Councillor donates allowance

A Redbridge councillor is donating his wages from the council to community groups offering extra support during the cost-of-living crisis.

Economist Tanweer Khan, 52, says he “can’t justify” taking his allowance when so many residents and local groups are struggling financially.

He plans to donate £7,000 altogether – his approximate earnings after tax deductions – and gave the first £1,000 to cancer charity Sue’s House in Mayfield, the ward he represents.

Cllr Khan told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “A couple of volunteers there have left or died but their work carries on.

“It would be a shame to lose an organisation like that because there’s no funding.”

Sue’s House is based in a semi-detached house in Dawlish Drive, offering support to cancer patients such as counselling, yoga, Reiki healing and acupuncture.

The charity’s chair Suhaila Tauheed said it is funded by donations and run by volunteers, often people who received its support in the past.

She added: “The only people paid are the gardener, window washer and cleaner when we don’t do it ourselves.

“We’re finding it really difficult to get therapists because they are volunteers. Because of the cost-of-living crisis, everybody wants to be paid and we can’t afford therapists.

“But we never turn anyone away, we always try to accommodate them.”

Suhaila showed the LDRS a sign asking for minimum donations of £10 for counselling, which she recently put up with a “heavy heart”.

She first encountered the centre 14 years ago when it supported a family member, which inspired her to become a volunteer counsellor and later chair.

She said: “When people come it’s not clinical, it’s very much like being with family members.

“Volunteers are often patients who have been there and know what it’s like, we treat patients with respect.”

Cllr Khan, elected in May last year, has also donated to the Sikh Empowerment Voluntary Association, which offers free food outside Ilford police station at 8pm on Tuesdays; youth charity Frenford Clubs; the Salvation Army and two primary schools in his ward.

He told the LDRS he grew up in Pendle, Lancashire before moving to east London in the 1980s.

He said his interest in politics developed after a racist attack in 1987 that left him with a permanently damaged eye.

The police arrested two suspects that night but decided not to press charges a few weeks later.

He described the attack, which took place in the second year of his A-levels, as “complete” knock-back to his education. He experienced repeated delays waiting for surgery and was eventually discharged by King George Hospital, despite ongoing double-vision and headaches

He said: “At the time I was getting a lot of issues… and I struggled to concentrate.

“I couldn’t do my A-levels properly and I had to re-do them but then my family also got evicted from our council house in Redbridge.

“So I got a job and then did my first degree part-time in the evenings.

“I realised that the NHS was struggling and we needed to get better resources… if I wasn’t told about Moorfields [Eye Hospital], god knows where I would be now.

“So I’m always out there to get people justice and fairness.”

Cllr Khan completed a master’s degree in entrepreneurship at Cambridge University in 2020.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter