Friday, June 30, 2017

West Ham Labour "Thank You" Party 2017 General Election

Love this picture from last nights "thank you" Party in Eat16, St Lukes, Canning town hosted by our newly elected member of Parliament for West Ham, Lyn Brown (fantastic Chili from Lyn). Many thanks to Sarah Ruiz from East16 for the Veggie Chilli.

Great cake provided by top General election campaigner Muhammed Ravat

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fifteen minute care makeover hell

Watch this clip from Claire Sweeney's new exploitative '15 minute Makeover' show where a care worker has to get a vulnerable person ready for the day in, you guessed it, in just 15 minutes! Find out more

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Stop ripping us off: Financial Conduct Authority report on pension fund managers

Today Government regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)  issued a final report on the fund managers who manage our pensions and investment savings. 

My interpretation is that fund managers are making excess profits (a staggering 35% profit in sample companies examined). Incredibly these firms do not compete on price.

There is no real evidence that active managers outperform passive (or index) or that past performance is any guide to future performance. Except if you are a rubbish fund manager now you are likely to remain so in the future. 

I like this quote about so called closet trackers "The FCA estimates that there are around £109bn in ‘active' funds that closely mirror the market which are significantly more expensive than passive funds".
Paying more for expensive managers who promise the earth does not result in better returns on your money. 

The FCA diplomatically say there are "concerns" about pension fund consultants. 

Of course - none of these concerns apply to the fund managers, advisors and consultants on the pension funds I am involved with :)

By pure coincidence, I attended this afternoon, a really challenging but enjoyable "brain storming" with some pension officials on the future of Defined Benefits schemes, FCA report, governance, Law Commission report, cost charges and scheme consolidations. 

Check out Professional Pensions

"Shadow pensions minister Alex Cunningham says the FCA's final report on the asset management market is a turning point and urges the government to take action".

Saving for a pension and buying a fridge shouldn't be so different. You look at the performance information, compare the costs and decide which product you wish to buy.
Unfortunately, this isn't quite the case; no-one knows how much their pension costs, as the charges applied to it are opaque and complex, leaving room for high prices to be paid for a poorly performing pension. 
This could all be about to change today however, as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) publishes its final review of the asset management market. The recommendations in the report will impact upon the second-largest industry in the world, one which looks after nearly £7trn of our savings. 
This report could not come soon enough. For too long, serious questions have been asked about the value for money that investors - a group which includes all of those saving for a pension - are getting in return for stashing their savings into a pension pot.
As the FCA has recognised, pension charges are both extraordinarily high and desperately opaque. This market is alone in offering consumers such little information about the product that they are buying, either with regard to performance or in terms of cost. This has to change; in no other area of our lives would we buy something without knowing its price.
The FCA's recommendations very much chime with Labour's approach to transparency, hammered home during the debates on the Pensions Schemes Bill but dismissed by the government. It's not enough for someone to think all they're paying is the half or 1% on their statements.
A Labour government will implement the recommendations in full with particular attention paid to; strengthening the duty on fund managers to act in the best interests of investors; ensuring the disclosure of a single, all-in fee to investors; a consistent and standardised disclosure of costs and charges to institutional investors and the removal of barriers to pension scheme consolidation and pooling to drive efficiency and better returns.
In order to guarantee an open and competitive market, we will ensure that trustees are given the power to collect and report on all costs, that they are able to understand the full performance of their investments, and that can access and then report honest information to their savers.
Fund managers should be required to reveal all the costs associated with their activity, as we would expect in any consumer market. This will give trustees and savers the information necessary to compare and contrast cost and performance between managers, improving competition in the market.  
For those rolling their eyes at the idea of better regulation for this sector to protect savers, it is worth remembering that open and transparent cost regime will protect sponsoring employers too, who will be able to deliver the best possible pensions to their employees at less cost.
But will the government act? The last one failed to, and with a new secretary of state and pensions minister we shall have to wait and see if the promises made by their predecessors are fulfilled. For Labour, transparency in pensions saving is the foundation from which a new pension system can be constructed - one that works for the many savers, not just the few who are supposed to serve them.
Alex Cunningham is the shadow pensions minister and Labour MP for Stockton North

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Latest Newham’s response to Grenfell Towers

This is the latest media release from Newham Council (see below).

 I am still waiting for copies of the fire risk assessments for high rise blocks in my ward (West Ham) from the Council.

 I have also asked who is checking the fire risk assessments for high rise blocks controlled by Housing Associations and privately owned/leasehold blocks in Newham.

 We also need to think about cladding on schools, commercial office blocks and also low rise accommodation.

