Saturday, May 31, 2014

Union members £4,000-a-year better off, government report

Check out this article in the Telegraph (of all papers) which is about a UK Government report that
"An average trade union member earns £4,000-a-year more than non-unionised workers". Now this is in part due to more professionals joining trade unions but the research also showed that there has been a decade of better pay deals for union members compared to non union employees.

The UK is an unequal country and for a long time more money has gone to senior management and less in wages. While  minimum and living wages are important the only way to reverse this trend is for strong, independent trade unions to freely bargain with employers to get fairer pay for workers.  Quite simple really. The more of us in the union the better the deal we will get.

I hope that readers enjoy my favourite YouTube clip of all time. (or this clip or this clip)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Election Day West Ham Ward 2014

This post is about my day as a Labour Councillor candidate last Thursday on Election day.

It started at 7am outside the polling station in West Ham Church School in the Portway, E15. This was one of 4 polling stations in West Ham Ward, Newham. My fellow Labour candidate Freda Vaughan was outside Vicarage Lane polling station while John Whitworth was covering Manor School.

In the morning it was blue skies & sunshine. It was quiet but there was a steady flow of voters. I went and introduced myself to the Presiding officer and staff at Church and then Ranelagh school.

We are allowed to speak to voters outside the school gates, ask them to vote for us and offer a leaflet. After a stream of "Don't need to ask, I'm voting Labour", "Labour all the way", broad grins, thumbs up and even pats on my back, I had one women shout at me that she wouldn't vote for Labour, she was a real socialist and we should shoot that **** of a leader. I wasn't sure if she meant Ed Miliband or Robin Wales but I responded by telling her that we did not want her support and that she is barred from voting Labour! When she came back she seemed to have changed her mind somewhat and said a cheery "Good luck anyway".

After 10am there was a lull and I had a full English breakfast with Freda at Solmos cafe. John had to go to work (he is a teacher at a FE college and could not take the day off).

When we came back to the polling stations we found out that the Tories had arrived! Conservative candidate Matej was born in Slovenia. He seemed a decent bloke but when I asked him what motivated him politically to be a Conservative candidate in the UK he didn't really give me an answer.

I didn't have a conversation with Farahana (see photo collage) who was the Asian British female Tory candidate but did speak to her friends and family who were supporting her (none of whom lived in Newham). It was clear that they were not actual Conservative Party supporters. They would support Labour during the general election but felt that in Newham the local Party leadership was arrogant and would not listen to their concerns.

The 3rd Tory candidate was Mary (see photo collage) who was far too nice to be a real Tory and admitted that she had been "volunteered" to be a candidate.

Unlike elsewhere in the borough, where there was disgusting Respect style intimidation and violence by so called "Conservative" supporters, the West Ham ward "Tories" and their supporters were friendly and pleasant. A little over enthusiastic at times and strong believers that they could convince voters to support their cause at the door of the polling station.

I accepted a soft drink from one of the Tories and posted on Facebook - is this "treating" and does this make me a class traitor?

Some of the voters were rather direct and rude to the Tories. In particular those who were suffering from the impact of the bedroom tax.

The weather changed and it poured down for a while but then cleared up.

We had a number of local Party volunteers to fly the flag outside polling stations including Veronica and her baby! Normally I would not have spent all the time on polling stations and instead would be "knocking up" Labour supporters and reminding them to vote. However, we decided to keep an eye on the Tories. I also "stole" top UNISON canvasser, Montrose Matty (white tee-shirt) from Plaistow North ward to help keep them in line.

Monty and I noticed that the family supporters of Tory candidate Farahana were encouraging people only to vote for her "number 5"on the ballot paper. We decided to helpfully pass on this information to the other two Tory candidates. This caused some upset in the "blue" team.

