Table of Contents
- Overview of Community Councils and the inevitable Tower Hamlets nonsense
- Establishing a Community Council in your neighbourhood – the technical stuff
- Current issues by James Frankcom, Spitalfields & Banglatown Steering Group
- Spitalfields & Banglatown Parish Council – Analysis and Comment
So there you have it. Well, bits and pieces of it. The question is why is such an essentially simple issue as the Spitalfields & Banglatown Parish Council is turning into another Tower Hamlets clusterf*ck?
Reality is that Tower Hamlets council, both at a political and administrative level, really hates the idea of community councils, despite the 2017 Labour Party General Election manifesto urging the devolution of power to local communities.
Because they fear they will lose their grasp on power.
Here are some examples of Labour politicians in the borough trying to stop the Spitalfields & Banglatown Parish Council idea from going ahead.
Above is a nice photo of Cllr. Tarik Khan (Labour, St. Peter’s) speaking at a public meeting.
The messages on the wall behind him are clear: ‘Oppose the Spitalfields Council Proposal’ and ‘Do not divide Spitalfields and Banglatown’.
And here is a screenshot from a Facebook post by Cllr. Tarik Khan to the Tower Hamlets Brothers United group made on 23rd December 2018.
Good job we have a screen grab as the original post seems to have disappeared for some reason.
The post from Cllr. Tarik Khan reads as follows:
I hope you are well?
There has been a proposal sent to Tower Hamlets Council to divide Spitalfields and Banglatown and Create an Parish Council.
We have been campaigning hard to push back on this.
The people who have proposed this are the affluent people (White Middle Class) who live behind Brick Lane Mosque.
This essential creates a divide between the communities.
Please join the consultation and oppose.”
That’s a pretty clear expression of Tarik Khan’s sentiments.
Cllr. Andrew Wood (Conservative, Canary Wharf) has this take on the council’s attitude to the idea of community councils.
“Tower Hamlets Labour party and the Council hate the idea of local councils such as the Spitalfields & Banglatown Parish Council proposal. The Labour Party manifesto says “Labour believes in devolving power to local communities”. Tower Hamlets Labour need to be clearer as to why they disagree with their national policy and national politicians.
In Tower Hamlets all decisions are made by one person – the Mayor or Council officers – who sit in a central office and who often do not live in Tower Hamlets. Local decisions about street cleaning or where to put in new street lighting should be made locally by local people, leaving the Mayor to decide on issues that affect the whole of Tower Hamlets.
Local Councils should be set bottom up but all of our existing internal borders have been imposed from the outside by the Local Government Boundary Commission or set as far back as 1965 when Tower Hamlets was formed. Local people should determine what is the right area for them to manage collectively.”
Still not convinced that Tower Hamlets Labour is determined to crush any attempts by local residents to form their own democratic frameworks?
Here you go then. LW thought quite highly of this politician until about two hours ago.
This is Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, speaking on the BBC Sunday Politics London programme recently.
Here’s a transcript of Rushanara’s words.
“Tower Hamlets has historically had the experience of working together across different communities and when communities have come together, white middle-class people with white working-class and ethnic minority communities we have been strong in dealing with the issues that affect the area.
When people are pulled apart we become divided and the neighbourhood system that the Liberal Democrats introduced was so dangerous and divisive that it ushered in the first British National Party councillor in my borough when I was a teenager. It was a total disaster.
I think those who have legitimate concerns and are campaigning for this Parish Council need to remember the dangerous history of decentralisation and focus on how we can work together and influence the council to get things right where they are frustrated about Anti-Social Behaviour and those issues rather than creating more division and potentially a dangerous process of segregation.”
Derek Beackon was a British National Party councillor in Tower Hamlets for all of eight months 25 years ago in 1993. Other events that year were Bill Clinton becoming President, Beverley Hills: 90210 was the thing to watch on TV and Meatloaf’s classic “I’d do anything for love” was released. I mean, the Lib Dems were in charge – it was that long ago!
So what on earth has a failed local attempt at devolving power down to communities nearly a generation ago got to do with anything today? Nothing, that’s what.
Rushanara Ali then moves swiftly on to warn those campaigning for a Parish Council about the dangers of decentralisation and suggests they ‘influence the council’ instead.
Huh? That’s the problem. Residents want a mechanism that provides them with the control over their neighbourhoods which is currently denied them.
The final line made me triple check I had heard the Right Honourable Member correctly. She accuses the Parish Council campaigners against ‘creating more division and potentially a dangerous process of segregation.’
Segregation? Seriously? Like apartheid Rushanara? Fences and machine guns maybe? How about some spotlights on watch towers in Brick Lane? IT’S A PARISH COUNCIL PROPOSAL. (Oh and it’s 2019, not 1993)
Attempting to scare residents off the idea of community councils with the ghosts of the BNP thugs and ‘segregation’? It is pitiful to see someone who studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford unable to argue rationally.
Another failure of government, another judicial review?
James Frankcom, David Donaghue and fellow campaigners are preparing to seek a judicial review of a decision by Tower Hamlets Labour Party Council on their proposal if it goes against them. Which seems fair as from what we have found the Spitalfields & Banglatown Parish Council team have been and continue to be subject to systematic, organised opposition from Tower Hamlets Labour Party.
It is plain wrong that Tower Hamlets residents should once again have to consider funding legal action just to get local democracy to work as legislation demands that it should.
The last people who had to take this step were the four petitioners who took the previous Mayor, one Lutfur Rahman, to court because central government did not have the guts to tackle the problems of Tower Hamlets.
Let’s hope the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government are still keeping an eye on our troubled borough and decide to step in once again and take direct control of this process.
Tower Hamlets Labour party’s greatest fear is that their cosy days in power come to an end.
It would be ironic if, as with Rahman, their fate was decided by local residents who realised that they could look to nobody for help but their neighbours.
For what it is worth the Spitalfields & Banglatown Parish Council proposal has the full support of LW.
Now how about the rest of you? You can give your views online here Should a new parish council be created in the Spitalfields and Banglatown area?
Related Internet Links
- Community Governance Review Phase Two Consultation Form - Tower Hamlets Council
- Spitalfields & Banglatown Town Council Campaign (Facebook)
- Spitalfields Town Council- Spitalfields Forum
- Queens Park Community Council
- Bid to set up Spitalfields town council gets thumbs down from Labour Tower Hamlets claiming it's 'elitist'
- Spitalfields Town Council - Spitalfields Society
- Set up a town or parish council - Gov.uk
- Create a council - National Association of Local Councils (NALC)
- A new council in London’s East End: a bid for democracy or island of privilege?
- Should a new parish council be created in the Spitalfields and Banglatown area?
- Spitalfields Neighbourhood Planning Forum
- London Borough of Tower Hamlets community governance review Consultation document (PDF)
- Community governance reviews guidance - Gov.uk