Sunday, February 18, 2018

25% so-called "Affordable" Housing is not enough! West Ham Branch Labour Canvass & Petition about former Ford Car showrooms development.

Picture collage from last Sunday when I was with Cllr John Whitworth and a West Ham CLP Labour team campaigning in my ward, West Ham. We were again asking for signatures for a branch petition calling for more social housing on the proposed development of the former Ford Car showrooms in 259 Plaistow Road, E15. Every resident I spoke to signed the petition.

There is a meeting of the Newham Council Strategic Planning Committee this Tuesday 20 February 2018 at 6pm at the Old Town Hall in Stratford to decide on the application.

I am really disappointed that Council officers have decided to recommend that the committee accepts the developers offer of only 25% of the development being for so-called "affordable" homes and not the 35-50% required according to the Newham Plan and the 50% requirement according to the GLA London wide (draft) plan.

This is a significant development with 323 homes proposed.

Below is copy of an email that we sent to Council officers about the development last year

Dear Deirdra, In response to your letter to residents, inviting them to comment on the application to develop the 259 Plaistow Road site, we as ward councillors would like to state that we will only support this application if the Assessed in Section 8 of the report. London Borough of Newham,259 Plaistow Road, E15 3EU proportion of agreed affordable housing is in the 35-50% range and that 60% of this is social housing. This is, of course, a requirement of Newham’s housing policy. We believe that we reflect a strong feeling in the ward and beyond that this site should yield a large number of much needed social housing units. 

Thank you for your attention. 
Regards, 

Cllr Freda Bourne, Cllr John Gray, Cllr John Whitworth West Ham Ward”

While I understand that that there are legal restrictions on what Council officers and planning committees can consider in such applications, I think it should be rejected and the developers told to go away and come back with a fresh proposal with far more social housing to be included. I believe that the developers will face very significant local opposition including lawful direct action if this does not happen.

Check out my previous post here  and there is still time to sign the on line petition 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

BBC "World Tonight" LOBOs Loans and why Councils including Newham are still being being ripped off by the Banks


On BBC Radio 4 "World Tonight" on Wednesday there was a feature on the LOBO derivative loans scandal  and how they have played a role in the recent bankruptcy of Northamptonshire County Council.

Check out World Tonight - 36 minutes 25 seconds into programme. (lasts about 10 minutes).

Northamptonshire had £150 million exposure in these toxic loans. Local Councillors were quoted as saying that they have to pay twice as much as they should - an extra £3 million per year. Paying up to 11.35 % interest per year, which is 22 times the current base rate.

Joel Benjamin from the campaigning group, Debt Resistance pointed out that these are 50-60 year loans and not only do you face financial mark risks from such derivatives but that you face crippling exist penalties of up to 90% of the face value if you try to get out of them.

The biggest LOBO derivative loans borrower in the Country is Newham with exposure at one stage of £532 million (now apparently reduced).

I was interviewed as one of the many Councillors in Newham, who are convinced that we have been totally ripped off by the Banks.

"We are paying far more than we should.  If we had taken out different loans from the government we would be paying about 1 or 2% per year but instead we are paying up to 7.6% in interest per year. We we are paying millions of pounds per year, to the banks, rather than spending that money on services to our residents"

I was pleased to hear on the programme Rob Whiteman, the CIPFA Chief Executive (which is the professional accountancy body for local government) made it clear that Council should actively consider suing the banks. Whiteman (a former Chief Executive of  next door Barking & Dagenham Council) said that councils could consider suing banks over the issue.

He said, “If councils have made bad deals I think they should not be defensive about that but go to litigation and challenge the banks and say, ‘We think we have been mis-sold’, or, ‘We think there are bad deals here and we want to change the nature of the deal’.

It is very difficult for banks to defend what may be demonstrably a bad deal and so I see no reason at all why councils shouldn’t try and remedy this through the courts if that is the right thing to do.

He did however couch his remarks with caution about making sure there was a proper legal case before spending money on suing the banks.

This is what Newham Councillors including myself, Cllr Roksana Fiaz and Cllr John Whitworth have been saying for years.

Finally, LOBO stands for the seemingly innocuous "Lender Option, Borrowing Option" derivative loans. However, LOBO is also the Spanish term for "wolves".

Apparently, it was the Bank's sale teams who coined the term "LOBO" and these City traders who earned millions in commission had a great laugh at our expense that they were really wolves ripping off local government treasury teams. Who had forgotten this biblical warning:-

Matthew 7:15:
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves".

Friday, February 16, 2018

John Gray Newham Councillor: Selection Statement

"I have been a pro-active Newham Councillor since 2010 and keen Labour activist and campaigner. If I am selected to serve as your Councillor for the next 4 years

I pledge to:-

  • · Hold regular surgeries in the ward; 
  • · Attend ward meetings and community events 
  • · Make written and verbal reports. 
  • · Campaign for Labour. 
  • · Represent the ward and constituents to the very best of my abilities. 

