Friday, January 19, 2018

‘My God, what’s going on here?’ Inside the NHS crisis

Jason is a UNISON paramedic (and also a longstanding member of my Regional Labour Link Committee). Hat tip UNISON website.

The nation is in panic over the so-called ‘winter crisis’ in the NHS. But according to paramedic and UNISON member Jason Anderson, such pressures have become “the norm” for health staff on the frontline

Among the procedural messages that paramedic Jason Anderson and his ambulance colleagues receive on their onboard computers as they drive through London, one particular request from hospitals is becoming more and more frequent: Extreme pressure here. Please avoid and use alternative hospital if patient criteria permit.
“This morning I’ve received three or four messages like that,” he says. “It means that if we show up to overstretched hospitals there is a high possibility of extended waits. Therefore we constantly try to ensure we take our patients to the most appropriate emergency department”.
That’s just one, very tangible illustration of the pressures within hospitals that have made the headlines over the past two weeks, with under-resourced staff struggling to cope with increased demand, and patients suffering as a result.
The so-called ‘winter crisis’, exacerbated only in part by the increase in flu sufferers, has seen thousands of patients waiting for hours in hospital corridors, or in ambulances themselves, before being seen by doctors.
The situation is so bad that consultants from A&E units in England and Wales wrote to the prime minister last week expressing their “very serious concerns for the safety of our patients… despite the best efforts of staff”.
They even spoke of patients “dying prematurely” as a result. Spelling out the reasons why, they wrote: “The fact remains.. that the NHS is severely and chronically under-funded. We have insufficient hospitals and community beds and staff of all disciplines, especially at the front door, to cope with our ageing population’s health needs.”
Jason, who has been with the London Ambulance Service for 17 years, couldn’t agree more.
“The news stories are pretty accurate, but this is just an escalation of what’s already been going on in recent years,” he says. “The winter pressures have been highlighted a number of times. But there are periods of pressure all year round that are not reported in the news.
“Although winter was and still is the busiest period, an increase in call rates throughout the year has become the norm.”
As for the winter, the UNISON station rep has his own statistic to add to the debate, namely the call rate for London ambulance crews on New Years’ Eve, which has increased by around 50% in the past decade.
“Every year for at least the past six or seven years it has got busier. Each winter we step up our efforts to deal with it, then get used to the new level of demand, but then it gets worse again and we take it up two more steps.
“We’re dealing with it, working with it, but where do we go from here if the government cuts continue?”
Jason describes how the current problems within the hospital doors impact greatly on ambulance crews, particularly because their involvement with a patient doesn’t end the moment they arrive at an emergency department.
“We make an initial hand-over to a nurse, but until the patient is offered a bed or a chair we have to remain with them, as a duty of care,” he explains.
“If they can walk, we take them to the waiting room, which can be pretty full, but we ensure we find them a seat. If the patient is immobile – they can’t walk or stand – then we wait with them on our trolley bed in the corridor, for however long it takes for a bed to become available.”
He describes those corridors as often overflowing with people: patients, paramedics and the patients’ friends and family – not just the one or two that have come with the ambulance each time, but others who arrive during everyone’s interminable wait.
“We’re used to it. But it can appear chaotic to the public, who think ‘my God, what’s going on here?’ If you keep yourself well and don’t have to go to hospital you won’t necessarily be aware of how bad the situation has become. We do get a lot of patients or their relatives who come in and say, ‘I read about this but can’t believe what I’m seeing.’
“Often the relatives want to know what’s going on, and can become frustrated, with emotions running high at times. We try to put everyone, the patients and their relatives, at ease.
“As ambulance staff, we want to help people and can sympathise with them when they have to experience a long wait. But once we’ve administered our immediate care and brought them to an emergency department, the patient requires hospital intervention – so our hands are tied.
“But we still have to stay with them, until we can hand them over. So we get frustrated too. The longer we’re in a hospital, that’s one less ambulance on the road.”
In some respects, ambulance crews offer the perfect overview of a patient’s A&E experience: they collect a patient from their home, having to administer initial care and witnessing their distress; they bring them to a hospital, which at times can be crowded, and have to wait with them for what can be hours.
Jason paints a picture of a patient who is elderly and frail. “They may have been helpless on the floor in their house, for some time. When they arrive at the emergency department they could be faced with another wait, in a corridor. Then they’re waiting for an x-ray, for example. You find out that they don’t have a carer, or the amount of care time they’ve been allocated has been reduced – all those aspects of social care that are being affected by cuts. Their experience is quite distressing when you add it together.”
In turn, this can become a relentless and heavy burden on the staff themselves. “During your shift and when you leave work you feel their weight on your shoulders,” Jason says. Not surprisingly, some ambulance staff have to take sickness leave because of stress.
Like many UNISON members, Jason has a clear-eyed view of what’s needed to stop the rot. “The government needs to stop the cuts, to improve funding, provide better community services, to put more emphasis on the staff – with more nurses, more doctors, better pay for everyone in the hope that we can retain staff.”
With so much pressure, and so many obstacles, does he still find the job satisfying?
“Maybe once every other day, you walk away from a patient with a smile on your face, because you’ve done something that’s made them better. You feel you’ve made a difference,” he says. “That’s why the staff keep doing what we do.”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Labour sets Newham mayor ‘trigger ballot’ re-run dates"

Check out below another insightful article by "OnLondon" journalist Dave Hill, about the Newham Mayoral trigger.

I am more than happy with my quote in this article except, perhaps to make clear that I spoke as a Labour Party activist and that I am an elected lay "official" of UNISON and not an employed officer of the union. 

