Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday Sectarian: Green Lies & the Green Housing vacuum

I have just enjoyed reading two very different posts on the Green Party and their policies.

The first was from the never shy nor retiring Kitty Jones on
"You’d have to be Green to believe the Green Party: two more lies exposed".

While the other post by Steve Hilditch "The grass isn't any greener on the other side" is more reflective and is a pretty powerful exposure of the vacuum that is the Green's Housing policy. Which, for a so called "progressive" party is unacceptable and amateurish.

I suppose some supporters of the Green's will say such posts are a sign that they are a rising political force and feared by Labour. I don't think so, it's about time that fringe parties such as the Greens and UKIP are challenged about their practices and policies and not be allowed to get away with stuff.

My own favourite "Green" story was watching an interview with a Brighton Council worker whose wages were being cut by Green run Brighton Council - He described them as "F**king Tories on Bikes".

Friday, January 30, 2015

National Campaign Day with Lyn Brown and Harriet Harman - Sat 31 Jan

"Tomorrow is national campaign day. Lyn Brown MP and Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour party, invite you to the opening of the new campaign centre for Bermondsey and Old Southwark - followed, of course, by a canvassing session for Labour's candidate for Bermondsey, Neil Coyle.

We're meeting at West Ham station at 10am or you could meet us at 10.45 at the new campaign centre 46 Tower Bridge Road, SE1 4TR. It's a 10 to 15 min walk from London Bridge, Elephant and Castle or a short bus ride from Tower Hill or Bermondsey station.

I hope you can join us. And we'll be back in Ilford North on Valentine's Day..."
Best wishes
(West Ham CLP Vice Chair - Campaigns)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Rights at Work" UNISON Labour Link event at House of Commons

This is a fantastic picture from last weeks' London UNISON Labour Link "Rights at Work" event for our members who live in Ilford North CLP. The event was organised by Lilian Greenwood MP (who use to be a UNISON national officer and is a great friend of our union). We had speeches on "Rights at Work" by guest speakers Chuka Umunna MP, Ilford North Candidate Wes Streeting and Shadow London Minister, Sadiq Khan. West Ham MP, Lyn Brown, also came to speak to members and their guests.

Workers in this country need to understand that the Tories in the last 5 years have decimated our employment rights. They have doubled the amount of time that an employer has to get rid of you without you having any rights for unfair dismissal; they have watered down TUPE protection if you are transferred to another employer who wants to slash your terms and conditions - and if you want justice at work, it could cost you at least £1200 up front, to even appear before an employment tribunal. 

Yesterday evening I chaired an "Equality at Work" event sponsored by London Labour Link for our LGBT members at the House of Commons which I will post upon soon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day - Old Town Hall, Stratford

Yesterday I went to a Holocaust Memorial Day, ceremony organised by Newham Council which took place in the Old Town Hall in Stratford, E15. 

The hall was packed with residents and pupils from local schools. 

It began with a choir singing a specially composed song by Craig Murdoch, performed by ECaM stars and orchestra called "Remember me".

The Newham Chief Executive Officer, Kim Bromley-Derry welcomed the audience. The Mayor, Robin Wales, spoke next on the Holocaust and its relevance to Newham. He described us gathering here today as an act of defiance against fascism and that personal stories remind us that real people lie behind the figures. Many countries including Britain during the Second World War did not do enough for refugees fleeing the Nazi's. We must never forget this when we think about refugees who are fleeing persecution today. Nor should we forget the contribution that modern day refugees have made to Newham.

The testimony was by death camp survivor, 83 year old Rudi Oppenheimer. Rudi was born in 1931 to a German Jewish family in Berlin. They were not religious and lived a comfortable middle class life and were proud to be German. 

As a young child Rudi was unaware of the political persecution of Jews in German by the Nazi Government. His father eventually moved to Holland while the rest of the family went to London where his sister was born. They all later joined their father in Holland thinking they would be safe. 

In May 1940 Germany was at war with Britain and France and they invaded Holland and quickly overran the country. Soon after this the Germans began to persecute the Jews in Holland.  

The discrimination that Rudi and his family suffered at the hands of the Nazi in Holland, was in one way, even more shocking than being sent to a death camp.  In a series of laws they were forbidden from working, using public transport, from going to sport clubs, libraries, theatre, non Jewish shops and they had to wear yellow stars on their clothes at all times. Rudi even had his bicycle taken away from him. Once the Nazi had got away with de-humanising Jews, then it is no surprise that they ended up murdering them.

