Saturday, January 20, 2018

West Hammers "Solidarity Saturday" in Chingford & Woodford Green

I have always agreed with the great Lake district walking author, Alfred Wainwright, that "there is no such thing as bad weather only unsuitable clothing". Despite this I forgot to take a hat and gloves for this mornings Labour campaigning in the now marginal seat of Chingford & Woodford Green (currently held with a majority of 2,438 by Tory MP, Iain Duncan Smith). 

I therefore suffered somewhat in the cold and rain while in a West Ham Labour Party canvass team lead by our MP, Lyn Brown.

We were in Valley ward where there are currently 2 Tory Councillors and one Labour. My fellow UNISON Greater London Regional Council Officer, Elizabeth Baptiste, is standing here as a Labour Candidate.

Despite this being a traditional Tory ward, I thought we had good response and I had a number of decent political conversations with working class Tory voters who were now undecided on who to vote for in the next election. The state of the NHS, no pay rises and high housing costs are making some lifelong Tory supporters think again. As one disillusioned Tory supporter said to me "this government is treating people like me like S**t. So why should I support them anymore?". 

Agree. Nuff said.

After the canvass we recovered with welcome hot coffee and soup at the Aromas cafe in Chingford Mount.

As part of my campaign to persuade Labour Party members of the health benefits from political campaigning, I was also pleased to note that my google fit app recorded 8,169 steps. Other members of our team had a lower figure but I had to go back and forth to drag Lyn back to the team  after chatting too long to residents. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

‘My God, what’s going on here?’ Inside the NHS crisis

Jason is a UNISON paramedic (and also a longstanding member of my Regional Labour Link Committee). Hat tip UNISON website.

The nation is in panic over the so-called ‘winter crisis’ in the NHS. But according to paramedic and UNISON member Jason Anderson, such pressures have become “the norm” for health staff on the frontline

Among the procedural messages that paramedic Jason Anderson and his ambulance colleagues receive on their onboard computers as they drive through London, one particular request from hospitals is becoming more and more frequent: Extreme pressure here. Please avoid and use alternative hospital if patient criteria permit.
“This morning I’ve received three or four messages like that,” he says. “It means that if we show up to overstretched hospitals there is a high possibility of extended waits. Therefore we constantly try to ensure we take our patients to the most appropriate emergency department”.
That’s just one, very tangible illustration of the pressures within hospitals that have made the headlines over the past two weeks, with under-resourced staff struggling to cope with increased demand, and patients suffering as a result.
The so-called ‘winter crisis’, exacerbated only in part by the increase in flu sufferers, has seen thousands of patients waiting for hours in hospital corridors, or in ambulances themselves, before being seen by doctors.
The situation is so bad that consultants from A&E units in England and Wales wrote to the prime minister last week expressing their “very serious concerns for the safety of our patients… despite the best efforts of staff”.
They even spoke of patients “dying prematurely” as a result. Spelling out the reasons why, they wrote: “The fact remains.. that the NHS is severely and chronically under-funded. We have insufficient hospitals and community beds and staff of all disciplines, especially at the front door, to cope with our ageing population’s health needs.”
Jason, who has been with the London Ambulance Service for 17 years, couldn’t agree more.
“The news stories are pretty accurate, but this is just an escalation of what’s already been going on in recent years,” he says. “The winter pressures have been highlighted a number of times. But there are periods of pressure all year round that are not reported in the news.
“Although winter was and still is the busiest period, an increase in call rates throughout the year has become the norm.”
As for the winter, the UNISON station rep has his own statistic to add to the debate, namely the call rate for London ambulance crews on New Years’ Eve, which has increased by around 50% in the past decade.
“Every year for at least the past six or seven years it has got busier. Each winter we step up our efforts to deal with it, then get used to the new level of demand, but then it gets worse again and we take it up two more steps.
“We’re dealing with it, working with it, but where do we go from here if the government cuts continue?”
Jason describes how the current problems within the hospital doors impact greatly on ambulance crews, particularly because their involvement with a patient doesn’t end the moment they arrive at an emergency department.
“We make an initial hand-over to a nurse, but until the patient is offered a bed or a chair we have to remain with them, as a duty of care,” he explains.
“If they can walk, we take them to the waiting room, which can be pretty full, but we ensure we find them a seat. If the patient is immobile – they can’t walk or stand – then we wait with them on our trolley bed in the corridor, for however long it takes for a bed to become available.”
He describes those corridors as often overflowing with people: patients, paramedics and the patients’ friends and family – not just the one or two that have come with the ambulance each time, but others who arrive during everyone’s interminable wait.
“We’re used to it. But it can appear chaotic to the public, who think ‘my God, what’s going on here?’ If you keep yourself well and don’t have to go to hospital you won’t necessarily be aware of how bad the situation has become. We do get a lot of patients or their relatives who come in and say, ‘I read about this but can’t believe what I’m seeing.’
“Often the relatives want to know what’s going on, and can become frustrated, with emotions running high at times. We try to put everyone, the patients and their relatives, at ease.
“As ambulance staff, we want to help people and can sympathise with them when they have to experience a long wait. But once we’ve administered our immediate care and brought them to an emergency department, the patient requires hospital intervention – so our hands are tied.
“But we still have to stay with them, until we can hand them over. So we get frustrated too. The longer we’re in a hospital, that’s one less ambulance on the road.”
In some respects, ambulance crews offer the perfect overview of a patient’s A&E experience: they collect a patient from their home, having to administer initial care and witnessing their distress; they bring them to a hospital, which at times can be crowded, and have to wait with them for what can be hours.
Jason paints a picture of a patient who is elderly and frail. “They may have been helpless on the floor in their house, for some time. When they arrive at the emergency department they could be faced with another wait, in a corridor. Then they’re waiting for an x-ray, for example. You find out that they don’t have a carer, or the amount of care time they’ve been allocated has been reduced – all those aspects of social care that are being affected by cuts. Their experience is quite distressing when you add it together.”
In turn, this can become a relentless and heavy burden on the staff themselves. “During your shift and when you leave work you feel their weight on your shoulders,” Jason says. Not surprisingly, some ambulance staff have to take sickness leave because of stress.
Like many UNISON members, Jason has a clear-eyed view of what’s needed to stop the rot. “The government needs to stop the cuts, to improve funding, provide better community services, to put more emphasis on the staff – with more nurses, more doctors, better pay for everyone in the hope that we can retain staff.”
With so much pressure, and so many obstacles, does he still find the job satisfying?
“Maybe once every other day, you walk away from a patient with a smile on your face, because you’ve done something that’s made them better. You feel you’ve made a difference,” he says. “That’s why the staff keep doing what we do.”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Labour sets Newham mayor ‘trigger ballot’ re-run dates"

