Cash for Access, aka Bribery and Corruption. A moral abyss awaits us all unless we show resolve and prosecute robustly

Posted on | Thursday, 29 March 2012 | No Comments

Cash for Access, aka bribery and corruption, has no place in an open democracy where we expect integrity, candidness and honesty.

The fact that all political parties receive private funding, must surely tell you that they can't act on our behalf with impartiality. Democracy in undermined when payments are made to influence government. And don't be mislead, these dinner dates, including those held by the Foreign Secretary among others, were all for party funders. As we know, it isn't simply a Tory transgression, Labour 's unwholesome links with Union funding is no different. 

This is abuse of office at the highest level, and ought to be challenged as such by the nation. It's unbelievable that our judicial system can send a youth to jail for Tweeting an obscene message, yet turn a blind eye to corruption at the highest level of government. Politicians, (and Civil Servants) are accountable to the nation for their actions and need to be brought to account for breaching a very clear code of conduct.

Notwithstanding this miserable state of affairs, the perpetrators try to cover up their crime. Whatever happened to integrity and adherence to the NOLAN principles of public office?

UK CRIME & PUNISHMENT: A RIGOROUS OVERHAUL OF SENTENCING IS REQUIRED TO BETTER SERVE SOCIETY

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The recent news that three men have been found guilty of a gangland shooting that left a 5-year-old child paralysed for life, leaves me wondering what sentence will be handed down to these thugs. In an age where a sentence of 'life' means no such thing, (although since 1983 a judge has been able to impose a Whole Life Tariff for certain categories of murder), is punishment too lenient for the crime? In most cases convicted murders can be freed to roam our street after serving a 'deterrent' sentence. Take for instance, the three murderers of 16 year old Ben Kinsella in 2008. They will be released in another 16 years to roam our streets free men, free of any further liability for taking this innocent young man's life - legally still a child - while Ben's family have to suffer for the rest of their lives; this can't be right (although the absurd sentencing in this case did result in the minimum tariff for murder committed with a knife subsequently being raised from 15 to 25 years). 

There is a misguided belief in some sections of society that lenient sentencing coupled with criminal rehabilitation will solve the problem. It won't. We need to understand that we are an imperfect species, and as a consequence there will always be people who do not fit into an ideal mold of the perfect citizen. In the case of criminals who have taken a life or permanently disabled a victim, and where a whole life custodial tariff is not applied, we need to apply robust custodial sentencing followed by a rest of life service to the family/community. 

If a criminal has either taken the life of another or inflicted a life time injury, as in the case of this 5-year-old child, they must receive a whole life sentence as punishment to match the crime. The sentence in its entirety need not be custodial. If public safety deems that the convict can be released from gaol, they must continue, for the rest of their life, to serve the victim's family and/or community in whatever way is appropriate. This could be a life-time penal tax on their income which would be used as compensation the the family of their victim.

So, in the case of 5-year-old Thusha Kamaleswaran who will never walk again, the three guilty men must repay society and the child for the rest of their lives in a combination of a custodial sentence and community service.

UK Crime & Punishment: A rigorous overhaul of sentencing is required to better serve society

Posted on | Tuesday, 27 March 2012 | No Comments

Today's news that three men have been found guilty of a gangland shooting that left a 5-year-old child paralysed for life, leaves me wondering what sentence will be handed down to these thugs. In an age where a sentence of 'life' means no such thing, (although since 1983 a judge has been able to impose a Whole Life Tariff for certain categories of murder), is punishment too lenient for the crime?  In most cases convicted murders can be freed to roam our street after serving a 'deterrent' sentence. Take for instance, the three murderers of 16 year old Ben Kinsella in 2008. They will be released in another 16 years to roam our streets free men, free of any further liability for taking this innocent young man's life - legally still a child - while Ben's family have to suffer for the rest of their lives; this can't be right (although the absurd sentencing in this case did result in the minimum tariff for murder committed with a knife subsequently being raised from 15 to 25 years). 


There is a misguided belief in some sections of society that lenient sentencing coupled with criminal rehabilitation will solve the problem. It won't. We need to understand that we are an imperfect species, and as a consequence there will always be people who do not fit into an ideal mold of the perfect citizen. In the case of criminals who have taken a life or permanently disabled a victim, and where a whole life custodial tariff is not applied, we need to apply robust custodial sentencing followed by a rest of life service to the family/community.   

If a criminal has either taken the life of another or inflicted a life time injury, as in the case of this 5-year-old child, they must receive a whole life sentence as punishment to match the crime. The sentence in its entirety need not be custodial. If public safety deems that the convict can be released from gaol, they must continue, for the rest of their life, to serve the victim's family and/or community in whatever way is appropriate. This could be a life-time penal tax on their income which would be used as compensation the the family of their victim.

