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Archive for February, 2013

Press Release

Tower Hamlets Labour vote to slash funds for the disabled, the elderly and the 3rd Sector

Critical budget-setting meeting dragged into confusion as Joshua Peck’s Labour fail to back their own proposal

In scenes reminiscent of The Thick of It, embattled Labour ‘Leader’ Joshua Peck led his party into a fresh crisis today after a series of blunders resulted in his councillors not supporting his own proposals.

Already under fire for cobbling together their alternative budget less than 48 hours before the meeting, Labour councillors made the shocking move of proposing that the Mayor take away thousands of pounds of funding support from the most vulnerable people in the borough and place it in reserves.

Following this, when called on to vote on their own proposals, Labour councillors inexplicably failed to act, despite being prompted several times by Council officers exasperated by their inaction.

Cllr. Alibor Choudhury , Cabinet Member for Resources said: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. They were prompted several times to vote for their proposal but they sat there like rabbits in the headlights. Eventually officers took pity and adjourned the meeting so it could be explained to Labour again what they were supposed to do. They are a liability and should not be allowed anywhere near the Council’s budget, they just don’t get it.”

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “I am appalled at Joshua Peck’s assault on elderly, the disabled and the community groups that are the lifeblood of the borough. His behaviour tonight has been very odd and I call on the sane and competent members of the Labour Group to restore order and engage with me to pass this budget – our residents can’t afford any more incompetence, indecision or delays.”

Following Labour’s blunders tonight, the Council will meet again on Thursday 7th March to reconsider the budget.
Ends

Note to Editors:

Mayor Rahman announced the following growth and investment initiatives as part of his administration’s budget proposals. The investments are paid for from efficiency savings and prudent use of reserves.

· £1.26m to provide bursaries to 400 young people to help towards the cost of university.

· £800,000 for a borough-wide deep clean.

· £355,000 to invest in the commercial hubs of Brick Lane , Roman Road , Bethnal Green Road and Burdette Road .

· A £1m Preventing Homelessness fund to protect those affected by Housing Benefit Reform.

· £2.76m to fund Free School Meals (reception and year 1) for every school in the borough for the next two years.

· £1.33m for ten additional THEOs and improved CCTV coverage.

· £200,000 to repair potholes, replacing funding scrapped by the government.

· £100,000 in measures to support cyclists funded from capital receipts.

· £3m towards provision of a burial site for Tower Hamlets Residents – a project that has been kicked back and forth for almost a decade.

· A further £1m for the Faith Buildings Fund that allows Churches, Mosques, Synagogues and other faith buildings to repair run-down buildings and improve access.

· Freeze Council Tax for the fourth year in a row.

· Continued commitment to free Homecare.

· Libraries, Children’s Centres and One-Stop Shops kept open.

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

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Press Release

Mayor Lutfur Rahman warns Tower Hamlets Labour Group; ‘Don’t do Tories job for them, forcing cuts while blocking our budget’

Labour Group leader urges costly closure of popular ‘ East End Life’ newspaper – despite having been one of its greatest supporters!

Rushed amendment agreed 48 hours before critical budget setting may result in £2.1m unnecessary extra costs to residents

Outgoing Tower Hamlets Labour Group leader, Joshua Peck, is today threatening to de-rail Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s budget, threatening jobs and services in the borough. His principal target is the financially self-supporting East End Life (EEL) newspaper, threatening nine full time jobs and depriving 83,000 regular readers of their weekly newspaper.

Joining with the Tories, Councillor Peck also wants to cut the Mayor’s support staff budget by half, despite the massive rise in casework caused by the Conservative Government’s assault on the poorest people and the most deprived areas of the country, including Tower Hamlets.

However, a series of basic errors in their proposal mean that the financial management reforms – a key plank of their strategy- can’t even be tabled at today’s meeting and that cutting East End Life could actually increase costs to residents.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “It is about time Councillor Peck decided which side he is on. Is he Labour, or is he simply a Tory in disguise? Just this week, Tower Hamlets joined with ten London Labour Councils across and signed a joint publishing deal for our council-run newspaper because it is the cheapest way to fulfil our legal duties in providing residents with information. Three years ago, Councillor Peck defended EEL to the hilt. Then it made heavy losses. Since I became Mayor, we have reduced costs by £500,000, and EEL is now totally self-supporting. To close it could actually raise costs by £2.1 million, as the council would be obliged to fulfil its legal obligations in different ways.’

Mayor Rahman continued; “Local residents and many traditional Labour supporters are increasingly appalled at that the way in which some Labour Councillors are happy to work hand in glove with the Tories national and locally.

My budget aims to build on our achievements. While other councils are slashing services, here in Tower Hamlets we haven’t closed a single library, children’s centre or youth club. We have kept free homecare, brought back free school meals, reinstated the Education Maintenance Allowance, introduced university grants; froze council tax for the fourth year and increased investment in the 3rd Sector. If Councillor Peck wants to support the Tories and block our budget, he has a lot of explaining to do to local residents.”

