Sunday, October 30, 2016

Jezza "on the knocker" in support of Labour Councillor Candidate Yvonne Maxwell #LoveHoxton

Yesterday morning I missed the very beginning of the canvass session in support of Yvonne Maxwell, who is standing as the Labour candidate for Hackney Council in a by election in Hoxton West.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn MP turned up (by bike) to go out and canvass with Yvonne. By all accounts he and Yvonne had a fantastic response from residents and passer-bys coming up to him to offer their support, cars' tooting and giving them the thumbs up.

Yvonne is the daughter of a respected former Newham Councillor, Doris Maxwell.  There was 3 of us from West Ham Labour Party helping out.

I went out with a canvass team of local Councillors and activists led by Polly Billington who I had met before when she was the Parliamentary candidate for Thurrock. Also in the team was Hackney cabinet member for Jon Burke who was a former UNISON delegate to our Regional Council.

The poll is this Thursday 3 November 2016.

Meeting Point (for all sessions)
The junction of Murray Grove and New North Road, London N1  which is just a 5 minute walk from Old Street Station.  
Week Three (Polling week)
Monday 31          6-7.30pm
Tuesday 1           6-7.30pm
Wednesday 2     6-7.30pm

Polling Day

Thursday 3  from  8am to10pm

Committee Room
215A Kingsland Road

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Violence at work: When someone with a grudge against a Housing worker takes a can of petrol...

Last week was European Health and Safety week. This is a time to think about work related safety matters.

Early this month I was rang by the radio programme "BBC 5 Live investigates". They asked if I was available to be interviewed by the programme about housing officers facing violence at work.

My name and contact details had been given out by UNISON. They were not sure if I would be needed but wanted me as a reserve. Which is fair enough and the way media works.

The programme went out live on Sunday 2 October and I had to wait to see if I was called. As it happened they did not ring me about my experiences of violence at work as a housing officer. I have no complaints about that since they did interview Joanne, a housing worker in the South East of England and her story was simply shocking.

She described how a resident had thrown a chair at her in a meeting and had waited outside her office for her with knives. The police had also contacted her to warn that this person had been caught with a canister of petrol and admitted that they had intended to attack her, pour petrol over her and set her alight.

This is obviously an extreme event and thankfully very rare. However, the programme also referred to a recent Inside Housing survey where 7/10 Housing officers said that they had been punched, attacked with a weapon or held hostage. Violence at work is completely unacceptable and while some housing organisations work well with staff and unions to make safety a top issue, some don't.

I was quoted in the article about the survey:

"John Gray, housing association branch secretary at Unison, fears that as staff cutbacks continue, staff safety could end up getting overlooked.

“Organisations are cutting jobs, they’re merging, they’re reducing the number of employees,” he says.

“A housing manager has a huge amount of work to do. Will they be updating the risk assessment every year? Will they be encouraging staff to report properly on assaults or near misses, after which they would have to generate a report? Will they be going to health and safety committees or will they be going to the void panels? Generally there is less infantry to deal with the problem.”

According to the TUC in a unionised workplace you are twice as safe as in one where unions are not recognised.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Paid Mayoral advisors should not be also Officers of local Party: West Ham CLP AGM (Part 2)

This is a great "slow action" picture from last nights packed West Ham Labour AGM (part 2). Our MP Lyn Brown is giving her Parliamentary report and answering questions.

We ran out of time at our first AGM to conclude all business so had to resume yesterday and then also hold a normal General Committee meeting. It was a slow and frustrating process but surprisingly good natured (ish).

Delegates that I supported were elected into the Local Campaign Forum and other positions (I was also re-elected) by clear majorities.

I was also pleased that following a robust debate the motion below on paid Mayoral advisors from Forest Gate North and Stratford Branch was passed with a big majority.

We had some very disturbing news last week on certain proposals which I will blog upon over the weekend but yesterday, West Ham Labour Party, made a clear commitment to honest, decent and principled politics.

Can people please just read the motion and understand that this is intended to protect paid advisors as well as the local Party. If you are one of the 24 Newham Councillors who receive anything between £6-34,000 (plus pensions) to be personal advisors to the Mayor, then this motion will actually protect you against some widely perceived conflicts of interest.

