Open letter to Rishi Sunak MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Local Government)
Sorry to bother you but there is a situation in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets which I would like to draw your attention to.
You may remember that Tower Hamlets had a little bit of a problem with a dysfunctional council a while back, in particular one Lutfur Rahman.
Well despite what some might claim all is not well in our borough and just wanted to drop you a line to let you know.
See I am a community journalist and came across an odd situation with a couple of Labour councillors where it seems that neither of them were declaring their Register of Interests properly.
So I wrote three stories about this issue to bring this to the attention of borough residents and the Council.
Nothing changed, in fact if anything the situation became ever more obscure. But then this is Tower Hamlets after all.
I complained to the Council about what the two councillors had – allegedly – got up to and was fobbed off. The way I (and by extension all the other residents in the borough) was fobbed off was so blatant as to call into question the basic governance of Tower Hamlets Council.
Remind you of anything?
I have also made a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman but am not holding my breath that anything will result from that. In fact I know it won’t.
Residents have been enduring this nonsense for several years now, first with the administration of Mayor Lutfur Rahman and now with the administration of Mayor John Biggs. The only way Mayor Rahman became ex-Mayor Rahman was by four borough residents launching an election petition.
The reason four residents had to go to these lengths (oh and they are all still owing large sums of money for the privilege) is because central government stood by and did nothing.
Back to the current situation. Knowing that Tower Hamlets Council will do nothing to rectify the problem with the two councillor’s inability to declare their interests properly which, from what we can see, is a possible breach of the Local Government Act 2011 and is as such a criminal offence we decided to report this matter direct to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and used their online reporting form to do just that.
Now comes the funny bit. If you have a really good sense of humour.
Within an hour or two of submitting our allegation to the MPS we were sent an email response which said: “Thank you for making contact – please make a complaint to the council with regards [to] this matter, they will investigate and refer to the police in the event of a breach.”
Ya see the problem? Tower Hamlets Council is being asked to investigate itself. You probably don’t see how funny that is because you don’t live here.
Let’s just say that this is similar to asking President Trump to investigate allegations that he colluded with President Putin to get elected.
The MPS are just following procedure, it’s not their fault.
So here’s the thing. Once before central government ignored problems in Tower Hamlets and it all ended up being very messy indeed. So there is really no excuse for problems in our borough to be ignored again.
Why these problems were ignored before is a mystery. Maybe it is because Tower Hamlets is a very poor borough? Or maybe it is because we have a large Muslim community? Or that Lutfur Rahman is Bangladeshi and so political correctness held sway? Or is it because the borough traditionally votes for a Labour administration?
No idea. All guesses.
What is absolutely clear is that once again there is something fundamentally wrong here.
And nobody is showing any interest in fixing it.
That’s it really Minister. Maybe you are already having regular briefings from your Special Advisors and have Commissioners primed to swoop in and take control of Tower Hamlets?
No, didn’t think you had.
But enough politicians and senior civil servants follow a little one-person blog called Love Wapping to ensure that now you know what the deal is here. (Note to any politicians or senior civil servants who read this, please forward to the Minister or one of his people – ta!).
Whatever happens in future neither yourself or anyone else in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government can say that you had no idea what was going on.
Mark Baynes, Love Wapping