Check out below another insightful article by "OnLondon" journalist Dave Hill, about the Newham Mayoral trigger.

I am more than happy with my quote in this article except, perhaps to make clear that I spoke as a Labour Party activist and that I am an elected lay "official" of UNISON and not an employed officer of the union. 

"The re-run process for deciding if Sir Robin Wales will again be Labour’s mayoral candidate for Newham without having to win a separate selection contest will be completed by the end of 11 February, according a timetable set by the party’s London regional body.

Voting arrangements for members of Labour ward branches within the East Ham parliamentary constituency will be directly run by regional officers in line with an agreement reached following legal action by party members in Newham, who were unhappy with how the original affirmative nomination or “trigger ballot” had been conducted.

While individual party branches within the neighbouring West Ham CLP have been given leave to run their own meetings to decide which way to cast their re-run trigger ballot votes, the London region will organise the East Ham meetings themselves in Newham Town Hall over the weekend of 10 and 11 February. An email from the party’s deputy regional director, seen by On London, explains that this is because “we believe their branches have not met for some time”.

The re-run process for deciding if Sir Robin Wales will again be Labour’s mayoral candidate for Newham without having to win a separate selection contest will be completed by the end of 11 February, according a timetable set by the party’s London regional body.

Voting arrangements for members of Labour ward branches within the East Ham parliamentary constituency will be directly run by regional officers in line with an agreement reached following legal action by party members in Newham, who were unhappy with how the original affirmative nomination or “trigger ballot” had been conducted.

While individual party branches within the neighbouring West Ham CLP have been given leave to run their own meetings to decide which way to cast their re-run trigger ballot votes, the London region will organise the East Ham meetings themselves in Newham Town Hall over the weekend of 10 and 11 February. An email from the party’s deputy regional director, seen by On London, explains that this is because “we believe their branches have not met for some time”.

