Local news for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets

PREVENT linked Youth Service scandal in Tower Hamlets

Allegations of serious misconduct including fraud and corruption by Tower Hamlets Youth Service personnel under disgraced ex-Mayor Lutfur Rahman have emerged after a remarkable speech by Deputy Mayor Cllr. Rachel Saunders at the town hall last week.

Youth Services normal role is to engage youth on the street and provide them with activities to keep them busy.

The Youth Service team under Rahman’s administration was, like all similar local government teams in the UK, also partly responsible for the delivery of the government’s PREVENT anti-radicalisation strategy.

Council investigations and independent work by Love Wapping indicate that the very people tasked with preventing radicalism in Tower Hamlets have instead been up to all sorts –  while being paid by the council, using council premises and using council vehicles.

This of course was the corrupt council of Lutfur Rahman – not the current Labour administration. Mayor Bigg’s team seem to have been quietly investigating the real extent of his predecessors malfeasance and only now are the details starting to emerge.

Fraud, corruption, nepotism – the usual

Fraud, corruption, nepotism, failure to declare personal interests, failure to declare criminal convictions, breaches of procurement and recruitment processes, breach of the council’s financial regulations, breaches of Health & Safety and Data Protection legislation.

This is the list of allegations faced by Youth Services officers. They were read out by Deputy Mayor Cllr. Rachael Saunders at the council AGM at the town hall on Wednesday 18 May 2016. Video below and text of her speech at bottom of page.

Don’t mess with the Deputy Mayor

Cllr. Saunders words were in reply to barracking by the Tower Hamlets First / Islamic Forum Europe / George Galloway Fan Club / Whatever They Are Called Today party councillors.

LW has asked the town hall for a copy of the email Cllr. Saunders referred to in her speech but has not been supplied with this at publication. We do not know who it was from.

The Council did provide LW with this:

“We’ll have a statement on the youth service review which we will make public shortly, which should clarify the issues involved.”

That should be a cracker of a clarification.

As yet LW has not been sent this statement either. We were however referred to the Mayor’s ’State of the Union’ speech which we have already reproduced in full here.

Update 15:19hrs 26 May 2016 – Council’s formal response is below:

Tower Hamlets youth services are changing

Following a review that has uncovered historic shortcomings in the way youth services in Tower Hamlets are delivered, the council is proceeding with the adoption of an interim delivery model, anticipating the development of a new, long term model for a future service. 

The interim model will be in place by summer and aims to ensure a regular, reliable and high quality service for every young person in Tower Hamlets whilst we develop a new service. The council takes its responsibilities to young people seriously and is thoroughly investigating all allegations of service failings.   

Young people’s views have been listened to throughout the review process, alongside those of staff.

The interim model will utilise eight hub venues that will be open six days a week, and operate on a hub and spoke basis.  We will offer a wider range of services and activities, including trips, residentials, Duke of Edinburgh Awards, A Team Arts Tasters and access to Information Advice and Guidance sessions from Targeted Youth Support and Connexions.

We will now be assessing where the remaining gaps are and procuring or commissioning in order to fill them. We expect this analysis to finish by June.

 The interim model involves no cuts at any point to staffing or funding.

 The impact of the interim model on young people, especially on those who may need additional support, will be carefully monitored and responded to. 

Any young people with queries about the proposals should contact youthand.community@towerhamlets.gov.uk 

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “We are being open and honest about shortcomings in youth service delivery and taking immediate steps to resolve them. The council is moving to an interim model that will meet the needs of our young people and offer consistent delivery of a range of high-quality services, six days a week.

We are wholeheartedly committed to delivering a youth service that is fit for purpose and are continuing to review our work, with ongoing input from councillors and the community and with the leadership of the young mayor, listening to all the young people of the borough.”

LW Comment: Nice press release – but it doesn’t provide any specifics of  the ‘historic shortcomings’ with Youth Services under Tower Hamlets First. Best keep digging then.

There’s more

It also seems that members of the Youth Service used 17 corporate payment cards issued by the council to rack up a combined bill of £395,000 in 14 months.

