Locals outraged as mayor gets pay rise after cuts

Tower Hamlets' Council Office.

Tower Hamlets’ Council Office.

A row has broken out among Tower Hamlets councillors after the mayor voted to give himself an 11.8 per cent pay rise.

Mayor John Biggs’ pay will rise from £67,094 to £75,000 per year – an increase of almost 12 per cent.

Tower Hamlets councillors also voted to give themselves an inflation-busting five per cent pay rise, bumping up their basic allowance from £10,390 to £10,938 per year.

Hundreds of local residents have already signed an online petition started last weekend to halt the pay rise.

When asked how the pay rises can be justified, a Labour Group spokesman for the mayor said: “Allowances for the mayor and councillors in Tower Hamlets continue to be lower than neighbouring boroughs, such as Hackney or Newham, and are still significantly below the levels recommended by the Independent Panel.

“The cost of these changes is a fraction of the £330,000 savings made by the current mayor by cutting the previous mayor’s chauffeur-driven car and team of highly paid advisers, and the removal of pensions from councillors has further reduced the allowances bill by £120,000.

“Mayor John Biggs has indicated he will not be claiming half of the increase, in light of the further work needed to improve the performance of the council.”

Disgruntled councillors claim the pay rises come after the council made the decision to increase council tax by 4 per cent, make cuts to the police budget and autistic support for children and close 18 youth centres.

The petition, started by Tower Hamlets councillor Oliur Rahman, a close associate of disgraced former mayor Lutfur Rahman, states: “We, the undersigned, are dismayed by the decision taken by Mayor Biggs, voted for by his Labour Councillors, to increases his own salary by 11.7 per cent, appointing three Labour councillors as his mayoral advisers with additional £21,000 perks, after delivering £17.4m cuts to residents’ services, making 110 staff redundant and shutting 18 youth centres.

“The decision also includes a mammoth 40 per cent pay increase gifted to Tory group leader Cllr Peter Golds.

“We understand that Independent Group voted against this decision which was narrowly won with 24 votes for and 19 against.

“We request Mayor Biggs, Deputy Mayors Rachael Saunders and Siraj-ul-Islam, as well as his Labour colleagues to immediately reconsider and overturn this decision particularly when the residents and staff are suffering under Tory austerity cuts.”

Cllr Rahman took over from the deposed former mayor Lutfur Rahman in April last year following the vote-rigging scandal.

When asked about his reaction to the petition, Mayor Biggs did not provide a comment.

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