Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year: Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Just back from North Wales seeing family, giving and receiving presents as well as eating and drinking too much. I also managed to fit in a couple of lovely walks (see picture) which I will post about another time.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and a great 2017. Nuff said?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"If you think terrorism is the biggest threat to the West, you need to watch this video

While not pretending that there is not a significant risk let us examine facts not emotion.

- Such as far more people were murdered by terrorism in my youth than now?

- Such as 24 Americans were murdered by terrorists between 2005 and 2015 but there was over 300,000 Americans killed by guns during the same period.

- You were therefore 12000 times more likely to be killed by guns than terrorists

- Last year more Americans were killed by toddlers with guns than by terrorists

- ISIS and the Far Right have the same aim to panic and divide us.  They are all fascists.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Protest over Newham mayoral election result"

The report below is from this weeks Newham Recorder about the lively but peaceful protest outside the Mayor's Christmas Party at Stratford Town Hall. I stopped and spoke to the protesters about why they were there and what they thought should happen. They said they were outraged at what they see as a "fraudulent" and "rigged" election process. I knew many of the 30 protesters who come from all parts of Party. Most were long standing party loyalists. I tried to reassure them that the Labour Party would investigate their complaints fairly and properly

"Campaigners protested outside a council party last night to voice their anger following the reselection of Sir Robin Wales as the Labour candidate for the 2018 Mayor of Newham election.

The action was staged on the steps of the Old Town Hall, Stratford, where Sir Robin and councillors were gathered on Thursday.

About 30 people stood in the street calling on Sir Robin to consider his position and allow other candidates to be involved in an open selection process.
Tahir Mirza, Labour party secretary for Little Ilford, said: “I joined this protest because Robin Wales has lost the confidence of the members.
“He lost 11 wards and just won nine. He has split the party. It’s very important to go to open selection.”
Protesters also expressed their anger after the votes of affiliate organisations swung the ballot in Sir Robin’s favour, with claims some voted even though they had failed to pay their affiliation fees to the party.
“The idea affiliate organisations which haven’t met in years can have such a big part in democracy in Newham is shocking,” Stuart said.
The group want Sir Robin to recognise a concern among Labour members and residents that by holding out he is damaging the party.
Standing out in the cold, they made an appeal to the mayor’s sense of fairness to allow an open process, calling on him to stand on his record alongside other candidates.
“He should step down to ensure an open selection takes place,” Tahir said.
“Any irregularities are going to be damaging to the Labour party. It seems like he’s the one who’s going to divide the party.
“He should’ve come along. He knows he has lost the confidence of our members.”
But a steadfast Sir Robin remained inside the town hall throughout the protest, refusing to answer his antagonists’ calls to join them.
And Stuart, 46, asked: “What’s he afraid of?”
A Newham Labour Party spokesperson was approached for comment by the Recorder but declined to make a statement".

Friday, December 23, 2016

Wishing everyone a Merry Crimbo & Happy New Year (and don't forget #LOVEUNIONS)

Wishing everyone a Merry Crimbo & Happy New Year (and remember #LOVEUNIONS)

 I have this year not sent any cards but instead donated money to the MIND Blue Light Campaign in memory of UNISON President Eric Roberts


John Gray

Hat tip SERTUC for original card

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sadiq Khan announces new London bus drivers pay deal (and lets ask him next to deal with Union busters)

Great news from BBC for bus drivers and their families. Well done Sadiq our Labour Mayor. 

We will be contacting him next about defending staff from Union busters in London Housing Associations.

"London mayor Sadiq Khan has announced the capital's 25,000 bus drivers will receive a new minimum starting salary of £23,000 a year.

The starting salary will apply to all Transport for London (TfL) contracts awarded to bus companies from next April.

Bus drivers' wages will rise with inflation afterwards.

Drivers will also now be able to move between bus companies without having to take a pay cut.

City Hall said £23,000 represented the current average starting salary of a bus driver.

For years the amount a bus driver could be paid depended on the bus company they worked for and the route of the bus they drove.

But not every bus driver paid less than £23,000 will see an immediate improvement in their wages. The changes will come into effect when contracts are awarded and only about 20% of London's bus route deals are due for renewal in 2017.

Eleven bus companies are currently active in the capital.

"What is Robin Wales so scared of?"

Long standing Newham Councillor and former Cabinet member and Community lead Kay Scoresby writes a passionate letter in last weeks Newham Recorder which represents the feelings of nearly all the local Labour Party members and affiliates I have met.

"Mayor should listen to views

I feel cheated of my chance to stand as a Labour Candidate to be Mayor of Newham.

Despite 424 Labour Party members from 11 out of 20 wards at the recent trigger ballot meetings voting NO, Robin Wales refuses to listen to the views of members and hold an open selection process.

