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Ware’s Allegations Just don’t add Up

BBC heavyweight reduced to fiddling percentages as Panorama “expose” falls flat

Mayor Lutfur Rahman today dismissed allegations by John Ware on BBC’s Panorama that he was favouring the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets at the expense of others. The Mayor also refuted accusations that the Council’s grants process was not sufficiently robust.

The council does not profile organisations by race or ethnicity because Third Sector organisations benefit the whole community. Even using Ware’s definition of “Bengali and Somali “organisations, figures held by the council show that these communities, which together make up 33 per cent of the borough’s population received £1.6m in grants or around 16 per cent of the total pot of £9.7m.

Mayor Rahman said: “There is nothing untoward in the way we give out grants. Over 430 recommendations were made and I only made 32 changes; benefitting groups as diverse as Vietnamese refugees and the Royal Society for the Blind.”

The Mainstream Grants Programme 2013-2015 went to four cabinet meetings; three Corporate Third Sector Grants Programme Boards and two Overview and Scrutiny Meetings before the final executive decision by the Mayor. It was only during the last stage of the process that the Mayor made any direct alterations.

Mayor Rahman said: “Without any actual evidence to back up his claims, Ware has been reduced to fiddling statistics and relying on unsupported assertions from opposition Councillors to justify the amount of license fee payer’s money spent on this programme. I’m proud to have delivered for all the residents of Tower Hamlets and I’ll be running on my record in May’s elections, not on smears.”


The changes made by the mayor included:

• Change from £0 to £15,000 funding to the Community of Refugees from Vietnam

• Change from £0 to £7,500 funding to the Tower Hamlets Chinese School

• Change from £0 to £20,000 funding to The Royal London Society of the Blind

• Change from £15,000 to £36,000 funding to City Gateway (Youth and Employment Project)

• Change from £0 to £40,000 funding to Old Ford Housing

The Mayor’s office has previously published the following statement: “Out of a total of £27m given out to the community, only £2.3m was given to the Bangladeshi community.” This figure is accurate from 2008-15 and covers Rahman’s time both as Mayor and Leader of the Council. The figures above provide a direct like-for-like comparison with the period 2012-15 used by Panorama.






‘Tower Hamlets only funds Bangladeshi groups’.

The council does not profile organisations by race or ethnicity
because third sector organisations benefit the whole community. Even
using Ware’s definition of “Bengali and Somali “organisations, figures
held by the council show that these communities, which together make
up 33 per cent of the borough’s population received  £1.6m in grants
or around 16 per cent of the total pot of £9.7m. Out of a total of over £27 million given to community groups between 2008- 2013, Bangladeshi organisations have received £2.2 million or 8% of the total. The Bangladeshi community comprise over 32% of the borough’s population.

‘The Mayor makes decisions behind closed doors’

 The Mainstream Grants Programme 2013 to 2015 went to:

  • 4 Cabinet meetings
  • 3 Corporate Third Sector Grants Programme Board
  • 2 Overview and Scrutiny Meetings
  • 1 Mayoral Decision

All decisions about council spending go through a series of checks and balances that involve council officers and elected committees with councillors of all parties.

 ‘The Mayor overruled council officer’s decisions to about community grants’

The Mayor is completely within his rights to overrule council officers if he feels public money is not being best spent. As someone who has been politically active in the borough all his life he can legitimately claim to have strong local knowledge. Among the officers decisions he overruled include:

  • Change from £0 to £15,000 funding to the Community of Refugees from Vietnam  
  • Change from £0 to £7,500 funding to the Tower Hamlets Chinese School
  • Change from £0 to £20,000 funding to The Royal London Society of the Blind
  • Change from £15,000 to £36,000 funding to City Gateway (youth & employment project)
  • Change from £0 to £40,000 funding to Old Ford Housing

The Mayor’s is ‘buying votes’                                          

It is an insult to the intelligence of our residents to suggest that just because the Mayor funds an elderly group get together or a community group event that their votes can be bought.

Press Release

BBC Panorama’s ‘unprofessional, shoddy and biased reporting’

An episode of Panorama, focusing exclusively on Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, is due to air tonight (31st March).  While claiming to look at the powers of directly elected Mayors, the programme ignores the other 15 in the country and concentrated on the one who happens to be Muslim – and who is up for re-election in a few weeks.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman rebuts the allegations:

“It is completely untrue that the grants process in Tower Hamlets has been abused to fund Bangladeshi organisations. Since I took office out of a total £27.6 million paid out in grants to community organisations, £2.2 million has gone to Bangladeshi charities or organisations led by a Bangladeshi CEO, Chair or Board. That is 8% of our total grants budget to a community that makes up over 30% of the borough’s population.”

