Probe into youth service ‘fraud and corruption’ Tower Hamlets deputy mayor reveals

Deputy Tower Hamlets Mayor Rachael Saunders

Deputy Tower Hamlets Mayor Rachael Saunders - Credit: Archant

Claims of “fraud and corruption” in council youth services under disgraced ex-Mayor Lutfur Rahman have emerged in an address to members of Tower Hamlets council in East London by Deputy Mayor Rachael Saunders.

Cllr Rachael Saunders at 2015 Mayor election

Cllr Rachael Saunders at 2015 Mayor election - Credit: Archant

The revelations came during the council’s AGM in a row at the Town Hall over budget spending by the once-troubled local authority that’s still under partial government control for maladministration under Rahman.

She was responding to attacks by the Independent opposition group which previously ran the council under Rahman that the Labour administration was running down the youth service.

Cllr Saunders quoted from an email: “The service has faced allegations of fraud, corruption, nepotism, failure to declare personal interests, failure to declare criminal convictions, breaches of recruitment processes and council financial regulations and breaching health and safety legislations.”

She told councillors: “Investigations into these serious allegations are ongoing, which means the youth service does not have the capacity to run as much as it has in the past. But the budget remains.”

Tower Hamlets council's Speaker Khalid Uddin Ahmed

Tower Hamlets council's Speaker Khalid Uddin Ahmed - Credit: Archant

The row erupted minutes after the appointment of the council’s new Speaker, Khalid Uddin Ahmed.

Cllr Saunders pointed an accusing finger at the Independent opposition group in the council chamber—formerly Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First party—and accused them of bad practice when they were in control.

Most Read

“When we’ve worked out what we can deliver with the reduced capacity from these serious allegations when you lot were in charge, we will do an analysis,” Cllr Saunders added. “What you lot are shouting about is defending a status quo that’s thoroughly unacceptable.”

The youth service under Rahman’s administration, like all local authorities, was running the government’s anti-radicalisation strategy.

But the council investigations into those responsible for the programme uncovered alleged corruption and malpractices by some who were using council facilities, listed by Cllr Saunders. Details are only now emerging a year after Rahman was barred from office for five years by the High Court.

The youth serve has been racked with controversy since it was forcibly taken over by Rahman under his direct executive mayor control in 2012, away from local housing organisations and schools, despite a mass demo at the Town Hall and a 2,000-name petition.

Cllr Saunders, who was in Opposition as a Labour backbencher during Rahman’s administration, told the East London Advertiser at the time: “It’s important that we have a youth service that’s accountable to the public. I call on the mayor to stop the take over and hold consultations to see what what kind of service young people want. I am asking him to make a U-turn.”

But Rahman never made that U-turn and began running the youth service in-house from the Town Hall

The council’s new Labour administration has promised a full statement in time on the fraud and corruption allegations.