In the evening our local MP, Lyn Brown (and Cara, her Labour attack terrier) joined us on the polling stations. At 10pm the polling stations closed and we went off for pizza and red, red wine

Thursday, May 29, 2014

East Enders pulling together

"All this bad press about Tower Hamlets is really getting me down. So here is a bit of good news about how East Enders pull together, My 82 year old aunt just rang to say a few nights ago an Asian man she had never seen before knocked and asked to use the phone as his wife had gone into labour.

Tonight he and his wife knocked on the door on the way home from hospital to show her the baby. In good East End tradition she ensured the baby was given a silver coin and explained the custom to her grateful neighbours".

Hat tip Michael Tyrrell - stolen from Facebook

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

UNISON Council workers to vote on strike action over pay

Hat tip Stoke on Trent UNISON "Your employer has offered you a 1% pay rise if you earn £7.71 an hour or more. If your hourly rate is £6.45 – £7.26 you have been offered slightly more than 1% to keep levels just above the National Minimum Wage.

This offer applies to more than one million workers.

Unison doesn’t think this pay offer is anywhere near enough – it doesn’t keep pace with price increases and will have a negative impact on your pension. Unison is therefore now in the process of balloting members over industrial action.

The ballot opened on 23 May and closes on 23 June.  If your area is covered by NJC Green Book Terms & Conditions and you have not received a ballot paper by 29 May 2014, you can request one online at or by calling 0800 0857 857. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 6 am until midnight and 9am-4pm on Saturdays.  The ballot helpline closes as 12 noon on 18 June 2014 and this will be the last opportunity to request a paper.

If members give the green light for strike action,  it is hoped the planned strike on 10 July will make the employers see sense and start negotiating seriously.

Questions About The Ballot and Industrial Action?

Unison has produced the answers to forty frequently asked questions.  Download this crucially important information now – Members FAQs NJC Pay 2014 Industrial Action Ballot
Subjects covered include:
  • What’s happening, what does it mean – why are we striking?
  • I want to strike but I’m worried about……
  • Why should I strike when…….
  • About The Ballot

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Meet Newham's youngest councillor

Seyi lives in West Ham ward and is the chair of the branch and the West Ham CLP Women's Officer.  She is going to be a fantastic new Councillor.  

Hat tip Newham Recorder "Seyi Akiwowo is not only among the new crop of Newham Labour councillors but is also the party’s youngest representative.

The 22-year-old, who won a seat in Forest Gate North, says representing the ward is particularly personal to her as it is where she grew up.

“It was lovely to be canvassing in Maryland where I went to school,” Seyi, who now lives in West Ham, said. “It’s been a great experience and having grown up in Newham in the area that I am representing I definitely think will help me.”

Seyi, who was previously part of the borough’s youth council, says that she hopes to bring a “new fresh perspective” drawing on her experiences of living in the borough - and can’t wait to get stuck in.
“I am excited and nervous and so thankful that over 2,000 of the 9,000 people who voted chose me,” she said. “The hard work starts now and I am accountable to each and every one of them.

“It is quite scary but I am looking forward to it.”

UNISON is "there for you" - help with school uniform costs

"UNISON relaunches school uniform scheme

UNISON is once more launching a scheme to help members on low incomes deal with the cost of school uniforms.

Families with children living on a low income struggle constantly to make ends meet - and this can be particularly acute before the new school year begins when those extra costs hit hard. The union union's welfare charity There for You has once more set up a limited fund to help members on low incomes deal with the cost of school uniforms.

Branches can download application forms and publicity materials below.

The closing date for receipt of completed application forms is Friday 11 July 2014.

School uniform grants application form"

Monday, May 26, 2014

"Smuggling, cockfighting, outrage and robbery" - A Kentish Walk

Yesterday (Sunday) was my first day off after the election campaign. I was going to sleep all day but the weather forecast was good and for the Bank holiday Monday was (is) miserable.

So I went on this 6.5 mile circular walk in the heart of the Kentish Weald between Cranbrook and Sissinghurst.

