The Tories have launched an assault on Tower Hamlets council in east London. They plan to send in a “takeover squad” to run parts of the authority.
The intervention comes after a £1 million publicly funded inspection by accountants PricewaterhouseCooper into whether the council was getting the “best value” for its spending.
Tory local government minister Eric Pickles has seized on the report to launch an Islamophobic assault on Lutfur Rahman, the directly-elected mayor.
Rahman was Labour leader of the council before standing for mayor as an independent in 2010.
But the report is based on allegations and rumour that it does not substantiate. And no evidence of fraud or corruption was found.
In parliament last week he said auditors had found a “worrying pattern of divisive community politics and alleged mismanagement of public money by the mayoral administration”.
He stated that Rahman acted like a “medieval monarch” distributing grants to favourites.
The report looked at four areas of council funding. These were the payment of grants, the sale of properties, publicity spending and procedures for entering into contracts. It assessed whether or not the decisions were made with “economy, efficiency and effectiveness”.
It outlined that funding had been given towards setting up lunch clubs for Bangladeshi and Somali target groups. Funding also went towards the Boishakhi Mela to celebrate Bengali New Year.
None of this is controversial given the large proportion of the local population who come from these backgrounds.
Rahman has also faced insinuations that he personally handed over the sale of Poplar Town Hall to a favoured ally.
Pickles said the report showed a “culture of cronyism”.
But what it actually states is that the winning bidder was “connected to a person with other business interests that had an association with the Mayor.”
Socialists are more likely to criticise the council for cutting services.
But Pickles’ intervention is part of a witch hunt, using smears to demonise a popular Muslim politician.
He said that “allegations of extremism, homophobia and antisemitism” had been allowed to fester in Tower Hamlets.
There is no basis for this in fact. It comes from rumours from right wing commentators.
Ex?BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan last week said that Rahman was “extremist-linked”.
The Tory manoeuvre gives them a foothold in a hugely lucrative area, containing Canary Wharf. They will now have power over approving property sales.
Shamefully the local Labour group has said that Rahman should step down. But local activists plan a campaign to defend democracy against the Tory attacks.
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