The Poplar Papers – What’s it all about?

The Shell Game

This is the main index page for all content relevant to the Poplar Papers concerning the case for unfair dismissal brought by Mark Edmunds against London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council. It also includes links to government publications relating to electoral corruption in the Lutfur Rahman administration.

Engaging with scrutiny

Mark Edmunds was employed as a forensic investigator by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. One of his main lines of enquiry was allegations of corruption surrounding Tower Hamlets Youth Service.

Despite numerous allegations of corruption and financial wrongdoing taking place during the administration of ex-Mayor Lutfur Rahman – who was himself thrown out of office for corrupt electoral practise in 2015 – there have been no prosecutions of any member of the Youth Service.

In 2015  John Biggs was elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets with the promise that he would clean up the borough and ensure that corruption within the Council was in the past. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper in December 2015 Mayor Biggs stressed the importance of ensuring probity and political accountability in Tower Hamlets Council.

After being re-elected Mayor in 2018 John Biggs said that he would “continue to operate a transparent and open administration that engages with scrutiny.”

Mr Mayor, here is that scrutiny.

An unbroken thread of corruption?

The witness statement of Mr Edmunds repeatedly alleges that attempts were made to hamper his investigations into Youth Services during the Mayor Biggs administration as well as that of Mayor Rahman.  At first glance this makes no sense whatsoever. What possible motive could the administration of the current Mayor, elected as ‘Mr Clean’,  have to cover-up the dodgy dealings of his predecessor?

According to Mr Edmunds the motive was that many of the officers he was investigating were “closely aligned to Council Members” and that the purpose of the cover-up was to avoid political embarrassment to the Labour Party whose members were involved in both the initial corruption and later the control of the investigations. 

An initial analysis by LW of Mr Edmunds 50 page witness statement indicates that approximately 80% of his allegations occurred while Mr Biggs was in charge – not Mr Rahman. But allegations they remain – nothing proven.

Borough residents should also remember the employment tribunal is judging nothing but the case for unfair dismissal. It will not investigate any of the allegations of possible corruption in two successive Tower Hamlets Council administrations that it raises.

The press can.

An issue of press freedom

In addition to the Edmunds statement there exists a 2,000 page evidence bundle that has not yet been released to the media. LW has joined up with The Times, Private Eye, Archant Group, Evening Standard and the BBC to gain access to the evidence bundle. Our reason for wanting access is quite simple – the context of Mr Edmunds claim for unfair dismissal is the historic corruption in Tower Hamlets Council. Without access to that evidence we cannot accurately report on the case Mr Edmunds has brought.

This legal issue is still being discussed. Because of the discussions about this during the hearing the case over ran the seven days allotted to it. At the time of publication it seems the case will not resume until December 2019.

The good news is that this gives all the media organisations involved – The Times, Private Eye, Archant Group, Evening Standard, BBC – time to pore over the huge amount of detail contained in the 50 pages of testimony we already have access to.

Tea. But no posh biscuits

This is a lot of work. Fortunately LW staff have lots of tea to drink although a distinct lack of funds – so if you think the information on this page is useful then please consider donating some of your hard-earned cash to the Wapping Mole. If you can only afford a tenner that’s fine, if you can afford £20 or £50 that would be amazing.


Recent LW coverage of The Poplar Papers


Rahman administration

Corruption Clean Up Report Documents

Related Government Publications


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