Tower Hamlets Mayor Rahman under fire by calls to claw back public funds he dished out
PUBLISHED: 14:04 26 November 2014 | UPDATED: 15:03 26 November 2014
Emergency resolutions are being tabled at tonight’s Tower Hamlets council meeting to overhaul the system of public funds which have been dished out by embattled mayor Lutfur Rahman and how he sold off council buildings at knock-down prices.
The government is poised to send in three Whitehall commissioners to take charge of the executive-empowered mayor’s £1.2 billion budget.
Opposition councillors are calling for the commissioners, when they are appointed, to overhaul the system of Town Hall grants to voluntary groups, which came under fire in an auditors’ report ordered by Secretary of State Eric Pickles. A Tory group resolution is demanding that grants must be “judged positively if they bring people together, negatively if they divide the community according to race, creed or ethnicity”.
This follows revelations that cash has been dished out to some ethnic groups that auditors found had failed to meet the local authority’s own minimum criteria.
Councillors tonight will be demanding that the mayor reclaims the £407,700 dolled out to these groups so that the cash can be given, instead, to bodies that represent the whole community and not just one ethnic section. The mayor is said to have admitted intervening in 32 applications for council grants.
Mayor Rahman is also under fire for selling-off public buildings at knock-down prices to associates including two prime sites close to Canary Wharf.
One site was the controversial sale of the old Poplar Town Hall for a knock-down price of £867,000 in 2011, to be used as offices.
A ‘change of use’ permit after the sell-off was then agreed, behind closed doors, to turn the 150-year-old architectural gem with its distinctive dome tower into a hotel.
The price tag was less than two terraced houses—a five-bedroom house in Woodstock Terrace nearby was on the market at the time for £750,000.
Meanwhile, Cllr Julia Dockerill plans to ask Mayor Rahman “in light of the auditors’ report highlighting endemic failures of this administration” if he will be resigning.