In the wake of last week’s Election Court judgement Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has taken a series of urgent steps to protect potentially damning documents and emails held by Tower Hamlets Council from being destroyed.
The Evening Standard reports that the wide-ranging orders announced by Pickles have in effect given Sir Ken Knight’s team of commissioners complete control of the council. The team has been strengthened by two new appointees – Alan Wood (director of children’s services in neighbouring Hackney and immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services) and Chris Allison (former Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service and National Olympic Security Coordinator for the 2012 Olympics). Mr Pickles said:
“Given the independent election court’s clear findings of corruption in the mayoral administration, there is a clear 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.
“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.”
Allies and supporters of former mayor Lutfur Rahman and his political party Tower Hamlets First are planning their reaction to the latest moves which they have described as an “East End power grab”. Rahman has already announced his intention to appeal the judgement against him, and last night addressed a rally at the Waterlily Conference Centre in Whitechapel. Other speakers who were scheduled included Christine Shawcroft (Labour Party NEC), John Rees (People’s Assembly), Andrew Murray (Chief of Staff, Unite), Lindsey German (Stop the War Coalition) and Salma Yaqoob (former Vice Chair of the Respect Party).
Event details announced that the rally was intended to “set out what needs to be done to defend democracy in Tower Hamlets, to challenge racism in the borough and beyond, and to ensure that anti-racist, anti-war and anti-austerity politics find their rightful place in the council.”