 By coincidence, last month during the General Election campaign, I was part of a West Ham Labour Party Canvass team, who knocked on every door in Ferrier Point. It appeared to me at the time to be in good condition internally with nothing really obviously wrong. I did not of course have any detailed risk assessments or other technical information on the block.

 As someone who has direct experience of managing high rise blocks and is a member of IOSH (Institute of Safety & Health) , trained in checking risk assessments, I have also had conversations with the lead Council Executive advisor for Newham Housing, Cllr Terry Paul and other officers.

I understand that the London Fire Brigade are satisfied so far with the control measures put in place by the Council in the 3 blocks identified so far with cladding that has failed safety tests. I am satisfied with what I know so far, but once the immediate crisis is over, we need to find out what went wrong and who is accountable.

 Yesterday evening I was at a meeting of West Ham One Housing Group TRA, where we had a really constructive debate on Grenfell and its aftermath. Tenants are really worried about the safety of their homes.

 The one and only positive thing about this is the way that ordinary working class people across the country and beyond have rallied around the victims and their families.

 Check out this post here on Forest Gate North by local Councillor, Seyi Akiwowo, on Grenfell issues in her ward.

 (Newham media release 27/6/17)

"Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in West London, Newham Council is in the process of inspecting all tall buildings, prioritising those with cladding. There is no immediate risk to the safety of any of them that would lead to residents having to leave their homes.

 Last week, we sent a sample of the exterior cladding from Ferrier Point, Nicholls Point and Tanner Point for expert testing. Although the cladding failed the test over the weekend, the council has confirmed that the insulation material used in the cladding on your block was of higher quality to that used at Grenfell Tower as it is made of Rockwool which offers more fire protection.

 Because overall the samples of cladding failed the test, we have employed an external contractor who has been visiting all three blocks today to assess the removal of the cladding and how quickly this can be done.

This weekend, London Fire Brigade (LFB) along with Newham Council has carried out a full fire safety inspection of the three buildings and a sample of individual flats within the blocks. We have agreed a number of immediate actions which include:

· Extra security is in place in these three blocks 24 hours until further notice. This extra security will patrol the blocks every 20 minutes so they will be able to raise the alarm in the event of a fire
 · Clutter, including some personal possessions such as bicycles have been removed to safe storage.

All residents living in these blocks have been written to and visited wherever possible to outline the actions the council and LFB have taken. We have reassured the residents that these additional actions, along with safety measures that are already in place, including smoke alarms in every flat and high quality fire doors, means there is no immediate risk to safety and no need for people to leave their homes, unless otherwise notified.

 There are some additional matters we are addressing around the blocks, including vandalism, rough sleeping and issues such as smoking in stairwells and corridors. We have also reminded residents of the London Fire Brigade’s current safety advice following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Essential works will begin immediately to enhance fire safety with further upgrades taking place over the next few weeks, including dealing with the cladding.

We have thanked them for their patience and apologised for any inconvenience that future work may cause. We will keep them informed of all further developments.”

Monday, June 26, 2017

"Pension Costs and Charges" - UNISON National Delegate Conference 2017

I was tasked to speak on this motion 26 on behalf of the NEC at Conference last week but it did not receive sufficient prioritisation by branches and regions to be debated. 

Which is a shame since if we don't bring down the costs and charges of not only the Local Government Pension Scheme but all funded schemes and stop the rip offs then the future is bleak.

Next year. 

Anyway here is my speech. Hat tip Mr Meech.

"John Gary, NEC and Chair of the SGLC LGPS Forum

UNISON have been campaigning for the right to know what it is we are paying for the management of our money and finally the veil of hidden costs are being removed.

We made a significant breakthrough when we persuaded the Local Government Pension Scheme Advisory Board’s for England, Wales and Scotland to adopt a ‘Code of Cost Transparency’ and move toward the collection and analysis of all costs incurred by the 100 pension funds.

This is conference an amazing step forward for workers and our savings. There is only 1 other country in the world with that transparency of cost and that’s the Netherlands.

Last week we had the country’s largest fund manager and manager of the largest amount of LGPS assets. £30bn. Declare it is signing our code of cost transparency, Legal and General.

This means every worker that has Legal and General managing their pension fund can now legitimately ask for the same cost transparency.

In Britain people get a statement showing what they've invested during the year, the value of their fund a year ago and its value today. There is no attempt to strip out what has been gained in investment returns and what is then subtracted in charges, let alone what these various charges are for.

Without this information people can't evaluate whether their pension trustees of manager is doing their job.

