New figures show company’s events responsible for huge crime spike
Bow residents have reacted with anger at the news that Lutfur Rahman, the current Mayor of Tower Hamlets, has handed over control of commercial events in Victoria Park to the organisation whose events have caused a huge crime spike in previous years.
In a reply to Bow West Councillor, Joshua Peck, the Council has admitted that it has awarded a four year tender for seven days of festivals each year to Lovebox Festivals Ltd.
Residents living around the Park – and on routes between Bethnal Green and Mile End tube stations and the Park – have had to put up with extreme noise disturbance, anti-social behaviour and crime over recent summers as the Mayor has increased the number of commercial events in the Park to raise money. They and local councillors had asked the Mayor Lutfur Rahman to reconsider the number of events and how they were run.
Instead Rahman has ignored their complaints, and has let the contract to Lovebox Festivals Ltd – the company which runs the Lovebox event, which has caused most problems in previous years. Figures unearthed by Councillor Peck show that the Lovebox event was responsible for a huge 155% increase in crime in Bow last July, including a doubling of robbery and a 50% increase in violent crime. In 2012, when Lovebox was held in June, overall crime rose that month by 176%.
The contract includes a new Lovebox Festival in August, running the risk that future summers will be doubly disturbed for local residents.
Cllr Peck said: “Victoria Park is one of our borough’s gems, yet for local residents summers have become a misery, as Lutfur Rahman uses the Park for more and more commercial events. The huge increase in crime each time these events are on demonstrates the impact on local people so it’s a kick in the teeth that Rahman has awarded control of these events to the same company which has caused most problems previously.”
In response to residents’ concerns, the Full Council passed a motion in May 2013 that would have limited the number of events to six per year, finished them at 10pm and made sure that there were at least two weekends between events to give residents some respite. At the time, Rahman’s Cabinet showed their contempt for local people by suggesting that residents who didn’t like the events should move out.
Now Mayor Lutfur Rahman has ignored all of these restrictions and let a contract that allows more than seven days of festivals, a finishing time of 11pm and the potential for events to be run very close together, keeping large swathes of the park out of use for long periods of the summer.
Research by Cllr Peck also shows that funding from events in the Park – that used to be largely ring-fenced to Victoria Park – has been consistently taken out of the area. In 2010, 73% of funds earned from commercial events in the Park was reinvested in the Park or free events held there for residents. This figure dropped to 40% in 2011, and by last year was just 29%. This despite the fact that the Mayor is making dramatically more money from the Park – up from £425,000 in 2010 to £679,000 in 2012.
Mile End & Globe Town Councillor, Amy Whitelock Gibbs, said:
“In the past local residents could live with the disruption caused by commercial events as at least the earnings from these were reinvested into the park and free community events, like the popular fireworks and Paradise Gardens. Lutfur Rahman has cancelled both of those events in Vicky Park and now diverts almost three quarters of funding earned by the park to other priorities and other parts of the borough, while wasting taxpayers money on his personal advisers. He is now just using Victoria Park as a cash cow, totally ignoring the people who live there.”
Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs said:
“I have made clear that, if I’m elected, I will review this contract and make sure that the views of local people are taken into account. Lovebox Festivals should be clear that they are on notice. It would be outrageous for the current Mayor to let a contract which cannot be easily revised if he is replaced next May, as this is likely to be a serious election issue.”
Local resident and chair of the Victoria Park Friends Group, Richard Desmond, said:
“With so many local residents and park users being affected by events in the park, the Victoria Park Friends Group endorsed the approach of the council in setting some sensible restrictions on events and I'm disappointed these have been ignored?”