Instead he is relying on the unknown and undemocratic votes of affiliate organisations as he is desperate to have five terms as mayor. What is Robin Wales so scared of?"

Members believe that Party rules and natural justice have been fundamentally broken and abused.   They are demanding that the selection process must be rerun. There are I understand substantiated allegations of forgery, fraud and misfeasance which must be fully investigated by the Party and affiliate organisations.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why can't we have beneficiary representation on our £217 billion in LGPS pools? It is our money!

The Local Government Pension Scheme belongs to some 5.1 million Brits who are the legal owners of its £217 billion of assets. The scheme assets are being merged nationally into one of eight new "pooled" schemes but only one of these pools have made any plans for beneficiaries (owners in law) to have any representation on the boards of these pools whatsoever. 

This is, of course, a complete and utter nonsense, is probably illegal, certainly divisive and definitely bad practice and seriously bad governance. Beneficiary representation was brought about in pensions to prevent fraud. Never forget that there is no Crown promise for the LGPS nor any Pension Protection Fund. 

See below a well made argument by UNISON LGPS Member representative, Colin Lomax, to his Council Pension fund (Dorset County) about governance at their new "Brunel Pool" and why the pool should have beneficiary representation. 

Picture is from the UNISON Local Government Pension Scheme seminar last week when we had over 120 LGPS Members representatives attend (including colleagues from GMB and Unite). 

"Since the last meeting of the Committee, we have had a presentation on the Brunel Pooling Proposal here on 7th October when concerns were raised at the lack of provision of representatives of scheme members on any of the Brunel Pooling governance arrangements and that this was a serious omission. I attended a similar event at Keynsham on 14th October and raised the same issue there. The response I received was that this could be arranged on an observer basis and I indicated that this would be acceptable provided such observers had the right to speak.

The reports we have today make no mention of scheme member representation and I can only assume that the officers are so tied up with the details that they have failed to take this into account.

We accept that it might be inappropriate for scheme member representatives to be on the main board, but we propose there should be 3 trade union representatives on the Oversight Board in an observer capacity but with the right to speak.  We are not assuming that we should be on that board as clearly such representatives should be drawn from scheme members across all 10 constituents of the Brunel Project Partnership.

We have had TU representatives on this Committee since around 1988 and Roberto himself has been a continuous member since then, a period of around 28 years, more than any member or officer here present. My own period of such service is just 13 years.  The contributions we have made in that time have been welcomed, certainly by members, and we shall have a continuing role on this Committee in the future, albeit in a diminished capacity as we acknowledge the advantages of the pooling arrangements in reducing costs.

However, to exclude scheme member representation within the new pooling structure is wrong in principle. No private sector defined benefit scheme excludes worker representation and there are few if any that have such a size of assets as large as the Brunel Project.  It is that size of assets, all of which are held in trust for scheme members, that makes a very strong case for scheme members to have representation to oversee and monitor how their funds are managed and invested.

The Editor of Engaged Investor writes:

The case for (scheme) member representation on the boards of pension schemes is difficult to argue against.  Involving savers in the governance of their funds improves oversight, confidence and trust, and ultimately makes it more likely that savers will get the results they want.”

“In the defined benefit world this is common-place – member nominated trustees were part of the answer to the Robert Maxwell pensions scandal”.

In a separate article, Sara Benwell writes

“In the world of trust-based schemes, (scheme) member representation is relatively simple.  Under the Pensions Act 2004 all trust-based schemes are required by law to ensure that at least a third of trustees…are membership-nominated”  

Both Roberto and I are members of the Association of Member Nominated Trustees.

Tim Middleton, technical consultant at the Pensions Management Institute says

 “Having a (scheme) member perspective adds diversity and diversity prevents the risks of groupthink within boards”

Ian Pittaway who chairs the Association of Professional Pension Trustees, adds:

They’re brilliant in so many areas, they ask difficult questions that other people might be frightened to ask”

“Every board I chair is enriched by having (scheme) members on it and it would be a very sad day if we sat there with just professionals running the scheme in a very arm’s length way.”

LGPS is not a trust-based scheme as such.  It is a statutory scheme, but even that has its risks in that the Government can (and has done) change it.  Certainly there is now a greater emphasis being placed on elected members acting as trustees and professionals also acting as trustees, which makes it more like a trustee based defined benefit scheme.

It is not illegal for the BPP to appoint scheme member representatives to any Board.  Marcus Jones MP, the Minister charged with approving these new pooling arrangements, in the Parliamentary Debate called in response to a petition signed by over 100,000 scheme members, held on 24th October, 2016 said

I assure Hon.Members that there is an opportunity for trade union representatives on pools.  That is a matter for the individual governance arrangements, but the individual local authority members that support each scheme will have the right to be part of setting up those pooling arrangements, and it will therefore be their decision on whether trade union representatives are on their pools.”

Already we know of two of the new pooling partnerships that have included provision for trade union representatives to sit on oversight boards.  

There were other issues which were raised in the parliamentary debate.  There was general support for pooled arrangements but criticism of the way the Government has handled the issue and criticism on it seeking to direct how funds are invested.  It was emphasised that funds must be invested in the best interest of their (scheme) members, as European Directives lay out”.  Article 18 of the European Directive on Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision also states that Member States shall not require institutions to invest in particular categories of assets”.

There is no doubt that the Government has rushed through these measures and that the pooling arrangements have entailed a considerable amount of work by officers working for the 10 constituent partners.  In so doing, they have ignored the wishes that have been voiced on behalf of scheme members, whose assets are being held and invested on their behalf.  I would hate to say that this has been deliberate, but it is now vitally important that this omission is corrected.

We cannot recommend the Committee nor the Council to approve the recommendation in the report without an assurance, indeed an undertaking, that the Committee recommends the County Council to support the principle of trade union representation, with speaking rights, on Oversight Boards, before this submission is formally made to Government. 

Colin Lomax"

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mayor of Newham issues public apology to Travellers and Gypsies

"Comments made by the Mayor of Newham were said to be "racist". Sir Robin Wales has formally apologised to Gypsies and Travellers for making comments deemed to be “casual racist banter” at a council meeting.

The Mayor of Newham said he was “sorry for the distress caused by my comments, how they came across and how they were interpreted” in a letter to the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit (LGTU).

The apology, released via Newham Council, referenced offensive remarks made during a conversation between mayor Sir Robin and deputy mayor Lester Hudson at a cabinet meeting on March 17 relating to new accommodation sites for Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Before approval of an agenda item which stated “no need has been demonstrated for new gypsy-traveller [sic] accommodation at the present time”, deputy mayor Lester Hudson asked if he could have the addresses of the objectors.

Mayor Sir Robin Wales replied: “I think what Lester is saying is that we would be very happy to set up a site right next to their house.”

Debby Kennett of LGTU, who at the time called the remarks “casual racist banter”, said she accepted the apology.

She said: “We welcome this statement from the Mayor of Newham finally apologising publicly for the offensive remarks made about the Gypsy and Traveller community at the cabinet meeting.”

The joint-CEO said she was also pleased with Sir Robin’s written personal assurance that “the Parkway Crescent site will remain a permanent site for Gypsies and Travellers and the council is committed to ensuring it will be protected from any future developments in the area” in addition to a “full review” being undertaken of the housing needs of the settled Gypsy and Traveller community.

She said: “We trust that these commitments will result in tangible and positive change for Newham’s Gypsy and Traveller community.”

In his letter, the Mayor of Newham wrote: “The discussion at the cabinet meeting between the deputy mayor and me was primarily to understand more about objectors to our approach.

“We wrongly believed at the time that those objecting to our strategy were opposed to a Gypsy and Traveller site in Newham, however the objectors were the LGTU and we apologise for any confusion.”

He added that the council “has previously established an authorised public site for Gypsies and Travellers” with detailed analysis of its groups and that “other local authorities could learn much from Newham’s approach and should do much more to help these communities”.

The Newham mayor finished his letter stating: “We want to continue to work with the local Gypsy and Traveller Community so they continue to have a sense of belonging in Newham.”

This report relates to this article last week in the Newham Recorder. While I am glad the apology was made, I am concerned about why these remarks were made in the first case and why it took so long for the apology to have been made.

Check out the original report in March here.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

#LAPFF16 Annual Conference Friday

Last guest post from John Walker on this years Local Authority Pension Fund Forum conference

Friday morning commenced with probably the most interesting session of the Conference – a session of an LGPS Pooling Panel with representation from the eight CIV’s currently forming to get in line with Government directive on Asset Investment. Each outlined the progress of the formation of their pool with Wales the exception in that they had been granted permission to go with their internal £14.5bn total Fund partly because it is controlled not from Westminster but by the Welsh Assembly. A common ongoing problem was representation on Funds/Pools because of regular elections and changes in political control. There was a mix of elected Councillors and Officers on the Panel which gave a broad approach to the subject. The Northern Pool is probably unique in having membership representation on the Pool Management – strongly resisted in other areas.

 Joint selection of Fund Managers is well under way with regular Pool Management meetings and reports back to local Pension Committees. The majority of Pools have Internal Management in place. Not all Funds have Investment sub-committees but those who do will have an important role to play. Trade Union/Membership representation on ISC’s , Pension Boards and Committees is regarded as very important on behalf of stakeholders, adding important knowledge and experience. Operator accountability is being considered with reports back to Committees likely to be arranged together with a possible annual meeting with all stakeholders and members. The session concluded with a tribute to the work of Council Officers who were driving the changes and implementation.

