Wednesday, May 31, 2017

General Election - next week!

Dear John

It's a week to go. The polls are narrowing. The next five years are about to be decided. If you have any time over the next week, please come out now to help Labour. The weather's nice and it might even be fun...

Please help to fund Lyn Brown's election campaign
We will spend thousand of pounds on Leaflets, Letters, Posters and Street Stalls in West Ham over the next few weeks. Please help if you can.
A. Click here [DONATION]  or
B. Send a cheque made payable to West Ham Labour Party, to John Gray, Election Agent, West Ham CLP, 306 High Street, E15 1AJ
All donations go to West Ham Labour Party and will be used for Lyn's campaign in West Ham.
11am, 2pm and 6pm every day.
Meeting 12a High View Parade, Woodford Av, IG4 5EP (a 12 min walk from Gants Hill stn on the Central Line - exit 1). Turn up and say you're from West Ham (and they'll look after you if you haven't campaigned before).

Polling Day in Ilford North - they're going to be busy all day.
5.30am leafletting - click here to sign up 
Door knocking all day - click here to sign up

This Saturday Newham Co-op and West Ham CLP will be out in Harrow West supporting Gareth Thomas, Chair of the Co-op Party - meet John Gray (ring 07432 150 530) at 1.15pm or meet in Harrow at 2.15pm, 132 Blenheim Rd, HA2 7AA (3 mins walk from Harrow West tube).

Tonight Weds 31 May

Canning Town South, 6.30pm, Contact Alan
West Ham, 6.30pm,  Contact David or John Whitworth

Thurs 1 JuneWest Ham will be helping Karen Buck in Westminster North at 2pm and 6pm. If you're free and can help - please meet at Labour office 4g Shirland Mews, W9 3DY (10 mins from Westbourne Pk tube which is only 35 mins from Stratford or West Ham tubes).
Stratford, 5pm-7pm, Contact: Karl
Women's Forum (women only) Canning Town South, Contact Gen or Seyi
Sat 3 June
Street stall - outside Forest Gate Station, 11am to 12.30pm and
Forest Gate North, 11am, contact John 07432 150 530
Plaistow South, 11am, . Contact Neil
Women's Forum Street Stall, 11am, E20 Street Stall, please wear red! V Contact Gen or Seyi
Custom House, 11.30am, Contact Rokhsana or Momodou
Canning Town North, 12pm, Contact Shabs
Forest Gate South, 4pm, Contact Joel

Sun 4 June
Plaistow South, 2pm, Contact Neil Wilson

Mon 5 June
Stratford, 6pm-8pm leafleting with a canvass session leaving 7pm. Contact: Karl
Plaistow South, 6pm, Contact Neil
West Ham, 6:30pm, Contact David or John W on 07763 651131

Tues 6 June
Women's Forum (women only), 6pm, Contact Gen or Seyi 
Plaistow North, 6pm, contact Daniel or Mehmood

Polling Day! 
Please do go and help one of the nearby marginals (see details at top for Ilford North). If you want to stay in West Ham we'll put you in touch with your ward organiser as we will be leafleting stations.

Thanks again to everyone who's been out and if you haven't yet please come out and help this last week...

Best wishes

Julianne Marriott
Vice Chair (Campaigns and Comms) West Ham CLP  @westhamlabour  f westhamlabour

Monday, May 29, 2017

Marks & Spencer close their staff pension scheme and lose £131 million

M&S pension surplus falls £131.3m due to DB future accrual closure

Written by Talya Misiri
Marks and Spencer has revealed that its pension surplus fell by £131.3m in the year to April 2017 due to the closure of its defined benefit scheme to future accrual.

In its full year results, published today 24 May 2017, the UK retailer stated that at 1 April 2017 the IAS 19 net retirement benefit surplus was £692.8m from £824.1m the previous year.

M&S explained that its reduced surplus was largely a result of the closure of the UK DB scheme to future accrual, which lead to a one-off curtailment charge of £127m. The scheme closed to new members on April 2017.

The report noted that as all remaining active members of the scheme transition to a deferred status, all future pensionable increases are to be in line with inflation, CPI, rather than to the lower one per cent salary cap applied to the active members.

Additional costs of £5.4m that is directly associated with the closure, primarily in relation to third party advisory costs have been incurred.

Pension funding rose year on year from £118.4m in April 2016 to £135.3m in April 2017. Pension costs charged against operating profit fell slightly to £100.3m this year, from £102m in 2016.

Partnership liability to the Marks & Spencer UK Pension Scheme remained at £71.9m year-on-year.

“The first limited partnership interest (held by the Marks and Spencer UK Pension Scheme), entitles the Pension Scheme to receive an annual distribution of £71.9m until 2022 from the Partnership. The second partnership interest (also held by the Marks and Spencer UK Pension Scheme), entitles the Pension Scheme to receive a further £36.4m annually from 2017 until 2031,” the report outlined".

WTF? Why are Marks and Spencer robbing their staff of a decent pension scheme when their fund is in surplus and it costs them £131 million to do so?

No wonder so many people voted for Brexit and why we need a Labour Government to tackle corporate greed and stupidity.

Hat tip "Pension Age". 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Less than 2 weeks to Go! Forest Gate & Ilford North

Picture collage from yesterday in Forest Gate and Ilford North with our West Ham Parliamentary candidate, Lyn Brown.

The weather was mostly sunny and very warm. The sunshine and spring flowers made door knocking a pleasure. You can (usually) be guaranteed a good reception if you tell residents what a lovely garden they have.

Due to the narrowing in the polls there was an air of excitement and enthusiasm in the campaign yesterday which had been previously missing.

Off on an adventure tomorrow.

West Ham Ward Canvass Sunday 21st May

Love the feet sticking out of roof window (top left)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn: Standing together

On Friday I was at the speech in London by Labour leader Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, relaunching the election campaign after the bombings in Manchester.