As you can see from the picture it is beautiful, lush, green rolling countryside.

Sissinghurst is now a lovely peaceful village. I was surprised to read that it changed its name in the 1850's from Milkhouse Street because of its reputation in the previous century as a centre of "smuggling, cockfighting, outrage and robbery freely committed by rogues who infest this corner of the road".  Modern day Newham Tories would have been at home here.

Apparently it was a stronghold of the notorious "Hawkhurst Gang".  There were a number of vicious murders and gun battles between smugglers, revenue men and local militia's.

I also found out that this area used to be a favourite with working class Londoners who came down to pick hops for their summer "holidays". In this area it was families from Bermondsey and East London who would every year stay in local "Hopper hut camps".

I'll post on Sissinghurst Castle Gardens another time.

UPDATE: I copied this post onto Facebook. "Retired" UNISON
steward Paul McCabe, who was born and bred in Bermondsey posted these pictures of his family while "hopping". He is not sure of where or when but this could have been in Sissinghurst.   Photo left of his Nan, his Mum (Mary Clifford - with hairnet) and her sisters while on the right is his Dad. On a Sunday the best table cloth was always brought out.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Barking & Dagenham Council Result 2014: 51 Nil for Labour

Congratulations also to Barking & Dagenham Labour Parties for defeating the BNP & UKIP.

As in Newham, all 51 seats have Labour Councillors. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Re-elected as Labour Councillor for West Ham

I was privileged to be re-elected as a Councillor for West Ham ward in Newham, London today, together with Labour colleagues Freda Bourne and John Whitworth. It has been an exhausting past few days, weeks and months. Once I recover I will post in more details about polling day and the count.

Labour won all 60 Council seats in Newham by large margins and Sir Robin Wales was re-elected as Executive Mayor with 61% of the vote.

I have said it before and will say it again, it is a humbling experience to be shown so much trust and support.  Many thanks to all those who voted for us and to those who helped out campaigning in the ward (big thanks to my UNISON comrade, Montrose Matty, for sorting out over enthusiastic Tories outside West Ham polling stations)

West Ham - results
Election Candidate Party Votes %
Freda Ann Bourne Labour 2046 24% Elected
John Whitworth Labour 1939 22% Elected
John Gray Labour 1913 22% Elected
Farhana Firdous Conservative 617 7% Not elected
Mary Antwi Conservative 525 6% Not elected
Matej Gasparic Conservative 456 5% Not elected
Michael Edward Armstrong UK Independence Party (UKIP) 381 4% Not elected
Edgar Aguinaldo Garen Liberal Democrat 259 3% Not elected
Sheila Iris Brown Christian Peoples Alliance 231 3% Not elected
Myrtle Verona Laing Christian Peoples Alliance 151 2% Not elected
Joe Mettle Christian Peoples Alliance 136 2% Not elected

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

UNISON members continue their fight for Fair Pay at Outward

(Branch press release) "Low-paid UNISON members who care for some of north and east London’s most vulnerable people have voted strongly to proceed towards a formal ballot for industrial action over fair pay.

Over 400 workers are employed by Outward to provide care and support to people with severe learning difficulties and Autistic Spectrum conditions. Most earn below the London Living Wage.

Their employer is proposing to cut pay by at least £3,000, with proposed starting salaries for support staff of £15,256. They are also proposing to extend the working week and implement a restructure which staff say will make services less viable.

Outward management last cut pay in 2011 when support workers also lost around £2,000 per year. Throughout the consultation period UNISON members have campaigned strongly to oppose these cuts and to demand the London Living Wage for all. On the 11th April UNISON members lobbied management. UNISON have presented alternative cost-saving plans to Outward management but these were rejected. No significant changes have been made to the original proposals.

 In a consultative ballot UNISON members in Outward voted 94% in favour of further action. UNISON Regional Organiser Colin Inniss said: “We know that care and support workers do not take lightly the prospect of industrial action. Nonetheless, the dedication of these staff should not be exploited in order to make cuts.”