It is not just individuals who need this information to select a decent pension fund. Thousands of smaller employers will soon have to provide pensions for their workers.

Most have little idea how to evaluate these complex charging structures, so could end up selecting inappropriate and expensive schemes, potentially leading to mis-selling accusations at a later state.

Pension charges are too high and too complex. If your car is serviced in a garage you get an itemised bill explaining what each charge is for, which part was replaced and what the labour charges are, all in pounds and pence. No one would quote the fee as a percentage of the value of your car, which would be meaningless. But this is what happens with pensions.

So £billions of our money leaks out of our funds and we are the losers, they are used to pay for the extravagant life styles of the city traders and fund managers.

This money is used to fund the Tory party – our money cutting our own throats. Conference everyone needs to pay attention to the trial of money that starts from our payroll.

The UK Government must be pushed by us to finally curb the worst mis-selling scandal in the history of British finance, greater than endowment mortgages, PPI, energy profiteering or even sub-prime mortgages.

I refer to the legalised theft of billions of pounds from citizens' pension funds through excessive charges, a scandal that has been going on for at least 20 years and has ensured a miserable retirement for millions of older people.

Please support the motion

Hat tip cartoon

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Christian Wolmar on London's zero emissions nirvana - can the new strategy really achieve that by 2050? 

In the week that the Mayor of London announced his new London Transport Strategy (out for consultation until the 2nd October – read more here), come join us for a discussion and debate with Transport expert Christian Wolmar to discuss the ambitious plans,  whether it can really be achieved plus implications for the Silvertown Tunnel scheme .

City Hall say’s the new draft transport strategy is not anti-car but it certainly aims to reduce the dominance of motor vehicles in London. The Mayor's aim for 2041 is for 80% of all trips in London to be made on foot, by cycle or using public transport – a figure that stands at 64% today.

It is a strategy big on ideas and big on numbers with clear themes: it’s trying to respond to a growing population and increasing congestion at a time when London's population is predicted to grow from 8.7 million today to an estimated 10.5 million in 25 years time. So the mayor wants to shift emphasis from vehicles to walking, cycling and public transport, using a ‘Healthy Streets Approach’ and cutting car journeys by three million a day.

Promoting the idea that London’s streets should be for active travel and social interaction, the new transport strategy aims to address the health impact of inactivity to encourage people to move around, plus reduce the reliance on car driving as a space-inefficient mode of transport which has made London’s streets some of the most congested in the world.

Cars have a huge impacts on Londoners – causing pollution, making streets unpleasant places to be and delaying public transport journeys. Car traffic is also overwhelmingly responsible for the greatest environmental challenges facing London, responsible for half of the main air pollutants including some of the pollutants that are most harmful to human health.

So come join us for an interesting session that will explore the ambitious plans, plus look at how the transport strategy sits with existing plans to expand transport infrastructure such as the Silvertown tunnel which will connect the Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks in Newham, which campaigners say will increase traffic levels, worsen the capital’s poor air quality and lead to further congestion - so how can that be squared?

Sign in desk opens at 4.45pm and the event starts at 5.00pm prompt.  
Please Register Here

Read More

Does the Mayor's transport strategy mark the end of car dominance in London? Read BBC's Transport Correspondent, Tom Edward's piece here.
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5.00pm on Sunday 30th July 2017

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

#UNDC "Why we need to build a new housing consensus for affordable and decent homes for all"

This is the speech I gave on Thursday on behalf of the NEC about  the Housing motion  put forward by London Region and my branch.


John Gray, Community NEC, speaking in favour of motion 36 as amended.  I happen also to be a housing officer for 24 years whose substantive post is to help manage a large estate in East London with 7 high rise tower blocks.

Conference, for far too long, housing has been the political dog that did not bark. 

The general election campaign changed the public debate in this country and showed that finally 38 years after the Tories began dismantling public housing - and denying millions of people their basic human right to a home – the tide of public opinion is turning.

Today there are 1,500,000 fewer homes available for a rent, that people on low incomes can afford, than there was 38 years ago - and the population has grown dramatically since.

 I can say that this is why families with children, the elderly and disabled end up being housed on the 18th floor of a tower block.

The scandal that surrounds the Grenfell House tragedy lies not just in the repeated failure of government to listen to and act on the advice they received but in the Conservative political mantra that regulation is ‘bad’.

The Tories 38 year strategy of dismantling public housing has been the biggest privatisation in this country’s history. The Right to Buy was misnamed from the start – it was a Right to a Discount – and 38 years on, we find that huge numbers of the homes that have been sold are now owned by private landlords, in one case the son of the Tory Minister that introduced the Right to Buy, and often in companies registered in tax havens.

