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If it is broke, let’s act to fix it!

January 28, 2010

Cllr Miah addressing the Tower Hamlets College UCU rally

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That is how Poplar MP Jim Fitzpatrick sums up his opposition to changing to a directly elected mayor in Tower Hamlets.

This is a statement of the most extraordinary complacency. The housing waiting list has spiralled out of control over the last ten years and there are now some 15,500 families living in overcrowded conditions according to the council’s own statistics. Our young folk are having to move out of the borough to Barking, Ilford and beyond to find housing. And although we have had 40% of all construction in London, over 70% of that has been to build homes far beyond the reach of the incomes of most people who live in Tower Hamlets. Tower Hamlets residents are being displaced in favour of the super-rich bankers of Canary Wharf and the City of London.

Whilst this housing scandal has been developing, we have had no less than four changes of council leader and four changes of chief executives in the last four years. These council leaders have been picked by small numbers of Labour officials and councillors in what would have been, in the old days, smoke-filled rooms, without any reference to the voters themselves. If the Labour establishment has its way, our fifth council leader in as many years will be picked after the May council elections by Labour regional officials who don’t even live in Tower Hamlets.

This all looks pretty broke to me.

Make no mistake. I believe that many council officials have been doing sterling work and achieving considerable success in some areas. But this is despite, rather than because of, our system of government.

Directly elected mayors are now to be found in the surrounding boroughs of Newham, Hackney and Southwark. It is just Tower Hamlets which Fitzpatrick thinks should be denied a system which would make the council leader, the mayor, directly accountable to the voters themselves and which would give that mayor the power and authority to address the massive problems which Tower Hamlets faces.

We need strong leadership in Tower Hamlets to demand from central government the resources we need and to stand up to the cuts central government will try to impose (whether it is a Brown or more likely a Cameron government).

The overwhelming feeling amongst voters in Tower Hamlets is that they want change. That is why I am sure voters in the mayoral referendum will reject Fitzpatrick’s complacency and endorse the directly elected
mayor we need.

Councillor Abjol Miah, Respect prospective parliamentary candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow
Town Hall
Mulberry Place

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