“UNISON have taken an active part in negotiating around the proposed cost-saving proposals. However, Outward have not made any meaningful changes to their original proposals and we know that our members are not prepared to accept a second pay cut in three years.

UNISON have proposed to Outward management that we should meet at ACAS to find a way forward in this dispute.” “it is ironic that, as a social care provider, Outward are not prepared to take responsibility for the social problem of in-work poverty. Their staff provide an essential service to very vulnerable people and are rightly demanding a Living Wage for this work.”

Senior support worker Beth Stevens said: “It is not an easy job that we do so to face the prospect of a further pay cut seems like taking advantage of our commitment to our work.”

Notes for editors: 1. UNISON represents 1.3 million workers employed in the public sector, by private contractors and in the not-for-profit sector, including over 20,000 members in housing associations. The UNISON Housing Associations Branch represents over 3,000 housing workers across Greater London.

2. Outward is a subsidiary of Newlon Housing Trust which made an overall surplus of £6.4 million in 2013, with reserves of £532.5 million.

3. The current rate of the London Living Wage is £8.80/hour, which is set with reference to the basic cost of living in London. Over 247 large employers in London are accredited Living Wage employers. A recent study by Barclays found that the benefits in staff retention and training make paying the Living Wage cost-neutral.

For more information, please see For more information please contact UNISON Housing Associations Branch: 020 7697 4030 or

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bite The Ballot - Do young people care about voting?

This is a great YouTube video by "Bite The Ballot". "Young people don't care about voting or politics. That is what we keep hearing. So, we spoke to them, turns out they do care!

Want to get involved? Play our Put your money where your mouth is game here - http://games.bitetheballot...."

It just happens to have the top West Ham Ward Young Socialist, Rania Ramli, appear in it! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Number of UKIP MEPs imprisoned V number of Romanians

Bearing in mind that UKIP seem to think that all Romanians are criminals.

This is an interesting statistic that you are far, far more likely to have been in prison if you are a UKIP MEP than an Romanian!

You are also far more likely to be in favour of handing the NHS over to private insurances companies, stopping maternity benefits for working mums, ending statutory holidays, getting rid of TUPE protections, reducing taxes for the rich and ending employment rights for workers if you are UKIP MEP or Councillor.

Hat tip Tyron Wilson

Last Weekend for West Ham Labour Doorstep 2014

It has been a busy, busy last campaigning weekend in West Ham ward.

On Saturday we went delivering leaflets then a morning and afternoon door knocking session.

I had a rare conversation on national issues with a resident who supported Labour but was worried that in power we would not pay off the deficit. He agreed that the rich and the well off should pay higher taxes to pay off the deficit.

I also spoke to two residents who were so angry at the news that day that this government is trying to privatise children protection services.They also asked if this was still a "Labour area". I said yes it was, and it was humbling as a Labour candidate to hear how many residents identify with the Party. I was told I had the "right attitude" to this support.

Another resident told me who wasn't that impressed with the reasons I gave him for voting Labour. But he would vote for us in respect to our former MP, Tony Banks.

On Sunday we went leaflet first thing in the morning, then door knock then more leafleting

During last leaflet session on Sunday I saw for the first time ever in my ward two female West Ham Tory candidates delivering leaflets in Geere Road. I said "hello" and introduced myself. They looked really knackered.

Check out picture above of West Ham ward Labour team this morning in Bettons Park. I think the usual campaign selfies are a bit boring so hopefully this action photo through the entry door is a little different? (John W, Veronica, Freda, Mike and Heather - double click picture to bring up detail)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

When even "The Sun" thinks UKIP is Racist

I think it is safe to say that I have never posted an editorial of "The Sun" on this blog. Nor have I ever knowingly agreed with anything they had to say in the past.

But on Saturday "The Sun" quite rightly accused the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, of "racism, pure and simple" for his suggestion that all Romanians are "criminals to be feared".