Motion: Restrictions on Cabinet Members, Mayoral or Executive Advisors serving as CLP Officers

This AGM notes:-

1. That there is a potential conflict of interest for Newham Councillors who are paid mayoral advisors and officers of a CLP.

2. That currently the Mayor appoints and dismisses all mayoral advisor positions.

3. The Mayoral adviser protocol means that they must accept collective responsibility for the Mayor’s (Executive) decisions.

4. The huge and welcome increase in our membership means that there are potentially more members who may wish to participate in the democratic processes of branches/CLPs.

5. That East Ham CLP has changed its standing orders to bar all Newham Councillors from being CLP officers. We understand this has had mixed outcomes and we do not think that such an extensive bar is necessary. However, it would be good governance for some changes to ensure that this potential conflict is removed.

This AGM resolves that:- It should be the convention that no Newham Council Cabinet member, Mayoral or Executive advisor#1 in receipt of Special Responsibility Allowance #2 should be allowed to be nominated or elected as a Branch/CLP officer.

This does NOT include unpaid Mayoral advisors, elected Labour Group Officers, Committee and Scrutiny Chairs.

If a Branch/CLP officer becomes a mayoral advisor s/he should resign immediately.

#1 or any other name given to such a role

#2 or any other monetary payment, salary, pension or allowance above the basic allowance paid to Councillors. 

The Labour Party compliance unit has confirmed that changes to standing orders can only take place at AGMs; therefore this amendment if carried will only be implemented for AGMs from 2017.

Proposed by Stratford and Newtown Branch, Forest Gate North Branch

(the motion has also been passed I understand by Manor Park branch in East Ham)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Westminister Hall Parliament Debate on Red Tory plans to "Leninism" the Local Government Penison Scheme

Yesterday evening I went to the Parliamentary debate at the Grand Committee Room in Westminster Hall, which took place following the 105,000 signatures in the petition against Tory plans to direct and control the 5 Million member, £200 billion UK Local Government Pensions Scheme.

I sat with the ever quiet and demur UNISON national officer for Capital Stewardship, Colin Meech.

A number of opposition MPs from different political parties had decided to support this petition at the debate.

I will post later in more detail on this event once I have seen and considered the full Hansard report on the proceedings but it is pretty clear to me that the Tory plans to have powers to direct LGPS funds to invest in their pet political infrastructure projects and stop funds from investing overseas unless they sign up to Tory Government foreign policies, is just an absolute disgrace.

UNISON is convinced that such demands are illegal since pension funds have to decide to invest in accordance to the best interests of members of their fund and not the political whim of Government ministers.

It was also clear to me this evening that in response to a direct question by Melanie Onn MP, that the new Local Government Pension Minister, Marcus Jones, while trying to defend this robbery, simply did not understand that there is no Crown Promise or Pension Protection Fund for the LGPS. Under present plans if the Government forces the LGPS to invest or remain in disastrous investment schemes then all bets are off about the sustainability of the Scheme and the safety of our pensions.

I had to agree with the remarks by Jack Dromey MP, that these plans for the local government pension scheme are not only illegal but more "Leninism than Localism". What on earth is a Tory Government which claims to be against big government and in favour of localism and a small state acting as Marxists and telling local pension schemes what they should be investing in?

Okay, I get it that they should be telling them not to invest in very risky derivatives (LOBOS) or a race horse at the 3.30 at Newmarket. But telling them "what" to invest in for political reasons is very different.

Don't they realise that they are giving a precedent for any future government to direct pension investments as they see fit?

This bonkers' policy will mean less investment, not more, by the LGPS into much needed UK infrastructure investment, since there will be a justifiable suspicion by pension committees and boards that money is being allocated in order to avoid possible government intervention rather than in the best interests of members. They will be suspicious of all such proposals and should be minded to challenge and oppose them until this law is changed. Talk about unintended consequences!

The fight is not over and if the Government thinks this will go away then they are being completely delusional.

Picture from after meeting in Westminster Hall of Labour MPs, Melanie Onn and Lilian Greenwood, who are UNISON members and turned up tonight to support our campaign. Many thanks to all the other MPs who turned up as well to save their constituents' pensions and make sure that their money is not being used by this or future governments for their own political agendas.