It was a statesman like and brave absolute condemnation of hate and terrorism while pointing out that to fight terrorism and make our people safe, we have to also tackle the underlying causes. Be that massive cuts to policing and prisons, poverty and inequality or badly planned foreign wars.

This was by far the best speech I have ever seen Jeremy make. He has demonstrated that he is fit to be our Prime Minister on June 8.

This is the email that was sent out to members after his speech but check the full transcript here


Today, as Labour resumes campaigning in the General Election, I wanted to reach out to you, as a member of our party — and of our Labour family.

Our nation has been united in shock and grief. But as I watched thousands of people coming together in Albert Square in Manchester, I saw unwavering defiance too.

This attack sought to divide us, and instead we sent a powerful message of solidarity and of love. We saw so much evidence of our humanity: from the people we ask to protect us in the emergency services; from those who rushed towards the carnage to comfort the dying or offered lifts home and places to stay; from those gathered the following day in Albert Square.

So for the rest of this election campaign all of us need to stand together and we need to stand up for democracy.

Because when we talk about British values, including tolerance and mutual support, democracy is at the very heart of them.

And our General Election campaigns are the centrepieces of our democracy — rallies, debates, campaigning in marketplaces, knocking on doors, listening to people on their streets, at their workplaces and in their homes.

Together, we will be stronger. Together we can build a Britain worthy of those who died and those who have inspired us all in Manchester this week.

Thank you.

Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party"

Friday, May 26, 2017

Chuka Umunna Streatham PPC at UNISON Labour Link Mobilising Black Members Event

Picture collage from event on Monday evening with Streatham Labour PPC, Chuka Umunna, guest speaker to a mobilisation event in our national HQ of black members sponsored by UNISON Greater London Labour Link. I was there as Chair of that committee.

The aim was to encourage members to volunteer to campaign for Labour in the General Election. The event was run by my ace London Regional Council Officer colleague, Liz Baptiste. Other speakers included our Assistant General Secretary, Liz Snapes, Acting London Regional secretary Stephanie Thomas, London Labour Link committee member James Beckles and National officer for Race Equality, Margaret Geer. 

Chuka gave an excellent speech on why we all must support the Labour Party which was warmly received. He is bright, articulate and has the gift of powerful persuasion. 

It was a bit of a speech fest with Stephanie, Liz, Liz, James and Margaret making the case for Labour and for becoming active in the campaign and making it clear that there was an alternative choice in British politics. 

The best (and only way) to progress equality for all is if we all vote to elect a Labour Government on June 8. 

Nearly all of the UNISON members and their guests present filled out a form to volunteer for Labour in the General election. Result!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pause to remember Jo Cox MP - Westhammers at "Arc in the Park"

A lot has happened since Sunday, when UK political parties suspended General Election campaigning for one hour in order to remember murdered young mum and MP, Jo Cox, and to visit community projects. In West Ham we stopped campaigning and visited the "Arc in the Park" project in Canning Town with our Labour Parliamentary candidate, Lyn Brown. This is now run by the charity called AAA (Ambition, Aspire, Achieve).

AAA supports disabled children and young people as well as their families. Despite cuts in Council funding the charity still provides much needed respite and support. We were given a guided tour of the sensory garden and play area by staff who were so, so proud of what they do.

After the visit many of us went back to campaign for Labour in Forest Gate.

Little did we know that while we were remembering the terrible murder by a British born fascist last year of a young woman in Yorkshire that another British born fascist was planning to murder even more girls and women in Manchester.

I am so proud to live in a country that despite significant problems of inequality and unfairness, unites against fascism in all its forms and has so many people, like Jo Cox, the staff at AAA, the emergency workers in Manchester, who have dedicated their lives to the public service of others. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Re-elected to UNISON NEC for a 4th term

I was really pleased to get confirmation on Tuesday that I had been re-elected unopposed as the UNISON Community representative on our National Executive Council (General seat) for a 4th two year term of office.

I did think that I had an opponent again this time but for whatever reason this didn't happen. I am surprised that I haven't so far come across any deranged conspiracy theories on why this was so but no doubt this will turn up somewhere.

The election results for our NEC this year was mixed and we have lost (in my view) some fantastic activists who were not elected and will be sorely missed but also some outstanding successes.

The long and the short of it, is that the forces of light and reason (in my view) still have a clear majority of seats on the UNISON NEC.

I am also sure that many of those, who for various reasons, were not part of my particular preferred slate this time, will want to work collectively to build, grow and support our union.

Some of those will not but such is life.

I am really appalled at the low turnout of members in this election. I know that this is not just a UNISON problem and other unions have similar awful turnouts in their internal elections. Tory anti-trade union legislation makes it really difficult but I think all of us need to think about how we can encourage member participation in all future elections.

I have some thoughts which I will share another time. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manchester Bombing - We stand together

Last night I was just about to go to bed when I saw a "breaking news" email on my IPAD about a bombing in Manchester. I spent the next 30 minutes or so on the BBC news website. Then feeling pretty helpless, I went to bed pretty sick and ashamed that fellow human beings had deliberately gone out to murder young children and their mothers.

Today I was at work holding a trade union surgery in a East London housing office. During lunch time I was talking to fellow workers in the communal kitchen when the 1pm news came on the television and updated us with the latest on this vile crime.

At first everyone was quiet and listened in shock and horror at further reports on the murder. Then we started talking about it, how we had first heard about it, what we first thought, what we feared, what we now wanted. The sense of a common and collective outrage reminded me of similar conversations nearly 10 years ago in another east end housing office, only a few hundred yards away after the 7/7 bombings.

On that day it was more personal since it was local and happened during work time. Many of us in the office had friends and relatives commuting into central London.

