Tower Hamlets Mayor Rahman ‘using council freesheet to get re-elected’ claims Labour
PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 October 2013
The controversial taxpayer-funded East End Life freesheet circulated by Tower Hamlets council to 90,000 addresses every week has been slammed for being used for “political bias” to stage the mayor’s re-election campaign.
Labour Opposition councillors found 158 quotes from the Mayor and members of his minority Town Hall administration and 92 pictures of them during the three months between May 27 and August 13.
By contrast, there wasn’t a single quote in the weekly “Pravda” from Opposition members on the council, they claim, while they were only pictured 13 times—including the ceremonial Speaker of the Council.
The official council figures were revealed in a Labour Group enquiry into the freesheet which is costing taxpayers £1.5 million a year.
Labour councillors have accused the Mayor of using public resources to pay for his campaign to be re-elected.
Group Leader Sirajul Islam said: “East End Life is meant to be a community asset, not a tax-funded self-promotion for the Mayor.
“It should not be a mouthpiece for the Mayor’s personal political agenda. These figures lay bare the scale of political bias.”
The London Assembly’s John Biggs, who is running for mayor for Labour against Lutfur Rahman next April, accused him of “shamelessly” misusing public funds for self-promotion and has pledged to review East End Life if he is elected.
He added: “I cannot see why Tower Hamlets would be an exception if other boroughs communicate effectively without a weekly tax-funded newspaper.”
But the Rahman administration insists it is following a ‘Code of Recommended Practice’ on local authority publicity to make sure it is “fair, balanced and politically neutral.”
A spokesman said: “The code is explicit in permitting politicians to lead council campaigns.
“Local authorities have a duty to report back on the performance of the administration and services.”
But Tower Hamlets has been singled out by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles since 2010 for “defying the wishes of Parliament” in flouting a ban on the publicly-subsidised “town hall Pravdas”—a reference to the old Soviet propaganda press.
Millions were being “wasted on this propaganda” which he said could be diverted to services. But instead, the town hall freesheets “exist to promote personal political agendas and not the interests of the public.”
Mayor Rahman promised earlier this year to look into the future of East End Life, following a £300,000 shortfall in its yearly £1.5m running costs—but the freesheet is still being distributed weekly through 90,000 letterboxes.
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