The audacity of hope: Tower Hamlets Tories bid to restore faith in elected politicians

2020! The year that when we look back on it in 12 months time we wonder – “How on earth did we not see that coming?”

A year is a long time in politics and in Town Hamlets is only nine months long. One month gets sold off to someone’s mate, another month is wasted wondering what price the month was sold for and nobody knows where the other month is despite the protestations of the Council who assure us that it must still be there as it listed on a spreadsheet.

Power shift

In case anyone hadn’t noticed (Momentum! Looking at you!) the Labour Party was wiped out on a national basis and due to its tolerance of personality cults (Momentum! Looking at you!) has ensure that the Conservative Party will be the government for quite some time.

Which in turn means that while Poplar and Limehouse returned a Momentum candidate as its MP, the real power in the borough lies with the Tower Hamlets Council Conservative Group. All two of them. ‘Cos they have the ear of the government.

Fortunately they are two of the hardest working councillors in the borough (even by the standards of other boroughs) who put the many complacent Labour Councillors to shame with their work ethic.

Making an offer that can’t be refused

The original Dynamic Duo (other Super Heroes are available)

Word has it that over the festive break the Dynamic Duo have been busy making it abundantly clear that if Tower Hamlets Council does not do the right thing the Conservative Group will be making a call to Whitehall.

And no LW didn’t vote Conservative!

Cllr. Andrew Wood and Cllr. Peter Golds are showing that they mean business by the Motions they are putting forward for the Council to adopt at the first Council meeting on 15th January 2020.

A Motion is a formal proposal by a councillor that the council take certain action. If a council adopts the motion it means the council agrees it is a good thing, if it does not adopt the Motion that means they consider it to be a very bad thing. And of course there are lots of Motions which never got discussed.

Restoring faith in what? Seriously?

Cllr. Andrew Wood

The Motion tabled by Cllr Wood and Golds is about restoring faith in elected politicians.

Nothing ambitious then guys?

You can read the full text of the Conservative Group’s motion below but here is the gist of it.

To encourage other councillors to be, well, honest, it is proposed that the Council ‘ensure that any elected representative alleged to have committed fraud are not seen to receive any special favours.’

Nice.

It is also proposed that the Council perform checks on elected representatives “to ensure that declarations made prior to their election are correct and that due diligence has been seen to be undertaken.”

Even nicer. Saves Moley from doing it! Hurrah!

Who pays your salary councillor?

On top of this the register of interests for each Councillor should “represent economic interests and not just the place of employment. The register of interests should represent who is paying the salary and the organisation that has signed any contract of employment.”

Ooh! This proposal is even nicer than a steaming bowl of perfectly cooked Brussel Sprouts on Christmas Day! That nice! (Other vegetables are available.)

Council motions are never this interesting. Ever.

Here are some other nuggets: checking that councillors do actually live or work in Tower Hamlets and did so when elected; confirming whether or not they have ever occupied Council housing while owning private property; checking that councillors have not committed benefit or other related fraud.

At this point you can probably hear the sound of car doors slamming as certain councillors flee the borough. Or flee Newham / Hackney / Arbroath depending on where they really live, natch.

The only proposal that LW disagrees with in this lovely Motion is that the work be carried out by the Councils fraud and internal audit team with the assistance where needed of external bodies.

Not to be trusted

Cllr. Peter Golds

Moley understands that Cllrs. Wood and Golds have to say that but the reality is that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets is still such a festering mess of rampant corruption and ineptitude that it cannot be trusted to perform the most basic of tasks.

As the Poplar Papers have showed – and will explain in detail when the media finally gets access to the evidence bundle – there are just too many political parties, organisations ineffective departments and dodgy individuals with malign influence for the Council to be trusted.

No honest resident would ever believe that any part of Tower Hamlets Council could give a Tower Hamlets councillor a clean bill of health.

LW knows from personal experience that the Council’s fraud and internal audit team are dedicated professionals who do vital work with no public recognition. But as the evidence of Mark Edmunds in the Poplar Papers alleges their work may have been compromised by others to prevent the truth coming out.

Much better to get an outside fraud and internal audit team to do the job.

But then we might as well just get the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to do it. Oh hang on – remember what happened last time?

Motion regarding restoring faith in elected politicians

Proposed by: Councillor Peter Golds
Seconded by: Councillor Andrew Wood

The Council notes:
The imprisonment in November 2019 of former Councillor Mohammed Harun of Lansbury ward for defrauding the housing waiting list in the borough.

The jailing of three previous Councillors; Shahed Ali in 2016 for housing fraud, Shelina Akhtar in 2012 for benefits fraud and Nasir Uddin in 2006 for stealing money.

This council further notes:
That investigations continue into a number of elected politicians related to housing issues.

This council further notes:
That former Councillor Shahed Ali was jailed for five months for housing fraud.

That the Council further pursued Shahed Ali for the losses incurred and that a POCA Confiscation Order was made against him, as a result he had to pay £110,000 to Tower Hamlets Council and the government for money he made as a result of his fraud. He was also ordered to pay the council’s legal costs of £70,000.

That former Councillor Mohammed Harun was jailed for sixteen months and was required to pay the council £120,000 and additional legal costs of £17,000 to the council. The latter being reduced as the former councillor pleaded guilty as charged.

This Council believes:
That to restore the faith of people in their elected representatives the Council needs to:
1. “pour encourager les autres [in order to encourage the others] ?” ensure that any elected representative alleged to have committed fraud are not seen to receive any special favours.
2. That the Council needs to perform checks on elected representatives to ensure that declarations made prior to their election are correct and that due diligence has been seen to be undertaken.

This Council therefore recommends:

  1. That any elected representatives who has previously shared anti-Semitic or other offensive material online disclose this to the relevant authority and that they make a public apology.
  2. That the council makes clear that rules on stalking and harassment apply also to all elected representatives.
  3. That any elected representatives facing fraud or other criminal charges is pursued to the fullest possible extent under the law and restitution sought for any crimes they may have committed. That they receive no special favours for resigning as politicians as that is not a mitigation offered to other residents.
  4. That the Council is clearer about the need to declare assets & financial interests outside of Tower Hamlets. That this includes where elected representatives are in receipt of benefits and social housing.
  5. To perform a due diligence on all elected representatives of the people by:

a. Checking the accuracy of information that they have provided on their nomination forms and register of interests after they are elected. Are they correct, are there any omissions?
b. Checking that the register of interests represent economic interests and not just the place of employment. The register of interests should represent who is paying the salary and the organisation that has signed any contract of employment.
c. Checking that they do live (or work) in Tower Hamlets and did so when elected.
d. Confirming whether or not they have ever occupied Council housing while owning private property.
e. To check that they have not committed benefit or other related fraud

That this work be carried out by the Councils fraud and internal audit team with the assistance where necessary of external bodies like the Department of Work & Pensions.

That if this is not legally enforceable that elected representatives voluntarily give their consent for these checks to be undertaken and that at the next full Council meeting a report be issued identifying those who have agreed to this check.

It’s a meeting! Of the Council!

As ever anyone can come along and see democracy – or what passes for it in Tower Hamlets – in action at the Council meeting on 15th January 2020

Venue: The Council Chamber, 1st Floor, Town Hall, Mulberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, London, E14 2BG

Contact: Matthew Mannion, Head of Democratic Services Tel: 020 7364 4651, E-mail: matthew.mannion@towerhamlets.gov.uk


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