Labour MP Rushanara Ali has called on Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman – a fellow British-Bengali – to “carefully consider” his position after a damning independent report found a string of serious failures in the east London borough under his stewardship.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Ms Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow which is located inside Tower Hamlets, said the report highlighted challenges to democracy in the borough as well as a lack of transparency in the use of public money.
“People deserve better”, Ms Ali said.
“This is an area of high levels of depravity and inequality and there needs to be some action. When democracy is being challenged and there isn’t proper transparency then action has to be taken in the public interest.”
Asked if mayor Rahman should resign in light of the allegations, Ms Ali was initially evasive before saying that he should reconsider his position.
“Some very serious conclusions have been drawn from this report and he needs to think seriously about his position.
“It’s also up to the people of the borough to hold him to account and I believe they will. No one in the community will put up with this kind of behaviour and poor mismanagement.”
The report by the accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) found a “culture of cronyism, improper conduct and taxpayers’ money being unlawfully used” in the borough, home to a large Bangladeshi community.
Mayor Lutfur Rahman faces serious allegations
The Sylhet-born Mr Rahman has long been a controversial figure and has been routinely accused of electoral fraud as well as serious mismanagement of public funds.
However, he is an independently elected mayor and remains a hugely popular figure in the area.
The government on Wednesday announced it would send a “hit squad” to the borough which Communities and Local Government minister Eric Pickles branded “rotten” and “at risk of corruption”.
The three-member team will take over the running of the borough with authority to oversee grants of public funds and sales of local authority properties.
Among the most damning findings of the report were that Mayor Rahman had “inappropriately” spent public money on his election campaign, a supporter was allowed to buy a listed council property at a knock-down price in a bidding process that was “manipulated” and public funds were handed out to Bangladeshi community organizations that supported Mr Rahman’s election campaigns but which failed to meet the council’s’ minimum criteria.
Mr Pickles said: “If I was the mayor of Tower Hamlets I would be holding my head in shame, because what he’s allowed to occur in Tower Hamlets is shameful.”
Mr Rahman reacted to the report on his Twitter account, calling the allegations “baseless lies” but admitted that the borough “can always improve”.