Monday, July 16, 2018

London Stadium Report & LOBO legal action: Newham Full Council Meeting 16.7.18

Tonight's Newham Full Council meeting was dominated by two key announcements by Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz in her report to Council.

Firsty, she announced the result of a QC investigation on the London Olympic Stadium debacle where Newham Council lost at least £54 million in a failed investment in the stadium. 

Why did Newham go ahead with the original £40 million investment when even our financial advisors warned against it? Full report published tomorrow.

Secondly, the Mayor announced that Newham Council is pursuing legal action against Bank(s) over the selling to us of toxic LOBO loans, which is separate to the Court challenge announced by 14 other local authorities yesterday. Matter now "sub judice".

Not often I can say this but today was in my view a great day for Newham. Getting to the truth, holding people and institutions to account, seeking justice, learning from what has gone wrong while standing up for the interests of our residents. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

La Marseillaise: 'The Greatest National Anthem in the World, Ever' - BBC...

"Historian Simon Schama explains why La Marseillaise is the greatest national anthem in the world, while artist Andrew Park reimagines Delacroix’s iconic painting Liberty Leading".

La Fête Nationale. Joyeux Quatorze Juillet ((aka #BastilleDay in UK but not interestingly in France where it is just known as their national holiday)

Friday, July 13, 2018

"Sleep-in shifts judgment is a huge mistake"

This judgement is bad news for hundreds of thousands of low paid care workers (including my

Being paid not even the national minimum wage for work is simply a disgrace. I hope UNISON lawyers can find a way forward on this.

If not we need to campaign to force employers to pay. Local authorities can play a role in this as well as unions. See UNISON press release below. 

"The legal decision today (Friday) not to count sleep-in shifts as working time is wrong, and is at odds with legal precedents and a common sense understanding of what counts as work, says UNISON.
Today’s Court of Appeal judgment in favour of Mencap overturns a previous ruling at an employment appeal tribunal in April 2017.
UNISON took the initial case to an employment tribunal on behalf of care worker Claire Tomlinson-Blake. It argued that sleep-in shifts should count as working time, and should be paid at hourly minimum wage rates or higher.
The union argues that most care workers on sleep-in shifts aren’t sleeping. Most nights they have to get up to care for people, are on constant call, and are not free to come and go from their place of work.
Commenting on the case, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This judgment is a mistake, but let’s be clear where the fault lies. The blame for this sorry state of affairs that’s hitting some of the country’s lowest paid workers must be laid at the government’s door.
“Ministers are so consumed by Brexit that they’re ignoring huge problems around them. Social care is in crisis, and this situation wouldn’t have arisen if the government had put enough money into the system and enforced minimum wage laws properly.
“Sleep-in shifts involve significant caring responsibilities, often for very vulnerable people. With too few staff on at night, most care workers are often on their feet all shift, only grabbing a few minutes sleep if they can.
“That’s why it’s such a disgrace that workers have been paid a pittance for sleep-ins – with some getting just £30 for a ten-hour shift.
“As a society we should value care staff and the work they do, but unfortunately we don’t. After this judgment who could blame care workers for leaving in their droves.”
As a result of the judgment, UNISON is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Notes to editors:
– Last autumn the government introduced the social care compliance scheme. This aims to ensure that companies and charities providing care services to the elderly and vulnerable adults settle the back-pay owed to staff for sleep-in shifts that haven’t been paid at minimum wage rates.
– Most workers have not yet received any of their backdated wages, and it’s not clear what today’s ruling means for staff owed money.
– More information on UNISON’s position on the social care compliance scheme is available here.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Forest Gate Festival - this Saturday 14 July 2018 (Bastille Day!)

@FGFestivalE7 FREE 🎉 street festival 🎉 on Saturday 14th July Osborne Road in the heart of #ForestGate #newham #forestgatefestival

 Check out

 (there will be a Labour Party stall outside 27 Osborne Road 10-2pm)

Inaugural meeting of Newham Homelessness Forum

Picture collage of yesterday's well attended initial meeting of stakeholders from across Newham, including residents who have experienced homelessness, faith groups, Government agencies, NGOs and Council officers.  It took place in the historic former Borough of West Ham Council chamber in the Old Town Hall Stratford.

I chaired the meeting and our guest speaker was our newly directed elected Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz. She made it clear that as a Council we are committed to address the scandal of homelessness in our borough in collaboration with all stakeholders.

After introductory speeches we broke into workgroups which debated terminology, terms of reference, code of conduct and next steps.

I thought that the meeting went really well even though there is clearly a trust issue with the Council which I hope we are on the way to overcoming. To be clear, we are not going to be able to solve the homelessness crisis in Newham until we have a Government in power which remembers its duty to ensure that all its people has access to decent and truly affordable housing. Yet we are convinced in Newham that by working together we will make a significant difference to the crisis.