All Jews in Holland were forced to live together in Amsterdam under a strict curfew. Ironically, Rudi thinks that as a child he may have played in the same street as Anne Franks. She was to eventually die in the same death camp that he and his family was to end up in.

Eventually after waiting weeks for the "knock on the door" they were told by German Police to leave their homes for "Resettlement to the East". They were sent by train to a transit camp. Unbeknown to the family, both sets of Grandparents were sent to death camps and gassed when they arrived.

Rudi believes that one of the reasons why he survived, when so many didn't, was that his sister was born in Britain and the Germans thought the family could be exchanged for German nationals held in Britain. They were known as "Exchange Jews".  After 7 months in the transit camp they were still sent to the infamous Bergen Belsen death camp. They were greeted by shouting SS Guards, barking dogs, sadist commandants, heavy labour and a starvation diet.

At the camp both his parent died of brutality and disease but he and his brother was able to live, thanks to Rudi working in the camp kitchen and stealing food. He always felt guilty about this since he was in effect stealing food from other inmates but he and his brother would have not survived otherwise. 

Belsen was the camp where there was so many dead bodies when the British freed it in 1945 they had no choice but to use bulldozers to push the bodies into huge pits. Some 70,000 people died there. 

After a series of near misses, Rudi, his brother Paul and sister Eva were liberated and eventually arrived in London to live with their Uncle.  Rudi had a successful career with oil company BP. Paul wrote a book about their life called "From Belsen to Buckingham Place". 

In the Q&A that followed Rudi was asked if he "forgave" those who were responsible for what happened to him? He said he did not forgive but he doesn't hate them anymore. The only people who could forgive are his parents since they were the  ones who had really suffered.  He did however believe in God.

Next there was modern dance performance by pupils of Lister Community school and then readings by pupils from Kensington Primary school and Kingsford Community school including "First they came..." by Paster Martin Niemoller
" First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
  Because I was not a Socialist.
  Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
  Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
  Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
  Because I was not a Jew.
  Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me".
Followed by a Candle lighting ceremony led by the Mayor, David Gold (Chair of West Ham FC), Lyn Brown MP (see photo), John Biggs AM, John Barber (Representative Deputy Lieutenant) and Rudi.

Finally, a minute of quiet reflection and then classical music from local tutors.

Afterwards, there were some tears from some while others in the hall were talking to each other and  sharing stories and even photos of their own relatives. There was a massive queue to buy signed copies of "From Belsen to Buckingham Place" and Rudi sold all his copies. I will get one from the website.

It was quite an emotional event and it is not just about the history.  As Rudi reminded us since the Second World war there has been other holocausts in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnian. Not only should we never forget what happened but we must always be on guard against intolerance, bigotry and fascism in all its guises.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A UK Foreign Policy for the Middle East - Newham Compass 17 Feb 2015

This is going to be a really interesting event. It clashes with my UNISON branch AGM. Which is a real shame as Mike is always an entertaining speaker and was the former chair of the foreign affairs select committee.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Committee on Workers Capital - Global Proxy Review 2014

Check out this report published last week by the Committee on Workers Capital (CWC). 

The CWC has "over 200 members from 25 different countries, the CWC connects labour union organizations around the world to advance the responsible investment agenda on the global stage". 

The Global Proxy Review  takes an international view on the way fund managers vote the shares they hold and manage on behalf of workers pensions funds at Company AGMs. Use this information to hold fund managers to account for the way they vote on important environmental, social and governance issues (ESG).

Sunday, January 25, 2015

London Loop Walk: Section 1 - Erith to Bexley

Off message but today Ms Grayee and I started on a long distance walk around London. The "London Outer Orbital Path" (better known as London Loop) is a 240 Km (150 mile) mostly sign posted route around outer London. It is divided into 24 linear sections which vary between 6.1 and 16.8 km accessible by public transport within London (tfl) Zone 6.

We are going to try and complete all the sections within the next year. The first section was 8.5 miles long from Erith to Bexley.  It took about an hour from Forest Gate (East London) to get there. This part of the walk involved walking along the River Thames which was the best bit by far. The water, salt marshes, the light and "big skies" was marvellous. But this is also in an industrialised part of London with more than its fair share of road noise, litter, scrap yards and rubbish tips.

We met up in Crayford with a group of young people who were nearly finishing the loop after 2 years of weekend walking and they said this was by far the worse section, which they had left till last. They were a cheerful bunch who admitted that they had already enjoyed the hospitality of a number of pubs on route and were looking forward to their next pit-stop. My type of people!

We agreed that the instructions on the official "Transport for London" route here are pretty rubbish (shame on you Boris).  So tonight I have ordered "Capital Ring' by Colin Saunders and "The London Loop" (Recreational Path Guides) by David Sharp. The youngsters were the only obvious ramblers we saw all day. 

We started about 11.15 and finished at 3pm. It took a while to get back to Forest Gate but had Sunday newspapers to read. 

I am looking forward to the next section which is Old Bexley village to Petts Woods and only 7 miles long.  I will make further posts and even create a London Loop Facebook page. I will be busy, busy in the run up to the general election in May but will hopefully be able to snatch a few days to retreat to my hinterland. 

Update: London Loop 2015 FaceBook page

"My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose"

I still think this is the best version of this classic love poem. Happy Burns Night Comrades!

Check out some other more traditional versions here.

Meet Nigel Farage

Check out the new website Meet Nigel Farage and find out Nigel's plans to privatise the NHS, cut the NHS and charge for the NHS.

All his plans are sourced.

It is about time that Farage and UKIP got held to account for their Ultra Tory Right wing nonsense.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

West Ham at Wes' Birthday Canvass

Today is the birthday of Labour candidate for Ilford North Parliamentary seat, Wes Streeting.

So instead of giving him a well deserved day off, his campaign team designated it as "Wes Birthday Canvass Day" and arranged 3 separate #labourdoorstep sessions.

West Ham went to the 2pm session and took part in a number of campaign teams, while our MP, Lyn Brown, ran a telephone canvass session in the CLP HQ (Lyn is out of door knocking action at moment due to a serious knee injury).

My team was led by Newham's youngest Councillor, Seyi Akiwowo, who enjoyed bossing us about and sending us hither and thither. After we finished I had an unusual telephone conversation with a West Ham CLPer, who asked me if I remembered where they had parked their car? (they eventually found it).

Double click to enlarge picture and check out the top right of collage for photo of show stealer, Cara.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ilford North campaigning and cake with Lyn Brown MP

104 days left to get rid of this Tory/Lib Dem Government

"Help get a Labour government elected in May. Lyn Brown MP and your West Ham colleagues will be in Ilford North on Saturday (24 Jan). It's Labour candidate Wes Streeting's birthday - which means campaigning with cake!

Instead of meeting at Fairlop we'll meet at the Campaign Office, 153b Beehive Lane, Ilford, IG4 5DX (entrance in Radnor Crescent) - a five minute walk from Gants Hill tube. As usual we'll be leaving from outside Stratford station at 1.30pm.

I hope you can join us. Our work identifying Labour voters in Ilford North is just part of huge amounts of work all across the country to get Labour MPs and a Labour government elected. Tweet  John Gray (@grayee) if you need any info on the day.

Best wishes

Julianne Marriott"
(West Ham CLP Vice Chair)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

UNISON Housing Association AGM 2015: London Assembly City Hall

The branch AGM is taking place at the London Assembly City Hall on Tuesday 17 February 2015 - 6pm to 8.30pm.
The theme of the meeting will be about "rights at work".

City Hall is a wonderful and iconic modern London building, over looking the Thames and Tower Bridge.

It is well worth a visit.

Former branch activist and now a Labour London Assembly member, Murad Qureshi, is hoisting the event.

We have over 3000 members across London in the branch and would really welcome as many as possible to attend.

Afterwards, we will be having our annual branch social at a venue nearby. 

Further details (and guest speaker) to follow. 

All members will be sent an AGM report and invite but please check out for updates on our branch website here.

Harry Leslie Smith on defending the NHS

91 year old Harry Leslie Smith remembers the time before the NHS when his sister suffered from TB and had to go into the workhouse hospital to die.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Democracy Day: "Have you voted yet? Nah... There's gonna be a Peoples' Revolution any minute..."

Today is "Democracy Day" the 750 anniversary of the first ever Parliament in Westminster. There was a fascinating debate on Radio 4 "Today" this morning which resulted in sparks between young and old about feelings of disenfranchisement with politics and accusations of laziness. It was noted that neither side really understood each other.

Check out Kitty Jones thoughts on Non Voters. She is not one to pull her punches.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Which side are you on...

    A moving union song by the late and great Pete Seeger... "Will you be a lousy scab or will you be a man". 

