Friday, January 24, 2020

Newham Councillors on Tour

This morning I went on a visit to a regeneration site in Norwich with the Deputy Lead for Housing Services, Cllr Shaban Mohammed and the Chair of Regeneration and Housing Scrutiny, Cllr John Whitworth.

It was a really fascinating (and potentially important) visit which I will post upon later. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Come and Meet Keir Starmer in Stratford Monday 27 January 6.30pm

Keir will be at the historic Old Town Hall in Stratford on Monday 27 January 2020. Arrive at 6.30pm for 6.45pm start.

Please sign up to attend by clicking here and spread the word

(Update -Keir had to pull out of Friday/Saturday events upon the very sad news that his Mother-in-law is seriously ill but so far I assume that Monday is still on. Solidarity to Keir and his famous in this difficult time)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Busy Labour Movement Day

This morning (Wednesday) started off with a 9am tour and presentation at Anchor House in Canning Town with Councillor colleagues. Anchor House is a former Seaman's mission which is now a charity that specialises in supporting single homeless adults.

It has a very innovative proposal to convert unused space into a further 18 bedrooms. I was also impressed with the improvements to communal livings spaces and installation of a new kitchen and laundry.

Later I went to the UNISON HQ in Euston for a long meeting of its NEC Policy Development and Campaign Committee (PDCC). Which included some excellent reports from our devolved nations Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Congratulations to Northern Ireland  for its recent successful NHS strike action over pay.

I was devastated to see that my beloved North Wales is now almost totally controlled by the Tories. Unbelievable. Incredible. Only Alan & Deeside (I was born and bred in Buckley) survived by a few hundred votes (we would have been wiped out if the Brexit Party had stood down). Need to learn lessons quickly before Welsh Assembly elections in May. Onward and forwards.

We spent ages  debating and voting on draft motions to our National Conference. Finished just after 4pm.

Next as a NEC member for Community (Voluntary sector and Housing Associations) I had a briefing on the Community Service Group in Greater London region.

At 6.30 pm I was in the Old Town Hall,  Stratford to take part in the public consultation on the Newham Council Budget proposals which went really well.  I sat on a round table with Councillors,  officers and residents discussing our proposal to tackle Rough Sleeping by increasing spending by 400% to £1.8 million per year. Residents were challenging but on the whole broadly supportive of all our budget proposals especially those on improving our environment. They recognise that due to continual government cuts, difficult choices will have to be made.

Final event of the day was the launch of a new community group called "Voice of Newham". The Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, myself and local Councillors were invited to speak about our future plans for Newham and how by working with all our communities we will bring about change. Finished about 11pm.

A long day but a good day.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Labour Unions - Have a vote in Leader & Deputy Leader elections - deadline 5pm Monday 3 Feb

If you are a member of a trade union that is affiliated to the Labour Party and you have chosen to be part of its political fund that supports the Labour Party you can vote (at no extra cost) in the leadership elections. You need your trade union membership number and it only takes a few minutes.

Click here to register (also if you are a member of a Socialist society that is affiliated). You only get one vote no matter how many affiliated societies you are a member of.

Hat tip Labour Unions website

Monday, January 20, 2020

Newham Council Meeting - Living Wage Foundation, Cabinet Reports and Pension Divestment

This evening at the Full Council meeting in Stratford Town Hall we started with a "State of the Borough" debate with speeches from the Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, and updates from all 8 cabinet members.

My very short update was as below :-

"As Cabinet lead for Housing Services dealing with the immense challenges our residents face in housing was an absolute central pledge of our manifesto. I can report on some important progress we have made on meeting those promises.

In 2019 Newham Council Housing Services are used our land and money to support the Mayor to deliver on her 1000 Council homes at social rents manifesto commitment.

Also as promised we are committed to tackle homelessness with care and compassionate and we are looking to invest up to £100 million on buying or building good quality temporary accommodation for homeless families.

