Brown paper bags? Corruption, investigations, evidence gathering, helping people to jail
What do Councillors actually do?
On the 5th May you will be electing a new set of Councillors so this is the 1st of a series about the skill sets required, what your elected Councillors might have to do, if you do not think a person is able or willing to do this kind of work then you should not elect them.
I am currently helping three active Police investigations - one is going to trial this summer, one is underway, and I am hoping the Police will arrest somebody soon, and one investigation has just started - as a result, I cannot say very much for now.
In all three I have had to provide the Police with evidence and background information. In one of them, I was the 1st to spot something odd which later led to an investigation. In the other 2, I am following up on other complaints.
And as a reminder three Tower Hamlets Councillors have gone to jail for fraud in the last 10 years although the 3 cases above do not directly involve other politicians (although 2 are political).
We also had a high-profile court case last year where it was clear fraud had taken place just not by whom.
Over the years Cllr Peter Golds and I have received a number of tip-offs about issues and have had to investigate. For example, why was a Cllr able to buy a new 2nd/3rd/4th? property for £850k in cash for example? (I believe legally)
But why do we investigate?, it is not our job to do this.
Because if we don't often nobody else will, so we often have to collate evidence or ask questions in order to get a case to a state where somebody else will investigate it.
Generally, the Police / Council won't investigate unless the evidence is really solid (which it rarely is).
And by the way, all of these cases are after Lutfur Rahman was removed (except the 1st jailing of a Cllr).
Brown paper bags?
For years I have downplayed accusations that planning permissions are bought via cash contributions to Cllrs, Tower Hamlets Council is so pro-development that it would be pointless for a developer to take the risk. The Council grant nearly every permission because as a Council they make so much money from development.
But given what happened after the 2017 Sunday Times story about alleged corruption at Alpha Square and recent events. I am no longer so sure. I do think there is something happening and we have received a number of allegations about planning applications on the Isle of Dogs. That the Councillors making the decisions do not make the decisions with an open mind but may enter the room already being supportive of the developer, why is unclear unless they benefit in some way.
And we also have Westferry Printworks, I do not think that was direct corruption in terms of a paper bag full of cash, but I do think Robert Jenrick was keen to develop a good relationship with Richard Desmond, to have him owe Jenrick a favour. Influence peddling that started at a dinner table.
And in 2017 a developer told Mayor John Biggs that somebody had approached him offering to buy the votes of 4 Councillors for £0.5 million each, the Alpha Square case, reported by the Sunday Times
What happened as a result? nothing, the Council and the Mayor sat on the story until told 8 months later that they had to report it to the Police.
The Police then never investigated it as far as I know.
We would never have known about it unless somebody involved leaked the story to the press. But because nothing happened I think others think they can get away with it now.
We then had the very mysterious ASDA funfair, the biggest mistake I have made in recent years was to tell the Council in advance about the allegations about ASDA, it meant Cllrs were warned off and no investigation resulted.
And more recently allegations about collusion at another development, that two Councillors were involved with an agent of the developer and were being paid. But although we have circumstantial evidence to support the allegation we have no proof.
The Council were informed after the meeting.
And again we have decision-makers attending events with multiple developers where there is little transparency about who is paying for what
But if you have more information then let Peter and I know
My email is
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