Pickles calls in more commissioners at Tower Hamlets

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has sent in two more commissioners to oversee the running and governance of Tower Hamlets LBC, while proposing additional intervention powers. 

Former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Chris Allison and Alan Wood, director of children’s services at Hackney LBC, will join the existing team headed by Sir Ken Knight. 

The secretary of state has also ordered the council to appoint a head of paid service, who will be responsible for managing all the council's staff and exercising delegated executive functions. 

Pickles said the proposed additional innervation directions would allow commissioners to “order Tower Hamlets to take any actions needed to safeguard good governance throughout the council until a new mayor and top officer team are in place and fully bedded in”. 

This comes after the High Court found the mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, was guilty of corrupt and illegal practices over his election, which has now been declared ‘void’. A mayoral election is set to take place on 11 June. 

But Rahman says that he will appeal the Court’s decision. His website stated: “Lutfur Rahman will be appealing the judgment made against him at last Thursday’s election court. He continues to reject all claims of wrongdoing and we hold that the integrity of the court system was marred by the bias, slurs and factual inaccuracies in the election judgment.” 

In a statement, Pickles said there is a “clear need” for stronger checks and balances in the run up to the mayoral by-election, especially “given many of the associates of the tainted mayor remain in place”. 

He added that the Commissioners have identified a series of concerns about the ongoing running of the council, including the “destruction of documents”. 

In a letter to the council’s head of paid service Stephen Halsey, the DCLG wrote that to avoid an immediate direction, the authority has until by 5pm tomorrow (30 April) to provide a written undertaking that until a  decision is made on the proposed interventions it will “not destroy any information or records”. 

It added: “The secretary of state’s provisional view is that risks of poor governance and financial mismanagement are considerably enhanced by what he considers to be an underlying and continuing culture within the authority as revealed in the judgment.” 

Tower Hamlets has until 9.30am on Wednesday 6 May to respond on the wider directions, Pickles will then make a final decision. 

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