So, in the case of 5-year-old Thusha Kamaleswaran who will never walk again, the three guilty men must repay society and the child for the rest of their lives in a combination of a custodial sentence and community service. 





Reviewing the 2009 Tower Hamlets Petition for a Mayoral Referendum – with a 40% Spoil Rate, was sufficient Due Diligence shown?

Posted on | Sunday, 25 March 2012 | No Comments

Petition organiser, Councillor Abjol Miah handed in the petition to Tower Hamlets Council on 23 October 2009 stating,  “… we have an unaccountable council leader in whom a very large amount of power is vested, including vitally the power to appoint to paid Cabinet posts and the disposal of almost a billion pounds of taxpayers money annually’. It’s ironic that his words almost exactly fit the current elected mayor that his petition established.

The council formally accepted the Petition on 16 November 2009 (Petition date).

In March 2010 a request was made under the Freedom of Information Act, for details relating to the petition. This is the letter:

Dear Tower Hamlets Borough Council,

With reference to the petition submitted to you for an elected Mayor.

Please be kind enough to tell me:

* How many signatures were on the petition
* What checks were made to verify these signatures
* How many names were discounted from the petition as invalid

Please also supply any documents (for example, but not limited to emails, letters, meetings notes, transcripts, minutes) relating to this petition: between officers, councillors or other council officials, and to or from officers, councillors or other council officials and members of the public or representatives of another body or company.

Yours faithfully,

The councils initial response was as follows:

How many signatures were on the petition?

17,189 entries checked:

Valid - 10,233 (59.53%)
Invalid - 6,956 (40.47%)
No Full Name - 2,094 (30.10%)
Not Registered - 3,408 (48.99%)
No Address - 788 (11.33%)
Non LBTH Addresses - 642 (9.23%)
Underage - 14 (0.20%)
No Signature - 10 (0.14%)

What checks were made to verify these signatures?

Four Officers were tasked with checking the signatures on the petition against the register of Electors.

How many names were discounted from the petition as invalid?

With 7,794 signatures required - the number of valid entries exceeded the required figure by 2,439 entries.

At no stage were the Invalid - 6,956 (40.47%) signatures queried. The validity of a petition must surely be questioned if there are an unusually high proportion of spoilt/invalid signatures. I would suggest that 40% is unusually high. Intentionally submitting false signatures, if this were the case, is a method of election fraud.

The request to supply documents relating to this petition: between officers, councillors or other council officials, and to or from officers, councillors or other council officials and members of the public or representatives of another body or company, was refused.

The full file of correspondence can be found here

Canary Wharf switches off escalator due to 'ongoing environmental policy' - What!?

Posted on | Saturday, 24 March 2012 | No Comments




The Customer Notice reads, 'As part of our ongoing environmental policy This escalator has been switched off'. What is this jargon? Perplexed, I turned to Wikipedia for an explanation:

'Environmental policy is any [course of] action deliberately taken [or not taken] to manage human activities with a view to prevent, reduce, or mitigate harmful effects on nature and natural resources, and ensuring that man-made changes to the environment do not have harmful effects on humans' . (McCormick, John (2001). Environmental Policy in the European Union).

Get the picture? No, neither did I. It's 21st century gobbledegook. Gone are the days of clear, simple informative notices. Could it be that the escalator has been turned off to conserve energy? - an admirable reason. Surely not, the sign would have said that..

What is it with Health and Safety Mentality?

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Who is driving this Heath and Safety craze? and why are so many institutionalised employees blindly applying 'standards' that are blatantly absurd. Let me give you 3 examples of a world going mad.


1. Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives. A beautiful room isn't it? Notice the grand bookcases that dominate the reading room. But notice that the top 3 shelves are empty. Why, I asked, was this so, with so many books packed away in boxes out of public view? The answer, 'Health and Safety'!


2. Ideal Home Exhibition 2012, the Santiago Town House. If you go the the Earls Court show this year you can't miss it. One of 3 houses at the Exhibition. Whether you look up at it from the ground floor or down onto it from the gallery, what catches your eye is the roof terrace. Keen to take a closer look I joined the queue to browse around. Alas, access to the upper floor had been roped off - a red rope across the stairway. The reason? Health and Safety.


3. Marner Centre, Tower Hamlets. This is a children's early learning and play centre for toddlers aged 2 - 3. Like other facilities in the district it is well equipped and offers a light lunch for the children before the daily sessions end. However, unlike Children's House, another local nursery school/play centre where the children are taught to sit on chairs around lunch tables, Marner insists the children sit on the floor to eat - they're supplied with cushions, but nevertheless they are eating off the floor; not an English custom. When questioned why? Health and Safety.

