Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman slammed by Tory Party boss over spending on communications advisers

The Tory Party vice chairman has slammed Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman for a “vanity spend” on communications advisers after invoices from personal consultants were released.

Bob Neill rebuked the Independent mayor after details of payments of £500 per day to public relations experts were revealed under the Freedom of Information Act.

Former journalist Mark Seddon received £51,500 of public money in the last financial year as a communications adviser to Mr Rahman. But the outlay was not covered by the town hall’s £4.1million communications and publicity cash pot - instead coming from the budget for the mayor’s office and advisers.

Mr Neill said: “This is out and out vanity spend by a mayor who already bankrolls his own private army of media advisers at taxpayers’ expense.

“It is the sort of behaviour that people are sadly coming to expect from Lutfur Rahman; but that doesn’t make it any easier for local residents to swallow,” he added.

The mayor was criticised in March for raiding council reserves to increase the budget for his advisers and office by around £300,000 for the financial year 2013/14 – despite councillors having voted against the 65 per cent rise. Opposition Tory group leader Cllr Peter Golds described the move as a “sleight of hand”.

The budget for advisers, which now stands at £750,000, is separate to the £4.1m communications cash pot – but Mr Seddon described his role as “essentially the sort of stuff a press officer would do”. This included training for the mayor and councillors for television and radio appearances, he added.

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A spokesman for Tower Hamlets Council said spending on advisors was justified in light of the difficulties presented by poverty in Tower Hamlets, and pointed to a £55,000 annual cap on payments to individual advisors.

“A modern mayor in a £1billion local authority with challenges of extremes of wealth and inequality requires additional expert advice to ensure that the agenda upon which he was elected, which now forms part of council policy, is enacted,” he added.