Mayor Rahman critical of Labour budget proposals but “confident” of gaining approval for cuts package

Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman criticised Labour councillors for “badly thought through and poorly costed” budget proposals on Friday but is confident that his package of cuts will be passed on March 8.

Speaking at a press conference in Whitechapel Idea Store on Friday along with his cabinet of Independent councillors, the Mayor put the blame for the council not passing a budget during Wednesday’s budget meeting squarely on the shoulders of its Labour group.

Following the budget meeting, which the public was forced to leave after an allegation of homophobia, issues over funding of the council’s after-school childcare, its East End Life freesheet and a new policing package remain for councillors to resolve.

The council must set its budget for 2011/12, which could contain �56m worth of cuts, at a budget meeting on March 8 or responsibility for it will pass to council officers.

Mr Rahman said: “My budget proposals were not rejected.

“The next meeting is over �600,000 – that is what my Labour colleagues are arguing over.

“I will reconsider the amendments and on Tuesday morning I will publish my comments.

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“On March 8, politicians will deliver a budget not council officers, I can guarantee that.

“That is what we are paid to do and we should do our job.”

At the budget meeting, Labour had asked that EEL move to quarterly publication, that after-school childcare remain in at lease eight schools for working and non-working parents and that 17 police officers be added to the borough’s Safer Neighbourhood reams, replacing Tower Hamlets enforcement officers.

The Mayor committed to a saving of �200,000 on EEL but said he would not pre-empt the findings of a review into the controversial publication that will report in May.

He also chose a Lib Dem-Respect amendment on after-school clubs, which will offer up to �20,000 to nine schools to provide the service, over Labour’s and said he was negotiating with the Greater London Authority to bring 21 extra officers to Tower Hamlets.

It will require a two-thirds majority of councillors to reject Mr Rahman’s response to Labour’s amendments at the next meeting.

He said: “If there is a vote, we will need 17 votes and I’m confident that I can deliver that.”

On Thursday Labour councillors said they would seek assurances on funding of new police officers and after-school clubs as well as how savings can be made to EEL.