Words fail me...

Evening Standard reports Tower Hamlets forced to remove names from Electoral Roll including one at address of Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Posted on | Friday, 23 March 2012 | No Comments

In today's Evening Standard (Friday 23 March 2012) a half page spread by Simon Freeman reports the findings of the Electoral Commission into claims of voting fraud in Tower Hamlets.

The review by Adrian Green, Regional Manager of the Electoral Register for London, found the council had a 'very thorough approach to trying to ensure the integrity and completeness and accuracy of the register'. And Aman Dalvi, the borough's Acting CEO and Returning Officer is reported as saying the Commission's report was an endorsement of the borough's practices and would help to reassure residents and help put a stop to the unfounded allegations which could have undermined confidence in the democratic process within the Borough..

This is all rather confusing when we then read that the council were today forced to remove 127 names from the electoral roll following the Commission's review. Like anyone else reading this article, I'm reading it as a statement of fact not rumour. Similarly with the paper's revelation, 'Tower Hamlets had to remove one mystery resident listed at the home address of its mayor, Lutfur Rahman''. It goes on to state that in the council's own follow-up probe, 3 of 5 properties identified by the Evening Standard as being suspect had the number of registered voters cut. As I say, these are no longer accusations by the newspaper, they are being reported as fact and accordingly have serious consequences, particularly for Lutfur Rahman who had on 3 March 2012 declared in both the  'itspolitical' and 'Huffington Post' web sites:-

'I would simply remind politicians who have hopped upon this particular bandwagon, that following complaints of voter fraud in the 2010 General Election, investigating police failed to find a single case in our borough. Council officers vigorously check any suspicious registrations and take people off the electoral register where deemed necessary'. 

So, I'm reading the, 'very thorough approach ...'  has revealed serious failings. A point Aman Dalvi prefers to hide under the guise of process. 

As Cllr Golds has stressed, its time the Police thoroughly investigate how these names were registered, and take decisive action in recommending prosecution where appropriate. 



Power to the People - Community Assembly Democracy.

Posted on | Tuesday, 20 March 2012 | 1 Comment

There is an ugly, seamier side to our political administration. We all know it exists but like zombies are meekly accepting it as part of our culture in a frightening Orwellian sense. What I'm talking about is misuse abuse of power; power wielded by those we have (in most cases) elected into high office. When exposed, it makes depressing reading not least because it drives home how ineffective we are in preventing it from taking place. For example, at the highest level we seem powerless to prevent Government pressing ahead with their NHS bill while they flout public opposition and legal orders to publish the Risk Report, and at a Borough level, we cringe after reading Andrew Gilligan’s constant revelations concerning Tower Hamlets' Mayor, summed up in Lutfur Rahman; all his controversies in one place'’. The reality is, we have little influence over politicians once they are in office. 

There are of course many other cases that illustrate how easy it is for those entrusted with authority and responsibility through our electoral system to slither into the gutter of self glorification and corruption. Our politicians all too often assume an air of unaccountability and permanence once they’ve wormed their way into a 4 year term of office. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the immortal words of William Pitt the Elder, "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it", and that truism is no less relevant today than it was almost 250 years ago. In describing these individuals, I personally rather warm to the more current expression eloquently delivered by Dame Judy Dench in the James Bond thriller, ‘Quantum of Solace’ when she referred to a particularly unwholesome rogue as a ‘slimy bastard’. But then I do feel strongly about the demise of honesty and integrity in our society. Surely democracy can provide the people of this nation with an alternative to the traditional parliamentary system of adversarial politics that so effortlessly accommodates abuse of power. I put to you; the mother of parliamentary democracy has reached an age when it is no longer fit for purpose. We have to remember, it is based on an unwritten constitution that was suitable for a country of just over 4 million people with all its historic social inequalities of the time, coupled with quill pen and parchment paper communication.  

Society has changed dramatically over 400 years yet we cling to a political system that operates much as it did in the 1600’s. It’s time for us to realise that there is now a workable alternative, albeit draconian from the viewpoint of our traditional parliamentarian process, that has never been applied anywhere in the world. It’s time for the mother of parliamentary democracy to become the mother of community assembly democracy.

What if….

….we were able to replace political parties and career politicians at all levels with best-in-class professionals, hired (and if necessary fired) under professional performance contracts, and selected using best practice techniques, by regional and central assemblies formed from community representation?

