Saturday, March 31, 2018

Housing Civic Academy - Saturday 7th April, 11:30am-5pm


(My father helped form a successful private sector tenants union in Buckley, North Wales in the early 1960's following Tory attacks on tenants.  A London Renters union is desperately needed. I am out of London on Saturday but wish this initiative well)

"Housing Civic Academy with TELCO, St. Stephen’s Church and London Renters Union!
Are you facing rent increases? Have you had a landlord who’s slow to fix disrepair in your household? Have you ever had your deposit stolen?

Everyone knows someone affected by the housing crisis in London. We need to come together to transform the housing system & support each other with our housing issues.

Established east London community organisers TELCO (The East London Citizens Organisation), London Renters Union &St. Stephen’s Church community welcome you to an afternoon Housing Civic Academy at St.Winefride’s Primary School in Manor Park, Newham. We will share knowledge around housing problems families across Newham are facing and build a community that looks out for one another.

This is a great opportunity to receive training around renters rights, hear from inspiring community groups who have led winning campaigns and plan the next steps towards taking action.

Teas and coffees provided. If you are able to, please contribute to a bring and share lunch!

Please contact Amina on amina@londonrentersunion.org or 07729 044 081 if you have any questions or concerns.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Join the Shareaction Activism team

If you have a pension or insurance policy you may in law have duties and responsibilities for the companies your scheme owns and invests in. If you own it then you can't just moan about it without doing something about it...

"This is Michael writing from ShareAction. I’m our new Shareholder Activism Coordinator and am moving full steam ahead in organising our AGM activism over the coming months.

This is beginning with training sessions for new and existing AGM activists – can you help us promote these? They are as follows:

Climate-themed: 04 April, 6-8.30pm, Waterloo

Living Wage-themed: 18 April, 12.30-2.30pm, Holborn

General Theme: 26 April, 10am-midday, King’s Cross

AGM activism is a winning tactic, and any individual can participate in it. Tesco recently committed to using 100% renewable energy and one third of the UK’s top 100 companies have become living wage employers. AGM activism played a major role in making this happen.

If you have any means through which you’d be to promote these trainings that would be brilliant. The more skilled-up AGM activists we have, the more effective responsible investment becomes, and our movement expands.

To make things easier for you, here’s some template tweets you can use:

.@ShareActionUK is holding CEOs to account through #AGMActivism on #LivingWage, #Climate & more, get involved!>> http://bit.ly/2IFEj3F

Want to ask the CEOs of top companies to pay the #Living Wage? Join @ShareActionUK's #AGMActivism >> http://bit.ly/2IFEj3F

Want to challenge the CEO of Shell in person? Come along to @ShareActionUK's #Climate themed #AGMActivism session >> http://bit.ly/2FYeURd

It would be great if you could help spread the word!

Michael Kind

Shareholder Activism Coordinator

ShareAction

(Fairshare Educational Foundation)
16 Crucifix Lane, London UK, SE1 3JW

T: 020 3475 7874

W: shareaction.org

Thursday, March 29, 2018

UNISON Greater London Labour Regional Committee AGM 2018 (& Supporting free school meals!)

Today I was re-elected unopposed as the Chair of the UNISON political fund in London that supports the Labour Party for a 2 year term.

I was really pleased that long standing Committee member Yvonne Green was elected as the Vice Chair.

Yvonne is also our well respected Regional Convenor as well as a being a UNISON branch secretary and Chair of a Labour Party Local Campaign Forum.

UNISON is now the largest trade union in the UK and Greater London is one of our biggest regions.

At the AGM London Assembly member, Fiona   Twycross,  gave us an excellent report on the Greater London Assembly.

Her online petition
"Protect Free School Meals - hungry children do not learn" now has 280,000 signatures. Please click and sign (then share) 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hello from Rokhsana Fiaz, your Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham

"Hi, I’m delighted to have been selected your Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham. It was great and really energising to see so many long-standing and new members getting involved so positvely in supporting my candidacy.

During the Labour Party selection process I stood on a platform of a fresh start, a new vision, a different way of doing things locally; with people at the heart of everything we do as a Labour Council by democratising how we do things for and with them.

I also pledged that housing will be my top priority as your Labour Mayor. You can read more about my housing plans below; as well as about me and my plans for Newham on my website here. https://www.rokhsana.org/about/pledges/

As we now countdown to the local elections on Thursday 3rd May, join me and our fantastic councillor candidates to take this winning formula to voters in Newham and win for Labour.
Information about how to volunteer and campaign with us are provided under my e-signature below; and you can also sign up here. https://www.rokhsana.org/contact/

Since my selection as your Labour candidate I’ve been working closely with Carl Morris (our Newham organiser and campaign agent for all the Labour candidates standing) on finalising our local election campaign plans; alongside supporting our brilliant Labour councillor candidates with #LabourDoorstep campaigning activities.

You can follow what’s happening on the campaign trial via my Facebook campaign page here: https://www.facebook.com/Rokhsana4Newham and the Newham Labour Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/newhamlabour/

Please like and share follow both

So that you know, we’ll also be formally launching the local election campaign on Wednesday 4 April 2018 and you are invited! Please save the date for now as more details will be sent to you very soon.

Finally, I am really looking forward to meeting with you over the coming weeks as we hit the campaign trail to ensure a decisive win again for Labour!

