Sunday, May 20, 2018

Being a Republican but still enjoying the Newham Royal Wedding Celebrations

Picture collage from two events in Newham yesterday that I attended with Gill on behalf of the Council celebrating the Royal Wedding. While I personally believe that our Head of State should not be a hereditary monarch, I respect the views of the majority in this country, who pretty obviously do.

I must admit to being more than a bit worried in light of the experience "across the pond" of us electing a "President Farage" but still think the democrat principal is absolute.

I have blogged previous on this here. It was great to spend time with local residents at the Community Road Centre and the sheltered tower block in Holden Point (Deputy Mayor Clarlene McLean and her lovely deputy, deputy Esme).  

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Janet Daby selected as Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham East By Election

Congratulations to UNISON Labour Link nominated candidate, Janet Daby, for her convincing win today.

Janet won 63% of the vote to become the Labour Party Parliamentary candidate in the forthcoming by election. Well done to Janet and her team of supporters. Commiserations to the other candidates.

Many thanks for her kind comments about the support that UNISON was able to give her.

We have been able to support a number of different successful candidates recently in London.

I have already received an email from the Labour Party asking (I assume to all West Ham CLPers) to canvass at the following dates:-

Let's get teams out to support her.  I assume some evening slots will be available soon.

           Sunday 20th May at 2pm, meeting at Grove Park station

·         Monday 21st May at 2.30pm, meeting at Grove Park station

·         Wednesday 23rd May at 2.30pm, meeting at Grove Park station

·         Thursday 24th May at 2.30pm, meeting at the Burnt Ash Hill Methodist Church on Burnt Ash Hill

·         Friday 25th May at 10.30am, meeting at the Burnt Ash Hill Methodist Church on Burnt Ash Hill

·         Saturday 26th May at 4pm, meeting at the Crown Pub, Burnt Ash Hill

·         Sunday 27th May at 2pm, meeting at the Crown Pub, Burnt Ash Hill

Friday, May 18, 2018

Thursday, May 17, 2018

"50th anniversary of Ronan Point" & "Are tenants being listened to on safety?" (NO)

"Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz yesterday (Wednesday 16 May ) laid flowers and attended a special memorial event to mark the day, 50 years ago, that four people died in the Ronan Point tower block disaster.

Ronan Point in Custom House was a 22 storey block near Butchers Road. The building partially collapsed following a gas explosion on the 18th floor in the early hours of May 16, 1968.

Four people died as a result of the blast, Thomas Murrell and his wife Pauline, Thomas McCluskey and Edith Bridgestock. Thirteen other people were injured and 80 families were made homeless.

Mayor Fiaz was invited to the event by campaigners Patricia Jolly and Paul Wade who want to see a permanent memorial those who lost their lives. She was joined by Cllr Pat Holland, who represents the Custom House ward, and Newham Council Chief Executive Kim Bromley-Derry.

Patricia, who lost a relative in the collapse, told a group of around 50 who gathered at St Mark’s Church Community Centre: “People need these memorials that come in the form of statues and plaques. The collapse of Ronan Point was an unexpected and awful tragedy, but it is a part of the history of Custom House and Newham, and should not be forgotten.”

The Mayor thanked the campaigners for their hard work and pledged the council would be working with relatives, friends, and all those who remembered Ronan Point, to create a respectful permanent memorial.

As guests remembered the Ronan Point victims, thoughts were never far from 71 victims of last year’s Grenfell fire tragedy.

Mayor Fiaz said: “None of us will ever forget the feeling of horror and helplessness as we watched the events unfold on that dreadful night, and for those of you that lived in Custom House 50 years ago, it will have brought back the painful recollection of the tragedy at Ronan Point.

“Once again the country has been shocked into action and there is rightly, once again, a renewed focus on the safety of tower blocks, and all social housing. We in Newham have not, and will not forget the tragic lessons of Ronan Point and Grenfell and will make sure building safety lessons are not forgotten.” Hat tip Newham Council Website

and Inside Housing Magazine 

On the 50th anniversary of the collapse of Ronan Point, tower block safety campaigner Frances Clarke questions whether Dame Judith Hackitt is really listening to tenants..

"A great deal is at stake.

The Grenfell Tower tenants said loudly that their block was a fire risk. No-one in power was willing to listen and 71 people died.

We had a completely different experience during the Ronan Point campaign. Ronan Point, which partially collapsed 50 years ago this week, was rebuilt and re-inhabited.

In 1982 the first tower blocks’ campaign national conference brought together a range of tenants, experts, community workers and activists.

During the conference, tenants of Ronan Point spoke to architect Sam Webb and told him of their concerns: they could smell food being cooked many floors below, they could clearly hear the conversations and TV programmes of neighbours far away.

