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Mayor John Biggs challenges Downing Street over police cuts at Labour's Tower Hamlets election manifesto launch

PUBLISHED: 10:43 21 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:11 21 March 2018

Mayor John Biggs launches Labour's official manifesto in run-up to Tower Hamlets council elections in May. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mayor John Biggs launches Labour's official manifesto in run-up to Tower Hamlets council elections in May. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Labour’s mayor of Tower Hamlets has thrown down the gauntlet to take on Downing Street and turn the council into “a fighting organisation” to stop any further cuts in police numbers if he is re-elected in May.

Labour mayor John Biggs... Labour mayor John Biggs... "We need to be a campaigning body and make it clear to Downing Street that public safety depends on adequate policing." Picture: Mike Brooke

John Biggs, who won his first term in 2015 after Lutfur Rahman was banned from office, made the pledge to tackle government spending cuts at the party’s Tower Hamlets manifesto launch last night.

“We have lost 300 police and support officers because of government spending cuts,” he told the East London Advertiser at the launch.

“We need to be a campaigning body as a council and make it clear to Downing Street that public safety depends on adequate policing. The cuts are taking us close to a crisis.”

The authority was having to pay for additional policing from council tax money which he said “we shouldn’t have to do” because the community needed to “challenge anti-social behaviour on our streets”.

Labour candidates at the party's maifesto launch on Tuesday  for Tower Hamlets local elections in May. Picture: Mike BrookeLabour candidates at the party's maifesto launch on Tuesday for Tower Hamlets local elections in May. Picture: Mike Brooke

But his three-year administration is under fire itself from opposition parties for cuts in youth services keeping teenagers off those very streets.

“A lot of nonsense is talked by the parties linked to the last administration,” Mayor Biggs insisted.

“They claim to have had a ‘fantastic’ youth service which we have ‘taken apart’ since taking over.

“But the reality is that it was mired in corruption with a massive fraud case where staff were suspended. We had to re-start the service last month.”

East End's two MPs Rushanara Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick at Labour manifesto launch for May's Tower Hamlets council elections. Picture: Mike BrookeEast End's two MPs Rushanara Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick at Labour manifesto launch for May's Tower Hamlets council elections. Picture: Mike Brooke

Last night’s local manifesto launch venue was a strange choice, in an isolated corner of Blackwall at Anchorage House surrounded by a building site while undergoing redevelopment.

But it still attracted a packed audience of party candidates fighting all wards at the May 3 polls. Speakers included both East End MPs Rushanara Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick as well as London Assembly’s Unmesh Desdai, all backing the challenging manifesto.

But there as still the aftermath of the now-disgraced Lutfur Rahman era that Labour has to get through.

“We took over when the borough was in a crisis and there’s a risk we might go backwards,” Mayor Biggs added.

“People remember what it was like three years ago. We must not return to the politics of the past which dragged us into the gutter.”

The manifesto pledges to continue funding extra police to tackle the East End’s drug dealing and street yobs.

It promises a childcare place “for every youngster that needs one”, creating 2,000 new council homes and 4,000 social dwellings, reducing over-development and cracking down on bad private landlords.

The manifesto also sets out 1,000 new apprenticeships and getting 5,000 people into work.

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