Tuesday, May 31, 2016

West Ham Labour Remain Campaign Bank Holiday Weekend

Last Thursday we had London Labour MEP, Mary Honeyball talking to the West Ham Labour General Committee and taking questions about the Socialist case to vote remain in the EU referendum.

Sunday lunchtime the Labour Party "Labour In" Battle bus came to the Orbit in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.

Alan Johnson MP together with London MEPs spoke to activists about the economic importance of staying in the EU and protecting workers rights.

On Bank holiday Monday, West Ham CLP had over 15 activists, led by Lyn Brown MP, outside Stratford Station, handing out leaflets (and balloons) and putting the case for "Remain".

By coincidence, I met up with road sweeper, Rab Smith,  who I used to work with in Tower Hamlets and is a longstanding UNISON activist and we had a really good conversation about the annihilation of employment rights if we leave Europe and the prospect of 4 years of Tory/UKIP rule.

I think one of the best things we did that day was to explain to young people how easy it was to register to vote on their smart phones. Just google "voter registration" and if you have your national insurance number,  you can do it in 5 minutes. (By June 7 - but don't delay) 

Monday, May 30, 2016

The UK's housing bubble: ready to pop?

As someone who was badly caught out by the last major crash in 1990 - this chart frightens me.

The report is from Fathoms, who are economic advisors to Newham Council Investment and Accounts Committee.

"The UK's house price to income ratio has been inflated to within a whisker of its pre-recession peak and is well above its long-term average.

Property prices would need to fall by up to 40%, or household income grow at ten times its current pace for the next five years, in order to bring the ratio back to balance.

We maintain our view that this increase is demand driven, brought about by both exceptionally low real rates of interest and Chancellor Osborne's Help to Buy scheme.

The housing market is likely to remain overvalued at anything other than near-zero interest rates. Fearful of destabilising the fragile arithmetic that underpins the housing market, we believe that Bank Rate normalisation is a distant prospect - regardless of the EU referendum result".

Greece Solidarty Campaign delegation visit March 2016: Day One "Refugees Welcome to Piraeus".

This is a  late post on a 3 day delegation visit I went in March to Athens with the Greece Solidarity Campaign (GSC). The GSC is an independent campaign and non-party political organisation, established in response to an appeal by Tony Benn in February 2012 for solidarity with the people resisting ‘austerity’ in Greece. It is supported by the TUC and has a number of affiliated organisations and individual members. The GSC have run various delegation visits to Greece in recent years but the theme of this visit was about "Local Government". I was interested in this as both a local Councillor and also a public service trade union activist.

All members of the delegation arranged independent travel and accommodation and we met for the first time on the Sunday in a hotel in the centre of Athens. The delegation included trade unionists, Councillors, supporters and Jon Lansman, the National secretary for Momentum. David Lammy MP arrived the following day.

Our first visit and tour was to a Solidarity Centre, which was set up for and run by unemployed Greeks. It began in 2012 and now supported 200 families. It helps with food, legal advice, chemists, education and training. It is not a "charity" and all members have to volunteer for at least 4 hours and have to attend monthly meetings. Focus is on the out of work. 60% are unemployed. 30% have inadequate pensions and the remaining 10% inadequate income for other reasons.

As well as supporting Greeks hit by austerity they are also now collecting food for  refugees. "Solidarity for all" is their slogan. Their motto is the best way to show solidarity - is to do it. 

The kitchen in the back feeds refugees. But the refugees do not want to stay in Greece and tend to head out for "Macedonia and Germany".  Due to the border restrictions more people are staying longer (the restrictions have since become far worse). Greece is in danger of becoming a "deposit of lost souls". 75% of Greeks are supportive of refugees and show solidarity but this could change very quickly. See the rise of the fascist and racist Party "Golden Dawn".

Next we went to the Commercial Port and the E1 passenger terminal.  The terminal was a make shift refugee camp. Despite the efforts of volunteers the conditions were pretty shocking. Families and young children were sleeping on blankets over concrete floors. The children were making the best of it and playing games while their parents looked desperate and exhausted. Some of us also visited a former warehouse across the road which was also being used to house refugees. The conditions were even more appalling here being overcrowded, dark and dank. Many of our delegation were openly upset at what they witnessed. I for one never thought that I would ever see scenes like this in modern day Europe.

