The invisible woman

15 May

Although some pitifully inadequate details of what the mayor’s chums are meant to be doing for their ‘special responsibility allowances’ have now been published, there is one group of advisors whose role remains a complete mystery: the lead community councillors.

There are nine of them:

  • Beckton – Cllr Ayesha Chowdhury (Beckton)
  • Custom House & Canning Town – Cllr Idris Ibrahim (Green St West)
  • East Ham – Cllr Lakmini Shah (East Ham South)
  • Forest Gate – Cllr Rohima Rahman (Green St East)
  • Green Street – Cllr Hanif Abdulmuhit (Green St West)
  • Manor Park – Cllr Salim Patel (Manor Park)
  • Plaistow – Cllr Forhad Hussain (Plaistow North)*
  • Royal Docks – Cllr Patrick Murphy (Royal Docks)
  • Stratford & West Ham – Cllr Mas Patel (Forest Gate South)

Each one pulls in an extra £6,679 a year. According to the published pay scale that means they are meant to spend a full day a week on their community leading duties.

As Sir Robin endlessly reminds us, Newham is facing the most savage cuts in funding of any council in the country, while at the same time having to cope with expanding demand for services. How can he justify handing out such large sums for vague, undefined, and apparently unaccountable responsibilities?

Forest Gate residents will be especially bemused. Despite having six councillors of our own, the lead councillor represents a ward in Green Street – where she also lives. What advice or insight could she possibly offer the mayor – who lives locally himself and has done for 20 years?

I’d recognise any of the Forest Gate councillors if I saw them in the street (or the Forest Tavern or CoffeE7, or at the station). In fact, I regularly do. But Cllr Rahman could punch me in the face and I’d have no idea who she was.

That may also be true of some of her colleagues. According to council records, In the 2014/15 municipal year, she turned up to just three of the eight meetings of the Health and Social Care scrutiny commission she sits on and not a single cabinet meeting. She attended four full meetings of council, although the minutes do not record her uttering a single word.

* Cllr Hussain also has two other mayoral appointments: Cabinet Member for Commercial Opportunities and Deputy Cabinet Lead for Building Communities. He therefore gets an allowance of £33,395 for working 5 days a week.

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