Saturday, September 30, 2017

West Ham CLP Events & Campaign Grid (updated 3.10.17)

Campaign & Events Grid

Saturday 30/9/17 @11am Royal Oak, Hale End Road IG8 9LN, Canvass, Alan Griffiths lead, West Ham CLP Secretary, Chingford Marginal

(It’s a Labour National Campaign Day!)

Saturday 30.9.17 @ 11-2pm Bobby Moore Statue, Central Park Rd, Boleyn, E61PW Bike from Boleyn Veronica Oakeshott

Saturday 30.9.17 11.15am, ATL Café, 125 Plaistow Road, E15 3ET. Canvass. David Christie & John Whitworth, West Ham

Saturday 30.09.17, 11am, New VIC, Prince Regent Lane, E13 8SG, canvass, Neil Wilson, Plaistow South

Sunday 1.10.17 1pm, Queens road West Community Centre, E13 0PE, Door knocking session,
Daniel: Mehmood Mirza email Plaistow North #Note change of meeting time from 12-1pm

Tuesday 3.10.17; Social Media project; 8pm; West Ham HQ 306 High Street, E15 1AJ;; CLP; Facebook adverts for “hard to get into” blocks pilot

Wednesday 4.10.17, 2.45pmPortway Primary School, Station Rd entrance E13 0JW; School gates leaflets; Please email if attending

Wednesday 4.10.17, 6.45/7pm Women’s Forum; Check out Women Forum survey; West Ham HQ 306 High Street, E15 1AJ; Meeting;; propose policy ideas and commitments to the Newham Labour Mayoral candidate and Labour Councillor candidates

Thursday 5.10.17 6-7pm. Training for prospective Councillor candidate interviewsWest Ham HQ 306 High Street, E15 1AJ. Cllr; Cllr

Saturday 7.10.17 @11.30 am; FG Rail Station E7; Canvassing and calling on existing members; Rachel Tripp;; Forest Gate North

Saturday 7.10.17 Newham Cllr interviews; Region

Sunday  8/10/17 Newham Cllr interviews; Region

Saturday 7/10/17; 11am; Custom House Library, E16 3JJ; Canvassing; Rokhsana Fiaz or Najma Saher: Custom House; (Custom House DLR stn closed, use Royal Victoria DLR a 7 min walk)

Saturday 07/10/17 @11.30am; Sainsbury's Local, 165-167 Romford Road, E15 4JF; Canvassing;
Joel Ainsworth,; Forest Gate South; contact Mas Patel or Joel Ainsworth on

Sunday 8/10/17 2-4 pm NewVic, Prince Regent Lane, E13 8SG, canvass, Neil Wilson, Plaistow South

Monday 9.10.17 @7pm; West Ham HQ 306 High Street, E15 1AJ; Branch Officer Training; Carel Buxton & John Whitworth; CLP; For Branch/Forum Chairs, Vice Chairs, Secretary, Treasurer & Social Secretary

Tuesday 10/10/17; 6.45/7pm; Women’s forum; West Ham HQ 306 High Street, E15 1AJ; meeting;; Newham Labour Manifesto. This is an opportunity to review our agreed policy commitments on domestic violence, breast screening and ESOL services

Thursday 12.10.17 6-7pm & 7-8pm. Training for prospective Councillor candidate interviewsWest Ham HQ 306 High Street, E15 1AJ. Cllr; Cllr

Wednesday 18 October 2017 6-7.30pm Lord Lister Medical Centre, 121 Woodgrange Rd, London E7 0EP, canvass, (Gun crime incidents) Cllr Seyi Akiwowo

Saturday 21st October; 11.30am; FG Station, E7 0NF; Street Stall; Carel Buxton;; Forest Gate North

Sunday 22 October; 11am; Stratford Station (Westfield entrance); Political Education & Social; Daniel Blaney and ; CLP (Everyone is welcome including friends and family.) London Docklands Museum visit E14 4AL. either bike or tube.

Sunday 22 October; 11am; Nisa Local, 53 Freemasons Rd, E16 3PJ; Canvass; or Najma Saher: Custom House; (Custom House DLR stn closed, use Royal Victoria DLR a 7 min walk)

Monday 23/10/17; Evening; Details to follow. Newham Labour Group Fundraising;

Saturday 28th October; 10.30am; Tesco Express, Stratford High Street, (E15 2NE); Canvassing and leafleting;; Stratford and New Town;

Friday 3rd November; 7pm; TBC; Social Evening; C.Buxton;; Forest Gate North

Saturday 11th November; 11.30; FG Station E7 0NF; Canvassing and calling on existing members; Forest Gate North

Saturday 18th November; 11.30am; FG Rail Station E7 0NF; Canvassing and calling on existing members; R. Tripp;; Forest Gate North

Sunday 19th November; 11.30; Sainsbury’s Local, East Village, (E20 1DB); Canvassing and leafleting;; Stratford and New Town. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

West Ham CLP General Committee

I chaired this lively meeting tonight, during which our MP Lyn Brown gave her Parliamentary report and answered questions.

Please note that contrary to some certain suggestions by an attendee, that I was not carrying out catalogue poses during the course of the meeting, but thank you, as ever Comrade Marriott, for your very helpful comments. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

UNISON/TUC Lobby Parliament & Pay Rally Tuesday 17 October

"Lobby – the lobby of Parliament will take place from 2-6pm on Tuesday 17 October

Conservative MPs in England have been identified by the national TUC to target – based on the size of their majorities and/or supportive comments about public sector pay are as follows for the Greater London Region:

Zac Goldsmith – Richmond Park
Theresa Villiers – Chipping Barnet
Matthew Offord – Hendon
Justine Greening – Putney
Mike Freer – Finchley and Golders Green
Bob Blackman – Harrow East
Iain Duncan Smith – Chingford and Woodford Green

Members and branches in these constituencies should make arrangements to lobby these MPs, using the attached template should they wish.

