Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Signs of our times on the West Ham doorstep

On Saturday morning I went door knocking in my ward with local West Ham Labour branch comrades (and Council candidates in 2014) Julianne Marriot and John Whitworth. Julianne had been up early that day to be interviewed by various BBC channels in her role as a supporter of "Don't Judge my Family" campaign against Tory plans to penalise families who don't want to be told that they have to get "married" - or else.

She was pretty talked out and was facing more interviews later that day so she did the paperwork and the two John's did most of the door knocking and the talking.

I said hello to members of the Abbey Gardens Community Garden who were setting up their "Food Glorious Food Festival" for that afternoon. I gave my apologies for not being able to attend due to another commitment but my colleague Cllr Freda Bourne did attend.

Anti-social behaviour was a key theme of this street surgery. Residents were pleased that the local Metropolitan Police Safer Neighbourhood team were moving to nearby Newham Council Abbey Road depot. I am still more than a little fed up with London Mayor, Boris Johnson's failure to live up to his manifesto promises to keep up Police numbers in London. He has tried to hide this reduction in numbers by merging our local safer neighbourhood teams. But everyone needs to know that due to Boris there is less Police out on our streets to look after us.

An interesting sign of our times was that I knocked on one door and spoke to a resident who told me she had a complaint about our council bulk rubbish service. She went and got her IPAD and showed me within seconds a record she had made of a long list of people she had spoken to (and times) at the  Council arrange collection of her bulk rubbish, which for whatever reason never happened. She agreed to send me this information so I can try and find out what had went wrong.  I was surprised since the bulk rubbish service in Newham is my experience pretty good and I get few complaints and many compliments.  

I knocked on another door and a resident who I have never met before spoke to me about an email he had sent to me recently. I apologised that I hadn't yet seen that email but he said that he understood since he followed me on Facebook and knew I had been busy and away last week at Labour Party conference!

My best "door knock" of the day was speaking to a resident who so pleased that I had called at his home to speak to him that when I got home, I saw he had emailed me to thank me even though we had a somewhat difficult conversation about what I could (and could not) do about his rehousing application. He and his family lived in a overcrowded and small flat.

What I really liked is when I next knocked on the door of one of his neighbours, an elderly and  fragile man answered the door, looked at me in surprise and said he had only opened the door because he thought it was that same neighbour checking up on him that he was ok, because his wife had recently gone into a nursing home.

So the lesson is some things in the East End do change, but other things don't. We have IPADs, email and Facebook but as long as we still have neighbours looking out after neighbours, one of the really important East End values will live on.

(picture of Abbey Gardens festival with Freda judging) 


Anonymous said...

"She went and got her IPAD and showed me within seconds a record she had made of a long list of people she had spoken to (and times) at the Council arrange collection of her bulk rubbish, which for whatever reason never happened."

The Bulky service "was" reliable, but I have had cases where Newham say they have done a job, but it has not been done.

I don't think it is particularly fair, when Newham Council go round with their Spy cars and law enforcement cars. They sent a friend of mine a photo of his front garden because it had a bed in his front garden and it had only been there two days and a Bulky service had already been booked.

A house was recently vacated, by chance got chatting to the landlord. He showed me round the house. He told me the council refused to take away Bulky furniture for free. He felt ripped off, as he had already paid Newham Council £500 for a landlord license and paid council tax and in return the council gave him nothing.

Other issues. Some houses and flats in the Borough, don't have front gardens, but the council will try and prosecute people for putting items on the public pavement as if they had been fly tipping, but Newham does not have a specific Bulky policy for people without front gardens.

The council had done a poor job or advertising the Bulky service in the right place. A lot of residents in Newham are transients, so the policy needs to be explained. I doubt your average residents understand the word "Bulky".

John Gray said...

Hi Anon

The bulk refuse service is reliable in my experience but obviously something had gone wrong in this case. It happens in the best run of services.

I think that the enforcement against dumped rubbish in gardens in one of the better things that the Council does. It is transforming the look of whole neighbourhoods.

There is apparently an online tracking service that the Enforcement team should cross check against before issuing notices such as against that bed.

The licence paid by landlords is for regulation and enforcement and not for commercial rubbish disposal! It is in their interests that they are not undercut or their properties blighted by rogue landlords.

I think you are wrong about the advertising of this service since I have heard compliments from a wide range of Newham residents. But I think you have a point about policy for people without front gardens. I think they give timed appointments for such residents but will check.

Anonymous said...

Newham has a transient population, how can you say these people know about the Bulky service? Where is your justification?

I have come across long term residents who don't know about Bulky.

Bulky is not even in the dictionary. Bulky - diet club for fat people????

You are right something needs to be done about rubbish in front garden. Newham's approach is unfriendly. Most people just need friendly advice and guidance.

Newham Council should not be treating residents with a mattress in their front garden as criminals.

Treat people with love not hate your residents.

The real criminal are vans who knowingly go round flytipping down a quiet road (who will never get caught with the Spy cars).

"The licence paid by landlords is for regulation and enforcement and not for commercial rubbish disposal!"

You are talking about £500 license fee and £1000 council tax. It is Newham's pettiness, which is why we have some these problems. Why did n't Newham allocate £25 for all-inclusive Bulky service, instead of trousering £500 on swanky new offices.

Newham is forcing people to use third party waste carriers, which may above board, but these waste companies, may be passing off this waste to shady characters to dump illegally. (I am only guessing.. this is what is happening).

Waste from rented residential premises is not "commercial trade waste". Thats just non-sense. Its like saying they operate like a tyre shop, were they are disposing of 30 tyres a day etc..

Why not give all households the same level of service.

We used to see a lot of burned out cars, then the law changed and we hardly see any.

John Gray said...

Hi anon

Not all Newham is "transient". There is still many people born here or like me have lived here for decades.

When I go door knocking I speak to many Newham residents, new and old and it seems that many do know and prize the bulk refuse service.

Newham approach is to usually try and give advice to those who dump rubbish in their gardens. Glad to hear you want to love not hate your neighbours. Me too.

The cost of the landlord license is intended to cover the cost of enforcement. Landlords should pay to get rid of their business rubbish.

I think that the fact that Newham enforced abandoned vehicle laws that made the difference (and a rise in price of scrap metal that meant people have tended to stop dumping their old cars on the street).