In outline, consider a ground-up example of how such a system could work in practice. Take the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and a Ward of say 10,000 registered electors. With 17 Wards across the Borough that computes to 170,000 electors (the actual figure for Tower Hamlets as of 12/2011 was 172,092, so pretty much in line with official statistics). Using the existing electoral register, 30 assembly men/women would be selected from the 10,000, in a similar way to the selection criteria for Jury Service. The 30 would form the Community Assembly for the Ward. As with Jury Service, attendance on the Assembly would be a civic duty.  This would provide a representation radio of approximately 1:333. Current local government representation is 1:3374, and central government representation is a staggering 1:74956. Keep in mind that even at these levels, current elected local and central government representation is focused on party political expedients -strategic issues - above community concerns.

Two members from each Ward would be selected by the Assembly to sit on the Borough Assembly. Assembly service would be for a 6 month term with 5 members rotated each month to ensure dynamic continuity and a rolling ground-up representation process. Using the same approach, London’s (32) Boroughs would provide representatives to a London Assembly, and all UK’s Counties would provide representatives to a central Council of State. At each level, executives would be hired (as referred above) to best represent the interests of their respective Assemblies.

The principle is simple - no political parties, no politicians, no adversarial politics in a parliamentary chamber of government versus opposition; a nation truly administered by the people for the people. But, are we prepared to make the commitment to be directly involved in administering our own society? Are we as individuals - nation builders? or do we still need to be led like lemmings, nurtured on a culture of leadership?

There is an interim measure we can apply to test our resolve. Paradoxically the vehicle for this has been launched by David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Their White Paper, ‘Open Public Services’ advocates decentralising and devolving power to the lowest appropriate level. In practical terms this means the ability to establish local community councils as a statutory body. In Tower Hamlets they could be established within each Ward of the Borough. The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) web site states, ‘NALC offers a bursary scheme for London campaign groups that want to create a new local council in their area. Campaign groups can apply for funds to cover reasonable costs incurred for their meetings’.   

With this ‘leg-up’, a Borough wide campaign can be started to install ground-up representation at local government level. As I say this is only a starting point, and is no quick fix to the abuses of power we have to witness on an almost daily basis. But it will have an impact locally and be the foundation for non elected Assemblies in the future.  

This is the beginning of a national debate on democratic reform. Follow Assembly4Reform on Twitter @a4reform for the latest news and to track developments (Draft site due live July 2012).

Tower Hamlets by-election. What happened to common sense?

Posted on | Sunday, 18 March 2012 | No Comments

It’s generally known that Tower Hamlets Labour Party has become an incubator for an Independent alliance of Lutfur Rahman supporters.
   
The most recent defections concern 5 Labour Councillors who voted against their party on electoral review, openly supporting the recommendations of Lutfur Rahman. That (Labour) Cllr’s can effectively revoke their duty and allegiance to a political Party, to join an alliance with, let’s be frank, an unknown agenda, will incline many to think twice before voting Labour, let alone Independent.

And this question of integrity – for that’s really what it come down to - goes further than Council elections. It has to be of grave concern to (potential) Labour voters in the forthcoming Mayoral election on 3 May, that Ken Livingstone publicly supported Lutfur Rahman’s 2010 challenge for Executive Mayor over his own party’s candidate. How can we trust Livingstone, or for that matter any Labour candidate running for the Spitalfields by-Election?

As for the by-election, there are further concerns on transparency and costs. In view of the imminent changes to Cllr numbers brought about by the electoral review, wouldn’t it relevant to the electorate to know that the candidate they may elect as a third replacement Cllr, may well be removed as a result of possible reduction in Cllr numbers; even the mayor is proposing they be reduced by 6. Could one of these be from the Spitalfields and Banglatown Ward? Save (our) money and wait for the result of the view, which will include Ward boundaries as well and Cllr numbers. The cost of replacing a Cllr who could be out of a job before he/she claims their first allowance is ludicrous. And lets inject some more rational advice into timing of the election. Regardless of the so called deadline for holding a by-election, common sense – rarely applied by bureaucrats – surely resolves that it will be vastly less expensive if would could combine the by-election with the 3 May Mayoral election.

It’s common sense - isn't it? just as knowing that today’s Labour Cllr may become tomorrows Independent..

Tower Hamlets East End Life Shows How Easy it is to Rewrite History

Posted on | Saturday, 17 March 2012 | No Comments

The mayor’s propaganda rag, East End Life - which he continues to publish in defiance of national legislation – shows again how easy it is to reduce editorial standards to the gutter.

The first affront is coverage of Peter Wade’s death; the Isle of Dogs Community Campaigner. This proud man’s death doesn’t warrant entry in the ‘News’ section, instead and disgracefully, it’s relegated to ‘Family announcements’. Perhaps the editor isn’t from the Isle of Dogs or is this now how Lutfur Rahman’s quislings commemorate the passing of a local hero?