Monday, October 24, 2016

European Health and Safety Week 2016 - 24 October - 30 October

Healthy Workplaces for All Ages (this advice has gone out this week on my employer's website. We will be carrying out joint union and management safety inspections)

Each year, European Health and Safety Week aims to promote good health and safety practice. This year’s theme is Healthy Workplaces for All Ages.

With increased life expectancy, no default retirement age, changes in pension age and provision, workers will continue to work as they age. At the same time, modern apprenticeship schemes may see more young people entering the workplace.

Employers have responsibilities for the health, safety and welfare of all their employees. However, employers do need to consider vulnerable groups including younger, older, and women of child-bearing age. Working for longer, new technology and ways of working, may result in longer exposure to risks (whether muscular-skeletal or otherwise).

There may be more workers with disabilities and long term health issues so measures such as rehabilitation and return to work will also be of increased importance.

Good workplace design, and well managed health and safety, benefit all of us.

How you might get involved:

• Inspect the workplace or assist a safety rep to do so. [Joint inspections by Facilities staff, Health and Safety Advisors and Trades Unions are planned this week]
• Raise awareness in your day to day work
• Carry out a risk mapping exercise to identify areas of concern
• Hold a “spot the hazards” competition and award a prize
• Devise and undertake a survey to identify concerns
• Review relevant risk assessments, policies, and procedures
• Cover the theme of healthy workplaces for all ages in your team meetings.

The Health Workplaces for All Ages website includes:

• an e-guide;
• poster, guide, and leaflet;
• HSE European Health and Safety Week Campaign 2016.
• HSE vulnerable workers page with links to information on older, young, and disabled workers; plus gender and maternity.…/knowledge/health-and-safety/

Sunday, October 23, 2016

London Loop Walk: Section 8 - The Causeway to Uxbridge Lock

This is off message and a very late post. Gill and I have been walking (very slowly and in fits and starts) around our capital city via the London Loop long distance path. It is circular route, 150 miles long, made up of 15 different sections. We started section 1 in January 2015 and thought we would have finished it within a year but still have 6 walks to compete.

This walk took place on Saturday 18 June. We started off near Heathrow airport. The noise from incoming airplanes was incredible. Planes were flying every few minutes just over residential homes in order to land. How on earth local residents are able to live with this noise and the fear of a plane crashing is beyond me. I hope the decision on Tuesday by the Government on the future of UK airports is to do nothing. Nor do we need any expansion of London City airport. The noise and pollution from airports is simply horrendous and unacceptable. There are other forms of transport.

Apart from the noise the walk didn't start all that well since the first part of the path was flooded and so we got our feet completely socked. The path looked like a stream (see collage). Much of the latter part of the walk was along the river crane and canal towpaths.

It was a lovely walk once you escaped from Heathrow. Section 8 was about 11 miles, mostly flat and easy walking terrain. We stayed the Saturday night in the Paddington Packet Hotel in Uxbridge which we found ok but has mixed TripAdvisor reviews. The Thai food was very good but could have been a little bit more spicy.

The next day we walked to Moor Park, which was much better walk and I will post upon sometime soon (ish).

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kindertransport Kids - London Liverpool Street Station 1938 and Calais 2016

This morning I was on my way to a seminar on opposing the new Housing & Planning Act.

I stopped off in London Liverpool Street station to take this photo of the statute (by the ticket office) in honour of the thousands of unaccompanied (mostly) Jewish children that escaped persecution and murder from Nazi Germany before the second world war.

The children escaped on the so called "Kindertransport" trains via Harwich Ferry and London Liverpool Street station, where they were met by volunteers who arranged safe accommodation for them until the end of the war.

Many of these children never saw their parents again since they were slaughtered by the Nazi.

Last night I sent an email in support of Newham Councillor, Rokshana Fiaz, who had contacted our Council wanting to know what are we doing to support the children in the refugee camp in Calais, France which is being shut down by the French Government.

On twitter I suggested that that the same sort of racist twaddle about the Jewish Kids in 1938 will be repeated today by the media about Syrian children in Calais trying to flee repression and death.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Harry Pollitt in East Ham

Hat tip to Captain Swing for sending me this record from the GMB national achieves of a "thank you for voting for me" message from a young East Ham based union activist to we presume, members of his local branch.