"The re-run process for deciding if Sir Robin Wales will again be Labour’s mayoral candidate for Newham without having to win a separate selection contest will be completed by the end of 11 February, according a timetable set by the party’s London regional body.

Voting arrangements for members of Labour ward branches within the East Ham parliamentary constituency will be directly run by regional officers in line with an agreement reached following legal action by party members in Newham, who were unhappy with how the original affirmative nomination or “trigger ballot” had been conducted.

While individual party branches within the neighbouring West Ham CLP have been given leave to run their own meetings to decide which way to cast their re-run trigger ballot votes, the London region will organise the East Ham meetings themselves in Newham Town Hall over the weekend of 10 and 11 February. An email from the party’s deputy regional director, seen by On London, explains that this is because “we believe their branches have not met for some time”.

The re-run process for deciding if Sir Robin Wales will again be Labour’s mayoral candidate for Newham without having to win a separate selection contest will be completed by the end of 11 February, according a timetable set by the party’s London regional body.

Voting arrangements for members of Labour ward branches within the East Ham parliamentary constituency will be directly run by regional officers in line with an agreement reached following legal action by party members in Newham, who were unhappy with how the original affirmative nomination or “trigger ballot” had been conducted.

While individual party branches within the neighbouring West Ham CLP have been given leave to run their own meetings to decide which way to cast their re-run trigger ballot votes, the London region will organise the East Ham meetings themselves in Newham Town Hall over the weekend of 10 and 11 February. An email from the party’s deputy regional director, seen by On London, explains that this is because “we believe their branches have not met for some time”.

The London region informed members at the beginning of the year that a re-run would take place. Its decision to treat the East Ham branches differently appears to vindicate claims made during the legal action and by its supporters that East Ham CLP as a whole has not been being functioning correctly and that this influenced the way the original trigger ballot process, held during the autumn of 2016, was administered.

Eligibility for the re-run ballot is restricted to those members and affiliated organisations judged to have legitimately taken part in the original process and which have maintained those party links.

On London has been told that two of the organisations that voted in the original trigger ballot, both of them in favour of the incumbent mayor going forward automatically as his party’s candidate for 2018, will not take part in the re-run.

One is the Newham branch of the Fabian Society, which it was claimed was not in fact affiliated to East Ham CLP when the original ballot took place. The Newham branch has been found by Fabian Society headquarters to have failed to follow the organisation’s own procedure for deciding how to cast trigger ballot votes.

The other is the trade union Bectu, which disaffiliated from the Labour Party nationally at the end of 2016 due to its merger with another union, Prospect. This was unconnected with claims that the Bectu branch which voted in the 2016 trigger ballot had not paid its affiliation fee and should therefore not have been eligible. Bectu’s headquarters were unable to confirm to On London that the fee had been paid.

On London has reported that another participating union, the TSSA, which had a branch affiliated to East Ham CLP, appears to have been treated differently from other affiliated unions with the likely effect that its vote was cast in Sir Robin’s favour rather than against.

Sir Robin was confirmed by Labour’s governing National Executive Committee as having secured the candidate nomination by 20 votes to 17, despite a request made in January last year by 47 party members in Newham, including 10 councillors, to establish an inquiry into how the trigger ballot was run.

A 13-page letter listed seven votes cast in the ballot that backed Sir Robin it considered questionable, including those of Bectu, TSSA, Newham Fabians and three ward branches.

It also questioned how the trigger ballot rules were explained and interpreted, pointing out that in the case of some unions individual affiliated branches cast one vote each while Unison, despite having six affiliated branches, cast only a single vote on behalf of all of them. The Unison vote was against Sir Robin’s automatic re-selection. On London understands that Unison intends to cast six votes in the re-run.

Should Sir Robin fail to secure a majority in the fresh trigger ballot, an open selection contest will ensue in which he will have the automatic right to stand. Other possible contenders include Councillor Rokhsana Fiaz, who is said to be considering whether she would seek to enter the race.

Some Newham members, including Councillors Julianne Marriott, Charlene McLean and John Gray had tried to get the NEC to rule that an open selection contest should take place immediately. According to unconfirmed reports, their case was considered at a recent meeting of the relevant NEC sub-committee but rejected in part because representatives of unions were opposed. Unlike the trigger ballot, the franchise for the open selection would be restricted to party members and conducted on a one member, one vote basis.

Gray, a Unison officer and one of the 47 signatories of the January 2017 letter to the NEC, has nonetheless welcomed the trigger ballot re-run. He told On London that Fiaz would be “one of a number good candidates who might run if Robin loses and could help build unity after the first, disastrous selection process”.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

TUC Pensions Conference 2018 Fixing the retirement lottery

The Trades Union Congress annual pensions conference brings together a range of experts to examine the most important developments in the world of pensions.
This year’s event focuses on fixing the ‘Great Pensions Lottery’ that means the insecurity experienced by many in work will be amplified in their retirement years.
Speakers will discuss intergenerational inequality and the power of pensions investments to change the economy for the better.
Delegates will also get to debate the ideas that could fix our lop-sided pension system and find out where pensions policy is heading in 2018.
Please note: places are limited and entry is by ticket only. Tickets will be allocated on a first come first served basis.
Tue 27 February 2018
09:30 – 17:30 GMT

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why despite 3 profit warnings did the Tory Government keep giving Carillion public contracts? Because its Chair was a key supporter?

Not sure he was a donor but Carillion Chair, Philip Green, was an open Conservative supporter. The corruption of public life in national politics (and local politics) is just appalling. Left and right politicians can be corrupt, but this current Tory regime is simply beyond the pale.