So close were members of the Youth Service to Lutfur Rahman that it is understood that members of the Youth Service ‘Rapid Response Team’ spent the final day of the electoral petition at the soon to be ex-Mayors house. Cosy. Where there sandwiches we wonder?

75 investigations

Sources state that there are around 75 (yes, seventy five) investigations currently underway into the activities of Youth Services under Rahman. At the time of the alleged improprieties the team consisted of between 150 to 250 people.

Dinar Hossain

In the autumn of 2015 the Head of Connexions and Youth Services, Dinar Hossain, left the council. Tower Hamlets has been asked to confirm this. It is not known if his departure is directly to the current investigations into Youth Services and, as there is almost certainly a gagging order in place, we may never know.

If Mr Hossain’s departure is linked then there is every possibility that he might have been the convenient fall-guy for his superiors to pin the blame on. The number and scale of alleged misdemeanours cannot have gone unnoticed by his superiors.

Andy Bamber

Andy Bamber is Service Head Safer Communities, Crime Reduction Services, Communities, Localities and Culture. Or we think he still is. No one is saying.

Whatever the facts of Mr Bamber’s employment with the council today he was the person in charge of all things Youth Service during the time that the alleged offences took place under Rahman.

AP1 Voucher Payments

Within local councils there is a payment type termed ‘AP1’ or ‘AP1 Voucher’. This seems to be for use in exceptional circumstances.

Managers within the Youth Services team were seemingly unaware that AP1 payments were not to be used on a regular basis as in one nine month period five officers, including Mr Hossain authorised just over £1,200,000 of AP1 payments.

AP1 Voucher payments authorisation by Youth Service managers.

Job Title of Approver Total approved
Quality Assurance Manager £421,737
Targeted Support Manager £414,726
Head of Youth & Connexions Services £328,260
Youth Service Manager A £77,656
Youth Service Manager B £45,923
£1,288,302

The Trojan Borough

The context of the alleged Youth Service demeanours is complex – most things in Tower Hamlets politics are – but Islamic Forum Europe (IFE) seems to be central.  What links Islamic Forum Europe and Tower Hamlets Youth Services?

Tower Hamlets First does, that’s what.

The result of the electoral petition showed how members of Rahman’s group considered council systems and public monies such as the grants allocation procedure their own property.

That Rahman’s sympathisers should see Youth Services as just another thing to corrupt for their own purposes is no surprise.

The only surprise would be if Islamic Forum Europe had not taken over Youth Services. That would be very strange indeed.

Elephant In The Room

Simply put Islamic Forum Europe took over Tower Hamlets council under the cloak of Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First party and then perverted the Youth Service function of the council for their own idealistic ends.

A ‘shadow council’ was then organised by which the aims of IFE could be furthered using the infrastructure of the borough in tandem with its own organisation.

Part of these activities was the use of the council’s Youth Service for the purpose of recruiting young people to IFE.

A core function of this shadow council was the recruitment of Bangladeshi residents. This had five main operational strands:

  1. Elderly men via the now infamous ‘Luncheon Clubs’
  2. Faith groups
  3. Youth Services
  4. Third sector community organisations and charities
  5. Women
  6. Children

Further details of these operations will be published by LW during the coming days.

That Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First group are a front for Islamic Forum Europe (IFE) has long been an open if unspoken secret in the borough.

LW is sick and tired of never directly addressing the IFE issue when it is the common thread in any story about Tower Hamlets First – and hence this post.

Let’s all stop pretending IFE does not exist and see what they are really up to. If IFE did not exist and had not permeated the council the DCLG Commissioners would be long gone.

Numerous journalists have undertaken investigations into IFE including Channel 4’s Dispatches. Investigative journalist Andrew Gilligan has written numerous news articles about IFE in both the Daily Telegraph and Guardian over many years and of course Ted Jeory has written about IFE numerous times.

Quite why IFE need a front as opposed to openly campaigning as a political force in Tower Hamlets has yet to be determined.

And why on earth use Tower Hamlets First as a front? Come on guys!