Branches should lobby their local MP at Westminster but priority should be given to the target list above.

More information about the lobbying process on the day will be issued shortly and there will be further information publicity through Activist, UNISON’s website and branch circulars.
Rally in Parliament Square – This will take place in Parliament Square after the lobby of Parliament. The TUC have asked people to assemble from 6.30 with the rally taking place from 7-8pm.

Please advertise this event to your branches to ensure as high a turnout as possible. This is the best way to keep up the pressure on government. Dave Prentis is speaking at the rally.

SERTUC have organised a short march that starts at 5.30pm at Downing Street and joins the rally at Parliament Square.

Petition We have over 77,000 signatures on the Pay Up Now parliamentary petition but please continue to promote this members and the public signing the parliamentary petition as we need to hit the 100,000 target for it to be considered for debate in Parliament: 

Many branches have organised Pay Up Now! events in branches – if you have not held yours yet and need materials for this or the Lobby on 17 October, these are available online: 

House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Dear <insert name of MP>,
Public Sector Pay Cap
I am writing to you to request you meet with me on Tuesday 17 October between 2-4pm.  The Trade Union Congress is organising a lobby of MPs to discuss the Public Sector Pay Cap and I would like to meet with you, as my MP, to raise my concerns.

I am a Public Service worker, working as <insert job title> at <insert work place> I work in public services. I’m also a member of UNISON and I am deeply concerned about the impact of the Public Sector Pay Cap.

As you will know, public servants have been subject to a strict pay cap for the past seven years.  This has, in turn, meant that public sector wages have fallen significantly in real terms since 2010.  

Whilst the cost of living rose by 22% between 2010 and 2016, public sector pay rose by just 4.4% on average. These real terms pay cuts have come alongside significant job losses which have placed further stress and work upon the wider workforce. <insert your own examples/experiences here>
At the same time, the pay cap has also had a significant impact on recruitment and retention in many sectors, exacerbating the impact of job losses and putting further pressure on local services.

I know that there are many MPs from all parties who share my concerns about the ongoing squeeze on the public sector and on pay in particular. The time has come for politicians from all parties to come together in the national interest and end the pay cap once and for all.

There is still time for the Government to abolish the Public Sector Pay Cap and to act in the interests of the thousands of your constituents who are trade union members – and ultimately the interests of all workers, whether they are in a union or not.

With your support, we can end the pay cap and give a well-earned pay rise to those who work so hard for our communities.

I hope that I can meet with you in person on Tuesday 17 October to talk further about my concerns.  If you are unavailable at this date/time, can you let me know an alternative time when I can meet you at your constituency office or surgery?

Yours sincerely,


Phone number:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

OPINION: Fighting against destructive Brexit plan

"It’s been another terrible month for Theresa May’s dreadful and discordant government. They seem continually to be fighting amongst themselves and living in a Brexit fantasy. Surely, hardly anyone still thinks them capable of delivering a Brexit that works for the majority of people in this country.

Trade Secretary Liam Fox used to say he thought our exit deal would be, “one of the easiest in human history;” and Theresa May still thinks we can crash out of the EU without a deal, cutting off trade and business links and causing a disaster for our economy.

Their miscalculations make our government an international laughing stock.

Labour’s position remains clear: we’ll stay in the single market, at least for a transition period, to make sure our jobs, rights at work and living conditions aren’t undermined by Brexit.

Rather than trying to avert looming economic disaster, Theresa May has used the Parliamentary time since June to grab every shred of power she can, despite not winning a working majority in the election.

The new Bill she’s come up with takes many of the powers currently controlled by Brussels and give them straight to Tory ministers, rather than handing them to the people, through Parliament. It’s less “take back control:” more “give control to us.”

High rents, rising living costs and a lack of good jobs are already making life increasingly hard for the people of Newham. I’m fighting in Parliament to stop the Tories making things worse, with their destructive vision for Brexit".

West Ham MP Lyn Brown in this week's "Newham Recorder"

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech - watch live

A great and defining speech. Finally, a proper left response to the financial crash of 2008. #IwasThere

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Campaigning in Plaistow South & Running a Board

This canvass took place two Sundays ago. I "ran the board" for the team which means I gave out names and addresses to canvassers to go and call at then collate any information. I quite enjoy this from time to time since it is mentally challenging to control a team especially in a part of this ward that I have only canvassed once before a few years back.

However, it can get a little repetitive and I miss the face to face contact with people.

This area used to be a BNP stronghold but thankfully is now a strong Labour seat. We had two ward local councillors with us, Neil and Aleen, so they were able to pick up Council case work. There was one house where the owner was unhappy that the Council will not pick up and recycle glass during rubbish collections. So she had left all the bottles she had used in the last few years on her drive. There were "a lot" of bottles. I am not sure what Neil is going to do with that one?

There were a number of really pretty and well kept gardens in the area. A bizarre door entry system for a block of flats where the button to open the communal door (top right) was on the outside not the inside?

On way back I noticed a wonderful example of street art by Prince Regents Lane Post office (bottome right). 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

#Lab17 Thank you Southern Rail

This is something you don't hear that often. Or rather thank you to the Southern Rail workers in Brighton station who found my suitcase this morning that I had stupidly left behind on the train yesterday evening on route to Labour Party conference. 

Labour Party Conference 2017 #Lab17

I arrived last night in Brighton for conference and started badly by managing to leave my suitcase on the train. By the time I realised and ran back to the station (apologies for ignoring colleagues on the way) the train was on its way back to Bedford.  My conference credentials as a Labour Councillor had also not arrived in time so I had to queue at the conference office to get a replacement. 
This all meant I was late for the London Party reception and arrived in scruffy jeans and tee-shirt also missed the speeches by Mayor Sadiq Khan and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP. 