We met some of the young volunteers who included refugees themselves from Syria and Yemen and a British student helping out during her gap year. The volunteers worked 6am to 6pm shifts, 2 days on and 1 day off. Other volunteers handed out clothing and food while off duty Greek hospital doctors and nurses ran an emergency medical clinic.

The refugees wanted to tell us their stories. Horrific tales about suicide bombings and killings, the fear of drowning when crossing the sea, the uncertainty and worry about their future.

One of our guides explained that despite the poverty and economic hardship in Greece, ordinary Greeks still supported the refugees because so many of them were once refugees themselves because of past war and conflicts. He asked the British people to think that who knows, one day they might well be refugees and need help and support.

I will post on the other 2 days later.

On Sunday 17 July I will be attempting to complete a Olympic distance triathlon to raise funds for the GSC and for UNISON Charity "there for you".

You can donate to the GSC here (drop me an email to let me know) and/or to There For You on the "Just Giving" page I have set up.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Canning Town North Labour Party meeting on proposed Silvertown Link Tunnel - 9 June

Canning Town North Labour Party
Email: Labourparty.canningtownnorth@hotmail.co.uk


Facebook: coming soon

Branch Meeting:

The Hub, 123 Star Lane, E16 4PZ

Thursday 09th June 2016 Start 7.00pm

Venue: Community Links
105 Barking Road, Canning Town

RE:The Silvertown Link Tunnel

Dear Member:

You are invited to a meeting to meeting regarding the Silvertown Link Tunnel, this a open meeting were members can bring friends and family.


*Robert Gordon & Jim Ludlum will open the meeting and talk about the effects on the Canning Town North area.

*Ann Robbins from (say no to Silvertown Link tunnel) will talk about the effects of tunnel from Greenwich.

*Then invited speakers(TBA) from Labour Party, Green Party, and other parties will talk about their views on Silvertown link Tunnel.

*The floor will be open for members of the public to ask questions.

* Closing arguments.

So Please all ward members and residents please attend this, thks.

Shaban Mohammed.
Branch Secretary.
Canning Town North.

Register to Vote in EU Referendum - online in 5 minutes (By 7 June)

If you haven't registered to vote - Click on https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. It will take about 5 minutes and all you need is your national insurance number (on a pay or pension slip, tax form, or plastic card). You can even use a smart phone. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Axe the Housing Act

Picture is from the Defend Council Housing lobby against the Housing and Planning Bill in the House of Commons earlier this month. A number of MPs, Lords, Tenant representatives, campaigners and trade unions came to speak at it.

I was late due to a union commitment and missed Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, but managed to hear Bethnal Green MP, Rushanara Ali, call for unity in order to oppose the bill. Later Diane Abbot MP, spoke about the need to build more and more Council Homes as the only real solution to the housing crisis, while Emily Thornberry described the housing misery of so many of her constituents, which is why she is known as the "Housing, Housing, Housing MP".

The Bill will steal homes from hard pressed Councils to pay the Tory election bribe on Right to buy for Housing association tenants and it will double or triple the rents of many social tenants who work and likely to result in mass evictions.

I spoke later on why UNISON is so opposed to the Bill. Out big issue is where will low paid families and key workers be able to afford to live in the future?

Not only do we have around 100,000 trade union members who work in social housing but we have 1.3 million predominately low paid, female members, many of which cannot afford a decent home to buy or rent. A recent survey found that a third of our members had grown up children still living with them and now twice as many live in private rented accommodation as in the social rented sector.

After the lobby I went to watch in the gallery the actual debate on the Housing Bill in the House of Commons. I saw Labour and other opposition MPs rip the bill to pieces and completely out of touch rich Tory MPs try to defend it on the grounds that it will benefit families who earn £100,000 per year!

The Bill is now law and despite some concessions is still vile. However, it does not come in force until next year and the Government will have to return to Parliament for approval on regulations etc so there is still time to campaign, oppose and axe!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pension v ISA: what future for workplace saving? 27th June 2.30-4.40pm

This should be fascinating. A debate between the quiet and unassuming, Michael Johnson and trade union Baroness, Jeannie Drake on the future for pensions (or is it workplace savings?)
"Dear colleague
The coming year will be pivotal for the future of UK retirement savings with a major review of automatic enrolment and the launch of a potential rival to workplace pensions in the Lifetime ISA.

