Tower Hamlets Labour Group has agreed the following motion, regarding the Community Language Service in Tower Hamlets. Also available below is the response from Mayor John Biggs to a council petition on the subject.


Motion on the Community Language Service

Proposer: Mayor John Biggs

Seconder: Councillor Kahar Chowdhury

This Group notes the continuing anxiety about the proposed changes to the Community Language Service, and its impact on the communities of the borough.

This Group resolves:

  1. That the Labour Group has an agreed position to support the budget including the CLS savings but notes that the first year saving of £31k from the CLS only reflects savings achieved by not recruiting to posts which become vacant while a review of the service is undertaken.
  2. That the Mayor and Lead Member establish a working group to undertake a review the Community Language Service. The review will look at where sustainable alternatives can be put in place, for example by exploring the possibility of introducing a limited financial contribution from those who use the service or by working with voluntary organisations. The objective of such a review will be to continue the provision of community languages in Tower Hamlets with a high-quality and sustainable teaching model delivered in a more cost-effective manner.
  3. That other than the savings resulting from not filling vacant posts, the Mayor commits there will not be further savings from the CLS until proposals for the future of the service have been bought to Labour Group later this year for discussion before any decision progresses to Cabinet for approval.
  4. That any significant changes to the CLS will be subject to consultation and an equalities impact assessment.

The motion was agreed.



Thank you for this petition.

We note that tomorrow is of course International Mother Language Day.

As Mayor, I  reaffirm, and my Labour colleagues do too, our support for the work of many community organisations to support community language teaching in the different communities in Tower Hamlets for whom English is not the mother tongue.

The retention of community language by those who choose to send their children to these classes can be an important part of identity and can help strengthen our borough, alongside other initiatives and programmes to strengthen community cohesion.

I and my colleagues note the petition and the concerns expressed about community language teaching. We recognise that although there is a need to achieve savings in the Council’s budgets and no service can be immune from these there are genuine concerns among supporters of mother tongue teaching about the scale of savings proposed over the next three years.

Let me be clear. There is no plan to close the CLS but given the scale of Government cuts, we do need, like with other council services, to consider other ways of delivering the service.

The budget proposals being debated by the council tonight include a small saving in 2019/20 for the CLS, which we think can be quite easily achieved through the management of staff vacancies. This is common in local government.

For years two and three of the proposed savings we will engage with community groups in a full consultation on any changes. The savings are indicative, and all options will be considered before a final decision is made.

It is however difficult, as most people in the Borough understand, to provide funding guarantees for any area of the Council’s budget but we do intend to continue to support community language projects in Tower Hamlets, in partnership with the groups who provide the tuition.

Mayor John Biggs


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