Update: check the origins of the song

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Enfield Chase Walk (and where a Nazi Monster admitted his Shame)

Today I went for my first country walk of 2015. Trent County Park in Enfield Chase, North London is a remnant of an ancient Royal hunting ground.

This pathfinder walk was only 4 miles (but we got lost and added another couple of miles I think). It was cold but the winter sunshine and shadows was lovely.

The country mansion Trent House,  which  you can see across the lake in the photo was during the 2nd World War a prisoner of war camp for senior German officers including 84 Generals. The British "bugged" the camp and recorded  many conversations between prisoners. Some of secret recordings let to the RAF bombing previously unknown German rocket research sites.

What struck me most was the recording of General Dietrich von Choltitz who was quoted as saying in October 1944: "We all share the guilt. We went along with everything, and we half-took the Nazis seriously, instead of saying "to hell with you and your stupid nonsense". I misled my soldiers into believing this rubbish. I feel utterly ashamed of myself. Perhaps we bear even more guilt than these uneducated animals."

This was a man who refused orders by Hitler to destroy Paris in the second world war but who ordered the murder of thousands of Jewish civilians in Russia.

The walk is a history feast with its Water Gardens, monuments and medieval Camlet moat. Only 30 minutes from Forest Gate. Well recommended.

Update: further photos from walk on Facebook here

It's My Party And I'll Cry if I Want to...

Wonderful song..

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Election of CIH London Regional Board 2015

I have just voted on-line for a new Chartered Institute of Housing Regional Board for London. I had to support my former Tower Hamlets colleague Jan Taranzuk. The only Chief officer I have ever known who use to work in Housing and at the same time live in an inner city estate.

The closing date for receipt of ballots is Wednesday 21 January 2015 at 6pm

Don't let the Tories Kill the Health Service: Vote Labour on May 7th

This has not been commissioned by the Labour Party but by The Independent who invited ad agency companies to think up posters for all political parties. Actually, I hope the Party uses it!

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Guv's common sense message to the UK

Well, I never - Pub Landlord Al Murray standing against UKIP and Farage as Parliamentary candidate for FUKP in South Thanet.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Personal Injuries, Workers Memorial Day & Bite Sized Intro to Health and Safety at Work

The picture is from a course I helped run last year for my UNISON branch on Health and Safety. It was organised by our Outreach Worker, Andy Robinson and the guest speaker was Personal Injury lawyer from Thompsons solicitors, Shamoona Sheikh (right of photo).

Shamoona spoke about the free legal help and support that Thompsons give UNISON members. This includes personal injuries and accidents inside and outside of work. Unlike other law firms they will not take part of any damages awarded and they - not you - will pay for medical reports and any costs.

Thompsons also provides employment law advice to UNISON on unfair dismissal, discrimination, TUPE etc as well as as 24 hour criminal law helpline. They also give out free wills, advice on Criminal injuries compensation claims and run a conveyancing service. If you are an UNISON member you can get a free 30 minute telephone advice session on practically any legal matter.

I gave a talk about carrying out union workplace safety inspections then took people around on a "walkabout" inspection. I recommended that activists should try and hold a workplace safety inspection during the forthcoming "Workers Memorial Day" on 28 April 2015. This is not only a day to remember those who have been killed at work or died of industrial injuries but is also a campaigning day for health and safety. So it would be fitting to try and do something practical regarding health and safety on or about Tuesday 28 April 2015.

(black and white picture because the yellow fluorescence safety vest I was wearing made me look somewhat radio active!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Stand Up for Labour: Theatre Royal, Stratford, 9 March 2015

Reserve the evening of 9 March in your diary. It was agreed at tonights West Ham Labour Party Executive to go ahead with a fund raising event at the historic Theatre Royal, Stratford East, West Ham, East London.

Lyn Brown MP is helping to organise the event and proceeds will be shared with our West Ham Labour Party "Twin" (and Labour target seat) Ilford North to help them get Wes Streeting elected as their MP in May. 

"Stand up for Labour" have arranged for 3 very special comedians to perform (including one secret star appearance).

Booking details to follow. Watch this space.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

First Ilford North canvass 2015

On Saturday my Council surgery went over by 30 minutes due to a queue of constituents wanting help  about serious housing matters. It was very grim. We just desperately need to build more homes. 

In the afternoon I went on a #labourdoorstep in Ilford North with West Ham CLPers and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Wes Streeting. Ilford South MP Mike Gapes also joined in as well as another 7 Redbridge canvassers.