And the Tories knew that caps to the local housing allowance would drive low income households out of central London – this is social cleansing – and if the Tories have their way, it is what will happen in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Newcastle too

In this parliament over £100bn will be spent paying housing benefit to private landlords and it won’t produce a single new home.

Conference, how can people afford to buy when house prices are rising at 5%, 6%, 7% a year and wages are growing at 1% or 2%?

Conference, this motion provides the basis for UNISON to play its role in ending the dismantling of public housing and beginning a new era of providing quality, safe council and housing association homes with good space standards at rents people can actually afford.

Please support this motion.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Court tells Government they cannot make Council Pensions funds be dependent on Boris Johnson Whims

In a victory for common sense the Courts have apparently thrown out the requirement that Council Pension funds have to invest according to the political whims of the UK Foreign office.

Who on earth  would want their pension being dependent on the judgement  of Boris Johnson?

Well done to Palestine Solidarity for funding this judicial review. This case also supports the view of UNISON that the existing EU law already requires Council pension funds should be invested in interests of beneficiaries and legally separate from employers and the government.

Professional Pensions The government has suffered a major defeat in the High Court after its rules on Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) investments were deemed unlawful.
The investment guidance, issued last September, requires LGPS funds to have policies on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues but also added they could not pursue policies contrary to central government foreign and defence policy.
The guidance said "pension policies to pursue boycotts, divestment and sanctions [BDS] against foreign nations and UK defence industries are inappropriate, other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the government" and funds could not "pursue policies that are contrary to UK foreign policy or UK defence policy".
The policy was particularly contentious as LGPS funds and campaigners said this limited their ability to take up ethical investment, particularly BDS action against companies operating in Israeli settlements in Palestine.
A bid was launched in the courts by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) to overturn the regulations via a judicial review, where it argued the government had acted outside of its powers, and it was "lacking in certainty".
It also cited Article 18.4 of the EU's directive on the Activities and Supervision of Institutions for Occupational Pension Provision (IORP), which states "member states shall not subject the investment decisions of an institution… to any kind of prior approval or systematic notification requirements".
However, in his judgment, issued today, the judge Sir Ross Cranston only agreed with the first argument, stating the minister for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Sajid Javid had "acted for an unauthorised purpose and therefore unlawfully".
His reasoning was the "guidance has singled out certain types of non-financial factors, concerned with foreign/defence… and stated that administering authorities cannot base investment decisions upon them. In doing this, I cannot see how the secretary of state has acted for a pensions' purpose".
He stated specifically that this guidance could preclude LGPS funds taking ESG factors into account even if there no "significant risk" of financial detriment or "no good reason" to believe members would object.
Cranston therefore granted a judicial review, meaning the government may have to rethink its approach to the rules if it wishes them to take effect.
PSC chair Hugh Lanning welcomed the ruling, and said local councils would be happy to be able to invest funds as they see fit.
"Today is a victory for Palestine, for local democracy, and for the rule of law," he said.
He added: "This ruling upholds the right of local councils and their pension funds to invest ethically without political interference from the government of the day."
A spokesperson for DCLG said the government would consider whether to appeal: "It is an important principle that foreign policy matters are for the UK Government to decide. We will consider the judgement and next steps."
Unison national officer for capital stewardship Colin Meech also welcomed the judgment, and called on the government to replace the guidance with the IORP directive.
"It was always preposterous to us that the LGPS funds had to invest in the best interests of UK foreign and defence policy," he said. 
"We have been telling various governments since 2007 that they must implement the EU IORP directive into the LGPS. The judge did not say that the directive did not apply to the LGPS and therefore we now hope that the current government dismantles the 2016 regulations and replaces it with article 18 of the directive.
"This will mean that the LGPS funds must invest in the best interests of scheme members, as all other pension schemes in the UK must do. The best interests of scheme members are aligned with all sponsoring employers in seeing that their pensions are delivered in the most efficient manner. For 10 years LGPS scheme members have been denied their statutory rights, this must be rectified."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Grenfell Tower Fire - London Hazards Centre

Hat tip Phil Lewis Chair of London Hazards & in today's UNISON NDC regional newsletter "London Calling".

"Here is some information I was able to get hold of

2009 – Lakanal House tower block catches fire killing 6 people. The local authority is prosecuted for lapses in fire safety. A review is promised by the Labour government after pressure from the Fire Protection Association (FPA).

2010 – Building Regulations Act is published, including provisions for fire safety. Conservatives win election, a review is promised by the new government after more pressure from the FPA and warnings that the BR act does not go far enough.