On June 27, the TUC is to set out its proposals for the future of automatic enrolment with the publication of a report Unfinished Business: where now for workplace pensions?. It continues the long-standing campaign by the trade union movement to secure decent retirement provision for all workers.

The report will be launched with a debate between two of the foremost figures in devising these contrasting approaches to saving for retirement.

Baroness Drake was one of the three members of the Pensions Commission that revolutionised workplace pensions saving with its advocacy of automatic enrolment a decade ago. She is also a Labour peer and former Deputy General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union.

Michael Johnson is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies who has provided much of the intellectual ammunition for a move towards an ISA-based system for retirement savings.  A former investment banker, he later worked for an actuarial consultancy and ran David Cameron’s Economic Competitiveness Policy Group.

The event will be chaired by TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak.

It will take place at Congress House with registration from 2.30pm for a prompt 3pm start. The event will finish by 4.30pm.

This event will be of interest to trade unionists, policy experts, pensions industry representatives and others.

To register please click on the link below:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Forest Gate "Labour In"

Picture is from the stall on Saturday in Forest Gate of West Ham CLP supporters campaigning for "Remain" in the EU referendum.

This was led by our MP Lyn Brown (left of picture).

There was a very good response. Lots of "thumbs up" and positive comments by local residents.

Next time we need more balloons to hand out.

We also sent out leafleters to surrounding streets and asked local shops and businesses to put up "VOTE REMAIN 23 JUNE" posters.

Monday, May 23, 2016

UNISON "there for you" grants for School Uniforms

UNISON's special charity for its own members "there for you" is helping low paid families to meet the cost of providing school uniforms. If your net earned (work) income is less than £18,000 per year (see below) and you have savings of less than £800 then you can get £40 per child uniform grants from UNISON "there for you"  up to £120 (for 3 kids).

What are UNISON There for You School Uniform Grants?
In addition to our normal range of services and in response to the growing difficulties many members on low income  face,  a programme has been put in place that will assist our most vulnerable members with the cost of purchasing school uniforms.

How much are the Grants?
They are one-off grants of £40.00 per school age child, up to a total of £120.00

Am I eligible?
To be eligible you must be:
·         A member who has paid 4 weeks subscriptions before the launch date of this programme (23/5/16)
·         Have a total net annual household income of £18,000 or less.  [Note:By household income we mean net earnings after tax, national insurance, pension deductions  of you, your partner and any other adults living in the property.   Please also refer to next bullet point:
·         The following is not included as income for the purpose of this specific grants programme:
-          Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments, Child Benefit and the childcare cost element only of Working Tax Credit
·         Responsible for meeting household bills and struggling to pay them
·         Financially responsible for the child/children.
·         Not eligible for funding for uniform costs from your Local Authority

Is there anything else that may affect my entitlement to apply?
·         Members and their partners must not have combined savings or, a rolling bank balance of more than £800.00.  Savings of any other adults in the household do not apply
·         You must not have received financial assistance from UNISON There for You during the previous six months
·         Applications are limited to one per household
·         Ensure you send all requested paperwork with the form or the application cannot be accepted

How do I apply?
To apply for a School Uniform Grant simply:
·         Download from our website www.unison.org/thereforyou
·         Contact Unison Direct on 0800 0857 857 for a form to be posted to you
·         Provide us with evidence of your entire household income by sending copies of :
o   You and your partner (if applicable) last month’s payslip(s)
o   Last full month’s bank statements for all bank accounts held by you and your partner (if applicable)
·         Submit the form along with the completed short survey by 15 July 2016.
·         Post your application including all supporting paperwork to: UNISON Welfare, UNISON Centre, 130 Euston Road, London NW1 2AY.

Where can I go for further help or advice?
There is a limited amount of funding in the school uniform grants programme and once it has been exhausted no further awards for the year can be made.  However if you are facing unforeseen hardship it may be possible for you to apply to our general grants programme.  We will let you know if this applies to you. 

