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Members of the community gather outside the Town Hall to lobby the Cabinet. What's the point - if power to effect change is being handed over to consultants who cost £3.5 million? That's higher than the cost of the services many of the campaigners were trying to save.

Bungle-Biggs wastes £3.5m on consultants

PATH COUNCILLORS have condemned John Biggs for throwing away £3.5 million of Council Tax-payers’ money on consultants to help him decide how to run the Council. The spend has been condemned as tantamount to privatising the community.

The criticism from the People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets (PATH) Councillors comes in a motion going to this week’s Council meeting. Particular criticism is reserved for the fact that the Executive Mayor took the decision to spend £3.5 million behind closed doors – without airing it at Cabinet, in the Council or in the wider community before he signed the contract.

The motion is proposed by Cllr Aminur Khan and seconded by PATH Group Chair Cllr Abdul Asad, both of whom represent Whitechapel ward. The pair point out that Labour’s Executive Mayor, John Biggs, had commented on community engagement in the Council earlier this month, saying, “I want our council to draw on all the talent and experience of our community and to include more local people in our decision making.” This gave the impression he wanted to involve people who live and work in Tower Hamlets. No one guessed that “include more people” meant “pay more consultants”.

PATH has also condemned the £3.5m contract because local groups have already been coming forward to influence Council decisions but, to date, the Executive Mayor has not listened to them. Lively groups have lobbied the Council, asking the Mayor to fund Council day care nurseries rather than hand these Council assets over to the private or voluntary sector; and to fund the Tower Hamlets Youth Sports Foundation. Budget decisions were also condemned for introducing charges for adult social care.

The PATH Councillors’ motion calls on John Biggs to elevate the Borough’s residents to the position of Strategic Partner – not a generic firm of consultants. In particular the motion calls on the Council to instruct the Executive Mayor to do the following.
To stop the privatisation of council nurseries.
Increase the number of Youth Centres per ward to deliver a comprehensive plan of detached and outreach work.
Reinstate all council funded Police Officers cut by Mayor John Biggs.
Fund the Tower Hamlets Youth Sports Foundation with the council working in partnership with the THYSF Business Plan.
Fund the Careers Service adequately so that young people aged 16-17 can be supported into higher and education and employment.
Hold a Public Inquiry by Overview and Scrutiny to hear from all parties affected by the damming Ofsted report.
To introduce Rent Control in the Private Rented Sector.
The closed decision of Mayor John Biggs to sign off £3.5 million to a private contractor will need to be made accountable to the communities in Tower Hamlets.

This will put Labour Councillors in a difficult position, as many of these points would, under normal circumstances, be Labour Party policy. However, to date Labour Councillors have always dealt with opposition motions by procedural measures which have resulted in opposition motions not being heard at full Council. It will either be an interesting Council meeting – or one at which opposition to John Biggs is, again, bureaucratically silenced.

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