This does not mean we will always agree on everything but should mean we share common goals,  common aims and objectives to do what we can to challenge the scourge of homelessness in all its forms.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Is there going to be a market crash? Do we or don't we derisk our pension fund? London CIV and Carbon Divestment

This evening I chaired my first Newham Investment & Accounts committee (Local Government Pension Scheme) meeting. I really pleased that we were able to able to wade our way through stacks of often complex business.

Many thanks to the new members of the Committee who despite being thrown into the deep end held our officers and advisors to account.

Councillor Veronica Oakeshott was elected Vice Chair.

Tonight I invited observers from Newham Carbon Divestment to address the next meeting of the Committee.

A number of major issues were discussed including our concerns about the London CIV (Collective Investment Vehicle) where we are (maybe) effectively outsourcing Newham's £1.3 billion pension assets while still retaining responsibility for all its pension liabilities. Watch this space.

Another big issue was what should we do about the risk that the equities market will crash as most (not all) commentators are now suggesting will happen? Watch this space as well. 

Monday, July 09, 2018

Newham Stand up to Racism - No to Trump & Oppose Tommy Robinson

Picture taken this evening before Labour Group meeting in the Old Town Hall Stratford.  Newham Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz and Labour Councillors supporting the March and Rally this Friday against the visit of US President Donald Trump and the "Oppose Tommy Robinson" demo on Saturday. 

Hat tip Cllr Rohit Dasgupta

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Local Government Association Conference 2018

This post is a little late but some thoughts from a first time delegate to the annual Local Government Association Conference in Birmingham. I arrived late due to attending Newham Cabinet meeting.  My Newham Cabinet colleague, Terry Paul, was there to greet me and give me the benefit of his extensive views on the first day of conference and the day ahead.

Below is based upon my tweets on the second day of LGA Tuesday 3 July.

"At #LGAconf18 with Lord Richard Best (respected independent peer in House of Lords) making an opening speech about the "Revolution" in #housing since 2015. The failure of UK house builders is key to this revolution. UK House builders are a "hopeless industry". He detailed 10 significant complaints about the industry which made (mostly) sense to me. I will try and find a link to his speech.

I asked a question to Lord Best about why getting access to all "right to buy" receipts & changes in regulation is all well & good but it is tinkering on the edges. We have 26k Households on our waiting list in Newham. The only way to really deal with housing crisis is for the Government to put its hands in their pocket & provide public subsidy.

Lord Best agreed!

Next was a plenary with @NewhamLondon Mayor @rokhsanafiaz and other panel members. There seemed to be some agreement that  #housing is our number one priority.

There was some heckling from Tories as Rokhsana tried to put forward a reasoned argument about why social care provision needs to be paid for by the state rather than sound bites. An aggressive journalist chair of the panel, was trying to paint Labour as the Loony left "tax and spend" Party.  Rokhsana was not having none of this.

Next I was at the workshop "Building the Right Homes in the Right Places" with Nick Walkley, the "man from the ministry" (CEO of Homes England NB not the regulator for London) as a panel speaker.

My question to this panel was on the possible role of Council #pension funds in provision of social housing & market rents (not forgetting pensions should be run first and foremost in the interests of beneficiaries)? The panel answer was "yes, good question but we haven't yet got total answer but "power to your elbow" for asking.

Make of this as you will but I thought positive?

After lunch we had a brilliant plenary speech by my long standing UNISON colleague and now Shadow Secretary of State for Education @AngelaRayner MP. "90 children entered care everyday. Lack of funding is dangerous and should be a National scandal".

Conservative Minister @RishiSunak spoke next about digital services revolution. He mentioned Hackney Council who had worked out that each physical visit by residents to the Council cost £12. While it cost £4 for each telephone call but only 30p for each online visit. He also said that research showed that 60% of social workers time is spent simply inputting data. He called for local government to "Fix the digital plumbing".

I asked him a question that while I totally get the benefits of digital we must never forget the large number of vulnerable residents who cannot access digital. We need to retain the human touch. He said he agreed & said you can recycle digital saving into providing frontline services.

Hackney Mayor, Philip Glanville, followed my question to him with a further one that a) we should be creating genuinely human centred services (local govt better @ this than Whitehall) & b) he needs to change attitudes in Govt, data sharing isn’t good enough, platforms need to be truly open & systems like Universal Credit are inhumane. (I don't think that Philip got a full reply).

I had to leave that evening for a UNISON forum in Newcastle. I must admit being on the whole impressed with the conference, the speeches, seminars and exhibitions. It is good to get out of your silos from time to time and be exposed to new ideas and views.