We have almost doubled the number of enforcement officers in our property licensing team.

We have reintroduced Tenant and Residents forums; we are spending some £200 million on planned improvements to our stock, including new kitchens, windows, bathrooms, roofs, lifts - tacking fuel poverty and also the climate change emergency;

We are due to open 4 local housing hubs across the borough and have established a new team of named officers with responsibility for all council homes in the borough.

More broadly, addressing this crucial issue of housing is central to our Community Wealth Building Strategy, and developing an inclusive economic strategy. So we will be stepping this up in 2020".

After this debate our Newham Partnership update (and Q&A) was by Lucy Bannister from the Living Wage Foundation. Newham is finalising becoming an accredited Living Wage employer. Last year we got 700 Newham social care workers a Living Wage pay rise. As contracts come up for renewal we implement a Living wage clause.

Last week we took back into public service 50 Park Gardeners, many of whom also got a pay rise. Lucy explained the history of the Living Wage Campaign (it was born in East London) and the advantages to employers as well as staff. They are also thinking of setting up a new campaign for "Living Hours" (zero hour contracts etc).

Next were questions from the public and a number of questions had been submitted on why our Newham Staff pension fund should divest from carbon. There was a substantial written response and an offer from the Chair of the Pension Committee to meet and discuss divestment further.

We do have I think the lowest exposure to carbon investment in all 33 London Council pension funds (1.2%). The main reason for this is our fund managers think carbon intensive industries are not good investments. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Little Hallingbury Walk

Off message but Gill and I went on a perfect little walk today around Little Hallingbury, which is near Harlow, courtesy of The bright winter sunshine and blue skies helped make it special.

The start of the walk is in the hamlet of Gaston Green. Walk down a lane to the restored Little Hallingbury Water Mill.  Then turn right along the towpath of the Stort Navigation river. Apart from being very muddy the walk along the Stort was a pleasure. There was little wind so the reflections of the trees in the water was stunning.

After we left the Stort the walk back was through rolling Essex fields and hills. We hardly saw anyone during the walk apart from the occasional fisherman and families out with their children for a Sunday stroll.

When walking in North Wales and the Peak district over the recent holiday, some routes were jam packed with people. Just outside London there is stacks of beautiful, empty countryside.  The only thing that spoilt the tranquillity were jets flying over on route to Stanstead airport.

Due to a mix up with the SavNav we actually started the walk in Little Hallingbury and on route to Gaston Green, we passed a brick built arch memorial (top of college) to "Alice Eugenia Barclay. Who was kind to man and beast" dated 1923. I can't find anymore information on this apart from her probable connection with the Barclay (Bank?) family who at one time owned nearby Gaston House. Intriguing. 

After the walk we went to 17th century George public house. tells a sad tale about how 2 local youths were caught breaking into the pub during the 1840s and sentenced to 10 years transportation to Australia.

The Sunday roast dinner looked good but we had eaten sandwiches for lunch and were anyway too late (last serving 3pm). Next time. I was more than happy with my pint of best. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Being on Mike Ashley's Naughty List

Now the season of good will is well and truly over, I can confirm that I did not receive a Christmas card from Sports Direct Mike Ashley.

I am of course - gutted.

Hat tip Daily Telegraph

"The rant before Christmas: five people on Mike Ashley’s naughty list"

Sports Direct’s first-half results beat expectations on Monday, sending its shares soaring almost 30pc. Beyond the numbers, however, the update was arguably more interesting for the potshots chief executive Mike Ashley took at his rivals. So who will not be receiving a Christmas card from the Ashley household this year?......

In September, John Gray, the Labour councillor and representative of the Pirc-supported Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), suggested at Sports Direct’s AGM that the company’s board did not have the appropriate skills to run the group. 

Ashley said the comments were “misinformed and hysterical”....... 

