The future of an arts centre in Shoreditch has sparked a bitter war of words between the new mayor of Tower Hamlets and a group of councillors.
Tower Hamlets Council is set to decide whether to drop legal action against Rich Mix for failing to pay back a £1million loan originally given by the authority.
Independents have accused mayor John Biggs of making a deal in secret to write off the debt owed by Rich Mix, before Mr Biggs hit back, claiming the debt will not be written off, while stressing the importance of arts in communities.
Cllr Oli Rahman, leader of the Tower Hamlets Independent Group, said: “It has not been a month and the people of Tower Hamlets are already witnessing yet another hypocritical action by the Labour’s part-time mayor Biggs.
“After refusing to be scrutinised by the opposition at full council, he already seems to be paying back some favours behind closed doors.
“What happened to transparency and accountability? Unfortunately, Mr Biggs talks a good talk but is incapable of walking the walk.
“Now we know why he and his Labour Group rejected and shouted down our proposal to be scrutinised by opposition, as was the case when Labour was in opposition.”
Mr Biggs said dropping the litigation was a “no-brainer”, adding the council would actually save money under the new plans.
“Their claim is ridiculous,” he said. “Rather than writing off a debt it will now be repaid as we are releasing funds promised to Rich Mix years ago but held up by the previous mayor.
“The council gets its money back, rich mix gets funds to help strengthen its resilience, and a valuable community based asset is saved. Which was what was intended when the plan was put together.
“The alternative was that court action would risk the very existence of the centre with even less chance of the council getting its money back.
“We need a diverse arts scene in Tower Hamlets – it’s about the quality of life we can offer.”