Tower Hamlets’ new Opposition leader picks cabinet to take on mayor and David Cameron

The new Opposition Labour leader on Tower Hamlets Council has picked his cabinet to take on the coalition government and the all-powerful executive mayor in London’s East End.

Joshua Peck threw down the gauntlet last night to both David Cameron over social welfare and to Lutfur Rahman—the former council leader who pushed Labour into humiliating Opposition when he won the election for mayor in November.

It followed an intense Opposition Group meeting at the Town Hall as Cllr Peck took over Labour’s reins from Helal Abbas for the battle to protect public services and welfare benefits.

“Changes to housing and other benefits leave a whole generation who won’t be able to afford to live in the East End,” he told the East London Advertiser.

“The majority on benefit are not in luxury properties, but in ordinary homes. After rent, what’s left after the Government’s capping is 99p a week—that’s unacceptable. It creates real poverty.”

He is also determined to retake control of Tower Hamlets with its �1.2 billion annual budget at the next council elections in three years, which includes putting up a Labour candidate for executive mayor to challenge Lutfur Rahman’s regime.

“We can carry on squabbling about the mayor,” added Cllr Peck. “But right now it’s more important to tackle real on-the-ground issues.

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“The mayor has to prove himself—we’ll concentrate on making a difference.”

His new Shadow cabinet is: Resources Anwar Khan, Work & Economic Growth David Edgar, Housing, Heritage & Planning Judith Gardiner, Adult Health Anna Lynch, Children’s Services Bill Turner, Green issues Shiria Khatun, Safety issues Kosru Uddin and Culture & Creative Industries Denise Jones.

Cllr Peck has had a meteoric rise through the Labour ranks since being elected onto the council for the first time in 2005.

His book-balancing talents were soon recognised and he joined the cabinet as Lead member for Finance, managing the sixth-lowest council tax in the country. He went on to be Deputy Leader under Lutfur Rahman before the new mayor took Office and pushed the majority Labour councillors onto the back benches despite their 32 seats out of 51.

The Group last night also agreed nominations for council committee chairs: Appeals Bill Turner, Audit Carlo Gibbs, Development Helal Abbas, General Purposes Shiria Khatun, Human Resources Abdul Mukit, Licensing Carli Harper-Penman, Pensions Anwar Khan.

Nomination for the influential Overview & Scrutiny chair is former civic mayor Ann Jackson, with Lead members for Resources Sirajul Islam, Health issues Rachael Saunders, Communities & Culture Zenith Rahman, Children & Adults Amy Whitelock and Development & Renewal Helal Uddin.

Nomination for Council Chair is Mizanur Rahman Chaudhury, while ‘Olympic ambassador’ nomination is Anna Lynch.