I found out at the Newham Governor Forum tonight that the only school in Newham with a Carillion contract is able to carry on (due to a willing subcontractor). Many other public bodies with more exposure to Carillion are running around trying desperately to maintain services.

Just a thought. If we could nationalise the banks in 2008 when they went bust, why can't we nationalise Carillion now?

Monday, January 15, 2018

"Protect our rights at work after Brexit"

UNISON has been urging activists to send their MP's this email for the vote tomorrow

Lyn has already tweeted that she will be supporting the amendments.

"On Tuesday 16 Jan, MPs vote on whether or not to protect our rights at work after Brexit.
These are rights that we use every day, from rights to time off for working parents; to holiday pay and equality laws protecting us from discrimination at work.  
The Prime Minister has repeatedly promised to protect our rights at work after Brexit. But the bill her ministers have put together is a huge power-grab. If the bill becomes law as it stands, it will give Ministers huge powers to slash or weaken our hard-won rights. 
That's why MPs have tabled amendments to protect our rights at work. If constituents put pressure on members of Parliament, they'll be more likely to support the amendments.
Can you please email your MP and ask them to stand up for the rights of ordinary working people after Brexit?"

"Labour members call for immediate ‘open selection’ to choose Newham mayoral candidate"

Another sensible article from "On London" journalist Dave Hill on the Newham Mayoral trigger debacle. He features Newham Councillor and former mayoral advisor (one of the very few female advisors) Julianne Marriott, calling for an open selection. The NEC are meeting tomorrow and I have also lobbied its members calling for the same thing.

"Labour Party members in Newham having asked the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to order an immediate open selection contest for choosing their candidate for May’s mayoral election in the borough, rather than re-running the disputed “trigger ballot” that initially saw the incumbent Sir Robin Wales go forward automatically for the role.
Newham Labour councillor Julianne Marriott reported on Twitter yesterday that she had emailed the NEC with the request, stating that she does not believe “a re-run of the trigger ballot is in the best interest of Newham residents”. Her fellow Labour councillor Charlene McLean has written a letter to Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol in her capacity as chair of West Ham Consitutency Labour Party making the same appeal on behalf of herself and her fellow CLP officers.
The interventions follow Labour’s acting Greater London regional director Neil Fleming informing local members last week that the original trigger ballot – or affirmative nomination process – which was held in autumn 2016 would be re-run from regional level following claims that there had been a number of irregularities in its administration by the party’s local campaign forum and a resulting legal challenge when the NEC failing to investigate them.

Fleming did not give a date on which the re-run trigger ballot would start and there are concerns locally that conducting it and then completing a possible ensuing open selection contest should Sir Robin fail to secure the majority he needs for automatic re-selection would create unmanageable time and organisational pressures with the election only four months away, and accentuate tensions within the local membership.
Re-selection processes for sitting Labour councillors have yet to be completed, meaning that ordinary members are already being asked to absorb campaign literature and attend special meetings. The original mayoral trigger ballot process took approximately five weeks to complete.
McLean’s letter expresses concerns that “there is no longer sufficient time” in which to run a new trigger ballot process and any open selection contest that might follow, adding the view that “it is the Labour Party’s delay in addressing our concerns which has created this urgency”.
She also reminds McNicol that West Ham CLP, one of the two CLPs in Newham, passed a vote of no confidence in the original trigger ballot process in January 2017, reaffirming this the following November, and says there has been “no constructive engagement” with them on the issues raised.
Elaborating on her reasons for writing to the NEC on Twitter, Marriott expressed her personal expectation that “a re-run trigger ballot will go to open selection” and that this would result in a delay in Newham residents “knowing who [the] Labour candidate is [and] what they stand for”. She added that she thinks a new trigger ballot and possible wider media coverage of it “unlikely to be positive experience for residents and members”.
Sir Robin is seeking an unprecedented fifth term as Newham’s Mayor, having previously been leader of the council under the previous local government system in the borough. Labour’s political dominance in Newham is such the eventual winner of the internal candidate selection contest is almost certain to go on to become the borough’s Mayor in May.
This article was updated on 8 January at 17:25 to include details from the west Ham CLP letter. Previous coverage of the Newham trigger ballot dispute can be read here."

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A London Living Wage for all in Newham Schools

I am a school governor in Newham and I am planning to go to the borough Governors' Forum on Tuesday evening at the town hall. As a governor I have raised the following question :-

London Living Wage

How many Schools are London Living Wage employers (as defined by the GLA including agency and contractors)?

A reply was published in the agenda from a Newham Council officer explaining that all directly employed staff should be paid above the London Living Wage (currently £10.20 per hour).  However, it was admitted that some staff may be paid less and that a letter will be sent out to all Chairs and Headteachers requesting them to ensure that all directly employed staff are paid at least £10.20 per hour.

This is well and good but does not answer my question about how many schools are London Living Wage employers (which they can only get this accredication if you include agency and in-house contractors).

I know for a fact that some schools in Newham have agency staff working there who are earning the minimum wage of £7.50 per hour. Of course these staff are also on zero hour contracts, receive no sick pay or pensions and have to opt out of the 48 hour working time restrictions. These are overwhelmingly female and Newham residents.

This must be challenged and the case for a London Living Wage for all school staff (and all within Newham Council) must be made.  I will see what happens on Tuesday.

I think that this can be part of a wider argument in Newham against academisation and supporting schools who want to remain part of the Newham family of schools. Much of the opposition from school staff to academisation is driven by the well founded fear that it will lead to a race to the bottom in terms and conditions. Especially for low paid manual and administration staff.