Mr Webb responded by carrying out a survey of the flats during which he dropped a coin between the floor and wall and it disappeared, demonstrating that the flats were not sealed units, and fire and fumes could spread. Regulations were breached.

Pressure from tenants was enormous.

Newham Council voted to empty the block and they offered it to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) so that they could test it thoroughly.

The testing process was very transparent. A flat was set on fire to test one hour compartmentation – after 11 minutes engineers were seen to be scurrying out of the flat above as fumes and flames travelled upwards.

The fire had to be extinguished, the test had failed, the flat couldn’t contain a fire for one hour.

Structural investigations took place which revealed that the H2 joints could not be relied upon to hold the block up, they could not withstand a pressure of 2.5 psi. Instead of being packed with concrete, they contained newspaper and tin cans.

The Tower Blocks Campaign and Newham Council worked together to ensure that tenants were informed and involved throughout.

There were frequent meetings, with free transport and council-run creches. ‘Experts’ were required to talk in plain English and the council funded independent technical advice for tenants.

This experience showed us that effective partnerships can exist between engineers, architects, politicians, tenants, community workers and the media.

Are tenants being listened to now, in the aftermath of Grenfell? Sadly, the example of the remaining large panel system blocks, blocks like Ronan Point, is not positive.

Residents of the Ledbury Estate had raised concerns about gaps in their flats for years, their concerns heightened after the Grenfell fire. Resident Danielle Gregory’s questioning of the Council and of Arups, their consultants, about the existing ‘stay put’ policy was not welcomed.

Nonetheless she was proven right, resulting investigations showed that the flats could not contain a fire for one hour.

Tenants went on to force the examination of structural joints and again the joints could not withstand a pressure of 2.5psi – they should not have had gas or people in the flats.

Would this information have come to light without serious tenant pressure? It is the efforts of these tenants that brought large panel system construction to the attention of Dame Judith.

In these examples, a change in building regulation would not have solved the problem as these blocks were in breach of current regulations.

So the role tenants played was to alert authorities to a dangerous situation. Why do tenants, such as these, have to work so hard to be listened to?

Why can’t landlords work in partnerships with tenants, as with the Ronan Campaign? Will Dame Judith’s Review properly address tenants’ voice?

Will she ensure that a legally enforceable pathway is created for tenants to report their safety issues when their landlords do not respond appropriately to their concerns?

Are you listening Dame Judith, have you heard?"

Frances Clarke, tower block campaigner and co-founder of Tower Blocks UK (JG adds and former Newham Councillor and Cabinet member)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Greater London UNISON Labour Link backs Janet Danby for Lewisham East

Greater London UNISON Labour Link has made a supportive nomination for our union member (and former social worker) Janet Daby in the Lewisham East by election.

She is also the Lewisham Deputy Mayor and will make an excellent Parliamentary candidate.

Check out her on Twitter and Facebook

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

"Mayor unveils first members of Cabinet" - New (ham) Kids on the block!

The last 8 years as a backbench Newham Councillor has been a fantastic experience and a real honour to serve my constituents. It has been "difficult" at times but I have enjoyed nearly all of it.

Yesterday evening it was officially confirmed that I have been appointed by our Directly Elected Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, to be the Cabinet member for Housing Services.

As a Councillor and someone who has worked in Social Housing for most of his adult life I know this will be a "challenging" position but I am absolutely delighted at the appointment and cannot wait to get stuck in.

Hat tip Newham Council Website 

"Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has unveiled the first members of her Cabinet who will support her in ensuring that residents are “at the heart of everything Newham Council does”.

Mayor Fiaz said: “The people of Newham have put their trust in me for the next four years to work with them and for them on making things better for everyone. I am pleased to be able to announce the first members of a talented new Cabinet who have the vision and drive to help deliver the promises I made in my manifesto.”

The first appointments to the Cabinet are aligned to the priorities Mayor Fiaz was elected on. These include addressing the housing crisis by creating genuinely affordable homes at social rent levels, promoting youth safety, ensuring continued improvements in education, delivering regeneration that involves and benefits local people, and promoting financial transparency as well as stability.

The Mayor will be leading on the portfolio areas of Strategic Housing Delivery, Regeneration and Planning. Other appointments confirmed so far, with more to be announced in due course, are:
  • Councillor Charlene McLean – Deputy Mayor, Youth Safety Board and Corporate Parenting
  • Councillor Julianne Marriott – Education, Children and Young People 
  • Councillor John Gray – Housing Services
  • Councillor Terence Paul – Finance
The Mayor added: “The role of a councillor as a public servant is one that we should promote. I am looking forward to working collaboratively with my Cabinet colleagues and with all the elected members to listen to residents who will be at the heart of everything Newham Council does.