I knocked on one door with a West Ham Party member who had never been canvassing before. After telling him that there was very rarely any problem whatsoever when you go door knocking, I was somewhat concerned when the door opened to see a small woman struggling to hold back what seemed to be an enormous bulldog from "greeting us"!

We actually had quite a reasonable conversation with the woman. She said (in between trying to hold her dog still) that she voted Conservative last time and was considering voting UKIP next. She said she regretted voting Tory because in 2010 she used to have a house but had been forced to move into this flat. Which was I believe a reference to bedroom tax. She finished by saying she would consider voting Labour.

I asked Mike Gapes who was the most experienced canvasser amongst us how many homes had he knocked on while campaigning. He laughed and said possibly millions. He first went out canvassing in 1969 with Ilford Young Socialists. Since then he had campaigned all over the country as well as various parts of the world for sister Labour parties.

Ilford North are very hospitable  and afterwards we went for a quick drink in the Fairlop Arms and tried to put the world to rights.

Next West Ham event in Ilford North will be on the 24 January. Our MP Lyn Brown (who has been not well lately) will be organising telephone canvass sessions from our headquarters at 306 High Street, E15. Details to follow.

I keep reminding everyone who wants to get rid of this rotten Tory led government that we simply have to win the marginals in May to stand any chance. So if you can help out at any nearby marginal in the next few months please do. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"...but if you want to test a man's character, give him power"

Great quote by Abraham Lincoln. Equally applies to women of course but so many men behave badly if they have power. Some far, far more than others.

Friday, January 09, 2015

LGPS Pension Boards: Model UNISON Magna Carta

There are about 4.6 million people in the UK who are members (active, deferred or retired) of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). Collectively it is the 5th biggest pension fund in the world and worth around £180 billion. It is of huge importance to the UK economy.

From the 1 April 2015 each LGPS will have to by law set up a local Pension Board. The statutory role of the Boards is to advise and assist the fund to make decisions on all matters. We are still waiting for the final government regulations to be signed off by the Minister and laid before Parliament.

While I think that the Government has messed up over reform of the LGPS. Pension Boards will be good for the funds providing they are allowed to do their job properly and genuinely involve beneficiaries in the running of their funds.

Unless we improve performance and cut costs, due to the 13% employer contribution cap on future accrual (new pensionable service) the whole future of the LGPS will be put in peril.

UNISON has put together a model constitution for the Pension Boards (see below) which has been sent to all LGPS funds. This has already been adopted by all the Scottish LGPS funds.

I would recommend that every LGPS sets up a working group with UNISON and the other local government unions on how to make their local pension board work.

UNISON Model LGPS Pension Board Model Constitution

"1.    Introduction

1.1       Each Local Government Pension Scheme Manager in England and Wales is required to establish a Pensions Board separate from the .............................. Pensions Committee that acts as the Scheme Manager.

1.2       The .......................................................... (name of fund) Pension Board is established under the provisions of the ................................................. Regulations 2015.

2.    Objectives

2.1         The Pension Board is the body responsible for assisting the Scheme Manager in relation to compliance with scheme regulations and the requirements of the Pensions Regulator and any other relevant legislation.

2.2       The Pension Board will determine the areas they wish to consider including, amongst others:

  • Reports produced for the pensions committee
  • Seek reports from the scheme managers on any aspect of the fund
  • Monitor investments and the investment principles/strategy/guidance
  • Monitor fund investment and custodian transaction costs
  • The fund annual report
  • External voting and engagement provisions
  • Fund administrative performance
  • Actuarial reports and valuations
  • Funding policy
·         Any other matters that the pensions board deem appropriate

3.    Membership

3.1       Membership of the Pension Board will consist of equal numbers of trade union representatives and employer representatives, drawn from councils and scheduled or admitted bodies in membership of the fund.  Pension Board representatives must not also participate in or act as members of the pensions committee.  Local Authority employer representatives will normally be Elected Members serving as part of the Council.

(As a minimum there will be 4 trade union and 4 employer representatives with the expectation that larger funds will require greater numbers. Numbers from organisations on either side will broadly reflect respective membership in the scheme.)

3.2       There will be ............. (number) trade union representatives appointed by the trade unions as follows:

UNISON         .......
GMB               .......
Unite                .......

3.3       There will be .............. (number) employer representatives appointed by the respective employer organisations as follows:

Councils                      ......
Scheduled bodies       ......
Admitted bodies          ......

