LW has uncovered a discrepancy in the Register of Interests of Cllr. Tarik Khan (Labour, St Peter’s) which would seem to indicate that he is employed, either directly or indirectly, by Canary Wharf Group, not the organisation he has declared.
We have also been made aware of a template letter in support of two planning applications in Canary Wharf allegedly circulated by Cllr. Tarik Khan.
There is no implication that Canary Wharf Group (CWG) has undertaken anything untoward. CWG has been approached for comment.
The Rules for Disclosure
Any local councillor is required to disclose any pecuniary (financial) interests that may have some bearing on, or conflict with, their public duties. The issue in question with Cllr. Tarik is his employment, or as the government regulations states ‘Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain, which you, or your spouse or civil partner, undertakes.’ Source: Openness and transparency on personal interests: guidance for councillors
It is a criminal offence if, without a reasonable excuse, a councillor fails to tell the monitoring officer about their disclosable pecuniary interests, either for inclusion on the register.
It is also a criminal offence to knowingly or recklessly provide false or misleading information, or to participate in the business of the relevant authority where that business involves a disclosable pecuniary interest.
If a councillor is found guilty of such a criminal offence, they can be fined up to £5,000 and disqualified from holding office as a councillor for up to five years.
Canary Wharf Group and the South London Procurement Network
The Tower Hamlets Council Register of interests for Councillor Tarik Khan clearly states that he is employed by the South London Procurement Network. There is no mention of any other form of employment.
Despite extensive searches, LW has not been able to find any reference to the South London Procurement Network being either a registered commercial organisation or a registered charity – or an anything. It has an office in York Road, Waterloo.
On the South London Procurement Network ‘About Us’ page it clearly states that it is ‘… a free business support service that is funded by the Canary Wharf Group plc and Qatari Diar Development Company (UK) Ltd.’
LW has formally reported the above information to the Tower Hamlets Council Monitoring Office.
Canary Wharf Group employs over 1,000 people and is one of the biggest employers in Tower Hamlets. As one of the world’s financial centres it has significant influence in the borough and has for many years made many contributions to the local community through grants and employment schemes. It is reasonable to argue that Tower Hamlets would be a much poorer borough without CWG.
Councillor Asma Begum
Cllr. Tarik has disclosed that his partner is Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Equalities and Labour Councillor for Bow West ward Councillor Asma Begum.
In her register of interests Cllr.Begum has also declared that her partner works for SLPN South London Procure Network. LW has not asked Cllr. Begum if she was aware that her partner seems to be paid by CWG.
We have asked Cllr. Tarik Khan for a comment but had not received one at the time of publication.
The Planning Application Letter
Cllr. Tarik may – or may not – have some level of involvement in the circulation of a template letter in support of two planning applications in Canary Wharf.
This letter was forwarded to LW along with multiple screenshots of a WhatsApp message thread between Cllr. Tarik and numerous other people on the every popular LB24 WhatsApp group where people discuss all things Tower Hamlets. For details of this see below.
We should emphasise that just because the letter is addressed to Julian Buckle, Development management at Tower Hamlets Council and expresses Cllr. Khan’s support for planning applications PA/18/03089/A1 and PA/18/03088/A1 and is clearly marked ‘Councillor Tarik Khan St Peters ward, Tower Hamlets’ at the top of the page this is not proof that it either originated from or was distributed by Cllr. Tarik. It could be a forgery.
Extract from ‘Letter to TLodge’
“I am writing to put on record my support for the proposed development of the Travel Lodge hotel.
I am a resident in Tower Hamlets, and believe this site is good for a responsible development such as this.
I believe this is a good scheme and will add to the local economy as well as provide jobs for local people. The proposed Travel Lodge will be a flagship which will bring in new customers to the area and much needed to the local high streets.
What are planning applications PA/18/03089/A1 and PA/18/03088/A1?
The two planning applications mentioned seem to relate to one location, the demolition of the existing Travelodge at Coriander Avenue E14 2AA and the construction of a data centre and new hotel in its place by Telehouse, one of the biggest providers of data centres on the planet. Telehouse already has four data centres in Canary Wharf.
What on earth is a data centre? #geekalert
A data centre is an extremely high-security building which contains key elements of the Internet’s physical infrastructure and communications and as such is fundamental to Canary Wharf’s functioning as a world financial centre. Telehouse London data centres is home to the London Internet Exchange (LINX), as well as a backbone for the global internet network. All the major banks and financial institutions will rent or buy capacity in the types of data centre that Telehouse or similar company provides.
The WhatsApp Messages
LW has consolidated all the WhatsApp messages into one image and has anonymised some details for legal reasons and names apart from that of Tarik Khan.
The subject of the messages is the request for people on the group to send the ‘model’ letter to the Council in support of the application by Monday, and ‘if you cannot do it please send your address and details so that Tariq [Khan] can draft up for you’.
The problem seems to be that Tarik Khan has realised that allegedly circulating this letter in a WhatsApp group might not have been the best of ideas and he is now allegedly ‘asking people to delete from public forums’.
He denies that the letter is from him (ignoring the ‘Councillor Tarik Khan St Peters ward, Tower Hamlets’ bit at the top) and that ‘neither do I no [sic] anything about this planning permission or such. I am not in any planning committees and have never written to planning committees’.
Which is correct. Cllr. Tarik is not on any planning committees.
The final message from Cllr. Tarik in the message exchange is after he has been asked if he works for CWG and ‘why have you requested organisations to draft up letter for this development?”
Cllr. Tarik then says ‘Check my register of interests, tells you everything you need to know’.
So the Wapping Mole did check his register of interests. And it did tell us all we needed to know.
LW has also formally reported the above information to the Tower Hamlets Council Monitoring Office.
Tower Hamlets Council reaction
This from a Council spokesperson today: “An allegation has been made and it will be assessed in accordance with the council’s complaints procedures. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further while this process is underway.”
To be clear, neither Cllr. Tarik Khan or his partner Cllr. Asma Begum has been found guilty of any offence, civil or otherwise. However, due to the nature of what we have discovered, we have made a formal complaint.
We do consider that the general public has a right to know about the seeming discrepancy between who Cllr. Tarik claims is his sole employer on his register of interests – the South London Procure Network – and who it seems is really his employer, the Canary Wharf Group.
This does not mean, and we do not imply, that there is any allegation of wrongdoing by CWG. In the scheme of things Cllr. Tarik is a minnow.
We do ask for anyone with first-hand knowledge of the issues described here to get in touch with LW at email@example.com if you have further details.