In the ‘News’ section however, covering a half page, is Shalina Hussain’s, ‘A salute to 400 years of history’.  This is yet another misleading article from a newspaper whose editor cares less about the veracity of content. Ms Hussain states that Bangladeshis have been living in the Borough for more than 400 years. I suspect that even if she had stated 1,000 years, her ‘editor’ wouldn’t have questioned something as unimportant in her mind as local history. To set the record straight - something the ‘editor’ from past experience is disinclined to do - the best evidence we have to hand is that Bengalis have been present in Britain from the 19th century (not the 17th). Records of the first arrivals from what was at the time British India, were Sylheti cooks who are recorded as arriving in London around the 1870’s, as lascars in ships. ‘A salute to almost 200 years of history’ would be correct, but even then it should be clear that mass migration didn’t occur until relatively recently, i.e., 1950’s onwards.

Tinkering with history to suit political imperatives is a dangerous tactic.

The Continuing Fight to Prevent Exemplar Destroying Spitalfields Architectural Heritage

Posted on | Thursday, 15 March 2012 | 2 Comments

Congratulations to the Spitalfields Community Group on their latest victory. However, what baffles me is that Tower Hamlets (TH) own Planning Department agreed to this development in the first place. I'm just wondering - are the employees at TH Planning Department, Tower Hamlets residents? If not, then I would suggest changes be made to ensure the core team be replaced with people who have an obvious empathy for our Borough and understand the cultural significance of its architectural heritage.

Here's the latest update from the Spitalfields Community Group and the Spitalfields Historic Building Trust, dated 15 March 2012 (they need more support from the local community):

Update about ‘PETITION AGAINST EXEMPLAR’S PLANS FOR THE FRUIT AND WOOL EXCHANGE, ERADICATION OF HISTORIC DORSET STREET, DEMOLITION OF THE GUN PUB and BARCLAYS BANK.’ on Change.org

Local community groups in Spitalfields, London, win first round in battle to save the heart and soul of one of London’s most evocative historic quarters.

Today the groups – the Spitalfields Community Group and the Spitalfields Historic Building Trust – announce their intention to commission an alternative scheme for the 9,000 square metre site of the London Fruit and Wool Exchange, Dorset Street and the White’s Row multi-storey car park – roughly the size of the pitch at Wembley Stadium.

All structures are within the Fournier St Conservation Area, none are individually listed (although the Exchange on Brushfield Street and the flanking Gun Public house and a bank are all fine 1920s structures) and all are owned by the City of London Corporation, which is working in collaboration with developers Exemplar – best known recently for their association with the large area of derelict land in Fitzrovia formed by the demolition of the Middlesex Hospital.
The developers proposal, primarily for offices and shops on the site but with no housing, and designed by architects, Bennetts Associates – was unanimously rejected last Tuesday by all five members of Tower Hamlets planning committee. The rejection was in the face of recommendation for approval from Tower Hamlets own planning department.

The councillors are to be highly commended for the wisdom and courage – and for heeding the voices of more than 500 local objectors and petitioners to the proposed scheme.
This rejection presents local groups with the opportunity to demonstrate how the site should be developed to respect the diverse architectural character of the area and to reinforce the rich mix of uses that give Spitalfields such distinction.

A visionary scheme is needed that builds on history to create a new development in the heart of Spitalfields – that will continue the social and commercial renaissance of the area and enhance the established architectural and social character of the conservation area.

The rejected scheme retained only the Brushfield Strret façade of the Fruit Exchange – the Gun pub, the bank, and Dorset Street – which originated in the late 1670s as a street of weavers’ houses – were obliterated. Significantly the developers proposed no housing element on site and doubts surrounded the amount of long-term and sustainable local employment the scheme would create wile removing a considerable number of existing jobs in the area.

Tower Hamlets refused the scheme planning permission specifically because of the loss of current employment on the site and the failure to provide specific details of future employment opportunities; the failure of the scheme to include residential accommodation as part of the range of uses; and because of the proposed demolition of the Gun Public House. In addition Cllr. Denise Jones stated that in any revised scheme the developers must consult in a meaningful and fruitful manner with the local community groups. This means no just going through the motions of listening but listening and responding. She also made it clear that the views of English Heritage must be responded to. Notably EH as urged the retention of historic Dorset Street, which the proposed scheme obliterates. Significantly Tower Hamlets conservation department’s analysis of earlier proposal for the site stressed the importance of retaining Dorset Street. Developments in conservation are meant to reflect, retain and enhance the established architectural and planning character. Naturally this means street pattern. It is incredible and virtually unprecedented for an historic street – albeit it now reduced to a service road – to be eradicated in a development in such an important conservation area.

