Government restores powers to Tower Hamlets council following ‘progress’ on extremism concerns

The government is to restore powers to Tower Hamlets council in East London – a year after taking control following allegations of corruption, extremism and homophobia.

Last year, then-Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles used powers granted under the Local Government Act 1999 to take over the administration of the east London council, after an inquiry found evidence of poor conduct.

He said at the time: “The abuse of taxpayers’ money reflects a partisan approach to politics that seeks to spread favours and sow divisions. Such behaviour is to the detriment of integration and community cohesion in Tower Hamlets and in our capital city.

“This is a borough where there have been widespread allegations of extremism, homophobia and anti-Semitism has been allowed to fester without proper challenge.”

A year on, the government has confirmed that it will hand the power back – with new Local Government Secretary Greg Clark praising improvements made in the area, following the election of new Mayor John Biggs.

He said: “I’m pleased with the progress that has been made in Tower Hamlets over the last six months, which will help restore the community’s confidence in how their area is being run.

“t means I am confident that, from this weekend, John Biggs can now be left to take on the day-to-day running of the borough as the mayor.

“But our four commissioners will remain in place, and I will not hesitate to take action if progress stalls and the governance of Tower Hamlets falls short.”

Mayor John Biggs said: “I welcome this vote of confidence. With a new management team in place we are putting the past behind us.

“The day-to-day work of the council is not particularly about politics but about providing excellent services and that’s what we will do.

“Our community needs it and our staff want to deliver it too. We need to work hard to support a stronger and more united community. Tower Hamlets is and remains the most exciting place in London.”

Tower Hamlets has long had issues with allegations of homophobia – with Conservative councillor Peter Golds experiencing homophobia in the council chamber.

In December last year, anti-gay posters appeared in the borough, targeting a gay former Liberal Democrat councillor.

In 2011, a man was fined for putting up stickers in the borough declaring Tower Hamlets a “gay free zone”.