The murder of the innocents brought back yet another time, just over 20 years ago, in that same housing office as 2007, when I went out on an estate visit and when I came back I found most of the staff were openly crying in the office, as the news on the radio about the Dunblane Primary school massacre had come out.

Each event was uniquely horrible and horrific. But being able to share the horror with work colleagues and see their anger is your anger, their disgust is your disgust and coming together and being united in our common pain was the one positive thing I felt to come out of all these hateful acts.

There is indeed more that unites us than divides us.

Hat tip picture Andrew A

Monday, May 22, 2017

Assaults against housing staff survey 2017

If you work in social housing please spend 10 minutes filling out this important Inside Housing annual survey here. Violence at work is a key issue. A member of my branch executive has only recently returned to work after several weeks off following an attack.

Constant low level abuse and threats can also result in real health problems for staff.

In order to do something about this you firstly you need to know what is the range and scale of the problem.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Campaigning in Forest Gate North & Ilford North 20 May 2017

Yesterday morning I started off campaigning in Forest Gate North with local Councillor, Anamul Islam and activists. It was also the first time that my wife, Gill, had actually knocked on doors and spoke to residents about supporting Labour.

It was the usual, rock solid and humbling Labour vote in Forest Gate.

The weather held out during the morning but on route to Ilford North to support marginal Labour Candidate, Wes Streeting,  there was a torrential downpour, which set the scene for the rest of the day.

West Ham Labour activists met up with our candidate, Lyn Brown, at the Ilford North HQ. Lyn had been out that morning with a number of different groups including West Ham Labour Women's Forum (see picture collage top left) who also turned up for afternoon Ilford North session led by the one and only, Cllr Seyi Akiwowo.

During the canvass in Ilford North the weather was on the whole a little wet but I think electors are impressed with canvassers who turn up to meet them and listen to their views regardless of the weather.

I got a shock while door knocking on at one home. I could see a dog's nose sticking out of a cat flap in a front door that Cllr Seyi had sent me to canvass. I thought nothing of it but when I knocked on the door the dog started barking violently and then stuck its whole head out of the cat flap! For a moment I thought it was coming out to get me and I jumped backward very quickly, much to the amusement of the team (see the wolf - bottom right).

Apart from that it was a largely positive canvass for Wes, with many residents saying they will support him due because he is a very good and active constituency MP. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Newham Council AGM 2017 (The Selfie)

This may not be very dignified but I do like this picture of some Newham Councillors after our Council Annual General Meeting on Thursday.

The meeting itself in the Old Stratford Town Hall was pretty formal. I missed the first bit since I had a General Election Agents meeting with the ERO at East Ham Town Hall. Long serving Councillors (25 years) Andrew Baikie (bottom left of photo) and Ian Corbett were given a present as was the Newham Young Mayor. The Newham Mayor spoke about his many achievements over the years.

Afterwards there was a drinks and canapes reception and this selfie was taken by our youngest Councillor, Seyi Akiwowo, on the stairs of the old Town Hall after an attempt to take to take a formal photograph of all councillors fell apart in confusion. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

"Why fossil fuel divestment isn't the answer"

Last month I went to a well attended public meeting on this topic in Forest Gate Coffee7 and a Chatham House rules seminar in the City. This article today in Professional Pensions reflects what I think and said at those meetings.

John Gray says it's better to reduce carbon exposure over a longer period while seeking suitable alternative investments

I am sure that many pension trustees will have been approached by both beneficiaries and climate change activists concerned about investments in fossil fuel industries. In local government the pension funds are often seen as belonging to the council so residents are also lobbying councillors and pension board members about divesting from carbon.
‎Like so many things about pensions, this topic is important but complex and definitely in the 'difficult box'. From my perspective as a councillor on one Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) and as a union-appointed pension board member on another, I firstly try to make it clear that local government pension funds belong to its active members, its deferred members, its pensioners and dependents. Not to the council and definitely not to councillors.
The fund must be invested in the interests of beneficiaries.
Secondly, unlike in the private sector, there is no Pension Protection Fund for the LGPS nor does it have an explicit crown promise like other public sector schemes. 
While it may be unthinkable for many good reasons to imagine an LGPS fund going bust, trustees and those responsible for pensions have to think the unthinkable and in reality, who really knows what will happen in the long term? Due to the LGPS employer contribution cap, if future pension cost is more than 13% then either staff will have to pay more or benefits will be reduced.
What campaigners, who are rightly deeply concerned about the risk of climate change, should be doing is not just lobbying councillors and their officers, but building links and engaging with council staff and their trade unions. It is after all their deferred pay, their pension future, their money.
This doesn't mean that council pension funds should not be examining both the real financial risks ‎of investing in carbon industries but also be conscious of the impending Armageddon of our planet if we do not control our carbon emissions. 
Existing investments in carbon are usually valued on the basis of their proven reserves of coal, oil or gas. It is becoming clear that much of these reserves may never be mined or pumped out, since if they were to do so it would burn the planet. These so called 'stranded assets' are therefore likely to destroy the value of investments in carbon industries.
While to me the case for disinvestment in carbon is unanswerable, I do not feel divestment is the answer. Many calls for divestment want pension funds to sell all their carbon investments within five years. Disinvestment is a call to reduce exposure to carbon over a longer period while seeking suitable alternative investments.
It is probable that the use of fossil fuels will continue but hopefully we will see a significant reduction. It is arguable that at this time there are not sufficient alternative 'green' energy investment opportunities available. This will change but when?
I also feel tactically that calling for the divestment rather than disinvestment from carbon will play into the hands of climate change and other ESG sceptics in the industry, who would relish the opportunity to attack and rubbish total divestment, when they know that the case for disinvestment over time is so powerful.
Do not underestimate the resistance to such change in the industry. While there is much good practice, many professional practitioners may 'talk the talk' on climate change issues but are in reality 'greenwashing'. Beware!
John Gray is a member of Tower Hamlets Council Pension Board, writing in a personal capacity

Thursday, May 18, 2017

3 weeks to the General Election

Dear John

Labour has set out it's manifesto for the many; now we have 3 weeks left to tell people about it. Join us and Lyn Brown talking to voters here in West Ham and in two key marginals: Ilford North and Westminster North.