In addition points raised by the three objectors who spoke at the meeting also need to be addressed.

Dan Cruickshank, who spoke on behalf of the Spitalfields Trust, condemned the bland and placeless nature of the rejected scheme that, he argued, does not respond to or enhance the special character of Spitalfields.. “A very significant fault is the failure to realise the opportunity – or even respect – the setting of Christ Church on Commercial Street – one of the most important 18th century Baroque buildings in Britain.’ What is NOT required ‘is the sort of dated, dead-hand architecture that the current scheme represents.”

John Nicolson, of the Spitalfields Community Group says: “The fact is that Exemplar has always refused to talk to us or the Trust about saving Dorset Street, preserving the old street pattern and breaking up the monolithic nature of the development.”

The community group scheme – to be unveiled in outline next week (and designed for the group by local architects, Johnston Architecture & Design, retains the Brushfield Street façade of the Fruit and Wool Exchange, the Gun Pub and bank, retains Dorset Street from which diagonal views of Christ Church will be gained (in the spirit of the Baroque plan of Rome. Arcades will be introduced along Brushfield Street and Commercial Street. Housing, studios and apartments will line Dorset Street and White’s Row with commercial elements at upper levels on each side of Dorset Street connected by elegant high level bridges and gantries of the type that service Wapping High Street and Shad Thames.

The alternative scheme doe not follow the developers brief because we believe that brief is wrong and will bring deadly gloom, not life, to the centre of Spitalfields. Our brief respects a reasonable balance of uses – housing, office and commercial – that will help in the remarkable social transformation that has taken place in Spitalfields to make it one of the most pleasant and most visited and vibrant places in London. The dominant office use proposed in the rejected scheme is wrong. There must be a significant housing element on site. Even Tower Hamlets planners – who supported the rejected proposal, admit that a scheme with such a high office content in an area ‘outside the agreed office zone’ is unusual.

Spitalfields is now characterised by its rich mix of uses and architecture, by people living and working in the area, and by diverse communities coexisting in productive and mutually beneficial harmony. We believe our scheme would reinforce these characteristics and – in its uses – generally benefit local employment.

Please continue to spread the word and encourage support – this planning application will go back into committee within the next few weeks.

Contact the Spitalfields Community Group here to show your support: http://j.mp/wGcMkK

Concerns surface as Tower Hamlets Council deliberate an Electoral Review

Posted on | Sunday, 11 March 2012 | No Comments

Earlier this year, the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) consulted with Tower Hamlets Council on the most appropriate Council size for the Borough, i.e., the preferred number of Councillors to serve on the Council. This was only a preliminary review, and will soon be followed by consultations on Ward boundaries and representation.

I only accidently stumbled on news of this significant development while checking the forthcoming by-election plans for Spitalfields and Banglatown. 

My primary concern here is the lack of transparency coupled with the fact that these consultations run contrary to central government’s commitment towards devolving power down to the electorate. They – you and I, the electorate - should have been advised these consultation were taking place from the outset. It is totally unacceptable to announce that there will be a period of public consultation later this month, as we are now advised, when Councillors have already submitted their preferences to the LGBCE!

The Governments White Paper on Open Public Services was only published last July and in its second Principle it states: power should be decentralised to the lowest appropriate level – the electorate.  The same theme was enacted in the Localism Bill with its ‘bottom up’ rights to give local people the chance to take on powers that have previously only been exercised by local authorities. And then there is the maligned Nolan Principles of Transparency; who in council has ever applied these? So why weren’t we advised?

Our Councillors, to summarise from Tower Hamlets web site, have already submitted the following proposals on council size:-

Mayor of Tower Hamlets:  45 councillors
Cllr Rofique Uddin Ahmed (Independent): 45
Labour Group:  51
Cllrs Khales Uddin Ahmed and Helal Uddin (Lab):  51
Conservative Group:  42
Cllr Stephanie Eaton (LD): 38
You can read their respective arguments for these numbers here.

With all but the Labour Party proposing the number of councillors be reduced, shouldn’t we have been notified? In fact, the consensus view of those proposing a reduction is that each Ward be reduced to 2 councillors. Using December 2011 figures giving a Borough electoral base of 172,072, this computes to 3374 electors/councillor based on 51 councillors and an alarming 5000+ electors/councillor based on just 34.  Frankly, neither figure comes remotely close to an effective representation.

One final concern, and you may have already spotted this, is that the LGBCE site shows that a 7th proposal was received (the Tower Hamlets site shows only 6 as above). This was from 5 Labour councillors who have declared they do not support the official Labour proposal and have instead aligned themselves with that submitted by Lutfur Rahman! Were any of these decisions reached after consultations with the electorate?



