Monday, December 11, 2017

Fixed Odd Betting Terminal (FOBT) Consultation – Call for Action


Dear West Ham Labour Party Member
Newham has one of the highest number of betting shops of any London borough with 81 currently in operation, with 12 on one street alone.
Each betting outlet can provide four FOBT machines which offer casino style content including games such as roulette at up to £100 a spin, which can be wagered every 20 seconds.
It is in response to the cap that bookmakers have opened multiple premises in clusters to facilitate more machines as a fixed margin product guarantees bookmakers a return. As a result, FOBTs have become a significant part of their business operations which has led to betting shops proliferating on high streets, but they add little to the local economy, contribute to crime and anti-social behaviour on high streets.
And the bookmakers target people who can’t afford to lose their money on these machines, like too many Newham residents – that’s why there are more than twice as many betting shops in the poorest 55 boroughs compared with the most affluent 115, which are equivalent by population.
That’s why, since 2014, Newham’s Labour Council has been leading the way in calling for the stakes on FOBTs to be reduced to £2, bringing them in line with the limits on gambling machines in other easily accessible locations, such as bingo halls, amusement arcades and adult gaming centres.
In response to years of Newham’s campaigning the Government has now launched a consultation survey which might at lead to these terrible FOBT machine stakes being reduced. But we need to make sure that gambling industry lobby don’t dominate the responses, which is why we would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to respond to the survey online by clicking this link.
 Newham’s anti-FOBT campaign is now supported by Labour nationally, which is something else we can be proud of.
Let’s help make West Ham and all of Newham a better place to live and protect some of the most vulnerable people in our community by ensuring your voice is heard and the campaign to tackle the scourge of FOBTs and betting shop clustering is won!
The consultation survey closes at midday on 23rd January, but we urge to you to take a few minutes to complete it now.
I hope to see you out campaigning or at a social event soon.
Yours as ever,
Lyn Brown
Member of Parliament for West Ham

Sunday, December 10, 2017

London UNISON Regional Finance Convenor Nomination Request


John Gray Standing for: Regional Finance Convenor

Nominations close this Thursday 14 December 2017 5pm

I am currently the Regional Finance Convenor, and firmly believe that strong management of our member’s money is the foundation to organising campaigns that deliver for our members. In the best of times this is true but now in the worst of times it is even more important than ever.

If re-elected as the Regional Finance Convenor I will continue to ensure that the member’s money is used to support branches focusing on real issues for real members such as:

•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.

Open & transparent

Financial decisions need to be open and transparent and be easily understood by activists. We have a responsibility to our members to be diligent and ensure probity in our financial matters.

I want to make sure that activists better understand the financial support that is available to branches and ensure that the money gets to them to support recruitment and organising campaigns.

I am an experienced branch officer and regional activist for many years. I am currently the Branch Secretary of the Housing Associations branch, UNISON representative on a LGPS Pension Board and Chair of London Labour Link (APF). I am also an elected National Executive Council member for Community.

As part of the current lay leadership team, working in partnership with the regional office, we have had significant success in strengthening our union in London by bringing greater unity, building participation across the differing service and self organised groups, and building a union to be proud of. I hope to be re-elected to continue the work we have started. In these difficult and demanding times we need a team that can deliver.

If anyone wishes to discuss my statement with me they could email me at
johndotgray2012aticlouddotcom

I hope your branch will also consider nominating :-

Regional Convenor – Yvonne Green 
Publicity Convenor – Francesca Hammond
Deputy Convenor – Conroy Lawrence 
Equalities Convenor – Elizabeth Baptiste

(Photo with the above after 2017 AGM result with UNISON Acting Regional Secretary Stephanie Thomas)

Saturday, December 09, 2017

UNISON Housing Associations Labour Link AGM 2017 - Keynote speaker John Healey MP

Many thanks to John Healey, Labour Member of Parliament for Wentworth and Dearne in South Yorkshire and Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning, for being our keynote speaker at the event, which took place in the House of Commons.

It was touch and go whether John was able to attend since there was an Opposition debate on Supported Housing at the same time.  Thankfully he was able to attend and gave us an excellent insight into Labour plans for housing and answered a wide range of questions from members present.

UNISON Labour Link members (who have chosen to affiliate to the Labour Party) from all over London and many different Housing Associations were present. Including members who had never been to any trade union meeting before.