It was good to see Sadiq and other Labour Councillors, MPs and activists at the reception and catch up on the serious political issues of the day (aka gossip and rumour mongering). 

Afterwards we went for a meal and later drinks with fellow Newham activists. 

As usual I will try and post on conference fringes and speeches as and when.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sign. Share. Scrap. UNISON’s petition calling on the government to scrap the pay cap

UNISON’s petition calling on the government to scrap the pay cap is getting close to the 100,000-signature mark.
Over 73,000 people have signed the petition on the government website in less than two weeks; if it reaches the 100,000-mark the government will be under significant pressure to debate the issue and scrap the cap.
UNISON is aiming to reach 100,000 signatures by 1 October, when the Conservative Party conference starts.
You could help reach the magic number by sharing the petition with your friends and family, and of course signing it yourself if you haven’t already.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Trade Unions in Trump’s America: Many Threats, Some Opportunities

 Yesterday evening I attended a meeting of SERTUC International Committee at Congress House.

One of the guest speakers was Professor Iwan Morgan who gave an excellent presentation on Trumps America.

Click on page link to read here

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Former Olympic Stadium Stratford report by Cllr Conor McAuley to his ward

Councillor’s Report to Custom House Branch Labour Party September 2017.

Former Olympic Stadium Stratford

I have been approached by a few Party members concerned about the stories they have seen in the local press about the apparent loss of the £40 million Newham Council investment in the stadium, prior to West Ham United Football Club moving in.

Members have asked me how and why Council came to invest such a large sum of money in the stadium and is the money really lost?

There was extensive discussion prior to the Olympic Games in 2012, as to the future of the Stadium once the games were over. There were two extraordinary meetings of Newham Council in November 2011 and March 2012 at which this was discussed. (I was prevented from taking part in these debates as I was a member of the Olympic Delivery Authority’s Planning Committee and it was deemed that I might have a ‘prejudicial’ interest in the matter – so I took no part in the decision making).

Under the heading ‘Securing a Community and Regeneration Legacy for the Olympic Stadium’ members of the Council agreed to create a company ‘Newham Legacy Investments’ to which it would lend £40 million. This company would then enter into a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) with the Olympic Park Legacy Company for the purposes of managing the legacy of the Olympic Stadium and island site around the stadium. The £40 million would then be invested into this new partnership.

Outside of the Council there has been much debate as to why it was necessary to invest £40m into a stadium which would be used primarily by West Ham United, a wealthy Premiership football club owned by two multi millionaires.

The Mayor has argued ‘This is not just for a Premier League football club, this is for community benefit. If it was purely about the football club I could not justify doing this’.’We are not sacrificing anything for this. We are doing prudential borrowing but we cannot use this borrowing for anything else and it does not affect our borrowing capacity or what we can spend. It has no negative impact’.

He said.

"Of course this is not entirely true. We could have used the money to invest in other community priorities like social housing or refurbishing some of our now closed community centres (like the Upton Centre). Sir Robin was also quoted as saying; “even on the most disastrous figures, even if everything goes wrong we still make a profit on this. The risk is really, really minimal.”

So where is the money now?

It is shown in the Council’s recently published accounts as an ‘Impairment’ totalling £44.4m of a Long Term Debtor in one of the Council’s group undertaking, Newham Legacy Investments Ltd. 

‘These charges are subsequently written-off to the Capital Adjustment Account.’

The Mayor and one or two other councillors are arguing that an ‘impairment’ is not a ‘write off’ but they are contradicted by the very next line in the accounts which states that these charges are subsequently written off.

I am appalled not only by the loss itself but by the fact that we had to study the annual accounts to find this information.

Such a fanfare was made about the original investment, one might think that the Council was seeking to bury the loss.

It tends to remind me of the £4.3+ million lost in the Council’s investment in 2012 in the London Pleasure Gardens project that was supposed to animate the Silvertown Quays area south of the Royal Docks. The Council lost every penny of this investment and it even had to pay the winding up costs of the company.

As I understand it, Newham’s Overiew & Scrutiny Committee has never looked at this loss, so I doubt their commitment to look at the Stadium debacle,

The Council’s draft accounts will be discussed further at the Council’s Audit Board on 27 September. It could be a difficult meeting.

Frankly I believe the whole Stadium deal deserves a proper scrutiny by an independent agency. Perhaps Mayor Sadiq Khan can deliver this.

Cllr Conor McAuley


(John Gray - This is a huge issue also to my constituents - I posted sensible concerns about this issue by Cllr Rachel Tripp here"

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Newham Council Motion on slaughter in Myanmar

As reported here I was really pleased at this debate and the unanimous decision of full council to support.




That Newham Council,

- having regard to the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, 29 June 2016

• - having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

• - having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966,

• - having regard to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966,

- having regard to the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol thereto,

Having taken note of,

- The serious human rights abuse and violence against Rohingya communities and refugees by the Burmese military.

- The fact that the Rohingya continue to suffer from persecution, arbitrary detention, torture, forced displacement, abuse, and severe legal, economic, social and religious discrimination in Burma/Myanmar

- The arbitrary deprivation of their citizenship

- The impunity that continues to prevail in the cases of crimes and atrocities against them

- That over 150,000 Rohingyas remain in more than 80 internal displacement camps in Rakhine State, with limited access to humanitarian aid, while more than 100,000 others have fled by sea or land, often at the hands of human traffickers, to other countries over the past years; whereas many Rohingya refugees lost their lives in sinking boats or by being pushed back into the sea; whereas several thousands of Rohingyas are reportedly trapped in crowded wooden boats in inhuman conditions and urgent need of assistance in the region;

- That over one million Rohingyas live as refugees or migrants outside Burma/Myanmar; whereas Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Thailand are the countries to which the largest numbers of Rohingyas have fled; whereas many of them are not recognised and protected as refugees, live and work illegally with no documentation, and are victims of violence, exploitation, exclusion, marginalisation, and extreme poverty;

Calls upon the British government to,

1. Condemn in the strongest possible terms the recent attacks on the Rohingya by the Burmese military and the killing and forced displacement of thousands.

2. Reiterate its deepest concern about the plight of the Rohingya and call for regional and international mobilisation to provide them urgent assistance;

3. To expresses its deep concern about the continued anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence in Rakhine State and in other parts of Burma/Myanmar;

4. Call upon the government of Burma/Myanmar to put an immediate end to all forms of violence, persecution, arbitrary detention, torture, forced displacement, abuse and discrimination against the Rohingya;

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

REMINDER - Grenfell Tower: The anatomy of a disaster & the future of social housing in London - Newham Fabians 20 Sept 2017

REMINDER: Tom Copley, GLA lead on Housing speaking this Thursday 20 September 7-9pm at Eat 16 Cafe, St Luke's Community Centre, Canning Town, E16 1HN


1. Welcome & introductions

2. Talk: Grenfell Tower & the future of social housing policy with guest speaker Tom Copley AM, Assembly Member and Labour Housing Spokesperson at the GLA

3. Audit Report

4. West Ham CLP GC delegate election- Those wishing to stand should email the secretary at least seven days before the meeting. As per our constitution these names will also be sent to the national Fabian Society. We are still waiting to be affiliated with East Ham CLP after which we will be able to elect a delegate for East Ham.

5. AOB & Date of Next Meeting

Monday, September 18, 2017

Newham Council Motion on Antisemitism (passed tonight)

I was really pleased that this (amended) motion was passed at the Newham Council meeting on Monday. I spoke in favour as did (pictures) Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, Cllr Neil Wilson, Cllr Anamul Islam, Cllr Clive Furness & the Mayor Robin Wales.

There also was an excellent motion on the slaughter in  Rohingya & other minorities in Myanmar which I will post. Also passed unanimously.

"This Council expresses alarm at the rise in antisemitism in recent years across the UK. This includes incidents when criticism of Israel has been expressed using anti-Semitic tropes. Criticism of Israel can be legitimate, but not if it employs the tropes and imagery of antisemitism.

This Council therefore welcomes the UK Government’s announcement on December 11th 2016 that it will adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, making Britain one of the first countries in the world to adopt it. This definition has also been adopted by the Labour Party and featured in the Labour Party’s Race and Faith Manifesto (page 12) published during the 2017 General Election. The IHRA definition defines antisemitism as thus:

This Council notes that:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries). Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.

Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

This Council welcomes support within the Council for combating antisemitism in all its manifestations.

This Council hereby resolves to adopt the above definition of antisemitism as set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and pledges to combat this pernicious form of racism through awareness raising and education; and through engagement with the range of Jewish opinion on how best to address antisemitism in addition with all communities that live in Newham.

This Council also condemns all forms of racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia and sexism and we commit to fighting against them".

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"The Stadium Loan" and Questions to Council Meeting

See below today's blog post by Newham Council Cabinet member, Cllr Rachel Tripp, on the controversy regarding the "The Stadium loan". Also, my questions on this subject that have been sent to the Newham Full Council meeting being held tomorrow. 

"Rachel writes…Introduction

I want to write a blog post here about the Olympic stadium, because I want residents in Forest Gate North to be able to have one place where they could read the facts, and to know how they are being represented, all laid out clearly in one place.

Without wanting to sound worthy, I’m also writing this because it’s so important for public bodies and the people who work in them to be transparent. I am a cabinet member at Newham, and I take that seriously, but I am also one of your elected representatives in Forest Gate North, and I don’t feel I would be doing my job properly if I wasn’t always trying to be open, even when the topics are challenging and feelings run high.


Last week (Thursday 7th September) there was a cabinet meeting at 5pm. That afternoon before the meeting, I read on social media that the £40m loan that the Council made to the Olympic stadium had been ‘written off’ and that this formed part of that cabinet report and was being decided that evening.

I assumed that this must be in the agenda item Medium Term Financial Strategy, a report which is regularly updated and sent to Councillors. This report gives a commentary and information about where the Council’s finances are.

But in fact the report that contains the reference to the stadium loan is not one that was on the agenda for that evening. It is in the Draft Statement of Accounts 2016-17, which is due to go to the next Investment and Accounts Committee later this month. The draft statement of accounts which contains the reference is here.

The bit of this report that is particularly relevant is on page 12 which reads, ‘Impairment totalling £44.4m of a Long Term Debtor in one of the Council’s group undertaking, Newham Legacy Investments Ltd. These charges are subsequently written-off to the Capital Adjustment Account (Note 26)’

I was extremely concerned when I read this, as were many other residents. This was the first time I had seen this kind of assumption made about the Olympic stadium loan.

The Council’s statements

The Council has subsequently released a statement which I will reproduce in full here, saying:

“The council’s draft accounts for 2016/17 were first published on our website on 3 July and were then open to the normal period of public scrutiny until 11 August. These draft accounts are currently with our auditors for their review. The finalised accounts are due to be considered at a scheduled meeting of our Investment and Accounts Committee on 20 September.

“Our draft accounts, which are subject to change and approval, show a prudent, responsible and regulatory compliant treatment of a Council loan related to the London Stadium. The loan is shown, for accounting purposes, as currently ‘impaired’, or damaged, due to the current financial performance of the Stadium. It is not a write off of the loan.

“The financial performance of the Stadium in its first full year of transformed operation is a matter of public record and it was widely anticipated that the first full year of trading would be particularly challenging. Newham Council is working with the Greater London Authority, the London Legacy Development Corporation and our other Stadium partners on a range of options to improve the financial performance of the Stadium. The future value of our loan, and its treatment in our accounts, is directly linked to that future performance.”

end of statement

Other information given to journalists said:

1. The £40m loan is a repayable one over 40 years.

2. The Mayor of London has commissioned an independent review into the London Stadium and that to inform this work, all partners in the stadium are looking at options to improve commercial performance.

3. There has been a successful summer programme in the stadium, including three major concerts and World Championship Athletics and Para Athletics.

4. Newham residents have enjoyed benefits as a result of the council’s investment in the form of ticket giveaways. This includes 5,000 free tickets to West Ham United’s Carrbao Cup game on 19 September against Bolton Wanderers. These tickets are being issued to residents through community neighbourhoods, community groups, a ticket ballot, and to volunteers and staff.

Other information

I have subsequently also been told that:

– impairment is an accounting term and is not a write-off. If a substantial loan were to be written off, it would come to Mayoral Proceedings, which is a public meeting with a paper.

– there is a precedent for this, as during the financial crisis, loans made by Newham to Icelandic banks were ‘impaired’ by 100% but were subsequently revalued as the position changed, and were paid off.

– there are commercial negotiations ongoing which are currently confidential, and more information will be released as soon as an agreement is reached.

What happens next

This information takes us up to now. So I also wanted to set out clearly here what I think should happen next.

Firstly, I’m surprised that this is the first we’ve heard that there was doubt about the value of the loan. Although I have heard various conversations about the profitability of the stadium, and ways in which this could be improved (the costs attached to moving the seat going is a relatively well known barrier to making money, just for example), previously the information about the loan has been what a good deal the Council has.

To summarise my understanding of this, we borrowed the money at a relatively low rate of interest, and have loaned it to the Stadium who pay us a commercial (higher) rate of interest. This means that we get back: the original investment, the difference in the two interest rates, the community benefits (community days, free tickets for residents) and also 30% of the profits in perpetuity. Although this loan has been controversial, I have always been assured that the terms of the deal were beneficial to us.

Secondly, I mentioned transparency above, and I think transparency is even more important when the topic is controversial. The impression given here, rightly or wrongly, is that the information has been hidden, and I think this is a great shame. I’m surprised that there wasn’t more explanatory text in the accounts document, and am even more surprised that the term ‘written off’ was used without anyone realising that if the accounts use these words, then residents reading it may – not unreasonably! – not understand the financial term ‘impairment’ and assume that the loan has indeed been written off. So I think we need more public information (where it’s possible to publish it, and recognising that commercial negotiations do sometimes need to be confidential for reasons that are entirely right) so that financial decisions and changes to financial circumstances can be not just published, but explained and understood.

Thirdly, I need to learn more about the loan, which increasingly appears not to be a loan at all but more akin to an equity share, despite having been consistently referred to as a loan. Apparently, the difference this makes includes the terms under which the interest is payable. Generally on a loan the interest is payable whatever happens. With our loan/equity share, I understand that interest payments are only made once the stadium is profitable.

Other considerations

For fairness, there are a few other things I need to point out which are points that have been made to me.

The investment that Newham made in the stadium was key in ensuring that it would become a multi-use venue in its own right, and not fail after the Olympics. Having a venue like this in Newham, bringing sporting and musical and other events into Newham, is really important to the borough and very positive in terms of employment, place-making, sporting opportunities, visitors, and much more.

Although no one else has made this connection, I also keep remembering the O2, which started life as the entirely ill-fated Millennium Dome, referred to with seeming certainty as a white elephant, but now reimagined as a thriving music venue. Obviously I understand that the analogy is not perfect, but it does show what can be done.

Also, I think it’s worth re-emphasising that since I have become a councillor in 2014, the Newham budget has been cut by around 30%. It’s difficult to overstate what an enormous impact this level of cuts has had on local government across the UK, and the signs of it are everywhere, from libraries closing (not in Newham, thankfully) to the increase in street homelessness. Local authorities are making commercial decisions and in many cases are making capital investments in order to secure longer term income so that they can continue to provide services.

The money invested in the stadium is capital investment not revenue, and was borrowed by LBN in order to invest. So while it’s still public money, and important to remind ourselves of the vulnerable people the Council has a duty to support, it’s not the case that, for example, ‘that £40m could have been spent on social care’. Also, the consultation that we held in the summer 2015 about makings savings was about cuts to our revenue, so this was absolutely not a consultation asking residents what they wanted to cut in order to fund the stadium.

I’m also reminded that previous investments the Council has made have been successful. The building at Dockside, for example, has risen in value significantly, whereas at the time the purchase of it was also controversial with strong feelings expressed against it in some cases.

Summary and conclusion

Overall for me the things that need to happen now can be summed up into: the ‘what’, the ‘how’ and the ‘what now’ . The ‘what’ being the money – when do we find out more, was it a good investment, can we be assured that the money comes back, what further information do we need? The ‘how’ being how this information was and is communicated, and the ‘what now’ being, well – obviously – what happens next.

The joint meeting of the Audit Committee and the Investment and Accounts committee (which approves the accounts) is due to take place on the 27th September. The Council’s statement above refers to the 20th, but this date has since been changed. I’ll attend it, and report back here as to what is discussed. This is the next important date, but it is not within this committee’s gift to ‘decide to write off’ the loan. The impairment is an accounting term which should reflect current financial values and assumptions, and should be a neutral not a political decision. It will nevertheless be interesting to listen to the discussion of the accounts, and find out more.

Along with all my colleagues, I will do my very best to get all the information I can, and will share whatever I’m able to. I have spoken to the Mayor already, and will do so again, and am going to sit down with my colleague Lester Hudson who is the political lead for Finance to talk to him. I should point out that although this blog post is mine (and I’m responsible for any errors in it) I am certainly not the only council member who wants to find out more. Here in Forest Gate North, we have a blog, and many of our residents are on social media, so it makes sense for me to share this here. Other councillors are doing the same things, but off line and in different ways.

As ever, I am happy to discuss any part of this, and will answer any questions that I’m able to. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I won’t release or leak confidential information but I will always be up front about what I am and am not able to share.

I really hope this post is useful".

Next my (John Gray) questions to Full Council
Stadium impairment & write off
Dear Kim (LBN Chief Executive)

This question is to Mayoral advisor on Finance Cllr Lester.

1. I am writing as a Newham Councillor about the “impairment” and “write off” of £44 million in (NLI) Newham Legacy Investments (page 12 in draft statement of accounts 2016/17).

I was very disturbed to have only found out about this while reading the accounts and that Councillors/Investments & Accounts were not told beforehand that there were any problems or issues with our investment in the NLI. Please explain why this was not done?

2. What is your opinion on our NLI investments and our potential liabilities? For example do we know how much money E20 Stadium LLP has lost this financial year, if so how much and what is the projection for year end. 

Have we made any other loans to the NLI or E20 stadium LLP ? If so what has happened to them. 

Including what has happened to our £5 million South Park investment and confirm that it has been invested in accordance with the report approved by the full Council.

Cllr John Gray

(hat tip picture Evening Standard)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

To Terror From London

nuf said. h/t Franzi & Lily Allen

Levada bashing in Madeira - Ribeiro Frio to Portela

Off message but recommend this marvellous recent summer holiday walk, 11k (4 hours-ish) alongside Madeiran Levadas (irrigation water channels) in stunning mountain countryside.

Madeira is an Atlantic Portuguese Island off the coast of Africa and a little bigger than Anglesey (north Wales) which gets a lot of rain in the mountains located in the north of the Island but most of its famed agriculture is in the south. So for hundreds of years they have been building thousands of miles of "Levadas" to bring the water across the mountains to where it is needed.

This is a great tourist opportunity since there is usually a pathway next to these Levadas and you can walk along them and enjoy spectacular scenery with little or no effort. since for water to flow the gradient has to be slight. However, since Levadas are cut alongside the side of mountains you can find yourself walking alongside sheer drops, which can be a little scary at times but there are generally fences on most (not all) of the really sheer drops.

Most of the Levadas are "linear walks" so you need to take a bus or taxi to the start and back again from the finish. Madeira has an excellent public bus network but is fragmented and has complicated timetables. However, most drivers speak good english and are very patient being used to disorganised foreign travellers.

Levada do Furado (Code PR10 Ribeiro Frio to Portela) is one of the oldest Levadas and described as a "Classic" walk. . We got to the start at via the HDF No. 56 bus from Funchal.  The bus was full but luckily they laid on another. A good reason for catching the bus at the beginning, behind the lower cable car station. The walk is fairly well sign posted but take a decent map and walking guidebook just in case.

It was a stunning walk with lots of shade and spots to stop and stare at the amazing scenery. There were not that many other walkers (maybe we were lucky) so there was a feeling of isolation, peace and quiet. There was a few areas where you had to be a bit careful but if you take your time and have decent footwear you should be fine.

Lovely views (and ice cream) at end of walk in Portela.

The bus back was the SAM No. 53. The stop is obvious and opposite the Bar & Restaurant "Portela Vista". Nearly all buses start and finish in Funchal. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

UNISON Housing Associations Labour Link AGM with John Healey MP

I am very pleased that John Healey MP, the Labour Party Shadow Minister for Housing & Planning has agreed to be our guest speaker at our branch Labour Link AGM at House of Commons on Wednesday 26 October 2017. 

Due to limited space invite & RSVP only. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Millionaires & Food banks

This evening I got a tweet from Barclays Wealth Managemen with this picture saying "Our latest #ProsperityMap finds that the UK millionaire population grew by 7.6% year-on-year, up to 625,000".

I replied "and 8% of UK adults don't have enough money for food. What a disgrace" and linked to this article below on UK food banks.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Newham response to Grenfell Fire

Last week at Forest Gate North Labour Party meeting the Newham Executive Advisor on Housing, Cllr Terry Paul, gave a briefing on the Council response so far which he is happy to share.

"The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower occurred on the 14 June 2017.

Since the fire, the Government/Dept for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) required Newham Council to test its tower blocks - Ferrier Point, Nicholls Point and Tanner Point, which contained Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding.

There are 115 flats in Ferrier Point and 56 flats in each of Nicholls and Tanner Points. Refurbishment works were carried out to Nicholls Point and Tanner Point in 2009 and to Ferrier Point in 2012. Each refurbishment included the installation of ACM cladding and stone wool insulation to the exterior of the blocks.

For the local perspective the tower blocks in Forest Gate -Capel, Jason Close, Field, Green, College and Forest- aren't ACM and therefore not at risk.
The Council submitted sample cladding for screening tests and was informed by DCLG on 2 August 2017 that the current combination of cladding and insulation at the three tower blocks failed the large-scale wall test, meaning that it did not adequately resist the spread of fire over the wall to the standard required by the current Building Regulations guidance. 

The DCLG’s Expert Panel’s advice was that wall systems with these materials therefore present a significant fire hazard on buildings over 18. The suite of tests were completed on 25 August 2017 and identified a number of wall system combinations which passed the testing process. 
The next step is to phase the works for the three tower blocks into:

site investigations and welfare set up, approximately 1 month duration (investigations for de-cladding, gas services, duct work and scaffold design)
• block de-risking, approximately 6 months duration (scaffold erection, de-cladding, duct cleaning)
• re-cladding to the 3 blocks as part of a new fire-proof system, approximately 6 months duration.
Pending commencement of this significant programme of works, the Council has already implemented the DCLG recommended interim measures at the three tower blocks. All fire risk assessments are up to date and under six months old and extensive consultation and fire safety auditing has been undertaken with the London Fire Brigade to assess mitigation measures. Mitigating actions across the blocks now include:

• 24 hour wakeful watch
• Temporary fire alarm systems
• Car parks around the blocks have been closed 
• increased waste collections
• changes to fire evacuation procedures
• personal evacuation plans have been carried out for all vulnerable residents
• housing staff are based on site every day including weekends to deal with residents enquiries

RMS have completed extensive repair and remedial works. 
The ongoing weekly cost of the above mitigating actions is approximately £90,000 for the three tower blocks, arising primarily from the contract staffing of the 24 hour wakeful watch.

Next Steps

1, Continue to follow the principles of resident safety, openness and transparency 

2, Complete the planning and procurement process for Ferrier, Nichols and Tanner points.

3, Focus on Fire Safety in Newham's housing stock and prepare for the ramifications from the Grenfell Fire report.

4, Keep residents and party members informed of ongoing developments

Terry Paul,
Councillor and Lead Member for Housing

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Thanking Barney & Louise

A newsletter is going out tomorrow to all UNISON members in my employer thanking national organisers, Barney Wakefield and Louise Baldock for all their support during the past 12 months. They have done a fantastic job supporting me as Convenor, other reps as well as members up and down the country. 

Good luck and once again many thanks. 

We hope you enjoyed the fish!

Monday, September 11, 2017

#TUC17 Motion 3 - Building a new housing consensus

(Speech on Motion 3 Building a new housing consensus)

Congress. President.

Conroy Lawrence, UNISON, moving motion 3.

Congress. I work at Lewisham Hospital in London.

Like all of you, I see members struggling with impossible choices at the end of the month before pay day.

And at the root of those choices is often the cost of their housing. Crippling costs that drive choices where to work and live. Often far away from their communities and families.

Whether to start a family or not and other major life choices are often sadly influenced by the cost of housing.

Congress, for far too long, housing has been the political dog that did not bark. The general election this year 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 one and a half million fewer homes available for a rent, that people on low incomes can afford. Less than there were 38 years ago - and the population has grown dramatically since.

As a Londoner I can see that 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.

Congress, 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% at most?

On London we surveyed our members on housing cost.

And I should say first that these statistics probably hold true in many parts of the country, whether city or countryside. I know from my UNISON colleagues that one of the biggest mismatches between local wages and house prices is in the south west of England.

In London over 1000 public service workers told us this:

63% said housing costs means they are looking to move home or job.

87% of health workers in the private rented sector said they were looking for somewhere new to live and work.

24% said they were struggling to manage.

This rose 65% struggling if they were tenants of a housing association.

Two thirds of all responders said they were spending over a third of their income on housing in London.

Congress, wherever you are from, we need our local workers have the chance to live near where they work and living in the communities they serve.

Congress, this motion provides the basis for the TUC 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 the right to a roof over our heads in the 21st century. Support the motion.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Trade Union Congress 2017 #TUC17

Now in Brighton for TUC annual conference. I will be trying as usual to post on speeches and fringes.

Congress started for UNISON with a delegation meeting at 3pm where we decided our policy on motions, agreed speakers and support for the General Council report and the TUC campaign plan 2017-18. 

The conference opened at 4pm with this years President, Mary Bousted, welcoming delegates and sororal/fraternal visitors. I was once on a panel at a Labour Party conference fringe on Pensions with Mary.

Congress then stood while obituaries of leading activists was displayed on the screen including that of the still sad loss of our former UNISON President (and my friend) Eric Roberts.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

UNISON Motion on low pay for Labour Conference

I have submitted this motion from my UNISON branch to West Ham Labour Party GC for this years conference. 

"Conference notes that CPIH inflation stands at 2.6%, according to ONS data released on August 15th.

Conference notes that this means public service workers are facing yet another year of real terms pay cuts thanks to the 1% public sector pay cap.

Conference further notes that public service workers stand to be an average of a further £1,700 a year worse off by 2020 if the Westminster pay cap is continued by the Conservative government.
Conference notes that whilst there is widespread public support for public services and those who provide them, the government have failed to end the public sector pay cap and deliver the meaningful pay rise all public service workers need and deserve. Services are already suffering from recruitment and retention problems.

Conference welcomes Labour’s commitment in the 2017 manifesto to end the public sector pay cap.

Conference believes that the pay cap must be scrapped – not just raised – but that more must be done to support public sector workers.

Conference believes that what is best for public servants and public services is a return to meaningful pay negotiation and bargaining across the public sector, with pay rises fully funded by the government and a return to pre-financial crisis levels of pay.

Conference resolves that Labour’s manifesto must commit to fully-funded, above-inflation pay rises across all public services, reversing the impact of the pay cap and restoring real-terms public sector pay to pre-financial crisis levels over the course of the next parliament".

UNISON picture caption of what you have lost due to pay cap if on £20,000 per year.  

Mentioned in Parliament - Cllr Seyi Akiwowo ...fighting back against online abuse

A lovely tribute in a maiden speech to Parliament by new Labour MP, Rosie Duffield, to Newham's youngest Councillor, Seyi Akiwowo, "who has endured, fought back against and now campaigns against the lowest form of racial abuse..."

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Michael's story: Work, pay and childcare.

Michael is a shift worker on minimum wage trying to care for his wife and kids. ""work to live not survive". Hat tip TUC

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

#Justice4Edson - Family Campaign Launch Thursday 7 September

Hat tip Rokhsana - "Friends please share widely & come!#Justice4Edson Family Campaign launch this coming Thursday 7th Sept in Forest Gate. Speakers to be announced in the next couple of days. 

Plus an account of what happened from ... Observer. Let's see what comes out at an inquest and other investigations underway. 