The activist is Harry Pollitt who later became General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Harry was forced to resign from this position when he welcomed the declaration of War by Britain against Nazi Germany in 1939. The Soviet Union had signed a pact with Germany. He was reinstated when Hitler attacked The Soviet Union in 1941.

I wonder if anyone knows how long Harry lived in East Ham?

I may have knocked on the door of 85 Central Park Road during this Boleyn ward Council by election last year.

By coincidence, tomorrow, local Councillor, Veronica Oakshott has organised a charity fund raising event "Bike from Boleyn".

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mr Cenz and his Art Creation in West Ham

Picture from last week of West Ham ward Councillors (John Whitworth, me and Freda Bourne) with street Artist Mr Cenz (on right), in front of his fantastic mural in Church Road junction with New Plaistow Road, E15 (next to William Hill bookmakers).

There are now 3 different street art murals by internationally renown artists in Newham sponsored by local businesses. More are planned and it would be fantastic to make Newham an international centre of high quality street art on public spaces.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Yvonne Maxwell for Hoxton West

Dear Colleague,

There is a local government by-election in Hackney on 3 November, with a strong Newham connection - Labour's Candidate is Yvonne Maxwell is the daughter of former Newham Councillor Doris Maxwell.

The seat used to be held by the newly elected Mayor of Hackney, Philip Grenvil.

I hope you'll be able to spare a few hours to help out our neighbours.  

Meeting Point (for all sessions)
The junction of Murray Grove and New North Road, London N1  which is just a 5 minute walk from Old Street Station.

Cllr Sem Moema

Week  One

Week  Two

Week Three (Polling week)

Polling Day
Thursday 3  from  8am to10pm
Committee Room 215A Kingsland Road
Don't worry if you haven't knocked on doors before, there will be plenty of old hands there to give you a steer.

(picture of me with Yvonne and local activists including Philip the new Mayor of Hackney)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bike From Boleyn: 22 October 2016

Celebrate the special link between Boleyn and West Ham United FC! Take part in a mass bike ride from the Bobby Moore statue to the club’s new stadium in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Anyone who can ride a bike is welcome! Children must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Dress up in claret and blue and get pedalling!

No bike? No problem! You can borrow a bike free of charge to travel one way.
Bike a bit creaky? Give it some free TLC by bringing it down to Dr Bike, who will be at the Bobby Moore statue from 11.30am onwards.

Saturday 22nd October
Bobby Moore Statue
Central Park Road, Boleyn Gather from 11.30pm, ride leaves 1.30pm prompt

Sign up at:
@bikefromboleyn bikefromboleyn 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"Love the Triangle" Church Street West Hammers doing their bit for their local community

The picture is from last Saturday when local residents in Church Street, NHW - Neighbourhood watch West Ham, E15 organised a community clean up, garden planting day and cake stall. It took place next to the historic All Saints church.

They got a grant from Newham Council for the event and support from the local Police Safer Neighbourhood Team and "Clean up UK" campaign Group.

Councillor John Whitworth and I attended to support the event. We heard lots of good ideas about improving the local environment. It is brilliant that local residents from all backgrounds are coming together to carry out these genuine grass root community events.

They have a FaceBook page here

Friday, October 14, 2016

Our National Executive Council "Proud to be in UNISON"

This I think is a great picture of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) at our annual conference in Brighton June 2016.

There are 65 members of the NEC representing the 1.3 million members in UNISON and they are all elected by them to speak on their behalf.  It acts as the "Parliament" of the union to make decisions in between conference. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Education not Segregation: Canning town Labour stall and door knock

Picture college from Saturday's West Ham Labour street stall and door knock in Canning Town. Our MP, Lyn Brown, spoke to people at the stall while canvass teams called at addresses near bye.  The theme was the reintroduction of segregation into our Schools by the Tories.

In one street I was somewhat surprised to see that Labour Party data list said that two households had claimed to be supporters of the Scottish National Party? I suspect a coding error rather than support in Canning town for Scottish Nationalism. I may be wrong?

