Mayor Rahman responds to Labour budget proposals on policing, after-school childcare and East End Life

Mayor Lutfur Rahman set out his budget position yesterday ahead of next Tuesday’s meeting at which councillors will debate �55m worth of cuts.

Tower Hamlets councillors will have a second chance to set a budget for 2011/12 after failing to reach an overall agreement at a first meeting on February 23.

A number of amendments from Labour, Lib Dem and Respect councillors, on subjects including housing, police numbers and the council’s East End Life freesheet were carried forward to Tuesday’s meeting.

Councillors will now consider Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s response and eventually vote on the amended budget.

If two-thirds of members present vote against the mayor, it would be possible for them to vote in amendments which he has not endorsed.

In his response, Mr Rahman accepts a Lib Dem-Respect proposal to spend �1.04 million to support apprenticeships and new graduate initiatives over the next three years.

He also accepted their motion to allocate �3.5 million to increase affordable housing including social rented accommodation to be funded through council reserves and capital receipts.

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From Labour, he agreed to fund a housing link service for people with mental health problems with a decrease in funding of a quarter and to cut �230,000 from the staffing budget for mayoral support.

He also accepted their proposal to take �60,000 from the council’s communications budget and spend it on adventure playgrounds.

Three key areas of debate - after-school childcare, policing and EEL - remain where the mayor disagrees with Labour and the two sides do not look any closer to reaching a consensus.

Labour councillor Josh Peck said his party invited the mayor to meet with them last Friday but he had not.

Mr Rahman’s lead member for resources, Alibor Choudhury, did meet with Labour councillors Helal Abbas and David Edgar on Tuesday.

Mr Choudhury said: “They offered nothing.

“The mayor has bent over backwards to accommodate them, even taking a cut to his own office while leaving backbench support untouched.

“The only areas where he can’t compromise are where it would cost the council unnecessary cash.”

On after-school childcare, the council plans to scrap its own Junior Youth Service, leading to 29 redundancies and move the provision into schools.

Mr Rahman accepted a Lib Dem-Respect policy to give an extra �60,000 combined to the nine schools who will take on the service - at a cheaper cost than a similar Labour proposal.

Mr Peck said yesterday that his party had been given different costings from council officers but said he would support the alternative plan if it safeguarded the service for parents at current charges and on a long-term basis.

On policing, Labour want to add 17 police officers to ward teams at the expense of Tower Hamlets enforcement officers but the mayor maintains this will cut across a deal he is making with the Greater London Authority for 21 new officers.

Mr Rahman also rejected the idea that EEL should become a quarterly publication, saying he did not want to pre-empt a review into the controversial newspaper which will report in May.

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