Islamic Forum Europe is an entryist organisation

jim-fitzpatrick-commonsIn 2010 our local MP Jim Fitzpatrick, then Environment Minister, publicly stated that IFE were:

“in effect, a secret party within Labour and other political parties.

They are acting almost as an entryist organisation, placing people within the political parties, recruiting members to those political parties, trying to get individuals selected and elected so they can exercise political influence and power, whether it’s at local government level or national level.”

Tower Hamlets First = Islamic Forum Europe

Of the 17 Tower Hamlets councillors formerly members of Tower Hamlets First 11 are known to be members of Islamic Forum Europe.

Three current councillors – Harun Miah, Muhammed Ansar Mustaquim and Abjol Miah – make up the IFE leadership in Tower Hamlets along with Lutfur Rahman and Alibor Choudhury.

Abjol Miah is easy to spot in Ed Husain’s book The Islamist as the ‘martial arts expert’ if not mentioned by name.

Tower Hamlets councillors who are also members of Islamic Forum Europe (IFE)

Name Council ward / position IFE Position Tower Hamlets council grouping
Abjol Miah St. Peter’s ward councillor Leadership Independent
Alibor Choudhury ex-Cabinet Member for Resources Leadership Independent Group
Lutfur Rahman ex-Mayor Leadership Independent Group
Harun Miah Shadwell ward councillor Leadership Independent Group
Muhammed Ansar Mustaquim St. Peters ward councillor Leadership Independent Group
Mahbub Alam St. Dunstans ward councillor Activist Independent Group
Abdul Asad Whitechapel ward councillor Activist Independent Group
Gulam Kibria Choudhury Poplar ward councillor Activist Independent Group
Shafiqul Haque Bethnal Green ward councillor Activist Independent
Aminur Khan Whitechapel ward councillor Activist Independent Group
Rabina Khan Shadwell ward councillor Activist Independent Group
Mohammed Mufti Miah Bromley North ward councillor Activist Independent
Gullam Robbani Spitalfields & Banglatown ward councillor Activist Independent Group
Ohid Ahmed Lansbury ward councillor IFE status unknown Independent Group
Suluk Ahmed Spitalfields & Banglatown ward councillor IFE status unknown Independent Group
Shah Alam Mile End ward councillor IFE status unknown Independent Group
Oliur Rahman Stepney Green ward councillor IFE status unknown Independent Group
Shahed Ali Whitechapel ward councillor IFE status unknown Independent
Md. Maium Miah Canary Wharf ward councillor IFE wannabee Independent Group

LW is baffled as to why IFE members who happen to be councillors are so shy – IFE is not a secret organisation. Below you can see a photo of the jolly fellows of IFE Shadwell branch from a post on the Respect site about their community badminton tournament in 2010.

Islamic Forum Europe Shadwell Branch

Islamic Forum Europe Shadwell Branch

They all look like they are having fun! These words from the post verbatim:

“IFE shadwell unit recently organised an area badminton tournament to promote sport and healthy living within the community. Amongst the organisers were the Shadwell unit chair Saleh Ahmed, secretary Shofique Uddin and former councillor and community activist Ataur Rahman.

It was a successful event, attended by numerous crowds and members from the borough. Star player Councillor Harun Miah showed off his repertoire of badminton skills as he took part in the competition.

Councillor Abjol Miah (Respect prospective MP candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow) was invited to attend as an honorary guest, along with his party colleagues Councillors Harun Miah (Shadwell), Councillor Mamun Rashid (shadwell) and Senior Respect party Members Mahbub (Mamun) Alam, Shah Shuhel, Shofiqul Islam (shishu), Abul Hussain, Abdul Malik and Shahar Ali (Imran).”

LW assumes that ‘party colleague’ means IFE member.

Cllr. Abjol Miah

One person who probably knows if this is correct is well-known martial arts expert and Independent Councillor for St. Peters’ Ward,  Abjol Miah. Here he is referenced in The Islamist (“Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left”) by Ed Husain (Penguin Books).