The London region informed members at the beginning of the year that a re-run would take place. Its decision to treat the East Ham branches differently appears to vindicate claims made during the legal action and by its supporters that East Ham CLP as a whole has not been being functioning correctly and that this influenced the way the original trigger ballot process, held during the autumn of 2016, was administered.

Eligibility for the re-run ballot is restricted to those members and affiliated organisations judged to have legitimately taken part in the original process and which have maintained those party links.

On London has been told that two of the organisations that voted in the original trigger ballot, both of them in favour of the incumbent mayor going forward automatically as his party’s candidate for 2018, will not take part in the re-run.

One is the Newham branch of the Fabian Society, which it was claimed was not in fact affiliated to East Ham CLP when the original ballot took place. The Newham branch has been found by Fabian Society headquarters to have failed to follow the organisation’s own procedure for deciding how to cast trigger ballot votes.

The other is the trade union Bectu, which disaffiliated from the Labour Party nationally at the end of 2016 due to its merger with another union, Prospect. This was unconnected with claims that the Bectu branch which voted in the 2016 trigger ballot had not paid its affiliation fee and should therefore not have been eligible. Bectu’s headquarters were unable to confirm to On London that the fee had been paid.

On London has reported that another participating union, the TSSA, which had a branch affiliated to East Ham CLP, appears to have been treated differently from other affiliated unions with the likely effect that its vote was cast in Sir Robin’s favour rather than against.

Sir Robin was confirmed by Labour’s governing National Executive Committee as having secured the candidate nomination by 20 votes to 17, despite a request made in January last year by 47 party members in Newham, including 10 councillors, to establish an inquiry into how the trigger ballot was run.

A 13-page letter listed seven votes cast in the ballot that backed Sir Robin it considered questionable, including those of Bectu, TSSA, Newham Fabians and three ward branches.

It also questioned how the trigger ballot rules were explained and interpreted, pointing out that in the case of some unions individual affiliated branches cast one vote each while Unison, despite having six affiliated branches, cast only a single vote on behalf of all of them. The Unison vote was against Sir Robin’s automatic re-selection. On London understands that Unison intends to cast six votes in the re-run.

Should Sir Robin fail to secure a majority in the fresh trigger ballot, an open selection contest will ensue in which he will have the automatic right to stand. Other possible contenders include Councillor Rokhsana Fiaz, who is said to be considering whether she would seek to enter the race.

Some Newham members, including Councillors Julianne Marriott, Charlene McLean and John Gray had tried to get the NEC to rule that an open selection contest should take place immediately. According to unconfirmed reports, their case was considered at a recent meeting of the relevant NEC sub-committee but rejected in part because representatives of unions were opposed. Unlike the trigger ballot, the franchise for the open selection would be restricted to party members and conducted on a one member, one vote basis.

Gray, a Unison officer and one of the 47 signatories of the January 2017 letter to the NEC, has nonetheless welcomed the trigger ballot re-run. He told On London that Fiaz would be “one of a number good candidates who might run if Robin loses and could help build unity after the first, disastrous selection process”.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

TUC Pensions Conference 2018 Fixing the retirement lottery

The Trades Union Congress annual pensions conference brings together a range of experts to examine the most important developments in the world of pensions.
This year’s event focuses on fixing the ‘Great Pensions Lottery’ that means the insecurity experienced by many in work will be amplified in their retirement years.
Speakers will discuss intergenerational inequality and the power of pensions investments to change the economy for the better.
Delegates will also get to debate the ideas that could fix our lop-sided pension system and find out where pensions policy is heading in 2018.
Please note: places are limited and entry is by ticket only. Tickets will be allocated on a first come first served basis.
Tue 27 February 2018
09:30 – 17:30 GMT

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why despite 3 profit warnings did the Tory Government keep giving Carillion public contracts? Because its Chair was a key supporter?

Not sure he was a donor but Carillion Chair, Philip Green, was an open Conservative supporter. The corruption of public life in national politics (and local politics) is just appalling. Left and right politicians can be corrupt, but this current Tory regime is simply beyond the pale.

I found out at the Newham Governor Forum tonight that the only school in Newham with a Carillion contract is able to carry on (due to a willing subcontractor). Many other public bodies with more exposure to Carillion are running around trying desperately to maintain services.

Just a thought. If we could nationalise the banks in 2008 when they went bust, why can't we nationalise Carillion now?

