Mayor of Tower Hamlets spends £100k on revamping offices
PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 June 2011 | UPDATED: 15:14 16 June 2011
The mayor of Tower Hamlets has forked out more than £100,000 of council cash to extend and revamp his own and colleagues' offices at the town hall.
In a move branded a “vanity project”, Lutfur Rahman has splurged on works to almost treble the size of his own office, as well as expanding facilities for his cabinet and replacing furniture on the first floor of the Mulberry Place headquarters.
This is at a time when the council is driving through cuts of £70million in services for the disabled, children and the elderly.
It also announced last year more than 500 staff members would lose their jobs.
An East End-based campaigning group said the works - which started in April and are due to be completed by next month - are a case of the council “getting its priorities wrong”.
Glyn Robbins, from Hands Off Our Public Services, said: “At the same time as youth services are being cut, why is it that we are spending money on revamping accommodation for councillors?”
Cllr Peter Golds, Tower Hamlets Tory leader, labelled the splurge “appalling.”
He added: “It’s a vanity project for the mayor and it’s completely unnecessary. Walls have been knocked through and they’ve got new carpets, lights, chairs, tables. The whole of the first floor has been redesigned.”
As part of the £115,000 works, the Independent mayor’s office has been extended from 392 sq ft to 1,023 sq ft and his five-team cabinet’s facilities enlarged by almost 50 per cent.
This is despite the team being much smaller than previous council leader Helal Abbas’s nine-councillor cabinet.
Piles of furniture have been stacked high in the town hall basement but the council insists they will be reused.
Council chiefs originally said the refurbishment was a result of staff being decanted from rented accommodation in nearby Anchorage House.
But after the Advertiser pointed out that the first floor houses the mayor, his cabinet, councillors from all parties and committee staff, it said Mr Rahman, as a directly-elected mayor, has “greater responsibility” than the previous leader and “requires adequate space in order to conduct his additional duties”.
A spokesman added: “As well as areas for support staff, this includes providing suitable space for meetings with members, officers and also senior officials from other key organisations from across London and beyond.”
The refurbishment also provides offices for the Lib Dem and Respect parties for the first time, it added.