Tower Hamlets Council slammed by government minister Brandon Lewis over Ofcom report

Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis - Credit: Archant

Government ministers have criticised Tower Hamlets Council and Mayor Lutfur Rahman for “a worrying pattern of divisive community politics and mismanagement of council staff and resources”.

Parliamentary under-secretary for local government Brandon Lewis launched the attack after a question from MP for Poplar and Limehouse Jim Fitzpatrick in the House of Commons.

Mr Fitzpatrick asked what sanctions the government was considering imposing after broadcasting watchdog Ofcom censured five television channels in January for carrying political advertisements promoting the Mayor, at the taxpayer’s expense.

Mr Lewis, a Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth, responded: “The use of taxpayers’ money for political campaigning is simply not acceptable, and this is in addition to Tower Hamlets’ disregard of the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity through its continuing publication of its weekly propaganda newspaper, East End Life.

“Such actions are not just a misuse of public funds; they are ultimately harmful to local democracy and an independent, free press.

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“It is also further evidence of a worrying pattern of divisive community politics and mismanagement of council staff and resources by the mayoral administration”, he added.

It is the second time in as many weeks Tower Hamlets Council has been rebuked by ministers in the Commons, with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles on record as saying he is “very unhappy with what is going on in the borough”.

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The borough’s Conservative group leader Cllr Peter Golds complained to Ofcom after an advertisement was shown across five Bangladeshi television channels in January last year.

It featured photographs of Mayor Rahman in the cab of a digger and inspecting a flat, and outlined his aims for improving the borough’s housing situation. His signature and title were also shown prominently on screen throughout the 30 second broadcast.

The watchdog’s report, published in January 2013, found the broadcasts breached its code of conduct. Tower Hamlets Council declined to comment on the report, and has previously dismissed ministers’ concerns over East End Life, insisting it complied with the code of conduct referred to by Mr Lewis.

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