Monday, May 22, 2017

Assaults against housing staff survey 2017

If you work in social housing please spend 10 minutes filling out this important Inside Housing annual survey here. Violence at work is a key issue. A member of my branch executive has only recently returned to work after several weeks off following an attack.

Constant low level abuse and threats can also result in real health problems for staff.

In order to do something about this you firstly you need to know what is the range and scale of the problem.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Campaigning in Forest Gate North & Ilford North 20 May 2017

Yesterday morning I started off campaigning in Forest Gate North with local Councillor, Anamul Islam and activists. It was also the first time that my wife, Gill, had actually knocked on doors and spoke to residents about supporting Labour.

It was the usual, rock solid and humbling Labour vote in Forest Gate.

The weather held out during the morning but on route to Ilford North to support marginal Labour Candidate, Wes Streeting,  there was a torrential downpour, which set the scene for the rest of the day.

West Ham Labour activists met up with our candidate, Lyn Brown, at the Ilford North HQ. Lyn had been out that morning with a number of different groups including West Ham Labour Women's Forum (see picture collage top left) who also turned up for afternoon Ilford North session led by the one and only, Cllr Seyi Akiwowo.

During the canvass in Ilford North the weather was on the whole a little wet but I think electors are impressed with canvassers who turn up to meet them and listen to their views regardless of the weather.

I got a shock while door knocking on at one home. I could see a dog's nose sticking out of a cat flap in a front door that Cllr Seyi had sent me to canvass. I thought nothing of it but when I knocked on the door the dog started barking violently and then stuck its whole head out of the cat flap! For a moment I thought it was coming out to get me and I jumped backward very quickly, much to the amusement of the team (see the wolf - bottom right).

Apart from that it was a largely positive canvass for Wes, with many residents saying they will support him due because he is a very good and active constituency MP. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Newham Council AGM 2017 (The Selfie)

This may not be very dignified but I do like this picture of some Newham Councillors after our Council Annual General Meeting on Thursday.

The meeting itself in the Old Stratford Town Hall was pretty formal. I missed the first bit since I had a General Election Agents meeting with the ERO at East Ham Town Hall. Long serving Councillors (25 years) Andrew Baikie (bottom left of photo) and Ian Corbett were given a present as was the Newham Young Mayor. The Newham Mayor spoke about his many achievements over the years.

Afterwards there was a drinks and canapes reception and this selfie was taken by our youngest Councillor, Seyi Akiwowo, on the stairs of the old Town Hall after an attempt to take to take a formal photograph of all councillors fell apart in confusion. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

"Why fossil fuel divestment isn't the answer"

Last month I went to a well attended public meeting on this topic in Forest Gate Coffee7 and a Chatham House rules seminar in the City. This article today in Professional Pensions reflects what I think and said at those meetings.

John Gray says it's better to reduce carbon exposure over a longer period while seeking suitable alternative investments

I am sure that many pension trustees will have been approached by both beneficiaries and climate change activists concerned about investments in fossil fuel industries. In local government the pension funds are often seen as belonging to the council so residents are also lobbying councillors and pension board members about divesting from carbon.
‎Like so many things about pensions, this topic is important but complex and definitely in the 'difficult box'. From my perspective as a councillor on one Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) and as a union-appointed pension board member on another, I firstly try to make it clear that local government pension funds belong to its active members, its deferred members, its pensioners and dependents. Not to the council and definitely not to councillors.
The fund must be invested in the interests of beneficiaries.
Secondly, unlike in the private sector, there is no Pension Protection Fund for the LGPS nor does it have an explicit crown promise like other public sector schemes. 
While it may be unthinkable for many good reasons to imagine an LGPS fund going bust, trustees and those responsible for pensions have to think the unthinkable and in reality, who really knows what will happen in the long term? Due to the LGPS employer contribution cap, if future pension cost is more than 13% then either staff will have to pay more or benefits will be reduced.
What campaigners, who are rightly deeply concerned about the risk of climate change, should be doing is not just lobbying councillors and their officers, but building links and engaging with council staff and their trade unions. It is after all their deferred pay, their pension future, their money.
This doesn't mean that council pension funds should not be examining both the real financial risks ‎of investing in carbon industries but also be conscious of the impending Armageddon of our planet if we do not control our carbon emissions. 
Existing investments in carbon are usually valued on the basis of their proven reserves of coal, oil or gas. It is becoming clear that much of these reserves may never be mined or pumped out, since if they were to do so it would burn the planet. These so called 'stranded assets' are therefore likely to destroy the value of investments in carbon industries.
While to me the case for disinvestment in carbon is unanswerable, I do not feel divestment is the answer. Many calls for divestment want pension funds to sell all their carbon investments within five years. Disinvestment is a call to reduce exposure to carbon over a longer period while seeking suitable alternative investments.
It is probable that the use of fossil fuels will continue but hopefully we will see a significant reduction. It is arguable that at this time there are not sufficient alternative 'green' energy investment opportunities available. This will change but when?
I also feel tactically that calling for the divestment rather than disinvestment from carbon will play into the hands of climate change and other ESG sceptics in the industry, who would relish the opportunity to attack and rubbish total divestment, when they know that the case for disinvestment over time is so powerful.
Do not underestimate the resistance to such change in the industry. While there is much good practice, many professional practitioners may 'talk the talk' on climate change issues but are in reality 'greenwashing'. Beware!
John Gray is a member of Tower Hamlets Council Pension Board, writing in a personal capacity

Thursday, May 18, 2017

3 weeks to the General Election

Dear John

Labour has set out it's manifesto for the many; now we have 3 weeks left to tell people about it. Join us and Lyn Brown talking to voters here in West Ham and in two key marginals: Ilford North and Westminster North.