For further information, please see our web pages at www.unison.org/thereforyou, contact your Branch Welfare Officer or the There for You Support Team on  020 7121 5620  or email thereforyou@unison.co.uk.   If you are experiencing difficulty with credit card and other consumer debts, please refer to our additional  information at https://www.unison.org.uk/get-help/services-support/there-for-you/debtline-support/, or contact our Debline direct on 0800 389 3302.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

London Loop Walk Section 6: Banstead to Kingston

This post is a little late and off message but the weekend after the May 5 elections I resumed my attempt to walk around the London Loop route from last year.

The London Loop is a 150 mile circular walk around London split into sections. I had hoped to complete the whole walk last year but only managed to do the walks 1-5. The further away from East London the more difficult it was to get to get to and fro the start and finish of each walk.

This time I decided to do one Loop walk on the Saturday and stay over for the night then do the next walk the following day (Sunday).  It was about 11 miles.

It was a nice walk but mostly urban and suburbia.  Tudor Nonsuch Park and Palace was pretty and interesting but the main path along the river Hogworth was a bit disappointing. Ewell was well worth a visit with the Roman remains and the Village Jail. Brought refreshing ice lollies at Bourne Hall. There was beautiful tree blossom throughout the route. May is a wonderful time of year to go walking.

The best part of the walk was the ending in Kingston upon Thames. There was a Airbnb apartment just off the route and 10 minutes walk from the centre. Kingston is lovely and had a great meal in a restaurant next to the river in the evening and was able to carry on route 7 the following day (Sunday). 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Has Labour betrayed the Working Class?

I am not really into so called "betrayal politics" but recently I had a disagreement with someone over the cause of the relative decline in support for Labour by some white working class voters.

East European Immigration was given as the reason.

I argued that immigration policy is important but the main reason why some white and black working class people feel that Labour is no longer their Party is that they think they have been betrayed.
There used to be a compact in this country that if you were went out to work you would get a decent job with decent wages.

At work you would be treated with respect by your employer and protected if you became unemployed or sick. You would be able to afford good quality housing to bring up your family. Now, for decades we have had a decline in real wages, privatisation, often rubbish jobs that only pay a minimum wage, reduced employment rights, zero hour insecure contracts and completely unaffordable rents and house prices.

If you lose your job or become sick you are treated with contempt and as a sponger by the state.

The right wing media and UKIP racists whip things up by blaming "Johnnie Foreigner" for all these ills but the real blame lies elsewhere.

The solution has little to do with immigration.

I missed the Jeremy Corbyn "New Economics" conference today but it is about time that Labour promised to tackle inequality, build 100,000 Council homes per year and create high skill, high value and secure jobs.

( Picture of Aneurin Bevan visiting newly built Council homes in 1949).

Sunday Night Live 22 May: Remain & Leave on Trial

I hope to attend this debate on Sunday evening.  Should be interesting.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Newham Council AGM 2016

Yesterday evening the official Council AGM took place at the main hall of the Old Stratford Town Hall. It started with local primary school children choir and band. I believe that they played a Soviet Red  Army marching song which always goes down very well in Newham!

Next, Council members elected the Chair and Vice Chair of the Council for the forthcoming year and agreed the appointments of chairs of Committees.

Then there was a "Freedom of the Borough" Presentations to 10 New Alderman/Alderwomen who have given public and civic service to Newham.

This included former Councillors Shama Ahmad MBE (who was the first Asian female Mayor), Christine Bowden, Lew Boyce (trade unionist and one of the first 4 African Caribban Cllrs elected in Newham1982), Marie Collier, Keith Hasler (only one of 2 Cllrs still alive from the 1965 merged East and West Ham Council), Kevin Jenkins; Volunteer's Paul Chelliah and Valerie Fone; Newham & Essex Beagles Athletic Club; West Ham FC footballer Mark Noble and local small businessman, Devendra Patel.

The Newham Young Mayor was thanked for his term of office and the meeting ended with the Mayor, Robin Wales, giving his annual report and work plan for 2016/17.

This was followed by reception in the Council chamber then late night drinks in the King Eddies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

UNISON Remain In the EU

Check out UNISON advice to its 1.3 million members here
"On 23 June the UK must make a decision. The referendum gives us all the chance to decide whether to remain part of the European Union (EU) or whether to leave.

