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Archive for August, 2011

Eid Mubarak

I want to send my warmest greetings to residents across the borough, of all faiths and none, on this special occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.

For Muslims, Eid is a joyous occasion of celebration. It marks the end of a long month of fasting, and follows the first sighting of the new moon. I know that there are plenty of festivities going on in Tower Hamlets today, and I wish everyone the very best in enjoying this special day.

Eid is also a time for forgiveness, and making amends. These are virtues universal to all of us and I hope we can all take some time to reflect on them, and their relevance to our lives.

Here in Tower Hamlets, there can be no better time to recognise that our shared values transcend all racial, cultural and faith boundaries, and are a reminder that we are one community, one Tower Hamlets: it is the responsibility of all us as neighbours to look after each other.

A very happy Eid Mubarak to all!

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Statement on EDL ban

The Home Secretary has approved the Metropolitan Police’s application to ban all marches in certain areas of London (including Tower Hamlets) for a period of 30 days starting from 2 September.

This means the proposed English Defence League march in Tower Hamlets on 3 September will not go ahead.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman, who campaigned for the EDL march to be banned, has welcomed this decision.

He said: “I thank the Home Secretary for making this decision, which means we can now move forward as a community free from the threat of the EDL marching through our borough with their messages of hate.

This has always been a borough where people of different faiths, cultures and backgrounds live in harmony, and we will not be divided by the EDL.

It is the correct decision, and I would like to reiterate my thanks to the thousands of people that supported our efforts to get this march banned. Their support has been fantastic, and I am delighted that our efforts have been successful. Once again we have shown we are One Tower Hamlets.

The police have pledged a significant presence on our streets to ensure that our borough remains peaceful and any disturbances will be dealt with swiftly. I am calling on all our residents and young people to work with the police and report any incidents to them”.

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Teenagers across Tower Hamlets cheered with joy as they collected their GCSE results last week.

Provisional figures show that across the borough, local pupils achieved the best GCSE results the borough has ever seen, with 61 per cent of youngsters achieving at least five A* to C passes including English and Maths.

While national figures are not yet available, this tops the national average of 54 per cent last year and is nearly thirty per cent higher than where Tower Hamlets was just five years ago.

Provisional figures for A* to C grades in any subject have also hit an all-time high in Tower Hamlets, at a staggering 82 per cent. This is nearly double the percentage of pupils who achieved the equivalent in 2002.

I joined pupils at Bow School of Maths and Computing and Central Foundation School for Girls, as they opened their results envelopes.

As a former pupil, coming back to Bow Boys certainly brought back fond memories for me.

Once again, pupils across Tower Hamlets have really done us proud by achieving excellent results and showing the rest of the country that we’re catching up with, and potentially overtaking, national averages across the board.

I can’t wait to see the final results when they’re released by the Department for Education in the coming months. Tower Hamlets has come so far in terms of attainment in recent years and a big part of that is down to the hard work of our pupils – well done.

Over the coming years, secondary education in Tower Hamlets will continue to be transformed as the council continues its Building Schools for the Future programme.

An initiative of the former government, Building Schools for the Future is a £350 million programme that will see 21 of the borough’s secondary schools rebuilt or refurbished over the next few years.

As part of a £31.4 million rebuild, Bow Boys will be relocated to Bow Lock, creating space for an additional 950 pupils.

Central Foundation School will also be transformed from its current split-site layout through a £22 million refurbishment that will also provide a much-needed sixth form.

These are exciting times for education in Tower Hamlets.

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I have just learned that the Acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner has made an application to the Home Secretary to ban all marches in certain areas of London (including Tower Hamlets) for 30 days starting 2nd September 2011.

I applaud the decision of Acting Commissioner and I now call upon the Home Secretary to act swiftly in confirming that such a banning order is now in place.

I would like to thank the thousands of people who supported our efforts to get this march banned. I am grateful for the support I have received from residents across the borough, leaders across London and the country, local politicians, faith leaders, trade unionists, and business leaders

Together, we will continue to reject any attempts to divide our community and will celebrate the diversity that makes our borough great.

More information here and here.

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Protecting youth provision

Last week I attended the opening of a new youth facility at the London Metropolitan University in our Borough. I am almost tempted to write that again, because elsewhere in the country youth facilities are being shut down, not opened – the victim of the Coalition’s spending cuts.

Except that some local authorities seem to be keener than others to cut back on such vital services.