FUNDING:  if you're not able to help us canvass, can you help fund West Ham's campaign? Click HERE! (cheques welcome too)...

11am, 2pm and 6pm every day.
Meeting 12a High View Parade, Woodford Av, IG4 5EP (a 12 min walk from Gants Hill stn on the Central Line - exit 1). Turn up and say you're from West Ham (and they'll look after you if you haven't campaigned before).

Join West Ham members this Sat meeting 1.45pm, Stratford stn (bus stn side) to travel together. Meet Juliane there or at Ilford North office at 2pm.

Thurs 18 May
STREET STALL - Under Canning Town Flyover, 5 to 7pm. All welcome. Contact: Shabs 07958024188

Sat 20 May
Forest Gate North, Coffee7, 11am 10 Sebert Road, E7 0NQ contact John 07432 150 530
Custom House, 11.30am, Custom House Library, Prince Regents Lane, E16 3JJ. Contact: Rokhsana or Momodou
Women's Forum (women only) 11:45 am outside McDonald's (Stratford Centre), E15 1XA Contact Genevieve on or Seyi
Canning Town North, 12pm, Moka Coffee Shop, 126 Barking Rd, E16 1EN, Contact: Shabs

ILFORD NORTH - meet 1.15pm at Stratford stn or in Ilford North at 2pm

Sun 21 May
Canning Town, 11.30am, Keir Hardie Church, 14 Plymouth Road, E16 1QB. Contact Alan Griffiths
Forest Gate North, 2pm, Hibiscus Centre, Buckingham Road, E15 1SE contact John 07432 150 530

Mon 22 May
Plaistow South, 6pm, NewVIC, Prince Regent Lane, E13 8SG. Contact Neil
West Ham, 6:30pm, ATL Cafe, 125 Plaistow Road, E15 3ET.  Contact David on or John.

Tues 23 May
Forest Gate North, 6pm, Coffee7, 10 Sebert Road, E7 0NQ contact John 07432 150 530
Custom House, 6.30pm, outside Nisa Local, 53 Freemasons Rd, E16 3PJ. Contact: Rokhsana or Momodou
Stratford, 6.30pm, Old Town Hall (Stratford), 29 Broadway, E15 4BQ. Contact: Karl.

Weds 24 May
Canning Town South, 6.30pm, Keir Hardie Methodist Church, 14 Plymouth Road E16 1PAWeds West Ham, 6:30pm, ATL Cafe, 125 Plaistow Road, E15 3ET.  Contact David on or John.

Thurs 25 May
Women's Forum (women only). Meet Westminster tube station (Westminster Bridge exit) where we'll walk together to Labour HQ, Ergon House, Horseferry Rd, SW1P 2AL for phone canvassing for women candidates in marginal seats. Cakes and snacks welcome! Contact Gen or Seyi .
Plaistow South, 6pm, NewVIC, Prince Regent Lane, E13 8SG. Contact Neil

PHONE CANVASSING - 4pm to 8pm weekdays at Labour HQ, Ergon House, Horseferry Rd, SW1P 2AL

Polling Day - let us know if you can help - there will be loads to do from 5am (yes!) leaflets to deliver in Ilford North to help here in West Ham

Leaflets - please let me know (if you haven't already) if you would be happy to deliver leaflets (and I'll pass your details onto you ward organiser). Leaflets are now available!

Thanks again everyone. Look forward to seeing you over the next 3 weeks.

Best wishes

Julianne Marriott
Vice Chair (Campaigns and Comms) West Ham CLP  @westhamlabour  f westhamlabour  w

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Re-electing Lyn Brown in Custom House & Forest Gate

A great collage of photos from recent campaigning. Custom House canvass on Sunday morning with Lyn Brown (and Cara) as well as local Newham Councillors, Rokhsana Fiaz and Pat Holland.  Lyn had also been that morning to Ilford North with West Ham activists to support Wes Streeting.

In the afternoon we were in Forest Gate North, where we had the support of super walker, Cllr Seyi Akiwowo and 3 Young Pioneers, courtesy of their Mum, Councillor Rachel Tripp.

The support for Labour in our constituency is humbling with superb canvass returns, yet while we want our activists to go to the marginals, we are making sure that we do not take our support in West Ham for granted.

At the end of canvass in Forest Gate, we had the traditional warm weather canvassing icelolly feast. The Young Pioneers seemed very happy with this (especially when their Mum said she was now taking them to the local Park and swings).

On Tuesday evening Lyn was out again with team FGN in Lorne and Latimer Road. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

School uniform grants for UNISON members - up to £120 (£40 per child)

I am so proud that UNISON has its own Charity fund for members on low income or facing financial or other hardship. Working class trade unionists banding together to help each over in times of difficulty or crisis is pretty much what we should be all about.

The thought of kids being embarrassed or mocked because their parents cannot afford school uniforms makes me furious.

"UNISON There for You: School Uniform Grant 2017

If you have children in full time education, you may be eligible to receive a school uniform grant from UNISON’s charity There for You. To be considered, you must either be:

In receipt of Housing Benefit; or

Your net annual income is £18,000 or below 

[Note: We ignore the following income Child benefit, any childcare element included as part of your working tax credits, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment].

Also, you will need to have paid a minimum 4 weeks membership subscriptions before 22nd May 2017

To take advantage of this grant please complete the forms below and return to us with all the supporting documentation requested. We’ve also included a Q&A setting out the full conditions and eligibility criteria which should answer any questions that you have.

