Tower Hamlets intervention to be extended

30 Apr 15

Eric Pickles has proposed extending the government’s intervention in Tower Hamlets to cover all of the council’s executive functions, following a court judgement that removed elected mayor Lutfur Rahman from office.

After Rahman was found guilty of electoral fraud on April 23 and a new poll ordered, Pickles said the role of the commissioners might need to be extended before the by-election vote on June 11.

A team of three commissioners, headed by former chief fire and rescue adviser for England Sir Ken Knight, was first sent into the authority in December. The group was given responsibility for all grant and contract decisions, and electoral administration, following concerns that the council was failing to meet its Best Value duties.

Pickles today confirmed that an extension of this remit was required, and also said two additional commissioners would be appointed.

The proposed directions would extend the powers of the commissioners over the whole of the local authority, in order to exercise to ensure good governance and sound financial management.

Directions have also been proposed to stop the destruction of documents, and to give commissioners full control of the appointment of a new head of paid service for the authority.

The council will have until 5pm today to respond to the direction on document retention, and until next Tuesday to respond to the other extensions of the commissioners’ role.

Making the announcement, Pickles said an independent election court had issued clear findings of corruption in the mayoral administration. There was therefore a need for stronger checks and balances in the run up to the mayoral by-election, ‘especially given many of the associates of the tainted mayor remain in place’, he added.

‘The commissioners have identified a series of concerns about the ongoing running of the council, including the destruction of documents. We will take whatever action is necessary to ensure a free and fair election and clean up this rotten administration.’

The two new commissioners appointed to the authority are Chris Allison, a former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and co-ordinator of the 2012 London Olympics security, and Alan Wood, a former president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services.

Responding to Pickles’ announcement, a council spokeswoman said: ‘DCLG has outlined its plans for further intervention. We welcome all constructive engagement with the government and will respond to this matter within the timetable set out.

‘Throughout this process, and the parallel process of the election petition hearing and judgement, our priority has continued to be the provision of excellent local services to our residents. This continues to be the case.’

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