As a Councillor I will continue to argue for:-

  • A London Living wage for all Council workers (including agency) and make Newham a Living Wage Borough. 
  • · Improve governance to prevent further financial failures such as the LOBO loans and London Stadium. 
  • · As a founder member of “Newham against Austerity” I want to support our Schools to remain in the Newham family of Schools and campaign against cuts. 
  • · I want to bring back in-house the management of outsourced Council Services and the Council to sign the Ethical Care Charter. 
  • · We need to build far more decent homes at social rents 
  • · Provide better youth services and citizen advice provision

My main job is as a housing officer, I am also a school governor, Pension and Charity trustee and UNISON trade union activist (and member of its National Executive Committee).

(All Newham Council candidates have to submit a 200 word statement to selection meetings. Picture of me speaking as a UNISON delegate at London Labour Party Conference on a Social Housing motion)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Newham Councillor Selection Meetings - East Ham 17/18 Feb & West Ham 24/25 Feb


East Ham 17/18 February at East Ham Town Hall, 328 Barking Road, London E6 2RP

Ward Name
AWS
Day
Date
Time
Manor Park
1
Saturday
17-Feb-18
10.30am
Little Ilford
1
Saturday
17-Feb-18
12.00pm
Boleyn
2
Saturday
17-Feb-18
1.00pm
East Ham South
2
Saturday
17-Feb-18
2.30pm
East Ham Central
2
Saturday
17-Feb-18
3.30pm
Beckton
2
Sunday
18-Feb-18
10.30pm
Green Street East
1
Sunday
18-Feb-18
12.00pm
Royal Docks
tbc
Sunday
18-Feb-18
1.00pm
Wall End
2
Sunday
18-Feb-18
2.30pm
East Ham North
1
Sunday
18-Feb-18
3.30pm

West Ham 24/25 February at Stratford Old Town Hall, 29 The Broadway, London E15 4BQ

Ward Name
AWS
Day
Date
Time
Stratford & New Town
1
Saturday
24 Feb
10am
Plaistow North
1
Saturday
24 Feb
12pm
Green Street West
1
Saturday
24 Feb
2pm
West Ham
1
Saturday
24 Feb
4pm
Forest Gate North
2
Saturday
24 Feb
6pm
Canning Town North
2
Sunday
25 Feb
10am
Custom House
2
Sunday
25 Feb
12pm
Forest Gate South
1
Sunday
25 Feb
2pm
Canning Town South
1
Sunday
25 Feb
4pm
Plaistow South
2
Sunday
25 Feb
6pm

Meeting process

Just to briefly outline the process for each meeting:

·         After preliminary business, trigger ballots will be held on each sitting councillor seeking reselection, without speeches. Any councillor not automatically reselected will be shortlisted.

·         There will then be shortlisting, with the size and composition of the shortlist determined by the number of vacancies and how many AWS places remain to be filled, plus members’ choice. Members will need to nominate people for the shortlist. They will have the names of those who have expressed an interest in the ward in front of them but can nominate any longlisted candidate if they wish, and will have access to all statements. If more candidates are nominated for the shortlist than places available there will be a ballot to determine the shortlist.

·         Once the shortlist is agreed, candidates will then be asked to draw lots for the order to speak. You will in turn address the meeting with a speech of up to THREE minutes, then have FIVE minutes to answer questions. The questions will be the same to all candidates at that meeting.
·         Members will vote by eliminating ballot for their candidates, first for any AWS positions, then for remaining vacancies.

(This is an attempt to concisely convey how meetings work rather than provide an exhaustive guide.)

A reminder that only eligible members will be able to attend the meetings – they are fully paid-up members who are registered to vote, have lived in the relevant ward since 1 January 2017 and have been a continuous party member since 1 July 2016.

Hat tip London Labour. #AWS minimum number of women on shortlist. Picture collage from 2014

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Labour Newham re-run mayoral trigger ballot result: entrails and implications

Hat tip Dave Hill "Onlondon"

"Labour’s London region has announced that an open selection contest will be held between 1-16 March for party members in Newham to choose their candidate for borough mayor on 3 May. 

This follows a re-run of the affirmative nomination process or “trigger ballot” originally held in autumn 2016. The re-run generated a resounding “no” to incumbent Sir Robin Wales going forward automatically to seek – and almost certainly secure – an unprecedented fifth term in the job on 3 May by a margin of 31-4. The original produced a narrow win for “yes”, by 20-17. What’s changed?

