G-Men to remain at Tower Hamlets for another year, Communities Secretary Greg Clark rules
PUBLISHED: 15:57 12 April 2016 | UPDATED: 16:24 12 April 2016
Government-appointed commissioners sent in to oversee Tower Hamlets council’s accounts are to remain at the Town Hall for another 12 months, it has been revealed.
They are not yet ready to hand back full control to new mayor John Biggs until they are satisfied there is full transparency over how council tax money is being spent, the Department for Communities & Local Government has told the East London Advertiser today.
The council is still “some way off the return of functions” despite progress under supervision since the Lutfur Rahman administration which was slammed for its secrecy over funds being dished out to outside organisations.
Communities Secretary Greg Clark told the paper: “Inspectors found a worrying pattern of divisive community politics and serious mismanagement of taxpayers’ money.
“Intervention is never a decision taken lightly—but it was essential to make sure public confidence in the council is restored.”
He warned: “There must be sufficient evidence of real organisational change before I consider handing any powers back.”
Mr Clark sent a letter to the mayor last night—seen by the Advertiser—which states: “I share the commissioners’ disappointment of the lost time and lack of progress in certain areas of the intervention.
“Finalising a clear delegation of responsibilities to the new chief executive will mark a fundamental difference between your administration and that of your predecessor.”
This was a reference to the way ex-Mayor Rahman—now barred from office for five years—was slammed in the High Court for his “bunker mentality” making decisions behind closed doors and failing to appoint a chief executive to run the authority.
Commissioners sent in by former State Secretary Eric Pickles in December, 2014, are to remain until next March “to make sure the council complies with its duty to taxpayers”.
Around 80 per cent of the government action plan has been carried out, according to the Mayor’s Office.
This includes transparency with issues raised in public, tighter controls on procuring contracts and moving away from handing out grants to outside groups and towards more commissioned services which can be monitored more easily.
But Mayor Biggs said: “I am disappointed that the commissioners remain in place. The Secretary of State has recognised the progress we’ve made in tackling the failings identified by the government and the root causes that allowed them to happen.
“I want to see the government directions lifted, so that local people will have proper democratic control again.”
The direction plan was in response to government fears about grants being dished out, selling off council assets at knock-down prices without proper tendering and money spent on propaganda such as the £1.5m annual pot to run East End Life which now ends in May.