Labour attacks Tower Hamlets mayor over ‘black hole’ in council finances

The Labour party has attacked the mayor of Tower Hamlets for what they call a “black hole” in the council’s finances.

There is currently £71 million budget gap in the council’s financial plan, which Labour blames on government cuts to council funding and what they call a “spending spree” by Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

Cllr Carlo Gibbs, Labour spokesperson for finance, said: “First the council is hit by deep and destructive budget cuts by the Tory government and now we see how the mayor’s out of control spending is making the situation much worse.”

The budget gap was also attacked by John Biggs, Labour candidate for mayor of Tower Hamlets and London assembly member for East Ham.

He said: “Instead of frantically trying to buy the next election with local peoples’ own money the mayor should be focused on policies which protect our community in the long term.”

Tower Hamlets Council said government cuts had “presented challenges” but that the council’s budgets are “subject to considerable change”.

A spokesperson said the council has balanced its budget for 2013/14 and 2014/15 and that its finances will be reviewed in December.

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Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “With increasing government cuts and further spending rounds to be announced, we know that our financial planning is based on a number of key assumptions and our position is always subject to change which is why plans are always ongoing.

“By taking a proactive approach to identifying savings however, we have already been able to manage a 24 per cent reduction in spending through a number of savings measures and using council reserves effectively.

“We will continue to work with London Councils, the Local Government Association and other bodies to assess the position and campaign to reduce the level of uncertainty that current government plans have for local authorities.”