Mayor of 'impoverished' Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman under fire for use of taxpayer-funded taxis, including a £121 journey that would have cost just £2.10 and taken 12 minutes on the DLR

Lutfur Rahman is a controversial figure who was expelled by the Labour Party for alleged links to Islamic extremism

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The Independent Online

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has come under criticism for his use of taxis funded by the taxpayer.

Information obtained under freedom of information laws revealed Lutfur Rahman, an already controversial figure accused of links to Islamic extremism, made a series of expensive claims for short journeys within the impoverished London borough.

One journey is said to have cost £71 despite the vehicle only travelling a distance of 400 metres, while a journey from the council’s headquarters near Blackwall Tunnel to the Tower of London is said to have cost £121.

Analysis found Mr Rahman could have made the latter journey in around 12 minutes door-to-door using the Docklands Light Railway, at a cost of just £2.10.

Mr Rahman, who is Tower Hamlets’ first directly-elected mayor, claimed he needed to use taxis as he found “public transport impractical due to the urgency between meetings”.

The Evening Standard reported, however, that the journey was logged at 11.30am, right in the middle of a relative quiet patch between the morning and afternoon rush hours in London.

Over a six-month period Mr Rahman clocked up taxi expenses of £2,800, despite the fact the council were in the middle of cutting services by around £70 million.

Councillor Peter Golds, Conservative group leader on Tower Hamlets, said: “The Rahman administration is forever complaining about cuts, yet these trips were made when there was abundant public transport.

“Lutfur Rahman drives around in a Mercedes car, yet also needs official transport to and from his home. And in one case to cross the Whitechapel Road – a journey that takes about one minute. I shall be referring this to the District Auditor and the Secretary of State.”

It is not the first time Mr Rahman, who was expelled by the Labour Party for his alleged links to Islamic extremism, has been criticised for his use of publicly-funded travel.

According to the Evening Standard, it emerged in 2011 that he charged the public £72-a-day to hire a top-of-the-range E-Class Mercedes and chauffeur to drive him around London, at an estimated annual cost of £60,000.

At the time Mr Rahman claimed that the number of appointments he had to attend in any one day, and the need to work while on the move, meant using public transport did not allow him to perform his role in the most effective way.

The elected mayors of neighbouring Hackney and Newham are said to rely on their own cars or public transport.

It was also revealed Mr Rahman had links to a controversial Bangladeshi TV channel which provided him with such favourable political coverage that regulator Ofcom ruled some of its programmes illegal.

Last month a report found four in 10 children in Tower Hamlets live in poverty - the UK’s worst-hit area - and local residents suffer some of the highest mortality rates in the country.

According to documents obtained by the Evening Standard, Mr Rahman once called a cab to pick him up from a McDonalds on Commercial Road and ferry him to his office. The charge for that journey was £28.

On another occasion the mayor ordered a cab and left the meter running for 45 minutes, costing the taxpayer £61.

That journey was eventually cancelled without Mr Rahman returning to the vehicle.

One round-trip to the House of Lords from Tower Hamlets’ headquarters cost £98 in the middle of the day, when using the Jubilee Line would have taken around 22 minutes in each direction at a total cost of £4.20.

Not all of the taxi fares were quite so expensive, however.

Mr Rahman also claimed £4 for a taxi ride from Brick Lance to the East London mosque - a journey said to take less than two minutes by foot.

A Tower Hamlets spokesperson said: “The Mayor undertakes a range of duties as he works to represent residents across the borough. This often requires him to get from one point to another quickly and efficiently and this simply isn’t always possible by public transport.

“The Council will not pay for a taxi unless public transport is not available, is inappropriate (e.g. late at night) or impractical in a particular case due to urgency.”