All workers in Newham should be paid a real living wage and receive other decent terms and conditions. I wonder how many workers in Westfield Shopping Centre are on minimum wage? I will ask London Citizens. I recently heard some horror stories of young people being forced to work unpaid hours during the night at Westfields as part of a "job interview" process and then being told the next day they had not been successful. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

#Labourdoorstep in Plaistow North

After my Councillor surgery this morning I went over to Plaistow North ward to help out knocking on doors and speaking to local residents about the forthcoming Council elections in May.

It was cold but thankfully it stayed dry. Plaistow North is next door to West Ham and very similar. A mixture of  private Victorian terraces and purpose built social housing. I got into a little bit of trouble for sending out a New Year e-newsletter to CLP members this month (as Vice Chair Campaigns and Communications) titled "Want to get fit and lose weight? Go canvassing". Some members thought it was inappropriate.

After going up and down the communal stairs in the Tibbenham Walk blocks I felt vindicated. Why spend £40 per month joining a gym when you could instead go campaigning with Labour. My Google fit app recorded nearly 7,000 steps.

The canvass itself went really well. Labour support was pretty rock solid but I was surprised how many residents had picked up on the Newham Mayoral selection and expressed let me say, very strong views on it.

PS does anyone know what the purpose of the steps and rails in the Tibbenham Walk gardens? (bottom right of picture collage)

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Veteran Newham mayor faces deselection fight ahead of local election contest"

For once, a balanced article by the London Evening Standard about Labour Politics. I and many other Councillors and Party members support the call by Cllr Marriott, Charlene Mclean and West Ham Labour Party for an open selection to decide the next Labour candidate.  I think that the "trigger" process in Newham has been completely discredited by the so-called previous "process".

Robin Wales has been in charge of Newham since 1995 and if he is not "triggered" then he would have been in power for a staggering 27 years (until 2022) without any open democratic process since 2001.  

The directly elected Newham Mayor is a hugely powerful position responsible for over 300,000 residents, employing thousands of staff and a Billion pound plus turnover.

There is also not enough time for another "trigger" before May 2018, which practically everyone believes will result in Robin Wales being "triggered", which will automatically lead to an open selection. 

We also have not finished the appeals for Council candidates who did not pass their initial interviews.  We therefore have no Labour candidates in place to organise the May election for the 60 Newham Labour seats.

"Veteran Newham mayor faces deselection fight ahead of local election contest"

Labour members in the borough have written to the party’s National Executive Committee calling for an open vote to pick their candidate.

Newham Labour councillor Julianne Marriott, who was behind the letter, said she did not believe another trigger ballot was “in the best interests” of residents.

It comes after Sir Robin called for the first result to be scrapped after legal action was launched.

Charlene McLean, chairman of the West Ham constituency party which passed a no-confidence vote in the ballot, has also written to Labour general secretary Iain McNicol. In her letter, seen by the Standard, she warned there was not “sufficient time” to run a new trigger ballot, followed by an open selection if Sir Robin were deselected, as the local elections were in just four months’ time.

The calls follow the disputed trigger ballot in autumn 2016 which Sir Robin won by 20 votes to 17. Eleven out of 20 local Labour wards called for other candidates to be on the slate.

It was announced this month that the trigger ballot would be rerun following claims of irregularities and a legal challenge.

Ms Marriott said: “I believe we should go straight to an open selection as that will be the result of a rerun of the trigger ballot.”

The successful candidate is almost certain to become mayor in the Labour-dominated borough"

Hat tip pic Jo G

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"UNISON launches campaign to divest pensions from carbon"

I chaired a packed 10th UNISON annual Local Government Pension Fund seminar yesterday.

The "Divest Campaign" is potentially one of the most significant things we can do as a union, not only to save our planet but also to save our pensions future.

Will blog further on the seminar later.

Guide will help members of local government pension schemes push for changes in the investment of their funds

A campaign to encourage local government pension funds to divest from carbon will be launched today (Wednesday) by UNISON.
UNISON’s step-by-step guide is designed to help members of local government pension schemes push for changes in the investment of their funds. The aim is to explore alternative investment opportunities, allowing schemes to sell their shares and bonds in fossil fuels and to go carbon-free.
Chair of UNISON’s policy committee James Anthony said: “Pensions are meant to safeguard our future, but that future is threatened by the burning of carbon in fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
“This campaign empowers people to hold their pension funds to account. If you contribute to a pension then it’s your money that’s being invested, and so it’s only right that you should have a say in where it’s invested.”
Figures published last year revealed that £16 billion was invested in the fossil fuel industry by local government pension funds*. At its annual conference last year, UNISON made the decision to campaign for divestment from these companies because of the devastating consequences that a changing climate will have on people, societies and ecosystems.
In addition to the threat of climate change, the UNISON campaign highlights other reasons why continued investment in carbon threatens the value of pension funds. For example, new government regulations for fossil fuels have raised the costs of high-polluting industries and reduced their investment appeal. Equally, emerging clean and green technology has created new and lucrative business opportunities for funds.
With five million members of local government pension schemes, and over 13,000 different employers paying into them, UNISON believes its campaign will resonate with a wide audience and is in a strong position to influence the pensions agenda".

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Open Letter: Cancel KPMG Appointment as Advisors to Grenfell Tower Inquiry (Update: We Won!)

In a victory for common sense never mind simple decency, KPMG, the controversial auditing & management services provider have withdrawn as advisors to the Grenfell enquiry following an open letter to the FT and The Guardian on Sunday 7 January criticising their involvement.

How on earth could KPMG, a company that audits Kensington & Chelsea Council AND the producer of the Grenville flammable cladding AND the principle Grenfell refurbishment contractor be an advisor to the "independent" judicial enquiry?