The penultimate session of the Conference was a real Show Stopper with Bill Browder the author of a book entitled ‘Red Notice’ outlining his experiences in a presentation entitled Corporate Governance in Putin’s Russia. It was an extremely powerful life story of one man’s fight against Communism involving kidnap, torture and imprisonment. It was food for thought regarding investment behind the Iron Curtain.

The final session entitled The Role of Shareholders in Effecting Change features the Chairman of Glencore Asset Management and a member of the Carbon Tracker lobby group and featured the ongoing campaign to effect Carbon Management. There was a brief reference to the previous topic relating to Risk Management and the 2016 Paris Agreement signed up to by all 195 Countries (including Russia). Emission Management and revised investment options were outlined but with the world consumption of fossil fuels still around 75% of the total there is a long way to go. Revised Power Station development could contribute to a lower carbon count but internationally is was a slow process with South East Asia the main problem area. The development of electric vehicles could be an important contributory factor with full fleet electrification a possibility. Solar and Wind Power are still the cheapest options but technology is at present unable to deliver this at a significant level.

John Walker

Cambridgeshire Pension Fund Committee Membership Representative

Friday, December 16, 2016

#LAPFF16 Annual Conference - Thursday

This is the day 2 report of last weeks Local Authorities Pension Funds Forum (LAPFF) annual conference by John Walker, who is a UNISON member and sits on the Cambridgeshire Pension Fund Committee as a Member nominated representative. See Wednesday report here

Thursday morning commenced with a presentation on Share Buy Backs. The City Editor of the Evening Standard gave a broad sweep approach pointing out that Company’s often bought back their own shares for tactical reasons but said that this policy often benefited the Company and its Directors and not necessarily the Shareholders.

This was followed by a presentation by an American author Robert Tietelman who had written a book entitled ‘Bloodsport’ about Company Mergers, Acquisitions and Takeovers in the USA that had influenced the UK markets. He concluded that mergers and acquisitions meant growth for the Company involved whereas share buy backs did not.

This was followed by an interesting presentation entitled Human Capital Management by the Director of Sustainability of SSE one of the bigger Energy Companies. She outlined a whole raft of statistics showing how SSE was evaluating the performance and worth of its workforce under the banner of ‘A Responsible Employer’. As it progressed and developed the Company paid detailed attention to promoting redevelopment and retraining rather than redundancy. There was also a presentation by the Pensions and Life Savings Association focusing on the importance of Human Capital.

The final morning session was on Directors Pay – the Challenge of Quantum. The speaker was a Director of the High Pay Centre who had been giving evidence to a Commons Select Committee charged with the preparation of a Green Paper for Parliamentary debate early in the New Year. His statics proved that top pay fir Directors and more particularly Chief Executive Officers had grown out of all proportion in the past decade – and continued to grow. He sought (perhaps unsuccessfully) to justify this trend but pointed to checks and balances including the recent legal obligation of workers on Boards. He questioned whether a CEO should justify high pay on the basis of having the ‘final decision’ and whether that was justifiable or desirable. Predictably two of the questions from the floor mentioned PRP and professional footballers’ wages.

The afternoon session began with a session entitled ‘Are the Activists Winning?’ Owen Walker from the Financial Times had produced a book entitled ‘Barbarians in the Boardroom’ which related to shareholder activists that had mounted a challenge to targeting and removing some directors and executives from some of the world’s largest Companies and taken their places. Some Companies subsequently suffer asset stripping.

Next came thought provoking presentation entitled Redefining the Responsibilities of the Corporation. The speaker set out in great detail the responsibilities and duties of Company Directors whose main aim should be to create value on behalf of the Company and its Shareholders. He touched on the vexed question of executive pay and related to the inequality of the north/south divide quoting the outgoing HM Inspector of Schools about those ‘north of the Wash’ having less advantageous education. It was a semi-interactive session with audience participation encouraged.

The final session of the day entitled Shareholder Resolutions – the Last Chance Saloon brought together three unlikely bedfellows in the shape of LAPFF Chairman Kieran Quinn, a Climate Change expert and a representative of UNITE – the Union. The UNITE presentation centered on the recent success of Shareholders led by the Unions (including UNISON) who had forced major changes in the working practises, pay rates and Health and Safety implementation for staff of Sports Direct. Kieran Quinn related the success of the well documented campaign against National Express in the USA and the third speaker gave details of the pressure on Exxon Mobil and other American oil/gas Companies.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Second affiliate says it is checking Newham mayoral vote

Check out latest report in the "Newham Recorder". Tonight at my Councillor surgery I had angry and upset residents coming to see me about what they believe to be a "rigged" Mayoral trigger ballot. 

