Concerns surface as Tower Hamlets Council deliberate an Electoral Review

Posted on | Sunday, 11 March 2012 | No Comments

Earlier this year, the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) consulted with Tower Hamlets Council on the most appropriate Council size for the Borough, i.e., the preferred number of Councillors to serve on the Council. This was only a preliminary review, and will soon be followed by consultations on Ward boundaries and representation.

I only accidently stumbled on news of this significant development while checking the forthcoming by-election plans for Spitalfields and Banglatown. 

My primary concern here is the lack of transparency coupled with the fact that these consultations run contrary to central government’s commitment towards devolving power down to the electorate. They – you and I, the electorate - should have been advised these consultation were taking place from the outset. It is totally unacceptable to announce that there will be a period of public consultation later this month, as we are now advised, when Councillors have already submitted their preferences to the LGBCE!

The Governments White Paper on Open Public Services was only published last July and in its second Principle it states: power should be decentralised to the lowest appropriate level – the electorate.  The same theme was enacted in the Localism Bill with its ‘bottom up’ rights to give local people the chance to take on powers that have previously only been exercised by local authorities. And then there is the maligned Nolan Principles of Transparency; who in council has ever applied these? So why weren’t we advised?

Our Councillors, to summarise from Tower Hamlets web site, have already submitted the following proposals on council size:-

Mayor of Tower Hamlets:  45 councillors
Cllr Rofique Uddin Ahmed (Independent): 45
Labour Group:  51
Cllrs Khales Uddin Ahmed and Helal Uddin (Lab):  51
Conservative Group:  42
Cllr Stephanie Eaton (LD): 38
You can read their respective arguments for these numbers here.

With all but the Labour Party proposing the number of councillors be reduced, shouldn’t we have been notified? In fact, the consensus view of those proposing a reduction is that each Ward be reduced to 2 councillors. Using December 2011 figures giving a Borough electoral base of 172,072, this computes to 3374 electors/councillor based on 51 councillors and an alarming 5000+ electors/councillor based on just 34.  Frankly, neither figure comes remotely close to an effective representation.

One final concern, and you may have already spotted this, is that the LGBCE site shows that a 7th proposal was received (the Tower Hamlets site shows only 6 as above). This was from 5 Labour councillors who have declared they do not support the official Labour proposal and have instead aligned themselves with that submitted by Lutfur Rahman! Were any of these decisions reached after consultations with the electorate?



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