The Sun has a pay wall to see its on-line contents but check out this report on Channel 4 News.

Why I am not surprised in the least at Farage "BNP in Blazers" views. I must admit that I was astonished to read this editorial (see left) that clearly describes UKIP as not only having more than its "fair share of racists and homophobes". 

It also makes it clear that Farage has acted in a racist manner by smearing "Romanians for being Romanian". 

I have hard working UNISON members in my branch who are Romanian by birth, who are carers for vulnerable people, who will be devastated at being libelled by this racist yob as all being "criminals".  What will their residents and clients think?

Now this does not mean that I will be buying the Sun anytime soon but credit where credit due.

Can anyone who is tempted to vote UKIP please realise that it is a deeply ignorant, unpleasant, unBritish, nasty and extreme right wing racist Party.   Nothing more and nothing less.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

UNISON Labour Link LGBT Mobilisation Event House of Commons

Guest post by Gerard McGrath Unison London Region LGBT Committee rep on London Region Labour Link Committee

"To the blast of heavenly trumpets, the long awaited London Region LGBT Committees finally had its event in the Jubilee Room of The House of Commons last Wednesday 14th of May.

We had over 90 people register which also included members from PCS and Unite but it was mostly Unison members in attendance. This event was aimed at encouraging all LGBT Unison/Labour people to get out and help us on the doorstep in local wards or help out in key wards around London and get the Labour message out and challenge the nonsense being peddled by UKIP in particular.

We were all extremely encouraged by Sadiq Khan MP who kindly hosted this event for us and gave a very encouraging speech reminding us to help out as much as possible. We were also very fortunate to have Amy Lame as a speaker who talked about, in particular, the lack of Lesbians in public office reminding us that there are only two out Lesbians returned at the last election. We all wish Amy the best of luck in her efforts to find a parliamentary seat and of course we will all do our best to ensure her success.

Deirdre Costigan, co-chair of Unison National LGBT Committee was the final speaker and urged people to sign up to commit in helping Labour win as many seats as possible in the local government elections and also ensuring that Labour continues to have strong representation in Europe. Deirdre continued to remind us all of the potential damage UKIP could inflict on the country with any gains and also of their many well documented racism and homophobia incidents by their candidates.

Sadiq Khan is indeed a great example of how key muslim leaders are encouraging and facilitating LGBT visibility in public office which dismisses the right wing Islamaphobic propaganda that all Muslims are homophobes, Sadiq is certainly not homophobic.

 I want to thank Karen Westwood, who is one of Unison regional officers and John Gray, chair of the London Region Labour Link committee for helping us in finally getting this up and running.

Given the success of this event we will want to repeat this, hopefully next year as we approach the general election". Gerard McGrath (picture left)

Friday, May 16, 2014

My own family immigration story

Picture is of Labour Leader Ed Miliband, speaking today at the Airbus aircraft factory in Broughton, North East Wales.

In a major speech on immigration, Ed (the son of immigrants) made it clear that "We will never again turn our backs on people who are worried about immigration. But neither will we turn our back on the rest of the world."

He also said with regard to wages, terms and conditions  "We need to stop a race to the bottom between British citizens and workers coming here from abroad".  I think that no-one can really disagree with what Ed said but perhaps he ought to make it a little more clear that immigration isn't always a bad thing and has been part and parcel of British life for generations.

My father use to work in that factory in Broughton as an aircraft electrician. He was born and brought up in Scotland and came down to North Wales to find work.

When I was growing up in that part of North East Wales in the 1980s's the male unemployment rate was about around 33% due to the closure of local steelworks and textile mills. Being not technically minded, I had little choice to move out of North Wales to find work. For the last 26 years I have lived and worked in London.

My brother-in-law was born in the East Midlands and is an aircraft technician. He has worked as a  contractor in the same Broughton factory, off and on, over the years in-between other contracts with Airbus in France and Spain. His son is currently working in oil exploitation off the coast of South America.

