The East End Enquirer and Tower Hamlets council’s lack of transparency: a valuable investigation that unsurprisingly resonates in Waltham Forest

In the autumn of 2019, the website Love Wapping begat East End Enquirer, and from that point on, this new site for ‘investigative community journalism’ has broken many excellent stories, most of great interest to WFM readers.

One piece that particularly catches the eye is entitled ‘Poplar Papers 9 – How Tower Hamlets Council avoids public scrutiny’:

This examines a number of techniques used to thwart prying eyes, including ‘Formal Complaints Delayed’, explained thus:

‘As many Tower Hamlets residents know, if they think LBTH has done them wrong they have to exhaust the internal LBTH complaints system before they can submit their complaint to an outside body such as the Information Commissioner or the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The weary story of the Cllr. Tarik Khan, Cllr. Asma Begum and the Register of Interests Infinity Loop is a perfect example of how the complaints system is also, at best, unfit for purpose.

Ms. Asmat Hussain is the Director for Corporate Governance and Monitoring Officer at Tower Hamlets Council and as such has to “act as guardian of the democratic process for the Council” including maintaining the register of Members’ interests.

Uh huh.

Long story short is that the Wapping Mole was absolutely convinced that Tower Hamlets Labour Cllr. Tarik Khan had made a false declaration on his published register of interests. This was also of concern because Tower Hamlets Labour Cllr. Asma Begum, Cllr. Tarik Khan’s partner, shares the same declaration of interests. Cllr. Asma Begum is Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Equalities and as such is responsible for policing issues in the borough. She has also recently taken over Youth Services.

Getting nowhere through the usual channels at LBTH Moley submitted a formal complaint which was investigated by Asmat Hussain.

After several months we finally got a response from Ms. Hussain and it seemed that the extent of her investigative work was to ask Cllr. Tarik Khan if he had done anything wrong, he told her he had not, and that was the end of the investigation’.

That last sentence is particularly striking, because LBWF Director of Governance and Law, and also Monitoring Officer, Mark Hynes, approaches complaints about councillor malfeasance on very similar lines (see links).

Just what is it about Labour councils? Why are so many, so fearful, of transparency? What’s happened to the party that once fervently believed the truth was one of its most potent weapons?

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