Taxi row led to us losing vote say councillors

New mayor Cllr Naseem Ayub, with Cllrs Mohammad Ayub, Tahir Khan, Asma Rathore, Mohammed Riaz and Raja Saleem
New mayor Cllr Naseem Ayub, with Cllrs Mohammad Ayub, Tahir Khan, Asma Rathore, Mohammed Riaz and Raja Saleem

The new Luton mayor and a Labour colleague have hit back at criticisms of their achievements as councillors.

The town’s first Asian woman mayor, Biscot councillor Naseem Ayub, said: “Integrity is everything and shows in your values.

“I believe in how you treat people is really important, and I don’t usually allow someone else’s bitterness to change who I am.

“I want to thank everyone who supports me and encourages me to continue with efforts to make Luton better.”

Former mayor and fellow Labour Biscot councillor Tahir Khan blamed their deselection on a taxi-related issue linked to London Luton Airport.

“It makes you upset, annoyed and disappointed,” he said. “But what more can you do?

“People are disgruntled with the council over the taxi issue at the airport. It’s  the responsibility of the airport, not the council.

“I think some party members were misled by people in relation to that.

“If I wasn’t doing my job right, how come I was selected for three consecutive terms of office?” he asked.

“I am disappointed that I have been deselected. That’s my opinion of it.”

It’s emerged that councillor Ayub’s husband, Mohammad, stood aside from the selection process a few days before the vote.

She said: “Naturally I chose to contest in my own ward first, but was  unsuccessful.

“I have supported the ‘waste less, recycle more’ campaign and the Keep Luton Tidy campaign, where only recently in the Biscot ward we had all roads coming off Biscot Road ‘deep cleansed’.

“I have led on initiatives in HighTown to eliminate vice issues, and on the fight against domestic abuse which saw Luton awarded ‘white ribbon town status’.

“I have championed women’s issues in the town, whether it’s forced marriages, FGM, or honour based violence.

“And encouraging women to learn speaking English as an enabler to integrate and become part of society,” she added.

“I have addressed drugs issues in the ward, knife and gun crime, and I chair the ‘Prevent’ group which addresses extremist elements in the town whether they are on the political left or from the far right.

“Come what may, as first citizen of the town, I will continue in what I believe is the right thing to do, and serve the town to the best of my ability, and dedicate my time promoting Luton in the positive way it deserves.”

Three sitting Labour councillors were also deselected in Saints ward just over a week ago.

Councillor Khan said: “As a councillor, I have been serving my ward to the best of my ability.

“I am at the forefront of dealing with any kind of extremism people have. I have always mobilised the community to speak against them.

“I have tried to keep the community calm, and keep peace in the town.”

His achievements include being a founder of The Centre for Youth and Community Development in Bury Park.

As mayor in 2016/17, he raised a record sum of £21,000 for his chosen charities of Keetch Hospice Care and Macmillan Cancer Support.

He said they were aware of “an organised attempt” to deselect them as Labour candidates, and described a “different atmosphere” at the meeting.

At Biscot and Saints, “four of those selected were taxi drivers, and one was the wife of a taxi driver.”

He confirmed he would be looking to seek the party’s support in other wards, where there may be some vacancies.

“I want to remain in the Labour Party,” he explained. “Justice and fairness, that’s what I stick by.”

A spokesman for the East of England Labour Party said: “Labour candidates are democratically selected by local Labour Party members.

“We are satisfied that this process took place in line with Labour’s rules and procedures.”