That Tower Hamlets has been a disaster for the Executive Mayor model of local government is not in dispute. More interesting is that the electorate tend to reject the idea when they are given the opportunity in referendums. Having observed it in operation, I believe that mayors are excellent for a region, such as London and a break on democracy in a standard local authority where detailed administration is more important than strategic regional work.
Over the coming months I shall be publicising more of what goes on in my borough, but a system whereby a single person, meeting alone and in secret can make decisions ranging from who parks where in a car park, to housing developments worth millions is not something that was envisaged by the legislation.
Lutfur Rahman has decided to reserve all executive power to himself, he has a so called Cabinet who have no decision making authority, he refuses to answer questions from councillors or the public at meetings (citing human rights) and refuses to attend or even acknowledge the Overview and Scrutiny process.
The powerless but well paid Cabinet, every member of which was elected under another label, include three members who since 2006 have, between them, sat in thirteen different political groups.
In 2013 councillors voted by a two thirds majority to amend his budget, deleting the funds for his infamous weekly propaganda paper, East End Life and not permit him to increase expenditure in his private office to £700,000.
On seeking advice from sympathetic lawyers, he raided reserves in the guise of Virements (funds used for emergencies) and continued funding the paper and increasing the office staff. Councillors were told that this could be challenged by a Judicial Review, but the costs would be against those initiating the JR.
So East End Life continues and I have now established, after FOI requests, some details about the office staff.
The council already has a £4.2million communications budget. Yet this is not enough for the Mayor, he needs his own, personal team.
Here are some of the appointments totalling over £240,000:
- Seddon Communications; for the services of left wing journalist, supporter of Ken Livingstone and former editor of Tribune Mark Seddon. Paid a weekly average of £1,111.11, a predicted year spend of £57,777.78.
- Media Dot; for the services of Mohammed Jubair, who is also the principal political reporter of Ofcom criticised Channel S, which is run by a convicted fraudster, paid a weekly average £1,050.00, a predicted year spend of £54,600.
- LDP Associates Ltd, for the services of Tony Winterbottom, another ex Livingstone advisor, who is paid a weekly average of £506.94, a predicted year end spend of £40,957.65.
- Former councillor Stephen Beckett who is said to undertake casework, is predicted to receive £41,00.00 this year.
- Another case is payments to Quay people, for the services of Kazim Zaidi, who is predicted to receive £53, 554.94 for 43 weeks work.
The predicted figures are based on what has been paid to them on a weekly basis to the end of July.
This extraordinary expenditure on cronyism, demonstrates the state of the Rahman regime. The Limousine, the taxis, personal publicity and now this group of “socialist” helpers. With a town hall communications budget of £4.2million, the Seddon/Jubair appointments show a level of personal arrogance that is almost unbelievable.
It should be noted that most are paid via companies. One helper whose job description we are trying to identify is an undergraduate at Selwyn College Cambridge, one of whose activities has been to write abusive comments about Lutfur Rahman’s opponents on blogs, from Selwyn College, using false names.
Sadly the District Auditor, having taken advice for the council’s legal officers has been reluctant to investigate this kind of mismanagement, hopefully he will do so now.