Friday, November 17, 2017

West Ham CLP Crime and Policing Motion to Greater London Labour Conference 2017

"Conference notes that Metropolitan Police statistics show that gun crime in London increased by 42% in 2016/17.

Conference also notes that the same statistics show knife crime in our city jumped by 24% in the same period.

Conference further notes that in 2017 in Newham alone, by 23rd October, 24 young people have been shot or stabbed so far in 2017, resulting in five deaths. In addition, one young man has died in police custody.

Conference believes that the impact of the £1.7 billion cuts in police funding that the Mayor of London estimates has occurred over the last 10 years has had a major impact on the Metropolitan Police’s ability to combat crime, as have the unprecedented cuts on youth services.

Conference calls upon Labour to campaign to have these cuts reversed.

Conference also calls for London Labour to push for the next Labour Government commit to investing in the future of our young people by resourcing councils and the voluntary sector to deliver high quality youth provision, non-formal education programmes and anti-gang diversion programmes, as well as providing the resources the police need to deliver proactive community engagement work".

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Poverty Pay and Rotten Housing for Housing Association & Voluntary Sector workers

I hope this motion will go to the UNISON Community conference next year.

"This conference notes

1.       A Chief Executive of a Large Housing Association recently remarked at a meeting that many of the workers and their families employed by the association to support and rehouse the homeless lived in worse accommodation than the people they were trying to help.

2.       Years of below inflation pay rises and massive increase in rents and property prices means that many Housing Association and Voluntary workers live in privately rented shared, damp, expensive, overcrowded and insecure homes.

3.       Most of their income is spent on rent and travel costs with nothing left over in order to save for a better quality home.

4.       Housing Associations and Voluntary sector who operate in expensive property areas have a duty and responsibility to their workforce to ensure that they live in suitable and affordable accommodation.

5.       If a Housing Association or Voluntary sector worker is inadequately housed and living in poverty then the service they provide to residents and clients will also be adversely affected.

6.       Historically, Housing Associations and other housing providers in the past did provide accommodation for some of their workers and today many still provide services tenancies to staff. Others provide “Key worker” accommodation.

7.       Housing Associations are also major developers as well as Landlords who build homes for sale, shared ownership, provide Student and supported accommodation as well as market, near market and social rents. They are uniquely able to provide housing solutions to their workers.

This Conference resolves:-

1.       To call upon the Community Service Group Executive to continue to campaign with Labour Link, branches, regions and self organised Groups for extra funding for the sector and better wages for staff including sector pay boards.

2.       To also work with the National Housing Federation and Voluntary sector employer organisations to campaign for their workers to be treated as “key workers” and for them to provide safe, secure and affordable homes for them if needed.

3.       To also work with the Co-operative movement to see if a co-operative housing model could provide decent homes for housing association and voluntary sector workers and their families. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Revealed: the true cost of the House of Lords

The Electoral Reform Society have released a devastating analysis of the state of the House of Lords in 2017 – revealing the ‘democratic crisis’ at the heart of the Lords.

The Audit coincides with a key Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday calling for reform of the upper house [1] –

It follows a report from the Lord Speaker’s Committee on the Size of the House [2] suggested moving to a still-unelected, 600-member house by 2028. ERS polling found that 88% of people believe the Lords should be smaller than 600 members [3].

The findings have spurred the ERS to call for substantive reform of a ‘crumbling, crony-packed chamber’, with The High Cost of Small Change: The House of Lords Audit revealing:
  • Lords-a-claiming: 455 Lords claimed more than the average take home pay of full-time employees during the 2016/17 session – despite the house sitting for just 141 days.
  • 33 inactive peers picked up £462,510 in tax-free expenses [4] – claiming an average of £746 per vote
  • Daily allowance and travel costs for the 2016-17 session came to over £19 million.
  • Couch-potato peers: Nearly 1 in 10 of the peers eligible to vote throughout 2016/17 (9.2% - 72 of the 779) are inactive when it comes to scrutinising the government’s work on committees, in the chamber, or through written questions – vital roles for the revising chamber
  • A noisy minority: The top 300 voting peers account for over 64% of all votes in divisions during the 2016/17 session – suggesting much of the work of the Lords is done by a minority of peers
  • Not so independent: Despite claims that the Lords is less partisan than the Commons, 78% of Conservative peers failed to vote against the government once in 2016/17, while the average Labour Peer voted against the government in 90% of votes
    • Meanwhile, Crossbench peers vote far less than partisan Lords – 41% voted fewer than ten times in 2016/17 (compared to 14% for Labour and 7% for the Conservatives)
  • An ageing upper chamber: Nearly one in five peers (18%) are over the age of 80 – compared to just 6.6% of the over-21 population (only over-21s can sit in the upper house)
  • House of Has-Beens? The House hosts 184 ex-MPs, 26 ex-MEPs, 11 ex-MSPs, 8 ex-Welsh AMs, 6 ex-London AMs, 11 ex-MLAs and 39 current or ex-council leaders, as of April 2017.
See report on the House of Lords below by the ERS. I do believe in having "checks and balances" on the House of Commons and much good work is done in the Lord's currently but it is currently an undemocratic and expensive mess that needs urgent reform.

