The Government’s decision to intervene over governance failures at Tower Hamlets are ‘disproportionate and excessive’, according to the London borough’s mayor.
Lutfur Rahman said communities secretary Eric Pickles’ response did not tally with the findings of a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) that found leadership weaknesses and said the council had failed to comply with ‘best value’ grant arrangements.
The intervention ordered by Mr Pickles extends until March 2017, which the mayor said was excessive. He said plans to bring in three officers to oversee grants and property were unnecessary as a timetable for appointments was already in place.
On calls for a best value action plan to be put in place he countered: ‘There is no evidence base for a wide best value action plan for all council services – particularly given that many of our services are some of the best in London if not nationally.’
Mayor Rahman added that the Government directions risked creating a funding bottleneck that would harm local voluntary organisations.
He said: ‘In general, and having received legal advice, I find the directions to be excessive and disproportionate to the evidence and issues identified in the PwC report. That said we have responded with proportionate and workable proposals. Our services are excellent and it is a shame this fact has not been highlighted.
‘Where process and governance issues have been identified we will improve them. The secretary of State should restrict his directions to ensuring that we adopt excellent practice.’
He added: ‘It is also highly irregular for the secretary of state to seek to influence and prejudge the work of the Electoral Commission and the ongoing election petition via the election court which is of course subjudice – the proceedings and outcomes of which are unknown to the secretary of State.’