2013 – Boris Johnson overrules the ruling body of the London Fire Brigade and uses legal action to inflict £29m in cuts. Closing 10 fire stations, cutting firefighters by 552, losing 14 fire engines and cutting minimum staffing levels from 5 to 4. By the time he steps down as Mayor of London he inflicts a further £100m in cuts to £130m total and the loss of 7000 firefighters. Fire prevention measures carried out by the service drop by over 25%. When challenged by a committee on fire safety on how cutting the fire service would not increase deaths, Boris replies “get stuffed”.

2013 – All Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety and Rescue produces a report strongly recommending installation of fire suppression systems and sprinklers in 4000 tower blocks throughout Britain. The Grenfell residents action group publishes a report warning that their landlord is putting their safety at risk by restricting the access ways to their car park. They are ignored by their landlord.

2013 – 2016 Conservative housing ministers sit on All Party report without action, promising they are “looking at it”, including housing minister Gavin Barwell.

2016 – Conservatives vote against a Labour motion to make sure all landlords and housing associations ensure residences are fit for human occupation, including provisions for fire safety. The motion is denied by 312 votes to 219. 72 of the MP’s voting against are landlords. The Grenfell residents action group publish a report warning people will die in a fire before the landlord takes notice of their poor fire safety provisions. They are ignored by their landlord.

2017 – Ex housing minister Gavin Barwell becomes Prime Minister Theresa May’s chief of staff. He never actions the All Party Parliamentary report recommendations. Grenfell Tower is reduced to rubble with the deaths of at least 79+residents as a fire spreads through the building in 4 minutes. It has no fire suppression system or sprinklers. The stairwell is not adequate for a full building evacuation. The emergency lighting is missing from half of the floors. The fire service struggle to reach the building due to previous car park modifications causing access issues as warned by the resident action group in 2013.

Philip Lewis

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

UNISON National Delegate Conference 2017 - Tuesday

My Conference day started with a short jog up and down the famous Brighton beach. The weather was hot even at 7.30am.

At 8.30am we had our first UNISON NEC meeting to discuss and (hopefully) agree on any outstanding matters or policy positions.

Conference itself starts at 10am on its first day.  Firstly there is the "welcome to conference" speech by the Senior Vice President, Carol Sewell. She introduces all our international guest visitors.

Followed by Standing Order Committee (SOC) reports 1 and 2 (it is a long standing tradition at NDC to play reference back ping pong with SOC).

This is followed by a presentation and vote on our annual report and our year end financial statement. Our first motion of conference was 18 "Stepping up the campaign against bullying and harassment".

During lunch I went to the UNISON "There for You" AGM as a NEC member of the charities board of trustees. After lunch there was another round of ping pong and further motions debated including the 55 "UNISON and the WASPI campaign" about the rip of pensions by this government for many women.

Our General Secretary, Dave Prentis, gave a very powerful speech during which he thanked our emergency workers for all they had done in recent times and talked about the unexpected loss of his comrade, our President Eric Roberts.  After the speech I could see from the NEC platform a number of delegates wiping tears from their eyes and there was a (genuine) standing ovation by Conference.

In the afternoon there were more debates. Conference finished at 5pm. On the way back to my accommodation I was stopped and "persuaded" to go an excellent fringe on "Pensions and climate change".

Monday, June 19, 2017

UNISON National Delegate Conference 2017 - Monday Evening

Comrades together picture from this evening outside the Holiday Inn Hotel in Brighton after the UNISON London Region delegates meetings.

Our ace Regional Conveyor, Yvonne Green, is on my left with Housing Association branch delegate Mitsy on her left and Croydon delegate Kia, on my right.

Conference starts tomorrow morning and although I am here as UNISON NEC, I have been busy supporting my Housing Association Branch delegates with hotel bookings problems and getting ready to speak on our housing motion 36 which is high up on the "snake" (UNISON conference jargon. Don't ask it will blow your mind)

All four of our branch delegates are confidant and articulate black women workers who have spoken at previous conferences and I have no doubt, whatsoever, they will participate fully in the next few days.  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

John Gray's Father's Day

Lovely picture of my Dad, John Gray (left), my big Sister Helen, My little Sister Lucy, Me (John Gray) and our Grandfather, John Gray.

(and top of the head of "Muff" our daft but so loyal family boxer dog)

Great Newham Get Together - In Honour of Jo Cox

This afternoon I went to the Newham Woodcraft Kids Zone and Big Lunch Picnic in Wanstead Flats next to the Golden Fleece pub.