With me as your Labour Mayor and our great councillor team we can show what great things Labour in power, working together with its people, can achieve for the many locally in Newham.

Best wishes

Rokhsana Fiaz
Labour Party Candidate for Mayor of Newham
info@rokhsana.org
Twitter icon: @rokhsanafiaZ
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rokhsana4Newham
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/newhamlabour/
Instagram: rokhsana_fiaz
#NewhamRokhs #TeamLabour

P.S. Volunteer and help with the campaign!
We need help with knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, helping on street stalls, talking to Newham voters. If you have some time to spare and want to help please email Carl Morris via morrislabour@outlook.com.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

UNISON Greater London Labour Link Forum 2018: Speaker Joe Cox "Unions Together"

This picture is from last weeks joint meeting with UNISON Labour Link Greater London & Eastern Region Annual Forum. This took place in the UNISON centre in Euston Road, London.

I had chaired the Greater London Forum meeting beforehand. I really think that there such an excitement about Labour politics currently and that all unions should use this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to recruit and organise.

The Guest speaker was Joe Cox from "Unions together". He gave a powerful speech (see text below).

"Good morning colleagues and comrades.

Thanks for inviting me here and thanks for everything you do in your workplaces and for the Labour Party.

My name’s Joe and I’m from TULO – The National Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation or unionstogether as we are known more commonly.

We have two roles:

- To be the voice of the 12 affiliated unions within the Labour Party

- To campaign for a Labour government in the TU movement because we believe that only a Labour government will govern in the interests of working people and their families.

Right now the choice between a Labour Party that will govern for the many and a Tory government which govern for the few couldn’t be starker.

And the consequences could not be bigger.

I’d like to take a few minutes of your time today to encourage you to do everything you can to send a message to the Tories at these local elections on May 3rd.

I’d like to start by taking you back to April 2017.

I was in Labour HQ when Theresa May called the general election.

You can imagine the reaction.

We were all extremely calm and hugely delighted.

Let’s not forget, we were 21% behind in the polls.

What transpired was for my money the most incredible general election campaign in post-war history.

The general election campaign showed the Labour movement at its best.

- A bold manifesto which gave hope to millions

- A newly enthused influx of Party members and trade unionists campaigning up and down the country

- A trade union movement that provided the grounding and insight of working people as well as resources the party needs

During the campaign the Labour Party tapped into a growing sense of anxiety and frustration.

Britain is the 5th richest country in the world…

…But working people are poorer than they were 8 years ago

Britain is the 5th richest country in the world…

…But working people are under increased pressure to deliver more for less in their workplaces.

Britain is the 5th richest country in the world…

…But homelessness is increasing.

Britain is the 5th richest country in the world...

...But life expectancy in our poorest communities is going down

Britain is the 5th richest country in the world…

...But under the Tories more children are in poverty, our NHS is failing and our schools and social care are in crisis.

More and more people feel that the system is rigged against them, but in 2017 the Labour Party, you, gave people hope that things could be different.

Fast forward to March 2018 and it’s all too easy to forget that we have made huge strides forward.

We are neck and neck with the Tories and we are the biggest political party in Western Europe.

And with local elections on May 3rd now is the time to build on last year’s successes.

Because we know what a difference Labour councils make:

- Over 89 Labour councils paying the living wage

- Over 30 councils have signed UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter providing dignity for those in care and for care workers

- Newham Council providing free school meals for all primary school students

- Islington Council delivering 2,000 genuinely affordable homes by 2019

- Oldham Council introducing a licensing scheme for private landlords to stamp out the letting of poor quality accommodation

- Preston Council buying locally to support 1,600 jobs and keeping wealth in the local community

Many more Labour councils doing extraordinary things under really difficult circumstances.

Labour councillors - the foundation stone to forming the next Labour government.

The Labour Party was born from the trade unions in 1900 because working people needed a collective political voice.

They needed a collective voice that could compete with the power of capital, bosses, business and landlords.

Working together TU’s and the Labour Party have achieved so much.

- The formation of the NHS in 1945

- The first Equal Pay Act in 1970

- The minimum wage and rights to paid holiday in 1998

- The Equality Act 2010

So much has changed since 1900 and yet so much has remained the same.

In the run up to the snap election in 2017 the Tories received the following donations:

Andrew Law, hedge fund manager - £250k

Steven Parkin, logistics mogul – £250k

Mark Coombs, investment manager - £300k

John Griffin, owner of Addison Lee - £900k

John Gore, theatre producer - £1 million

John Armitage, hedge fund manager - £1million

The Conservative Party, the party of the rich, for the rich, by the rich.

They might have the money but we have the people.

We have people like yourself that deliver public services day in and day out. You know what Tory failure means on the ground. You are best placed to persuade colleagues, neighbours, family and friends that voting Labour can improve their lives.

So let’s use this opportunity to send a message to the Tories.

Let’s use these elections to say to voters:

Vote Labour to give local government the funding it needs

Vote Labour for real action to tackle the housing crisis

Vote Labour for a world class education for all

Vote Labour for safer communities

Vote Labour to give working people the pay rise they deserve

Vote Labour to give the NHS and Social Care the funding it needs

Vote Labour – for the many, not the few."

Monday, March 26, 2018

Clavering Walk

Off message,on Sunday I had my first day off from politics and the union for a long time. I downloaded this 8.5 mile circular route from the free website Essexwalks.com and Gill and I drove to Clavering near Bishop Stortford about 45 minutes from East London.

