Probe into fraud and misuse of taxpayers’ money during Lutfur Rahman era is closed

Lutfur Rahman was removed from office in 2015. Picture: Mike Brooke

Lutfur Rahman was removed from office in 2015. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets Council has closed down its “Clear Up Project”, which was investigating allegations of fraud and misuse of public money made against the previous administration.

An independent team said it found “no evidence” of fraud in the way the council handed out grants but has made several changes and improvements in three departments.

The “Clear Up Project” was set up after former mayor Lutfur Rahman was removed from office in 2015 for committing electoral fraud.

He was replaced by John Biggs who vowed to clean up the borough.

Investigators looked into allegations said to have happened in the council’s youth service, grants committee and human resources department between October 2010 and June 2016.

Tower Hamlets council has rebuilt its youth service since Mr Rahman was forced out, a report to the council’s transformation and improvement board states.

This included setting up 18 new youth clubs and free arts and sports services for teenagers.

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Small charities or groups who provide community services are able to apply for grants of up to £20,000 from the council and there were allegations that “a number of organisations” had submitted untrue applications in 2013.

But investigators insisted they found no evidence to substantiate the claims and councillors voted to close down the project at a meeting on Tuesday.

“In the absence of any evidence at all, legal advice suggested that it would not be reasonable for the council to pursue any of the groups further,” the report states.

“However, in any event the council has taken and is taking a number of steps to ensure that the grant process is considerably more robust under the Local Community Fund scheme.”

In September the Met announced it had dropped an investigation into the borough’s 2014 vote-rigging scandal saying there was “not sufficient evidence” to prosecute anyone.

However the probe, which launched last year, uncovered “evidence of a serious criminal offence” not related to electoral fraud, police said.A new investigation into this offence is being led by City of London police.

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesman said: “The Clear Up Project has now been completed and it has been closed.

“The board was satisfied that all the recommendations that arose as part of the project had been implemented individually or had been included in the council’s Transformation and Improvement Action Plan which is in the process of being implemented.”