Council to stop East End weekly paid for by Tower Hamlets taxpayers

East End Life... weekly editions to stop

East End Life... weekly editions to stop - Credit: Archant

The controversial weekly publication used by deposed Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman as council “propaganda” in east London is being reduced to fortnightly after pressure from Whitehall.

Ex-mayor Rahman [inset] who used Town Hall's East End Life as "Pravda propaganda"

Ex-mayor Rahman [inset] who used Town Hall's East End Life as "Pravda propaganda" - Credit: Archant

East End Life, which costs council taxpayers at least £1.5 million a year, is one of the items identified by government commissioners going through the Town Hall’s books which are now been “corrected”, Tower Hamlets council said today.

The subsidised weekly which has competed against the local media for news and advertising revenue has been slammed in Parliament as “Pravda propaganda” and for “unfair competition” when Rahman was in charge.

Now it will be “moving to a fortnightly frequency in the short term,” a Town Hall statement said.

There will be a commitment from the new Mayor “to ensure the council is compliant with the Code of Recommended Practice on local authority publicity” by next March.

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs - Credit: Archant

Commissioners were sent in by the Department of Communities & Local Government in December to investigate council spending and how grants were being dished out.

The move followed a raft of complaints about “secrecy” and how public coffers were being channelled during the Rahman administration years.

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Public concerns eventually led to him being barred from office by the High Court in April for election malpractice and voting fraud.

The new Labour administration, whose candidate John Biggs won June’s re-run election for Mayor, has now submitted a six-monthly update to Secretary of State Greg Clark on its response to concerns about grants allocation, selling off council assets and using publicity which resulted in commissioners being parachuted in from Whitehall.

Tower Hamlets council

Tower Hamlets council - Credit: Archant

“I intend to work closely with the commissioners for positive changes for the council,” Mayor Biggs said.

“Progress has been made, particularly the last three months since I took over. My ambition is to make sure we satisfy the requirements set down in the government directions.”

He added: “But I’m also keen to go beyond a ‘tick box’ exercise—I want to make sure these improvements help provide the best service for the public.”

The submission shows 91 per cent of the items listed by the commissioners have been completed or are due for completion in line with set targets.

The “improvements” to town hall practice, with tightened controls and spending, include revising public communications which sees East End Life cut to fortnightly editions, more internet online feeds including council meetings and a completely new mainstream grants programme developed through an open commissioning process.

It also has a clear decision-making process on selling off council property, following the former Poplar Town Hall next to Canary Wharf which went for a knock-down price of £850,000 and other prime sites in deals behind closed doors.