It is an important decision for the UK and our future. UNISON knows the EU isn’t perfect – far from it – but we have looked in detail at all the evidence from both sides and have come to the view that our members’ interests are best served by remaining part of the European Union.

As your trade union, UNISON is here to protect your job, your standard of living, and the public services that we rely on every day. We believe that leaving the EU will make it harder for us to do that".

and "Another Europe is Possible" for the real Left progressive case to remain and reform Europe.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Monday, May 16, 2016

A two term limit for elected Mayors

Last Thursday at a very well attended meeting of my local Forest Gate North Branch Labour Party,
members voted overwhelmingly to support the below rule change.

There was a really good debate with a wide range of different views and arguments expressed. I supported the rule change. At the same time the rule change was also being supported by (West Ham CLP) Forest Gate South Branch, Stratford Branch, Canning Town North and Manor Park Branch (East Ham CLP).

Supporters of the rule change made it clear that this was not about personalities but about principles and governance. This rule change is being supported nationally by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. It will now go to the West Ham Labour Party General Committee on Thursday 26 May and if it is passed it will be submitted to the National Labour Party to be possibly considered at our Party Conference in September.

On the same night Forest Gate North branch also voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion that paid Mayoral advisors should not hold Labour Party branch or Executive Committee officer positions. This was to improve good governance and avoid conflicts of interests. This motion will now go to the West Ham Labour Party AGM in June.

Proposed rule change for Party conference 2016

A two term limit for elected Mayors

"The Labour Party Rule Book 2016 Chapter 5 Selections, rights
and responsibilities of candidates for elected public office.
Clause I. General rules for selections for public
office. Sub-Clause 1. G. i. Alternative Procedures (page 20) ,
reads as follows:

‘For any mayoral selection the NEC may consider the use of
primary elections, subject to the absolute power of the NEC to
cancel or amend procedure, and subject to:
a. Procedural guidelines set by the NEC.’


Add new sub-clause:

b. If a selected candidate is elected for two consecutive terms
he/she cannot apply for selection as the Labour candidate for the
same mayoral post for the following third term”.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Striking junior doctor Dr Rosena Allin-Khan picked as Labour candidate for Tooting

Picture of the new Labour Candidate for the Tooting By-election  "We are delighted to announce that Rosena Allin-Khan has been selected by local members as Labour's candidate in the upcoming by-election in Tooting, following Sadiq Khan's election as Mayor of London.
The by-election will take place on 16 June 2016 – if you are eligible to take part please make a note of the date and remember to vote.
Following her selection, Rosena said the following:

“I love Tooting. I was born and raised here, and there’s no other place I’d rather raise my children.
“As your MP, I will use all my experience, including as an A&E specialist doctor at St George’s hospital, to improve local services and make sure our area remains affordable for everyone living here.”

Saturday, May 14, 2016

UNISON Parliamentary Reception with Stella Creasy MP on Workers' Memorial Day

This is a late post but picture collage is from the UNISON Parliamentary reception on 28 April 2016 for about 50 Labour Link members in North East London.

The Greater London UNISON Political Officer, Steve Terry introduced the Speakers.  The first speaker was Ilford North MP, Wes Streeting MP, who spoke about being a new MP and the importance of people participating in the political process. He then had to dash off since he was leading a tour of the House of Commons for his constituents.

Next was Stella Creasy MP who talked about her experiences involving her constituents in campaigning on local and national issues such as the eviction of tenants whose homes had been sold to developers and helping to get interest rates on "payday" loans restricted.

I spoke as Chair of Greater London Labour Link about this day being Workers Memorial Day and the 50,000 people who die prematurely each year from work related ill health. It is a day not only to mourn the dead but to fight like hell for the living.

Afterwards Stella and her Parliamentary assistants organised tours around Westminster. Many of the UNISON members present had never been to Parliament before.

(picture in bottom right of collage is the painting of Tony Benn which was outside the meeting room).

Thursday, May 12, 2016

"Disciplinary or grievance hearing? It's dangerous to go Solo..."

This is a great poster. Not sure where I found it now.

One of the worse things that I have to do as a trade union rep is to refuse representation to work colleagues who join the union too late. You cannot join knowing you have a problem and then expect help!

