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Tower Hamlets Mayor loses cash vote for ‘propaganda’ and his personal advisors

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 March 2013

Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman

Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman

Archant

Mayor Lutfur Rahman has had his first defeat since taking office in 2010 over his Tower Hamlets council budget which faces a £55 million ‘black hole’ in the next three years.

The controversial East End politician is now forced to axe £1.2m ‘unallocated’ money from being used to run his “Pravda propaganda” paper and £296,000 to expand his team of personal advisors, after being outvoted by Labour and Tory opposition joining forces.

He lost by 34 votes to 17 in a failed bid to stop Labour amending his £297m budget at Thursday’s emergency council meeting.

Labour’s amendments put the squeeze on East End Life which is distributed each week to 90,000 premises paid for by council tax.

The savings are to be ring-fenced to reduce the council’s ‘black hole’ looming in 2015.

A second blow for Mayor Rahman is being denied £296,000 he wanted to expand his team of personal advisors ahead of next year’s election for mayor.

The measures got through on a legally-required two-thirds majority against him, bringing an end to a controversial era of one-man executive budget spending.

The mayor must also accept that any spending above £200,000 outside the budget has to be passed by the full council—where his independent administration is up against a majority Labour Opposition plus Conservatives.

He accused “the Labour-Tory coalition” lined up against him of also cutting funds to the elderly and disabled and spurning trade unions objecting to job losses.

Proposals to cut ‘East End Life’ could cost up to £2.1m and mean job losses, the Mayor pointed out.

But Labour leader Joshua Peck, who rejected the Mayor’s claim, said: “There are plenty of jobs in communications that East End Life staff can take—there won’t be compulsory redundancies.”

Stopping the mayor using unallocated funds on “propaganda” such as East End Life or using council tax to expand his team of advisors is a “down payment” to tackle the looming £55m council deficit, Labour pledged.

“The massive black hole emerging after the 2014 elections are at the heart of it,” Cllr Peck added.

“But we’ve managed to make a ‘down payment’ to the people of Tower Hamlets by making small changes to the mayor’s budget.

“We hope the mayor abides by the council’s decision, but you never know with him.”

Tories took an unprecedented step of backing Labour’s budget amendments after their own proposals had been knocked out last week.

Conservative finance spokesman David Snowden said: “We will now have the abolition of East End Life, the much-hated Town Hall ‘pravda’.

“The mayor’s budget defeat makes sure taxpayers’ money isn’t spent on his personal aggrandisement.”

The Mayor estimates the amendments forced on him, which he said also affects community events for the elderly and the disabled, was “less than 0.003 per cent of Tower Hamlets £1bn budget.”

His £1bn figure, however, includes statutory Whitehall funding for benefits and frontline services which is outside the £297m budget the council has to raise itself.

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