FUNDING:  if you're not able to help us canvass, can you help fund West Ham's campaign? Click HERE! (cheques welcome too)...

11am, 2pm and 6pm every day.
Meeting 12a High View Parade, Woodford Av, IG4 5EP (a 12 min walk from Gants Hill stn on the Central Line - exit 1). Turn up and say you're from West Ham (and they'll look after you if you haven't campaigned before).

Join West Ham members this Sat meeting 1.45pm, Stratford stn (bus stn side) to travel together. Meet Juliane there or at Ilford North office at 2pm.

Thurs 18 May
STREET STALL - Under Canning Town Flyover, 5 to 7pm. All welcome. Contact: Shabs 07958024188

Sat 20 May
Forest Gate North, Coffee7, 11am 10 Sebert Road, E7 0NQ contact John 07432 150 530
Custom House, 11.30am, Custom House Library, Prince Regents Lane, E16 3JJ. Contact: Rokhsana or Momodou
Women's Forum (women only) 11:45 am outside McDonald's (Stratford Centre), E15 1XA Contact Genevieve on or Seyi
Canning Town North, 12pm, Moka Coffee Shop, 126 Barking Rd, E16 1EN, Contact: Shabs

ILFORD NORTH - meet 1.15pm at Stratford stn or in Ilford North at 2pm

Sun 21 May
Canning Town, 11.30am, Keir Hardie Church, 14 Plymouth Road, E16 1QB. Contact Alan Griffiths
Forest Gate North, 2pm, Hibiscus Centre, Buckingham Road, E15 1SE contact John 07432 150 530

Mon 22 May
Plaistow South, 6pm, NewVIC, Prince Regent Lane, E13 8SG. Contact Neil
West Ham, 6:30pm, ATL Cafe, 125 Plaistow Road, E15 3ET.  Contact David on or John.

Tues 23 May
Forest Gate North, 6pm, Coffee7, 10 Sebert Road, E7 0NQ contact John 07432 150 530
Custom House, 6.30pm, outside Nisa Local, 53 Freemasons Rd, E16 3PJ. Contact: Rokhsana or Momodou
Stratford, 6.30pm, Old Town Hall (Stratford), 29 Broadway, E15 4BQ. Contact: Karl.

Weds 24 May
Canning Town South, 6.30pm, Keir Hardie Methodist Church, 14 Plymouth Road E16 1PAWeds West Ham, 6:30pm, ATL Cafe, 125 Plaistow Road, E15 3ET.  Contact David on or John.

Thurs 25 May
Women's Forum (women only). Meet Westminster tube station (Westminster Bridge exit) where we'll walk together to Labour HQ, Ergon House, Horseferry Rd, SW1P 2AL for phone canvassing for women candidates in marginal seats. Cakes and snacks welcome! Contact Gen or Seyi .
Plaistow South, 6pm, NewVIC, Prince Regent Lane, E13 8SG. Contact Neil

PHONE CANVASSING - 4pm to 8pm weekdays at Labour HQ, Ergon House, Horseferry Rd, SW1P 2AL

Polling Day - let us know if you can help - there will be loads to do from 5am (yes!) leaflets to deliver in Ilford North to help here in West Ham

Leaflets - please let me know (if you haven't already) if you would be happy to deliver leaflets (and I'll pass your details onto you ward organiser). Leaflets are now available!

Thanks again everyone. Look forward to seeing you over the next 3 weeks.

Best wishes

Julianne Marriott
Vice Chair (Campaigns and Comms) West Ham CLP  @westhamlabour  f westhamlabour  w

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Re-electing Lyn Brown in Custom House & Forest Gate

A great collage of photos from recent campaigning. Custom House canvass on Sunday morning with Lyn Brown (and Cara) as well as local Newham Councillors, Rokhsana Fiaz and Pat Holland.  Lyn had also been that morning to Ilford North with West Ham activists to support Wes Streeting.

In the afternoon we were in Forest Gate North, where we had the support of super walker, Cllr Seyi Akiwowo and 3 Young Pioneers, courtesy of their Mum, Councillor Rachel Tripp.

The support for Labour in our constituency is humbling with superb canvass returns, yet while we want our activists to go to the marginals, we are making sure that we do not take our support in West Ham for granted.

At the end of canvass in Forest Gate, we had the traditional warm weather canvassing icelolly feast. The Young Pioneers seemed very happy with this (especially when their Mum said she was now taking them to the local Park and swings).