While I think that we need to have honest and more open debates on immigration we also need to recognise that most of us, especially in London, are immigrants in one way or another.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Kingsmill Report on Care of elderly & vulnerable

The Kingsmill review is fantastic news for the vulnerable and for care workers.  Need in my view to do more on Fair wages and training, enforced by sectoral pay boards but this report is a potential huge advance. Check out this Labour press release. 

Hat tip Red Terry.

"Baroness Denise Kingsmill's independent report into working conditions in the Care Sector has been published today. It was commissioned by Ed Miliband in September 2013.

The next Labour government will work with local authorities and care providers to end time-limited 15-minute visits that‎ mean older people can't get the care they need.

Ed Miliband has welcomed Baroness Denise Kingsmill's review into the impact of exploitative practices on the care of elderly and vulnerable people.

The report highlights that the sick, elderly and disabled people that rely on these services are increasingly facing care visits lasting just 15 minutes.
15 minutes is not long enough for people to get the help they need with bathing, cooking a meal, or taking medicines in a caring environment. Elderly people in nearly two thirds of areas are now facing 15-minute visits.

Care workers, who carry out some of the most important work anyone can do looking after parents, grandparents and the most vulnerable in our society, are often exploited with real consequences for those they care for.

Labour will strengthen the enforcement of the National Minimum Wage and end exploitation of zero hours contracts.

We will work with councils and care providers to raise standards in the industry and end time-limited 15-minute visits.

To download a copy of The Kingsmill Review: Taking Care please click here".

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

UKIP: More Tory, than the Tories

I find it is amazing that people don't "get" that UKIP is such a right wing Ultra Tory Party.

Check out their millionaire Banker leader comments on "Working Mothers Worth Less Than Men"

hat tip picture Mr Rayner

Go Dutch to increase income equality by 99%

This is another important, short but clear, animation from Inequality Briefing.  If the rich continue to get richer and richer while the rest of us get poorer then unless we change, we are sleep walking into a disaster.

"The film highlights how: pay for top bosses nearly doubled over the past decade, while ordinary workers wages remained the same

a FTSE 100 CEO earns four times as much in one year as the average worker does in their entire lifetime

if total incomes in the UK were divided as evenly as in Denmark or the Netherlands, 99 per cent of households would be better off by nearly £3,000 per year".

 (Gentle hint to Inequality Briefing - I do think it would help if you referenced the data).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Labour Promise on GP appointment within 48 hours

I was delivering election leaflets this morning while listening on headphones to Labour Health Shadow Secretary of State , Andy Burnham MP, being interviewed on "Today" (Radio 4) about this new policy.

The Tories got rid of the right to see a GP within 48 hours in 2010. Andy made the common sense argument that the failure to see your GP quickly could mean that by the time your condition is diagnosed it will be more expensive for the NHS to deal with it.

Never mind the distress and discomfort of those waiting for an appointment. Particularly men who tend to wait until the last possible moment before seeking an appointment in the first place. 

I am aware from friends and relatives how difficult it is to see your GP (touch wood I haven't needed to see my GP for a while) and as a Union rep I am in constant contact with members who are off on certificated sickness leave who often have awful problems getting an early appointments to see their GP. The problem has got far worse since 2010.

In the interview Andy was accused of wanting to have national targets imposed on GPs. He made in response the perfectly rational argument that there should be national minimum standards on such vital services. You don't want a "postcode lottery" with primary health care.

To me it is clear that the Tories and their allies believe that the "market always knows best" and they think there is nothing wrong with letting conflicted self-employed GPs decide what local services and standards they should be paid to provide. This is clearly nonsense as anyone who has waited for over a week to see their GP knows all too well.

This is yet another Ed Miliband "clear red water" Labour policy that shows we are different than the Tories. Keep up the good work and more of the same please Ed.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sack 80% of fund managers? Real facts (and beer?)

