Last week the London Bangla newspaper shared a snapshot of the Tower Hamlets Labour Party website page devoted to John Biggs. Although it had been updated to show that Biggs was now Tower Hamlets mayor (as well as remaining a member of the Greater London Authority), it asked viewers to contact the Tower Hamlets mayor at City Hall (office of the Greater London Authority). Happily the situation has now been corrected, with the website now making it clear that the Tower Hamlets mayor can be contacted either at City Hall or at Tower Hamlets Town Hall.
What is not yet clear is how John Biggs will manage to carry out his two full time jobs – and whether he intends to draw the two full-time salaries connected with them. In the run up to the election John Biggs made it clear he would be cutting back on staff in the mayor’s office – so we also don’t yet know whether he will be answering his phone and emails himself, or whether he will keep some staff on to do this job.
The Labour Party has yet to announce who will be in John Biggs’s Cabinet. It is known that he intended to give three of his Labour Party colleagues the jobs of deputy mayors, but no announcement has yet been made about what these deputies will be paid. No announcement has been made about which other Labour Councillors will also be given Cabinet jobs – or what these jobs will cost the taxpayer.
The jobs may not be in the gift of the mayor himself. Whereas Mayor Lutfur Rahman took his election victories as a mandate to appoint a Cabinet he trusted to deliver the policies on which he was elected, it is understood that John Biggs will be obliged to bow to Labour Councillors (the “Labour Group”) in the matter of the Cabinet.
It is thought that the Labour Group will hand out the top jobs at their regular meeting tonight, Monday, 22nd June. We understand that there is a proposal that six Cabinet members should be appointed, in addition to the deputies. Again, there is no news yet on how much this will cost or where the budget will come from.
The Labour Councillors will, therefore, be awarding themselves Cabinet jobs. The decisions will be taken behind closed doors, and it will not be known on what basis Councillors have been chosen for promotion or whether any deals have been done between individuals.
Those opposed to Mayor Lutfur Rahman used to suggest that the mayoral system allowed him to appoint his “cronies” to Cabinet jobs. It is hard to see how John Biggs can avoid allegations that his election allows the Labour Party to hand out jobs to those with the strongest support base in the Labour Group without scrutiny by the electorate.