Channel 4 Dispatches challenged over its filming of Tower Hamlets mayor

Channel 4's Dispatches programme showing Mayor's car in Whitechapel Road

Channel 4's Dispatches programme showing Mayor's car in Whitechapel Road - Credit: Channel 4 Dispatches programme

Legal action was threatened by Tower Hamlets council over Channel 4 secretly filming Mayor Lutfur Rahman being driven around Whitechapel in London’s East End in his chauffer-driven Mercedes that’s paid for by taxpayers, it has emerged.

The Mayor’s Office disputed points made in Monday’s Dispatches documentary on how public money is being spent by local authorities up and down the country.

A film-crew followed the mayor’s £35,000-a-year rented limo driving him from his house to the East London Mosque in Whitechapel, then to a restaurant along the Whitechapel Road where the car appears to be double parked in a bus lane while the mayor goes inside.

The sequence brought anger from Tower Hamlets Tory Opposition leader Peter Golds, who said: “What was damming was parking in a bus lane and on yellow lines.

“If the political leader of a local authority which has responsibility for parking enforcement can ignore the rules, then I suspect there will be some interesting appeals against Tower Hamlets parking tickets.”

The Mayor’s office said the programme made a number of claims about use of the car which it “strongly disputed” with Channel 4.

It said in a response to the limo double-parked in a bus lane: “Lutfur taken to Zaza’s Grill was a working lunch with local residents and organisations.

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“Double parks in a bus lane—clearly this is not ideal. There is no evidence that this constituted an offence under the Highways Act.”

The Mayor’s Office pointed out to Channel 4 the Ofcom broadcasting watchdog’s code that any claims made should also carry a response.

“We made it clear to Channel 4 senior executives that a failure to carry these corrections would result in legal action,” said a statement.

The Office listed 12 points made in the documentary—half of them about the chauffeur waiting or driving round while the mayor goes inside a building, responding that the driver is on the council staff and doesn’t cost taxpayers extra.

It added: “We also believe the petrol for the time spent ‘circling’ is less than parking charges for the equivalent time.

“The Mayor also attended the funeral of the mother of a councillor colleague.”

The programme, in fact, does carry response from the council to points it makes.