This sort of thing makes the UK an international laughing stock and seem completely hypocritical. Our Government and tabloid press are the first to make claims of corrupt governance overseas but fails to see how rotten we can be nearer to home.

Well done to Research Action for organising this letter. I signed the letter alongside Newham Councillors Rokhsana Fiaz OBE and Cllr John Whitworth.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

"Harry Constable - in his own words"

(I missed the launch of this book about the life of Harry at the Newham Vic Turner/Pentonville Five remembrance event last month. While I never met Harry, I have more than a soft spot for the genuine working class trade union activists I have met with over the years and I suspect Harry was one - even though I would have not always have agreed with him) 

Harry Constable - in his own words Compiled by Bill Hunter. Living History Library. ISBN-13: 9780954207755 

Every docker
filled with pride,
when they had Harry by their side.

In London or in Merseyside,
no honour could be greater.”

From the song: ‘If Harry Don’t
’ by Alun Parry

"Dockers set the pace for all the gains in wages and conditions during the 1940s and 50s. Most of their battles, against their bosses, the government and sometimes their own union, were led by rank and file committees. Harry Constable was one of their leaders who became known and respected
among workers in all the major docks in Britain.

This book contains Harry’s recollections of growing up in London’s East End, his working life and political experiences, that made him one of the most outstanding and talented leaders in the unofficial trades union"

Monday, January 08, 2018

"Newham mayor ‘trigger ballot’ to be re-run by Labour region" (and a possible new contender?)

See post below from former Guardian Journalist Dave Hill on his "On London" website. I see that Dave mentions Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz, as a possible contender.

"The process which led to Sir Robin Wales being endorsed to seek a fifth term as Labour Mayor of Newham is to be re-run following claims by party members first made a year ago that a number of alleged irregularities had made “a material difference to the result”.

In an email sent out this evening, Neil Fleming, the acting regional director of the Greater London Labour Party, said the re-run had been “agreed” because the prospect of a court case to determine the dispute “would be costly to the party” and “a massive distraction” from the mayoral and council election campaigns to take place in May.

Just before Christmas Sir Robin made known through the Newham Recorder that he favoured Labour cancelling the result of the original affirmative nomination or “trigger” ballot, which he was declared winner of by 20 votes to 17, making the same points about the financial cost to the party of fighting a court battle and loss of focus on the borough election contests.

No date for the start of the fresh process is given by Fleming, though he does say that the same “freeze date” of 25 October 2016 will apply, meaning that members will again have had to have been members for at least six months prior to that date to be eligible to take part.

The email says nothing about the eligibility or voting entitlements of affiliated organisations, primarily trade unions, which was a focus of some of the main complaints about the process. However, Fleming states that “the process will be administered by the Greater London Labour Party”, thereby removing it from the control of Labour’s Local Campaign Forum (LCF) in Newham, which the complainants contend failed to administer or the process consistently or properly.

Fleming writes in his email that “the Labour Party maintains that all rules and procedures were applied correctly and that officers of the LCF acted in good faith with the information they were provided with”.

In a letter to Labour’s governing National Executive Committee, sent in January 2017, 47 party members in Newham, including 10 councillors, argued that there were grounds for questioning the validity of seven of the votes cast in favour of Sir Robin going forward automatically as Labour’s mayoral candidate in May this years rather than facing possible challengers in an open selection contest.

On London has learned that that the ballot paper for an affiliated branch of the TSSA union was conveyed directly to an officer of that branch by a councillor who is a member of Sir Robin’s mayoral team rather than being sent initially to a more senior figure in the organisation, as appears to have been the case with other unions. The TSSA vote was eventually cast in favour of Sir Robin.

A review by the Fabian Society of the approach taken by its Newham branch to deciding which way to vote found that it had “breached the society’s rules” in coming to its decision to back Sir Robin’s automatic candidacy.

The headquarters of Bectu, one of the unions with a local affiliated branch at the time of the ballot and which supported Sir Robin, could not confirm to On London that an affiliation fee was paid for the relevant year. Bectu seems certain not to participate in the re-run due its unconnected disaffiliating from Labour at national level at the end of 2016, following its amalgamation with another union.

At least one of the other unions which still has local affiliation status might cast more votes in the re-run than in the original ballot due to differing understandings of the rights of separate affiliated branches at that time.

Party members who’ve been pressing for the re-run believe its outcome could be close, depending on changes in the numbers of union preferences either way and because the memberships of some of the ward branches were finely balanced in their views the first time round.

Should Sir Robin fail to secure a majority in the re-run ballot he would certainly face challengers in an ensuing open selection battle, should he decide to contest it. Councillor Rokhsana Fiaz, who sits on the council’s important overview and scrutiny committee, is thought a possible contender. Councillor John Whitworth said in November 2016, when the original trigger ballot was taking place, that he wished to challenge Sir Robin to become Labour candidate.

Updated on 6 January 2018. Read all of On London’s coverage of the Newham mayor trigger ballot dispute via here."

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Mill Green & Blackmore walk

Off message but did a fabulous 6.5 mile walk in Essex today (Pathfinder Essex walks). Cold and windy but blue skies and sunshine. Mill Green Common is only about 40 minutes from Forest Gate, East London by car (near Brentwood).

The start of the walk is amongst the remnants of the ancient Writtle Forest. You can park outside the "Gray & Sons" pub, "The Cricketers" (no known relative - unfortunately) The landscape of woodland and open grassland has hardly changed since the middle ages. It is amazing that it has survived.

Other highlights of the walk include the many footbridges, the Big Essex skies, beautiful winter sunshine shadows, the picturesque Norman Church at Blackmore (as well as it's lovely village green and duck pond).