(In smaller funds it may be possible to name the councils and other bodies. In larger funds describe the way representatives of these groups are appointed e.g. at the pension fund annual meeting)

3.4       Pension Board representatives will serve for a period of four years and may be reappointed to serve further terms. Timescales for organisations to notify the Pension Board of their representatives shall be locally determined.  Employer bodies and organisations retain the right to withdraw representatives and identify replacements on occasion.

3.5       Appointing bodies can appoint a named substitute for their representative. Such substitutes must undertake the same training as set out in (6) below.

3.6       Advisors may attend meetings of the Pension Board in a non-voting capacity.

3.7       No person may be appointed to the Pension Board that has a significant conflict of interest. A conflict of interest is defined as a financial or other interest which is likely to prejudice a person’s exercise of functions as a member of the Pension Board. It does not include a financial or other interest arising merely by virtue of that person being a member of the scheme or any connected scheme for which the board is established. The Pension Board will adopt policies and protocols for handling any conflicts that were unanticipated and might arise during membership.

4.    Meetings

4.1       The Chair of the Pension Board will be rotated on an annual basis between the trade union and employer sides of the Pension Board.

4.2       Pensions Board meetings will be administered by ................. (pension fund or administering authority depending on local practice) as agreed with Joint Secretaries appointed by the trade union and employers sides of the Pension Board. All reasonable administration costs shall be met by the fund.

4.3       The Pensions Board should meet at least quarterly. A majority of either side may requisition a special meeting of the Pension Board in exceptional circumstances.

4.4       The Pensions Board may establish sub-committees.

4.5       While the statutory roles and function of the pension committee and pensions board are separate, the normal practice will be that both bodies will meet at the same time to consider the same agenda, with the Chair of the pension committee chairing the concurrent meeting. The aim is to engender a positive and proactive partnership culture where in practice the two bodies act as one.

5.    Dispute resolution

5.1       If the Pension Committee and Pension Board cannot reach joint agreement on any matter the process for resolving any differences between the two bodies will be as follows.  Whilst this process is undertaken the decision of the Pension Committee is still competent.

5.2       In the first instance, if at least half of the members agree, then the pension board can refer back a decision of the pensions committee for further consideration if any of the following grounds are met:

  • That there is evidence or information which it is considered needs re-evaluating or new evidence or data which the Pensions Committee did not access or was not aware of at the point of decision making and which is considered material to the decision taken;
  • That the decision of the Pensions Committee could be considered illegal or contrary to regulations;
  • That the decision of the Pensions Committee is contrary to a relevant Code of Practice published by the Pensions Regulator; or
  • That the decision is not in the interest of the continued financial viability of the Scheme or is against the principles of proper and responsible administration of the Scheme

5.3       If there is no agreement after the matter has been referred back to the pensions Committee, then the difference in view between the Pension Board and the Pension Committee will be published in the form of a joint secretarial report on the fund website and included in the fund annual report.

5.4       The England/Wales LGPS Scheme Advisory Board may also consider and take a view on the matter and, if considered appropriate, provide advice to the Scheme Manager or the pension board in relation to the matter.

6.    Training

6.1          All members (and named substitutes) of the Pensions Board must undertake a training programme in accordance with any guidance issued by the pensions regulator and complying with best practice training requirements of the Pensions Committee.

6.2       The Pensions Board shall agree policies and arrangements for the acquisition and retention of knowledge and understanding for pension board members

6.3       The Scheme Manager will keep an updated list of the documents with which they consider pension board members need to be conversant to effectively carry out their role and make sure
that both the list and the documents are accessible.

7.    Access to Information

7.1       The Scheme Manager and Pensions Board will together ensure that information is published about the activities of the board including:
• the full terms of reference for the pension board, including details of how they will operate
• the pension board appointment process
• who each individual pension board member represents and
• any specific roles and responsibilities of individual pension board members.

7.2       The minutes of the Pension Board will be published on the fund website. The Pensions Board may undertake such communications and stakeholder engagement as it deems appropriate to perform its functions.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Brain washed morons pretending they are doing God's work.

"We stand in solidarity with France against this evil attack by terrorists intent on attacking our democratic way of life & freedom of speech". Well said Ed (Miliband).

 "Fanaticism is a monster that pretends to be the child of religion" Voltaire

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

West Ham Labour January update - General Election just 120 days away (& debate on Syria)

"Happy 2015... It's only seven days into the new year and already voters can't have failed to notice there's a General Election coming.

The Tories have already published a false dossier on Labour's plans and the NHS is in crisis.

