Friday, April 07, 2017

Councillor report to West Ham Labour Party Ward 6 April 2017

Councillor Report to Ward
6 January to April 2017

tel: 0203 373 2615 or email

Council Issues

Full Council January 30 2017
At this meeting as a Councillor I had raised a question via the Chief Executive to the Executive Mayoral Advisor for Finance about the proposal for Newham Council Treasury Management to obtain “pension like” financial returns for our reserves. I am very concerned and disappointed that my question about the risk of seeking such high returns was censored by the Newham Council Monitoring Officer and that the Advisor did not answer my question nor my supplementary question.

Full Council Meeting 27 February – Budget
Newham Labour Group had decided that there would be a free vote for all Councillors at this meeting. I was also invited to put forward alternative budget proposals. I proposed that we need to increase Council tax by 1.99% for a hardship fund and raise a 2% social care precept in order to help vulnerable residents who face Tory cuts to care services and cuts to Council and Housing benefit. This was proposed by Councillor Whitworth and myself but not supported by Councillors.

Newham £563 million LOBOs Loans
I was really pleased that in the light of repeated representation by myself, Councillor Whitworth and Councillor Fiaz, that a deal has been apparently struck with the Council and Barclay Bank which will save our residents some £94 million. We need to have transparency on this deal and make sure that Barclays and the other LOBO banks who are ripping off Newham residents are properly held to account.

Free School Meals
As a School Governor for Rebecca Cheetham Nursery School and Ranelagh Primary School, I have recently written to the Executive Advisor for Young People about my concerns over 60% of the cost for providing Newham free school meals being recharged to schools. I understand that in light of Tory Government cuts that this will mean schools will have to sack support and teaching staff in order to pay this charge. I had always understood that Free School Meals for Newham Primary Schools was our manifesto commitment. I sincerely hope that some sort of compromise will be obtained.

Investment & Accounts (staff Pensions) Committee
I have been a member of this committee since 2010 and I am pleased that the fund is now worth over £1.3 billion and due to good performance the Council should save £4 million in contributions this year. I have asked for the fund to review our exposure to Carbon investments in light of the risk from climate change.

Surgeries and case work
I have attended 6 surgeries in Vicarage Lane Community Centre and Brassett Point. There has been a number of cases regarding housing including a distressing eviction, disrepair, service charge disputes and ASB. Other issues were regarding parking, planning, social services, street lighting, LBN pension fund exposure to climate change and school meals charges. I have made 3 home visits for elderly residents and to inspect complaints.

Ward issues

Rents for Key workers increased by 40% by One Housing Group
Last month I attended a meeting of key worker tenants who live just outside the ward but also work in our local schools, hospitals and care services. Many fear they will be evicted since they cannot afford 40% rent increases. I have written 2 letters to One Housing Group about their unacceptable rent demands of key workers and will be raising formal complaints to their Chief Executive, their Chair of Board and Resident Representative(s) Board members. Our MP Lyn Brown is also getting involved.

Abbey Gardens
This week I met with Councillor Whitworth (the secretary of the Friends of Abbey Gardens) about the long term future of the community garden especially in light of the possible redevelopment of Abbey House.

“Meet & greet” new ward members
On Thursday evening 19 January I attended this enjoyable event at the Sawmill café.

West Quadrant Neighbourhood Meeting
Last week I attend the new Forum for local Councillors from West Ham, Stratford & Forest Gate. Despite there being no consultation beforehand and no written plan for it I hope that it becomes an effective body in the future.

Labour Campaigning

Campaign in West Ham
On Saturday 28 January I was door knocking/Street Surgery with members and our MP Lyn Brown near West Ham Park.

Campaigning in Canning Town South
On Saturday 11 February and Saturday 11 March I was out with Lyn Brown MP and local Councillors and Party activists knocking on doors and speaking to residents.

Campaigning in Forest Gate South
On Saturday 18 March I was out with Lyn Brown MP and West Ham Cllr John Whitworth, knocking on doors and speaking to residents.

Campaigning in Forest Gate North
On Wednesday 29 March (day of Westminster Terror attack) I was out door knocking with local activists and Councillors in evening.

Campaigning in Forest Gate North
On Saturday 1 April I was out with Lyn Brown MP and local Councillors and Party activists knocking on doors and speaking to residents.

For information

Newham Mayoral Candidate Trigger
In January I signed a letter of complaint to the Labour Party NEC about the trigger process (which was also signed by 48 other members and included 10 Councillors). The NEC has so far not investigated this complaint.  However, in the light of matters coming to notice, I believe that they will do so in the near future.

UNISON National Executive Council member 2017-2019
I was pleased to be re-elected unopposed as the UNISON NEC member for Community (National seat for all Housing Associations and Charities in the UK) for 4th term. I was re-elected for the 10th time at our UNISON Greater London AGM as Regional Council Officer (Finance) and also as the secretary of Greater London UNISON Housing Associations Branch.

Newham Co-op Party
I was re-elected as assistant secretary of Newham Co-op Party and their London Regional Council delegate.

LGA Labour Council Conference 2017
In February I attended this Labour Local Government conference in Coventry and thought it was really worthwhile and informative event. (Please note I self-funded)

Forest Gate North Branch
I was elected as the ward organiser at their AGM

If any member wishes to contact me about this report to discuss any aspect please do not hesitate to do so.


John Gray
West Ham Ward Councillor 

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