Check out the superb Labour Party Housing Party manifesto ("New Deal for Housing") that John and Jeremy launched in June. If only we had won...

John has spoken at our AGM in the past as a Labour Minister in 2010 and we look forward to him addressing a future AGM as a Labour Government Secretary of State some time very soon!

Many thanks to John's staff & UNISON London region for helping to organise this event.

We also had former Greater London Assembly (and our branch) member, Murad Qureshi, who gave a critique of the Mayor, Sadiq Khan's housing plans. While our branch Local Organiser, Mary Stump, (who is also a former activist in our Branch before joining UNISON) gave us an update on the "mega mergers" of Housing Associations that is currently going on.

I gave my report as branch Labour Link officer and called on members present to make sure that they play their part in the election of a future Labour Government by getting out there and campaigning.

After the meeting some of us we retired to a well known chain bar/restaurant in Whitehall to enjoy a meal and drink courtesy of Regional Labour link. On route we stopped off outside the gates of Downing Street to pay our respects  (see bottom left picture).

(apologies this post is rather late but I had a technical problems with the photographs which I have only recently resolved)

Friday, December 08, 2017

Labour Party Sexual Harassment Policy

"The Labour Party has a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment and will take all complaints of this nature extremely seriously.

Should you experience any behaviour that you feel amounts to sexual harassment either towards yourself or another member we strongly encourage you to report it to us as soon as you can.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. It takes place when someone is subjected to unwelcome and unwanted sexual behaviour or other conduct related to their gender.
Harassment is defined by law in the Equality Act 2010 as ‘unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual’. In the case of sexual harassment the relevant protected characteristic is ‘sex’.
Behaviour that constitutes sexual harassment includes:
  • Unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature, this may be either physical or verbal,
  • Inappropriate or suggestive remarks or verbal sexual advances,
  • Indecent comments, jokes or innuendos relating to a person’s looks or private life,
  • Unwanted physical contact such as hugging, kissing or inappropriate touching,
  • Requests for sexual favours,
  • The display or circulation of pornography or indecent images.
Often, this kind of behaviour may be brushed off by the harasser as ‘banter’ or harmless flirting. It is important to remember that the impact the behaviour had on you is the most important factor, it is not so relevant whether the individual intended to cause offence, but rather that offence was caused by the conduct.

Sexual Harassment Procedure

We understand that reporting sexual harassment can be intimidating, so we aim to make the process as clear and straight forward as possible. If you choose to contact us, it will only be treated as a formal complaint if you make it clear that this is the route you would like to take. We are happy to offer informal advice about the possible action and outcomes open to you and will not force you to take any action you do not feel comfortable with.
In the first instance we recommend that you to speak to a the Head of Complaints. You can contact them on: 07595 432542. They will be able to talk over your concerns and offer advice about the best course of action. If you would prefer to contact us initially by email then you may email the Head of Complaints on: complaints@labour.org.uk.
Where we believe a criminal offence has taken place, we will advise you to report the incident to the police. If we have serious concerns about your safety, the Complaints Unit have the duty to contact the police, but we will do our best to let you know before doing so. If your complaint is subject to an ongoing police enquiry, we will not investigate until the police investigation has run its course.
If, after speaking to us, you decide to make a formal complaint; the process will be as follows:
  • First, we will seek written statements from you the complainant and the respondent. At this point the respondent will be informed of the details of the complaint made against them. As part of this process each party will be encouraged to provide any relevant evidence and names of witnesses that support their statement. This process will form the preliminary investigation to establish the matters of fact from both sides.
  • The statements from the complainant, respondent and any witnesses will then be provided to the sexual harassment panel of the National Executive Committee (NEC). This panel will be made up of 3 members of the NEC Disputes Panel.
  • All statements will be anonymised before being put in front of the panel, so they will not know the names of the individuals involved in the case.
  • If the party deems it necessary, at the point the complaint is referred to the panel of the NEC, an administrative suspension may be imposed on the respondent until the investigation is complete.
  • Should the panel of the NEC decide the case requires further investigation, they will refer the case to the NCC. At this stage the complainant and respondent will be provided with copies of all statements and asked to attend separate interviews with a panel of the NCC.
  • The NEC panel may make the decision that the complaint is better dealt with through an informal route rather than through an NCC hearing. Where this is the case, they will lay out their recommendations for the next steps to the Head of Complaints.
  • The meetings with the NCC panel will be held at different times and the complainant and respondent will not be required to meet.
  • Witnesses may also be invited to attend an interview with the NCC panel.
  • Should either the complainant or respondent wish to submit requests for questions to be put to the other party as part of their interview, they will be invited to do so ahead of the meetings.
  • After the initial interviews, the NCC panel may feel it is necessary to follow up on any points that were raised; this will usually be done by telephone.
  • Once the panel is satisfied that it has all the information it needs, it will make a decision about the appropriate action that should be taken. The NCC’s decision will be reported to the Disputes panel of the NEC.
At no point will the complainant be required to confront the respondent face to face. All details of the complaint will be dealt with in the strictest confidence".