'It was one of Da Costa’s preferred starts to a night out – stewed chicken and rice in Calabash, the popular Caribbean restaurant near Stratford Broadway in east London. Plus he had found a new song – D-Block Europe’s Traphouse – and when the 25-year-old had a fresh tune he was even more uproarious than usual.

“He was rapping, joking that we’ve got to get to the studio. I was going crazy with the Traphouse, telling him the next time I’m not okaying that song in the car,” said his friend Jussara Gomes, 23.

Just after 10pm on 15 June they were heading east on Tollgate Road in Beckton when the Mercedes A-class driven by Gomes was pulled over by officers driving an unmarked police car outside the Woodcocks estate. Plainclothes officers asked Da Costa to leave the car.

Gomes could hear them chatting for several minutes before sensing what she described as the “atmosphere” abruptly changing. Leaving the car she found Da Costa, who was wearing a blue Ralph Lauren tracksuit, lying on the ground. She said: “Edson was already on the floor, five steps from the car, face down. Two of them are already holding him down. Edson was moving but not kicking out or anything.“

Gomes said it looked like Da Costa had something in his mouth. “He’s not releasing whatever he has in his mouth so [an officer] pepper sprays him from really close.” said Gomes, raising her index fingers two inches apart to show how far she thought the CS gas was sprayed from his face.

“At this point I’m going: ‘Why are you guys still pepper spraying him if he’s already on the floor? His face was on the floor because I saw scratches after.”

Gomes said that after Da Costa was sprayed, he stopped moving. “I was asking: ‘Why is he not moving? He’s not reacting, not moving.’ This is all I’ve said for five minutes. All of a sudden, foam started coming out of his mouth. That’s when they stopped holding him down.”

By now, other people from the estate had come to see what the pandemonium was about. One of the first on the scene was David O’Brien, who lives 10 yards from where Da Costa was being held. “My son had called to say there’s an incident happening outside and I went out to see three officers – two were on top of him, one was trying to get people away.”

David O’Brien, who witnessed the incident that preceded Edson da Costa’s death, at the place where it happened. Photograph: Antonio Olmos for the Observer
O’Brien said when he arrived at the scene, Da Costa seemed wholly passive. “There was no need for them to be on him, he wasn’t struggling, he wasn’t resisting arrest whatsoever.

“But he must have had difficulty breathing with the two officers on him, their weight crushing down on his chest and his face on the floor.”

O’Brien estimated that the officers might have been on top of Da Costa for up to 10 minutes. He said Da Costa then appeared to stop moving and for five or six minutes seemed “lifeless”.

O’Brien said he then began to fear for Da Costa’s safety and started screaming at the officers to get medical help immediately. “He wasn’t moving, I started shouting at the officers to call an ambulance.”

The witness said Da Costa’s condition seemed to deteriorate. “He wasn’t breathing. I was saying, ‘Call an ambulance.’ He had stopped breathing. Then they rolled him over and started trying to resuscitate him.” O’Brien believes it was too late. “They tried to resuscitate him for 10 minutes, but he was already dead. His chest wasn’t moving, he had stopped breathing. His chest was flat. He was totally lifeless. I watched him die in front of me. He died on the street, definitely. Everyone will tell you that.”

Student midwife Samiya, who lives next door to O’Brien, went outside after hearing a commotion. “I heard screams of: ‘Get off him, get off him, he’s not breathing.’ It was hysterical.”

Samiya, who managed to get extremely close, said that from her experience, it looked like Da Costa was dead. “His skin was grey, it had lost all its colour. He looked nothing like he does in his pictures.

“When I turned up they were giving [him] CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation], but he looked lifeless, like he was gone. They were giving CPR but he wasn’t responding.”

She saw paramedics still administering CPR to Da Costa in the ambulance.

Another neighbour, Lee Hulme, recalled hearing frenzied shouting outside between 10pm and 10.30pm. “A man was shouting: ‘You’re killing him, you’re killing him.’ That must been over the space of 10 to 15 minutes.”

Several witnesses also told the Observer how they were both mystified and repulsed that Da Costa had been undressed. “I couldn’t understand why he was butt naked. They had taken all his clothes off, socks, trainers, everything. There wasn’t a scrap of clothing on him,” said Samiya.

O’Brien added: “They took all his clothes, he was totally naked. They took away his dignity. Why would you take off a man’s trousers in front of all those people?” Hulme, who lives 30 yards from where Da Costa was arrested, said: “He was stark naked on the floor, naked and lifeless.”

Da Costa was taken to Newham general hospital but never recovered from his injuries. On 21 June, six days after being admitted to hospital, the father-of-one’s life support was turned off. He died in the presence of 70 family members and friends. On Friday, scores congregated for his funeral at Manor Park cemetery, three miles north of the street where some believe Da Costa, who hoped to set up a car refurbishing company, had actually died before being taken to hospital.'

Monday, September 04, 2017

West Ham "Sing Along" & Forest Gate North "Labor Day" BBQ's

Proving that politics is not just about campaigning, debating and organising (as vital as this is) but also occasionally about having a bit of fun. Picture above from last Thursday BBQ at West Ham Labour Branch in Vicarage Lane Community Centre. They even had a guitar player and sung "protest songs".

While yesterday, Forest Gate North had a "Labor Day" BBQ/Picnic in Wanstead Flats. Our West Ham MP, Lyn Brown (with Cara, her Labour attack dog) joined us and thankfully the rain held off. 

Of course the fun must stop and the hard work of winning the next General Election (happening sometime soon we hope) and the local Council elections next year restarts this week :- 

Campaigning in Canning Town South Canvassing with on Tuesday, 5th September at 18:30 outside Keir Hardie Church

While helping get rid of IDS in Chingford & Woodford Green Saturday, 9th September at 11am - Hatch Lane, Meeting on the corner of the Avenue and Castle Avenue, E4 9RF. (Highams Park station, bses 275, 212, W16, by Hale End Library)

More details to follow.