'Racist consultation' protest rejected on Tower Hamlets street closures as Labour sticks to its manifesto

Petition claiming road closure consultation is discriminating is rejected

Rejected... petition claiming road closure consultation is discriminating - Credit: Mike Brooke

Concerns about “racist discrimination” in public consultations for a controversial  street closures programme across the East End were thrown out at Tower Hamlets Council tonight (Jan 20). 

A petition with 2,100 signatures highlighted people being “directly or indirectly discriminated against” who are legally protected based on their race, faith, gender, disability or age. 

Protest against road closure plan for Roman Road

Protest in the summer of 2020 against road closure plan for Roman Road Market - Credit: Mike Brooke

But the overwhelming Labour majority voted to ensure they meet their "2018 manifesto commitment"—while continuing to listening and making sure that “views from across our diverse community and heard”. 

Some 2,500 complaints have been made about the way the 'Liveable Streets' scheme consultation is being carried out by PCL Consult claiming it is “institutional and systematic discrimination”. 

Barriers already starting to be erected during the Lockdown aim to banish traffic from parts of Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and Bow—even with consultations still going on for the £15million scheme. 

Campaigners wanted the work stopped and an independent inquiry held into the allegations of discrimination.  

Graffiti protest to stop "gentrification" of road closures

Graffiti protest to stop "gentrification" of East End road closures - Credit: Puru Miah report

Labour’s Cllr Puru Miah had told the East London Advertiser earlier this week that the consultation “was violation of civil rights” against households with legally-protected characteristics, which effectively made the council breach its equalities duty.  

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But he was absent from tonight’s meeting because of Covid affecting his family. Instead, Lib Dem’s Rabina Khan took up the batton of protest. 

Cllr Rabina Khan... "The consultation was discriminating and should be suspended."

Lib Dem Cllr Rabina Khan in reflective mood... "The consultation was discriminating and should be suspended." - Credit: Mike Brooke/2018 stock shot

“The consultation should be suspended," she insisted. "This is the fifth petition against the scheme.”

But Labour rejected treating the petition with 2,100 names as a complaint about discrimination or suspending the PCL consultation. 

Instead, they backed cabinet member Dan Tomlinson who is tasked with getting the Liveable Streets scheme through. 

Cllr Dan Tomlinson... "Something needs to be done."

Cllr Dan Tomlinson... "Something needs to be done on Liveable Streets." - Credit: Mike Brooke/Roman Road

He said: “It was an open and fair consultation. Something needs to be done to help people get around in a healthy and safe way.” 

The Covid pandemic has meant significant changes to public consultations, the council admitted in a statement to the Advertiser before the meeting. They were now done through online surveys, social media, phone calls and meeting community organisations. 

Printed mail packs had also been posted to all households in the area. But councillors heard that many packs had simply been left in entrances to tower blocks and not through letter boxes, according to Tory Cllr Peter Golds. 

Traffic censuses have shown more vehicles pass through the East End than anywhere else in the country, Labour claimed. But it wasn't sufficient "simply blaming congestion and poor air quality on outsiders". Many local car journeys "could be done by other means".

Tower Hamlets had one of the lowest rates of car ownership anywhere in the UK, it was pointed out, yet 77pc of its population live in areas with bad air pollution. Even so, five petitions are on the council’s website protesting at the traffic bans with a total of 8,500 signatures, including one demanding an end to using “the blunt instrument of road closures to stop rat running”.