MPs to investigate government’s imposition of commissioners on Tower Hamlets

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets
Awaiting restoration of full power to the Town Hall: John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets

MPs have launched an inquiry into the government’s imposition of commissioners on Tower Hamlets council in 2014 in the wake of corruption allegations.

Government-appointed commissioners were sent into the borough in December 2014, following widespread allegations of council malpractice under the disgraced former Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

The commissioners, led by Sir Ken Knight, took charge of key council functions, including grant-making and the sale and disposal of council-owned property.

The Communities and Local Government (CLG) committee announced this week that it would investigate the effectiveness of the intervention and seek to identify any lessons for possible future interventions.

The committee will also examine a similar ‘takeover’ in Rotherham following the child sex abuse scandal in the metropolitan borough .

CLG committee chair Clive Betts MP said: “Seizing control of a local authority’s powers is an extremely serious step for any government to take.”

“We will look very carefully to see if this has been done effectively in Tower Hamlets and Rotherham and explore the efforts being made to return democratic control to the two communities.

“The committee is also keen to see if the process can be improved for possible cases in the future.”

The committee is inviting written submissions until the deadline of 13 June 2016 on issues which include the actions taken by Tower Hamlet Council to address its failings before commissioners were imposed, the effectiveness and performance of these commissioners, and their governance and decision-making.

Despite a recent call from Mayor John Biggs for power to be returned this year, the commissioners are to retain control of a number of the council’s key functions until March 2017.

Speaking last month, local government secretary Greg Clark said Tower Hamlets Council remains “some way off” regaining its full powers.

“In Tower Hamlets, independent inspectors found a worrying pattern of divisive community politics and serious mismanagement of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

“Intervention is never a decision taken lightly but it was essential that we took action to make sure public confidence in the council is restored.

“Under the careful watch of the commissioners, the mayor is making progress but there must be sufficient evidence of real organisational change before I will consider handing any powers back.”

Make a written submission here.

1 Comment

  1. Muhammad Haque on Thursday 26 May 2016 at 7:39 pm

    This report leaves out most things that matter to the Community in Tower Hamlets.

    This report is about Ken Knight, Eric Pickles, Greg Clark and John Biggs.

    You should report on what “functions” you actually looked at that you say the so-called
    Commissioners had taken over.
    They never did.

    My evidence is that the Commissioners are
    part of the same unaccountable cabal that was there before they were foisted.

    The Commissioners were oversold for and by the Pickles Agenda.

    That the Commissioners now operate with John Biggs and Rachael Saunders – whom one of the “Commissioners”, Max Caller, was overdecorating with profuse praise last Tuesday – exposes the sham claim that the “Commissioners” have ended the serious problem of the corrupt clique that was in place before and is very much in control now.

    Biggs has failed, as he was doomed to because he never had any ethical purpose for the Community.


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