Full council powers returned to Tower Hamlets
Full powers will now be returned to Tower Hamlets as the government announced it was removing all its commissioners from the area.
Rights such as grant making, procurement and the sale of property were removed from the council in 2014 after malpractice was identified in the council’s mayoral elections from then mayor Lutfur Rahman.
The news comes in the same week that the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee accused the Met of “major failings” in investigating the scandal, as although Rahman was found guilty of corrupt election practices, he was not convicted in a criminal court.
Following the botched election, another vote was held in 2015 where John Biggs was elected as mayor of Tower Hamlets.
Since then, the government has worked with the council and the new mayor through their commissioners to ensure good practice was delivered in the council, as well as making significant improvements to transparency and new policies for procurement, awarding grants, whistleblowing and the running of elections.
Mayor Biggs argued that the council has undergone a “complete transformation” over the time the commissioners have been present.
“Under the previous mayor this was a council drowning in crisis, corruption and controversy. Since then we have bought in new leadership, opened up the decision-making process and challenged historic wrongdoing and bad practice,” he said.
“Tower Hamlets is an amazing place to live. Our residents deserve a top-performing council and services to match – that is my ambition. There are still massive challenges from the past we are working to repair.”
The mayor also vowed to not let up the progress of the council after the commissioners’ departure by setting up an improvement board to ensure the authority maintains momentum and delivers the best possible services for local people.
“With some councillors still refusing to acknowledge that anything was wrong under the previous mayor, next year’s elections will mark an important moment in our borough’s future. What nobody wants is a return to the chaos and controversy of the past,” he concluded.
Sir Ken Knight, lead commissioner for Tower Hamlets, described the state of the council at the beginning of the commission as “in denial with significant problems around governance, transparency and value for money”.
But Sir Ken admitted that significant progress had been made over the course of the commission.
“Although there is still work to do, I am pleased that good progress had been made under new leadership with a solid foundation to build on,” he said. “They are also committed to ongoing improvement to ensure Tower Hamlets’ residents receive first class services that are correctly governed and accounted for.”
Communities secretary Sajid Javid added: “Two years ago, Tower Hamlets Council had completely lost the trust of its residents. It was mired in corruption and financial mismanagement that only direct intervention could resolve.
“Now, thanks to Sir Ken Knight and his team of commissioners working closely with the new mayor, I am confident that Tower Hamlets Council is on the right track to provide the services their residents deserve and rightly expect.
“I will want to hear from Tower Hamlets every three months on the progress they’re making. This will help ensure that taxpayers’ money is put to the best use, in an open and transparent way.”
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