The weather started off dry, cold and overcast but brightened up in the afternoon.

The walk went through the chocolate box Essex villages of Clavering, Arkesden, Wicken Bonhunt and Rickling.  By the end of the walk you become somewhat bored by over exposure to beautiful thatched cottages, babbling streams, Essex big skies and ancient deserted churches. It was quite undulating terrain for Essex but nothing too hilly. .

We stopped for lunch outside St Margaret's Church in Wicken Bonhunt. Inside the Church there was a plaque recording villagers killed in the First World War.  24 men from such a small community compared to 5 in the Second World War. Many had the same surname. 4 had the surname "Banks", 2  "Johnson", 2 "Kettridge", 2 "King", 2 "Perry" and finally 2 had surname "Stanley" (there was even one "Arthur Gray"). Some families must have lost all their sons.

For some much older history check out "The Domesday Book refers to the separate manors of Wica and Banhunta. It records that Saxi, a free man, held Wicken before 1066 as a manor for 3 hides and 13 acres with 9 villagers, 8 smallholders and 3 slaves with 2 ploughs in lordship plus 3 men’s ploughs. Woodland supported 100 pigs, 1 cob, 40 sheep and 36 goats. Its value is given as ‘always £7’".

Who knew the Saxons had slaves in England.

We hardly saw any other walkers. Apart from the big fat cat we did see wild deer, Mad March hare and bumblebees.While there was also a cacophony of nest building birdsong. Some unwelcome rumbling noise from the M11 and Stansted airport planes but overall it was a lovely and relaxing walk. Strongly recommended.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

#Labourdoorstop Weekend - Mayoral Candidate Rokhsana Fiaz & Lyn Brown MP lead West Ham Campaign teams (& an evening off with Nina Simone)

Photo collage of a busy weekend for West Ham Labour. Our MP Lyn Brown & Newham Labour Mayoral candidate, Rokhsana Fiaz, were out with local activists across West Ham talking to residents about any concerns and issues. We held stalls and sent door knocking teams in Forest Gate North & South, Plaistow North, Canning Town North & South, Stratford & Newtown and Green Street West.

As part of my campaign to promote getting fit by being a Labour activist, I noted that I walked just under 12,000 steps yesterday! The cake and chocolate biscuits that Lyn bought us at the end of the day probably offset most of this mind!.

After a long day on Saturday I went to the Wansted Tap with a number of other West Ham Labour colleagues to a marvellous tribute to Nina Simone. 



Today (Sunday) I skived off and went walking in Essex but comrades continued to campaign in West Ham ward, Plaistow North, Canning Town South and Green Street West. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Paul Finch - Canadian Pension Funds Investments In UK infrastructure - privatisation or nationalisation?

Picture of Paul Finch, Treasurer of British Columbia Public Service Union with London UNISON Local Government Pension Scheme reps (Paul centre in black suit) & our Regional UNISON manager, Helen Reynolds last week. 

Paul gave a well received talk to our forum meeting followed by questions and answers. His time was short since he was due to give a similar talk to UNISON Energy & Water Pension trustees later that morning. 

The day before Paul had also gave a full presentation to a number of Union pension officers and journalists. I have the excellent notes of this meeting by UNISON Staff Pension manager, Eve Keith, which I have editored and like to share (which I take full responsibility for below)

"British Columbia Public Service Union organise 80,000 public employees, and a trustee of 3 pension schemes that use British Columbia Investment Management – BCIM means they are part owner of Thames Water and a lot of other infrastructure around the world. Paul Finch has extensive experience of de-carbonising pension funds.

He explained that he was speaking in his role as treasurer.

Canadian Pension Schemes

Paul provided some background as to the pension system in Canada. Target Benefit Plans are the Canadian equivalent of CDC. Used for precarious workers where its not practical to use DB. He referred to TBS as being DC schemes which had been levelled up.

There is a national pension scheme which aims to replicate a % of earnings to a set maximum using a combination of the Canadian Pension Plan (DC) plus an old age supplement.

Private pension provision was build around the state system. The feeling then was that lower paid people didn’t need additional pension savings as the national scheme was sufficient for them. As a result it became common for private pension arrangements to deduct the set maximum earnings of the national scheme for accrual and contribution purposes. Now private pension provision consists of DB schemes with flat rates of accrual.

Paul explained the way that the Trustee boards were set up, the Trade Union representation on those boards and the rules relating to quorum (2 union executive trustees and 2 employer trustees must agree to a motion).

Paul talked about the impact that trade unions had on these private pension funds. He said that the trade unions struggled with pensions resource. He said that the Canadian trade unions had concerns about capital stewardship and infrastructure. He explained that in British Columbia property prices were already high and infrastructure investment could be pushing those up further.

Paul said that the British Columbia Public Service Union worked with Share (for further info: https://share.ca/) and also the Capital Workers Convention. He said their guidelines around infrastructure were at an early stage but the concept was that if the investments of one trade union’s pension scheme were harming the members of another trade union, there would be a framework in place to deal with this. He added that this required a training and education piece for British Columbia Public Service Union’s appointed trustees.

The conversation moved onto regulatory regimes. Paul said that in British Columbia public sector DB schemes are not subject to a solvency valuation. Quasi public sector and private sector schemes are in a similar way to the UK. Two Canadian states have removed solvency valuations altogether so both public and private sector schemes are valued on a "ongoing concern basis".