It was simply a fantastic community event. Loads of people from all over Forest Gate and Manor Park had come to participate, share food, meet their neighbours and also honour Jo Cox and all what she stood for.

Many, many thanks to Newham Woodcraft folk for doing all the hard work putting up the tents and organising the entertainment for the kids.

There is indeed more that we have in common that divides us.

Never forget. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Newham Council Response to High Rise Residents following Grenfell Fire

I have asked a UNISON colleague who is a very experienced Housing Surveyor to check on this advice and also asked the Council who is checking Housing Associations & privately managed high rise blocks' fire risk assessments.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Democracy in the Workplace: Newham Compass Tuesday 20 June

Shame this clashes with UNISON National Delegate Conference. I don't think I have met Scott but Janet is a very experienced and thoughtful trade union official and also chairs Trade Union Share Owners

Thursday, June 15, 2017

International Day of Dignity for Cleaners and Security staff #JusticeDay2017

Picture this evening from outside the front entrance of the British Trade Union Congress (TUC) headquarters in London of members of the SERTUC (South East Regional TUC) International Committee.

Today (June 15) is the International Day of Dignity for Cleaners and Security Staff. We were wearing yellow marigold glove on one hand to show solidarity with cleaners and holding keys with the other for security guards.

hat tip thingy to our top SERTUC International Committee Chair, Bob Archer (4th from left)

The Great Get Together Newham

All the events on one poster! Please share widely

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Grenfall Tower Fire - The shock and the horror but East Enders rally to help

Like everyone I was horrified at the news reports and pictures this morning at the fire and destruction of Grenfall Tower in Kensington.  I have been a housing officer in London for the past 25 years and have managed a number of similar high rise residential blocks, I was deeply shocked.

As a Unison trained Health & Safety representative (and member of IOSH)  I have been assured over the years, many, many times that such a thing could "never happen".

I am also a West Ham ward Councillor (London Borough of Newham) and this evening, I had by coincidence, my monthly surgery in the Tenants and Residents room in a 21 storey high rise and a concerned resident, who lived on the 14th floor, did come and ask me what is being done to reassure her and her family that they were safe. She asked if she needed some sort of ladder in her flat?

I have raised a member's enquiry asking for copies of all fire risk assessments for tower blocks in my ward. I have also offered to arrange joint inspections with residents, council officers and ward councillors of all our high rise blocks.

I also asked what has happened to our Newham Housing residents' scrutiny panel which has not met for a long time? Involving residents meaningfully in the management of their homes is crucial to ensuring their safety.

I did also speak tonight to Councillor Terry Paul, who is our Mayoral Advisor on Housing, who assured me that everything possible will be done to make sure our residents are safe and also keep them informed what is being done.

After the surgery, I went to the West Ham Labour Executive meeting in our HQ in Stratford. This evening (not now) our HQ was a base for local residents to drop off donations for Grenfall Tower Residents.

We had some people dropping off bags of donations.  Kay and her Mum, Mrs Brewer, (see above picture of them with Terry and Party member Karl Lewis) from Canning Town, who turned up with a car load of around 15 bags of donations. They explained that Canning Town had many tower blocks and local residents had been pleased to donate.

I dropped off the donations at Coffee7 in Forest Gate (see bottom picture). What a fantastic and generous community response!

Please check with the various charity organisers before dropping off any more donations at any locations.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

West Ham General Election day 2017 (we win)

June 8 was not only a political historic day nationally but a busy day locally for all activists. At 4.30am 10 members of West Ham Women's forum were in Ilford North to deliver the "don't forget to vote" leaflets as were other West Hammers in marginal seats around London and Essex.

In West Ham itself we encouraged members on this day to go to either Ilford North or Westminster North marginals although many went to other seats including Dagenham. We had leafleting at our local schools and railway stations and we asked supporters who could not go to marginals to stand outside our polling stations to hand out leaflets.

As the Parliamentary Agent I spent most of the day in West Ham picking up elderly and disabled residents in my car and taking them to the polling station or organising lifts via local activists. I have always found it fascinating to do this. Life long Labour supporters who despite often being in pain and discomfort insisting that they will do their democratic duty and vote for their Party.

The reaction as I drove around with my little UNISON Labour link flag on my car was extremely positive with lots of waves, beeping of horns and flashing of lights apart from one potty mouth yob who received a traditional anglo-saxon visual response.

We had been asked by London Labour Party to arrange for them to be updated on turnout figures at selected polling stations and from noon all "Lyn Brown campaign "or West Ham Labour phone enquiries were diverted to my mobile as everyone else went off to the key marginals.

