by Lutfur Rahman
Last night’s Panorama, The Mayor and Our Money presented by John Ware, was trailed as shining the spotlight on my mayoralty administration in the East End. Viewers will have been disappointed to have been treated to nothing more than half an hour of rehashed allegations, dredged up by my political opponents on the eve of the local elections.
The principal allegation, that I had disproportionately and secretively channeled grant funding to the Bangladeshi community is laughable: only 8 per cent of grants under my leadership have gone to Bangladeshi organisations. British Bangladeshis make up 32 per cent of the local population so arguably these organisations actually receive less than they should.
It was said that the decision-making process was ‘behind closed doors’ and unaccountable, but these decisions actually went to four public cabinet meetings, three grants panels and two opposition scrutiny hearings.
My Labour opponents used their airtime to attack me for failing to answer questions in council. Their double standards are staggering. I have answered 31 questions since I was elected and in the same period my Labour counterparts in Hackney in Newham have answered two and none respectively.
And finally we were told that the council’s freesheet was a latter-day Pravda. So partisan is East End Life that when we covered the welfare cuts, I had half a page to attack them and we gave over the other half to the Conservative Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to argue in their defence!
These allegations are palpably wide of the mark, but I suppose I should be pleased that they do not go as far as the Dispatches documentary before the last local elections which insinuated, unbelievably, that I was an Islamist hell-bent on bringing Sharia law to London.
East-enders treated these smears with the contempt they deserved and gave me a landslide victory as an independent, and since then we’ve delivered more new homes than any other council in Britain, reinstated the scrapped education maintenance allowance, kept free homecare for the elderly, been named Britain’s cleanest borough by Keep Britain Tidy and introduced university bursaries for youngsters who are bright but poor. Record education results buck the national trend of decline. We’ve increased youth spending, refused to pass on benefit cuts, opened new libraries rather than closed existing ones and invested millions in new police officers to offset London-wide cuts. That’s what this Mayor has done with your money!