Lutfur Rahman: Police find no evidence of criminality


Mayor Lutfur Rahman is perhaps the most scrutinised politician in Britain today. He is the only directly elected Mayor to be investigated twice by BBC’s Panorama programme. He may be the only Mayor they have investigated in great detail, and of course there are a number of London-based blogs and bloggers who dedicated a substantial part of their time seeking to undermine, find dirt, and at times vilify Europe’s first directly elected BME Mayor.

After the latest Panorama programme, which suggested corruption and fraud by Rahman because, in part, he had doubled funding to Bangladeshi and Somali groups in the Borough, the Metropolitan Police were brought in to investigate. Last week they came back after looking into both fraud and financial mismanagement and stated they had found "no credible evidence of criminality".

In spite of the Canary Wharf wealth within Tower Hamlets, it is a borough with some of the severest levels of deprivation in the country. Those who are particularly effected are both the Bangladeshi and Somali communities. It is understandable, therefore, that these communities along with pockets of white working-class areas should be and are targeted by the Tower Hamlet's Mayor.

It is a great shame that there are elements both in the borough and on the outside who are hell bent on both refusing to work with this Mayor and putting their own extreme prejudice to undermine everything he does. It’s a shame because it’s not often reported but in spite of the many challenges the borough faces and its teaming diversity, the people of Tower Hamlets love their borough and collectively want to improve it.

In response to the unprecedented vitriol thrown at Rahman, often by people hiding behind pseudonyms, we at OBV signed a letter in the Guardian alongside Trade Union Congress President Mohammad Taj, Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Christine Shawcroft Labour Party NEC, Steve Turner Assistant General Secretary Unite Union, and Leon Silver President, East London Central Synagogue.

We believe that like all elected officials Mayor Lutfur Rahman must be held to account, but with fairness, and definitely not with some of the extreme prejudice we’ve seen by some during this election campaign.

Simon Woolley

Here’s the Guardian letter below:

"We were not surprised that Scotland Yard concluded there was no evidence of fraud at Tower Hamlets council (Report, 17 April). Senior officers reached this conclusion after examining files handed over by communities secretary Eric Pickles following a Panorama programme condemned as having racial overtones, not least by a whistleblowing member of the production team.

The programme alleged that directly elected mayor Lutfur Rahman was channelling disproportionate grant funding into Bengali-run organisations, but such organisations only received 8% of funding, despite these communities making up a third of the population. It called the mayor unaccountable, despite the fact he has answered more questions in council and attended more scrutiny committees than any other borough mayor.

It is no coincidence that Britain's first and only black elected mayor has been the focus of endless accusation. None of the ensuing investigations has found evidence to substantiate the claims of a corrupt administration mired in Islamic extremism. But this has not stopped the allegations being repeated by rightwing journalists and irresponsible local politicians seeking electoral gain in running down the borough and a breakdown in community relations.

Enough is enough. Tower Hamlets is a high-performing council, winning numerous national awards and accolades in recent years. Despite fighting unparalleled levels of deprivation, its school results are among the best in London. It has not closed a single library, youth club or children's centre. It has reinstated the education maintenance allowance scrapped by the coalition, provided bursaries for poor university students and delivered more new homes than any other council nationwide.

The upcoming mayoral election should be fought on policy and not muckraking that threatens to do lasting damage to the community spirit on which this diverse borough prides itself."

Ken Livingstone, Simon Woolley Director, Operation Black Vote, Mohammad Taj President, TUC, Christine Shawcroft Labour party national executive, Steve Turner Assistant general secretary, Unite, Leon Silver President, East London Central Synagogue.