General Election 2015
We've got 120 days to get a Labour government elected. It's a battle we need to win seat by seat. West Ham is working to turn Ilford North from Conservative to Labour by getting Labour's Wes Streeting elected as the new MP.

Please come and help Labour win in May (and we'll help you if you've not done it before) by joining us talking to voters in Ilford North..

We're meeting this Saturday 10 January outside Stratford station at 1.30pm (or at Fairlop station at 2pm). For more info contact Julianne.

We'll also be helping Ilford North:
24 January at Statford station at 1.30pm (or 2pm at Fairlop)
14 February at Stratford station at 1.30pm (or 2pm at Fairlop)
28 February at Statford station at 1.30pm (for 2pm at Fairlop)

All members meeting (GC) on 22 January - Syria 
We've got a great speaker - the former British Ambassador to Syria, Basil Eastwood who will be giving us the background to the current Syrian conflict. We will be asking ourselves, four years into the bloody civil war, what hope ahead for Syrians? And how can the UK help? All members are very welcome.

Meeting starts at 7.30pm at 306 High St, Stratford, E15 1AJ And thank you to everyone who came to our Christmas social and quiz. We had a great time and also raised some much needed money for the election campaign.

Best wishes Julianne Marriott (West Ham CLP Vice Chair)"

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Fat Cat Tuesday

Today 6 January is "Fat Cat Tuesday" By only the 2nd working day of the first month of the year, the average CEO of a FTSE 100 company will have received more pay that the average UK worker will earn in the entire year.

Check out TUC press release

"TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s a stark reminder that while the average worker is £50 a week worse off than in 2010, boardroom pay gets bigger and bigger every year.

“We urgently need a change of course to put wage growth for all workers at the heart of Britain’s economic plan – if not then people’s living standards will not recover and the economy will remain in the danger zone.”

also hat tip High pay centre

NEC Elections 2015: Community General Seat & Female Seat Nomination Request

I posted last week that this is the Labour movement election season with my election address for the UNISON Greater London Regional Finance Convenor position. Yesterday evening I send out nomination requests for the UNISON NEC elections (see below). I am standing with June Poole from Rochdale LG branch for the two Community National Executive Council seats.

Picture above is from last years UNISON National Delegate conference of the current NEC. The NEC is the lay Parliament of our 1.3 Million members.  I was there for conference but missed the photo-shoot. While I don't agree with everyone on the NEC there are many really fantastic and dedicated rank and file activists on it who the whole union should be really proud of.

"Dear Branch Secretary
Your branch is entitled to nominate candidates to the two Community seats for this year’s National Executive Council elections. We request that your branch considers nominating John Gray for the General Seat and June Poole for the Female seat.

John is currently the Community NEC General seat representative and has been an activist in UNISON for many years and held a number of branch and regional positions including Treasurer, Health & Safety, Welfare, Labour Link, International officer and Assistant Secretary. He works as a Housing officer and is the Branch Secretary of the Greater London Housing Associations Branch which has over 3000 Community members.

June has held the Low Paid Women’s Seat on the Community Service Group Executive. She has also been a longstanding UNISON activist holding positions of Steward, Health and Safety rep and Assistant Branch Secretary with Rochdale Local Government branch. She is active in Women’s’ and Disabled Members SOGs at both regional and national level and is Vice Chair of UNISON Welfare. June works as a course administrator for a training organisation

John has served the union as a NEC member on the Policy and Development Committee, Trustee on the UNISON staff pension fund and National Labour link. June is a trustee of the UNISON “there for you” (Welfare) fund Committee and Vice Chair of the UNISON Community Service Group Executive.

Protecting Jobs, Terms & Conditions
Community members are facing amongst the very worse cuts in jobs and attacks on their pay, pensions, terms and conditions by this Tory led Government.
Care and support staff wages in particular are under threat as unscrupulous employers deliberately underbid to win Supporting People contracts then try and do their upmost to destroy TUPE protections.

We deserve a Pay Rise
While many Housing management organisations are cash rich after years of inflation plus rent rises yet still refuse to give their staff decent pay rises.

Both of us as NEC and SGE members have been working and campaigning with branches and regions to oppose these measures. We believe that Community members must play our part in opposing Austerity and arguing for an alternative economic policy regardless of who wins the General election in May.