Strange Happenings on Lutfur Rahman's Twitter links..

Posted on | Saturday, 10 March 2012 | No Comments

On the 3 March 2012, Lutfur Rahman made this Tweet:

Lutfur Rahman ‏ @MayorLutfur
My response to the Evening Standard http://bit.ly/wwpEp5

The link pointed to the site 'itsPolitical.co.uk' where his blog, dated 2 March, appeared under the title, 'Lutfur Rahman: In Response to the Evening Standard'. It was this Tweet that alerted me to check his comments at 'itsPolitical.co.uk' and make my own comment on the site. If you go to this originally linked site now, you will see his blog entry together with 2 damning comments, one from myself.

The strange thing is, on checking back to this original Tweet, it now reads:

Lutfur Rahman ‏ @MayorLutfur 
My response to the Evening Standard alturl.com/gnxoy

Note that the link address is now different, no longer linking to 'itsPolitical.co.uk' but instead linking to 'huffingtonpost.co.uk' where the two original comments have disappeared to be replaced by less damning comments.

How is this possible? Is it perhaps possible to make retro changes to old Tweets? The answer is no - unless they are hacked. (Like this post, notice that the time stamp is missing - clue to a clumsy hack) 

p.s.  Coincidentally, a related earlier blog entry on this site has also disappeared.  

Electoral Review of Tower Hamlets - Lutfur Rahman's Warded Communities!

Posted on | Friday, 9 March 2012 | No Comments

In his Electoral Review Submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE), Lutfur Rahman wastes no time in revealing his understanding of what community means to him, i.e., community identity is represented by ‘strong ward boundaries that reflect communities’.

So, given that by ‘community’ he accepts the commonly held definition that it means to have a common cultural and historical heritage, we are left with the realisation that he intends ring fencing Tower Hamlets’ communities based on ethnicity. Should we therefore expect his revised Ward boundary recommendations to support, e.g., a Cockney Ward perhaps, or a Jewish one, or why not a Bangladeshi one? Is this his understanding of multiculturalism? His master class in multiculturalism would need to be supported by a housing policy restricting applications to those sharing the ethnicity of the appropriate Ward, and the same would apply to schooling of course; there would be no place for a young cockney sparrow in a Bangladeshi warded school nor any cross ward blending of cultures.

Is this what we want? Are we aware that this is where we may be taken? This is not integration – it’s the frightening opposite; segregated communities. Don’t let it happen! 

Ken Livingstone receives the Kiss of Death from Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Posted on | Sunday, 4 March 2012 | No Comments

My response to Lutfur Rahman's rather pathetic attempt to counter comments made in the London Evening Standard (LES). He used the itspolitical.co.uk web site to respond, as he says the LES refused to accept his response. I'm posting this here while awaiting moderation clearance from itspolitical.co.uk  More here: http://bit.ly/zacNqm

'east-end-lies' Huzzah! And well said! But it barely scratches the surface of 'his' borough's festering malaise. How unfortunate we are to have a mayor who decided to 'go into' politics, rather than one prepared to devote himself to public service. Our borough deserves a finer thread than him weaving into its rich history.

I'm sure we all understand the parapraxis of 'to represent all the diverse communities', rather than, 'integrate the diverse ethnic mix'. We don't want diverse communities being represented; we want a single integrated community. Calling himself a Bangladeshi Mayor doesn't help; Mayor (albeit a 12.5% Mayor) is entirely adequate.

The Cabinet, now there's a topic worth highlighting. In a Council where Labour holds a 63% majority, his Cabinet consists 60% Independents and a mere 40% Labour, thus transforming the majority in the council chamber into the opposition. And if that weren't enough, the 'Mayor' retains sole executive power to make decisions. Demolition of democracy? - you decide.  Hardly surprising he is under sustained attack.

Mr 'Mayor', history should tell you that Tower Hamlets has weathered the contradictions of wealth and poverty for over a 1,000 years, every since the Tower of London was built - a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon the hamlet by the then new ruling elite. Canary Wharf is the Tower in today's world. But the difference is that we now live in a free capitalist society where the benefits of capital, trade and entrepreneurship must become open to all; that's the challenge, to seek to strengthen the links between local individuals, organisations and communities that create social capital. We need action not worthless politicising platitudes.

Some of our schools may well outperform others academically, but academic excellence is a questionable achievement when it is borne out of a segregated schooling system. Ofsted confirms that many of our schools consist of over 80% Bangladeshi students - this is not an integrated schooling system. We should be integrating minority ethnic cultures into our wider community and national culture, not the reverse. These are not the statistics a 'Mayor' ought to be blowing his own trumpet about.

