Lutfur Rahman defends ‘every’ funding grant as government auditors probe council files

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman - Credit: Archant

The mayor of Tower Hamlets has defended “each and every” grant awarded since his election, as a team of government-appointed auditors inspect allegations of “mismanagement and fraud” at the council.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman, speaking at an emergency press conference yesterday evening, told a room full of Bengali-language reporters that he governs in the interest of all communities in the borough.

He also said there was “not a shred of truth” in the claim that documents had been removed from the mayor’s office by the auditors.

Yesterday morning, inspectors from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP sent by local government secretary Eric Pickles, were combing through council files at the Town Hall going back to the mayor’s election in October 2010.

The inspection follows a BBC Panorama investigation that alleged the mayor gave public money to Bangladeshi charities to buy influence and votes.

The mayor has called this “completely untrue” and accused the programme of racism and bias, while the BBC has stood by the accuracy of their report.

Asked by the Advertiser if he regrets any of these funding grants, allegedly taken against the advice of his officers, the mayor said: “We absolutely don’t regret any grant funding.

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“Each and every organisation that has received the money went through a proper process.

“These were officer-led. We had four cabinet meetings, three grant panels, two [Overview and Scrutiny] committees. Then it came to me, after nine committees.”

When asked if using his executive power to overrule the committees undermines this scrutiny process, he said:

“I didn’t overrule all the decisions of the committees. Anything that was overruled was done on a proper basis. The people in this borough and the legislation has given me the power [to overrule].

“It was done to benefit the people of this borough, each and every community.”

He added: “This is not the first time that leaders of the council have overruled the grant committee.

“That is why we’re elected - to make those decisions.”

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