Separate motions submitted by Aspire, Labour and Green about the Israel-Hamas conflict were ruled outside Tower Hamlets Council’s business and will not be heard at next week’s full Council meeting.
Tower Hamlets Aspire, Labour and Green party motions supporting a ceasefire in Gaza have been ruled outside of the Council’s business and will not be heard at the Full Council meeting on Wednesday 15 November.
Yesterday (Thursday 9 November) Aspire and Labour Groups released separate motions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and expressing support for a peaceful two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.
Both motions condemn the attacks on Israeli civilians on 7 October and emphasize the importance of community cohesion in Tower Hamlets, where Antisemitism and Islamophobia should have no place.
Councillor Nathalie Bienfait submitted a notion on behalf of Tower Hamlets Green Party calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and to resolve division in our borough. The Tower Hamlets Lib Dems have also expressed their support for a ceasefire in Westminster.
Despite this rare display of cross-party agreement in the borough, all three motions were rejected by the Council’s monitoring officer, Janet Fasan, on the basis that they are outside of the Council’s remit. They will not be heard at the Full Council meeting on Wednesday 15 November.
When a motion is heard by the full Council, there are debates for up to 30 minutes on a specific subject with a vote at the end on whether to adopt the motion or not.
Section 11A of Tower Hamlets Council constitution states that: ‘A motion must be about a matter for which the Council has a responsibility or which affect the area. The Monitoring Officer may reject a motion if it:
(a) is not about a matter for which the local authority has a responsibility either directly or with its partners;
(b) does not contain a clear action or resolution which is within the power of the Authority to pursue.
(c) is defamatory, frivolous or offensive or otherwise unsuitable;’
Andrew Wood, former Conservative counsellor for Canary Wharf, said: ‘Councils have no foreign policy powers nor expertise. Government and Parliament are responsible for national and international issues, Tower Hamlets for local issues.’
Yet all proposed motions include calls to work with the local community to make sure all residents of Tower Hamlets feel safe, regardless of their religious or national background.
Bienfait said: ‘My main priority is that I want everyone in Tower Hamlets to remain and feel safe in the borough and that is what my motion was directed at. It is deeply frustrating that the council officers have decided to not accept the motions on this topic which is so important for so many in Tower Hamlets.
‘I would have loved to have had the opportunity to pass a motion to put pressure on our national leaders to support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Now, we must be content to publish statements which have much less significance than an officially agreed and published motion.’
Aspire Group’s motion notes: ‘That Tower Hamlets has a long and proud history of being a safe haven for Muslim and Jewish as well as other minority communities, and the events of the last few weeks have caused considerable distress to our residents.’
Labour’s motion adds: ‘We value our strong community harmony and our togetherness when it comes to fighting racism: from the Battle of Cable Street to standing in the face of right-wing extremism.’
Peter Golds, Tower Hamlets’ only Conservative counsellor, has not spoken publicly about the conflict, and the national Conservative party does not support a ceasefire.
Across the UK, at least 330 labour councillors have signed a letter urging Kier Starmer to back a ceasefire in Gaza, though he has not done so.
For more local politics, find our deep dive into Mayor Rahman’s anti-austerity budget.
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