Archive for the ‘Labour Party’ Category
Tower Hamlets council guilty of systematic failings.
The Guardian has just revealed.
Inquiry finds grants were handed out by Lutfur Rahman’s council to ‘ineligible’ organisations and criticises authority for ‘obfuscation and denial’
A report has found systematic failings in the conduct and governance of Tower Hamlets council, and claims its approach to an inquiry into financial dealings was one of “obfuscation and denial”.
The 193-page report, ordered by the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, says the east London council, run by directly elected independent mayor Lutfur Rahman, awarded more than £400,000 in grants to “ineligible organisations” in one case after an intervention by a council member.
It was criticised for failing in its duty to acquire best value for local taxpayers.
PWC reports that the council’s response to the identification of issues raised in the report “suggests a tendency towards denial or obfuscation rather than an inclination to investigate concerns raised”.
“Despite its public assertions of support for the inspection, at various stages [the council] raised a number of obstacles to our progress which have significantly delayed the provision of information or documentation and which in large part led to our request for an extension of the timetable for the inspection.
“The authority tended to pronounce allegations to be baseless and/or politically motivated without having conducted what we would consider to be an adequate investigation into the issues raised.”
The Evening Standard summarises this:
Among key findings:
- Poplar Town Hall, a Grade II listed building, was sold for £875,000 to a political supporter of Mr Lutfah even though the bid arrived late, and after rival bids had been opened, which created a “risk of bid manipulation”. A higher offer was rejected, contrary to independent advice, and the winner was later allowed to change his contract.
- Grants were handed out to organisations that were “ruled ineligible”, with some £407,700 given to groups that failed to meet the council’s own minimum criteria. Council officers were over-ruled in many cases.
- The appeared to show “a tendency towards denial or obfuscation rather than an inclination to investigate concerns raised”. It did not properly investigate issues raised in a BBC Panorama programme that alleged Mr Rahman intervened to increase grants paid to some local Bangladeshi organisations.
- Public money was spent “inappropriately” on political advertising for the Mayor.
The Telegraph is more explicit,
Tower Hamlets, the east London council, sold off public buildings to associates of the Mayor and handed out grants to ineligible bodies, a damning Government report has found.
The winning bidder to buy Poplar Town Hall offered a lower price than other bidders and “had an association” with the controversial Mayor Lutfur Rahman, according to an audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The Mayor personally intervened in the awarding of council contracts, which lacked signed paperwork or audit trails, the report found.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds in public money were awarded to local bodies that were not eligible for the money after the intervention of elected councillors, the report found.
The audit was commissioned by Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, following allegations of cronyism, fraud and waste at Mr Rahman’s council.
Mr Rahman, who has courted the support of the borough’s Bangladeshi community, was re-elected in May. That victory is being challenged in the High Court by people who alleged the vote was riddled with fraud.
Addressing the Commons, Mr Pickles said Mr Rahman had handed money out “like a medieval monarch”. He said the report had been submitted to the police for examination of potential criminal wrongdoing.
The “rotten borough” is “at best dysfunctional, at worst riddled with cronyism and corruption,” he said.
“Executive power is unchecked and executive power has been misused.
He announced that three commissioners, answering directly to central Government, would take responsibility for all financial decisions. They would see the appointment of new permanent council officers.
Mr Pickles said there were “widespread allegations of extremism, homophobia and anti-Semitism being allowed to fester without proper challenge.”
“The abuse of taxpayers’ money and culture of cronyism reflects a partisan community politics that seeks to trade favours and spread division on the rates,” he said.
This comment is revealing,
Meg Hillier, the Labour MP for Hackney, called for Mr Rahman to resign. Mr Pickles replied: “He would not be missed.”
The Local Government Chronicle states,
The report, written by accountancy firm PwC and published today, found the council had “failed to comply with its best value duty” in relation to the way grants were awarded and property sold.
It said the authority’s governance arrangements “do not appear to be capable of preventing or responding appropriately to failures of the best value duty of the kind we have identified”.
It said: “This calls into question the adequacy of these governance arrangements.”
Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman said the report revealed “regrettable” flaws in process but had not found evidence to substantiate “wild claims about fraud” (see full statement in update below).
The report said the council had had no chief executive since July 2012, adding: “One of the authority’s corporate directors has since that time (with a short hiatus) fulfilled the role of head of paid service, as required by statute, however the head of paid service has not had the full powers of a chief executive delegated to him under clause 3.5.5 of the authority’s constitution.
“These powers have remained with the mayor. This means that, for most purposes, the head of paid service, other statutory officers (being the section 151 officer and the monitoring officer), as well as other corporate directors are all directly accountable to the mayor.”
The accountancy firm was sent in by communities secretary Eric Pickles just before last May’s mayoral and council elections after he received a dossier of allegations about abuses including governance failure, poor financial management and fraud.
Regarding the transfer of council property to third parties, the report said: “In relation to three of the four property transactions we looked at in detail, namely Poplar Town Hall, Sutton Street Depot and Mellish Street, we conclude that in those instances, the authority failed to comply with its best value duty.”
In relation to the Poplar Town Hall sale, PwC said Tower Hamlets had “accepted a late bid from the winning bidder after other bids had been opened, creating a risk of bid manipulation”.
The report said: “The winning bidder was, as a matter of fact, connected to a person with other business interests that had an association with the mayor [Lutfur Rahman].”
The report said although the difference in price was “small”, the council “did not in fact select the highest bidder, in spite of the external adviser’s recommendation to do so”.
The report added: “The winning bidder also asked for and was granted changes to the contract it had signed, which further undermined the purpose and credibility of the contract race process.”
Regarding the way grants had been awarded, PwC’s report said: “In relation to the matter of grant making, we conclude that the authority is failing to comply with its best value duty.”
It said grants had been awarded to organisations “which were ruled ineligible or which did not meet the required evaluation score”.
The report added: “Applicants [who had not met the minimum criteria for an award after evaluation] were recommended to receive, in total, awards of £407,700.”
PwC also looked at whether spending on media advisers to the mayor were “genuinely for the benefit of the authority” or “of a party political nature pertaining to the mayor” and concluded “that there is a failure to comply with the best value duty”.
The same was said of the Ofcom finding that five television channels had broadcast an advert from the council that was deemed to breach the Communications Act. PwC’s report said “the clear implication is that authority monies were spent inappropriately on what amounted to political advertising for the benefit of the mayor”.
PwC said both it and Tower Hamlets’ internal audit team had “found instances of procurement policies and procedures have not been adhered to”.
The report noted problems associated with evidence gathering when it said: “Despite its public assertions of support for the inspection, the authority has at various stages raised a number of obstacles to our progress which have significantly delayed the provision of information or documentation and which in large part led to our request for an extension of the timetable for the inspection.
As a result the Guardian now reports,
The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, has taken over the administration of Tower Hamlets council in east London for two years after an inquiry commissioned by his department found wholesale mismanagement, questionable grant-giving and a failure to secure best value for local taxpayers.
Pickles plans to dispatch three commissioners to administrate grant-giving, property transactions and the administration of future elections in the borough.
The commissioners, who will be answerable to Pickles, will be in place until March 2017 and are tasked with drawing up an action plan to improve governance in the council, including the permanent appointment of three senior council officers including a chief executive.
The BBC adds,
The report also found that a proposal to award money to lunch clubs for Jewish, Sikh and Hindu communities resulted in £99,212 being awarded to Bangladeshi or Somali groups, none of which had applied for the money.
The report found that in response to the BBC Panorama programmeThe Mayor and Our Money, the authority spent £101,479 getting advice from law firm Taylor Wessing and PR consultants Champollion.
We have covered this story (and there have been many previous posts on Tendance Coatesy), principally because of charges of ‘communalism’ against Rahman, and his declared policy of directly funding religious organisations out of public money.
It is very probable that such groups are amongst those cited by the damming report.
Having Pickles run the borough through his commissioners is no solution.
Pickles is a one-man anti-democratic foul abusive swine.