Apart from that it great canvass, Mostly positive, some negativity (A women promised me £50 if Labour wins the next election under Corbyn - I told her I will come back to claim the £50:) but overwhelmingly a rock solid Labour ward.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Black History month & National Older People Celebration in Kent

This celebration event is being organised by one of my branch UNISON Housing Association Executive Committee members who is also a Labour activist in Kent and a volunteer for a Christian charity.

Monday, October 10, 2016

#Lab16: Axe the Housing Act Fringe

I am still catching up on posts about this year's Labour Party Conference. On the Monday evening of conference I was a UNISON speaker at the "Axe the Housing Act" fringe with Unite Assistant General Secretary, Steve Turner (seen speaking in photo), Salford Councillor, Peter Wheeler, and Eileen Short from Defend Council Housing.

To be clear the mood of this meeting was very angry about what is seen as the failure of Housing Associations to take on the Government over "Right to buy" and "Pay to stay". Councillors and activists from across the country at the fringe condemned this "betrayal".

Steve gave a lively and passionate speech about how this Act will spell disaster for working people on low incomes already in social housing and present day overcrowded and homeless families who desperately need homes. Peter spoke about the Act being a further attack on the deprived communities that he represents, many of whom live in appalling conditions and should have access to good quality, secure and affordable council homes. 

Eileen went through the Housing and Planning Act provisions, pointing out what could happen when social rents rise to market rates for workers on below average incomes, Councils are forced to sell off their properties to pay for the Right to Buy discount for Housing Associations and the disastrous consequences from giving tenants only short term and insecure tenancies.

A huge problem is that no-one really knows how the act will be actually implemented.

The Government have not yet issued regulations and guidance. This does give us campaigning opportunities since they will have to return to Parliament to do so.

I spoke about the need for there to be a coalition of residents, unions and the Labour Party to defeat the Act.  Many UNISON members are relatively low paid caretakers, porters, school cooks, admin officers and teaching assistants who will be caught out by "Pay to stay". They face massive and unaffordable rent increases. UNISON will be surveying its members to find case studies to illustrate what we believe could be many thousands of workers forced to move and leave their homes.

Present and future generations will be cheated out of possible Council homes since these homes will have to be sold off to pay for the Tory General Election bribe of Right to Buy for Housing Associations.

Finally, I asked everyone to understand that this is a political issue. Tell your friends, relatives and neighbours that the housing crisis is a political crisis. The reason why you or your son or your daughter cannot find a decent, affordable home is because of the political decisions made by this government. The only way we will solve this crisis is by supporting a government that makes a political decision to build more affordable and decent homes of all tenures. We must never, ever forget this simple truth - politics matter.

Hat tip photo Glyn Robbins

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Love Hoxton! Yvonne Maxwell standing to be Labour Councillor for Hoxton West.

I was really pleased to hear that Yvonne has been selected to be the Labour Party candidate to replace the new Hackney Executive Mayor, Philip Granville, as a Councillor for Hoxton West.

I have known Yvonne for a number of years. Her partner, Dave Osland, and I got into a little bit of legal libel bother through our blogs and although we haven't always agreed on anything (who does?) she will make an excellent Councillor.

She has real politics and as a front line social worker, has a real understanding of the problems and issues that people face.

There is also a Newham connection, since Yvonne is the daughter of Doris Maxwell, who was a Councillor and Chair of Social Services in Newham (and the Labour Group Chief whip).

I will be joining her canvass session tomorrow 6pm-7.30pm at Junction of Murray Grove and New North Road, Hoxton. 55 New North Road, London N1 6JB. Old Street tube is only 5 minutes walk away. 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

European Health & Safety Week 2016: “Healthy Workplaces for all Ages" 24-30 October

"There’s only six weeks to go until the European Health and Safety Week 2016, with the theme this year of: “Healthy Workplaces for all Ages.”  Further information about the event can be found here, but as we count down each passing week, we’ll take a brief look at one of the relevant topical issues.

