Cash strapped Labour council finds spare £10k for Bangladeshi radio station grant

East End Bangladeshi radio station Betar Bangla has been given a £10,000 grant by Tower Hamlets council to help it pay the rent.

Which is nice.

According to the East London Advertiser (ELA) the Bengal language radio station applied for urgent funding when the rent on its headquarters at 4-8 Sutton Street, Shadwell, was raised by £14,000 a year “without warning”.

Tower Hamlets council owns the Sutton Street property which is leased to another company, Pearl Blue, which in turn leases studio and office space to Betar Bangla. The council increased the rent to Pearl Blue who in turn passed the increase on to Betar Bangla.

Cllr. Abdal Ullah interviewing Mayor John Biggs on his Betar Bangla radio show.
Cllr. Abdal Ullah interviewing Mayor John Biggs on his Betar Bangla radio show.

Labour councillor for Wapping Abdal Ullah has a weekly current affairs show on Betar Bangla, ’This week with Abdal Ullah’.

Cllr. Ullah is also Chair of the council’s powerful Oversight & Scrutiny Committee.

Betar Bangla had made an initial application for a £20,000 grant in June, but the council’s Grants Determination Cabinet agreed to award half that amount last night according to the ELA.

Sutton Street depot & Lutfur Rahman

Leasing arrangements for the Sutton Street depot were the subject of the best value inspection report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) [PDF, see paragraph 2.77] ordered by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in April 2014 as part of the investigation into the administration of Lutfur Rahman.

This report also investigated the use of Mainstream Grants, the infamous 954 Fund, the ever handy Community Chest and Community Events funds, the disposal of Poplar Town Hall and the issue of the transfer of funds from council reserves to the Mayor’s Office.

PwC’s 2014 report highlighted concerns that then Mayor Rahman had provided no rationale for his decision to go against officer recommendations regarding the leasing arrangements for Sutton Street as he had selected a “a bidder with no financial records” and the issue of a rent free period.

Due to the confidentiality of the original bidding process the identity of those parties involved in the Sutton Street bidding process subject to the PwC are not known.

Statement by Tower Hamlets council

“The details of the [Betar Bangla] application are contained in the report to the grants committee which you can see here. (PDF).

The [Betar Bangla] application was made under the Emergency Grant Funding scheme.

The application form itself was deemed to be restricted and not published alongside the committee report because it contained “information relating to the financial or business affairs” of those involved. Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 2A of the Local Government Act 1972.”

“Betar Bangla is the only Bangladeshi radio station in the UK and serves an important local audience that might otherwise be socially excluded. It delivers important programming including debt advice (in partnership with Toynbee Hall) and covering other topics related to domestic violence, community safety and health.

“Pearl Blue has a relationship with Betar Bangla and have increased the rent payable to them. The council’s negotiations with Pearl Blue continue, an increase in the rent payable under a new lease has been proposed as part of the heads of terms but not yet agreed.

“On this basis the council’s Grants Determination Committee felt the grant was appropriate as a short term measure while discussions with Pearl Blue continue over the rents at the property going forward.”

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LW Comment

Where do we apply for one of these grants?

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