Government relinquishes full control of Tower Hamlets - but warns mayor John Biggs that a lapse in management will result in further "action"

Catherine Neilan
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Former mayor Lutfer Rahman was found guilty of electoral fraud (Source: Getty)

The government is handed control of the governance of Tower Hamlets borough council back to the borough, four months after the last mayoral election.

Last November Eric Pickles, communities secretary at the time, had ordered a three-man team of commissioners to take over the handling of grants and property sales, as well as senior appointments or suspensions within the council, branding it a "rotten borough".

Rahman was removed from office this April after being found guilty of electoral fraud, at which point Pickles upped the commissioners' responsibilities, allowing them effectively full control of the borough.

Rahman's dismissal prompted an election this June, in which police had to set up "intimidation-free zone", resulting in a victory for Labour candidate John Biggs.

Four months on, current communities secretary Greg Clark will withdraw the commissioners from direct power though they "will continue to carry out some functions and will oversee further improvements, which will be led by the mayor".

In a letter to Biggs, Clark welcomed progress made in the last 6 months to address the entrenched problems at the council.

But he insisted it was right the government’s commissioners remain in post, "to oversee the continued improvement at Tower Hamlets, and to carry out important functions - including the issuing of grants in the borough and continue to strengthen governance".

He warned that they would remain vigilant – and that any lapse in the council’s management would result in action being taken.

Communities secretary Greg Clark said:

I’m pleased with the progress that has been made in Tower Hamlets over the last 6 months, which will help restore the community’s confidence in how their area is being run.

It means I am confident that, from this weekend, John Biggs can now be left to take on the day-to-day running of the borough as the mayor.

But our four commissioners will remain in place, and I will not hesitate to take action if progress stalls and the governance of Tower Hamlets falls short.

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