"A second affiliate organisation has confirmed that enquiries are being made about its voting process following Sir Robin Wales’ reselection in the Mayor of Newham 2018 election.

TSSA (Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association) voted “yes” to keep Sir Robin Wales as Labour’s candidate for the mayor in the recent trigger ballot process held across Newham.

However, a source close to the transport union told the Recorder: “A complaint has been made to TSSA that a TSSA branch may have voted in East Ham Constituency Labour Party without the necessary affiliation requirements being in place.

“TSSA will now conduct an inquiry into the matter and report any irregularities to the relevant authorities should it prove necessary.”

A spokeswoman for TSSA confirmed enquiries were underway but didn’t wish to comment further.

The Recorder has been informed that the complaint made concerns about the eligibility of the TSSA branch in Newham.

It is allegedly not allowed to vote because the annual application fee for 2016 has not been paid and the executive branch was not officially informed of a vote taking place.

The controversy follows the Fabian Society’s acknowledgement last week that it is “seeking further information” about its vote.

Members complained a “yes” vote had proceeded despite the society’s Newham branch not having met for four years.

Sir Robin Wales’ victory in the trigger ballot centered on affiliated organisations – comprising trade unions and socialist societies – which voted 11 to 6 in favour of keeping him.

In contrast, 11 out of 20 Labour wards voted for a choice of entrants.

A spokesperson for Trigger Democracy, which campaigned for an open selection process, said “this is now the second affiliate vote that appeals to be unravelling under scrutiny”.

They said: “The mayor ignored the democratic will of members in favour of these votes from affiliates which are now being called into question.”

A representative for Sir Robin Wales was approached for comment but declined to say anything.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Clarion Housing Strike, Boycott and Union Rights call

Latest news on merger!
Have a say - Vote in the indicative ballot
Dear UNISON Member

Clarion and Latimer management has decided to de-recognise trade unions for all staff. This would mean ending a 100 year old tradition of respect and partnership with unions for some parts of the business.

Management seem to have made a political decision that they do not want to negotiate with trade unions.  Your union reps and our national officers are appalled at this. For any organisation that wants to be seen as being socially progressive, not supporting trade unions is unacceptable.

We have been trying to get talks with management to discuss recognition. Regrettably, so far they have not agreed to discuss this.

Therefore all the Unions agree that we will carry out a ballot of members to see if they are prepared to take action to defend trade union recognition. All the unions recommend to their members to vote YES.

Please vote YES or NO to the following question:-

Question: “Are you prepared to take industrial action in defence of trade union recognition and the unions’ ability to protect your jobs, pay, terms and conditions?”

There are different ways you can vote in this ballot:
  1. Complete the ballot online here:******* (if unison member)
  2. If you are using a work email address, forward this email to your personal email and return the following form: CLICK **** FOR BALLOT PAPER
  3. Print out the form and post it to Barney Wakefield, UNISON Centre, 130 Euston Rd, London NW1 2AY
Please ensure that you only vote once.
Please think carefully about using a work computer to return your ballot. Your employer is allowed to access all your work communications. It may be better to forward this email to your personal email and complete the ballot on your smart phone or personal computer.

The reply will only go back to your union and will be kept totally confidential. Please respond by 5pm Friday 6 January 2017.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. “What is an indicative ballot”?
A. It is similar to a survey of union members to find out their views. It is NOT an official ballot by the unions on industrial action. That could come later.

Q. What is “industrial action”?
A. This can mean many things such as lunchtime and evening protests, only working your proper hours and only to your job description. It could as a last resort mean strike action but only after an official ballot.

Q. Will I still be able to get advice and support from the union if we are derecognised?
A. Your individual rights to advice and representation are not affected. You will still be able to receive advice and representation from UNISON Stewards and staff as before. Recognition relates to collective bargaining over jobs, pay, terms and conditions.

Q. What else are the unions doing?
A. We will be holding meetings across the Group and also lobbying MPs/Assembly members and Councils to review their relationships with Clarion and if necessary boycott until we have an agreement. We are asking for support and solidarity from other trade unions and resident Groups. An online petition is being set up and we will also be contacting pension’s funds and investors about the risk that such a damaging and unnecessary dispute poses to their investments.

Your rights to advice and representation
UNISON wants to make clear to all its members that if there is a period of time where we do not have recognition with Clarion Housing Group, or Latimer, your individual rights to advice and representation are not affected. You will still be able to receive advice and representation from UNISON Stewards and staff as before.

Recognition relates to collective bargaining and some other issues, but we thought it was important to make this clear at this stage. If you have any questions, please get in touch:

If you have questions about the proposed merger, or the current Circle reorganisation, please contact John Gray on

Facebook, Twitter and Website
 Please like and follow to receive updates

"Like" us on facebook here:

"Follow" us on twitter here:

Or visit the website here:

Please encourage colleagues to do the same.

