Tower Hamlets goes to the polls amid accusations of electoral fraud
Britain’s first elected Asian mayor Lutfur Rahman seeks return to office fighting claims he used council funds improperly.
Tower Hamlets, the east London borough that borders the City and the Thames and includes Canary Wharf, will choose its directly next elected mayor against a tense backdrop of an investigation by government-appointed auditors, a police inquiry and a history of complex community politics.
Defending the mayoralty is Lutfur Rahman, the independent incumbent who, like Bethnal Green and Bow’s former independent MP George Galloway before him, was carried into office with backing from large sections of the prominent Bangladeshi community.
Britain’s first elected Asian mayor is seeking office again amid claims that his administration has sought to gain votes with favourable grants to Bangladeshi and Somali-led organisations, waved through property deals without guaranteeing value for money and used council funds improperly to enable self-promotion.
The allegations, some of which were broadcast last month on the BBC’s Panorama programme, were swiftly followed by an inquiry ordered by the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, which will examine the use of public money.
A series of difficult questions for Rahman remain unanswered about his conduct and that of his his allies. But some Labour activists privately fear that the allegations could well tip the balance in Rahman’s favour if the Bangladeshi community – more than a third of the electorate – see him as a victim of establishment persecution.
Auditors from PwC are examining the sale of at least three properties by the council – Limehouse library, Poplar town hall and a property in Sutton Street – which, it has been alleged, did achieve not value for money for Tower Hamlets’ taxpayers. It has been claimed that sales aimed to help associates of Rahman or potential supporters – a claim Rahman denies.
- The Guardian,