Why do pension funds (and insurance funds/individuals) pay the fees for active fund managers when the evidence suggest they are not worth it?

Michael Johnson is again making a well made point using evidence from the LGPS....check out also here

"We do not need 80% of active management"

Michael Johnson draws some conclusions following DCLG’s review of the Local Government Pension Scheme. This article originally appeared in the Financial Times on Monday 12 May 2014.

Share the article here:

"Recently, robust, independent and damning evidence emerged that skewers any justification that active fund management of listed assets is worth the candle. For dispassionate observers, it has been long overdue, but the source was unexpected: the UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The catalyst was a growing concern for the sustainability of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), a disparate collection of 89, predominately sub-scale, funds in England and Wales, with total assets of roughly £180bn. It is one of the world’s largest occupational pension schemes. DCLG issued a consultation paper proposing that all of the £85bn of externally actively managed listed assets should be moved to passive fund management, to reduce costs.

In addition, all “fund of funds” arrangements should be replaced by one investment vehicle for alternative assets. Total cost savings of £660m per year are expected, and £6.6bn over the next 20 years – monies that would no longer reach asset managers’ pockets; a saving for taxpayers. But even more important than this, the underlying research report, independently produced by Hymans Robertson, has been put into the public domain.

Sponsors, trustees and members of private sector schemes are now free to digest evidence derived from both the huge LGPS data sample (the LGPS dwarfs any other UK pension scheme), and internationally. They will find that, on average, any additional performance generated by active management (relative to the benchmark indices) is insufficient to overcome the additional costs. It is better to invest passively, tracking the appropriate index.

Active fund management has finally been revealed for what it is: a web of meaningless terminology, pseudoscience and sales patter. For too long, active managers have been allowed to shelter behind their standard disclaimer concerning the long-term nature of investing. But the long term never arrives. It merely shuffles forward; there is never a day of reckoning.

In the meantime, ludicrously expensive talent is deployed in the pointless pursuit of continually trying to outperform one another. Worse, it is a giant negative-sum game in which the savers pay the price, their hard-won capital persistently eroded by recurring charges and fees. Data shows us that the dominant contributor to total returns is the asset-class mix, not individual stock selection. In practice, some so-called active managers are actually “closet trackers”.

Once their high costs are deducted, the outcome of sub-index performance is no surprise. To misquote Sir Winston Churchill: never is so much being taken by so few from so many, and for so little in return. But what of the so-called “star” managers?

Every quarter, F&C Fund Watch publishes consistency ratios measuring the proportion of funds in the 12 main IMA sectors in the UK that produced top-quartile returns each year, over the prior three years. In the first quarter of 2014, of 1,069 funds, only 46 consistently produced top-quartile returns (ie 4.3 per cent). Using blind luck, one would expect 17 funds to achieve this, which leaves 29 fund managers out of a universe of 1,069, roughly 2.7 per cent, who could legitimately claim that their success was down to skill.

Over the same period, only 188 funds (17.6 per cent) consistently produced above-average returns; 881 funds did not. In addition, the last quarter’s results are towards the top end of historic ranges. A stunningly small number of funds beat their peers on a regular basis, but the crucial point is that at the start of any three year period, no one knows which funds they will be.

Hindsight being useless, this is active fund management’s Achilles heel, and the crux of the debate. Costs are controllable but, by and large, investment performance is not. This is not a recent revelation.

Warren Buffett said: “By periodically investing in an index fund, the know-nothing investor can actually outperform most investment professionals.” Meanwhile, by publishing the underlying research, DCLG has introduced a degree of transparency hitherto unseen in public service pensions.

But more significantly, it has acted on the evidence that lays bare the nonsense that is the active fund management of listed assets. If private sector schemes were to follow DCLG’s leadership and common sense, the implications would be profound.