Thursday, December 07, 2017

West Ham Ward Councillor Report 7 December 2017


Councillor Report to Ward
7 December 2017
WEST HAM WARD LABOUR PARTY

tel: 0203 373 2615 or email John.Gray@newham.gov.uk
This is my bi-monthly written report. In October both I and my fellow ward member, John Whitworth, attended and passed a Labour Party candidate selection interview for the 2018 local elections. There will be local ward selections sometime in the New Year.

Our fellow ward Councillor, Freda Bourne, has decided not to re-stand but retire. Many thanks to Freda for her many years of service to the residents of West Ham.

Council IssuesResignation from Newham Fire Safety Scrutiny in Tower Blocks Commission
31 October I was forced to resign from being a member of this Commission because the evidence meetings are being held in secret. I did try to get this decision changed informally but was not successful. This secrecy is in my view completely unacceptable after the Grenfell Fire. We need complete openness and transparency to make sure such things never happen again.

Meeting with Director of Finance
22 November I met the Director and other senior managers with other Councillors to discuss our concerns about the Newham Council London Stadium loan impairment and pending huge investments into private sector renting (Red door ventures) and Commercial properties.

Newham Council Meeting
4 December. Following the announcement that £52 million in loans and working capital invested by Newham Council in the London Stadium has been lost, I raised emergency questions to the Mayor about the need for an independent judicial led enquiry into what went so wrong and that we should pause before committing proposed new massive investments in other property until we found out what had gone wrong. The Mayor disagreed.

Surgeries and case work
I have attended 2 surgeries per month in Vicarage Lane Community Centre and Brassett Point Residents Association room. There has been a number of cases regarding ASB; drug dealing; parking; housing disrepair, service charge disputes, Right to buy, domestic violence and neighbour disputes.

Ward issues
20th Anniversary of death of Police Constable Nina Mackay.
On 24 October both I and Cllr Whitworth attended this well organised and dignified remembrance service of PC Mackay who was killed on duty in Arthingworth Street E15.

AGM One Housing Group Tenants & Residents Association.
On 30 October I was pleased to attend its inaugural AGM and really hope that we are starting to see a rebirth of the TRA movement.

West Ham campaigning & petition on lack of social homes in Ford Showrooms development
28 October we went door knocking in the ward with Lyn Brown MP with petitions calling on the developers to commit to more social homes.

9 November we went and delivered letters to new party members in the ward inviting them to a special meeting.

Durul Jannah Community Centre, E15 – First Anniversary
5 November I was a guest with Cllr Whitworth & Lyn Brown MP at the 1st anniversary celebration. Lyn gave prizes to the children who used the centre and reminded all of them that they like her could one day become MPs when they grow up.

Estate Inspection Ladywell Street
8 November I did another inspection with a Family Mosaic senior manager and local residents. While there has been some improvements in this estate the performance by some contractors is very poor and they need to be monitored much better and made to improve.

Rebecca Cheetham Nursery School
23 November I attended its School Governor meeting. Things appear to going well at the school and I have been pleased to have met parents recently who are very complimentary about it.

Xmas Hampers for Elders
The free hampers for elders is running late this year but if you can help collect and delivery these hampers to local residents please contact Cllr Whitworth or I.

Misc.
Pension Conference
10 October I was on a panel speaking to a Local Government Pension investment conference about ESG issues (Environment, Social and Governance).

Community Land trusts
12 October I helped organise a Newham Co-operative Party meeting on Community Land trusts which I think is something that we consider supporting in Newham. 

Local Authority Pension Fund Forum
17 October I attended the business meeting and in the feedback session about the pooling of Local Authority pension funds I stressed the need to have beneficiary representation on these new funds.  

