Tower Hamlets Council meeting ends in chaos

By Giles Broadbent on February 24, 2011 12:30 PM |

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A vital budget meeting aimed at setting the seal on millions of pounds of cuts in Tower Hamlets ended in chaos and confusion last night.

During a fractious meeting, two protesters were ejected from the public gallery and, just before the vital debate and vote, the gallery was cleared entirely when a war of words erupted.

This morning it emerged that no decision had been reached and the council would have to reconvene on March 8 to do it all again.

The meeting began in fractious mood as the council inched into new territory - both the scale of the cuts and the party divisions were unprecedented. Mayor Lutfur Rahman and his small ruling cabal of independents squared up to a Labour grouping unused to opposition.

A protest and march before the meeting had brought out police who remained to keep security tight. Members of the public required tickets and hand-stamps to gain access to the meeting.

As The Wharf tweeted last night, the dispute arose when a councillor complained that she had been threatened by a member of the public during an adjournment. The chair named the perpetrator and asked him to leave at which point his supporters began barracking the meeting.

Council officials - with police in the background but not intervening - tried to persuade the incensed cluster to leave to no avail. The meeting was brought to order and the chair Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman announced that he may have named the wrong men.

However, the group, even more irate now, were still asked to leave and when they refused, despite the intervention of the chief executive Kevan Collins, the chair order the entire public gallery should be cleared.

Despite polarised opinions, Mayor Rahman said he was seeking cross-party consensus on the budget required saying: "We have found the £30million cuts we have to make for this year." He also unveiled a deal which would see 21 extra police officers placed across the borough.