Glyn Jenkins (UNISON Pension officer) asked what happens where a shortfall is revealed? Paul said there where the shortfall will be met by contributions those will be 50% member contributions and 50% employer contributions.

Infrastructure Investment

Paul gave Thames Water as an example. He said that British Columbia Investment Management - BCiMC owns 8% of Thames Water shares. Not enough for BCiMC to have an operational seat on Thames Water Board in their own right, seat is shared with another union. Paul added this had been a lesson learned for BCiMC and perhaps their investments in future must be of a level to obtain proper representation.

BCiMC get good returns from their investments such as Thames Water. He said that, in his opinion, if Labour were going to nationalise utilities it was unlikely that they could pay a fair market value to investors. Paul suggested that as a first stage Labour could significantly increase the utilities’ regulatory and control regime to make it be run as though it were a public body. The operation would therefore be less profitable and so the value offered for buy out would appear to be nearer or equal to the market value.

Someone attending said that he thought a party’s commitment to nationalisation was also an effective tool for reducing “value”. He said that since the Labour party’s May 2017 manifesto, 33% has been wiped off of the value water companies’ share prices.

There was a discussion about the trustees approach to risk v reward. Paul said that in Canada it was fairly common for trustees to apply ethical screens. He added that trustees were open to criticism in this area. There was case law establishing a high bar for members to prove that an ethical screen has lost the fund money.

Note: I asked Paul what the current situation was in Canada with ethical screening vs engagements. His response was:

Negative screening and shareholder engagement are both utilized as strategies. Negative screens for tobacco, firearms and such are very much baked in to what happens, but shareholder engagement occurs on other issues.

Obviously, shareholder engagement is much more difficult when we’re talking about pooled funds.

(Eve Keith)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Newham Labour Mayoral Candidate Rokhsana Fiaz at West Ham GC

Hat tip picture @mhmdrvt from tonight's Labour Party committee meeting, where Rokhsana spoke to delegates about the frantic time she has had since being selected on Friday, the hundreds of emails and texts congratulating her that she is still trying to answer and also her exciting but ambitious plans for the future of Newham. Roll on May 4th!

Love the "Democracy wins" banner background. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

UNISON Housing Association Branch AGM 2018 with Angela Rayner MP

Last night my branch held its Annual General Meeting at the House of Commons courtesy of our Keynote speaker Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education.

Beforehand we had organised a tour of Westminster Hall and the public areas of the Palace. 35 members and guests turned up for this alone. Many thanks to my fellow West Hammer colleague Julianne Marriott for sorting this out.

Angela spoke passionately about the positive role of trade unions and how becoming an UNISON activist had helped her progress from being a care assistant to becoming a MP. I first met Angela when she was a UNISON Young Member at Labour Party conference.

The AGM passed our annual report, elected our executive committee and debated motions and affiliations. Afterwards we had a social in a local hostelry in Whitehall.

It was the best attended branch AGM that I had known in 10 years and as our regional organiser Colin Inniss mentioned in his verbal report, there was a real buzz at the meeting.

Many thanks to Angela, tour guides, our staff and the Chair, Tony Power, for such a successful meeting. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Newham Deselection Was A Sign Of Democratic Change – Not A Power Grab"

Very good article on LabourList by Newham resident Maya Goodfellow

"Ever since Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader, a narrative has endured regardless of how well the party’s done at the ballot box or how many new membership cards are issued: he’s capturing the party and his supporters are slowly taking over branches and CLPs.

This makes it sound like a hostile and importantly undemocratic takeover. And pundits say, almost on autopilot, that it spells the end of the Labour party. When Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol announced he would be standing down, one standard response was riven with this thinking; it was a sign the party “takeover” by Jeremy Corbyn was “almost total”. And when Labour members in East London chose Rokhsana Fiaz as their mayoral candidate over incumbent Robin Wales, one journalist described it as a “coup”. Flip the narrative on its head, and you might find another story altogether.

To understand exactly what I mean, take a closer look where I live, Newham – the site of an ongoing struggle for change. In May, this part of East London will choose who will be its next mayor. Though no position is guaranteed, Labour stand a good chance of winning because this borough, one of the country’s most diverse, is solidly red. Last time around, all sixty of its councillors and its mayor were Labour.

But choosing a mayoral candidate isn’t a straightforward affair. Instead of a process where anyone can run to be Labour’s contender, the party’s internal rule book dictates that there has to be a ballot deciding who can run: wards and affiliates vote on whether there should be an open selection or if the incumbent is automatically the candidate. At the end of 2016 Newham went through this process and, by a slim margin, an open selection was voted down – making Robin Wales, the current mayor who has effectively been in charge for over twenty years, the candidate once again.

All didn’t run smoothly. A group of Labour members got together to question the way the process was run; they claimed procedural rules were “breached” because they were applied differently to different affiliated organisations. Some trade unions with several branches had voted more than once while others with more than one branch believed they only had one vote, which potentially tipped the vote in Wales’ favour.

Opposed by Wales and brushed to one side by officials, up to 30 local party members fought to make their voices heard. After a sustained grassroots campaign and threatening to take the party to court, they were finally successful; the party decided to run another trigger ballot. This wasn’t a Labour party taken over undemocratically by the left, but local members launching sustained resistance for months to get basic democracy.