On Tuesday evening Lyn was out again with team FGN in Lorne and Latimer Road. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

School uniform grants for UNISON members - up to £120 (£40 per child)

I am so proud that UNISON has its own Charity fund for members on low income or facing financial or other hardship. Working class trade unionists banding together to help each over in times of difficulty or crisis is pretty much what we should be all about.

The thought of kids being embarrassed or mocked because their parents cannot afford school uniforms makes me furious.

"UNISON There for You: School Uniform Grant 2017

If you have children in full time education, you may be eligible to receive a school uniform grant from UNISON’s charity There for You. To be considered, you must either be:

In receipt of Housing Benefit; or

Your net annual income is £18,000 or below 

[Note: We ignore the following income Child benefit, any childcare element included as part of your working tax credits, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment].

Also, you will need to have paid a minimum 4 weeks membership subscriptions before 22nd May 2017

To take advantage of this grant please complete the forms below and return to us with all the supporting documentation requested. We’ve also included a Q&A setting out the full conditions and eligibility criteria which should answer any questions that you have.

Please note the closing date is 21st July.

Monday, May 15, 2017

#RentersVote for #ToriesOUT

This email I received below is interesting. How angry are people about being so ripped off and what are they going to do about it?
"There are now more renters than people who voted Tory in 2015. In other words the #RentersVote could swing it!

Our recent members poll was decisive. We want:
Rent control, more security, a crack down on disrepair, a ban on tenancy fees, a register of landlords and more social housing!

We want this Government, that has failed us so badly, out. We want June to be the end of May. We want the #ToriesOUT!

Now, with a month to go, it is vital we all help! John, here's your action plan:

1. Register to vote by 22nd May!

If you havent yet, DO IT NOW. It takes 3 mins. You just need your National Insurance number.


2. Fill in the Government Consultation on banning tenancy fees!

Its vital that whoever forms the new Government, they follow through on this promise. Our partners at Generation Rent have made this easy template emailer - use it now and back it up by tweeting #keysnotfees!


3. Check out our new #RentersVote website.

We're working together with Generation Rent and local renters groups to build the #RentersVote and push the parties on our demands. Sign up now to help register more voters and host your events like housing hustings or voter registration sessions.


Let me be clear. There are enough renters to get the #ToriesOUT and we know younger people (the bulk of renters) want it to happen. But 90% of property owners are registered to vote compared to just 63% of renters.

We have to register ourselves - and our friends - fast.

#RentersVote - let's go!

Stuart and the team,
ACORN #RentersVote

ACORN & the #RentersRising campaign relies on 100's of awesome monthly donors for funding - please join them! Start A Donation

Or get involved: Join A Volunteer Team

Sunday, May 14, 2017

25 Days until UK General Election: On the knocker in Forest Gate & Ilford North

Yesterday started with my Newham Councillor surgery in Vicarage Lane Community Centre, West Ham. A constituent came to see me about a pretty appalling disrepair case in a Housing Association shared ownership block. I have been in touch already about this case and have written to the association asking for a site visit with an officer and a surveyor to do a  joint visit.

Another constituent came to see me about Newham Council organising a sports competition between a team representing the Commonwealth and another for the rest of the world. Which is an ambitious aspiration but not one, alas, that back bench local Councillors will have much influence over.

After the surgery I met up with Forest Gate North activists for a Labour doorstep session. We started door knocking in Curwen Avenue, E7, where I used to live many years ago.

I had some interesting political conversations on the doorstep, especially on Brexit and the future of the Labour Party. Forest Gate, on the whole, is very pro "Remain". More than one person was supportive of our Candidate, Lyn Brown, for voting against the triggering of Article 50 but very critical of the poorly supported official Labour campaign in Newham for "Remain". I had to agree and point out that this was despite her best efforts and other Newham Labour Remain supporters. The blame for the poor local result lies elsewhere in Newham.

Our candidate, Lyn Brown, this morning was at a well supported stall at Green Street and and had a number of community meetings including one with local East European residents and East Ham Labour candidate, Stephen Timms.

In the afternoon I went to Ilford North marginal which has a super friendly and efficient campaign office. If you have never been canvassing before I would recommend you go there. They will explain what you have to do and what are the key issues and make sure you are sent out with a supportive team leader.

11am, 2pm and 6pm every day.
Meeting 12a High View Parade, Woodford Av, IG4 5EP (a 12 min walk from Gants Hill stn on the Central Line - exit 1). Turn up and say you're from West Ham (and they'll look after you if you haven't campaigned before).

In Ilford North I came across some evidence of UKIP and Conservative switchers to Labour. Including one former Tory supporter, whose husband is suffering from dementia and who told me in great detail how much she now "hated" the Conservatives for the lack of support for her husband and the cutting of his benefits.

The Labour candidate, Wes Streeting,  was widely respected as a hard working Constituency MP and supported by residents who will normally vote for another Party in local elections.

By one of those strange coincidences, this morning I was canvassing with Joshua Garfield in Forest Gate and this afternoon with his Mum, former Newham Councillor, Judith Garfield, in Ilford North. Both of them are expert canvassers. Must be in the blood.