So join UNISON now online or if you do not work in public services then check out which one is best suitable on this TUC website.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Liz Baptiste: New UNISON NEC member for Higher Education

Great news. My fellow Greater London UNISON Regional Council Officer (for Equalities) and comrade Liz Baptiste (on left in picture next to Regional convenor, Yvonne Green and yours truly) has been elected as the new National Executive Committee member for Higher Education.

Liz will make a fan-tas-tic NEC member.

Well done Liz!


Sunday, May 08, 2016


Ever wanted to get involved in local politics and make a difference in your local area but don’t know where to start or are not sure its for you?

UNISON is keen to increase the number of trade unionists standing as Labour Party candidates.  Local communities are diverse in their life experience, priorities and needs, and Labour councillors should reflect this diversity in the skills and experience that they bring to the council.

As a trade unionist you will have skills in listening to and reassuring others, negotiating and mediation, problem solving, participating in or running a campaign.

UNISON Labour Link has organised training for anyone wishing to find out more, without any obligation.

You can choose from one of two sessions on either Tuesday 17 May or Thursday 26 May.  Both events will be 5.00-7.30pm at the UNISON Centre, Euston Road, London NW1 2AY.

The informal session will include:

·         Experiences of a current Labour Councillor

·         Understanding the Labour Party selection process

·         What Labour would expect of you as a candidate

·         How to write your CV and get selected

·         If you are selected how to run an election campaign and get elected

To be eligible to attend you must be a UNISON member, and also an individual member of the Labour Party.

If you would like to register please complete and return the attached application form to Cally (C.Thompson@unison.co.uk) . To find more please contact Cally Thompson on 0207 535 6610 or email) 

Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
(So email Cally if you are interested. I hope to attend both sessions)

Saturday, May 07, 2016

London Mayor Sadiq Khan

I am so pleased and chuffed that Sadiq has been elected our Mayor for London with 1.3 million votes. I am also proud that Londoners have clearly rejected the vile and racist smear campaign that Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, his advisors and some of his supporters have run.  Following post election comments made by some leading Tories it seems that this view was shared by even them.

The behaviour of the "Evening Standard" was also dreadful. Why do we have such an awful gutter press?

To me the 3 chief policies I look forward to Sadiq pursuing are :-

1. Ordinary Londoners now have hope that they and their children in the future can actually afford to rent or buy a home in the capital.
2. No more inflation busting bus and rail fare rises either
3. Making sure that we have a real Community Police Service that respects and protects all Londoners.

Looking forward to a similar Labour Victory in 2020 (or hopefully sooner)

Well done to our new Mayor, Sadiq Khan. 

Friday, May 06, 2016

Mayor of Redbridge's Appeal "Jump Jive NIght" May 7th

Councillor Mary Locke

This morning I woke to and checked the web to find out that top UNISON NEC member and NHS worker, Mary Locke, had been elected as a Labour Councillor for Bournville ward on Birmingham Council.

It was a tough fight since 2 out of the existing 3 ward Councillors are Tory. She beat the Tories by over 300 votes. I went a couple of times to help Mary out with other UNISON activists.

Congratulations to the Bournville Labour team as well, who were organised, friendly and supportive of volunteers who came to help.

This is from her website

"Thank you for electing me as your local councillor

"After a long night at the beautiful Stirchley Baths for the election count, I’m feeling tired but very happy this morning. I’m proud to say my fellow residents of Bournville, Cotteridge and Stirchley have elected me to be their new local councillor!
Thank you for placing your faith in me. As your local councillor I promise to be a strong, local and honest voice for people in all parts of our ward, whether you live in Bournville, Cotteridge or my home neighbourhood of Stirchley.
You can see the full results over on the  Birmingham Newsroom website.

Delivering my priorities

I like to keep in touch with people. Over the course of my campaign I have spoken with thousands of people in all parts of the ward. It is by listening to local people and understanding their concerns that I identified my priorities:
  • Well paid jobs and training
  • Improved rubbish and recycling collections; tackling litter
  • Action on road safety and congestion
  • Regeneration of Cotteridge and Stirchley
  • More homes to rent and buy

Standing up for local people and our city

Being your councillor is a tough job at the best of times and I do not take my new responsibilities  lightly.

