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Archive for February 25th, 2013

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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