Labour suggests Mayor should step down over damning audit report
PUBLISHED: 19:53 04 November 2014 | UPDATED: 20:00 04 November 2014
Labour has suggested Mayor Lutfur Rahman resign from his post over a damning audit report which may see the government seize control of the council.
Cllr Rachael Saunders, leader of the Labour group in Tower Hamlets, said the Mayor should “consider his position” after bringing the borough into “disrepute”.
When asked by the Advertiser if this means the Mayor should step down, Cllr Saunders said: “Yes. I think he should think about it.”
Her remarks come after local government secretary Eric Pickles took the extraordinary step of announcing that three commissioners appointed by him will take over a range of council powers due to the audit’s findings.
The long-delayed report, published today by city firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), blasted the council’s running of its finances, saying its handling of grant allocations, selling of public property and spending on publicity had failed to give taxpayers “best value for money”.
Cllr Saunders said: “Labour demands the highest standards of probity in our elected representatives, and this damning report vindicates the decision to expel Lutfur Rahman from the Labour Party.
“Councillors in Tower Hamlets have been fighting unjust grants allocations and opaque, rotten decision making since Lutfur Rahman was thrown out of the Labour Party and stood as an ‘independent’ Mayor.”
She added: “It is a cause of sorrow and shame for this great borough that Luftur Rahman as Mayor has taken us to the point of government intervention.
“He should consider his position. Tower Hamlets deserves better.”
Mayor Rahman, in a statement, said: “We need to be clear that there was no evidence of fraud or criminal activity identified in the PwC report published today.
“All governance issues identified in the PwC report have already been highlighted by our internal processes and are being rectified accordingly.”
He expressed “surprise” at the secretary of state’s announcement, saying there is a “huge disparity” between the report and Mr Pickles’s comments.
The Mayor added that the council would respond “in due course”.
Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, said: “Tower Hamlets is a great borough, whose reputation is being destroyed by independent mayor Lutfur Rahman and his Tower Hamlets First party.
“The mayor tries to present himself as a victim but, from reading the report, it seems that he and his senior colleagues are either in denial—they are the only people who do not know what is going on in Tower Hamlets—or they are lying to PricewaterhouseCoopers.”
But he said residents should not have to foot the £1million bill for the audit.
Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, added: “It is vital that lessons are learned from this report and robust action to rectify these governance failures are taken as a matter of urgency.
“For too long, accusations of poor governance in our borough have threatened to overshadow the good name of the people Tower Hamlets. This must not be allowed to continue.”
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