Sunday, May 19, 2019

"Helping you stay in your home"

"Becoming homeless is often the end of a downward spiral that can include health problems, job losses or relationship break-ups. Newham Council is helping residents tackle such issues before they find themselves without a home.

The council’s debt advice service MoneyWorks and job brokerage scheme Workplace are working with the Homelessness Prevention and Advice Service to target and help households at risk of homelessness before they reach crisis point.

Known collectively as the Homeless Early Intervention Service, they will offer residents with a wide range of expert advice to overcome difficulties and stop them losing their homes. Newham residents can get in touch with the service if they are experiencing:

• Problems with rent or Council Tax arrears;

• Recent job loss;

• Money worries;

• Benefit issues;

• Budgeting or debt difficulties;

• Housing disrepair problems;

• Benefit caps;

• Difficulties with their landlord

• Have applied or are in receipt of discretionary housing payment.

Deputy Mayor Councillor John Gray, Cabinet member for housing services, said: “Instead of picking up the pieces when things go wrong, what we want to do is help residents tackle the problems that cause homelessness so they can stay in their homes while working through their issues.

“The Homeless Early Intervention Service will allow us to help these residents in a practical way that avoids them having to go into emergency or temporary accommodation which creates more problems than it solves and disrupts family life.”

If you are a Newham resident and you think you could benefit from the service, email"

Hat tip Newham Magazine. While we should never let the Government off the hook for cutting and capping benefits below rents levels, no security of tenure for private tenants and inadequate subsidy for new social homes, there are things that can be done to prevent homelessness in the first place. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Go for Growth – UNISON
Last November showed that, by acting together, we can push our union into growth. So this May we’re having another recruitment and retention drive to make sure we keep growing!

Friday, May 17, 2019

The last weekend! West Ham Labour Grid as 18.5.19-23.5.19

Last weekend before the Euro elections on Thursday. I am sure that our ace GC Vice Chair Campaigns, Karl Lewis will be sending out an update soon but in the meanwhile.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz first year in office - More to do but already delivering

I am back home after a really successful Newham Council AGM at the Old Town Hall Stratford, where this video on our achievements in the first year of Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz administration was played.

Love the "More to do but already delivering" theme.

My apologies for the scary "voting pic" towards the end of the video. I do get carried away on such occasions :-) 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Last Chance for you to VOTE in UNISON NEC elections! Speak Now or....

Ballot finishes Friday 17 May 2019. So you will have to post by end of tomorrow (Thursday 16 May) and put on pre-paid envelope a FIRST CLASS stamp to make sure it arrive by Friday.

Check below all the regional and national recommendations I am making. I will now stop hassling everyone. Results due 4 June 2019.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Iftar reception with Beanibazar Thana Jonokollan Shomittee

Picture of Cllr Anamul Islam, London Assembly member Unmesh Desai and myself at tonight's Iftar reception at Impressions in West Ham. 

It was packed and well organised. It was good to meet so many friends from Tower Hamlets, many of whom I have not seen for many years. 

Many thanks for the invitation. 

Hat tip photo Shebul Khan

Monday, May 13, 2019

Why we should welcome the Regulators' involvement in the Local Government Pension Scheme

Professional Pensions Magazine (Paywall): John Gray predicts teething problems ahead and says regulation will result in a cultural shock for some schemes

"As someone who has been involved with the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) for a number of years, I have always been surprised how “light touch” government regulation of the scheme has been, when you consider the economic importance and huge scale of the LGPS. It is currently worth in total £225 billion, with over 5 million UK members and 10,000 plus employers.  

Especially in light of my experience of being a pension trustee on a private sector defined benefit scheme.

There are a number of reasons for this. Personally I welcome the pension regulators new role with the LGPS, this doesn’t mean necessarily that in the past, all schemes were run badly, nor does it mean that some of the long-standing problems of the LGPS will now be resolved because The Pension Regulator (TPR) is now knocking on its door.

TRP proudly announces on its web page that it is the public body in the UK that protects workplace pensions.

Yet as has been pointed out by a QC to the LGPS National Pension Board, there is no explicit British Government “Crown Promise” to pay these pensions nor is it protected by the TPR run pension protection fund.

I get the idea that the LGPS is a statutory pension scheme and by law, local authorities are obliged to pay accrued pension benefits.  However, all pension schemes should be thinking about a 50 year plus risk time line and who knows what will happen during the next 5 political decades. At the moment we don’t know what will happen over Brexit from day to day, or even morning to night!

Northamptonshire Council last year basically “ran out of money” to pay its bills. West Sussex, Surrey, Somerset, Norfolk, Lancashire Councils (and many others) are thought to face similar problems. I don’t think anyone really knows what will happen to its pensions if many Councils face financial “bankruptcy” at the same time as the Government faces a national financial crisis.

So to me, having a tough minded regulator to make sure that the LGPS is run properly and safely in the future makes sense. Even if currently the Regulator does not have any power over “investment decisions”. 