“At the time, as a result of months-long violence in one of Britain’s largest mosques, the YMO [Young Muslim Organisation] had gained a reputation in Tower Hamlets and beyond as being tougher than the toughest gangsters. The Brick Lane Mafia, Cannon Street Posse, and Bethnal Green Massive shrank to the stature of playground bullies when compared with the rising star of the YMO. They won fights, deployed king-fu experts in the mosque hall, defined the police and were ‘bad boys’. The just liked to call themselves ‘practising Muslims’. […]

In their ranks they had martial-arts experts such as the locally well-known Abjol (now a Respect councillor in Tower Hamlets). “

The Islamist, Ed Husain, p 32-33. Also see p. 109.

LW noticed that Cllr. Miah properly declares in his Register of Interests that his brother, Akrom Miah, works in Tower Hamlets Council finance section.

Dedicated LW readers may remember that this is not the first time Akrom Miah has been mentioned. Akrom’s name featured on some documents we examined way back in April 2014 when we did some data analysis at the start of the whole Tower Hamlets grants story (Tower Hamlets Council grants funding – FOI 9087 and 9088).

There is no allegation implied or to be inferred that Akrom Miah had anything to do with the corrupt allegation of grants under Rahman. As we mentioned in the original post, the metadata from the two documents we examined – because they were two versions of the same thing – just means that they were created using software registered to Abjol’s brother Akrom on their Council computers. Any council employee could use that software.

While, like the Freemasons’, IFE is not a secret, it is, like the Freemasons’ a secret society. Quite why puzzles everyone. 

Anyway ‘The Islamist’ is a very interesting book, lots of well knownTower Hamlets organisations, places and people mentioned, well worth buying even if just to see how many you can spot.

Much of the information in this post only emerged in the 24 hours prior to publication so there is much more analysis to do and stories to be told.

Perhaps the most interesting one is exactly what the people tasked with carrying out PREVENT got up to on the streets.

Transcript of Cllr. Saunders statement 18th May 2016

00:40:17

“This is normally such a nice meeting. I think it is obvious how ridiculous it is for you [Tower Hamlets First] to start shouting about election courts […] I just wanted to specifically say something about the Youth Service because a colleague over there implied there was a budget saving in relation to the proposals that have come out for the Youth Service and that is not true. […]

The budget for the Youth Services in Tower Hamlets remains the most generous in the country apart from Hackney…[…] The budget remains this year. The reason we are opening less [youth] centres is the reduction in the number of venues we are going to run in-house is for a very specific reason.

It is because the service has faced allegations of fraud, corruption, nepotism, failure to declare personal interests, failure to declare criminal convictions, breaches of procurement and recruitment processes, breach of the council’s financial regulations and breaches of Health & Safety and Data Protection legislation.

Internal investigations into these are ongoing.

These are really serious issues, they are really serious investigations.

You will notice that I was reading from an email so if anybody wants to question anything I have said I do have it in writing.

The seriousness of these issues means that the service does not have the capacity to deliver as much as it apparently has done in the past, although actually I think what it claimed to do before was maybe not entirely accurate. [LW Comment – Without doubt the best understatement of this or any council administration.]

The budget remains, when we have done the work to work out the service plans of what we actually can deliver in-house with the reduced capacity we have with those very, very serious investigations ongoing into very very serious accusation of a service that was run when you lot [Tower Hamlets First] were in charge of it, very serious issues. When we have developed the service plans we will do a gap analysis to see how we can fill those gaps and to make sure that we are at least delivering a service to at least as many young people as we were before.

So if you want to shout about the Youth Service what you are shouting about is defending a status quo which is utterly unacceptable.” [Applause]

00:42:47

(The full video of the Tower Hamlets Council AGM can be seen here.)

Citizens Investigation

As ever this article and those that follow are the work of many Tower Hamlets residents who cannot be named. We would like to thank you for your work past, present and future.

 

 

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There is 1 Brilliant Comment

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  1. Shaak says:

    What about Biggs’ and his cronies’ pay rises?
    Tit for tat politics is what Labour is best at that’s why people have lost faith in the party.

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