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Councillors reject plans to set up parish council in Spitalfields

PUBLISHED: 10:00 19 July 2019 | UPDATED: 18:04 24 July 2019

Mayor John Biggs...

Mayor John Biggs... "EU citizens are our neighbours and friends." Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Campaigners trying to set up a parish council in Spitalfields for the first time in 100 years were dealt a blow when the town hall officially rejected the idea.

Tower Hamlets chief executive Will Tuckley recommended that councillors reject proposals to set up or hold a referendum on devolving powers in Spitalfields & Banglatown and Weavers wards.

He told the full council meeting on Wednesday, July 17: "There is not significant support for the creation of a parish council, either within the area or within the broader community. A parish would not be reflective of the identity and interests of the whole community."

Just over 60per cent of Spitalfields residents who filled in an online consultation said they were in favour of the parish council, which would be apolitical and could include a say in running the Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane's Sunday street markets.

But when combined with the paper responses, the results showed the majority of people were against the idea.

A later consultation also showed a clear majority of residents were opposed to the parish council idea.

A report was presented to the meeting with the summary: "Of the 2,173 valid responses received in phase two, 1,239 were from people living within the area covered by the three boundary options put forward for consideration by the council. Of these 34.6per cent (429) supported the creation of a parish council; 63.1pc (783) did not support the proposal; 2.2pc did not express an opinion."

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The plan was rejected by 28 councillors, while three voted for the referendum and four abstained. Ten councillors left before the vote or did not attend the meeting.

The campaign argued that a new parish council would increase accountability and allow issues, such as litter and street lighting, to be addressed more easily.

But critics said it would only add to bureaucracy, increase council tax bills and cause a divide between the poorer people living in council accommodation in the east and south of the area, the large Bengali community and more affluent residents.

At previous meetings campaigners accused the Tower Hamlets Labour administration of "cheating and lying" about the plans.

They claimed they had experienced "racism" from some members of the administration who labelled them a "white elite trying to oppress and impose rules on the Bengali community".

James Frankcom said: "This campaign was always about getting better local infrastructure and representation."

Mayor John Biggs said: "I respect the legal right for communities to lobby for and promote parish councils in London. But I do endorse the recommendations of the chief executive. There is no whip on this decision.

"I regret comments made by a couple of councillors but I wouldn't consider them to be racist in the way they have been labelled. I think the reality is that area is increasingly polarised and any one wanting to set up a parish council would have to show they could unite everyone."

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