Political/Community (outside ward)
18 October I went door knocking with local Councillors and members in Forest Gate North. We visited an estate to talk with local residents where a young child had been murdered recently in what was believed to be a gang related crime.

23 October there was a successful fund raising dinner for the 2018 elections sponsored in part by London UNISON Labour Link.

4 November “Solidarity Saturday” I was campaigning in the Thurrock Tory marginal with Lyn Brown MP.

London Labour Conference25 & 26 November I was a UNISON delegate to this conference and moved a successful motion on the private rental sector in London.

Black History event
4 November. After canvassing in Thurrock I attended a very well organised and informative event on Black History in Canning town Library. I very much hope next year that the Council participates in similar events.

Ramgarhia Sikh Gurdwara Temple
4 November. Next I went to the temple to help mark the 548th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

Workers Memorial Day 2018
Date for future is Saturday 28 April 2018 when West Ham Labour Party and local trade unions will be remembering all those killed at work or who have died of work related ill health at the Three Mills Green Memorial.

If any member wishes to contact me about this report to discuss any aspect please do not hesitate to do so.

Regards
John Gray
West Ham Ward Councillor
JohndotGray2012aticlouddotcom

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

UNISON Living - Membership services


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UIA
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So don’t miss out on unlimited cashback on your Christmas shopping! Sign up for your card today - visit www.UNISONprepaid.com

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Monday, December 04, 2017

Urgent Questions on Newham Council losses over London Stadium

(My questions as a Councillor to last nights Newham Council Meeting)

Dear Kim (Chief Executive Newham Council)

With the permission of the Chair of Council, urgent questions can be raised by Councillors.

The special circumstances are that Councillors did not know of the write off of £52,000,000 (I believe it will actually be far, far more than this) of Newham residents money until we became aware of external press reports on Friday 1 December which was after the usual deadline for submitting questions.

We believe that the largely unexplained loss of such a huge amount of money at a time we are facing savage cuts from central government is extremely important to the Council and our residents. It is absolutely imperative that these questions should be heard and that the Council is not only open, honest and transparent after such a debacle but most importantly learns lesson and does not repeat such follies in the future.

Dear Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham

Q1. Would you agree that bearing in mind the following:-

Newham Council reported on Friday 1 December 2017 that it has lost its entire £40 million loan/investment in the E20 London Olympic Stadium and another £12,200,000 in additional working capital (£52,200,000 in total). 

It is believed that taking into account lost interest payments, South Park monies, and legal Newham Council reported on Friday 1 December 2017 that it has lost its entire £40 million loan/investment in the E20 London Olympic Stadium and another £12,200,000 in additional working capital (£52,200,000 in total). 

This follows the publication of the Moores Stephens report, commissioned by the Mayor of London to look into matters concerning the London Stadium, which states that its 'does not absolve any third party from conducting its own due diligence in order to verify its contents'. 

It is believed that taking into account lost interest payments, South Park monies, legal and other advisor fees that the final loss to Newham Council will be much higher.

Councillors are extremely concerned that they were not aware that there was any significant problems with this investment until an impairment on the draft accounts 2016/2017 was noticed by Investment & Accounts/Audit Committee.

Newham Council is embarking on a massive investment programmes raising several hundreds of millions of pounds in loans to buy commercial properties and into the private sector market rents sector (Red Doors Venture). Bearing in mind the above and that the Council has suffered from previous unexpected and significant financial losses such as the East Ham Town hall campus redevelopment in the past (and that a number of years on there has still not been any Newham Scrutiny report published into these loses) it is recommending the following :-

The Chief Executive appoint either a suitably experienced senior barrister or retired high court judge to launch an independent enquiry into all aspects of our involvement in E20 and make suitable recommendations in public to ensure that public money is not put at risk again in the future.

Q2. Bearing in mind Q1 above will it not be right to put a halt to any future investment into Red Doors Ventures or buying commercial properties until there is a proper independent investigation into our financial governance and investment procedures and make sure that we do not have any more such financial disasters.

Regards

Cllr John Gray

(I will post the replies later)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Report on UNISON NEC meeting 18 October 2017

"This report is intended for members of the UNISON Community Service Group Executive and for branches with Community members. Please circulate it to anyone who may be interested.