Please note the closing date is 21st July.

Monday, May 15, 2017

#RentersVote for #ToriesOUT

This email I received below is interesting. How angry are people about being so ripped off and what are they going to do about it?
"There are now more renters than people who voted Tory in 2015. In other words the #RentersVote could swing it!

Our recent members poll was decisive. We want:
Rent control, more security, a crack down on disrepair, a ban on tenancy fees, a register of landlords and more social housing!

We want this Government, that has failed us so badly, out. We want June to be the end of May. We want the #ToriesOUT!

Now, with a month to go, it is vital we all help! John, here's your action plan:

1. Register to vote by 22nd May!

If you havent yet, DO IT NOW. It takes 3 mins. You just need your National Insurance number.


2. Fill in the Government Consultation on banning tenancy fees!

Its vital that whoever forms the new Government, they follow through on this promise. Our partners at Generation Rent have made this easy template emailer - use it now and back it up by tweeting #keysnotfees!


3. Check out our new #RentersVote website.

We're working together with Generation Rent and local renters groups to build the #RentersVote and push the parties on our demands. Sign up now to help register more voters and host your events like housing hustings or voter registration sessions.


Let me be clear. There are enough renters to get the #ToriesOUT and we know younger people (the bulk of renters) want it to happen. But 90% of property owners are registered to vote compared to just 63% of renters.

We have to register ourselves - and our friends - fast.

#RentersVote - let's go!

Stuart and the team,
ACORN #RentersVote

ACORN & the #RentersRising campaign relies on 100's of awesome monthly donors for funding - please join them! Start A Donation

Or get involved: Join A Volunteer Team

Sunday, May 14, 2017

25 Days until UK General Election: On the knocker in Forest Gate & Ilford North

Yesterday started with my Newham Councillor surgery in Vicarage Lane Community Centre, West Ham. A constituent came to see me about a pretty appalling disrepair case in a Housing Association shared ownership block. I have been in touch already about this case and have written to the association asking for a site visit with an officer and a surveyor to do a  joint visit.

Another constituent came to see me about Newham Council organising a sports competition between a team representing the Commonwealth and another for the rest of the world. Which is an ambitious aspiration but not one, alas, that back bench local Councillors will have much influence over.

After the surgery I met up with Forest Gate North activists for a Labour doorstep session. We started door knocking in Curwen Avenue, E7, where I used to live many years ago.

I had some interesting political conversations on the doorstep, especially on Brexit and the future of the Labour Party. Forest Gate, on the whole, is very pro "Remain". More than one person was supportive of our Candidate, Lyn Brown, for voting against the triggering of Article 50 but very critical of the poorly supported official Labour campaign in Newham for "Remain". I had to agree and point out that this was despite her best efforts and other Newham Labour Remain supporters. The blame for the poor local result lies elsewhere in Newham.

Our candidate, Lyn Brown, this morning was at a well supported stall at Green Street and and had a number of community meetings including one with local East European residents and East Ham Labour candidate, Stephen Timms.

In the afternoon I went to Ilford North marginal which has a super friendly and efficient campaign office. If you have never been canvassing before I would recommend you go there. They will explain what you have to do and what are the key issues and make sure you are sent out with a supportive team leader.

11am, 2pm and 6pm every day.
Meeting 12a High View Parade, Woodford Av, IG4 5EP (a 12 min walk from Gants Hill stn on the Central Line - exit 1). Turn up and say you're from West Ham (and they'll look after you if you haven't campaigned before).

In Ilford North I came across some evidence of UKIP and Conservative switchers to Labour. Including one former Tory supporter, whose husband is suffering from dementia and who told me in great detail how much she now "hated" the Conservatives for the lack of support for her husband and the cutting of his benefits.

The Labour candidate, Wes Streeting,  was widely respected as a hard working Constituency MP and supported by residents who will normally vote for another Party in local elections.

By one of those strange coincidences, this morning I was canvassing with Joshua Garfield in Forest Gate and this afternoon with his Mum, former Newham Councillor, Judith Garfield, in Ilford North. Both of them are expert canvassers. Must be in the blood.

Friday, May 12, 2017

National Express - 6 kids die but CEO still gets 7 figure bonus. Wtf?

A sensitive and thoughtful commentary below by Tom Powdrill on his blog "Labour & Capital" about the many governance dangers of paying huge "performance related" bonuses to Chief Executives. 

National Express of course has been warned on numerous occasions on this blog and others about the dire health & culture in its USA school bus arm. 

Did the CEO of National Express actually do anything about this? 

No wonder so many people in the UK and the USA hate the "establishment" and vote for extremist politics. 

Internal logic versus external stupidity

"I've blogged about National Express a few times over the years, mainly in relation to its anti-union activity. But today a story in the FT about its executive pay arrangements caught my eye. I think it's a great example of why performance-related pay is a colossal waste of time, including trying to tie pay to ESG targets.

As many people may know, there was a tragic accident in the company's US school bus business last year in which six young children died. This is clearly pretty much the worst safety outcome a company that transports children can have.

Understandably, therefore, the company has reduced to zero the amount of the chief executive's bonus that is tied to safety. But, he's still going to get the rest of the bonus, which equates to over 150% of salary. Some shareholders are ticked off, and think that the company should not have paid any bonus at all, sensing that a chief executive getting a seven figure bonus in the year when the company suffered multiple child fatalities is not a good look.

To me, this sort of outcome is the inevitable outcome of the performance-related pay delusion. If you set multiple targets for variable pay you are always going to get these kinds of perverse outcomes. If you've hit your financial targets but there have been fatalities then simply not awarding the bits of pay tied to ESG criteria is logically what you should do. But it looks appalling. Applying some common sense has its own problems - for people within business/finance at least. If you scrap the bonus entirely (which is what I think they should have done) then it makes plain what a joke the system is - it is incapable of delivering sensible outcomes.