The rerun decided it: members wanted Wales to be challenged. And the outcome of the trigger ballot saw Rokhsana Fiaz – who promised, among other things, to have a referendum on the mayoral position itself – win with 63 per cent of the vote. It shouldn’t have taken so long to get to this point. Labour has long been, to some extent, a top-down machine. This only got worse in the Blair years, when power-hoarding and leader-led politics were the norm. Newham is a prime example of that; as the Focus E15 grassroots group has shown, Wales has operated a top-down hierarchical operation for years, which appeared to show little regard for some of the borough’s poorest residents.

This should bust the myth that deselection is always some shadowy, unfair process. Fiaz has not become Labour candidate through an undemocratic takeover – quite the opposite. In much the same way, it takes a catastrophic misreading of the past few years to see increased democratic engagement with Labour while it moves to the left as Corbyn surreptitiously taking over the party. Change that involves contestation doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of democracy.

Labour is the biggest left-wing party in Europe. Its members and supporters are not just there to deliver the party’s message on the doorstep or turnout to vote every five years; they are people who can shape those messages and the party itself. After decades of managerial politics being parroted as the only pragmatic way to win elections, the last election showed creating more space for bottom-up politics is both a matter of justice and expediency. What’s happened in Newham is a sign that focussing on the changes in Labour as a Corbyn power grab is not only incorrect, it ignores an interesting, productive struggle over change that’s taking place at the party’s grassroots".

Monday, March 19, 2018

"United Utilities workers are on strike to defend their right to a fair pension"

"UNISON members at United Utilities are on strike to defend their right to a fair pension. It’s not a decision they’ve taken lightly, but the staff of the UK’s largest listed water company face being hammered by pension proposals that could leave some as much as £10,000 a year worse off.

These attacks are completely unwarranted. In the past five full financial years, United Utilities has earned £1.6 billion in profits, whilst over a billion was paid out in shareholder dividends over the same period. In 2016/17 their two most senior staff – CEO Steve Mogford and CFO Russ Holden – were paid more than £4 million between them.

Clearly then, this is not a company that’s short of cash. It’s a company that chooses to prioritise massive dividends over their obligations to long-serving staff.

In fact, the pension scheme will be in surplus by 2020 according to current projections – this is a healthy scheme, where (due to changes made in 2010) members are already paying more for less. This isn’t about saving the pension scheme, it’s about cutting pension costs at a highly profitable business.

The impact on individual United Utilities workers will be devastating. A 60 year old employee, who has worked there since leaving school and earns £30,000 a year will lose £2,500 a year on retirement. A 40 year old in the same position stands to lose even more – a whopping £9,200 a year.

That’s why United Utilities members are taking action today, and on Monday, to defend the pensions they’ve spent years paying into. Every one of UNISON’s members stands by them as they fight for a fair pension and the decent retirements they’ve worked so hard for".

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Newham Labour Mayoral Candidate Rokhsana Fiaz "Thank You" Party

This is a really lovely picture from Roksana's "thank you" party for supporters which took place last night at our campaign HQ in Canning Town.

Despite the cold and the snow the venue was packed out with happy and enthusiastic supporters from all parts of the Newham Labour movement family.  Rokhsana gave a well received speech on unity, determination and wanting not only a different style of politics in Newham but policies that make a difference. She had her Mum and Dad either side of her as well as nieces and nephews.

It was great to meet up and celebrate with the many colleagues and comrades who have long argued and campaigned for change in Newham politics and have now finally achieved their goal.

The overriding emphasis is now on getting Rokhsana and our Newham Labour Party Councillor candidates (I declare an interest) elected on May 3rd.

An an entirely unintended consequence of this whole Mayoral selection contest is that we will unite (99%) as a Party around Rokshana and now in Newham we are one step ahead since we have so many experienced and "battle hardened" campaigners.

It is going to be an interesting 6 weeks (until May 3 election)

Hat tip photo Muhammed Ravat (Colour splash added)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The role of pensions in building Community Wealth

Professional Pensions: John Gray says we should think about investing more locally, but there are a number of serious practical investment problems to overcome