We also believe that there are a number of Community specific campaigns that UNISON should be pursuing such as:-

Sector Wage Councils. Set up to decide the pay and conditions of all staff by collective bargaining including a living wage minimum for all Community workers and agency/sub-contractors.
Better governance and democracy. Increasingly many of our employer management boards are run by highly paid unelected and unrepresentative “elites”. There should be union employee representation on all Community Trust or management boards, especially remuneration committees (if applicable)
Defend Pensions. Protect the Social Housing Pension fund and the Pension Trust from further cuts.
Access to a decent defined benefit pension scheme for all.
Recruit & train more activists to support members
No public money for “union busters”. Any employer that does not have a trade union recognition agreement should be barred from grants or contracts from local or national governments.

We believe that we would both work together well as your Community NEC team. While June’s employer is a small voluntary organisation, John’s works for a large housing association, so we represent and complement both of the major sectors in Community.

If you would like either of us to come and attend a branch meeting or Hustings (under UNISON election rules) then please let us know and if we can, we will be delighted to come and speak.

Yours faithfully
June Poole RMS 887689
& John Gray RMS 3083288

Monday, January 05, 2015

Learning & Organising in Greater London UNISON 2015 (defend members & fight union busters)

If you are a London UNISON activist then download our training programme and application form for 2015 courses. I will be applying to go on the refresher steward course this year (under the Employment Rights Act unions are obligated to make sure that their stewards are "competent" - so UNISON runs special refreshers for experienced stewards).

As well as introductory trade union and health & safety courses there are others on team negotiating, TUPE, sickness & capability procedures, local negotiating & representation, dealing with reorganisation and redundancy at work, bullying & harassment, employment law update,  IT, discipline & grievances hearings, equality duties, stress in the workplace, chairing meetings and race/sex discrimination.

Our respected trade union education programmes for stewards, safety reps and activists is one of the main reasons why anti-trade union rogue employers (such Ealing based  Catalyst Housing Association) are Union Busters. If they de-recognise a trade union then union reps are not allowed time off to go on union courses on how to effectively represent their members.

This means that employees will not have trained local reps to represent them in discipline, sickness and grievances hearings but also employers will also be able to carry out whatever restructures, job revaluations and redundancies they want without collective bargaining.

The best people to represent staff and establish good industrial relations with management in the workplace are elected trained trade union stewards and safety reps who work for the employer supported by the unions full time officials.

It is a more than a shame that some senior managers don't understand this and prefer instead to breach human rights and practice anti-democratic American style union busting. In this country the wider Labour movement will never accept this and will defend collective bargaining and do whatever it takes to oppose union busters.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Why I like to pay taxes....

Love it. Hat tip the USA coffee movement. Maybe we should form something similar across the pond to counter the uber right wing Tories or their Kipper cousins.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Why is Housing the dog that never has its political day?

It was pretty depressing to read "Inside Housing" last week and see that housing is not in the voters top 10 priorities for the general election.

For someone who works in social housing and whose case work as a Councillor is mainly about overcrowding or homelessness, it seems very strange that "housing" is not a top election issue.

This is not just a "London thing". I'm now back from seasonable breaks in North Wales and Lincolnshire where both my sisters have a mid 20's adult "child" living with them because it is too expensive to rent or buy. Another nephew in Ipswich is also still at home saving up to buy aged 30.

So why is there this apparent lack of political interest?

There is an argument that if you are adequately housed then its "I'm all right Jack" and you are simply not that interested in homelessness or poor quality housing.

I'm sure that this is true for some but I think that the deeper real problem is that people no longer believe it is the role of the state to ensure that its people are adequately housed in secure, decent and affordable homes.  Instead housing is treated differently than say the NHS and seen by many as the responsibility of individuals and families.

This is a political problem but a problem that will be eventually fixed. See the chart above (double click to bring up details) which I think illustrates the scale of the housing crisis and how we are in a bubble that will eventually burst.

Since 1969 the supply of housing has crashed. In particular the supply of council housing. Neither private builders nor Housing Associations have taken up the slack. At the same time the price of housing has gone up and up. This cannot continue and something has got to give. Once this bubble has burst housing will become a political priority again. The role of councils is tackling this crisis will be critical.

We have to increase the supply of housing that people can afford and we have to control rents. To increase the supply of truly affordable housing somebody will have to subsidise it. Cross subsidy, freeing public and private land banks and allowing greater freedom to borrow is all well and good. We should not fool anyone that the scale of the crisis is such that it will need money. That money will have to come from the state as it takes up its traditional role again to make sure its people are decently housed. 

 Hat tip IPIN for chart.