On 17 December 2014, my predecessor, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, issued specific, targeted directions to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets using his powers under Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999.
At that time a team of commissioners was appointed to exercise specific functions of the authority. Although initially progress was slow, more recently I have been pleased to return selected functions back to the council. I am now considering the overall progress of the council in anticipation of these directions ending on 31 March of this year.
In line with the council’s own expectations, I am considering withdrawing the three commissioners from the Borough and, in support of the recent progress made by the council, maintaining an oversight role through a new general direction. The new direction allows for continued oversight of electoral administration. The Government have invited expressions of interest from local authorities on piloting the use of ID in polling stations in the 2018 local elections. As part of wider steps to strengthen electoral integrity in the Borough, I would welcome Tower Hamlets’ participation.
I have received assurances from the Mayor of Tower Hamlets both in his fourth six-monthly report of 20 February, and in person on 27 February, that he is confident the council is now in a position to drive forward and deliver their own improvement agenda.
This view is endorsed by the commissioners in their report of 21 February which I have carefully considered and discussed with them on 27 February.
I am minded therefore to exercise my powers under Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999 to revoke the direction of 14 December 2014, end the role of commissioners in the council and hand back executive functions to the Executive Mayor with the proviso that the council delivers all outstanding actions in their best value action plan and the setting up of a best value improvement board as outlined in the Mayor’s letter of 1 March.
I am minded also to direct the council to provide quarterly reports against their best value action plans for a further 18 months; and at the end of this period to carry out an independent review of delivery. As with all councils, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets must abide by the best value duty.
This is a significant step forward for Tower Hamlets Council—it has made considerable progress over the past few months. I am pleased that the guidance of the commissioner team has played such a material role in putting Tower Hamlets on the right road to allow it to take on its rightful functions.
I am inviting the council to make representations on these proposals, which will be considered as part of my final decision.
I am placing a copy of the documents associated with these announcements in the Library of the House and on my Department’s website.