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Respect’s motions to Tower Hamlets Council: public referendum on elected Mayor, overcrowding and anti-cuts

October 4, 2009

Tower Hamlets Council is meeting on 14 October. In line with the hard work that Tower Hamlets Respect councillors have been doing in the community, we have submitted motions on the following topics. You will recognize all of them as issues featured in this blog:

  • For a directly elected mayor
  • Parking free developments
  • Overcrowding strategy
  • Tower Hamlets College strike
  • Spending cuts auction
  • Postal vote debacle 


For a directly elected mayor

Proposed by Councillor Abjol Miah, seconded by Councillor Fozol Miah

1) This council notes that

a) a consultation exercise is currently being undertaken on the future leadership structure for the authority – i.e. a ‘New Style’ Leader and Cabinet model or a Directly Elected Mayor – as required by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, ending on 22nd October

b) there have been no less than four different ‘New Style’ leaders of the council over the last four and a half years

c) these leaders have been selected from within the ranks of the Labour group without reference to the wishes or the knowledge of the voters

d) these leaders have exercised huge power over council decision-making through the Cabinet system

e) these leaders have remained unknown to the vast majority of Tower Hamlets voters despite the huge power they exercise

f) the consultation exercise has been executed impeccably by the council officers responsible but that a lack of interest in the exercise by the Labour and Conservative parties has meant that little publicity has so far been attracted to the consultation process

g) Eastendlife has carried adverts for the consultation but with the rider that the standing policy of the council is in favour of the ‘New Style’ leader and Cabinet system

h) belatedly more profile was given to this consultation with the positions of the different political groups represented briefly but that this did not represent a proper debate about the issues

i) opinion surveys show that a majority of Tower Hamlets residents would prefer a directly elected mayor

2) This council regrets that Eastendlife did not provide the opportunity for the arguments for and against the two systems to be properly represented in order to stimulate education, debate and interest in this issue

3) This council believes that

a) there is a need for a radical shake-up in the way the council is run

b) Tower Hamlets needs strong council leadership to deal with its many very serious problems

c) that strong leadership my be properly democratically accountable to the voters of Tower Hamlets 

d) a directly elected mayor would provide both strong leadership and direct democratic accountability

e) notwithstanding the fact a decision on a referendum is to take place at the December full council meeting, the council should change its standing policy in advance of the end of the consultation process and agree to support a change to a directly elected mayor

f) a referendum should be held to decide the future governance of Tower Hamlets council in order to let the voters themselves decide the issue, with the final decision on this to be taken at the December meeting of the council


‘Parking free’ developments

Proposed by Councillor Harun Miah, seconded by Councillor Abjol Miah

1) This council notes that

a) new build housing in this borough financed with so-called section 106 money has been designated ‘parking free’, meaning that residents were not permitted the normal residency rights to residents parking permits

b) some residents of these properties were not properly informed that these properties were ‘parking free’

c) confusion was compounded by the fact that residents permits were issued to a number of residents over a number of years in error and were then suddenly withdrawn when the error came to light

d) these ‘parking free’ developments discriminated against those who were dependent on owning and using a vehicle for their livelihood

e) these ‘parking free’ developments discriminated against people dependent on vehicle ownership and use to cheaply transport their families

f) these ‘parking free’ developments have not significantly reduced car ownership in use in Tower Hamlets and therefore are not an effective means of dealing with the environmental problems of car ownership and use

2) This council welcomes the decision that future housing development in the borough should not be ‘parking free’

3) This council believes that

a) existing ‘parking free’ estates and developments coming on stream should have the ‘parking free’ restrictions lifted, allowing residents equal rights with other existing residents and future residents of the borough

b) if lifting these restrictions means there need to be legislative changes, then the council should urgently approach the government to secure those changes


Overcrowding strategy

Proposed by Councillor Fozol Miah, seconded by Councillor Abjol Miah

1) This council notes that

a) over 15,500 families are estimated to be overcrowded in Tower Hamlets

b) more than half the overcrowded families live in so-called ‘social housing’

c) the percentage reduction in overcrowding has been very small in recent years

d) overcrowding is a scourge which makes life miserable for those who are overcrowded and can lead to educational under-achievement, anti-social behaviour and poor mental and physical health 

e) with estimates of population increase of 25% in the borough between 2006 and 2016, the scourge of overcrowding is likely to get worse rather than better unless radical action is taken

2) This council welcomes

a) proposals to change the priority allocation of housing so that, in general, overcrowded households will enjoy equal status to homeless households

b) any initiatives to expand the amount of larger housing available for social rent to alleviate overcrowding

3) This council recognises that

a) changes to the priority allocation will not resolve the underlying problem of a mismatch in the supply of and demand for housing that is genuinely affordable by many residents of this borough

b) the recent proposals to increase the supply of housing that might be made available to overcrowded families will fall considerably short of helping the proclaimed target of 500 families over three years and is, anyway, far from adequate given the scale of the problem

c) the relatively small percentage of new build properties designated for social rent is one of the major reasons why supply is failing to keep in line with demand

