Friday, May 21, 2010

Diary of a new Councillor

Last night we had our third induction training workshop for new Councillors in Newham Dockside building opposite City Airport. I will try during the next few months to make a few observations about my experiences as newly elected Labour Party Councillor.

Last week I posted on the initial induction here. On Tuesday we had “Political Decision Making and the Democratic Process”. I had thought previously that trade unions had the most complicated structures, rules and procedures.

However, Council standing orders and arrangements would test the most dedicated of union rule book anoraks. I was introduced to a new world of the “Yellow Book” (Council meeting agenda); the different types of deputations and petitions; “original” and “procedural” motions (“provide personal explanation”); “Chair Raising” and “Qualified Privilege”.

While last night’s training was a lively session around Member's casework and housing issues. Housing is an absolutely key topic for all Councillors in Newham (and elsewhere of course). We looked at making members enquires, Housing needs, options, allocations and lettings, Newham Homes, Housing Associations, Private renting, shared ownership, temporary accommodation and homelessness. There was much discussion about how to deal with the housing problems that we had come across while out canvassing during the election. We have 35000 people on our waiting list and last year under 800 empty properties available to re-house them.

Do the maths.


ModernityBlog said...

Off topic, John,

We covered this last year and its happened again:

It makes Unison look like bigots.

Anonymous said...

Dear Councillor,

Can you tell me why Newham Council is paying £240k per year for borough's chief executive who only works 3 days a week. As reported on the web site Newhamgrad.

In an area, where people are earninga lousy £35 a day, is this the 'fairness' that you promised when you went door to door.

Robin Wales says that Newham is a great place to live, but seems that Joe Duckworth does not think so and spends all his time on the Isle of Wight. I don't blame him, Newham is a rubbish place to live.

But if you have lots of MP, councillors and cheif exec that don't want to live in the borough, then they are not motivated to fix the area.

John Gray said...

Hi Modernity

UNISON has made a decision which I happen personally think is the wrong decision but is in line with democratic conference decisions. The only "bigots" are the completely vile and ignorant commentators some who should know better (e.g. at the recent disgraceful Harrys Place post) . They are doing their level best to drive everyone in the UK against any possible peaceful 2 state solution.

Well done - Hope they are proud of themselves.

Hi Anon

No body plays any attention whatsoever either to what that collection of clowns think. Once again:-

"It is Tory supporting but claims to be independent, it calls for greater accountability and scrutiny but it is anonymous. It is incredibly pompous, conceited and self important even though no one in the real world reads it. It is completely obsessed with personalities, gossip and trivia. It ignores real policy analysis and any debate about issues that matter.

It is written by people who have no politics".

ModernityBlog said...

"but is in line with democratic conference decisions."

So? whether or not it is in line with any democratic decisions is academic.

The **perception** by many Israelis and Jews will be that Unison is happy to bar anything that remotely tries to paint a balanced picture of the conflict in the Middle East.

It is that *perception*, irrespective of how the decision was made, that is important.

British trade unions are weak as they are, they will only get weaker and fragmented by taking these divisive decisions.

If you want an example look at how UCU has been weakened in the last few years.

Anonymous said...

Dear Cllr Gray,

LBNewhamgrad is either run by,or heavily influenced by,party political opponents of the Labour Party,or former members of such parties.

It pretends it is "non -political" as an attempt to give it a little more crediblity than it would otherwise have, --not much anyway given the General and Local Election results in Newham.

It clearly has a link to the Tories given that it's homepage and some of the narrative thereon was published on a Tory leaflet, --a fact that it has not refuted.

Much of what it publishes is not evidence based e.g the stuff about Joe Duckworth,allegations supposedly linking the Labour Party to anti-semitic text messages, how the Labour Party "tore down posters", what the Labour Party calls Maria Allen, etc, etc,......

John Gray said...

Hi Modernity
It is difficult to argue against perception but the reality I think is very different.

There is a genuine democratic mandate for the current unison policy position and in my view it just daft to ignore this.

Conference policy reflects an authentic and serious “disquiet” amongst activists about what is (or rather not) happening in the Middle East. Frankly, I suspect that this is not a million miles different from your own position.

I don’t actually think this issue will weaken British trade unions per se although I agree it has been very divisive in UCU it hasn’t been in UNISON (IMO).

Hi Anon 00.34

Sort of agree.

ModernityBlog said...


Inside the bubble of trade unionism we can make our decisions democratically and be very happy with ourselves, but when those decision effect other ethnicities or other nation's then we have to think about them more deeply.

For example, how will our actions be perceived by others?

It is incumbent on us to think outside of our own realm and see how we will be viewed in the wider context.

A TUFI stall was a small thing, and its banning suggests that bits of Unison is not only bigoted but also small-minded.

Now you and I know that isn't necessarily the case, but that's the wider perception.

John, it already has weakened trade unions, there is the strong argument that UCU is an institutionally racist organisation, as it doesn't take seriously issues that affect Jews (remember the Met police?), that to me is appalling.

John Gray said...

Hi Modernity

Yes, trade unionists do live some of the time in a bubble but we are not the only ones. While I can understand why some good people have been “upset” with recent decisions I actually think that my union (I don’t comment on the internal affairs of others) has dealt with this issue in a sensitive and proportionate way.

I may not agree personally with certain decisions but I think (for what it is worth) that we all need to stand back a little and take stock.

To be blunt those of us who desperately want to see a peaceful and just outcome are seriously p**ed off at what is perceived to be deliberate intransigence by all sides.

Meanwhile, I really do not think that it helps anyone (present company excepted) for supposed supporters of TUFI to dish themselves (et al Harry’s Place) as right wing vile, ignorant, anti-union bigots.


ModernityBlog said...


When Hamas attack the striking Palestinian teachers in Gaza, we didn't hear a bleep from those who would ban TUFI.

When the Palestine General Federation of Trades Unions made an agreement with the Israeli trade unions, it doesn't get reported.

There are plenty of initiatives for normalising relations between Israelis and Palestinians, and where Israeli trade unions are making a conscious effort to help Palestinians and we don't hear anything about them, from those who would ban TUFI...


No disagreement with me, John, on a peaceful solution. I have no time for Netanyahu, but there are many useless leaders in the Middle East, and there's a lot more that goes on than gets reported which is why it is important for organisations like TUFI (not exclusively but like), to broaden out the picture.

PS: I no longer read HP, so I can't say what goes on there.

Anonymous said...

Dear Councillor,

You have not answered my question as to why Newham Council is paying £240k per year for borough's chief executive who only works 3 days a week?

I really don't care who where I read it but it reflects poorly on Newham Council.

I am certain if the posting by newhamgrad was lies, then you would have put them on your post.

So shame on newham council.

John Gray said...

Hi Modernity

We must agree to differ on this one.

Hi Anon

Newhamtoryminitrue is just a silly childish smear blog so just ignore it.