On the question of voter fraud, this case has certainly not been closed. The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Minister for Housing and Local Government has recently called for an investigation into accusations that Tower Hamlets Electoral Roll has been rigged. As well as this he has been asked to carry out an independent case review into how the jailed Cllr Shelina Akhtar - a convicted fraudster and social housing tenant, was allocated social housing.

I hope sufficient light is being shed on the darker side of someone 'going into politics' under the guise of representing Tower Hamlets' interests.

An Evening with the Spitalfields Community Group

Posted on | Friday, 2 March 2012 | No Comments

I was given the heads-up to attend the 1 March 2012 meeting of the Spitalfields Community Group as Rushanara Ali, MP for Tower Hamlets, was to attend.  It presented an opportunity to raise the issue of Brick Lane (sic) and other heritage concerns including the demolition threat to the Fruit and Wool Exchange.

The Community Group has a sincere enough aim - 'to promote and protect the rights and amenities of those who live or work in Spitalfields and/or own property in Spitalfields'. And it certainly can't be challenged in its ability to attract major political players. When Rushanara Ali finally arrived, she was greeted by fellow Labour Party faithfuls, John Biggs the London Assembly Member (City and East Constituency),  and Joshua Peck, Labour Group Leader at Tower Hamlets’ Council.  All in all, one would think, a suitably well qualified panel to hear our concerns and answer our questions. The panel was chaired by John Nicholson on behalf of the Community Group (although he introduced John Biggs as the Chair, Mr Nicholson – to the bafflement of John Biggs – actually chaired the meeting himself).

A suitably well qualified panel? I’m not so sure as while the assembly was kept waiting for the local MP to arrive I began to question the need for such an event in the first place. The fact that any community considers it necessary to form such a group must challenge the effectiveness of our current system of local government, which presupposes local Councillors will fulfil the functions such groups are set up to deal with. This thought further alarmed me when I realised there were no local Councillors on the panel.

The first couple of questions from the floor concerned licencing laws, substance abuse and law and order.  Clearly major concerns to the community and more pressing than my question about tarmac being laid in Brick Lane. 

Undaunted by my lesser issue, I took the floor next and asked the panel how we could best represent our concerns to Council when the panelists themselves are in opposition - at Local, Assembly and National level? How could they effectively represent us when the majority (Labour) party is considered the opposition and the Executive is one man, Lutfur Rahman, wielding autocratic power?  

I asked why there wasn't a local Councillor present, even if the remaining two local Councillors aren't obviously part of the Executive's sycophantic inner circle. After a puzzled look from the panelists someone pointed to a sheepish fellow in the back row who turned out to be Anwar Khan, Labour Councillor for Bow West. So, no show from either Councillor Helal Uddin Abbas, who holds the Chair at the Council's Development/Strategic Development Committee, or from the mysterious local Councillor Fozol Miah. 

Let me just spend a moment to highlight the significance of this. Of Spitalfields three absentee local Councillors, one is in jail for benefit fraud, one (Fozol Miah) has a 70% absentee record at Council with a 100% no show as a member on the all important Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and the third, Councillor Helal Uddin Abbas - the one sitting on probably the most relevant Committee, didn't see fit to attend. So the Group's representation channel through local Councillors would seem tenuous at best. But the problem runs deeper than this. The invited MP, Rushanara Ali, as a career politician has little time for representing local concerns. She is currently part of the shadow team for the Department for International Development and much of her time is spent shouldering this responsibility - although she did in fact find time to vote against her own party's anti-terrorism laws. Of the 4 Early Day Motions she participated in during 2011, one was related to Kenya, one Sudan and one Egypt.

It was very gracious of John Biggs to attend, but he also had little to contribute. The MP for her part, in one of the few exchanges with a resident, refuted she had ever seen correspondence sent to her from him - the Chairman of the Spitalfields Market group and continued to droll on in an acquired parliamentary style of humdrum platitudes offering no encouragement to the assembled audience. Only Joshua Peck provided any hope by stating the points he would follow-up.

By the time the session closed at 9pm, only Joshua Peck went away with a mission of sorts. Although John Nicholson attempted to create an awareness of the heritage issues in the Ward, it basically fell on deaf ears. I left feeling that little had been achieved on any front and that our dependence on the present system of democratic representation was no longer fit for purpose. If the Spitalfields Community Group is to achieve its admirable aims, I would humbly suggest it focuses on using e-Petitioning in the interim, rather than lobby career politicians with their concerns – at least until a more effective and reliable system of local government can be delivered.

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