Rather a lot. As regular readers know, the re-run trigger ballot was held following a year long legal challenge by local members after Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) declined a request to set up an investigation into how the original process was conducted. It was administered by Labour’s London region, unlike the original, which was a remarkably untidy bit of internal democracy run the party’s local campaign forum, whose procedures secretary was a Newham councillor on Sir Robin’s payroll.

The full results of the re-run have now emerged and make for intriguing reading. All 20 ward branch memberships voted “no”, whereas in the original trigger ballot only 11 had done so. Sir Robin owed his now cancelled victory in the original to 11 of the 17 votes cast by affiliated organisations or branches of them, mostly trade unions, going his way. However, this time only four of those affiliate votes were on the “yes” side while 11 went in the “no” column. Hence, 31-4 overall.

The huge swing to “no” should be understood in light of Sir Robin’s surprise decision two weeks ago to urge all his previous supporters, members and affiliates alike, to do precisely that. He appears to have concluded that doing so would help his chances best.

In theory, it might have looked possible at least until a while back to have won another “yes” endorsement, again by a narrow margin – possible, but maybe not probable. In practice, at least some Labour members and affiliates alike will have become conscious during the past year that the original trigger process had indeed been unsatisfactory, and that the way in which some of the affiliates had been involved and cast their votes was opaque, inconsistent and looked pretty dubious.

So even had Sir Robin scraped through a second trigger ballot, his triumph would have seemed tainted to many local members and others. And had he lost it after trying to win, the likelihood of his prevailing in the ensuing open selection contest would probably have been less than by getting to that stage using the course he has chosen instead, arguing that, after all that has transpired, it is only right and proper to put the decision in the hands of the members. The open selection system excludes affiliates and bestows one vote on each of them. Sir Robin has decided to take his chances with the rank-and-file.

We will know if that calculation pays off for him in just over a month. Councillor Rokhsana Fiaz has declared her intention to run against him and there are rumours that another councillor, an erstwhile ally of Sir Robin, is considering doing the same. These may prove baseless. Whatever, all hopefuls will have to be approved by a shortlisting panel next Tuesday.

That leaves the intriguing entrails of the affiliates’ votes in the trigger re-run to pore over. A group called Christians on the Left voted “yes” last time. This time they voted “no”, seemingly answering Sir Robin’s call. The West Ham Women’s Forum again voted “no”. Newham Fabians did not take part a second time. Their national parent body had found that their 2016 “yes” vote had been decided in breach of the organisation’s own rules.

And so to the mysteries of the unions.

Three that voted “yes” last time did not take part again. They include Bectu, because it has since disaffiliated from Labour nationally, and the Euston branch of the TSSA. There had been question marks over the 2016 votes of both these. The third was Usdaw, whose case underlines an ambiguity in Labour’s rulebook that played a big part in the legal ructions.

Usdaw had five branches affiliated in Newham in 2016, but cast only one vote. Similarly, Unison had six affiliated branches, yet only cast one vote. By contrast, other unions took the view that every affiliated branch was entitled to one vote each. Hence, Unite cast two votes, the CWU cast three and the GMB cast four. Unsurprisingly, those who’ve complained about the process wondered how that could be right.

Well, this time, while USDAW didn’t vote at all, four Unison branches took part, all voting “no”. The CWU cast two “yes” votes and one “no” the first time round. This time, it was “no” times three. Unite cast two no votes, as before. Only the GMB prevented a union “no” grand slam, its London region, which takes the decision, resolutely casting four “yes” votes again, despite Sir Robin’s entreaties to do otherwise.

Why that decision was made is now of academic interest only, but it is worth reflecting on what the re-run trigger ballot outcome might have been had it not been decided that only members and affiliates properly eligible for the original process could take part in it.

In the months after the original was completed, the number of GMB branches affiliated to Labour in Newham soared thanks to the energetic efforts of political officer Gary Doolan. It apparently now stands at 35. Had they been eligible for the trigger re-run, each of those affiliated branches could have had a vote cast on their behalf by the GMB London region in the way that it thought best. Assuming all 35 had been for “yes”, Sir Robin might by now have been automatically re-selected by 35 votes to 31, even though he’d said he didn’t want to be, and be on his way being Mayor of Newham for four more years thanks mainly to the efforts of a man who is a councillor in Islington. Labour’s rule book is in need of attention.

THANK YOU for visiting this website. OnLondon.co.uk has led the way in covering the Newham trigger ballot story. It needs your donations to keep it going, growing and continuing to provide fair and detailed journalism about a range of big issues facing the capital. Please support this Crowdfunder today.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Timetable & Procedure for Newham Mayoral Selection 2018


Dear Member,

Newham Mayoral Selection 2018

The NEC has agreed the timetable and procedure for the selection of our candidate to stand in the election to be directly-elected Mayor of Newham on Thursday 2 May.

To take part in the process you will need to have been a member for six months prior to the freeze date of 1 January 2017 (the same freeze date as the local government selections) and not in arrears.