As austerity bites and local authorities up and down the country struggle to provide services following cuts in central government expenditure and grants, communities are looking for alternative sources of investment.
The £250bn Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) is being eyed as one possible source. In the recent past it was the Conservative chancellor, George Osborne, who wanted to turn the LGPS into a "British sovereign wealth fund" and direct it to invest in local infrastructure projects. That big idea fell away due to opposition from councils, which dislike being told what to do and also demanded that the government guarantee the money if it all goes horribly wrong.
This time, the interest in the LGPS (and other pension funds) is from the Left. The community wealth movement championed in the UK by Preston City Council wants the LGPS and banks to provide local financing for investment. The idea that workers should invest their savings to not only secure their retirement but also to improve their local economy is on the face of things attractive. Who wouldn't want to help provide jobs for their children and better local infrastructure?
On a wider point, finance activist Joel Benjamin has noted that 30 years ago 60% of the LGPS was invested in the UK while now it is only 30%. He argues that this makes pension funds vulnerable to currency speculation and political risk.
However, there is the inevitable 'but'. The primary purpose of all pension funds is to pay pensions and by law a pension fund must be run solely in the interests of its beneficiaries. The LGPS is a statutory scheme but there is no Crown Promise and no Pension Protection Fund. While on one level it is unthinkable that pensions would not be paid, we now have a number of large councils showing signs of financial stress, and in February Northamptonshire County Council declared effective bankruptcy. The history of direct council investment in local projects has not been great, with too much money wasted on ill-thought-out 'vanity' projects.
The Carillion and Capita private finance initiative disasters also remind us that it is far cheaper and safer in the long run for government to borrow money and invest, but all this doesn't mean  there is no role for pension funds to invest locally.
On the positive side, the LGPS is being effectively merged and scaled up in size into large £25bn plus 'pools'. This should mean  they can widen their asset allocation, spread risk and acquire greater investment expertise.
There is also a possible window of opportunity with the growth of the campaign to divest in fossil fuels and reinvest in new 'low carbon' green industries. There is currently around £14bn in the LGPS invested in fossil fuels. Some councils have already decided to disinvest within five years.
So we should be thinking about investing more 'locally' as long as we deal with a number of serious practical investment problems to overcome such as the lack of accountability to beneficiaries (hardly any of the pools have employee representation) costs, risk, volatility, conflicts etc.
Meanwhile, there is nothing stopping pension funds actively engaging with the companies they own and getting them to support other community wealth building measures, such as making sure  they are responsible lenders or pay all their workers (including agency) the real national living wage, decent sickness and pension benefits; insource services; use local suppliers (especially mutual and other co-operatives); train and upskill their workers. In a landmark report by the Law Commission last year, it said: "There are no legal or regulatory barriers to pension schemes making social investments." Hopefully the time has come for pensions to play its part in community wealth building. 
John Gray is a member of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Pension Board, and is speaking in a personal capacity

Friday, March 16, 2018

Rokhsana Fiaz Wins - She is the Newham Directly Elected Labour Mayoral Candidate 2018

Fantastic news. Rokhsana beats Robin Wales by a staggering 861 to 503 votes in huge turnout. Will blog further when I can stop the uncontrollable laughing and smiling. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Just 12 hours to go - Vote Rokhsana as your Labour Mayor candidate #NewhamRokhs

"It's time. Just under 24 hrs to go before voting ends at 12 noon tomorrow (Friday 16/3/18), Labour members can still vote for me as their #NewhamMayor candidate.

If elected in May, I will put people at the heart of everything we do as a council & show what Labour can achieve for the many at local level.You can read more about my vision and plans for Newham via www.rokhsana.org.

Elect me to be your Mayoral candidate and I give you my word that I will deliver for you and all our residents if elected as the Mayor of Newham". #VoteRokhs

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

It's time for a fresh start. Vote Rokhsana Fiaz as your Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham


It's time. To vote Rokhsana as your Labour candidate for Newham Mayor

Dear Member,


With less than 2 days to go there’s not much time left to vote for me as your Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham. Voting closes at 12:00 noon this coming Friday, 16th March.

Every vote will count in this election so please remember to cast your vote for me if you haven't already to deliver a fresh start, a new vision and a new way of doing things for the residents of Newham. Because it’s time for change. 
  • It’s time for a Labour Mayor that brings our party and our residents together to fight for fairness in tough times.
  • It's time for a determined Labour Newham Mayor to protect local services. Yesterday's Spring Budget won't alleviate pressures on families or our public services which are at breaking point. Ending the financial crisis facing local councils, who are facing a £5.8 billion funding gap, can only be delivered by a Labour government; and with me as your Labour Mayor to protect our most vulnerable and local services for our residents.
  • It’s time to put people at the heart of everything we do as a Labour Council through democratising how we do things for and with our people.
And it’s time to be truly radical again - so that we can show what Labour can achieve for the many at local level.
Read my pledges here which will deliver more homes for social rent, decent jobs, cleaner air and genuine life chances for all our children and young people. You can also read more about my vision and plans for Newham via www.rokhsana.org.

I’m delighted to have the support of the two largest trade unions in the county, UNISON and UNITE, as well the CWU union and Lyn Brown MP for West Ham. They believe in my ability to deliver the best for Newham. They know that as your Mayor I will deliver on my promises on genuinely affordable housing, including many at social rent levels; and protect the land we own so that we can build housing for the people of Newham.  

Elect me to be your Mayoral candidate and I give you my word that I will deliver for you and all Newham residents.

Best wishes,
 
Rokhsana

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Statement by Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz on plans by the current Newham Mayor to set up a private development company & give it £3 billion of our assets

2

My statement on plans by the current Newham Mayor to set up a private development company & then give it our assets, value = £3bn. They could be our libraries, community centres, leisure centres and the council's own office & stop me building homes for our residents

*Alert to Labour Party members in Newham* 

"Earlier this week (on Monday 5th March), I received an email notifying councillors of a new agenda item for inclusion at the Mayoral Proceedings and Cabinet meeting scheduled for Thursday 22nd March. 

The agenda Item was titled: ‘Agreement to Proposed Structure to Hold & Manage Newham’s Property Interests and drive affordable housing delivery’

See attached screen shots of the agenda item, which have now been withdrawn from the Council's website. 

I raised this concerning issue on Tuesday night in my role as a Chair of Scrutiny at a Overview & Scrutiny meeting. I'm extremely alarmed that the current Mayor plans to set up a private development company and then give it our assets, valued at some £3 billion. 

They could be our libraries, community centres, allotments, leisure centres and the council's own office. 