Ends

Note to Editors:

1. A 2011 review found the cost of statutory advertising such as ‘Housing Choice’ and the Council’s legal requirement to promote public health; equalities and social cohesion meant that axing EEL and using private advertising could raise costs by up to £2.1m. Councillor Peck has also failed to factor in redundancies and severance pay for job losses he’s proposed.

2. Mayor Rahman announced the following growth and investment initiatives as part of his administration’s budget proposals. The investments are paid for from efficiency savings and prudent use of reserves.

· £1.26m to provide bursaries to 400 young people to help towards the cost of university.

· £800,000 for a borough-wide deep clean.

· £355,000 to invest in the commercial hubs of Brick Lane , Roman Road , Bethnal Green Road and Burdette Road .

· A £1m Preventing Homelessness fund to protect those affected by Housing Benefit Reform.

· £2.76m to fund Free School Meals (reception and year 1) for every school in the borough for the next two years.

· £1.33m for ten additional THEOs and improved CCTV coverage.

· £200,000 to repair potholes, replacing funding scrapped by the government.

· £100,000 in measures to support cyclists funded from capital receipts.

· £3m towards provision of a burial site for Tower Hamlets Residents – a project that has been kicked back and forth for almost a decade.

· A further £1m for the Faith Buildings Fund that allows Churches, Mosques, Synagogues and other faith buildings to repair run-down buildings and improve access.

· Freeze Council Tax for the fourth year in a row.

· Continued commitment to free Homecare.

· Libraries, Children’s Centres and One-Stop Shops kept open.

3. Deficit comparison with other London Boroughs:

Lambeth: projected £28.6m deficit in 2014-15, £25.7m in 2015/16

Click to access 05a%20Budget%20February%202013.pdf

Newham: no information on future deficits but £6m overspend in 2013/14

Click to access Initial%20Budget%20Proposals%20Cabinet%20Final.pdf

Hackney: £23m in savings for 2015/16 and no savings plan.

Click to access Budget_report_Feb_14%2025022013%20Cabinet.pdf

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

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Press Release For immediate release – 25 Feb. 2010

Tower Hamlets Labour Group threaten to block Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s progressive budget

£1bn budget negotiations stalled as Labour opposition fail to come up with alternatives ahead of critical budget meeting.

Negotiations between Cabinet Member for Resources, Alibor Choudhury and his Labour shadow, Carlo Gibbs had to be abandoned this weekend when it emerged that Labour don’t have an alternative to Mayor Rahman’s budget proposals just three days before the Council meets to decide next year’s finances.

Cllr. Choudhury said: “Carlo was constructive but the only thing Labour are certain on is a £350,000 politically motivated cut to the Mayor’s office. With just two days to go Labour have obstruction but no alternatives, ideas or answers. It seems like they’re planning to cobble together £23m in savings in two days.”

It is understood that the Labour Group is divided between budget hawks such as disgraced outgoing Leader Joshua Peck and his “enforcer” Chief Whip Anwar Khan, who support austerity and doves such as mayoral hopefuls David Edgar and Rachael Saunders, who agree with most of the Mayor’s proposals but are hamstrung by Labour’s policy of non-cooperation with the Mayor’s administration. Rivalries ahead of the April selection for a candidate to contest the Mayoralty in 2014 are exacerbating these internal Labour tensions.

Proposals such as the £3m multi-faith burial ground and investment in urgent repair for faith buildings are bones of contention. It is also expected that proposals for a new town hall, that could save £10m a year in rent will be attacked on Wednesday night. Labour have indicated they will stoke fears of a budget black hole to justify blocking the Mayor’s proposals – despite Tower Hamlets being in a better position than neighbouring Labour Boroughs.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “Labour are copying George Osborne’s rhetoric, aping his policies and trying to take us further down the failed route of austerity even as Britain ’s credit rating plummets and we hover on the edge of an unprecedented triple dip recession.”

They are determined to obstruct a budget that delivers one-off spends that will make the community more resilient for years to come. It also includes free school meals, a council tax freeze, university bursaries for students, ten extra THEOs, 17 extra police officers, funding for cyclists, a borough wide deep clean and no frontline cuts or closures.”

Ends

Notes to Editors:

1. Mayor Rahman announced the following growth and investment initiatives as part of his administration’s budget proposals for 2013/14. The investments are paid for from efficiency savings and prudent use of reserves.