This isn't the first time this has happened in relation to fatalities involving a PLC. The CEO of Thomas Cook got in a similar mess by giving up some, but not all of her share award. To try and stick to a logical/statistical approach merely invites the question "so how many people would have to die before you didn't take any bonus/share award?". Companies - or investors - that simply hide behind the incentive design look inhumane.

There was a similar example with News Corp when the hacking scandal blew up - with James and (I think) Rupert Murdoch agreeing to give up some, but not all, of their bonuses. And, more generally, when there is a lag between performance and reward (because shareholders have asked that reward be tied to slightly more long-term performance) you get examples when exec awards vest despite performance having subsequently turned bad again.

I know I am well out of step with many ESG people here, but to me the fundamental problem is the insistence on performance-related pay. Quite aside from motivational issues, perverse incentives and the whole question of why the most highly paid need or deserve further incentives to get them to do their job, performance pay generates these ridiculous outcomes. They make sense according to the text book internal logic of incentive schemes but they look terrible to any half conscious actual human being. Instead of wasting even more time trying to tie ESG criteria to pay we should be scaling back variable reward if not scrapping it altogether.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Re-electing Lyn Brown - Forest Gate, West Ham & Canning Town

Picture collage from canvass in Forest Gate North on Tuesday evening, West Ham ward on Wednesday evening and a Labour stall outside the busy West Ham Station tonight (which is confusingly not in West Ham ward but Canning Town North).

While we are campaigning everyday in West Ham to re-elect Lyn Brown as our MP, our activists are also pounding the streets and taking part in the telecanvassing of marginals across London.

I led the Forest Gate North canvass team and at first we had the usual problem of trying to get any contacts with electors, who live above shops in the main high street. It must be a nightmare being a local postie with so many addresses having no letter boxes or number identification.

Most of other homes we knocked at were low rise Council housing blocks. Going up and down communal stairs is great exercise. Who needs to join an expensive gym to get fit if you are a Labour Party activist?

The canvass at West Ham ward started outside the wonderful "tiger" street art mural in Holbrook Road, E15 (see top left of collage). I am a local Councillor in the ward. The support that Lyn and the Labour Party gets in the ward is humbling. Lyn in particular got support on the canvass from voters who do not normally vote for the Labour Party but will for her, since they think she is a very good constituency Member of Parliament.

It is not all sweetness and light. I met up with a resident, who I have come across canvassing a number of times, but for a change, this time she was polite and so therefore was I, however, she is a definite A for "Against" on our canvass returns. Not that she ever votes according to the marked register. Which to me - is a shame that she moans bitterly but does not bother to vote against us.

Our street stall outside West Ham Station (which is in Canning Town North) this evening with our Parliamentary candidate, Lyn Brown, (and Cara, her famous Yorkshire Terrier Labour attack dog) was nice, relaxed and took place in warm, balmy, spring sunshine. A number of residents rushing home from the station, (not a really huge number but not insignificant either) were really pleased that Lyn was there to speak to them and talk about their local and national concerns.

By coincidence, we were right next to One Housing Group (OHG) Key workers scheme that I and other Councillors have been supporting against huge rent rises. A number of these tenants, came up to Lyn, to thank her for her letter to OHG and her support over their campaign against the proposed 40% rise in their rents, which has now thankfully been put on hold pending talks.

I had to leave a little early and go off to a School Governors meeting.

As an election agent it has been a good week in West Ham so far (touch wood). Excellent canvass returns across the  CLP. Nomination papers accepted. 2nd Labour Freepost leaflet looking good and ready to be submitted by deadline tomorrow (touching wood, fingers and toes crossed, will be buying white heather).

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Should DB schemes open to new members get special treatment? (and why DC schemes are so rubbish in comparison)

I had a name check in this interesting article below. Modern defined benefit (DB) pension schemes are the only way that ordinary working people will be able to enjoy a secure retirement.

I recently pointed out to a journalist that in the DB Local Government Pension scheme (which I am member) employer and employee contributions are currently capped at 19.5% of salary yet this should provide a reasonable pension for staff who have worked for 40 years.

I asked him if he had calculated how much of his salary would have to be invested in a Direct Contribution (DC) pension to match the benefits of the LGPS DB? He said 70% of his salary.

Nuf said?

I really hope that the Labour Party manifesto will include a commitment for a rebirth of Defined Benefit Pension schemes.

"Professional Pensions

at a glance Private sector DB schemes are in decline but 737 remain open to members Some argue running them differently to closed schemes might increase their sustainability. Others worry two sets of regulations could cause problems

With one in eight DB schemes still open to new members, Michael Klimes explores the argument that they should be run differently from closed ones

Defined benefit (DB) schemes have been in decline for a long time, with the past few years seeing an increasing number closing to future accrual or new members.

Sponsoring employers have been shutting schemes due to the higher cost of running them, driven by longevity improvements and sustained low gilt yields.

According to the Pension Protection Fund's Purple Book 2016, 737 or 13% of 5,794 total DB schemes are open to new members as at 31 March 2016. Of these, 6% have active members, which translates into roughly 700,000 people.

However, there is a view that defined contribution (DC) provision is inadequate and that DB schemes provide better income and therefore should remain open.

Some even argue the government should consider introducing regulations to allow open DB schemes to be run differently from closed ones.

Open vs closed

First Actuarial founder Hilary Salt believes open DB schemes should be allowed to be run differently from closed plans for three reasons: Their time horizons are much longer, the employer is not focused on a buyout, and the scheme can benefit from the fungibility of money.