I want to know who would be appointed onto the board of this company and why the current Mayor is trying to do this just weeks before he may no longer be Mayor of Newham. 

There has been no consultation with Cllrs or residents, no democratic oversight and this is all during an ongoing QC's inquiry into how a private company Newham set up lost £52m on the Olympic stadium. 

If this went ahead it would stop a future Mayor of Newham using our own land to build council homes and other facilities for our residents".

(John Gray - The Mayor has repeated that if he is re-selected and then re-elected he will continue to create this private company development company. See my Councillor report on the first we knew about this http://www.johnslabourblog.org/2018/01/councillor-report-3117-could-we-become.html)

Monday, March 12, 2018

"Newham mayoral hopeful calls for vote on scrapping role" Guardian

Rokhsana Fiaz is challenging Sir Robin Wales, the mayor of the London borough since 2002

"A referendum should be held on scrapping the directly elected mayoral system used in the London borough where the Olympics was held, according the woman challenging the capital’s longest-serving council leader for the top job.
Rokhsana Fiaz accused Sir Robin Wales, the mayor of Labour-dominated Newham, of presiding over an administration that makes decisions in a restricted circle and excludes community participation in formal council meetings that in some cases have lasted less than 20 minutes.
Two thousand Labour members in Newham have until Friday to vote on the party’s mayoral candidate for an election in May. Wales has been the mayor since 2002 and was the council leader from 1995 in a borough where Labour has 59 out of 60 council seats.
Fiaz said she would ask residents to vote on whether they wanted to continue with the mayoral system by the end of her first term. “This council is too top-down, too hierarchical. The incumbent to my mind represents the past, a very ossified way of doing things,” she said.
The system of directly elected mayors was created under Tony Blair. It was successfully established first in the capital and more recently in Manchester and the West Midlands, but it has not caught on elsewhere. Newham is one of four London boroughs that use the system. At the last election, in 2014, Wales won with 61% of the vote.
He has a strong grip on Labour’s East Ham constituency and is backed by the area’s MP, Stephen Timms, and he has compared himself to Sir Alex Ferguson. Under Wales’s leadership there has been significant economic investment in the area around the Olympic park, underpinned by the Westfield shopping centre.
He has argued that “things take time to get done”, but Fiaz claimed the regeneration benefits have been uneven, with 24,000 people on the council house waiting list at a time when some newbuild flats near Stratford railway station are on sale for more than £1m. “We have all this development, but residents can’t afford to live in Newham,” she said, addingthat she herself could not easily afford to buy a home in the borough.
She also criticised the council for writing off £52m on a loan intended to develop the Olympic Stadium for use by West Ham United, a deal that soured when hoped-for income was not generated.
Fiaz has been a councillor since 2014. She previously worked as a television producer in public relations and latterly as an adviser on race before running an interfaith charity, the Maimonides Foundation.
She has won support from Momentum, although the grassroots Labour group is not strong in the area, and she has the backing of the West Ham MP, Lyn Brown. Fiaz said she voted for Jeremy Corbyn in both Labour leadership contests, but described herself as “a candidate for everyone, hoping for support from all parts of the party.”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Happy Mothers Day! (& End Maternity Discrimination)

Happy Mother's Day to my lovely Mum, Margaret Gray, and shout out to @rokhsanafiaz #Rokhs4Mayor call to end #maternity discrimination on this #MotheringSunday

Mum is pushing the pram containing my little sister Lucy, aged 3 months, in our home town of Buckley, North Wales in 1968.

As a trade unionist I know that mothers are sacked or forced out of work every day of the week by bigoted employers and managers.

Mums & all carers (including men) need more protection from discrimination at work.

If you love your Mum and don't want other Mums to be exploited then sign the petition below!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

UNISON and Unite have officially endorsed Rokhsana Fiaz as the Labour candidate for Newham Mayor


Both UNISON and Unite have officially endorsed Rokhsana Fiaz as the Labour candidate for Newham Mayor in May.

Unison “Greater London Region UNISON Labour Link is pleased to support our union member, Rokhsana Fiaz, to be the next Labour candidate to be Mayor of Newham. Rokhsana’s manifesto is fresh, innovative and full of policies that Unison supports including building more homes at social rent & insourcing of public services”.
Yvonne Green, Greater London UNISON Convenor 

Unite: “Unite are pleased to support Rokhsana Fiaz in the selection as Labour candidate for Newham Mayor”

Jim Kelly, Chair Unite London & South Eastern Region

It is time to build Newham’s future together: Please get in touch, Rokhsana would like to hear from you

Mail info@rokhsana.org: Tweet @rokhsanafiaz Web: Rokhsana.org Face Book: @Rokshana4Newham 

Promoted by John Gray, on behalf of Rokhsana Fiaz who is seeking to become Labour’s candidate for the Mayor of Newham, at 59a Woodford Road, London E7 0DJ

Friday, March 09, 2018

"I can think of nobody better to be the Mayor of Newham than her" ....Rokhsana Fiaz for Newham Mayor

Great letter of endorsement for Rokhsana Fiaz as Newham Labour Mayoral Candidate by our West Ham MP, Lyn Brown.

After some quite disgusting and frankly vile comments and deliberate untruths by "supporters" of the incumbent, Lyn has obviously felt that she has no choice but to step in and show her support for Rokhsana. 

