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New woman Council Speaker for Tower Hamlets is elected after just 12 months

PUBLISHED: 14:00 16 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:38 16 May 2019

Outgoing Speaker Ayas Miah ready to hand over batton to Victoria Obaze, accopanied by Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs. Picture: LBTH

Outgoing Speaker Ayas Miah ready to hand over batton to Victoria Obaze, accopanied by Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs. Picture: LBTH

LBTH

A woman who only just scraped through last year's local elections to become a Tower Hamlets councillor at her third attempt was elected Council Speaker.

Congratulations... from outgoing Speaker Ayas Miah to Victoria Obaze in her new role. Picture: LBTHCongratulations... from outgoing Speaker Ayas Miah to Victoria Obaze in her new role. Picture: LBTH

Victoria Obaze took up the prestigious civic role at last night's annual general council meeting after just 12 months representing Whitechapel at the town hall and became its first black woman speaker.

She was elected onto the authority last May for the three-seat ward in third place with 1,352 votes. This followed her previous bid in the 2016 Whitechapel by-election for a single vacancy when she got to second place, missing the seat by more than 300 votes.

Her first attempt to be elected was in 2014, getting to fourth place for one of Stepney Green's three vacancies with 954 votes—well behind Alibor Choudhury's 2,023 votes who was later barred from office by the High Court which removed the Lutfur Rahman administration for malpractice and election fraud that year.

The 12-month annual role of Speaker is representing the Queen as First Citizen of the borough and chairing council meetings.

Ayas Miah in his last role chairing the council as Speaker. Picture: Mike BrookeAyas Miah in his last role chairing the council as Speaker. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mayor John Biggs' in his state-of-the-borough address at last night's annual meeting referred to politics in Britain now being "in crisis".

The public was "crying out for answers" from Brexit chaos to climate change, he said.

The mayor highlighted what had been achieved since taking over from the discredited Rahman administration.

This included "getting hundreds of drug dealers off the streets" working with the Met Police—a prophetic reference ahead of the council's joint operation that followed just 10 hours later at dawn today to close down drug dens in Bow and Mile End.

Mayor John Biggs' cabinet in action before his reshuffle. Picture: Mike BrookeMayor John Biggs' cabinet in action before his reshuffle. Picture: Mike Brooke

The mayor also announced his cabinet reshuffle with the council's first Brexit supremo Amina Ali being moved to the post of adult health and wellbeing.

Sabina Akhtar, who was previously the council's first woman Bangladeshi speaker, has been appointed cabinet member for Brexit, as well as culture and arts, taking over from Cllr Ali.

Deputy mayor Sirajul Islam continues with the cabinet's housing portfolio. Two other deputy mayors are Rachel Blake for planning, air quality and tackling poverty, and Asma Begum for safety and equalities.

Danny Hassel continues as cabinet member for children and schools. Other cabinet posts are David Edgar on environment, Candida Ronald for resources and voluntary sector and Motin Uz-Zaman for work and economic growth.

But the mayor has not delegated any decision-making powers to the cabinet acting collectively.

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