•£1.26m to provide bursaries to 400 young people to help towards the cost of university.
•£800,000 for a borough-wide deep clean.
•£355,000 to invest in the commercial hubs of Brick Lane , Roman Road , Bethnal Green Road and Burdette Road .
•A £1m Preventing Homelessness Fund to protect those affected by Housing Benefit Reform.
•£2.76m to fund Free School Meals (reception and year 1) for every school in the borough for the next two years.
•£1.33m for ten additional THEOs and improved CCTV coverage.
•£200,000 to repair potholes, replacing funding scrapped by the government.
•£100,000 in measures to support cyclists funded from capital receipts.
•£3m towards provision of a burial site for Tower Hamlets Residents – a project that has been kicked back and forth for almost a decade.
•A further £1m for the Faith Buildings Fund that allows Churches, Mosques, Synagogues and other faith buildings to repair run-down buildings and improve access.
•Freeze Council Tax for the fourth year in a row.
•Continued commitment to free Homecare
•Libraries, Children’s Centres and One-Stop Shops kept open.
Detailed budget proposals can be found at: http://moderngov.towerhamlets.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=320&MId=4150&Ver=4

2. Deficit comparison with other London Boroughs:

Lambeth: projected £28.6m deficit in 2014-15, £25.7m in 2015/16

Click to access 05a%20Budget%20February%202013.pdf

Newham: no information on future deficits but £6m overspend in 2013/14

Click to access Initial%20Budget%20Proposals%20Cabinet%20Final.pdf

Hackney: £23m in savings for 2015/16 and no savings plan.

Click to access Budget_report_Feb_14%2025022013%20Cabinet.pdf

3. New town hall plans:

· The current lease arrangements mean that the council pays in the region of £10m per year in rent alone.
· The agreement signed by the Labour Group back in the early 1990s on the current building has cost the taxpayer at least £100m in rent since 1993.

· The new town hall will be more accessible, efficient, versatile and self-financing – and in the long-run save ratepayers millions of pounds.

· Labour-run Camden – who already own a good central Town Hall – are building a new one right now with a swimming pool in the basement for councillors’ leisure.

· Labour controlled Newham have built a new Town Hall offices at the cost of some £100m.

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

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Press Release
From Office of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets
 
For immediate release – 18 Feb. 2013
 
Free school meals for Tower Hamlets pupils announced by Mayor Lutfur Rahman
 
Free school meals are to be provided for all Tower Hamlets primary schools for the next two years.  
 
At last week’s cabinet meeting Mayor Lutfur Rahman announced the proposals which included a better than expected grant settlement from central government for Tower Hamlets.
 
Mayor Lutfur Rahman said:
 
“I am delighted that we have been able to find the resources and are now able to provide Free School Meals for reception and year 1 pupils in Tower Hamlets Primary Schools, free schools and academies for two years at a cost of £2.756m, to be funded from Public Health Grant.” 
 
Cllr. Oliur Rahman , Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Families said:
 
“At the backdrop of recent achievement and recognition from education minister and ofsted, this is great news for our young people at the start of their formal education journey and no doubt will drive them to achieve excellent results in years to come. It also demonstrates the commitment of the mayor and this administration in supporting our young people.” 
 
Ends 
 
Notes to editors: 
1.  Mayor Lutfur Rahman made the announcement at a cabinet meeting of the council on 13 Feb. 2013. More information can be found at: http://moderngov.towerhamlets.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=320&MId=4150&Ver=4
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

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The recent shock report contained in the East London Advertiser that the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency has the highest number of people without formal qualifications in the country, is yet a further indictment of this government’s two-tier education policies. Instead of improving access to education for poorer communities, the government is restricting it. They have slashed the education maintenance allowance, increased tuition fees, made re-training more difficult and replaced financial support for adult learners with prohibitive loans.

As Mayor I have tried to mitigate the impact of these measures by introducing a replacement scheme for the axed Educational Maintenance Allowance; the Mayor’s Education Allowance.  I am also planning to put £1.26 million towards the Mayor’s University Grant that will provide bursaries to 400 young people to help with the burden of university costs that has been thrust upon them by Messrs Cameron and Clegg.

Government education policy is now failing the poorest communities. In particular it is failing our people in Bethnal Green. It is surely high time that Bethnal Green & Bow MP, Rushanara Ali, demanded time in the House of Commons and challenged Government Ministers on their abysmal record.

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

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“London’s East End: a melting pot simmers closer to the boil.” This is the scaremongering headline to a report on Tower Hamlets in today’s Sunday Telegraph. The article notes that the “Muslim patrols” panic has “sparked headlines internationally. Journalists from Russia, Sweden and Germany have descended on the borough”. Needless to say, rather than expose this as a hysterical over-reaction fuelled by Islamophobia, the article uses it as a springboard to paint a picture of a borough riven by communal strife provoked by Muslim extremists.

More here.

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Praise for Tower Hamlets schools

Head teachers at Tower Hamlets’ top performing schools have received letters from cabinet minister David Laws in recognition of their achievements. The schools minister wrote to Mulberry School for Girls, Bethnal Green Technology College, Sir John Cass Foundation and Redcoat Church of England School, and St Paul’s Way Trust School after Department for Education figures revealed them as the borough’s highest performers at GCSE level.

More here.

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