Downside was the mud and biting cold wind but what do you expect when walking anywhere in the UK in January?

“There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”

― Alfred WainwrightA Coast to Coast Walk

Saturday, January 06, 2018

"All we want is democracy for all" Newham Mayoral Trigger

In last weeks letter page of the "Newham Recorder". Cllr John Whitworth argues that following the unfairness and wrongdoing in the previous flawed process there should be an open selection to be the Labour Candidate in the 2018 Newham Mayoral local elections.

While Jo Phillips demands "change, honesty and transparency and above all democracy for all".

I must agree.  At the risk of seeming over dramatic millions have died, suffered and risked their lives for these basic and absolute human rights.   

Friday, January 05, 2018

Councillor Report 3.1.17 - "Could we become Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) Two?"

This is my latest written report (previous one 7 December 2017).

Council Issues
Meeting with Senior Council officers

13 December. I met again with other concerned backbench Councillors senior officers at Newham Dockside to discuss and examine reports on the way that the Council buys and manages commercial properties for investment purposes. The meeting was constructive and informative but I still have huge concerns about the governance arrangements and oversight. Newham is borrowing hundreds of millions of pounds to invest in property. We are still being refused sight of the Newham Council reports on the London Stadium disaster and the reasons for the £50-60 million pound losses. This is an executive decision not to release and not by officers.

Newham Council Investment & Accounts meeting
14 December. At this meeting while discussing the minutes of the previous joint Audit meeting the Director of Finance confirmed that the £40 million original loan to the London stadium is not being “written off” but swapped in some “debt for equity” exchange? Since the loan was recently declared in our annual accounts as “impaired” (currently worthless) I do not know what on earth that means? Nor what happens to the lost £4.4 million interest charge, the £5 million loan for investments in the Olympic South Park and the £12 million of "working capital”.

I was very shocked to hear that some Newham Schools are allowing private contractors to not enrol new starters into the Local Government Pension Scheme. This will penalise already low paid female school staff and is of course a disgrace and these schools should be named and shamed.

At the meeting there were members of the Newham Carbon Divestment campaign. I suggested that they should be allowed to make a presentation at the Newham Pension AGM.

Newham Cabinet Meeting. Could we become Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) Two?
21 December I attended Cabinet as an observer and spoke to the Mayor about privatisation of Council services and also a proposal to set up some special vehicle to run all Newham’s property assets (we are talking potentially billions of pounds). I am astonished that this is even being considered before we learn the lessons on what went wrong with the London stadium special vehicle. This could be an even worse political mess than Haringey Council has found itself over its property development vehicle. I asked the Mayor if he would bring any such future plans back to a full Council meeting for approval but he did not agree and said it would go to Labour Group.

Fortunately Cllr’s Hussain and Clark managed to amend the proposal to just doing a review of existing arrangements and nothing else.

Review of Scrutiny arrangements
The Select Committee on Communities and Local Government has recently published a hard hitting report criticising many Councils for inadequate Scrutiny of Executive decisions. I have publicly commented on this report with and I am pleased that Scrutiny Chair, Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz, will be taking the recommendations to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

Surgeries and case work
I have attended 2 surgeries per month in Vicarage Lane Community Centre and Brassett Point Residents Association room. Casework regarding Academies, ASB; parking ticket policy; disabled adaptations disrepair, speeding cars, Right to buy, insurance and forming a Tenants & Residents group. I was most unimpressed with repair failures in the Church Street block run by One Housing Group and I am trying to arrange an inspection. I have received a petition from residents which I will present at the next Full Council meeting.

Ward Issues

Ward meeting/Xmas Social
7 December I attended ward meeting and went on to enjoy the Xmas social. Many thanks to Lyn Brown MP for attending and the organisers for a great evening.

West Ham campaigning & petition on lack of social homes in Ford Showrooms development
We are waiting for the planning meeting. There is now a West Ham Labour ward petition at Please support this petition.

Durul Jannah Community Centre, E15 – Planning permission
19 December. I spoke in favour at a hearing for a change in planning permission for this centre. Officers are opposed but I think they have got it wrong over this issue. I was supported by Cllr Forhad Hussain and Cllr Mas Patel. Unfortunately due to a mistake with the paperwork the application had to put on hold but I hope this can be sorted out as quickly as possible.

Other Issues

Labour doorstep
9 December after Surgery I went door knocking & leaflet distribution in Stratford ward with a local Councillor and activists.

Councillor Candidate’s selection meeting postponed.
Apologies to ward members who had reserved 9/10 December for the chance to elect candidates for the local elections in May 2018. Due to a number of appeals outstanding for applicants who did not pass the initial interview the Regional Labour Party has postponed the selections. No new date yet.

Mayoral “trigger ballot” to be rerunThe Mayor, sent out a press release saying that he wants a rerun of his selection process as the Labour Candidate for Executive Mayor. I thought his release was extremely odd but it does appear that he concedes that the process was “rigged” and that it needs to be rerun. I strongly support it being redone but think that there is not enough time for a Mayoral “Trigger” and selecting Councillor candidates, so I believe that there needs to be an open selection process for our Mayoral candidate.

London Collective Investment Vehicle (CIV)
11 December I attended with UNISON colleagues for the public part of the business meeting. The CIV is planning to manage nearly all Local Government Pension funds in London (including Newham). However, the governance arrangements are nonsensical since there is no beneficiary representation.

Anti Academies Protest Hallsville School
23 December I attended a successful and well organised protest outside Hallsville School in Canning Town with parents, teachers, children and 4 other Newham Councillors (including are very own John Whitworth). I was quoted in the Newham Recorder that the Council must raise it game since schools are blaming it for “forcing” them to become academies due to lack of support.