"Because the scheme has no need to sell investments, it can invest in more volatile but long-term, higher return asset classes," she explains. That makes the scheme better returning for all its members - or in other words, it produces pensions more efficiently.

"The difference means an open scheme can invest more productively in long-term assets - in the kind of infrastructure projects we need to rebuild the UK economy and solve the productivity puzzle."

However, the discussion skews the advice given to trustees. "As the general expectation is that employers don't want any risk in their schemes and just want to be rid of them, advice narrows into how to best reduce risk - which basically means buy more bonds and aim for buyout," Salt adds.

Therefore the efficiencies of open DB need to be highlighted carefully as there is a tendency for people to misunderstand them. "Some just say that if a scheme is relying on new members, it's a Ponzi scheme - but this is not the case," she adds.

As pension contributions can be used to pay the benefits of existing pensioners, this makes open DB schemes more efficient than DC, she argues.

"The money to pay for everyone's pensions is being saved but the scheme is simply providing benefits for past, current and future generations of workers in the most efficient way for the employer."

Tower Hamlets local government scheme pensions board member John Gray agrees, arguing the debate about DB has not helped. "There has been a huge error when we discuss the running of DB schemes. Closing DB schemes does not get rid of the deficit as the investment moves away from equities towards bonds. That generates lower returns and employers have to put in more money. Well-run open schemes are safer and more sustainable."

Two sets of regulations?

How might the government encourage open DB schemes to carry on? One way could be for the government to skew tax relief for sponsors that provide some element of DB in their pension offering to employees. However, this is unlikely given the stance of the Treasury.

A second option is to look at some type of compromise between DB and DC such as the risk-sharing proposal at Royal Mail. In March the Communication Workers Union (CWU) called on the postal service to merge its DB and DC members into a risk sharing scheme as a compromise for closing its current career average DB scheme to accrual.

However, Royal Mail argued it would be too risky and has instead offered its employees a cash balance DB scheme.

Pensions Management Institute president Kevin LeGrand is sceptical the government wants to revive DB and thinks there would be many challenges by having different regulations for open and closed schemes.

"It would be very difficult to run two types of regulatory regime, dependent upon this difference in status and I'm not sure where the differences would be," he says.

"For example, one might say that funding approaches should be different, with an open scheme perhaps being allowed to carry a larger funding deficit. But that can be done under the current rules, and in any case might depend more on factors such as the strength of the employer's covenant, rather than the status of the scheme. Any differences of approach might in future be more likely to be driven by political views."

Barnett Waddingham senior consultant Malcolm McLean thinks technical discussions about the management of open DB schemes, closed DB plans and DC arrangements must not leave out members.

He says: "At the end of the day we want the pensions system to work and be most advantageous for their members. At times we [the industry] can lose sight of the point of pensions. Sometimes I go to conferences and the members are not even mentioned, just the mechanisms and logic."

With one in eight DB schemes still open to new members, and as DC is still evolving, it is sensible for the government to consider different regulatory approaches for open schemes. However, any change must be carefully thought through".

4 weeks to the General Election - West Ham Labour Grid

 If you joined Labour because you want a Labour government it's time to act. Join us and Lyn Brown talk to voters at our street stalls or knocking on doors here in West Ham and in two key marginals: Ilford North and Westminster North. 

And if you're not able to help us canvass, can you help fund West Ham's campaign? Click here...

11am, 2pm and 6pm every day.

Meeting 12a High View Parade, Woodford Av, IG4 5EP (a 12 min walk from Gants Hill stn on the Central Line - exit 1). Turn up and say you're from West Ham (and they'll look after you if you haven't campaigned before).

A West Ham contingent will head to Ilford North for 2pm on Saturday. Meet there or meet Karl at 1.15pm outside Stratford Station (bus stn side) to travel together. 

Wed 10 May

14.30 - Meeting outside Royal Oak Tube Station W2 6ET, Contact: Danny
18.30 - Meet outside Maida Vale Tube Station W9 1JS, Contact: Danny
Thursday 11 May
14.30 - Meet at the Labour Office, 4G Shirland Mews W9 3DY, Contact: Margaret
18.30 - Meet outside the Waterway Pub 54 Formosa Street, London W9 2JU, Contact: Adam 0
Friday 12 May
14.30 - Meet outside Tesco, 94 Church Street NW8 8EX, Contact: Danny

Weds 10 May
Plaistow South, 6.00pm, outside NewVIC college, Prince Regent Lane, E13 8SG.Contact Neil
Canning Town South, 6.30pm, corner of Chandler Avenue/Alexandra Rd E16 4AA. Contact Alan.
Plaistow North, 6:30pm, Plaistow Station. Contact Daniel on or Mehmood
West Ham, 6:30pm, ATL Cafe, 125 Plaistow Road, E15 3ET.  Contact David

Thurs 11 May
STREET STALL -  5 to 7pm, outside West Ham Station - come along and say hello

Sat 13 May
STREET STALL - Green Street West, 11.15 to 12.30, St Stephens Parade, Green Street, E7 8LQ. Contact Hanif
Forest Gate North, 10.45 for 11am start, Coffee7, 10 Sebert Road, E7 0NQ contact John 07432 150 530
Plaistow North, 11am, Plaistow Station. Contact Daniel or Mehmood
Plaistow South, 11am, Plaistow Library, North St, E13 9HL. Contact Neil
Forest Gate South, 11.30am, The Gate Library 2-6 Woodgrange Road E7 0QH. Contact Winston or Mas.
ILFORD NORTH - meeting 1.15pm at Stratford stn or in Ilford North at 2pm
Stratford and New Town, 4pm, West Ham Labour HQ, 306 High Street, E15 1AJ. Contact: Karl.

