Labour’s Free School Meals plan blocked by Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Rahman reinstates £600,000 fund for car, advisors and additional publicity

-     John Biggs says only Labour would put residents first


Lutfur Rahman, the controversial Mayor of Tower Hamlets, tonight voted to reinstate over £600,000 of funding to his mayoral car, personal advisors and extra publicity. In doing so the Mayor blocked Labour’s budget amendment which would have introduced new measures to tackle drug dealing, expand the late night nuisance noise service and introduce free school meals for all primary school children in the borough.

Labour were angered by the decision accusing the Mayor of putting “personal taxpayer funded luxury before the needs of residents”. The decision comes after Labour forced a second budget meeting forcing Rahman to reconsider their proposals. The package of measures put forward by Labour was fully funded and included:

-          Free school meals for all primary school children

-          A  24h out of hours noise service at weekends

-          Working towards building 1,000 new council homes after the current administration built only 15.

-          New measures to tackle drug dealing on estates

-          Creating a new private lettings agency to cut out rip off charges for private renters

-          Bringing the popular borough fireworks display back to Victoria Park

In his opening speech at the this evening’s Budget meeting Rahman rejected the proposals and signalled that he would be reinstating the £600,000 of funding which Labour had voted to remove at the last Budget meeting. Rahman supporters then voted against Labour’s proposals blocking the two-thirds majority needed to overrule the mayor.

Labour accused the Mayor of playing petty politics with the decision after Rahman indicated that he would consider bringing forward proposals to introduce free school meals to the March meeting. Rahman also announced that he would be pressing ahead with his extravagant plan to build a brand new Town Hall which will cost tax payers tens of millions of pounds. Whilst Labour accept the Council needs to sort out its office needs thee has been no proper examination of his plans to build a 'palace' on Whitechapel road. The priority must be to protect hard-pressed local people and find an affordable office plan.

Speaking during the meeting Labour Group Leader, Cllr Sirajul Islam, described Rahman’s approach to free school meals:

“One second he dismisses it, then he says he’s already done it, then he finally admits he supports it, but just not our version.”

“As usual he is out of his depth. Let me be clear, we have said all along that we would fund this project for the long-term, unlike many of Lutfur Rahman’s one off pre-election giveaways.”

Speaking after the Council meeting Labour’s Finance spokesperson, Cllr Carlo Gibbs, said:

“Tonight Lutfur Rahman was given the straight choice between funding free school meals or not. In rejecting our proposals he has failed to show the leadership needed and simply put his personal taxpayer funded luxury before the needs of residents.

“This is a stark example of why people should vote for John Biggs in May. He’ll use that money to invest in things which will really help people. Like free school meals for all primary school pupils, a 24h weekend noise service and steps to tackle drug dealing.”

Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said:

“Lutfur Rahman says he supports free school meals but obviously not enough to give up his car. It just goes to show how wrong his priorities are. We want to give back to families struggling to cope with the rising cost of living, he wants to prioritise personal taxpayer funded luxuries that even the richest families would struggle to afford.

“And the fact that he wants to spend unknown millions on a new town hall as opposed to protecting services for residents tells you everything you need to know.”

“Fighting this kind of abuse of power and misplaced priorities is exactly why I am standing for Mayor. Tower Hamlets deserves better.”

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