Monday, December 12, 2016

#LAPFF Annual Conference - Wednesday.

Last week I went to the annual conference of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF).

I missed the first day (Wednesday) but below is an excellent report on the day by guest blogger John Walker who is a UNISON member and sits on the Cambridgeshire Pension Fund Committee as a Member nominated representative. I will post his other reports later.

"REPORT OF LAPFF CONFERENCE on 7th/9th December 2016 at The Marriott Highcliff Hotel, Bournemouth

This year’s LAPFF Conference was extended by half a day and so commenced at 2.00pm on the Wednesday.

The Wednesday afternoon session featured two topics that were current in the light of recent developments in the LGPS world beginning with a session on Infrastructure Investment entitled ‘Are funds getting it right?’ The first speaker from the Greater Manchester PF said that his fund were investing in Biomass, Wind Farms and Railways which involved having representatives on the Boards of those Companies.

 A second speaker from the Lothians Pension Fund which incorporates the County Fund, the Lothians Transport Fund and Falkirk Pension Fund were investing in Wind Power and other infrastructure to the extent of 10% of the joint £6bn Fund. The third speaker from Investment Managers Ancala Partners who set out his firms specialist Infrastructure investment options.

The second topic was entitled Investing4Growth and featured a variety of speakers setting out investment opportunities in Private Equity and Alternative Investments. These included a very interesting presentation from Cheyne Capital on its Social Property Impact Fund. He began by pointing out that the population of the UK would grow by a further 10 million in the next 25 years into a situation where there was already insufficient housing – and growing year on year. 

 Successive governments of all persuasions have failed quite deliberately to ignore the affordable housing requirement and the combination of depressed wages growth and increasing prices (especially in local authority employed staff) has grown to crisis proportions. He suggested that with housing stock built to last 30/40 years coinciding with the length of provision of pension funds makes this type of investment a ‘perfect match’.

The afternoon concluded with a speech by the Shadow City Minister Jonathan Reynolds MP who is a member of the all party Commons group on Pensions who paid tribute to the work of the LAPFF".

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Newham Democracy Triggered Xmas Quiz?

I was not invited but I understand that this well attended quiz took place last night in East Ham. While I understand that many Labour Party members in Newham are rightly furious and feel robbed and cheated at the Mayoral trigger ballot result, I would urge them to also put their complaints in via the proper channels and give the Party the opportunity to respond and take action.

Have a Merry Jezza Christmas

This new festive song 'JC4PM for me' by Robb Johnson and The Corbynistas has solved my dilemma about what present to give to Red Tel, RW and the 22 Newham Mayoral advisers for Christmas :)

"Published on 27 Nov 2016

Official video of 'JC4PM for me'.
Available for download on 9 December 2016.
All profits go to the Trussell Trust.
Filmed and edited by Roland Denning".

Hat tip Daisy Parsons

Saturday, December 10, 2016

"Get help staying warm this winter" UNISON "there4you" fuel grants

Application forms for this years winter £50 fuel grants from UNISON charity arm "There for You" are now out. 

In  a welcome pilot this year UNISON members will be entitled to claim if they are in receipt of Housing benefit which should make it simpler to claim for many, especially if they live in high rent areas such as London. Otherwise you can claim if you have net household income of less than £18,000 and savings less than £800.

Branches should encourage members to get the application forms in as soon  as possible since there is only a certain pot of money available. Applications have to be by Friday 17 February 2017. 

UNISON members facing other forms of financial and emotional difficulties can contact their branch welfare officer or "There for You" direct at or ring UNISONdirect on 0800 0 857 857.

If you’re worried about money you can talk to an adviser at UNISON Debtline on 0800 389 3302. Lines are open from 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 3pm on Saturday.

Friday, December 09, 2016

"Members fight back against derecognition threat"

"Union members at a new housing group – one of the largest in Europe – could be asked whether they are prepared to take industrial action over derecognition threats.

The new Clarion and Latimer Housing Group was formed this week from the merger of Circle Housing and Affinity Sutton and is threatening to withdraw recognition from UNISON, Unite and the GMB.

Clarion and Latimer is responsible for 130,000 homes across 176 local authority areas and has 4,000 staff.

Latest available figures for the two housing associations who merged to form it show a combined turnover of £826m, a pre-tax surplus of £233m and an estimated £20bn in assets.

Members of all three unions lobbied the new group’s launch party on Tuesday (6 December), urging guests to ask the new group’s management to engage with the unions.

UNISON NEC member and Circle convenor John Gray said that “unions have had a long and productive relationship with management at Circle and we have been given no reason why this should now come to an end.”

But he pointed out that plans to end recognition would mean “that we lose our ability to negotiate over pay, terms and conditions, and the restructures which will inevitably follow a merger.”

