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Archive for March 31st, 2014

PRESS RELEASE

Ware’s Allegations Just don’t add Up

BBC heavyweight reduced to fiddling percentages as Panorama “expose” falls flat

Mayor Lutfur Rahman today dismissed allegations by John Ware on BBC’s Panorama that he was favouring the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets at the expense of others. The Mayor also refuted accusations that the Council’s grants process was not sufficiently robust.

The council does not profile organisations by race or ethnicity because Third Sector organisations benefit the whole community. Even using Ware’s definition of “Bengali and Somali “organisations, figures held by the council show that these communities, which together make up 33 per cent of the borough’s population received £1.6m in grants or around 16 per cent of the total pot of £9.7m.

Mayor Rahman said: “There is nothing untoward in the way we give out grants. Over 430 recommendations were made and I only made 32 changes; benefitting groups as diverse as Vietnamese refugees and the Royal Society for the Blind.”

The Mainstream Grants Programme 2013-2015 went to four cabinet meetings; three Corporate Third Sector Grants Programme Boards and two Overview and Scrutiny Meetings before the final executive decision by the Mayor. It was only during the last stage of the process that the Mayor made any direct alterations.

Mayor Rahman said: “Without any actual evidence to back up his claims, Ware has been reduced to fiddling statistics and relying on unsupported assertions from opposition Councillors to justify the amount of license fee payer’s money spent on this programme. I’m proud to have delivered for all the residents of Tower Hamlets and I’ll be running on my record in May’s elections, not on smears.”

ENDS

The changes made by the mayor included:

• Change from £0 to £15,000 funding to the Community of Refugees from Vietnam

• Change from £0 to £7,500 funding to the Tower Hamlets Chinese School

• Change from £0 to £20,000 funding to The Royal London Society of the Blind

• Change from £15,000 to £36,000 funding to City Gateway (Youth and Employment Project)

• Change from £0 to £40,000 funding to Old Ford Housing

The Mayor’s office has previously published the following statement: “Out of a total of £27m given out to the community, only £2.3m was given to the Bangladeshi community.” This figure is accurate from 2008-15 and covers Rahman’s time both as Mayor and Leader of the Council. The figures above provide a direct like-for-like comparison with the period 2012-15 used by Panorama.

 

 

 

 

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‘Tower Hamlets only funds Bangladeshi groups’.

The council does not profile organisations by race or ethnicity
because third sector organisations benefit the whole community. Even
using Ware’s definition of “Bengali and Somali “organisations, figures
held by the council show that these communities, which together make
up 33 per cent of the borough’s population received  £1.6m in grants
or around 16 per cent of the total pot of £9.7m. Out of a total of over £27 million given to community groups between 2008- 2013, Bangladeshi organisations have received £2.2 million or 8% of the total. The Bangladeshi community comprise over 32% of the borough’s population.

‘The Mayor makes decisions behind closed doors’

 The Mainstream Grants Programme 2013 to 2015 went to:

  • 4 Cabinet meetings
  • 3 Corporate Third Sector Grants Programme Board
  • 2 Overview and Scrutiny Meetings
  • 1 Mayoral Decision

All decisions about council spending go through a series of checks and balances that involve council officers and elected committees with councillors of all parties.

 ‘The Mayor overruled council officer’s decisions to about community grants’

The Mayor is completely within his rights to overrule council officers if he feels public money is not being best spent. As someone who has been politically active in the borough all his life he can legitimately claim to have strong local knowledge. Among the officers decisions he overruled include:

  • Change from £0 to £15,000 funding to the Community of Refugees from Vietnam  
  • Change from £0 to £7,500 funding to the Tower Hamlets Chinese School
  • Change from £0 to £20,000 funding to The Royal London Society of the Blind
  • Change from £15,000 to £36,000 funding to City Gateway (youth & employment project)
  • Change from £0 to £40,000 funding to Old Ford Housing

The Mayor’s is ‘buying votes’                                          

It is an insult to the intelligence of our residents to suggest that just because the Mayor funds an elderly group get together or a community group event that their votes can be bought.

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Press Release

BBC Panorama’s ‘unprofessional, shoddy and biased reporting’

An episode of Panorama, focusing exclusively on Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, is due to air tonight (31st March).  While claiming to look at the powers of directly elected Mayors, the programme ignores the other 15 in the country and concentrated on the one who happens to be Muslim – and who is up for re-election in a few weeks.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman rebuts the allegations:

“It is completely untrue that the grants process in Tower Hamlets has been abused to fund Bangladeshi organisations. Since I took office out of a total £27.6 million paid out in grants to community organisations, £2.2 million has gone to Bangladeshi charities or organisations led by a Bangladeshi CEO, Chair or Board. That is 8% of our total grants budget to a community that makes up over 30% of the borough’s population.”

“Tonight’s Panorama programme is based on unprofessional, shoddy and biased reporting. Repeating damaging myths about black and minority communities benefiting at the expense of others only threatens to undermine community cohesion in our borough.”

Mayor Lutfur Rahman has written to the Director General of the BBC complaining about the programme, saying:

“A dossier handed to us by a whistleblower’s shows how programme is in total breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines. You will also be aware that the BBC and the production company, Films of Record, have been referred to the Information Commissioner and a criminal investigation is underway.”

He added, “The proposed Panorama progamme would be a direct intervention in the election and is just an extended license payer funded party political broadcast for the (Tower Hamlets) Labour Party.”

 ENDS

(more…)

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At the launch it was announced that former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone would support a delivery team established by the council with support of its strategic partners at the GLA, TfL, Barts NHS, QMUL and other private sector partners like the Royal Mail, Sainsbury’s, London Newcastle and London Quadrant housing group. Ken Livingstone said: “I look forward to working with Mayor Lutfur Rahman to deliver this major regeneration project. Whitechapel is a thriving area and I’m delighted that projects like the Olympics and Crossrail have created the momentum to enable it to happen.”  More

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