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Government finally gives clean bill of health to Tower Hamlets Council after Lutfur Rahman ‘corruption’ era

PUBLISHED: 19:42 04 October 2018 | UPDATED: 20:01 04 October 2018

Lurfur Rahman in his final 2018 election pitch supporting candidate for mayor for Aspire party which was wiped out at the polls in May. Picture: Mike Brooke

Lurfur Rahman in his final 2018 election pitch supporting candidate for mayor for Aspire party which was wiped out at the polls in May. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The government has finally ended the ‘probation’ overseeing the affairs of a once-troubled Tower Hamlets Council three years after the Lutfur Rahman era ended in the High Court.

Mayor John Biggs addressing Tower Hamlets Council soon after appointing new chief executive Will Tuckley (left). Picture: Mike BrookeMayor John Biggs addressing Tower Hamlets Council soon after appointing new chief executive Will Tuckley (left). Picture: Mike Brooke

Mayor John Biggs tonight welcomed the decision by the Secretary of State following the authority’s rebuilding after the previous mayor was banned from office in 2015 for malpractice and election corruption.

Commissioners had been sent in who found that grants had been dished out to dubious organisations, while contracts had been handed over and council property sold off in deals behind closed doors. Youth service funds had also disappeared without trace.

The four inspectors arrived in December 2014 to help get the council back on track.

Things moved fast and Mayor Rahman was disqualified 12 weeks later in a High Court trial which overturned the rigged 2014 polls that had got him re-elected.

Lead commissioner Sir Ken Knight chairing Tower Hamlets cabinet in 2016, alongside Mayor Biggs (left). Picture: Mike BrookeLead commissioner Sir Ken Knight chairing Tower Hamlets cabinet in 2016, alongside Mayor Biggs (left). Picture: Mike Brooke

John Biggs scooped the re-run election for Labour in 2015 and swiftly appointed a new chief executive, Will Tuckley, to steer the council back on track, ending the void created by Rahman keeping the post vacant for two years.

“Having the (previous) mayor removed and our powers limited is a traumatic experience,” Mayor Biggs said. “But it was absolutely necessary.

“We have turned the council around with relentless accountability, to re-take our place in mainstream local government and stand on our own two feet.

“We are showing the world the real dynamism of our incredible community in the East End—not the bad behaviour of a former mayor.”

John Biggs at his Labour election HQ before winning the 2015 polls for Mayor of Tower Hamlets. Picture: Mike BrookeJohn Biggs at his Labour election HQ before winning the 2015 polls for Mayor of Tower Hamlets. Picture: Mike Brooke

The commissioners left the town hall in March last year, but Whitehall continued demanding quarterly reports—until now.

The transformation has put governance acceptable to Whitehall back at the town hall with transparent policies on grants, decision-making, contract procurement, property disposal, elections and even whistleblowing.

A review conducted by the Local Government Association found the once-corrupt council had “improved the culture of the organisation”. Its review formed part of the government’s decision to end the quarterly enforcement direction reports.

The authority is standing on its record since 2015 of new council housing at social rents, getting nearly 1,000 people into jobs and assisting others with skills training, while helping create 1,000 apprenticeships. It has also re-launched its troubled youth service.

"Having the previous mayor removed and our powers limited is a traumatic experience, but was absolutely necessary
"

Mayor John Biggs

The controversy of Tower Hamlets’ past had marred its potential as London’s fastest growing commercial and residential community.

Yet it has the most expanding population in the UK with more new homes being built than anywhere else and is the third-largest contributor to the UK economy, raising £12 billion in tax revenue a year.

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