I had quite a few calls including media enquiries and they were nearly all pretty fascinating. They were predominantly from residents who had never voted and had no idea what to do.  I was asked what happens in the polling station, how do they actually vote, if they could vote via their mobile phone, is their vote secret, do they have to make a cross or a number?

It began to be clear to me that a number of young and old residents who have never voted before were planning to vote.

In the evening I visited a number of West Ham polling stations with our candidate Lyn Brown. She had a fantastic reception in all of them and in some she was actually (I exaggerate slightly) "mobbed" by constituents giving thumbs up, wishing us luck, saying hello and wanting to have their photo taken with her.

In all the polling stations we visited it was clear from talking to Presiding officers that turnout was up. Something was clearly happening. What that was we obviously did not know for certain at that tme.

At 9.45pm I was at the Velodrome in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the Newham Count (West and East Ham).

I met up with our 13 West Ham Count Agents and after a briefing we took our places at our Count to "sample" our vote. I won't say more about this apart than it is really important to do this and find out where your local vote is weak or strong.

I was running around at 10PM but managed to see on the Communal TV the result of the BBC Exit poll that there would be a a hung Parliament, which put a huge smile on my face.

It was a long night. After the sampling was complete we still had to take part in the checking and adjudication process on whether certain ballot papers were properly filled out or not. Including those individuals who had drawn very obscene but usually somewhat amusing cartoons on their ballot papers.

The West Ham declaration was about 3.30am, Lyn was reelected with 46,591 votes, 77% of the electorate an 8.3% increase since 2015.

Afterwards many of us went to the Wanstead Tap bar to watch the results (and drink beer). I went home at about 6.30am feeling so happy but determined. There will rerun some time soon and as long as the Labour movement work together - we will win and form the next government. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

UNISON NDC 17: Havana Club Rum Reception

UNISON National Delegate conference take place next week. For some reason this rum reception is always well supported by delegates! 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Some facts and figures about 8 June

Hat tip to Dave Ratchford for the chart and figures below. Worth reflecting about I think. 

"Labour Share of Vote in recent elections

1983 206 seats 27.6% of the vote 8.4m
1987 229 seats 30.9% of the vote 10m
1992 271 seats 34.4% of the vote 11.5m
1997 418 seats 43.2% of the vote 13.5m
2001 413 seats 40.7% of the vote 10.7m
2005 355 seats 35.2% of the vote 9.5m
2010 258 seats 29 % of the vote  8.6m
2015 232 seats 30.4% of the vote  9.3m
2017 262 seats 40 % of the vote  12.87m

Dave calls the result "Not a win.  But pretty much a victory in my book on the way to winning that war". 

I must agree.

On the Andrew Marr show this morning it was amazing to see George Osborne sticking the knife into Theresa May calling her a "dead women walking". Jeremy Corbyn was interviewed and looked relaxed and confident (while Theresa May was according to Osborne being  "hidden away").

Tonight, speaking to my Mum on Facetime, she told me how proud she was that so many people had seen through the Tories and being brave to vote for Labour despite all the nasty and horrible media attacks.  If we unite, next time we will win.

I must agree (not only as a dutiful son)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Back to real life (but not for long)

As much as I enjoy campaigning, it is has been marvellous to spend a lazy Saturday morning without worrying about deadlines, printing off walks, knocking on doors and dealing with the inevitable problems and frustrations suffered by election agents of all parties in all 650 seats.

It was great to have the time off this afternoon to attend the 1st birthday party for my Great Niece, Teagan.

Of course, I could not resist some very subtle subliminal influencing when handing over her bag of pressies.

I will enjoy the rest but fully expect to be back on the General Election campaign trail again sometime soon. Bring it on.

Friday, June 09, 2017

West Ham General Election Result June 2017

Picture collage from our Count in the early hours of this morning. A fantastic result for team Lyn Brown. As Agent I was so proud of all our West Ham activists, who have tirelessly campaigned near and far for a Labour Government. Which of course we have not got (yet). 

Lyn has very "generously" given us 2 weeks off. Then back to the grind. Personally, I can't see this Tory/Ulster Unionists coalition lasting very long. 

I was post further on Election Day when I recover.

"West Ham Constituency:

Elected: Lyn Brown, Labour Party, 46,591

Others: Patrick Spencer, Conservative Party, 9,837; Michael Spracklin, Green Party, 957; Kayode Shedowo, Christian People
s Alliance, 353; Rosamund Beattie, UKIP, 1,134; Paul Reynolds, Liberal Democrats, 1,836.