I think that there will be some teething problems ahead and that regulation will result in a cultural shock for some schemes.

I suspect that the TPR will be less than impressed with Councillors who do not turn up for meetings. Nor of minutes of meetings, where there is no evidence of appropriate challenge to officers or scheme advisors over key decisions. 20 year deficit recovery plans are also likely to be of “concern”.

I predict that at least one Chair of a pension committee or an executive member of a pool will explode about the “unelected bureaucrats interfering” in their scheme.

Data administration and record keeping is not a particular strong point of many schemes. The TPR may help prod schemes which have had their staffing budget slashed due to austerity to increase resources.

For my part the TPR seem to be disinterested so far in the governance of the scheme with regard to beneficiary representation and the conflicts between beneficiaries and the employer administrators but I hope that this will be addressed at some stage.

So I think this is a really positive move and that all of us involved in the LGPS should welcome the involvement of the TPR even though we know this welcome will be tested in the coming years. 

I for one, hope that I do not have to eat my words in the future and be the chair of a pension committee that throws his toys out of the pram at “unelected bureaucrats”.

Cllr John Gray Chair Newham Council Pension Committee (personal capacity)"

Sunday, May 12, 2019

"On the Knocker" for Labour in EU elections 2019 - sunshine and showers

Picture collage is from a canvass last Saturday in West Ham ward (with local MP Lyn Brown) and from yesterday in Forest Gate North.

Local Newham Councillor (and my Cabinet colleague) James Beckles, is a Labour Candidate for London, while another Newham Councillor, Rohit Das Gupta, is a Labour Candidate in South East England standing against Nigel Farage!

We got pretty wet last week and retreated to our tower blocks to continue to canvass while yesterday it poured down with rain before and after our canvass.

Elsewhere in the borough there has been a number of other Labour canvass sessions and street stalls. Both days we had big turn outs of activists. Personally, I am not aware of any opposition parties campaigning inside Newham.

So far, the results have been pretty solid for Labour but there has been some negative reactions from residents who are pro Brexit and also those who are pro Remain. I suspect that like the local Council elections last week, that the Tories will do very badly on May 23rd and that Labour will not "cover itself with glory" either.

I had a couple of interesting separate conversations with middle aged people, who have never voted in their lives. They were not hostile, they didn't have any particular objections to voting, just that they had never got around to doing it. I don't think lecturing people on important voting is, on how people died for the right to vote etc really works, no matter how true this is. Explaining what happens when you walk into a polling station, that you don't need to find your polling card, how it is really secret, and you can ask polling staff questions if you don't understand anything -is more effective.

I did finish by saying that "they" never wanted to give people like us the vote and if we don't use it, they will take it away from us. 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

UNISON NEC elections 2019: Your Union Needs you! vote NOW....

Okay, it is time now to search through the heap of unopened mail in your kitchen drawer or window cill and look for your UNISON NEC ballot papers. The ballot ends next Friday, 17 May, so you need to post them back ASAP so they can arrive by then.

So below are my personal recommendations on who to vote for and who will stand up for UNISON members, their rights and our union.

You can vote for national and regional seats, depending where you work and what is your job. Make all your votes count!

(you have until Noon Tuesday 14 May to request a new ballot paper tel: 0800 0857 857)

Friday, May 10, 2019

European elections are on in West Ham!

European elections are on in West Ham!


We have had a great start to our campaign in West Ham, but the Brexit party have been busy (most people have already received a leaflet from them, they will get one from us later on), the Lib Dems and Greens have both been out in the north of the CLP.

Take a look below at the campaigns going on in our area, all experiences welcome and training offered to anyone who would like it.

Type of event
Meeting place
Contact detail
Friday 10
Canning Town North
Barking road - near the Iceland

Saturday 11
Forest Gate North
Forest Gate Station
E7 0NF
Plaistow South
African Caribbean Centre
E13 9EZ
Neil Wilson 
Green Street West
East Shopping Centre, Green Street
E7 8LE
Sunday 12
West Ham
Door knocking
ATL cafe
E15 3ET

Green Street West
East Shopping Centre, Green Street
E7 8LE
Qasim (
Monday 13
6pm - 8pm
Canning Town North
Breammar Road
E16 4HQ

Tuesday 14
Stratford and New Town
Station leafletting and doorknocking
Stratford International Station
E20 1YY
Karl Lewis 
Plaistow South
African Caribbean Centre
E13 9EZ
Neil Wilson 

The full and latest schedule can be FOUND HERE. Updates will also be made on our website.

Please get in contact with Karl Lewis if you have any questions or would like to set up an event in your area.

Campaign sessions in East Ham.

We have been informed of the following sessions in East Ham:

Wednesday- 15th and 22nd May
Time- 6pm
Meeting Point- Near Upton Park Station

Saturday- 11th and 19th May
Meeting Point- East Ham Sainsbury