Monday, January 15, 2018

"Protect our rights at work after Brexit"

UNISON has been urging activists to send their MP's this email for the vote tomorrow

Lyn has already tweeted that she will be supporting the amendments.

"On Tuesday 16 Jan, MPs vote on whether or not to protect our rights at work after Brexit.
These are rights that we use every day, from rights to time off for working parents; to holiday pay and equality laws protecting us from discrimination at work.  
The Prime Minister has repeatedly promised to protect our rights at work after Brexit. But the bill her ministers have put together is a huge power-grab. If the bill becomes law as it stands, it will give Ministers huge powers to slash or weaken our hard-won rights. 
That's why MPs have tabled amendments to protect our rights at work. If constituents put pressure on members of Parliament, they'll be more likely to support the amendments.
Can you please email your MP and ask them to stand up for the rights of ordinary working people after Brexit?"

"Labour members call for immediate ‘open selection’ to choose Newham mayoral candidate"

Another sensible article from "On London" journalist Dave Hill on the Newham Mayoral trigger debacle. He features Newham Councillor and former mayoral advisor (one of the very few female advisors) Julianne Marriott, calling for an open selection. The NEC are meeting tomorrow and I have also lobbied its members calling for the same thing.

"Labour Party members in Newham having asked the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to order an immediate open selection contest for choosing their candidate for May’s mayoral election in the borough, rather than re-running the disputed “trigger ballot” that initially saw the incumbent Sir Robin Wales go forward automatically for the role.
Newham Labour councillor Julianne Marriott reported on Twitter yesterday that she had emailed the NEC with the request, stating that she does not believe “a re-run of the trigger ballot is in the best interest of Newham residents”. Her fellow Labour councillor Charlene McLean has written a letter to Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol in her capacity as chair of West Ham Consitutency Labour Party making the same appeal on behalf of herself and her fellow CLP officers.
The interventions follow Labour’s acting Greater London regional director Neil Fleming informing local members last week that the original trigger ballot – or affirmative nomination process – which was held in autumn 2016 would be re-run from regional level following claims that there had been a number of irregularities in its administration by the party’s local campaign forum and a resulting legal challenge when the NEC failing to investigate them.

Fleming did not give a date on which the re-run trigger ballot would start and there are concerns locally that conducting it and then completing a possible ensuing open selection contest should Sir Robin fail to secure the majority he needs for automatic re-selection would create unmanageable time and organisational pressures with the election only four months away, and accentuate tensions within the local membership.
Re-selection processes for sitting Labour councillors have yet to be completed, meaning that ordinary members are already being asked to absorb campaign literature and attend special meetings. The original mayoral trigger ballot process took approximately five weeks to complete.
McLean’s letter expresses concerns that “there is no longer sufficient time” in which to run a new trigger ballot process and any open selection contest that might follow, adding the view that “it is the Labour Party’s delay in addressing our concerns which has created this urgency”.
She also reminds McNicol that West Ham CLP, one of the two CLPs in Newham, passed a vote of no confidence in the original trigger ballot process in January 2017, reaffirming this the following November, and says there has been “no constructive engagement” with them on the issues raised.
Elaborating on her reasons for writing to the NEC on Twitter, Marriott expressed her personal expectation that “a re-run trigger ballot will go to open selection” and that this would result in a delay in Newham residents “knowing who [the] Labour candidate is [and] what they stand for”. She added that she thinks a new trigger ballot and possible wider media coverage of it “unlikely to be positive experience for residents and members”.
Sir Robin is seeking an unprecedented fifth term as Newham’s Mayor, having previously been leader of the council under the previous local government system in the borough. Labour’s political dominance in Newham is such the eventual winner of the internal candidate selection contest is almost certain to go on to become the borough’s Mayor in May.
This article was updated on 8 January at 17:25 to include details from the west Ham CLP letter. Previous coverage of the Newham trigger ballot dispute can be read here."

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A London Living Wage for all in Newham Schools

I am a school governor in Newham and I am planning to go to the borough Governors' Forum on Tuesday evening at the town hall. As a governor I have raised the following question :-

London Living Wage

How many Schools are London Living Wage employers (as defined by the GLA including agency and contractors)?

A reply was published in the agenda from a Newham Council officer explaining that all directly employed staff should be paid above the London Living Wage (currently £10.20 per hour).  However, it was admitted that some staff may be paid less and that a letter will be sent out to all Chairs and Headteachers requesting them to ensure that all directly employed staff are paid at least £10.20 per hour.