With a Tory government in Westminster, our city has already been harder hit than better off parts of the country. Now, our emergency services and city are on the brink as Birmingham is being forced to make another £98 million in cuts over the next two years.

As your local councillor, I will support Labour’s No More #BrumCuts campaign to secure a fair deal for Birmingham. This will allow us to protect more of the public services we rely on everyday from central government cuts.

Thank you again for voting for me to be your councillor. I look forward to serving you".

Thursday, May 05, 2016

No ifs nor buts: Get the Vote out for Sadiq Khan as London Mayor (and for Labour everywhere)

It is 7AM and polling stations across the land have just opened.

This is going to be a really close vote in London. Ignore the polls. Every single vote will count. London is a Labour City but unless we turn out our supporters the Tories will win.

So today can all Labour supporters in London (and elsewhere) remember the key Get The Vote Out polling day message of "knock early, knock often".

Good luck!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Eve of Poll 4 May 2016 - Getting the Labour Vote out

The day started with some family political scandal via LinkedIn, my lovely sister-in-laws' current husband, has just defected as a North Wales Councillor (and former Mayor) from Plaid Cymru to the Conservatives. No further comment.

Other than that a busy Labour movement day. Today I had UNISON meetings with members at Stratford, Islington and Bow (yesterday in Guildford, Dorking and Merton). This evening I was calling at previously identified Labour supporters in Forest Gate North ward, Newham with local Councillor, Rachel Tripp.

We started off by bumping into a very strong minded resident, who I knew well when we both worked for Tower Hamlets Council and Rachel knows as a Councillor, who assured us that our Labour Mayoral Candidate, Sadiq Khan, had his second preference vote (his first preference was not Tory).

It is actually good fun calling on identified Labour supporters during the eve of poll. You can be less formal and more relaxed but need to be careful, since sometimes previous canvassers have got the voter identification spectacularly wrong.

Most of the photos in the collage relate to recent canvass sessions in West Ham ward (where I am a Councillor) with our local MP, Lyn Brown.

Last night I spoke at the lobby in a House of Commons Committee room on behalf of UNISON against the Tory Housing and Planning Bill (post to follow). Afterwards I went to watch the debate on the bill from the public gallery. Sadiq Khan was there in the chamber to support Labour MPs who were attacking the Bill and supporting the House of Lords amendments to this obnoxious and disastrous bill.

Instead of campaigning for himself, he was in the House of Commons to support and vote against a bill that will steal homes from Councils, get rid of tenant rights and force low to middle income Londoners out of the capital.

Tomorrow is a chance for ordinary Londoners to make a stand and elect a Mayor who will represent all of London and not just posh old Etonian multi-millionaires. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

"Remember the dead but fight for the Living": Workers Memorial Day 2016

Please see attached photo and press release on behalf of UNISON Housing Associations Branch, Newham NUT, Newham United Against Austerity and West Ham Labour TULO.

Last Thursday 28 April Trade Unionists and Labour Party supporters gathered around the “Clasped Hands” statue in Three Mills Green, Stratford, E3.

UNISON NEC Member John Gray (and Newham Councillor) spoke to the gathering about the “50,000 workers who die each year in the UK from either accidents or work related ill health. That is 1,000 workers each and every week that die prematurely. The vast majority of these deaths were completely avoidable”.

Tony Power, who works for a local Housing Association in Stratford reminded them about the tragedy that occurred on this site in 1901 that the “clasped hands” monument remembers.  “A worker was repairing a ventilation shaft when he was overcome and collapsed due to fumes. Three of his fellow workers sacrificed their lives by trying to pull him out but they were overcome by fumes as well and sadly died”.  

Retired Newham teacher, Peg Probett, placed the wreath on the memorial.

Newham Councillor, Obaid Khan, thanked the Newham trade unions and NUAA for organising this important event.

Monday, May 02, 2016

"On the Knocker" for Sadiq in Forest Gate.

The collage is from recent campaign sessions in Forest Gate North (West Ham CLP).  The Labour vote for Sadiq Khan in the ward is pretty overwhelming. It is also amazing how many Party members there are nowadays. Every street it seems has 2 or 3 members.

I noticed what appears to be a Fire Insurance plaque on a building in Sebert Road, E7 (top middle). Not sure it is original since the London Fire Brigade was in operation by 1881.

