How much money can one spend in 100 days in office? ConservativeHome carry a piece this morning revealing how the Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman certainly hasn’t exercised spending restraint during his short time in office, with a seeming lack of respect for those who pay for it all.
Information revealed through Freedom of Information requests show the Mayor’s diary, which revealed that on countless occasions he did not turn up for work at the Town Hall until lunchtime – quite shocking considering he is being paid £65,000 per year.
Mr. Rahman seems keen to peddle his message to residents, as documents reveal he booked regular sessions with the Head of Communications to “look at the proposed news list for East End Life” a taxpayer funded council publication that often costs over £100,000 per annum to print and distribute. Harry Phibbs also notes that Mr Rahman has surrounded himself with a team of core supporters and those who have not shown loyalty to him have been frozen out.
One of the more shocking revelations was that one of Mr Rahman’s first acts as Mayor was to send council officers to Covent Garden, presumably to the new Apple Store, to purchase
two new of the brand new iPhone 4 handsets. One for himself and the other for his deputy, costing a meagre £600 each. An FOI request then revealed that the Council’s Head of Communications had banned responses to a press query about the phones – not a promising sign in the supposed age of transparency. (An act not dissimilar to that of Suffolk Council who removed a petition from their website urging the council’s Chief Executive to take a pay-cut.)
On top of his profligate spending, it also appears that it took Mr. Rahman over a month to appoint a cabinet, “leaving council departments with a combined budget of £1.3billion rudderless.”
The mayor showed further lack of regard to local taxpayers by adding numerous staff to his private office, including a Head of Mayor’s Office, on a salary of £60,000. He seems to have little awareness of the current financial situation and to the needs of his electorate.
It really is an impressive list of slip-ups for such a short space of time. Let’s hope the next 100 aren’t so lavish, as residents have to wait until the next election to show their dissatisfaction.
But revelations like this show the power of Freedom of Information requests. I wrote a piece explaining how important and indispensible they have become in holding government to account, particularly in keeping a check on how councils spend our money.