This week we’re considering the ageing workforce.
Although the term ‘ageing workforce’ is often used, in reality we are all ageing, and throughout our working lives our bodies undergo numerous changes.  In many cases these changes are not significant; or are more than made up for by other positive attributes such as greater experience, improved judgement, and more job related knowledge.
However, employers must consider these changes when managing the health and safety of their staff.  UNISON’s guide, “The Ageing Workforce” advises branches on how they can work with employers to ensure they meet these responsibilities in a fair and non-discriminatory manner.  Employers will also need to do more to adapt work to the changing needs of employees if the desire of successive governments to increase the employment rates among older workers is to be achieved.
Employers should carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments of the hazards their employees may be exposed to at work, and should consider any particularly vulnerable groups.  They must not discriminate against workers because of their:
  • age (unless that there is an objective justification where such treatment is proportionate to a legitimate aim), or
  • disability (which therefore requires an employer to make reasonable adjustments).
 What can safety reps do?
Make sure sickness absence polices recognise that older workers may take more time off for chronic health problems (but are less likely to have frequent short term absences).
  • Ensure as a reasonable adjustment, that time off work due to disability is managed separately to sick leave.
  • If due to changing capabilities, job tasks or demands need to be altered or even a complete redeployment is required, make sure this is handled sensitively and with the worker's agreement.
  • Ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to the working environment.
  • Make sure that relevant risk assessments, policies, procedures, and adjustments are gender and age neutral, and consider those who may be particularly vulnerable due to their age.
For further information have a look at UNISON’s guide, “The Ageing Workforce.”

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Councillor report to West Ham Labour Party branch meeting

Report for Ward Meeting 6 October 2016

Apologises for the lateness of this report and not attending all of this meeting but after presenting my report and answering any questions, I will go to the Forest Gate North ward meeting where I am the Vice Chair.

Instead of just listing issues and events I have attended in a chronological order (as  I have done in the past)  I have tried this time to report back on “themes” which I think are important and of interest to members. Please let me know what you think about this new format?

Housing issues continue to dominate casework from surgeries, emails and telephone calls (and even Facebook and twitter). Residents have contacted me about overcrowding, homelessness, pending evictions, urgent health applications, allocations policy, anti-social behaviour, and disrepair. Also planning, parking, council tax benefit, LOBOs, the privatisation of council services and specific complaints about other Council services.

I have managed to help residents get legal advice in order to prevent/suspend evictions and forced moves for Newham homeless families to Birmingham; I have undertaken (with other ward Councillors and residents) housing estate inspections, parking meetings with residents and officers and will be attending a Newham Council Local Development meeting in support of residents over a serious and long running planning dispute.

Council Meetings
I have continued to press the case (with other Councillors) for the Council to take action against the deception and rip off of the Council by the so called LOBO loans by the Banks. We have over £500 million of these toxic 50 year plus loans which were sold to us by the Banks at the same time that some of their staff (who have since been criminally convicted) were fixing interest rates that were detrimental against us. There are also allegations of secret “kickback” payments between various Banks and Council financial advisors over such loans, and we are trying to find out if this affected Newham. In the last financial year the “fair value” (redemption cost) of these loans rose from £1 billion to £1.25 billion. A number of concerned Councillors are trying to get the Executive to agree to meet financial and legal experts who have even offered a possible “no win-no fee” arrangement for Newham to sue the Banks and stop us being ripped off.

I have also submitted a written report to Cabinet and members (copy available) on my concerns about this year’s budget and the proposed privatisation of Council services, lack of social housing, Mayoral advisers' allowances, air quality, Council tax increase, lack of youth club provision and welfare rights' advice. 

I will be contacting Executive members about the level of Council tax benefit that Newham residents on low incomes receive, exemptions and what appears to be an excessive level of Court summons and use of Bailiffs. Other Labour Councils act very differently.

Other Council related work
Early this year I was part of a Greek Solidarity Campaign delegation (self-funded) to Athens. 

The delegation included Labour Party & UNISON activists, David Lammy MP and Jon Lansman. The theme was local government and trade unions. We visited Solidarity centres, and make-shift refugee shelters in the port, met Greek Government ministers and various MPs at Parliament and ministry buildings, Greek Mayors and Councillors at local town halls, national and public sector trade unions. I have written a report on what was a fascinating but at times a very distressing visit (copy available).

Party work
I was involved in the successful campaign to elect, Anam Islam, as Councillor in Forest Gate North and the (unsuccessful) campaign to “Remain” in the European Union. While I fully accept the result for Brexit I am very angry at the frankly appalling local campaign in Newham and that we had the lowest vote in London to “Remain” for a Labour authority. We only had 52% for 'remain' compared to over 75% in Lambeth, Hackney and Haringey.