All members will receive a letter in the next few days setting out their eligibility to take part in the selection process.

This will be an online ballot. All eligible members will receive details on how to vote securely via the internet.

The online ballot will open on 1 March 2018 and close at 12pm on 16 March 2018.

Further details of hustings events will be announced shortly.

Standing to be candidate for Mayor:

Applications are now being accepted by those eligible members who are interested in standing for selection.

To be eligible to stand you will been a member of the party for 12 months on the date of the freeze date of 1 January 2017.

For a copy of the application pack please replay to this email on Newham2018@labour.org.uk.

The application form must be requested by Friday 16 February at 12pm and returned to Regional Office by 12pm on Monday 19 February.

Applicants should be available for interview in Central London on Tuesday 20 February.

With best wishes,

Neil Fleming
Acting Regional Director
Greater London Labour Party



Labour’s Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales Facing Deselection As Jeremy Corbyn Supporters Demand More Democracy

UK’s longest-serving mayor could be ousted




Britain’s longest-serving Labour Mayor is facing ‘deselection’ after local party members voted against him being automatically chosen as their candidate.
In fresh evidence of the new mood among Jeremy Corbyn’s grassroots, Sir Robin Wales will now have to take part in an open contest if he wants to continue his 23-year rule as leader of Newham Council in East London after the May 3 local elections.
Sir Robin is facing a strong challenge from local councillor Rokhsana Fiaz, who is backed by Momentum activists but also by others from all wings of the party who want a change at the helm of the borough that hosted the 2012 Olympics.
The directly elected Mayor is seeking an unprecedented fifth term in an area of London that is dominated by Labour, which has 59 out of the borough’s 60 councillors and where a lone independent councillor provides opposition.
- ADVERTISEMENT -
Sir Robin, a veteran centrist who once battled against Militant in the 1970s and 1980s, narrowly won a ‘trigger ballot’ in 2016, but the process had been rescinded after a legal challenge and claims of irregularities.
This weekend, all 20 local Labour wards in the two local parties in Newham voted unanimously for an open selection and on Tuesday the London Labour Party opened applications for the candidacy.

Branches & affiliates in Newham have voted to proceed to a full selection to decide Labour's candidate for the directly-elected Mayor of Newham
With nearby Haringey Council leader Claire Kober quitting over objections to her public-private housing plans, the prospect of the removal of another senior Labour town hall chief underlines a big shift since Corbyn pledged more local democracy under his leadership.
An online ballot of Newham members will take place and the winner is expected to be unveiled within a month, sources told HuffPost UK. That will give the candidate just a few weeks to campaign before the May 3 election is held.
The one-member, one-vote election - which will allow Momentum locally to mobilise its members - could offer challenger Fiaz the chance to take the candidacy.
Fiaz, who was born and raised locally, tweeted that she hoped to now win the selection contest.

Two weeks ago, I announced I would stand to become Labour candidate's for Mayor of Newham in an open selection. Today, Labour members have voted unanimously for choice. So now I'll be putting myself forward to offer a new vision of change & hope. It's time. https://twitter.com/londonlabour/status/963006223028285441 
She has swiftly won support from Momentum-backed members of the party’s Conference Arrangements Committee, who are among those who believe BAME and women candidates have been under-represented.
Newham elected Labour’s first directly elected Mayor in 2002. But the party has faced criticism as its big ‘Metro Mayors’ – Sadiq Khan in London, Andy Burnham in Manchester and Steve Rotheram in Liverpool – have all been men.
Fiaz is also expected to make a key part of her manifesto a referendum on the very existence of the directly-elected mayor model devised by Tony Blair, with some local members believing it gives too much power to one individual.
In December, Wales attacked the legal challenge against the trigger ballot process, declaring “it is deeply regrettable that at this late stage in our preparation, and with local elections just a few months away, we have to appease a minority for the sake of their own gain”.
But he surprised his critics a fortnight ago by agreeing to an open selection.
Newham Momentum said he had “wasted time” by changing his mind at such a late stage.
Newham has seen a huge increase in Labour party membership since Corbyn became leader, from just 900 to more than 3,000 today.
Wales points to his record as mayor, including freezing council tax for nine years, creating 35,000 jobs through Newham’s Workplace scheme and the Every Child initiative.
In his youth, he was reportedly one of the Scottish Labour Students who famously travelled in the ‘Ice Pick Express’, a coachload of moderates named after the weapon used to kill Leon Trotsky.
As detailed by journalist Michael Crick, the coach travelled to a student conference to ensure Militant students were outvoted in 1976.
A local Momentum source told HuffPost that Fiaz had impressed members with her backing for some of the movement’s ideas, while also retaining ‘broad’ soft left positions on other issues".