Tower Hamlets Mayor Accused of 'Muslim Favouritism' After Latest Funding Revelations

The mayor of the London borough of Tower Hamlets stands accused today of allocating huge amounts of funding to potential allies in his bid for re-election.

Earlier this week, the BBC broadcast an investigation into the mayor, accusing him of awarding £3.6 million to charities in return for electoral support.

Now, journalist Andrew Gilligan, who has been scrutinising Rahman since before he was elected, has published more detailed evidence suggesting that the Tower Hamlets mayor has been awarding huge sums of money to organisations likely to be sympathetic to him.

To put the grants in context, Gilligan starts by pointing the actual racial and religious makeup of the borough. According to the 2011 Census, the largest single ethnic group is white, making up 45.2 percent of the population. Bangladeshis are second with 32 percent (down from 33.4 percent 10 years earlier). 34.5 percent of the population are Muslim, again down from 36.4 percent in 2001.

In 2012, the council changed its rules for grants to community groups, so that “the decisions for all awards over £1,000 were to be made by the Mayor under his executive authority”.

Gilligan notes a clear trend of diverting funds away from secular groups aimed at the whole community to those aimed just at only sections of community.

His key findings are:

  • A £2 million fund was set up to pay money to religious buildings. “Of the first £600,000 awarded, the only round announced so far, £388,000 (64 per cent) went to Muslim faith buildings,” Gilligan writes.
  • Some of these buildings received grants without even having to state the purpose for the funds. The Bow Muslim Cultural Centre, for example, got £10,000 for work simply described as “to be confirmed.”
  • The mayor also created grants for pre-election events that “reward his supporters and potential supporters with public money”. Of the £593,512 so far granted, “at least £327,645 (55 per cent) has gone to Muslim organisations”.
  • The Mayor also awarded £907,180 to lunch clubs for the over 50s, £515,280 (57 per cent) of which was allocated to Muslim organisations, clubs aimed at Bangladeshis and Somalis, and clubs which advertise themselves as aimed exclusively at Muslims.
  • Another set of grants for “community and economic engagement” worth £1,235,000 mainly went to Muslim organisations. £858,500 (70 per cent) in total went to Muslim-orientated groups.
  • 64 percent of grants for “children, schools and families” went to Muslim organisations, and 63 percent of grants for “study support schemes” also went to Muslim organisations.
  • Of the £313,486 in grants for “mother tongue lessons” (i.e. lessons in immigrant languages), £296,016 (94 per cent) was given to Muslim organisations. Gilligan points out that while neighbouring boroughs such as Newham spend money on teaching immigrants to speak English, Tower Hamlets is spending it on teaching them not to speak English.
  • £667,000 in grants were awarded for youth and career advice services, out of which £437,500 (66 per cent) was allocated to Muslim organisations.
  • Finally, of the £156,000 of “lifelong learning” grants (grants for adult education), £87,000 (57 per cent) was allocated to Muslim organisations.

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