The controversial Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman has attacked plans by the Government to send commissioners into the council as “excessive and disproportionate”
Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government is expected to send in commissioners to take over aspects of Tower Hamlets Council’s management soon but a date has not yet been announced.
In a response published on the council website Rahman said: “The secretary of state should restrict his directions to ensuring that we adopt excellent practice.”
“It is also highly irregular for the secretary of state to seek to influence and prejudge the work of the Electoral Commission and the ongoing election petition via the election court which is, of course, subjudice – the proceedings and outcomes of which are unknown to the secretary of state.”
He said: “There is already an established timeline and committee agreed by all parties in the council chamber for appointments so there is no need for the secretary of state’s intervention.”
The move by Pickles follows a report which looked into the council’s “financial mismanagement”, including the alleged sale of public assets to individuals directly associated with the mayor and the handout of grants to “ineligible” organisations. The report was conducted by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and commissioned by Pickles.
In response to these issues, the Mayor said: “The areas highlighted in the report are being addressed and improvements are well underway.”
Rahman also emphasised the council’s “excellent” services and lamented that this fact had not been highlighted in the PwC report.
“There is no evidence base for a wide best value action plan for all council services – particularly given that many of our services are some of the best in London if not nationally,” he said.
Last Friday, the council’s application for a judicial review into Pickles’ decision to send in commissioners was turned down by the High Court.
Legal costs owed by the council amount to nearly £50,000. The rejection marks the second legal challenge by the Council to be thrown out by the High Court. The first, a challenge to the initial decision to send in auditors, was dubbed “hopeless” by Mr Justice Parker in August.
Parliamentary under secretary of state for communities and local government Kris Hopkins said after the hearing: “We are pleased that the courts have thrown out Tower Hamlets’ legal challenge for the second time.”
“However, it is disappointing that local taxpayers are having to foot the bill for the Mayor’s legal costs.”
“This reflects a culture of denial in the local authority about the dysfunctional governance of the mayor’s administration.”