4) This council regrets the fact application was made to build just 17 council houses in the first round of bidding for government money made available for council house building and that that bid was, at least initially, rejected as not ‘value for money’

5) This council believes that

a) only a massive council house building programme will address what is already and crisis of overcrowding and will become an overcrowding catastrophe on available predictions

b) central government should make far more money available for this council house building programme

c) a massive council house building programme will have other beneficial effects to the economy including creating a large amount of employment at a time when unemployment is rising rapidly


Tower Hamlets college strike

Proposed by Councillor Dulal Uddin, seconded by Councillor Abjol Miah

 1) This council notes that

a) college lecturers at Tower Hamlets College recently went on all out strike action over cuts to courses and compulsory redundancies

b) that strike has now ended as a result of the lifting of the threat of compulsory redundancies

c) courses are still being cut at the college and in particular that ESOL provision is being severely curtailed

d) the cutting of ESOL provision will lead to the dispersal of the nationally recognised expertise built up over a considerable period of time with significant success rates at the college, particularly through its outreach work

e) the cutting of ESOL provision will impact particularly severely on women from the BME communities many of whom need ESOL classes to enable them to participate fully in the community in Tower Hamlets

f) the cutting of ESOL provision will most adversely affect the Outreach programme which has successfully delivered quality courses inside local communities for a number of years, with provision currently being cut at 10 centres with 20 classes lost

g) the government has consistently claimed that increased funding of £1.2 million to the council should offset cuts in LSC funding for ESOL provision at Tower Hamlets College

2) This council regrets that strike action was necessary at the college and welcomes the lifting of the threat of compulsory redundancies which has enabled the lecturers to return to work

3) This council believes that

a) funding should not have been cut to the college

b) the government should have stepped in to restore funding when the scale of the damage to the provision of essential education in this borough became apparent

c) the college authorities should have united with college lecturers to oppose the cuts

d) the council should have agreed to temporarily use reserves to preserve educational provision whilst seeking a long-term solution

4) This council agrees to temporarily use reserves to restore community ESOL provision provided by the Outreach programme at Tower Hamlets College

5) This council recognises that using reserves to support education at Tower Hamlets college in the short run is not sustainable over the longer term 

6) This council believes that the lead member for Children’s Services and officers directly responsible for lifelong learning ESOL provision should seek urgent meetings with representatives of the college authorities and the lecturers union with a view to making government funding to the council for ESOL provision available to the college to restore the ESOL classes and the outreach work threatened by the cuts in LSC funding. 


Spending cuts auction

Proposed by Councillor Mamun Rashid, seconded by Councillor Abjol Miah

1) This council notes that

a) the amount of government borrowing has had to increase both because of a bail out to prevent a total collapse of the banking system brought about by the irresponsible behaviour of overpaid bankers and to ensure that spending in the economy was maintained

b) government policy on this has generally been in the right direction, although too little was done too late to prevent the serious downturn in the economy that is now producing rapidly rising unemployment

c) all three major parties seem to agree that, in the words of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, there will have to be “savage cuts” in government spending, presumably immediately the general election is over

d) both Labour and Tories are examining cuts of 10% or more in government spending and that local government will not be exempt from these drastic cuts

2) This council believes that

a) such drastic cuts to the funding of local government in Tower Hamlets would have a devastating effect on the provision of education, care for the young and the elderly, on housing provision and maintenance and all the essential services provided by this council

b) such drastic cuts in public spending are quite unnecessary for three reasons

            * levels of public debt are not particularly high by historic or comparative standards

            ** taxes should be increased to raise revenue but only on those best able to pay                        increased taxes, ie those on high incomes and with multi-million pound bonuses

            *** cuts can be made in public spending on absurdities such as the replacement for       Trident now estimated to cost £130 billion and on ID cards 

c) the leader of the council should write to all the major party leaders deploring the proposals to cut public spending drastically and expressing this council’s complete opposition to such cuts


Postal vote debacle

Proposed by Councillor Abdul Munim, seconded by Councillor Abjol Miah

1) This council notes that

a) a recent council by-election won by Respect in Birmingham has been mired in controversy yet again because of irregularities in the postal vote

b) there is a further police investigation ongoing in Tower Hamlets regarding allegations of illegal interference in postal voting in this borough during the European elections this year

c) some political activists are boasting even now about how many postal votes they have sown up for their party for the forthcoming general and local elections

2) This council believes that

a) the postal vote on demand system is fundamentally flawed

b) there is no evidence genuine voter participation in elections is increased using postal votes on demand in the longer term

c) the flaws in the postal vote on demand system cannot be overcome by tightening up regulations regarding registration, signatures, etc, because the fundamental flaw is that it effectively abolishes the secret ballot and therefore enables undue pressure to be brought on voters

d) the integrity of the electoral system can only be restored if the postal vote on demand is abolished

e) problems over voter participation in the elections are better addressed by considering extending voting time over two days and at weekends and increasing the number of polling stations

f) the postal vote should be retained, as in the status quo ante, for all those with a proven need for the postal vote due to disability or absence


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