“Tonight’s Panorama programme is based on unprofessional, shoddy and biased reporting. Repeating damaging myths about black and minority communities benefiting at the expense of others only threatens to undermine community cohesion in our borough.”

Mayor Lutfur Rahman has written to the Director General of the BBC complaining about the programme, saying:

“A dossier handed to us by a whistleblower’s shows how programme is in total breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines. You will also be aware that the BBC and the production company, Films of Record, have been referred to the Information Commissioner and a criminal investigation is underway.”

He added, “The proposed Panorama progamme would be a direct intervention in the election and is just an extended license payer funded party political broadcast for the (Tower Hamlets) Labour Party.”


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At the launch it was announced that former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone would support a delivery team established by the council with support of its strategic partners at the GLA, TfL, Barts NHS, QMUL and other private sector partners like the Royal Mail, Sainsbury’s, London Newcastle and London Quadrant housing group. Ken Livingstone said: “I look forward to working with Mayor Lutfur Rahman to deliver this major regeneration project. Whitechapel is a thriving area and I’m delighted that projects like the Olympics and Crossrail have created the momentum to enable it to happen.”  More

Press Release

From the Office of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets

For immediate release – 26 March 2014

Mayor Lutfur Rahman delivers Free School Meals for Tower Hamlets children

Tower Hamlets Council finally voted for Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s plan to extend £2.6m Free Meals to schoolchildren up to year 6 – without cuts in other services.

When Tower Hamlets Labour had proposed extending the Mayor’s original free meals programme, Mayor Rahman welcomed the principle but pointed out that they had only funded it for a few months – until after the election.

Labour had paid for it by cutting a programme that would have put over a 100 women into much needed jobs. So the Mayor could not accept their amendment but pledged to bring a fully funded plan to the next Full Council meeting (26 March 2014). Labour rushed out and accused the Mayor of blocking free school meals.

Tonight the Mayor’s proposals to deliver Free School Meals for two years were heard and Tower Hamlets Labour had to support the proposal and eat their own words.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said:

“I am delighted that we have been able to find the resources to extend the Free School Meals for all pupils in Tower Hamlets Primary Schools. We said it was a good idea, and that we could find the funding for it and we did. It is good for the children of Tower Hamlets and their families.”

Cllr. Oliur Rahman, Cabinet Member for Children Services said:

“I supported the Mayor’s original policy on Free School Dinners and I am delighted at the proposal to extend it to all 12,000 primary school children. We have some of the best schools in the world and this will help our schools and our children to keep up this good work.”


Notes to Editors:

For information about this press release contact Numan Hussain, Political Advisor to the Mayor, on 07508 352 023 or email numan.hussain@towerhamlets.gov.uk


On Saturday I joined with Labour’s Diane Abbott MP, the leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett, the President of the TUC Mohammed Taj and a host of other politicians, activists and musicians, plus a 10,000 strong crowd, to celebrate United Nations Anti-Racism Day. This year’s theme was to highlight the key role leaders can play in mobilising opposition to racism.

This is an issue close to my heart. With over 18 different ethnic groups and 200 nationalities, Tower Hamlets is one of the most diverse boroughs in the country. I am proud that our Annual Residents’ Survey found that 81% of residents think people from different backgrounds get on well together in Tower Hamlets, up from 75% in 2010.

However, strengthening community cohesion is an ongoing issue for us.

We face threats from those on the fringes like the English Defence League and their friends. But we also face a more insidious threat in the form of irresponsible comments from mainstream politicians and the media.

When the media and local politicians make totally unfounded claims about the council being in the ‘grip’ of Muslim extremists they create fear, suspicion and undermine community cohesion. When Robin Wales makes disgraceful comments about ‘apartheid’ in Tower Hamlets and John Biggs makes outrageous comments that I only want to represent one community, they undermine community cohesion in Tower Hamlets.

I am totally committed to ensuring Tower Hamlets is a place where all communities prosper and flourish. I can assure residents I will not let anyone hinder my administration from building community cohesion in our borough, regardless of whether they are the likes of the EDL or whether they are desperate politicians scrambling for votes.

One likes to be charitable, but when people consistently fail to check their facts, it makes them look like liars. Recently, the Labour Party claimed we had voted against extending free school meals, although they knew we had offered to find money to fund the proposals properly – which they had failed to do.