UNISON organiser and Clarion joint union secretary Barney Wakefield said all three unions would use their political influence with local authorities to build support for the campaign against derecognition.

“There are so many housing associations who value trade unions and respect workers’ rights,” he said. “We will be calling on councils to withdraw co-operation from Clarion on new projects until union recognition is secured.”

The campaign was backed by UNISON’s community service group executive this week, representing some 60,000 members working for housing associations and charities".

hat tip

Thursday, December 08, 2016

"Fabians to look into Newham Mayoral Nomination Vote"

 Check out report below in Newham Recorder.
"The Fabian Society is “seeking further information” after its Newham members alleged they had not participated in a trigger ballot vote to support Sir Robin after the results were announced yesterday.

The incumbent mayor’s victory came from the affiliated organisations – comprising trade unions and socialist societies – which voted 11 to six in favour of keeping him, despite 11 out of 20 Labour wards voting for an open selection process,

The Fabian Society, which has not met in four years, voted to re-select Sir Robin Wales but Newham member Dianne Walls said no invitation was sent to members and if a vote did happen “it was a secret from us”.

She said: “I do not know how it can stand if we were not given the opportunity to vote.”

Representatives believed the society to be defunct after Giles Wright, Membership Officer for the Fabian Society, said it was “no longer active” in an email sent in August 7, 2015.

But Mr Wright announced two new social meetings by email last Tuesday (Nov 29), as seen by the Recorder.

In response to a recipient he said: “Newham Fabian Society is being revived, after a break partly caused by the urgency of national and mayoral elections, etc.”

General Secretary of the Fabian Society, Andrew Harrop, said: “The Fabian Society’s rules require a vote of eligible members before a local Fabian Society makes a nomination in Labour Party selection processes.

“The national Fabian Society has received a number of complaints that correct procedure was not followed in the Newham mayoral trigger ballot and we are now seeking further information from Newham Fabians.”

A representative for Sir Robin Wales declined to comment".

I have also made a complaint to the Fabians.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Newham Mayor Candidate - Why we need a leader to make a hard decision

I must admit that I agree with much (but not all) of the angry polemic below by Newham @triggerdemocracy. I too have been overwhelmed by complaints by local Party members about what has gone on and will support the call for a proper and independent enquiry into the many allegations of criminal forgery and deception about the affiliate vote.
However, I do think that the Party is hopeless split and divided and that the only way to unite the Party is for the current Mayor to be a leader and agree to put himself through an open selection process. 

I genuinely fear for the Party locally if this is not done. Party unity is key and the only way I think this can now be achieved is if the Labour Mayoral candidate is elected by one member, one vote. 
Unknown undemocratic affiliates
"Robin Wales has no mandate from Labour members for an automatic 5th term as Mayor of Newham. He is ignoring the will of party members in favour of nominations made by unknown and undemocratic affiliates. Labour members in Newham call on Robin Wales to agree to an open and democratic selection to choose Labour’s candidate for Mayor.
Full results – below
Newham’s Local Campaign forum sat in a small room and quietly announced to themselves that Robin Wales has been re-selected as Labour’s candidate for 2018 with 20 branches/affiliates voting Yes and 17 No.
The results demonstrate Robin Wales has no mandate for an automatic 5th term from Labour members in Newham. He is claiming a technical victory made up of unknown and undemocratic affiliates. Members went to their meetings in good faith and voted for what they believed was best for Labour and Newham. We call on Robin Wales to listen to them and to agree to an open selection, that would include himself, which would result in a  democratically selected Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham that everyone in the party would support.
Below is a breakdown of the votes. Remember, the question was “Do you want to reselect Robin Wales”. Labour members overwhelmingly voted for an open re-selection (by voting No), but more affiliates, most of which aren’t made up of members but have an equivalent weighting to a branch, returned nominations to automatically re-select Robin Wales (voting Yes).
Wards (11 No and 9 Yes)
Of the 20 ward branches in Newham –  11 voted No, for an open selection, and 9 voted Yes (full list at end).
775 Newham Labour members went to their ward meeting – 424 voted No and 351 voted Yes – so No won by a majority of 73 votes.
Affiliates (6 Yes and 11 No)
1) Co-op Party – No (37 voted No and 36 Yes, many Co-op members are also Labour party members so this was a 2nd or even 3rd vote for many)
2) Women’s Forum – No (46 voted No and 36 voted Yes, all Women’s Forum members are members of the Labour party so this was a 2nd or 3rd vote for many)
3) Newham Fabians – Yes (members state they were not invited to a meeting so it’s not clear how this nomination was made)
4) Christians on the Left – Yes (members were invited to a discussion on ‘Working with Faith Groups’ which had a ‘we will also canvass opinion on the Mayoral Trigger Ballot’ as an aside. They returned a Yes vote)
5) CWU – No (no meeting of members)
6) NAHT – No (no meeting of members)
7) UNISON No (no meeting of members)
8) Unite – No (no meeting of members)
9) GMB Yes (no meeting of members)
10) GMB Yes (no meeting of members)
11) GMB Yes (no meeting of members)
12 BECTU Yes (no meeting of members)
13) CWU  Yes (no meeting of members)
14) CWU Yes (no meeting of members)
15) USDAW Yes (no meeting of members)
16) TSSA Yes (no meeting of members)
17) GMB Yes (no meeting of members)

