Community news and investigative journalism for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets London

Mayor Biggs relaunches Youth Services corrupted by Rahman

By on February 15, 2018 in Lutfur Rahman, News, Youth Services

Tower Hamlets rejuvenated Youth Services has been officially re-launched by Mayor John Biggs after being hijacked for political purposes under the administration of Bigg’s predecessor.

Youth Services staff under Lutfur Rahman are believed to have carried out unauthorised spending in the region of £1,000,000 using Council payment cards.

Current Mayor of Tower Hamlets

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs

Youth Services are crucial

“We have one of the youngest populations in the country so it is crucial to give our young people opportunities to improve their futures and contribute to the success of our borough,” said Mayor Biggs at the Youth Services launch at the Haileybury Youth Centre in Ben Jonson Road.

The council is now spending £4m on eight directly delivered youth hubs which are open from 3.30pm to 9pm on weekdays and a further 10 commissioned youth hubs open for 15 hours a week each (weekdays and weekends) that are supported by 37 full time youth workers.

Under the Lutfur Rahman administration the total number of Youth Services workers totalled around 260 people, but it seems no-one ever really knew the precise number.

Corruptly elected former Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman

Massive payment card spending spree

In September 2016 Love Wapping revealed the scale of Youth Services workers misuse of official council payment cards under Rahman which was estimated at the time to be in the region of £490,000.

It has now been revealed that this amount is nearer £1,000,000 pounds.

The investigative work carried out by LW at the time indicated to us that the initial estimate of £490,000 was very much an estimate and likely to increase significantly as our investigations were hampered by a variety of circumstances.

£1,000,000 gone?

A figure of £1,000,000 total misuse of Council funds is likely to be more accurate. And this sum is just for alleged abuse of payment cards.

Or £20,000,000 gone?

LW research undertaken during the last four years leads the Wapping Mole to believe that the total amount of Council money that went adrift during the Lutfur Rahman administration could be in the region of £20,000,000.

This figure is only our estimate but is reasonably accurate if just a few Youth Services workers can allegedly burn through £1m all by themselves.

Apart from the obligatory visits to Nando’s payment cards were also allegedly used to buy games consoles. Where the games consoles ended up is unknown but their packaging was found in more than one community centre in the borough.

Maas-di-aloo all round please

(LW is still desperate to find out the details of the almost legendary lunch visit by Youth Services members to a certain Brick Lane restaurant. If anyone knows exactly why Maas-di-aloo for four should cost quite so much please get in touch!   We do know of course, we just need the details.)

If it is possible to put a precise figure on how much was allegedly skimmed off by Tower Hamlets First then the current major criminal investigation into the Lutfur Rahman administration by the Metropolitan Police, Operation Lynemouth, will reveal it.

One focus of any enquiry should be the unusual circumstances surrounding the decision by the Rahman administration to bring Youth Services in-house around 2010.

Youth Services brought in-house

At the time many politicians, Council officers and third-sector workers were baffled as to the reasons why the previously outsourced Youth Services, generally regarded as being very well run and providing good value for money, should be brought under the direct control of Tower Hamlets Council?

LW research indicates that the decision was all about using Youth Services for the party political aims of Tower Hamlets First and little to do with providing support for youth in the borough.

The exact nature of these aims is yet to be determined.

One former member of the Youth Services between 2010 and 2014 who contacted LW after reading our work said that he still found what other Youth Services staff got up to ‘incredible’.

LW Comment

Cllr. Ohid Ahmed

Although the name Lutfur Rahman has now become synonymous with electoral corruption in local government throughout the UK it would be unfair to put all the blame for the Youth Services scandal on Rahman.

Two of the candidates to become the next Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Cllr. Ohid Ahmed (Independent Group / Aspire) and Cllr. Rabina Khan (Peoples Alliance of Tower Hamlets), were members of Rahman’s cabinet as Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Housing respectively.

Both Cllr. Ahmed and Cllr. Khan have demonstrated breathtaking hypocrisy by criticising the attempts by the Council to revive a damaged Youth Service that their own administration perverted and nearly destroyed.

In September 2017 Cllr. Ahmed came up with a ‘5-Point Action Plan for A Safer Tower Hamlets’.

This included the demand for “More youth workers, youth centres and provisions for our young people” and included submitting a Council motion on “Youth Services provision & Closure of Youth Centres in Tower Hamlets” and the complaint that “ 18 youth centres have been shut down in Tower Hamlets and a successful drug rehab project – Nafas – shut down.”

Residents who are asked for their vote by Cllr. Ahmed might want to ask him why these services were closed?

Cllr. Rabina Khan

In March 2017 Cllr. Khan seconded a Council motion (PDF) which said in part that:

…”the Youth Services has experienced extensive cutbacks including the closure of 18 youth centres” and complained that “the restructure of the Youth Service has introduced inflexible working hours” for part-time youth workers.

Mayoral candidate Khan also publicly stated that “The work the last [Rahman] administration has done is why I’m proud to have been a part of it, and why I’m grateful for the former mayor’s endorsement” on her campaign website during the 2015 Mayoral campaign.

Although she also said that she “did not want to dwell on the Election Court judgment”.

Not surprising.

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