But before protesting at this those on the left should avoid saying that Rahman’s administration and satellites innocent because they say so.
As Greens Contemplate ‘Confidence and Supply’ Agreement with Conservatives Ipswich Green ‘Hasn’t the heart’ to Oppose Tory MP.
Suffolk Green Leader, Mark Ereira-Guyer ‘Hasn’t the heart’ to stand against Ipswich Tory MP.
Latest news on the Green Front,
The resurgent Green party is to target a dozen seats across England, which it believes it could either win or come close to seizing in next May’s general election, as membership rises and confidence grows that it could outpoll the Lib Dems.
As the Greens have gained more media attention, Bennett has thought seriously about post-election possibilities, and what role her party might play in supporting a Tory- or Labour-led government. “I can’t imagine circumstances in which we would prop up a Tory government,” she says. “Our first inclination would be a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement, rather than a coalition, because it means you provide stable government – you don’t get the ministerial cars but you keep your conscience and you don’t have to vote for tuition fees, for example.”
The Ipswich Star reported on October the 10th,
Ipswich: Green Party candidate “hasn’t the heart” to take on MP Ben Gummer at General Election
Mark Ereira-Guyer, leader of the Green and independent group on Suffolk County Council and an experienced election campaigner, was chosen earlier this year to fight for the Ipswich seat, but has now dropped out.
In a letter to the Ipswich Green Party he said his business and council commitments meant he was not able to devote enough time to fighting the seat and he wanted the party to have time to find another candidate.
He added: “Although I find Conservative policies odious and overly focused on free market fundamentalism, crass cost-cutting measures and ecological destitution, I am of the view that the current MP Ben Gummer is dedicated and hardworking.
“I respect his honest endeavours for the town. And, therefore, I can’t drum up sufficient energies to really take him on. I like my politics to work on a human level, and not in a tribalist way.”
“Mr Gummer was flattered to hear Mr Ereira-Guyer’s comments. He said: “I’m sorry he won’t be standing because I have a lot of time for him and I think we would have some good debates on the hustings. I hope he remains on the political scene in Suffolk.”
The Greens are due to select another candidate.
Whether this endorsement of the Ipswich Conservative candidate, or at the very least, glowing tribute, is to be followed in the rest of the country is unclear.
It would certainly smooth the way for a “confidence and supply” agreement if the Greens helped other Tories in marginals.
There are suggestions from greens that Mr Ereira-Guyer’s decision is not unrelated to the failure of the national Green Party to give the sprightly Suffolk leader the recognition he feels is consummate with his talents.
He failed to become the Party’s deputy leader.
Sources close to the Suffolk Labour Party have commented that he certainly has a high opinion of himself.
This is from the Tories’ favourite Green’s own Blog site,
We must all move from being a reckless ego-centric society to an eco-centric one. We need to ensure everyone has enough for a decent life wherever they live in the world. We should perhaps recall the adage: there is no wealth but life. We need to find a way of living where we all find joy and fulfillment in ‘enough’.
As a Councillor I will continually work to encourage and explain the kind of changes required that can meet our – and the rest of biodiversity’s – needs in a way that our current ego-centric system isn’t and simply can’t.
Many will had enough of this after the first sentence!
Ereira-Guyer also cites this,
We need to appreciate that we can and should be winning votes from the right and the left, because we are NOT a party of the left.
Even if we think we are, we should not be using that term, because the Green Party’s prime USP is that we as a society will not approach equality until we recognise that there are limits to growth.
R Lindsay, Journalist & Green Party member
You can keep up to date with Ipswich Green Party on their site - which has yet to register this decision.
Grandma Gilles on Ipswich Demo. (Thanks Ellie).
Over 300 people came to the demo in Ipswich called by the Trades Council and local unions, Suffolk Needs a Pay Rise, yesterday.
In Ipswich there were well attended pickets at the Russell Road Borough and County Council offices, at Crown Pools, the Borough Council Waste depot (dust-carts – the majority of which did not go out), and HMRC offices in Lower Brook Street.