Sun 14 May
Custom House, 11.30am, Custom House Library, Prince Regents Lane, E16 3JJ. Contact: Rokhsana or Momodou
Forest Gate North, 2pm, Hibiscus centre, Buckingham Road, E15 1SP contact John 07432 150 530

Tues 16 May
Forest Gate North, Coffee7, 6pm 10 Sebert Road, E7 0NQ contact John 07432 150 530
Plaistow South, 6pm, NewVIC, Prince Regent Ln, E13 8SG, Contact Neil
Custom House, 6.30pm, outside Nisa Local, 53 Freemasons Rd, E16 3PJ. Contact: Rokhsana  or Momodou (Custom House DLR stn closed, use Royal Victoria DLR a 7 min walk)

Weds 17 May
Canning Town South, 6.30pm, corner of Chandler Avenue/Alexandra Rd E16 4AA. Contact Alan.

Sat 20 May
Custom House, 11.30am, Custom House Library, Prince Regents Lane, E16 3JJ. Contact: Rokhsana or Momodou

PHONE CANVASSING - 4pm to 8pm weekdays at Labour HQ, Ergon House, Horseferry Rd, SW1P 2AL

Polling Day - let us know if you can help - there will be loads to do from 5am (yes!) leaflets to deliver in Ilford North to help here in West Ham

Leaflets - please let me know (if you haven't already) if you would be happy to deliver leaflets (and I'll pass your details onto you ward organiser). Leaflets should be available next week...

Thanks again everyone. Look forward to seeing you over the next 4 weeks.

Best wishes

Julianne Marriott
Vice Chair (Campaigns and Comms) West Ham CLP  @westhamlabour  f westhamlabour  w

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Re-electing Lyn Brown in Green Street & Forest Gate

College is from Sundays morning canvass in Green Street West and the afternoon session in Forest Gate North. Our Parliamentary candidate, Lyn Brown, was there to support us with Cara, her famous Yorkshire terrier Labour attack dog.

We first met outside the new East Shopping centre. There was enough activists for 3 separate canvass teams. It was good to see a number of young people participating. Elsewhere, West Ham Labour Party members were campaigning at Ilford North, Croydon and Westminster North.  .

We went to Ferndale Road and along St Georges Avenue E7.  What was interesting (to me) is that most of these terrace houses had a gargoyle (or Grotesque) just below the roof. It appears to be a medieval King's head with a beard and crown. No-one knew why they were there or who it was supposed to be but thought it was probably intended to be an image of St George.

There was very strong Labour support and goodwill towards Lyn. The issues I came across on the doorstep were largely local. Litter, fly tipping, anti-social behaviour, suggestion of knocking down underused garages to build homes.  The session finished with an "off the cuff" general discussion on the street with Lyn, local residents and ward councillors on how to improve the area.

Afterwards I had to go home and print off canvass sheets for the afternoon canvass in Forest Gate. Again, other West Ham activists were at the marginal seats.

This was another successful doorknock in a solid Labour area but this time more challenging questions and comments about national issues.  We had to send people back to look for Lyn who was often tied up in friendly but intense debates on Labour policies and priorities.

It was good to see new members turn up who have never been canvassing before. What you do is you pair new canvassers with more experienced ones until they feel comfortable to knock on doors by themselves. At this point in the campaign the aim is to identify the Labour vote and encourage them to vote in the election. On the canvass sheet residents, who are also Labour Party members are identified and it is simply astonishing how many members there are now.

Top team canvasser again was Stuart who "persuaded" (compliance unit please be aware) 10 households to take a "re-elect Lyn Brown" poster to put on their window.

After the canvass we went for a relaxing outdoor drink (and food)  in "The Avenue".

Hat tip to photos stolen from twitter and Facebook. 

Monday, May 08, 2017

One Housing Group suspends rent rises for West Ham key workers

Good news that One Housing Group has agreed to suspend the imposition of up to 40% rent rises and new contracts on a key workers scheme near West Ham station. Well done for the tenants for standing up for themselves and for One Housing Group for (belatedly) putting the changes on hold pending negotiations with their tenant association.

I am meeting OHG as a Newham Councillor on Wednesday lunchtime. 

Sunday, May 07, 2017

West Hammers at Home and Away (Ilford North)

Picture collage from yesterday's (Saturday) Labour campaigning in West Ham and Ilford North. In the morning we had street stalls in in Forest Gate and Canning Town, as well as canvass teams in Plaistow North, Plaistow South and Custom House.

Our West Ham Labour Parliamentary candidate,  Lyn Brown, was there to support the stalls and canvass teams.

I helped organise the Forest Gate stall. We handing out balloons and leaflets on Labour Housing plans for real "affordable" homes to rent or buy. This is a key issue in West Ham where property prices and rents are ridiculously high and completely unaffordable.

We need to get the message out that the Labour Party commits to building one million houses (half Council homes), controlling rent rises and regulating all landlords if elected.

The stall went well as you can expect in such a strong Labour area even though there was a couple of people who thought that shouting insults as they walked by constituted political debate. The best response to this is to politely thank them for expressing their views.

In the afternoon a number of West Hammers with Lyn Brown went to canvass in the marginal Ilford North. Others went to Westminster North and Croydon.

By coincidence my West Ham team was sent to Fulwell Avenue in Barkingside. My wife, Gill, is a Barkingside girl, born and bred, who was brought up in Fullwell Avenue. I can remember this area then being strongly Jewish, many of whom had originally moved here from Tower Hamlets and Newham. Now the Jewish diaspora has inpart moved on and been replaced by a new wave of East End immigration.

There was very strong Labour and local support for our candidate, Wes Streeting. Residents who admitted they were not natural Labour voters, agreed that Wes had done a good job as their MP and they would be supporting him.

At the end of the canvass (warning this is a long up and then down route) we enjoyed ice creams and lolly ices (see photo "Fulwell News").  Result!

(hat tip to JM and various folk I have stolen copy & photos from)