Lutfur Rahman blocks free school meals plan

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Labour force a second vote on the issue

The independent Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, came under fire last night after he refused to accept Labour’s fully costed plan to introduce free school meals for all primary school pupils in the borough.

Rahman’s refusal to accept the proposals came despite a statesman-like display from Labour’s Mayoral candidate, John Biggs, who presented a petition on behalf of residents who had called for the Mayor to accept the free school meals proposal.

Labour voted to force a reconsideration of their package of measures which if agreed will also introduce an extended out of hours noise service, new investment in the borough’s parks and green spaces and further resources to tackle drug dealing and anti-social behaviour. Rahman and his supporters refused to vote for the plans which would be part-funded by cutting over £600,000 Rahman has allocated for additional publicity, personal advisors and a new mayoral Mercedes after the election.

The vote means that Rahman is now forced to reconsider Labour’s proposals before a final budget meeting next Thursday, 6th March. Labour have urged the mayor not to stop Tower Hamlets following in the footsteps of progressive boroughs such as Newham, Islington and Southwark whose residents are all seeing the benefits of free school meals, whilst Rahman prioritises wasteful vanity spending.

At the meeting Rahman refused to consider any of the other proposals from Labour ruling out an extension to the out of hours noise service despite over 12,000 calls from residents going unanswered last year whilst the service was closed.

Labour’s finance spokesperson, Cllr Carlo Gibbs, said:

“By rejecting Labour's free school meals proposal the Mayor shows he cares more about political point scoring and his mayoral Mercedes that he does helping our young people. The choice is now clear, the strong leadership of John Biggs that will deliver free school meals or nothing from Lutfur Rahman who is out of touch and out of ideas.”

Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Sirajul Islam, said:

“With the council facing significant financial challenges our responsible approach is to prioritise the important things and cut out Lutfur Rahman’s wasteful vanity spending.  Sadly, this administration seems more interested in wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer pounds on publicity, cars and mayoral advisors than helping people struggling to deal with the rising cost of living.

“Whilst John Biggs and Labour have made transformational pledges to improve the quality of life in Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman is clearly out of ideas.”

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

“Labour are putting forward a progressive and exciting agenda for change in our borough and all Lutfur Rahman can do is use his position to block it. It’s clear Rahman is running out of steam but that’s no excuse to block popular and fully costed plans which would have a lifechanging effect on children in this borough.”

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