Government set to end Tower Hamlets intervention

TOWER HAMLETS Council is set to have full powers returned to it following a two-year intervention by the Government, Sajid Javid has announced.

The local government secretary said the London borough has made "steady progress" since a team of commissioners were sent in to oversee key functions.

The move followed an independent review by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which warned of a breakdown in democratic accountability and misuse of public funds.

Tower Hamlets' then-elected mayor Lutfur Rahman was subsequently removed from office by an Election Court after being found guilty of bribery, corruption and using taxpayer-funded grants to induce votes.

Grant powers were returned to the authority in January.

Javid said that, following reports from the commissioners, he is minded to now return full powers - although the borough will be closely monitored over the next 18 months.

"Two years ago, Tower Hamlets council had completely lost the trust of its residents. It was mired in corruption and financial mismanagement that only direct intervention could resolve," he said.

"Now, thanks to Sir Ken Knight and his team of commissioners working closely with the new mayor, I am confident that Tower Hamlets council is on the right track to provide the services their residents deserve and rightly expect.

"I will want to hear from Tower Hamlets every three months on the progress they're making. This will help ensure that taxpayers' money is put to the best use, in an open and transparent way."

Sir Ken Knight said: "The commissioners have seen Tower Hamlets council make steady progress in all of the directions put in place by the secretary of state. While there is still work to be undertaken to complete the outstanding issues, we are satisfied that the council recognise what still needs to be done to complete them and are committed to continuous improvement throughout the council."

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs said: "Over the past 21 months, the council has undergone a complete transformation. Under the previous mayor, this was a council drowning in crisis, corruption and controversy. Since then we have bought in new leadership, opened up the decision making process and challenged historic wrongdoing and bad practice.

"Tower Hamlets is an amazing place to live, our residents deserve a top performing council and services to match - that is my ambition. There are still massive challenges from the past we are working to repair. With the commissioners gone, we will not let up on our progress and are setting up an improvement board to ensure we keep up the momentum and deliver the best possible services for local people."