Some unions have more than one vote as they have more than one branch affiliated.
Ward branch results:
Beckton: Yes (Yes 16, No 3)
Boleyn: No (Yes 3, No 36)
Canning Town North: No (Yes 17, No 21)
Canning Town South: No (Yes 6, No 8)
Custom House: Yes (Yes 7, No 6)
East Ham Central: No (Yes 29, No 31)
East Ham North: No (Yes 20, No 23)
East Ham South: Yes (Yes 26, No 8)
Forest Gate North: No (Yes 13, No 30)
Forest Gate South: Yes (Yes 34, No 21)
Green Street East: No (Yes 5, No 32)
Green Street West: Yes (Yes 36, No 32)
Little Ilford: No (Yes 23, No 36)
Manor Park: Yes (Yes 29, No 28 (recount first was 30/30))
Plaistow North: No (Yes 27, No 17)
Plaistow South: No (Yes 12, No 19)
Royal Docks Yes (Yes 11, No 1)
Stratford & New Town: No (Yes 11, No 34)
Wall End Yes (Yes 20, No 18)
West Ham: No (Yes 8, No 20)
It has been nearly 15 years since Labour members last got to choose who they wanted to be Newham’s Mayor. 11 wards have now voted FOR an open selection.

Monday, December 05, 2016

"Housing Associations have lost their soul" Call for new campaign group to make them more democratic and accountable.

At the Labour Housing Group fringe at this year’s Labour Party Conference former UNISON Regional Secretary Frank Hont (and now Liverpool Council Cabinet member for Housing) described Housing Associations as having “lost their soul”. This was in front of Labour Housing shadow minister John Healey MP. 

This motion calling for a campaign for greater democracy and accountability in Housing Associations was recently put before the UNISON Community National Service Group Executive.

This community SGE notes:

That UK Housing Associations used to be genuinely progressive and democratic social housing organisations accountable to their tenants while providing high quality, affordable homes and responsible services.

Many used to have effective and well run Tenant & Resident Associations (TRA) and have executive boards that reflected the local community as well as being open, transparent, inclusive and most important of all - accountable.

Trade Unions, TRAs and local authorities were seen as vital stakeholders and partners.

Recently Housing Associations have started to dismantle TRAs and replace them with “focus groups” and so called “residents representatives” - interviewed and appointed by senior management.

Elected Councillors have been removed from Executive Boards.

Some Housing Associations refuse to recognise the human rights of their workers by de-recognising trade unions while victimising and blacklisting union activists.

Housing Associations which treat their residents badly also tend to treat their workers badly as well.
This community SGE resolves:-

To campaign and lobby against all Housing Associations that do not have democratically elected and financially supported independent Tenants and Residents Associations or recognise trade unions.

To ask the NEC to see if it is feasible to help set up a body that would work with other trade unions, councillors, Assembly members, MSPs, MPs and resident groups to campaign to make Housing Associations become democratic and accountable.

To support the call that at least 50% of all Housing Association Board Members should be genuine Resident elected representatives (which may include local Councillors and community organisations and at least one trade union representative).

Campaign for residents of Housing Associations that consistently fail to be progressive and democratic and do not perform adequate housing management functions to be given the right to be allowed the opportunity to vote on a transfer of their homes to another Landlord including Local Authorities.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Mayor lost support of Newham Labour Party Branches and membership

This afternoon the last Newham Labour Party branch, Green Street East held its trigger ballot meeting and voted 32 to 5 for an open selection process for the next Newham Labour Mayoral candidate.

This means that a majority of Labour Party branches in Newham agree with an open selection and if you count the numbers in each branch an overwhelming number of individual Newham Labour Party members have also voted for an open contest.

In the two selection meetings I have attended (Forest Gate North and Co-op Party) supporters of the current Mayor have argued that this affirmation process was actually a "vote of no confidence" in him by Party members. He has since lost 11 out of 9 branches.

Tonight the West Ham Labour Party Women's Forum also held its trigger meeting and in the biggest meeting held in the current contest they voted decisively for an open selection as well by 46 No votes to 36 Yes.

I hope that since an overwhelming majority of branches and Labour Party members want this to happen it will happen. this space :)