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Angela Rayner MP to speak at UNISON Housing Association Branch AGM

"This is to confirm that our Branch Annual General Meeting will take place on Tuesday 20 March 2018 at 6pm in Committee Room 5 at the House of Commons in the historic Palace of Westminster. 

This meeting is open to all UNISON Housing Association members. At the meeting you will listen to reports and may question branch officers, elect branch officers and delegates, discuss budgets; affiliations and debate motions on branch policy.

If you wish to bring a guest (who will be able to observe but not vote) please let the office (info@unisonhablondon.org) know as we will have reserved spaces for visitors.

We also have a fantastic key note speaker Angela Rayner MP. Her story is very inspiring. She was a single mum at 16 and worked as a care assistant. She joined UNISON and was supported in the union, becoming first a steward, then branch officer and finally a Regional Convenor before becoming an MP. She is now Shadow Secretary of State for Education.

Before the meeting there will be a tour of Westminster Hall and the public areas of the Palace including the famous “lobby”. There will also be a free raffle for everyone who attends and after the AGM there will be a free branch social (meal and drink) at a nearby venue in Whitehall.

If you wish to go on the tour meet 4.30pm (sharp) outside Westminster Underground station and the guide will meet you there (look out for UNISON flag). The tour will start after going through security at 5pm for 45 minutes. Ring John on ##### 150 530 if any problems.

For the main meeting you can either make your own way via the Cromwell Green Entrance (please allow at least 30 minutes to get thorough the airport style security – if Police ask where you are going please say you are going to Committee Room 5 to see Angela Rayner MP)

-       Or meet 5.15pm (sharp) just outside Westminster Underground station to meet with branch officer to escort you (look out for UNISON flag).

Ring John on ##### 150 530 if any problems

If you have any access problems please let me know as soon as possible".

Regards

John Gray
Branch Secretary

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Happy International Women's Day Eve! (meeting West Ham Women's Forum on Tuesday 13 March 7.30pm)


Please join us next Tuesday 13th March as we celebrate International Women's Day with Sarah Green, the Director of End Violence Against women Coalition. Kick off will be 7:30pm, at West Ham Labour HQ, 306 High Street, Stratford E15. The closest tube station is Stratford Station and Stratford High Street. Please let me know if you have any accessibility requirements. 

Please feel free to arrive before for some networking and drinks. 

 Encourage her to stand!!!

Yesterday you all should have received an email from London Labour Party announcing that they are re-opening the selection process to women in Newham. We desperately need more women on Newham Council. If you're eligible ( to apply you need to be a woman, a paid-up member since at least 1 January 2016 and resident in Newham since at least 1 January 2017.)  Please do consider standing and encourage your local Labour sister to apply. If you have any questions about the process please do drop me a message.

We also have our Annual General Meeting (AGM) coming up after the local elections in May (some branches will be holding their AGMs after the elections too) At an AGM you'll be electing branch/forum officers as well as nominating officers for West Ham Constituency Party. All positions are up for elections. If you haven't been notified of your AGM yet please let me know and I can put you in touch with the secretary.

As Women's Officer it is part of my responsibility to encourage gender equality in the CLP as well as encourage sisters to be more active in the party whether that's coming out campaigning, attending branch and CLP meetings or standing for positions. Here is some more information

Branch/Forum  Officer Positions
There are 4 positions and at least 4 of the officers shall be women. There is no reason why job share can't be introduced if you have caring responsibilities.
Branch Chair 
Branch Vice-Chair- in West Ham Ward we had to lovely members job share this position 
Branch Secretary
Branch Treasurer
Branch Organiser - for organising campaigning and leafletting sessions. This is going to be a key position in helping us get Sadiq Khan elected as London Mayor

General Committee Delegate (GC) Positions:
The GC plans and coordinates our local Labour activity and meets on the 4th Thursday of the month. All party members are welcome to attend, but only delegates are able to vote on issues put to the GC.
The Secretary is automatically a delegate, plus one man and one woman per 25 members or part thereof. 

Executive Committee Delegate (EC) Positions:
One position amongst GC delegates

Nominations for West Ham West Ham CLP position
CLP Chair
CLP Vice Chair of Campaigns
CLP Vice Chair of Membership
CLP Secretary 
CLP Treasurer
CLP Women's Officer  
Community Involvement Coordinator 
Trade Union Liaison Coordinator 
Political Education & Training Coordinator 
Equalities Coordinator 
Fund Raising Coordinator 
Information Technology Coordinator 
Local Campaign Forum delegates (10 positions) 

Forum/Affiliated Groups to the CLP
All Forums and Affiliated groups will follow a similar election as above. Holding an election for:
Forum Officer positions
Two GC delegates and one EC delegate
Nominating members to West Ham CLP positions

West Ham Women's Forum - AGM to be held after the local election

West Ham Youth Forum- TBC Please contact Karl Lewis, Youth Coordinator: karldavidlewis@aol.co.uk 

Trade Unions- Please contact either you local trade union officer or  Kim Silvers the Trade Union Liaison for more information: kim.silver@newham.gov.uk 

Socialist Affiliated Groups 

Fabians- TBC Please contact Rohit Das Gupta: rhit_svu@hotmail.com
Christians on the Left- Clive Furness: clivefurness@hotmail.com

Have a lovely week and I look forward to seeing you on next Tuesday!

In sisterhood + solidarity,

Warmest wishes,
Seyi