Mayor Lutfur Rahman ‘welcomes’ government inspection, invites Pickles to Tower Hamlets

Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Mayor Lutfur Rahman - Credit: Archant

The mayor of Tower Hamlets has said he welcomes a government inspection into “mismanagement and fraud” at the council ordered by a cabinet minister this morning.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said the findings of the inspection, conducted by auditors sent by local government secretary Eric Pickles, would disprove the allegations made by a BBC Panorama investigation, aired on Monday night, that he gave extra funding to Bangladeshi charities to buy influence and votes.

Rushanara Ali MP for Bethnal Green and Bow

Rushanara Ali MP for Bethnal Green and Bow - Credit: Archant

He also invited Mr Pickles to visit Tower Hamlets and see the “great things” the council has been doing.

Special inspectors from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP arrived at the Town Hall in Mulberry Place at 8am this morning, after Mr Pickles appointed them using new laws.

He said they will look at council payment of grants, transfer of property and spending on publicity from October 2010 to today, and has sent the Met police a file of evidence related to the inspection.

Mayor Rahman said: “I welcome the secretary of state’s decision to send independent auditors to review our grants processes.

“This will refute the scurrilous and ill-founded allegations recycled by Panorama and demonstrate that the Council acts in the best interests of all Tower Hamlets residents.”

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He added: “I have written to the Secretary of State inviting him to visit the borough. I hope he will make an early visit and observe for himself the great things the council, community organisations and businesses are doing working together with all our residents.”

In a joint statement, Labour MPs Rushanara Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick, said: “Whatever our political differences a secretary of state would not take this action without good reason.

“Given the decision to send in inspectors and pass files to the Metropolitan Police it is in everybody’s interest that all involved are as open as possible so the facts can be established.”

John Biggs, Mayor Rahman’s Labour rival in the May elections, called the inspection “inevitable”.

He said: “Many of us have been raising these concerns for a long time, and it is disappointing Lutfur Rahman has not faced up to them, but has issued blanket denials and accused anyone who challenges him of racism.”

A spokesman for Tower Hamlets Council said: “We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate that council processes have been run appropriately, and to date we have seen no evidence to suggest otherwise.

“This inspection affords the borough the best opportunity to demonstrate that the borough has acted in the best interests of all residents. ”