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Fury as Tower Hamlets mayor bars Town Hall reception for Commonwealth minister

PUBLISHED: 18:26 08 August 2012 | UPDATED: 20:00 08 August 2012

The Mayor of Olympics ‘host’ borough Tower Hamlets is sticking to his decision not to allow the Town Hall’s council chamber to be used for a reception welcoming a visiting Commonwealth government minister to east London.

Independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman cancelled use of the chamber with just 48 hours notice before the Bangladesh Local Government Minister Syed Ashraful Islam was due at the Town Hall at 2.30pm tomorrow (Thurs).

“This is not an official council event,” said a Council spokesperson. “It’s a private meeting.

“It has not been cancelled—but will take place in a venue appropriate for a private meeting.”

That has infuriated both Tory and Labour opposition councillors who say the Minister has been insulted by the mayor’s action.

Conservative group leader Peter Golds told the Advertiser: “This is outrageous. To insult a Commonwealth parliamentarian in such fashion while visiting this Olympics ‘host’ borough clearly brings this council into disrepute.

“We have to look at the legality at what the executive mayor can and can’t do.”

Cllr Golds has tabled a formal question asking on what grounds the Mayor has “intervened to cancel the use of the council chamber” and what legislation the refusal comes under.

Mr Islam and a fellow Bangladesh MP were invited for a civic reception by Tower Hamlets council speaker Rajib Ahmed, the East End’s official First Citizen.

Cllr Ahmed has now written to the mayor demanding to know why he is using his executive powers to stop the council chamber being used.

Labour has accused Mayor Rahman of a “shameful abuse of power.”

Its group leader Joshua Peck said: “The Mayor has been caught red-handed trying to abuse his position for political gain.

“The Speaker is an independent and impartial figure who has a job to do greeting dignitaries. The Mayor should stop this shameful abuse of his powers and let the Speaker get on with that job.”

He slammed the Mayor for interfering with the historic role of Speaker dating back hundreds of years, held in the past by Clement Attlee and George Lansbury.

Cllr Peck added: “It’s mean and petty for Lutfur Rahman to try to end this historic role just because someone would rather see the Speaker than him.”

The row stems from a rift that began two years ago after Lutfur Rahman’s direct election as executive mayor.

He was accused soon after his election of taking over civic functions of the First Citizen who was moved out of his official suite of offices and had his civic car withdrawn.

Both Labour and Tories are tonight planning to go ahead with tomorrow’s civic reception for the Bangladesh minister in their own offices at the Town Hall.

The two Bangladesh MPs were part of the Awami League which heavily defeated the Bangladesh National Party’s Jamaat Islam alliance in the country’s last general election.

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