The statue of the cat on the garden wall (top left) is great.

In a council owned block off off Forest Lane E7 there is a black and white picture (bottom middle) in the communal hallway of children playing cricket in the street. I wonder who put this there and why. 

"Stop the Housing Bill" Lobby tomorrow Tuesday 3rd May

I will be at the lobby tomorrow evening after 5pm (Tuesday 3rd May).

From UNISON press release "The Housing and Planning Bill is nearing its conclusion in Parliament, it returns to the Commons on 3 May, when it will be debated by MPs.

This is a crucial debate that could see the Bill voted into law.UNISON is concerned that the bill, if it is passed in its current form, will result in fewer social and affordable homes, housing jobs and services for citizens and the vulnerable. That is why we are supporting this lobby on Tuesday 3 May as part of the Stop the Housing Bill campaign.  

The lobby gives campaigners, housing workers and citizens the opportunity to meet with their Member of Parliament to tell them what is wrong with the Bill and how it will impact on local communities and the housing options of ordinary citizens.

Outside Parliament: Old Palace Yard SW1P 3JY from 12 - 2pm

Then from 3 – 7pm Meeting in Committee Room 12 in parliament with campaigners, Lords and MPs 


See also leaflet here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/d4tre8qppvld1qn/KtHB_lobbyMPs_3May2016_A6_2pp.pdf?dl=0 

Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Emperor has no clothes. DC Pensions

From Professional Pensions "John Gray looks at whether current contribution levels across DB and DC are adequate.
As well as being an employee representative on a pension board I am also a UNISON trade union branch secretary with members in more than 140 different private and public service employers.
While I am pleased that auto-enrolment (AE) has taken off so far, I am astonished about how little money employers are paying into pension pots. While many do pay more than the statutory requirement, we see well known national organisations with supposedly good reputations paying peanuts into their employee pension schemes.
If you put in only the AE 8% then you will be retiring and die in relative poverty.
I remember my first ever TUC pension course and our tutor (by coincidence the father of present day PLSA CEO, Joanne Segars) telling us there was an unscientific rule of thumb that you need to put around 20% of your income into a pension for 40 years to retire on half pay and receive a lump sum. Since workers cannot afford to pay 20% into their pension the employer has to pay the greater share.
Whenever I repeat this story to trade union members and to employers they are genuinely horrified at both the amount and the length of time needed.
I know this 20% rule of thumb is full of holes but recently I went to the website of a well-known stakeholder provider and spent a little time on its pension calculator site. While there is no such thing as a perfect projection I was pretty shocked at what I found.
How much?
I used the example of a worker aged 28, who has no existing pension provision on £30,000 per year, who is planning to retire in 40 years' time at age 68. I worked out that not 20% but a ridiculous 50% (£1,250 per month) of their income would have to be invested in order to hopefully retire on half pay (with no lump sum).
If you include the projected state pension you will still have to pay in an eye-watering 34% of your income (£850 per month). So only paying 20% into your pension for 40 years will actually get you nowhere near half pay. If you put in only the AE 8% then you will be retiring and dying in relative poverty.
Okay, maybe under AE a 28-year-old will by that age have some existing pension provision. Current investment assumptions may prove to be wrong and be too pessimistic. Perhaps the industry will really drive down costs and charges (including hidden fees) and increase return. Annuity rates could improve?
Maybe, maybe not. Young people have student loans to pay off, sky high rents to cover while also trying to save for a mortgage. While retention rates for AE have been much higher than expected, this might change. Especially if people think it is not going to be worth it. Current investment assumptions could prove to be optimistic. The industry is very good at side-tracking attempts to cut its charges and annuity rates could remain the same for decades.
So let's keep the 34% of income figure. It's a good enough guess as any I think. Now, should the union be arguing with employers to be paying, say, 26% employer pension contributions and employees 6%? I can imagine the response. Let's face up to it – defined contribution schemes are just not going to deliver.
But why is it some of my union members still belong to a good-quality, national, career average defined benefit schemes, whose total cost for future actuarial is capped at 18.5%? With the employer contribution a maximum of 13%? Surely it's time to think again about modern defined benefit schemes?
John Gray is a London Borough of Tower Hamlets Pension board member though he is writing in a personal capacity