"72 peers failed to speak in the chamber, table a written question or serve on a committee at all in the whole of 2016/17. 33 of them claimed a huge £462,510 (an average of £14,015 each).

New analysis shows the 33 expenses-claiming ‘couch potato peers’ took part in just 24% of votes – meaning they claimed an average of £746 per vote.

Recent analysis by the ERS shows 109 peers made no spoken contributions - with 63 of these claiming a total of £1,095,701 in expenses.

The ERS is calling for a proportionally-elected upper house of 300 members.

In 2015, the ERS launched House of Lords: Fact vs Fiction [5], showing that in the 2010-2015, £360,000 was claimed by peers in years they failed to vote once. Yet the problem of inactive peers appears to have worsened significantly.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Despite some minor reforms, the problems of Britain’s broken upper house continue to fester. With nearly one in ten unelected peers failing to contribute in key ways – despite many of them picking up large sums – we have a democratic crisis in our second chamber.

“The vast majority of party-affiliated peers toe the line, while many Crossbench peers simply don’t turn up. The so-called ‘independent’ chamber is packed full of party loyalists.

“The past few years have seen one expenses scandal after another, with peers turning up to claim without substantially contributing. We have seen a barrage of appointments based on patronage. And we’ve seen Peers themselves admit they treat our upper house as a retirement home, a private members’ club. This is no fit state for the Mother of all Parliaments.

“This report lays bare the rotten state of this unelected second chamber – from couch-potato peers to lobby-fodder lords. We need real reform now – not tinkering around the edges.

“Politicians must now meet the challenge before this crumbling, crony-stuffed house declines even further. Voters want real change. It’s time for both MPs and peers to embrace it.”

The report concludes:

“The second chamber is demonstrably in need of serious reform. Whether it is the thousands claimed by inactive peers or the dominance of defeated politicians, it is clear that until we let the light in, the rot within the Mother of all Parliaments will only get worse.

“We must see parties commit to a far smaller, proportionally-elected upper house. At a time of significant constitutional, economic and political change, the need for an effective House of Peers or Senate is overwhelming.

“Whatever the final details [of an elected upper house], the principle remains: those who vote on our laws should be accountable to those affected by those laws. As we have shown, that is a matter both of principle and pragmatism.

“Now is no time for minor tinkering; the public call for a real overhaul is loud and clear. Let’s get on with meeting our democratic duty - and give voters the revising chamber Britain needs.”


A copy of the report available to view here:

Monday, November 13, 2017

NEWHAM TRADES COUNCIL - Guest Speaker: Matt Wrack. General Secretary FBU 21 November

Invitation to our next Newham Trades Council meeting

Guest Speaker: Matt Wrack. General Secretary Fire Brigade Union. Date: Tuesday. November 21st 2017 at 7pm.

Our Guest Speaker will be talking about Grenfell Tower and current FBU issues.

This is a special event and everyone is welcome!

Venue: The Black Lion, 59-61 High Street, Plaistow, E13 0AD. Private Function Room: Stables Bar at rear of pub.

Near Plaistow Station; Bus stop outside; Free parking.

(this meeting clashes with a West Ham new members event so I will miss which is a shame but I hope to meet Matt soon about post Grenfell issues in Newham)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Remembrance Day in Berlin

A beautiful Remembrance Dayd 2017 at the Commonwealth War Grave Commission in Berlin, Germany. Over 100 people from all nationalities honouring the fallen. Former enemies now friends and allies  — at Berlin 1939–1945 Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.

I will add to this post later

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Forest Gate North Xmas Social Saturday 2.12.17

View this email in your browser

Dear John

Please find your invitation to our Winter Social. We look forward to seeing you and having lots of fun. You are welcome to bring any drinks or food with you as you wish but it is not compulsory

Carel Buxton, Secretary Forest Gate North Labour

Dear JohnPlease find your invitation to our Winter Social. We look forward to seeing you and having lots of fun. You are welcome to bring any drinks or food with you as you wish but it is not compulsory
Carel Buxton, Secretary Forest Gate North Labouremail:

Friday, November 10, 2017

We're urging Theresa May to make homes safe from fire.

A great video and I would encourage everyone to sign the letter to the prime minister to make social housing homes safe but dare I say pretty much all Housing blocks should have this protection as well as all of our schools?

Dear John

Thousands of families are living in high-rise properties in the UK, yet only an estimated 2 per cent of blocks have sprinkler systems. The evidence is clear, fitting homes with fire safety systems, like sprinklers, saves people's lives in the event of a fire.

