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Tower Hamlets Council has spent £128,000 of Council Taxpayers money – on lawyers and lobbyists – trying to block a recent BBC Panorama programme.

£250 an hour was spent on coaching by former BBC reporter now lobbyist, Kim Catcheside, to prepare the directly elected Mayor Lutfur Rahman for his interview in the programme which was broadcast in March.

The known fees totaling £128,469.10 were paid to lawyers, Taylor Wessing (£81,924.70) and lobbyists Champollion (£41,144.40), as well as a QC (£5,400). The total excludes one month’s invoice from Champollion, for an unconfirmed amount.

Ted Jeory has been tenacious in getting hold of this information and reproduces the invoices on his blog.

The council and the Mayor continuously threatened the BBC, including falsely claiming the production company Films of Record was “under criminal investigation”. The council says the expenditure was necessary to ensure “that the BBC comply fully with their obligations.”

The council claimed to be seeking to ensure the BBC provided impartiality. This is ironic given their involvement with Islam TV – a channel previously censured by OFCOM for unbalanced political coverage.

Conservative group leader Cllr Peter Golds said:

“The council’s hypocrisy is breathtaking. They claim ensuring political balance of programmes is not their responsibility, despite having spent over £125,000 ostensibly for that very purpose.

“The reality is the taxpayers’ money was used to try and prevent the Mayor being subject to any criticism, and the council is now trying to prevent the public finding out details of how their money was spent. It simply isn’t good enough.

“I have complained to the head of the council about this outrageous behaviour.”

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