Fight is on for Mayor of Tower Hamlets and the £1.2bn council budget

Battle for Tower Hamlets town hall

Battle for Tower Hamlets town hall - Credit: Archant

The gloves are off in the battle for Mayor of Tower Hamlets and the £1.2bn Town Hall budget now that the General Election is out of the way.

Battle for Tower Hamlets town hall

Battle for Tower Hamlets town hall - Credit: Archant

All the major parties as well as the ousted mayor’s protégé and the man who toppled him are squaring up for next month’s polls to elect a new mayor in London’s embattled East End.

Labour’s John Biggs was first to throw the hat in the ring two days after last month’s damning High Court ruling which barred Mayor Lutfur Rahman from office for election malpractice and declared the 2014 votes void.

Biggs was the victim in the flawed election 13 months ago who was defeated amid suspicions of malpractice, postal-voting fraud and polling station intimidation.

Andy Erlam in the East End after his High Court triumph [picture: Mike Brooke]

Andy Erlam in the East End after his High Court triumph [picture: Mike Brooke] - Credit: Archant

Senior party grandees including Dame Tessa Jowell and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper were at Sunday’s Labour campaign launch at the Scarlet restaurant in Spitalfields for the re-run election set for June 11.

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They were there to back the London Assembly member and former Tower Hamlets council leader in an election given top priority by Labour’s National Executive following last week’s rout in the General Election.

“We’ll be speaking with thousands of families up to polling day,” Biggs promised. “This election is about building a better future and providing leadership that puts priorities of all local people first.”

Tory Peter Golds

Tory Peter Golds - Credit: TH Tory Pty

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Anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam, who led the electioin petition that toppled Rahman in court, revealed he was in the fight just days after his legal victory.

He fired the first shot on Friday with claims that he had been approached by Labour to stand down.

“The answer is ‘no, no, no’!” he told the East London Advertiser. “It’s ‘no’ to grubby deals behind voters’ backs, ‘no’ to manipulating voters and ‘no’ to stitch-ups.”

Rabina Khan at Rahman's rally at Mile End's Water Lily centre

Rabina Khan at Rahman's rally at Mile End's Water Lily centre - Credit: Archant

The Tories waited till the General Election was done before entering the ring.

Tower Hamlets Council’s Conservative Opposition group leader Peter Golds was selected at a local party meeting at the Bow Belles venue on Monday night.

He has fought on the council to expose Town Hall deals under Rahman selling off public assets “at knock-down prices” and promised: “No cronyism, no back-room deals—every decision by me will be open and transparent.”

Green's John Foster

Green's John Foster - Credit: Green Pty

He wants to scrap the council’s East End Life weekly newspaper funded from council taxes which he says had already been outlawed by the government and the former Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

But Rahman’s administration he said had defied legislation. Now the costly publication paid for by council tax “to run propaganda” was doomed.

“Local authoritiers have no business publishing newspapers,” Golds added.

He would also re-examine plans to convert the old listed London Hospital site in Whitechapel into a new town hall complex, which ousted mayor Rahman bought in March in a £9 million deal with the NHS.

Rahman’s protégé Rabina Khan is running for Tower Hamlets First group, which was de-registered as a recognised political party by the Electoral Commission after last month’s High Court ruling.

Khan told the ex-mayor’s supporters at a rally in Mile End last month: “Make sure your voice is still here and justice is still here in June.”

The Greens are fielding journalist John Foster who actually wants to scrap the post of Tower Hamlets executive mayor, as Andy Erlam does, with its concentration of powers.

The Greens plan to continue campaigning to scrap the post and are working towards a referendum on the issue.

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