I am standing again for election as the Greater London UNISON Regional Finance Convenor (for the 10th year)

Workers Memorial Day 2018
Date for future is Saturday 28 April 2018 when West Ham Labour Party and local trade unions will be remembering all those killed at work or who have died of work related ill health at the Three Mills Green Memorial.

Living wages in Newham Schools
As a school governor I have sent in a question to the next Newham Governors Forum asking all schools to declare whether they pay a London Living wage to all their staff (including agency and contractors)

Donation in lieu of Christmas Cards
Once again I made a donation to a charity rather than send any Christmas cards. This year to the Magpie Trust which helps homeless families in Newham.

Congratulate Seyi Akiwowo
Finally, I think we should congratulate your ward chair (& Forest Gate Councillor) on her contribution to the UN about on-line hate and founding the campaigning group Glitchuk.

If any member wishes to contact me about this report to discuss any aspect please do not hesitate to do so.


John Gray
West Ham Ward Councillor

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Rerun of Newham Mayoral Trigger for local elections 2018

I was really pleased to receive this email this evening even if I think that some of the information is unfortunately inaccurate, it is a welcome start to uniting the Party, doing the right thing and will indeed hopefully help deliver a successful campaign in Newham for the May 2018 local elections. 

"Dear Councillor John Gray 

As you may be aware, an affirmative ballot to determine the re-selection of the sitting directly-elected Mayor Newham was held in December 2016. This ballot, which was administered by the Local Campaign Forum (LCF), confirmed that Sir Robin Wales was selected as Labour’s candidate to fight the Mayoral election in May 2018.

Following the completion of this process, the party received complaints from a group of members with concerns over the eligibility status of some affiliated organisations who took part in the process. The complainants made it clear to the party that they intended to seek legal judgement on these matters in the courts.

The Labour Party maintains that all rules and procedures were applied correctly and that officers of the LCF acted in good faith with the information they were provided with.

However, a court case to determine that matter would be costly to the party and be a massive distraction away from campaigning to elect a Labour Mayor for Newham. Therefore, we have agreed to re-run the affirmative nomination process for Newham to determine if Sir Robin Wales is re-selected as Labour’s candidate for the election. The process will be administered by the Greater London Labour Party.

The ballot will be run with the same freeze date as the original process, 25th October 2016. This means that only members with six months membership at this point will be eligible to take part in any branch meetings where the affirmative vote will take place. If you are an eligible member then the party will be in touch with you to give you notice of this meeting.

We aim to complete this process as soon as possible to ensure everyone in the party can come together to play their part in delivering a successful campaign in Newham.

Best wishes, 
**** ******
***** Greater London Labour Party

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

West Ham Labour Party January 2018 update – want to get fit and lose weight? Go canvassing!

West Ham Labour Party January 2018 update

Dear Members

I hope that everyone had a refreshing break and are now ready to get involved and active in the local and national party.

West Hammers News

Newham Councillor Candidate’s selection meeting & Mayoral Trigger
There is still no date set for Councillors' selections. We will let you know as soon as we find out from the London Labour Regional office. You may have noticed a newspaper report that the Newham Directly Elected Mayor, Robin Wales, believes that there will be a rerun of his selection process. So be prepared to be called to your branch or affiliate meetings to participate in both processes (if eligible to vote)

Friday 5 January. Newham Fabians. You have to have renewed your local membership by this day to participate in the AGM on 15 Jan. See details below.

Monday 8 January 7.30pm West Ham CLP BAME at 306 High Street, Stratford E15 1AJ

Solidarity Saturday – 20 January!
Do you want to make a difference and help Labour win in the new marginal seat of Chingford? Check out Saturday 20 January below.

All future campaign and event dates (check web site for updates)

Thursday 4 January 6.30pm Forest Gate North canvass meet outside Forest Gate Tavern E7 (before ward meeting) John Gray organiser 07432 150 530

Thursday 4 January. The Mayor, Robin Wales, is speaking to first Stratford & Newtown branch meeting then Forest Gate North on the London Stadium. Branch members should contact their secretaries for timings. 
Monday 8 January 7.30pm West Ham CLP BAME at 306 High Street, Stratford E15 1AJ. Meeting to discuss Labour Party Democracy review and decide upon a possible submission (needs to be in by 12 January). Apologies for lack of notice. All welcome. Contact West Ham BAME Officer Anam Islam,

Thursday 11 January 6pm-6:45pm West Ham Branch canvass/Petition on social housing. Meet Plaistow station E13 (before ward meeting)

Tuesday 9 January strike & picket outside Cumberland school from 8.00 am outside the school gates. On strike to protect the children’s education from privatisation. Oban Close, E13 8SJ
Saturday 13th January at 11am Plaistow North canvassing session on meeting at Plaistow station E13 contact Daniel or Mehmood.

Saturday 13th January 11-1pm Custom House Canvass check CLP website for meeting point and organiser)

Sunday 14 January 11.30 Forest Gate North Canvass (check CLP website for meeting point and organiser)

Monday 15 January Newham Fabians AGM time and venue to be confirmed. Contact Rohit K Dasgupta, (note you have to renew your local Fabian membership by 5 Jan)

Wednesday 17 January. Custom House New Year Social. Save date. Contact Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz OBE for further details.

Saturday 20 January – 11am Solidarity Saturday with comrades in Chingford doing their best to get rid of IDS. Meet outside Chingford War Memorial, 3 Old Church Road, E4 6SJ. It takes about 25/30 minutes to drive or cycle from Stratford. Buses 97, 158, 215, 357, 385, 397, 444, W16. contact John Gray 07432 150 530 or Alan Griffiths if you want a lift.