I have also campaigned in the successful London Mayoral/GLA campaign for Sadiq Khan and the Hackney Mayor by election.

Recent Suspensions/Expulsions of members
While I have been horrified at some of the completely vile and unacceptable abuse on social media (by all sides) during the recent leadership campaign, I am aware of individual West Ham CLP cases where members have been suspended or even expelled on evidence which I find, to say the least, unconvincing.

I also think this is unfair since I know that serious and substantiated allegations of violent, abusive, sexist and racist behaviour has been made against members in the recent past to the Party yet it has so far failed to act.

Re-election of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
I congratulate Jeremy on his victory. He has clearly earned the right to lead the Party into the next General Election. I hope that the Party will now pull together behind him and that we will do everything we can to defeat the Tories in 2020 (or sooner). I am concerned about the proposed boundary changes and that the historic name for a parliament seat “West Ham” is also at risk.

John Gray
West Ham Ward Councillor

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

"Education not Segregation" - West Ham Labour Party Street Stall: Barking Rd, 11.30am, Saturday 8 October

"Despite the rain we had a great turnout last week - so we'd thought we'd do it again.

Please join local members at a street stall on Saturday. And some of us will also knock on doors of nearby homes to talk to voters there too. Don't worry if you've not done it before, everyone has a first time...

Where: Near John Bennet newsagent/Moka cafe, Barking Rd, E16 1EN (nr Canning Town stn)
When:11.30am, Sat, 8 October
What: Talking to local people about education and what Labour stands for. We'll have a street stall with leaflets about Theresa May's grammar school policy and we'll knock on some doors locally.

Please let me know if you can join us by emailing or calling Shabs on the day.

And for anyone listening to Theresa May today - you might find this rebuttal, No Answers, No Change, by Labour interesting/useful.

Hope to see you Saturday.


Julianne Marriott
Vice Chair (Campaigns and Comms) West Ham CLP

t: @westhamlabour

(Hat tip picture James Beckles)

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Red Tories are trying to "nationalise without compensation" the £130 Billion Local Government Pension Scheme

I do sometimes wonder whether Communist Soviet Union "sleeper agents" in the Conservative Party have been "activated" since 2015?

The recent announcement of Government guidance that directs UK Council pension schemes to only invest in line with UK Government foreign policy is at best just silly and at worse could result in disastrous investment decisions.

The bottom line is that the UK Government wants to tell Council pension schemes where they can or cannot invest but if those investment decisions go wrong, there is no Crown Promise or Pension Protection Scheme for the Local Government Pension Scheme.

If the Government wants to tell pension funds where to invest for political reasons they should be prepared to pick up the tab if it all goes horribly wrong (which as we all know, going horribly wrong is the only thing you can guarantee will happen in UK financial services)

Check out this Professional Pensions article by Stephanie Baxter, where I explain further my views.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Mr Cenz starts new Street Art Mural In West Ham

I stopped off today to say hello to Street Artist, "Mr Cenz", who is creating a mural in West Ham ward, Church Road junction with New Plaistow Road, E15 (next to William Hill bookmakers).

Mr Cenz is a professional international artist. He reckons it will take a week for him to complete this mural. I will try and stop off everyday and update on progress until he finishes.

In July there was this fantastic "Tiger" mural painted in Holbrook Road, West Ham which I don't think was by him but he did do this mural in Plaistow in May.

What can be wrong with turning bland, forgettable and often ugly urban spaces into public works of art?

Hat tip Julianne M

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Battle of Cable Street - 80th Anniversity of "East London Routs The Fascists"

On Tuesday 4 October 2016 it is the 80th anniversary of the 1936 "Battle of Cable Street" when anti-
fascists stopped a march through the (then) largely Jewish East End of London by Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists.

I have worked in Tower Hamlets for nearly 25 years. My first trade union branch secretary was the daughter of Phil Piratin, one of the chief Cable Street anti-fascist organisers (and later elected as a "Red Stepney" Communist MP).

There is a march and rally next Sunday 9 October 2016 (see below). Max Levitas, who is an original Cable Street veteran, and I have heard speak a number of times (and has joined our West Ham Labour Party street stalls in recent years) will be a speaker.