The latest is a Labour Party press release claiming that Tower Hamlets failed to apply for cycling grants. Out of ignorance or malice, they did not mention that in fact we were not eligible for any of these grants.

The first mentioned, to apply to TfL for a new ‘London Cycling Grid’, was meant for boroughs in central London without Super Highways. We of course have two Super Highways through our borough.

I find it difficult to believe that Labour councillors were not aware of these highways. Perhaps, instead, they were too lazy to look at what the rules were for applying to this fund.

But they make the same mistake with the Mini-Holland programme, which is in fact only intended for boroughs in outer-London. That’s either incredible complacency, or a cavalier disregard for the facts. And what they failed to mention is that we have in fact applied for funding for Quietways, the element of the funding we are eligible for.

We’re committed to improving cycling in our borough, and our initiatives include free cycle training for any adult who lives, works or studies in Tower Hamlets; ensuring that our highways-related contractors are fully engaged in the London-wide Heavy Goods Vehicles safety accreditation scheme; and finally, yes, my high-visibility cycling safety packs – which have proved extremely popular.

This is in addition to the £200,000 I put in last year’s budget to support cycling and the £300,000 we have received from TfL to improve local cycling.

I am proud to be able to provide concrete examples of how I am helping the residents of Tower Hamlets to feel safer on the roads. In stark comparison, the Labour Party candidate John Biggs seems happy to fling insults when he has managed to assert no measurable influence over cycling at the GLA, of which he is a member.

The Labour Party called me out in the same press release for ‘shameless publicity seeking and dangerous inaction’. What is shameful is that the Labour Party think that they can win this election on a campaign of misinformation; with see-through, half-baked policies supplemented with a smear-campaign based on a fraction of a percentage of my budget. It is an insult and a disservice to the people of Tower Hamlets that the Labour Party think voters don’t understand enough to see through their lies.

I am appalled at this government’s relentless assault on the poor and
vulnerable which is redoubled in this budget. It was bad enough to set a punitive cap on how much help a family can get from the government, but to set a total cap on government spending on welfare – irrespective of the number requiring help – is ostentatiously vindictive and callous.

This attacks disabled people, the low paid and all those who are likely to need help – it even includes statutory maternity and paternity pay.

In contrast, the chancellor crowed that he was raising the tax threshold on the highest paid, “because I am also passing the full benefit of today’s personal allowance increase on to higher rate taxpayers”. These are people earning 42,000, 43, 50, 60, all the way up to £100,000 who will be paying less income tax because of this budget.

When it comes to substantial policy announcements the Chancellor again shows a lack of creativity. In housing, his plans to extend the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme will do no more than inflate London’s already over-heated housing market and the creation of a new Garden City in Ebbsfleet will only create an additional 150,000 new homes. Shelter estimated last year that we need to be building an additional 250,000 new homes every year to meet need. Whilst £150m to regenerate housing estates is a drop in the ocean, it is to be welcomed. But only if it will create more truly affordable family homes.

In the real world, outside the blinkered bunker of Conservative thinking, it is clear that the way to improve government revenues is to grow the economy, creating real jobs, improving infrastructure and putting money directly into the hands of people who will spend it. This budget fails on all these counts.

Here in Tower Hamlets, we will be redoubling our efforts to do all we can to mitigate the worst effects of this budget.


We have just heard from the GLA that projects including Blackwall Reach would be eligible for part of the £150m funding for estates regeneration. I look forward to seeing the detail.

The death of Tony Benn

I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Tony Benn.

In Tower Hamlets we have a family connection to Tony. Both his father and grandfather represented the St George’s Constituency in our borough, and, even though Tony did not directly follow in the family tradition and run here, in his half century in parliament he was a stalwart representative of the working people who make up most of our voters. Less than a year ago, Tony visited Wapping in our borough to unveil a plaque the leveller Thomas Rainsborough.

Tony shared our belief that the best path to social justice, and to socialism, was through parliamentary democracy. Even people who disagreed with him recognized his integrity and his passion. He was one of an increasingly rare breed – a politician with principles. In response, of course, some of the media demonized him. But it is a testament to the good sense of ordinary people that despite the dismissive sneers and constant attacks from his enemies, he was voted the most loved politician in the country. With his death, the poor, the vulnerable, working people, ethnic minorities – have lost a valiant champion. 

I extend my deepest sympathy to his family, and join with millions of others in mourning not just the death of a giant figure in the Labour movement, but also the passing of an era.