Millions of scheme members would benefit, and it would become apparent that we do not need 80 per cent of the industry. The remaining 20 per cent should focus on adding value in the unlisted asset arena that lacks the indices required by (passive) tracker funds to replicate investment performance, principally “alternative” assets, property and emerging markets and smaller companies funds.

Indeed, DCLG’s actions mark a seminal moment for all occupational pension schemes. Activity in the Twitter sphere would appear to corroborate this view. Jeremy Cooper, who chaired 2012’s review of Australia’s private pensions system, said: “What an astounding result. It will be a global litmus test.” DCLG should be congratulated.

 Michael would like to hear your thoughts. He can be reached at:

(there is a dispute about whether Abe Lincoln ever said "...and beer")

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Labour Campaign update: West Ham & Bethnal Green

A busy, busy weekend campaigning for Labour in West Ham ward and also this evening in Tower Hamlets.

Our impressive run of luck with door knocking in good weather finished on Saturday with rain making us all run for the car.

It did brighten up afterwards for some leafleting. I have mentioned this before but who really needs to join a gym to get fit when they could get plenty of exercise for free delivering Labour party leaflets. Especially in low rise blocks with no lifts!

This morning we did some more canvassing in West Ham Tower blocks followed by leafleting. In the evening Newham Labour activists went en masse to Tower Hamlets to help out with their campaign. See picture (middle left) Newham Labour activists with local Collingwood candidate (and UNISON national officer) Clare Harrisson.

Friday, May 09, 2014

10 steps Ed Miliband will immediately take if we win the next election.

Labour's Cost-Of-Living Contract With You

We Will:
  1. Freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017 and reform the energy market

  2. Get 200,000 homes built a year by 2020

  3. Stop families that rent being ripped off and help them plan for the future with new long term predictable tenancies

  4. Cut income tax for hardworking people through a lower 10p starting tax rate, and introduce a 50p top rate of tax as we pay off the deficit in a fair way

  5. Ban exploitative zero-hour contracts

  6. Make work pay by strengthening the Minimum Wage and providing tax breaks to firms that boost pay through the Living Wage

  7. Back small businesses by cutting business rates and reforming the banks

  8. Help working parents with 25 hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds

  9. Tackle the abuse of migrant labour to undercut wages by banning recruitment agencies that only hire foreign workers and pressing for stronger controls in Europe

  10. Back the next generation with a job guarantee for the young unemployed and more apprenticeships
This is our contract with you. Vote Labour to make Britain better off.


This looks very good to me

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Lobby One Housing Group staff Conference over trade union suspension

"I'm Bryan" is about the One Housing Group union convener who has been suspended by management following the strike action organised by Unite last year over pay cuts to care and support workers. 

Supporters will be holding a lobby tomorrow outside the One Housing Group staff conference. I hope to be there as well. 

Check out previous posts on One Housing and the way it treats union activists. 

Press release "Support victimised Unite rep Bryan Kennedy, Friday 9 May Demonstrate against the victimisation of Unite rep Bryan Kennedy this Friday at the One Housing staff conference at Novotel West in Hammersmith from 8.30am, 1 Shortlands, Hammersmith International Centre, Hammersmith, W6 8DR".

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Un-credible Shrinking Man

"Ever wondered what really goes on around the Cabinet table? The sorry story of Nick Clegg - the un-credible shrinking man!"

Excellent! Well worth a punt. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Don't Let UKIP steal what matters to you.

Check out this poster from Unions Together (TULO).  People just do not appreciate how anti British worker and economically right wing is the ultra Tory UKIP.

"Chairman of TULO and leader of the GMB union, Paul Kenny, warned that “Nigel Farage is just another banker, trying to flog his snake oil while forgetting to tell us about the small print...

He really does not want people knowing that UKIP will take Britain’s working people back to the dark ages, scrapping basic rights we fought hard for and relied upon by the 31 million workers in this country to make life fairer like maternity leave, sick pay, and paid holiday leave".