"Sunday, 9th October

 Assemble 12 noon @ Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel Road, London E1.
March to a rally @ St George’s Gardens, Cable Street. Speakers before and after the march include: Max Levitas (Cable Street veteran), Jeremy Corbyn MP, Rushanara Ali MP, Frances O’Grady (General Secretary, TUC), Unmesh Desai (GLA member, City and East London)

Speakers confirmed to date: Max Levitas (Cable Street veteran), Jeremy Corbyn MP, Rushanara Ali MP, Frances O’Grady (General Secretary, TUC), John Biggs (Mayor of Tower Hamlets), Unmesh Desai (GLA member, City and East London), Michael Rosen, Gerry Gable (Searchlight Research Associates), Weyman Bennett (Unite Against Fascism), Manus O’Riordan (Ireland IBMT), Glyn Robbins (United East End), Julia Bard (Jewish Socialists’ Group), Roger Mackenzie (UNISON) Alex Kenny (East London NUT), Shahriar Bin Ali (Bangladesh Workers Council, Amelia Womack (Green Party), Matt Wrack (FBU), Mick Cash (RMT), Sarah Sackman (Jewish Labour Movement), Tony Donaghey (Connolly Association), Mary Davis (new Stoke Newington synagogue), Leon Silver (East London Central Synagogue), Richard Humm (Cable Street Group)

Chairs: (Altab Ali Park) David Rosenberg, JSG; (St George’s Gardens) Megan Dobney, SERTUC

Plus marching bands including the Great Yiddish Parade and Udichi
Bring family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours! Bring Banners!"

On Wednesday 5 October 2016 at 6.30pm, Labour GLA Member, Unmesh Desai, will be joining other speakers at the Trinity Centre in East Ham to talk about "Battle of Cable Street: Lessons for present struggles"(organised by East End Together)

#Lab16 Labour Housing Group fringe

After the "Unions together" fringe on Sunday I cycled (using the Liverpool Council rented City Bikes) from the conference centre to my 2nd housing fringe that evening at the historic Cunard Buildng in Pier Head.

The Labour Housing Group is a socialist society affiliated to the Party. The meeting was sponsored by UNISON Labour Link and the chair was Paul Eastwood.  The theme of the fringe was "Local Labour Projects Challenging Tory Inaction on Housing".

I missed the speech by keynote speaker, John Healey MP, but arrived in time to hear Cllr John Cotton explain how they have managed to build 2000 truely affordable homes in Birmingham (must find out why we can't do the same in Newham?).

Jenny Osborne, from TPAS, argued that the greater involvement of residents in procurement processes would save Housing Associations and Council's huge amounts of money.  This makes perfect sense that those who actually receive housing management services will have good ideas about how that service can deliver efficiencies. Again, must chase up Newham Housing Residents Scrutiny which hardly never meets.

Final speaker was Cllr Frank Hont, who is the Housing Lead in Liverpool City Council. I had the privilege of knowing Frank when he was a widely respected regional secretary for UNISON.  Frank talked about the housing challenges that Liverpool faces but also had a swipe at the "London centric" housing policies that the Government keeps pursuing.  He also critised some housing associations for being remote and poor landlords.

In the Q&A I asked the panel if they agreed that the reason that some Housing Associations were  bad landlords was because they were undemocratic and union busters. No wonder some treat residents so badly if they don't even respect the human rights of their workers? 

John Healey MP replied to my question by saying that in his past experience as a Housing Minister, you could set standards for housing associations for various things and this could include worker rights in the future and that while they may moan and complain they would deliver. 
Afterwards I chatted to LHG members about asking Housing Associations in their boroughs if they recognise trade unions and if not - why on earth not?

Saturday, October 01, 2016

#Lab16 Unions together fringe

Picture collage from the packed "unions together" (TULO) fringe last Sunday at the Labour Party Conference.  Speakers included Jo Stevens MP who spoke about "Workplace 2020" and Angie Rayner MP, who thanked Unison for her politics. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP had the biggest cheer after he pledged that a future Labour Government would repeal the Tory Trade union Act. 

I missed the other speakers since I had to rush off to the Labour Housing Group fringe which was taking place in the Cunard building. See picture of beautiful sunset.