This is well and good but does not answer my question about how many schools are London Living Wage employers (which they can only get this accredication if you include agency and in-house contractors).

I know for a fact that some schools in Newham have agency staff working there who are earning the minimum wage of £7.50 per hour. Of course these staff are also on zero hour contracts, receive no sick pay or pensions and have to opt out of the 48 hour working time restrictions. These are overwhelmingly female and Newham residents.

This must be challenged and the case for a London Living Wage for all school staff (and all within Newham Council) must be made.  I will see what happens on Tuesday.

I think that this can be part of a wider argument in Newham against academisation and supporting schools who want to remain part of the Newham family of schools. Much of the opposition from school staff to academisation is driven by the well founded fear that it will lead to a race to the bottom in terms and conditions. Especially for low paid manual and administration staff.

All workers in Newham should be paid a real living wage and receive other decent terms and conditions. I wonder how many workers in Westfield Shopping Centre are on minimum wage? I will ask London Citizens. I recently heard some horror stories of young people being forced to work unpaid hours during the night at Westfields as part of a "job interview" process and then being told the next day they had not been successful. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

#Labourdoorstep in Plaistow North

After my Councillor surgery this morning I went over to Plaistow North ward to help out knocking on doors and speaking to local residents about the forthcoming Council elections in May.

It was cold but thankfully it stayed dry. Plaistow North is next door to West Ham and very similar. A mixture of  private Victorian terraces and purpose built social housing. I got into a little bit of trouble for sending out a New Year e-newsletter to CLP members this month (as Vice Chair Campaigns and Communications) titled "Want to get fit and lose weight? Go canvassing". Some members thought it was inappropriate.

After going up and down the communal stairs in the Tibbenham Walk blocks I felt vindicated. Why spend £40 per month joining a gym when you could instead go campaigning with Labour. My Google fit app recorded nearly 7,000 steps.

The canvass itself went really well. Labour support was pretty rock solid but I was surprised how many residents had picked up on the Newham Mayoral selection and expressed let me say, very strong views on it.

PS does anyone know what the purpose of the steps and rails in the Tibbenham Walk gardens? (bottom right of picture collage)

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Veteran Newham mayor faces deselection fight ahead of local election contest"

For once, a balanced article by the London Evening Standard about Labour Politics. I and many other Councillors and Party members support the call by Cllr Marriott, Charlene Mclean and West Ham Labour Party for an open selection to decide the next Labour candidate.  I think that the "trigger" process in Newham has been completely discredited by the so-called previous "process".

Robin Wales has been in charge of Newham since 1995 and if he is not "triggered" then he would have been in power for a staggering 27 years (until 2022) without any open democratic process since 2001.  

The directly elected Newham Mayor is a hugely powerful position responsible for over 300,000 residents, employing thousands of staff and a Billion pound plus turnover.

There is also not enough time for another "trigger" before May 2018, which practically everyone believes will result in Robin Wales being "triggered", which will automatically lead to an open selection. 

We also have not finished the appeals for Council candidates who did not pass their initial interviews.  We therefore have no Labour candidates in place to organise the May election for the 60 Newham Labour seats.

"Veteran Newham mayor faces deselection fight ahead of local election contest"

Labour members in the borough have written to the party’s National Executive Committee calling for an open vote to pick their candidate.

Newham Labour councillor Julianne Marriott, who was behind the letter, said she did not believe another trigger ballot was “in the best interests” of residents.

It comes after Sir Robin called for the first result to be scrapped after legal action was launched.

Charlene McLean, chairman of the West Ham constituency party which passed a no-confidence vote in the ballot, has also written to Labour general secretary Iain McNicol. In her letter, seen by the Standard, she warned there was not “sufficient time” to run a new trigger ballot, followed by an open selection if Sir Robin were deselected, as the local elections were in just four months’ time.

The calls follow the disputed trigger ballot in autumn 2016 which Sir Robin won by 20 votes to 17. Eleven out of 20 local Labour wards called for other candidates to be on the slate.

It was announced this month that the trigger ballot would be rerun following claims of irregularities and a legal challenge.

Ms Marriott said: “I believe we should go straight to an open selection as that will be the result of a rerun of the trigger ballot.”

The successful candidate is almost certain to become mayor in the Labour-dominated borough"

Hat tip pic Jo G