So today I am calling on the government to use the Autumn Budget to make homes safe. Will you join me?
Theresa May — we urge you to fit all high-rise social housing with life-saving sprinkler systems:

Independent research has shown that sprinklers are hugely effective — extinguishing or containing fires in 99 per cent of cases.

Sign our letter now to help us make sure that residents of high rise social housing can sleep safe in the knowledge that avoidable disasters will not happen to them.

Together we can make homes safe.

Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Greater London UNISON Regional Council AGM 2017 nomination requests

Dear UNISON Colleague,

It’s that time again as we approach the forthcoming Regional Council AGM on Wednesday 7 February 2018.

It’s not been an easy year but on behalf of us, your Regional Council Officers (Conroy, John, Elizabeth and Francesca), thank you for all your support.  As always we are extremely proud of all the region has achieved on behalf of our members and grateful for your ongoing support.

We shouldn't fool ourselves that there aren’t many challenges ahead and our priorities for the coming 12 months will include:

Smashing the pay cap for ALL public sector workers

•Defending our NHS

•Protecting workers rights as we exit the EU

•Securing a Labour victory with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister before 2020 and across London Councils in May 2018

We must ensure we continue to build a strong union that always put our member’s interests first.  We remain committed to working with you to build  membership democracy & participation and campaigning tirelessly to defend members and services from attacks wherever they may arise. Our collective strength, unity and determination are our greatest strength.

We hope your branch will consider nominating us.  The positions we are seeking nomination for are:

Regional Convenor – Yvonne Green                 Publicity Convenor – Francesca Hammond

Deputy Convenor – Conroy Lawrence              Equalities Convenor – Elizabeth Baptiste

Finance Convenor – John Gray

Please return the nomination form to Nick Turnbull in the Regional Office on or before 14 December. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and your continued support

Yvonne, Conroy, John, Elizabeth and Francesca.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Herding cats in the LGPS pools

Professional Pensions Magazine & website

"John Gray says the London CIV need a simpler and more representative governance structure 

The London CIV (collective investment vehicle) is currently undergoing a much needed governance review and hopefully lessons will be learned for the other seven Local Government Pension Scheme CIVs (pools or authorised contractual schemes) that are currently being set up across England and Wales. This is important since the London CIV already manages £5bn of employees' pension money and plans to manage £25bn by 2020.
As any pension trustee or investment adviser knows, good governance is absolutely vital to ensure the safe, efficient and effective management of funds.
Currently the London CIV has two 'governance' committees or boards overseeing the management special vehicle set up to run the CIV. One is composed of councillors from each of the 33 London authorities and another one compromising of council officers.
As you can imagine, a governance committee of 33 politicians from different and competing political parties is inherently problematic, and having another separate committee of paid officers can, at best, result in confusion and delay in decision-making. A well-placed source recently commented to me that running the London CIV must be like trying to "herd cats". Which is not a good place for any fund to be in.
So a simpler and more representative structure seems sensible and surely not beyond the wit of man or women to devise.
But good governance is not just about staff's pension futures and ensuring  contributions by employees and employers are kept as low as possible but also about making sure that the funds are run in the interests of beneficiaries first and foremost as well as the other important LGPS stakeholders (Such as councils and other employers). This, after all, is the primary duty of all pension schemes.
The best way of achieving this aim is to have beneficiary representation on the governance structure of the London CIV and the seven others. In the private sector up to 50% of pension trustees are employee representatives while currently in the London CIV there are none.
All funds have local pension boards that are made up of employee and employer representatives.
So far only two out of the eight pools have any form of beneficiary representation. Surely it cannot be right that a majority of pools are proposing to have no employee representation whatsoever?
Would not the London CIV and others benefit from having the 'buy-in' of beneficiaries who are actively participating in it?
Recent guidelines make it clear that there should be greater consultation with scheme members, in particular with regard to environmental, social and governance investments. However, their representatives on the governance boards of CIVs could be one way towards satisfying this requirement. 
It is more than ironic that it would appear that private sector schemes are more 'democratic' and accountable than comparable public sector schemes. Pensions are 'deferred pay'. The money belongs to employees and beneficiaries, not local authorities, so it is only right and proper that they share the responsibility of governance with the employers.
Local LGPS pension boards have now been in operation for two years and there are a number of experienced and capable employee representatives who could serve on a CIV board.
So as an employee representative on a London pension committee, then pension board for 20 years (as well as a councillor member of another London Borough's pension committee for seven years) I hope that a key recommendation of this review is that there should be employee reps on the future London CIV working in partnership with councillors and officers to make sure that the CIV is a success and exemplifier for all the other pools. 
John Gray is a member of the London Borough Tower Hamlets Pension Board (Personal Capacity only)

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and is also the birthday of a certain, Lev Davidovich Bronstein. The Red Army Choir sings the Russian National Anthem