(The others on the Mike Ashley naughty step included Jeremy Corbyn, David Adams, Rachel Reeves MP, PIRC and Goals Soccer Centres)

Check out previous posts :-  

Friday, January 17, 2020

Stand Together - Holocaust Memorial Day - Monday 27 January 2020. Stratford Town Hall 9.30-12pm

"Stand Together is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2020. It explores how genocidal regimes throughout history have deliberately fractured societies by marginalising certain groups, and how these tactics can be challenged by individuals standing together with their neighbours, and speaking out against oppression.​​

In the years leading up to the Holocaust, Nazi policies and propaganda deliberately encouraged divisions within German society – urging ‘Aryan’ Germans to keep themselves separate from their Jewish neighbours. 

The Holocaust, Nazi Persecution of other groups and each subsequent genocide, was enabled by ordinary citizens not standing with their targeted neighbours.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – this is a significant milestone and is made particularly poignant by the dwindling number of survivors who are able to share their testimony. It also marks the 25th anniversary of the Genocide in Bosnia

It provides an important opportunity for all residents to remember those who suffered and died in the Holocaust, Nazi persecutions and subsequent genocides including Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Join us as we reflect upon these atrocities and join together in demonstrating our solidarity in combating anti-semitism, racism and hatred.

Date: Monday 27 January 2020
Time: 9.30am - 12.00pm
Old Town Hall, Stratford, 29 The Broadway, London E15 4BQ

This year, we are honoured to be welcoming guest speaker and Holocaust survivor John Hajdu​.

This is a FREE public event. All are welcome to attend".

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Community Wealth Building Launch in Newham Council

This morning we finally had the launch of the Newham Council Community Wealth Building (CWB) programme at The Crystal, Royal Docks.  We had to postpone it twice due to Brexit debate clashes and the General election.

Newham directly elected Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, opened the launch by promising that by implementing Community Wealth Building, there will be a new inclusive economic approach for a fairer Newham. We need to make sure that our money stays in Newham and is not extracted out.

After her introduction there was a marvellous, simple but clear video on what Community Wealth Building actually means (which I will post when it is made available).

Next was a panel debate with Happy Coman, an apprentice from local construction firm Morrisroe, Frances Jones from CLES ( a Community Wealth Building think tank) and Sam Gurney (London & South East TUC Regional Secretary). There was a wide range of views on CWB in practice.

Our keynote speaker was John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor, who gave an insightful speech about CWB and also linked this to how progressive councils in the East End of London had a proud tradition of paying their workers decent wages and working in partnership with trade unions. He also made it clear that such councils and small, medium and large companies had been working together also in partnership for many decades.

It was nice to get a name check from Rokhsana and John about my personal involvement in the Labour Party Community Wealth Building unit (which I desperately hope will continue no matter who is elected as Labour leader).

After the event I was asked by a participant if I could I give an example of Newham Community Wealth Building in practice and I gave the live example of us bringing back into Newham Council (after 15 years) the privatised borough park keepers and gardeners on Tuesday this week.

Many of these workers enjoyed immediate pay rises, decent sick pay and pension provision as well as proper, secure employment contracts.  No longer will these workers be exploited and profits exported out of the borough to large multi-national outsourcing companies.

Need I say more?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Lewis in the morning on ReviveFM 94.0

Hat tip Tony Lewis Facebook who is also the joint chair of the Newham Homeless Action Group.

"This Morning on "Lewis in the morning" Breakfast Show on Revive FM 94.0,  Cllr and Deputy Mayor for Housing, John Gray attended the Revive FM Studios to answer questions asked by residents of Newham about the housing situation, the Labour party and his humble beginnings as a trade unionist son in Wales to his current role as Deputy Mayor for Newham.

He spoke about the past, the present and the future of Newham and how Newham can be a beacon to the country on how a Labour government in power would look like, and how co-production and community wealth building is taking firm roots within Newham with some positive outcomes already.

Check out ReviveFM website thus weekend for more information and audio of this ground-breaking interview.

(Many thanks to Tony for the interview and his kind words)