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.”
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
Newham: no information on future deficits but £6m overspend in 2013/14
Hackney: £23m in savings for 2015/16 and no savings plan.
For information about this press release contact Numan Hussain, Political Advisor to the Mayor on 07508 352 023 or email email@example.com