Inspection into the governance of Tower Hamlets council and subsequent intervention

Documents relating to the statutory inspection and intervention in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

This page collates all the publications relating to the inspection carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) of the governance of Tower Hamlets council conducted under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999 and subsequent intervention.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced an independent inspection of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on 4 April 2014 after he received documents which made serious allegations about poor governance and financial management at the council.

In announcing his decision to Parliament, Eric Pickles expressed concern about a pattern of divisive community politics and alleged mismanagement of public money by the mayoral administration in Tower Hamlets.

The deadline for the inspection was extended in June 2014 after PwC informed the Secretary of State that the council was delaying the investigation through a failure to provide information on time or at all.

The PwC report was published on 4 November 2014, which found evidence of serious irregularities and a lack of transparency over the awarding of public grants and disposal of public buildings.

Along with a written ministerial statement to Parliament, and after careful consideration, the Secretary of State made an oral statement in the House of Commons on 4 November 2014 in which he proposed:

  • the appointment of 3 commissioners until March 2017 to ensure that the council complies with its best value to duty to taxpayers
  • that these commissioners would be responsible for grant making
  • that the council obtain the agreement of the commissioners before disposing any further public property other than housing
  • that the council prepares a plan for how its publicity functions can be properly exercised
  • that the commissioners appoint the council’s Electoral Registration Officer and Returning Officer for elections
  • and that the council work with the commissioners on a plan to address the weaknesses identified in the PwC report

In a letter to the council of 4 November, the Secretary of State sought, and has now received, undertakings from Tower Hamlets council that it would not make any new grant payments or appoint any statutory officers to the authority until decisions on any intervention package are made by the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State also sought information from the council about any planned property disposals in the next few weeks. In the light of information provided by the council, on 7 November he sought further information and undertakings to ensure value for money is not at risk on specific property disposals. He has now received these undertakings.

Tower Hamlets council had until 18 November to make representations on the inspector’s report and the Secretary of State’s intervention proposals.

On 17 December 2014 the Secretary of State confirmed that he was sending in commissioners and named Sir Ken Knight CBE QFSM, the former London Fire Commissioner and Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor to the government, as the lead commissioner and Max Caller CBE, the then Chairman of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, as a supporting commissioner. The team, with immediate effect, took control of grant making within the council and responsibility for appointing an Electoral Registration Officer and Returning Officer for local elections.

Following the Election Court’s removal of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets from office and in consultation with the commissioners and Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, on 29 April 2015 the Secretary of State announced that he was proposing additional intervention powers for the commissioners to order Tower Hamlets to take any actions needed to safeguard good governance throughout the council until a new mayor and top officer team are in place and fully bedded in. The Secretary of State has also issued a Direction requiring the council to appoint, through open competition, a Head of Paid Service, and appointed 2 further commissioners (Chris Allison CBE and Alan Wood CBE) to join the existing commissioner team.

On 6 May 2015, additional directions were issued by the Secretary of State in accordance with his powers under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999 extending the commissioners’ powers to take any actions needed to ensure good governance and effective financial management in the Borough.

An accompanying covering letter set out the circumstances in which the Secretary of State made these additional directions, his reasons for this exercise of his powers, and the implications of the additional directions for the authority. In a letter to the Mayor of Tower Hamlets on 23 October 2015, the Secretary of State welcomed the progress the council had made over the previous 6 months and announced that the 6 May Directions would expire on 31 October.

On 2 December 2016 the Secretary of State wrote to the Mayor of Tower Hamlets to propose a revised intervention package for the council which would return the grants function and end commissioner oversight of the council’s procurement processes and practices.

Further details are available via the links below:

2017 documents

2016 document

2015 documents

2014 documents

  1. Secretary of State sends in commissioners to Tower Hamlets

    • Press release
  2. Local government improvement

    • Written statement to Parliament
  3. Letter to Tower Hamlets council: property disposal transactions

    • Correspondence
  4. Intervention in Tower Hamlets

    • Government response
  5. Letter to Tower Hamlets council: property disposals and transfers

    • Correspondence
  6. Letter to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets

    • Correspondence
  7. Best value inspection of London Borough of Tower Hamlets

    • Independent report
  8. London Borough of Tower Hamlets council inspection

    • Oral statement to Parliament
  9. London Borough of Tower Hamlets council: written statement

    • Written statement to Parliament
  10. Letter from Paul Rowsell to Tower Hamlets

    • Correspondence
  11. Letter to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP extending Tower Hamlets inspection

    • Correspondence
  12. Letter appointing PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP to investigate Tower Hamlets

    • Correspondence
  13. Letter from Sir Bob Kerslake to Tower Hamlets

    • Correspondence
  14. Inspectors appointed to investigate London borough of Tower Hamlets

    • Press release
Published 4 November 2014
Last updated 29 October 2015 + show all updates
  1. Added government response to Tower Hamlets best value action plan updates.
  2. Added 'Additional directions to the council of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and related documents'.
  3. Added 'Directions to the council of the London borough of Tower Hamlets and related documents', associated press release and written ministerial statement.
  4. Added updated information on undertakings received and 'Letter to Tower Hamlets council: property disposal transactions'.
  5. Added 'Letter to Tower Hamlets council: property disposals and transfers'.
  6. Added update on the requested undertaking from Tower Hamlets on grant making and the appointment of statutory officers.
  7. Added explanatory text.
  8. First published.