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A directly elected mayor for Tower Hamlets? “Let the people decide.”

October 27, 2009
handing in the petition

Abjol Miah, George Galloway MP and others handing in the petition to the Town Hall

Councillor Abjol Miah handed in a petition with some 10,000 signatures of Tower Hamlets residents at the Town Hall on Friday, demanding a referendum on the form of government in Tower Hamlets. He was accompanied by Respect councillors Dulal Uddin, Mamun Rashid and Harun Miah and MP George Galloway, as well as a number of community leaders.

Some 7,800 signatures are needed to trigger a referendum, so a referendum of Tower Hamlet voters is now a certainty once the process of verification is completed.

Councillor Miah thanked the community leaders and activists for working so hard over the preceding few weeks to deliver the signatures. “This is an incredible achievement. In just a few weeks since we launched this campaign, a vast number of people have come forward to express their dissatisfaction with the present system and to demand the opportunity to debate and vote on a mayoral system as an alternative.

“The present system falls between two stools,” Councillor Miah continued. “On the one hand we have an unaccountable council leader in whom a very large amount of power is vested, including vitally the power to appoint to paid Cabinet posts and the disposal of almost a billion pounds of taxpayers money annually, but who is known only by a very few electors.

“On the other hand, the leader is too weak to deal with the problems that this borough faces. We have had no less than four different leaders over the last four and a half years and four different chief executives. This is a direct result of the deepening divisions in the Labour party and it is unlikely to improve any time soon. This is a recipe for instability and weakness.

“If we had a directly elected mayor, we would have continuity for four years and there would be an identified and well known individual with whom the buck will stop. And if we have a Respect mayor, we promise to establish a mayor’s office in the heart of the borough where the door will be open for residents to bring their problems and grievances for the mayor to address and sort out – democratic accountability and strong leadership. Newham and Hackney have mayoral systems, not to mention the Greater London Authority. And this is what we need to shake up government in Tower Hamlets.

“But above all, we need a proper debate in Tower Hamlets followed by a vote involving all our residents,” concluded Councillor Miah. “That is what these petitions will achieve. Let the people decide.”

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