1. Get rid of the commissioners
There are four commissioners who have been effectively running Tower Hamlets before and after Lutfur Rahman’s expulsion. They were imposed to stop his excesses and body block his misrule. They were necessary then but undemocratic. Mayor Biggs must persuade them the ballot box has given him a clear mandate to take back the reins.
2. Get the books in order
Lutfur Rahman’s widespread use of public money to fund his friends and furnish his office gave the impression that the council coffers were overflowing. They are not. Harsh cuts loom. Mayor Biggs must restore credibility to the finances, cut out the waste (chauffeurs, consultants, East End Life) and start the tough business of bringing rigour to the process of balancing the books with the guiding principle of funding hope, not fear, unity not division.
3. Bring the community together
Lutfur Rahman’s figleaf project One Tower Hamlets was always one of the more overblown and disregarded initiatives – yet the project is central to the ability of the new mayor to govern. He must bring together the different communities that make up Tower Hamlets, and different factions within the council chamber, effect a workable reconciliation and govern for all. Mr Biggs must ensure that, by providing a solid effective council, parties such as Tower Hamlets First need not exist again and the politics of people like Lutfur Rahman cannot take root.
4. Get planning under control
Good planning is at the heart of regeneration. The growth of tower blocks and the intensive development of places like South Quay are not, in themselves, a bad thing – indeed, they are, in principle, welcome. However, there has never been confidence in the notion of an overall strategy that manages the needs of communities, new and old, and the requirement for commensurate public services – schools, health and transport. The Isle of Dogs is not a cash cow.
5. Look outwards
Tower Hamlets’ inability to be fully part of the east London regeneration story, highlighted by the wasted Olympic Legacy, has been embarrassing and costly. While neighbouring boroughs like Newham and Hackney present a modern face to the world, pulling investment to fund their social programmes, Tower Hamlets has been insular and backward. Mr Biggs must be in the front rank of discussions to devolve power to the region and make the borough a beacon for progressive, modern and enlightened policies.