The turnout was 65%. The total number of votes cast was 60,708. The number of ballot papers rejected was 161. Lyn Brown polled 36,754 votes more than her nearest rival".

I think that is 77% of the vote. How humbling is that.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Vote Labour Today - For the Many Not the Few

Polls close 10pm tonight

You do not need your polling card to vote. Just go to the polling station and give your name and address.

If you don't know where your polling station is click here

If you are a postal voter and have not yet voted you can take it to any polling station (in your Parliamentary seat area) and hand it in

If you can't find your postal vote or have filled it in wrongly you can get a new one by applying to your returning officer by 5pm today.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

"Theresa May's policing policy is based on a lie, says Labour's acting Shadow Home Secretary Lyn Brown"

Check out Mirror report "Lyn Brown has stepped in to replace Diane Abbott as acting Shadow Home Secretary - here's what she thinks of Theresa May's record on policing

The past two weeks have been traumatic, and the nation mourns for the victims of the despicable attacks in Manchester and London.
People are rightly concerned about whether the cuts to our police have increased our vulnerability to terror. But that is far from the only problem those cuts have caused.
The bottom line is that the Tory policy on policing is based on a lie: they have said it is okay that police funding has been cut because crime is falling. But that’s not true.
First of all, the latest data shows that violent crime, which includes offences that have the most devastating impact like homicide and knife crime, is increasing, as is credit card fraud.
And second, the type of crime is changing: it is more international, more online, and increasingly likely to involve vulnerable people, including children.

Crimes are more complex and so more costly to prevent and respond to than in the past.
But there’s another big reason why Tory complacency on policing is so wrong.
The horrible truth is that with such dramatic cuts across the whole of our public services, the police are having to pick up the pieces.
The official inspector for policing, Sir Tom Winsor, recently described police cars being called because ambulances weren’t available. People in the middle of a mental health crisis are being locked up in police cells because they simply wouldn’t be safe anywhere else.
It’s not hard to see that the job description for a policeman or woman in Britain has been stretched way beyond preventing crime.
Faced with these pressures, at the very least you would think that the government would have sought to prioritise the cash it does have to the places that need it most.
But that hasn’t happened either. Instead, they have just salami-sliced budgets year after year regardless of the differing needs in different parts of the country.
So much so that we’ve seen another lie – as recently as 18 months ago they said they would protect budgets after inflation. That hasn’t happened, and when individual police forces express concern the government just tells them to raise what they need through council tax, even though that is impossible in poorer parts of the country.
Overall, since 2010, under Theresa May, police numbers have been cut by 20,000.
It’s time for the Tory deceit to stop. Labour understands that to have a well-functioning police force it needs to be well-resourced.
We are committing to provide funding to the 43 forces across England and Wales to hire an extra 10,000 officers operating in community policing roles – equivalent to another bobby on the beat in every neighbourhood.
This will help our police services to be more effective in every respect, not only dealing with anti-social behaviour and complex criminal investigations, but creating more of the community relationships and intelligence that stop terror attacks in their tracks.
We’ll pay for this by reversing cuts to capital gains tax that only give money to those who are already well off.
We’ve had enough of the security of the many being put at risk so the pockets of the wealthy few can be filled with tax cuts. The truth of is that our police force needs better support and better funding. Only a Labour government will deliver it.

BBC Election poll tracker - Looking Close

Looking close. The real poll is tomorrow. Need to Get Our Vote Out!

What did you do in the 2017 Election?

Dear John

If you've got any time on Election Day to help Labour you're really needed in nearby marginals. Below are details for Ilford North (where we won in 2015 by 589 votes) and Westminster North. There's also info about leafleting in Stratford on Weds eve and an invitation to a social to watch the results come in...

Ilford North - Click here for info and to sign up to help in Ilford North (or go to 6 Aintree Crescent, Ilford, IG6 2HD, nr Fairlop stn)

Westminster North - Click here for info and to sign up to help in Westminster North (or go to 4G Shirland Mews, London W9 3DY)

And if you're really keen - Ilford North is asking for volunteers to deliver leaflets at 5.30am(click here)

Sunday Night Live, West Ham CLP and Newham Fabians invite members to a get together to watch the results come in on a big screen with snacks and political punditry. Email to apply (you must register to attend as places limited).

And last activity in West Ham before polling day - leafleting and chatting to voters in Stratford - Weds eve 5-7pm  Meet Karl there.

Thank you. Have a good election and hope to see you somewhere. And don't forget to vote!

Julianne Marriott
Vice Chair, West Ham Labour Party