One such example is Norfolk County Council, which has cut its spending on youth centres by an amazing 100%!

We can tell a good deal also about the priorities of Conservative controlled Oxfordshire County Council, which is intent on slashing its youth services budget by £2 million. According to The Guardian (Aug 24) the budget is to be reduced from £3.7 million to £1.7 million, with 26 youth centres set to close.

How ironic that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, chose one of those now threatened youth centres in his Oxfordshire constituency to launch his public response to the recent riots barely a couple of weeks ago!

In Tower Hamlets, a much poorer part of England than Oxfordshire, we have not made any cuts to youth provision, understanding as we do the vital role that youth services play in our community.

This is our priority. I am bound to ask what is David Cameron’s?

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I am glad to see Boris Johnson getting some heat over weekend tube closures. Despite promises from Boris that the closures on the Jubliee Line would end in June 2011, TFL have announced another three, running into mid October. Labour’s London Assembly Transport spokesperson and Ken’s Deputy Mayoral running mate, Val Shawcross, lands some timely blows about Boris’s broken promises here.

 

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Today, Andrew Stunnell MP, Minister for Communities, visited the Town Hall to discuss the  racist march by the English Defence League planned for September.

I couldn’t attend this meeting, as I was in Birmingham attending the funeral of the three young men, Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir, whose lives were so shockingly cut short in the recent disturbances. Hearing their loved ones talk about their lives, and all they had to offer, I was deeply moved.  May they rest in peace.

Accordingly, Cllr Ohid Ahmed, the Deputy Mayor, attended the ministerial meeting in my place, along with the local MPs and a handful of councillors and council officers.

He tells me there was an extraordinary show of unity from councillors of all parties – and indeed it’s that unity which has come to characterise this entire campaign to ban this march of hate.

The Deputy Mayor hammered home the key points: that the potential violence and disorder that would ensue, particularly in light of the recent riots, is the last thing we need in our borough. That the Home Secretary was right to ban the EDL’s planned march in Telford last Saturday. That in times of financial restraint, the amount of taxpayers’ money that would be spent policing this march is indefensible – Dewsbury councillors said that the £172,000 spent on policing a 40-minute EDL rally on their patch could have kept two libraries open for a year.

All in all, Cllr Ahmed sent a clear message to the government: this march is not welcome, it is destructive, its potential repercussions do not bear thinking about. The Home Secretary must act now and ban the march.

And the communities minister said in reply that, whilst the authority to ban the march was not within his remit, he agreed with this position and would take this message to the Home Secretary.

The ball is now well and truly in the government’s court.

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Out and about

Me and Ledley King

I was delighted to attend an event at Meath Gardens in Mile End yesterday, to celebrate the huge success of a new cycle route.

The route, which opened in October 2009, connects to the new Meath Bridge over Regent’s Canal. In a recent survey over a 4-day period, just under 6000 journeys were observed.

I was visiting to unveil a new piece of public artwork. The local community were asked to nominate three characters steeped in local history and their choices – Sylvia Pankhurst, Ledley King and a canal towpath horse – have been immortalised in steel sculptures.

It was a pleasure to meet Stepney-raised England footballer Ledley King, pictured above alongside his steel double, who joined me to unveil the exhibit.

I also spent some time in Victoria Park, opening the newly-refurbished Canal Gate and laying the final pavement slab of the Jubilee Greenway walk – which stretches links Victoria Park with the Olympic Park, with a number of historical attractions along the way. Part of our ambitious bid for the city status that will be awarded to one local authority to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the route’s definitely worth exploring.

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A call to ban this hateful march

Guardian advert

On Saturday I initiated an advert in the Guardian newspaper calling on the Home Secretary to ban the English Defence Leagues plan to march in Tower Hamlets on September 3.

I did so, in conjunction with community, faith, trade union and business leaders in order to send a loud message; there is no place for hate in Tower Hamlets. (more…)

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Inspiring tales of a difficult time

Robert Lambert, co-director of the European Muslim Research Centre, has a good piece about Monday night’s riots on the Al-Jazeera News website.

Lambert particularly praises the role of Muslims in East London, defending our area from the onslaught of violence and destruction. You can read his piece here: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/08/201181210928899563.html.

The role played by ethnic minorities in defence of property and subsequently in the clean-up operation is a theme that has often been raised in the discussion that has ensued: for example, this Christina Odone piece in the Telegraph.

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