Housing, employment and anti-social disturbances were top of the agenda as Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs launched the first of a series of public meetings last Friday, January 22 to tackle issues raised by local residents.
His first mayoral assembly saw about 120 people, including councillors and local residents, gathered at Swanlea School, in Whitechapel.
Community issues, such as the lack of jobs, the council tax and the Whitechapel Masterplan were all discussed. But most of the debate focused on housing and affordability problems.
Government figures suggest that Tower Hamlets has delivered the highest number of affordable homes in the country: 5,590 in five years. But some were not satisfied enough was being done. Whitechapel Councillor for Shahin Ali said: “The way it works at the moment is wrong. Between the planning policies, the council’s savings and the developers’ methods, everything seems to be muddled. I think that the council should hire experts who will go through the viability assessment and scrutinize developers’ figures, often inflated.”
The proposed 3.99% increase in council tax also came up for discussion. Mayor Biggs said the council needed to save £15 million this year. “We want to build a war chest and protect people from the cuts,’ he said. “Tower Hamlets has the sixth lowest council tax in London and we have to make a balance. People won’t notice a big change in their bills because the increase will be balanced largely by the decrease that the Mayor of London is introducing.”