The Executive Mayoral system, as currently established for councils as opposed to regions, means that the work of councillors is both enhanced through scrutiny and yet diminished due to the powers that can be acquired and used by the person who is mayor.
Unsurprisingly, Tower Hamlets exhibited the worst of both of these positions between 2010-15.
When Labour’s John Biggs was elected in June 2015, he took control of an authority that had become a byword for incompetence, sleaze, and hidden decision making. During his first weeks, files requiring decisions and attention, some dating back months and even years, were presented to him to decide on matters which Lutfur Rahman had either shown no interest in or ignored. He also had to tackle the inherent lack of transparency and scrutiny. The latter had reached the point that by the end of the Rahman era, overview and scrutiny had such reduced funding that even basic officer support was minimal. As is well known, Lutfur Rahman refused to answer questions at council meetings on the advice of the former monitoring officer who ruled that a request for him to do so “raised human rights issues.”
Council members and the new mayor sought to put the past aside and steps were taken to introduce transparency to the council’s decision-making processes.