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Archive for February, 2012

Government housing welfare reform is going to hit Tower Hamlets hard. Research by London Councils indicates that around 20% of workless families (around 6,000 households) in our borough will find their rent unaffordable if the Universal Cap is implemented. Tower Hamlets is one of the four Boroughs which will feel the greatest effect.

To discuss the implications of new government measures, and what we can do to mitigate their impact, I will be taking part in The Impact of Welfare Reform on Housing Congress which is being held from 6.30pm this evening at Tarling East Community Centre, 63 Martha Street , London E1 2PA . Other speakers include Alison Graham, Chief Executive Child Poverty Action Group and Philip Clifford, Policy & Project Manager, London Councils. Maybe see you there…

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Councillors from across all parties except the Tories united in Tower Hamlets Council tonight to pass Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s budget for the coming financial year.

 At the heart of the mayor’s proposals was a clear drive to protect the welfare of residents from the strain of the current economic climate; put money back into the local economy; protect the borough’s previous investment in its third sector, and minimise the impact of central government cuts on vital frontline services.

Mayor Rahman said:

“My priority for this budget is a very simple. I wanted a budget that protects our borough from this government’s cuts agenda. And I want this budget to deliver value for money. I am really happy that councillors from Labour, Lib Dems and Respect have worked with me to achieve this.

 This budget commits us to protecting frontline services; there will be no closures of libraries or leisure centres in Tower Hamlets. It commits us to protecting front-line and lower waged staff. And it commits us to maintaining our grant levels to voluntary and community organisations.

At a time when this government is taking money out of the pockets of the poorest, this budget also ensures we are putting some back in.

 I am proud to say that Council Tax will be frozen for third year in a row. And I am proud there will be no increases in fees and charges above inflation for the vast majority of services we provide to residents.

My priority was to best protect the most vulnerable in our community. I believe this budget enables me to do so.”

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It said that Ken has allied himself to regressive forces in Tower Hamlets, when actually our agenda is progressive

Excellent article in the Guardian from councillor Rabina Khan on the real agenda behind the Evening Standard’s recent coverage of Tower Hamlets.

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Those with even a passing acquaintance of Tower Hamlets politics will know that myself and Cllr Golds, the leader of the Conservative group, are regularly at loggerheads with each other.

I don’t agree with much of Cllr Golds’ politics, but I do respect the tenacity and conviction with which he pursues them.

I was alarmed therefore to read in the Evening Standard that Cllr Golds had been subject to regular homophobic abuse at Tower Hamlets council events.

I had been aware of alleged comments from a member of the public on the night of the February council meeting last year. But I was unaware that the problem of homophobia at council meetings was as serious as Cllr Golds intimated to the Evening Standard journalist.

Tower Hamlets Council is determined to stamp down hard on homophobia, and any incidents of hate crime. That’s why I have decided to contact the borough commander to request that the police conduct an investigation into the allegations of homophobia at council meetings, or related events.

I am proud that Tower Hamlets Council came sixteenth – as well as being the best London borough and the second best local authority in the UK – in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers 2012, published last week which showcases Britain’s best employers for lesbian, gay and bisexual staff. However, there is still much work to be done in overcoming homophobia.

I look forward to the police response. I will be encouraging the fullest cooperation with their investigation when it commences.

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It looks like the Conservative Party is stepping up its smear campaign against Ken Livingstone following the evaporation of Boris Johnson’s poll lead. Today it’s the turn of Conservative businessman Ivan Massow to attack Ken with an article in the Evening Standard that attempts to tarnish Ken’s name within the gay community.

More from Pink News here.

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Jack Gilbert, Co-chair of Rainbow Hamlets, the LGBT Forum for Tower Hamlets, said: “We welcome this conviction. In particular we are pleased that the Court recognised that these were offences motivated by hatred of LGBT people and reflected that in its sentence. This sends a clear message: Homophobic crime in Tower Hamlets will not be tolerated.

More good news from Pink News here

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Recently, some opposition councillors passed a motion effectively banning cabinet members from answering any questions, requiring instead that I answer all questions personally.

The rationale for this was supposedly that under the mayoral system, all executive decisions are officially taken by the executive mayor.

I think their approach is damaging to local democracy.

My approach at Full Council meetings has always been to deliver a verbal statement updating members on the progress my administration is making, and then allow my cabinet members to answer questions specific to their portfolios.

It makes sense that answers to questions that are usually of a highly specific nature are provided by the people who have day to day charge of the relevant area of governance.

Attempt by opposition councillors to silence my cabinet only serve to undermine the full participation of elected members at council meetings.

I have a strong cabinet, who invest long hours, remarkable intellect and hard work dealing with issues in minute detail on a day to day basis. Most of them held senior posts in previous Labour administrations where they would always answer policy questions in Full Council. They have a valuable contribution to make.

I believe in participatory democracy. In seeking to restrict the contribution of Cabinet members and fellow elected members, opposition councillors are only restricting local democracy instead.

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Figures released by the Government last week show Tower Hamlets is the second most improved local authority for GCSE results in the country. The national ranking, published by the Department for Education, includes all local authorities across England and places Tower Hamlets as the second most improved in 2011, just behind Darlingtonin the north-east.

More here.

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Welcoming the new Bishop of Stepney

More than one hundred faith and community leaders came together at the Town Hall for a reception to welcome the new Bishop of Stepney to Tower Hamlets.

Full story and pictures from East End Life here.

 

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