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Clark hands back day-to-day running of Tower Hamlets to mayor

The Government is to hand back powers to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets but its commissioners will remain in post, Communities Secretary Greg Clark has said.

Clark’s predecessor, Sir Eric Pickles, appointed commissioners in December 2014 to oversee certain aspects of the running of the local authority.

This followed a report by external investigators that found the council had failed to comply with its best value duty in a number of areas.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said this week that the commissioners “will no longer have the power to directly run the council, but will continue to carry out some functions and will oversee further improvements, which will be led by the mayor”.

In a letter to Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs, Clark welcomed the progress made “to address the entrenched problems at the council”.

He added that the commissioners would oversee continued improvement at Tower Hamlets. They will continue their original remit, which is to:

  • oversee an improvement plan covering communications, procurement, property disposals, organisational cultural change;
  • strengthen the authority’s core governance arrangements;
  • take over the authority’s grant making functions;
  • exercise the authority’s functions of appointing an electoral registration officer and a returning officer for local elections.

The Communities Secretary 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.

“It 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.”

Tower Hamlets welcomed Clark’s announcement, saying it marked a turning point in establishing healthy governance and rebuilding public trust.

Mayor 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.”

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