Saturday 20 January 20 – 1100 am to 1 pm. Canvass Plaistow South Meeting at Plaistow Library E13 9HL. Organiser Neil Wilson 0789 653 9001

Monday 22 January 7pm-8.30pm Branch Officer Training. 306 High Street, Stratford E15 1AJ. Roles & responsibilities of Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer & Social Secretary. Sharing good practice. Organisers Carol Buxton/John Whitworth

Thursday 25th January – West Ham CLP GC, 306 High Street, Stratford E15 - Visiting Speaker Nia Griffths, Shadow Defence Secretary

Saturday 27 January 11.30am Forest Gate North Canvass meet outside Hibiscus Community Centre E15 1SP organiser John Gray 07432 150 530

Sunday 28 January 11-1pm Custom House Canvass check CLP website for meeting point and organiser)

Sunday January 28th 2.00pm to 4.00 pm Plaistow South Canvass at Plaistow Library E13 9HL Organiser Neil Wilson 0789 653 9001

Tuesday 30 January. IT training for Branch Secretaries & others interested. 7-8.30pm. Vicarage Lane Community Centre, Govier Close, E15. To include methods for sending out bulk messages/attachments etc. organised by Shaban Mohammed/

Sunday 4th February. West Ham CLP trip to Tate Britain. Exhibition "RED STAR OVER RUSSIA A REVOLUTION IN VISUAL CULTURE 1905–55" (but entry fee).
Party members are encouraged to use sustainable transport options. The Jubilee Line is running, and is ordinarily accessible. We will meet at the Westfield exit for Stratford Station at 10.30am where many will cycle to Tate Britain along a safe, mostly segregated route. There is a santander cycle stand near the meeting point.

Monday 26 February 7pm Newham Full Council Meeting, East Ham Town Hall E6

Surveys & Petitions

West Ham CLP members are also asked to support these surveys and petitions that are still live.

“Bookmakers target people who can’t afford to lose their money on these machines”
Our MP Lyn Brown asks you to support her call to curb the blight being caused to our community by Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) and take part in the government consultation. Check out further information

“In response to years of Newham’s campaigning the Government has now launched a consultation survey which might lead to these terrible FOBT machine stakes being reduced. But we need to make sure that gambling industry lobby don’t dominate the responses, which is why we would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to respond to the survey online by clicking this link.
Newham Council: More Social Housing in Plaistow Petition
West Ham Ward ask you to support their online petition on a controversial planning application. See Canvass/Petition . So please share with all your Newham friends and family:
If you are interested in planning policy then Newham Council is also undergoing a review of its #LocalPlan Proposed Submission is open until the 16th January, so have your say!” (warning this is heavy going but important)

Marked Register data inputting
If you have some time to spare then contact our CLP secretary to volunteer to help us input the “Marked Register” data from the General Election into Labour Party records. He will explain if contacted.

We look forward to seeing you at future events and campaigns!

John Gray
Vice Chair (Campaigns and Comms) West Ham CLP
e t @westhamlabour f westhamlabour w

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Five ways to encourage new young activists?

I have been meaning to post on this challenging but important article by Carl Roper on the TUC website Stronger Unions for a while. It is about the urgent need to recruit young union members and turn them into activists.

This is a critical issue for unions. Young members are our lifeblood. It is "do or die". 

Recently UNISON has had some success in recruiting young members but not yet enough to make up for retiring activists. 

I think the success of the Labour Party in recruiting young people in recent years must tell us something? Even though in my experience many of them have joined but not yet got active. The Party was written off as a mass movement yet has now some 570,000 full members (the largest political party in Western Europe)

There must be lessons for us somewhere? Changes in titles, rules, comms and digital media are important but it is also about the wider narrative – what is our our message to young people, what can we offer them and how do we deliver it?

At the risk of seeming negative I think that history tells us that unions need greater political protection and support in order to encourage membership and participation of all ages. That doesn't mean do nothing and just wait for a Labour Parliamentary victory. 

Below are five suggestions by Carl with my thoughts below each.

1. Scrap traditional reps and activist job titles and descriptions and start again from the basis about what needs to be done. Titles like Chair and Secretary appear boring and administrative not proactive, action based roles that might motivate someone to get involved.

Yes/No. Titles should reflect what needs to be done but you need someone to "chair" a meeting. A "secretary" needs to take notes on what is decided at meetings. What new titles?

2. Introduce rep retirement ages so that reps step down from their union role 12/18 months before they retire from work and are tasked with finding and mentoring younger successors.

Good idea but I suspect that compulsory retirement for branch officers is probably unlawful. The problem will be if you cannot find anyone to take on the role. However, no one is irreplaceable (even me) and if meaningful succession planning is done properly it can be done. 

3. Branch officers and reps should be employed at the company/organisation, which means ending the practice of retired members holding branch positions.

Agreed but retired members can be an important asset to a branch and are often overlooked. There is a more immediate problem with multi-employer branches where branch officers don't have facility time to represent members in other employers nor the inside knowledge.

4. Following on from the previous suggestion, unions should adopt and properly resource formal succession planning and mentoring strategies for new reps.


5. Unions should launch a digital revolution in unions that utilises tech and includes radically democratising how we identify issues and narrow the gap between the decision we make and the action we need to take.

As you would imagine,  I agree with this point but can we deliver this when the law means we can't even have Internet voting for many trade union elections? Still, we have no choice but to try, we need to take risks with technology and trust our members. 

Picture of UNISON young members in our Northern region