Tower Hamlets mayor candidate John Biggs re-elected to chair London Assembly’s budget
PUBLISHED: 14:57 13 May 2015 | UPDATED: 14:57 13 May 2015
Labour’s candidate for the hot seat of Mayor of Tower Hamlets in next month’s re-run Town Hall election has been re-elected as the London Assembly’s powerful budget chairman.
John Biggs, who is campaigning to take over from ousted Lutfur Rahman to control the East End’s £1.2 billion budget, is back for his fourth term as head of the budget committee in today’s annual London Assembly reshuffle.
He has also been re-elected chairman of the Assembly’s audit committee, a powerful financial watchdog at City Hall—tools he can now use in his campaign for Tower Hamlets mayor election on June 11.
The London Assembly’s Annual Meeting voted for its new leadership.
The new Assembly Chair is Jennette Arnold, who said: “We provide reassurance that back-room deals, under-the-table tactics and simple bad business decisions are not allowed to happen. We are elected to hold the London Mayor and his functional bodies to account.”
Meanwhile, John Biggs fended off criticism of Labour from Andy Erlam, the anti-corruption campaigner whose election petition ousted Lutfur Rahman as Tower Hamlets Mayor when the High Court ruled his 2014 election void because of malpractice and fraud.
Erlam accused Labour of having “just stood by and done nothing” to stop the malpractice.
Biggs retorted: “I worked hard to provide evidence for the election petition and appeared for six hours under cross-examination in the High Court.
“But Elam would not have succeeded if it had been seen as a Labour hatchet job—it would have been a ‘grudge’ where we would be seen as bad losers if we had taken it on.
“The petition was a noble, spirited act, a valuable public service. I have respect for petitioners’ work.”
Two of the four election petitioners, in fact, are Labour members, Debbie Simone and Brick Lane restaurant owner Azmal Hussain.
Biggs also refuted Erlam’s claim to the East London Advertiser on Friday that he had been approached by Labour to stand down on June 11 to pave the way for him.
“We have never approached Erlam to stand aside,” Biggs insists. “He has every right to stand for election.”
Both Biggs and Erlam say the Law needs to change to ensure people who petition the High Court don’t have to place their livelihoods at risk to protect democracy. Erlam’s petition had more than £1 million in legal fees, which could have cist him his house if he had lost.
Other candidates for mayor on June 11 include Tory group leader Peter Golds, Tower Hamlets First’s Cllr Rabina Khan and the Green Party’s John Foster.