UNISON National  Executive Council (NEC) is elected biannually by our 1.3 million members via a secret ballot.  

I have been the elected “General Seat” representative for Community members (Housing Associations and Voluntary Sector) since 2011. I work for a large English Housing Association.

The NEC meets in the conference chamber of the UNISON centre in London usually 4 or 5 times per year (and daily during our National Delegate Conference).

On 18 October there was 60 NEC members present (and 6 apologies). 12 NEC members teleconferenced in from elsewhere in the UNISON centre and one member via video conference from SW England (pilot).

The UNISON President, Margaret McKee chaired the meeting and welcomed NEC members and National UNISON officers.

Our General Secretary, Dave Prentis, started this meeting with a tribute to the former General Secretary, Rodney Bickerstaffe, who had passed away earlier this month. Dave described Rodney as a very close personal friend and a “Giant of the trade union movement” whose greatest achievement was the introduction of the National Minimum Wage and who also helped found UNISON. There will be a private family funeral  but UNISON will celebrate his life at a future event.

The NEC stood for a minute's silence in memory of a number of colleagues who had passed away since the last NEC meeting.

Next was a positive report on organising by NEC sub-committee Chair, Chris Tansley. Despite all the problems of cuts and redundancies it looked likely that UNISON would have net growth for the year.
A majority of the growth was in the private and voluntary sector (including Community).  They recognised that it was difficult to organise in that sector. But it is not all doom and gloom compared with some other unions who are facing massive losses in membership.  The number of our young members is also beginning to grow. 

In the general debate on the report I made the point how difficult it was to organise in the Community sector even in large employers, who may have staff spread thinly in hundreds of different locations all over the UK, across all UNISON regional and branch boundaries.  Former president Maureen Le Marinel said Community will be biggest service group in union if outsourcing continues.

This was followed by an update report on Service Group Pay campaigns and  National Industrial Action. The TUC/UNISON lobby of Parliament the previous evening had been largely successful and UNISON had written to Tory MPs in marginal seats reminding them that there was more union member in their seats than their June 2017 majority.  The “Pay Up Now” campaign is being coordinated across all service groups. There are separate political and industrial  campaigns.

During a long (and at times rambling) debate on the pay campaign, I pointed out that it should be possible to carry out successful industrial action in support of more pay but only if we do the groundwork first and explain, encourage and organise our members. UNISON has a number of large well organised and well led branches up and down the country, who can deliver effective action However; we also have poorly organised branches with very low membership densities. We want to run a successful campaign like the Public Pension dispute and not the last disastrous 2 day local government pay strike. 

It was agreed that we need to measure what action members are up for but also ask where are the other unions?  

The NEC finally decided to offer “advice” to service groups to consider consultative strike ballots. The sectors have autonomy over pay claims and rightly the NEC cannot instruct them.

After a short lunch break there was a finance update which was generally good but we are still but losing higher paid members who pay more in subscriptions.

In his General Secretary report, Dave Prentis reported on the many victories that UNISON had achieved recently in various parts of union. Such as a successful outcome to the Glasgow Janitors dispute which saw a 6% pay rise. A victory in Salford which saw an 11% increase for Social Care workers. A recent resolution of a difficult Teaching Assistant dispute in Derby which had just been accepted by a 62% ballot and course the fantastic UNISON legal victory over employment tribunal fees.  

He warned us that there is still a serious threat to UNISON over changes to DOCAST (union subscriptions taken out of pay) and to the political funds which must remain a top priority.

Afterwards there was a discipline report and verbal update on our insurance partner UIA. Minutes of the last meetings approved and committee reports noted.

Next meeting 6 December 2017.

John Gray
UNISON Community NEC member

Hat tip ace photo of NEC top table to my Yorkshire & Humberside colleague Tony Green Blog.

(Please note that this is my personal report only. If you are a Community member and wish to discuss this report or any other issue with me then please email me. Also, if you want me to come and speak at any branch or regional meeting about Community issues then let me know and if I can, I will )

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Newham Labour Councillor selection postponed until New Year.

The selection was supposed to take place next weekend (9 & 10 December).  All 20 wards in Newham would select 3 candidates to stand as Councillors in the May elections 2018.

However, it was postponed until the New Year (new dates unknown) since there are a number of outstanding appeals taking place by candidates who did not pass their initial selections interviews (so called"Long listing) and are appealing to the London Labour Party Regional Board.