“We shall be doing things differently with a huge emphasis on transparency, accountability and with residents involved in the decision making process through public question times and citizen assemblies. I want people to feel more confident in the way the council works, to be able to have the conversations with us that shape our priorities, and be able to hold me, my Cabinet colleagues and councillors to account.”

Monday, May 14, 2018

UNISON "there for you" helping out our low paid members with the cost of school uniforms 2018

One of the many things that I am proud of in my trade union UNISON is its charitable arm "There for you" (which I am one of its trustees). Every year we hold a campaign to help low paid UNISON members pay for school uniforms for their children.

We must get the message out better since there are huge numbers of our members who are eligible but are either not aware or need help filling out the forms. UNISON branch welfare officers are key to getting the message out but all our activists should do their bit to spread the word.

"There For You are offering a one off grant of £40 per school age child up to a max total of £120 for help with school uniforms.
To be eligible you must be:
  • A member who has paid 4 weeks subscriptions before 14 May 2018.
  • Either receive Housing Benefit  (or the housing element of Universal Credit)
  • Or have a total net annual household income of £18,000 or less. (Note by “net income” we mean all salary after tax, national insurance, superannuation etc and including your partner’s salary if applicable and any benefits. However, do not include in your calculation Child Benefit, the childcare element only of Working Tax Credit if paid, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment)
  • Financially responsible for the child/children
  • Not eligible for funding for uniform costs from you local authority.
Further information is available on the FAQs document listed below.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

#TUCNewDeal March & Rally 12 May 2018

A little bit wet at times but a great day yesterday while on the TUC march and rally for public services in Central London. I was delighted that UNISON members, West Ham MP Lyn Brown and Newham Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, joined the march as did a number of Labour Party branches (including West Ham).

As a Regional Council officer I joined the UNISON London Regional procession which had a great team of enthusiastic drummers in front of our banner.

The rally in Hyde Park was rather soggy but some fantastic speeches, in particular by young exploited agency, waitering and retail workers, who are fighting back against poverty pay and insecure contracts.

The event seems to have got more publicity than similar marches in the past. In light of the current worse wage squeeze in 200 years we should not be surprised.

The photobombing was entirely unplanned :)

Below is what the TUC are calling for:-

1. We need a minimum wage of £10 an hour, now.

2. Ban those exploitative zero hours contracts.

3. Fund our NHS and public services properly.

4. Repeal the trade union act which makes it harder for us to stand up for working people.

5. Crack down on tax dodgers who starve our schools and hospitals of funding.

Levellers Day 2018 May 19

"Join us in Burford, Oxfordshire, to remember the achievements, sacrifice and legacy of the radical thinkers and political activists known as ‘The Levellers’  

In the Churchyard, St John the Baptist Church, Church Green, Burford OX18 4RY
There will be a short commemoration to Levellers Cornet James Thompson, Corporal Perkins, and John Church, who were executed in the churchyard, 17 May 1649. The commemoration will be led by the Reverend Giles Fraser. Flowers will be laid. The ‘Sea Green Singers’ will perform. Trade union banners are welcome.

In the ‘Old Hall’, in Warwick Hall, adjacent to the church, Church Green, Burford OX18 4RY
There will a conversation between the Reverend Giles Fraser and John Rees about ‘religion and the English revolution’, followed by and discussion with the audience. Reverend Giles Fraser was formerly the Team Rector at St Mary the Virgin, Putney, which was the location of the ‘Putney Debates’, in 1647. He is currently the priest-in-charge at St Mary's, Newington, near the Elephant and Castle, south London, and he writes a weekly Friday column for The Guardian. John Rees wrote ‘The Leveller Revolution: Radical Political Organisation in England, 1640-1650’, which was published in 2016 and received excellent reviews".

JG I have never made this event and won't this year either. Below is a plaque remembering a similar execution that I stumbled across in Oxford last year

Saturday, May 12, 2018

West Ham Labour Party Local Council Elections Celebration with Richard Burgon MP

Some pictures from our local elections celebration and fundraiser event held on Thursday evening in Eat16 (Canning Town) compered by our MP Lyn Brown and introduced our guest speaker, Richard Burgon MP, Shadow Justice Minister (while on route back home to Leeds).

Lyn spoke about how proud she was of the local elections result (we won 60-nil with I think over 50% of the vote in every seat) but how we must not take anything for granted at all and work even harder to ensure victory in future elections.

Richard gave a passionate and wide ranging speech about how absolutely vital it was to get a Labour victory at the next General Election. Including why we need to save our NHS from the Tories dream to have an American style NHS were hospitals first reach for your wallet before your pulse.

Nuf said?