insecurity.”

Some 245 police and support officers have been lost and neighbourhood teams cut from six officers to two in Tower Hamlets since Lutfur Rahman came to power in 2010, Labour points out. Knife crime and robberies are up by half, with 20,000 reports of antisocial behaviour last year alone.

“Tower Hamlets needs a mayor who can reverse the crime rises under Rahman,” Biggs insists. “We can make this a top priority and end his culture of complacency.”

The May local elections also include the 45 members of Tower Hamlets council which still has a Labour majority, despite being in opposition to the executive mayor.

Some of those running for election joined last night’s crime policy launch to support Biggs.

They included Cllr Denise Jones, representing the Wapping area where an illegal rave at a disused warehouse erupted into a knife brawl last month.

She said: “Riot police and helicopters were called in when five people were stabbed. It was out of control.

“John Biggs acted quickly and met residents and has since called for a public meeting.

“But where was the mayor? The mayor was nowhere to be seen—he turns up at nice photographic occasions, but didn’t come to Wapping.”

Labour plans a “zero tolerance” to alcohol and yobs. It also wants housing estates with more CCTV, security doors, better lighting and dedicated local officers.

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