59 Suffolk schools were affected by strike action and 17 closed for the day.
At the march and rally there were members of UNISON, GMB, FBU, UNITE, PCS & NUT, NUJ, DPAC, the Peoples Assembly, other unions and campaigns, as well as members of the public.
The Suffolk People’s Assembly (Facebook) report notes,
Many speakers at the rally expressed their anger at the wage freeze public sector workers have faced over the past 4 years. This has led to a 20% decline in real wages at the same time as increased workload. One PCS member said that he was now doing 2 peoples’ jobs and facing constant performance reviews, which was destroying his job satisfaction.
A parent talked of her support for the teachers’ strike, to defend her and other people’s education. The Ipswich NUT Secretary, Margaret Bulaitis, spoke about how the the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, denigrated the work of her profession, and was more interested in promoting academies and privatisation than the needs of school students.
Martin, from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), gave an impassioned speech on the effects cuts and changes to the benefit system were having on those with disabilities.
Support came from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). Their representative suggested that Grandma Gilles (above) would not have put up with the attacks on public services by the Liberal-Conservative Coalition.
Ipswich Tory Attacks Strikes.
Ipswich Tory MP, Ben Gummer, disagrees.
He said (Ipswich Star) that, “public sector workers had fared better than the private sector during the recession.”
He said striking teachers were damaging the education of the children in their classes.
And he said the government was taking action to clamp down on tax avoidance by the rich and to help the low paid.
“This government has lifted two million people out of paying income tax altogether and the gap between rich and poor is getting smaller for the first time in 20 years.”
Gummer’s figures are certainly creative.
Sky news states (May 2014),
“The gap between rich and poor in Britain has become wider, with 10% of the population now owning almost half of the nation’s household wealth.
Those same one in ten households own assets worth over £1m – that’s almost 1.4 million homes.
Teachers’ Unions argue that it is Michael Gove’s ‘reforms’ are undermining education.
Their dispute about pay, pensions and working conditions, is linked to the government’s efforts to devalue teaching, and open the way to private companies profiting from the schooling system.
Gove’s changes have created excessive workloads, and let free schools operate without democratic control and public accountability.
On public sector workers’ pay the TUC says,
Public sector workers are £2,245 worse off as a result of the coalition’s austerity policies, according to the Trades Union Congress.
NHS staff, teachers, firefighters and local government workers are among those that have lost out following pay freezes and limited pay rises since the government took office, the TUC said.
The figures, which show the average fall in real terms pay suffered by workers since May 2010, were published a day before a wave of strikes among UK public sector workers over pay, pensions and working conditions. Government policies on public sector pay have had a big impact on the spending power of almost six million UK households, according to the TUC.
The Liberal-Conservative Coalition has one overarching policy for the public sector: turning it into a source of profit for private companies.
As Thomas Picketty has noted,
“Instead of holding public debt via their financial investments, the wealthiest European households would becomes the direct owners of schools, hospitals, police stations, and so on. Everyone else would then have to pay rent to use these assets and continue to produce the associated public services.”(Page 541. Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Thomas Piketty. Harvard University Press. 2014.)
The trade unions, backed by the People’s Assembly, are fighting back!
Update: this how private companies making money out of public services in Suffolk fail to deliver:
Bosses at the private firm providing community healthcare in Suffolk have defended themselves following concerns over equipment provision.
Jane Basham, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for South Suffolk, criticised the Serco-run Suffolk Community Healthcare after patients spoke of equipment delays.
Ms Basham heard how one elderly woman was told she would have to wait three weeks for a walking aid, while she also heard of delays for equipment for paediatric services as they were no longer stored in Suffolk.
It comes after concerns were raised in January about the performance of the Community Equipment Service (CES), part of Serco-run Suffolk Community Healthcare.
In October 2012, Serco took on the role of providing community health services to 600,000 patients in Suffolk.
The CES is an integrated service providing equipment for people with health and social care needs.
However, delays of up to five months in providing equipment, such as specialist beds, slings and hoists, and poor communication were among the concerns raised at a Suffolk health scrutiny committee meeting.