Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Eve of Poll for Rokhsana Fiaz as Newham Labour Mayoral Candidate

I spent this evening alternating from delivering #NewhamRokhs leaflets in the freezing cold and snow to sitting in an over warm campaign office stuffing envelopes and attaching labels.

There was an absolutely fantastic effort by dozens of Labour Party members from all over Newham (East Ham and West Ham CLP) to sort and deliver our second leaflet to members.

The vote is supposed to start from tomorrow (Thursday 1 March). All members deemed eligible to vote should receive a letter from London Labour Party with instructions and code numbers on how to cast their vote on the internet. I must admit to have some personal concerns about eligibility & this internet process but lets see what happens.

Yesterday, there was in East Ham the first of two hustings. After a rather macho & at times unpleasant speech and Q&A by candidate, Robin Wales, who was making unnecessary & snide comments about his opponents. It is was a refreshing pleasure to hear Rokhsana explain her vision & answer questions openingly and starting with what "We" could achieve collaboratively if she was Mayor. Not the "Me", "Me" and more "Me" from her opponent.

The selection will finish on Friday 16 March.

Check out Rokhsana's website and Facebook

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The speech that never was - West Ham Ward Labour Councillor selections 2018

Since on Saturday I was affirmed by West Ham ward members as a Councillor candidate for May, I was not able to give my speech - so will blog it here instead :)

"My name is John Gray and I have lived in Newham for the last 30 years and have been honoured to be a Newham Councillor in West Ham ward since 2010.

· Even though I am seeking a 3rd term as your Councillor the reason why I am standing here today is that I want to be a change candidate in Newham for the next 4 years. While we have done many fine things as a council over the years, we desperately need fresh political leadership and a fresh approach.

· Not only at the top of the Council but also amongst backbench Councillors. The directly elected mayoral system gives such mayors huge powers and they must be held accountable by Councillors brave enough to stand up for their constituents, regardless of the consequences.

· For example, I have been a supporter of the London Living wage foundation since it was founded in 2001. It is completely unacceptable that we still have 17 years later, hundreds of workers employed as agency or in house contractors, providing Newham Council services on poverty pay. Doing often dirty, hard, manual labour for a measly £7.50 per hour, compared to the £10.20 per hour, the Living Wage Foundation thinks is the absolute minimum to live on in London. Not only do they have rubbish pay, but they are on insecure zero hour contracts, no pensions, no company sick pay. They are even forced to opt out of the working time regulations, so they can be even further exploited.

· We need proper financial checks and balances in place in Newham Council to stop the continuing financial governance problems such as the £530 million we have committed to 50-70 year toxic derivative LOBO loans and £60 million of Newham resident’s money wasted down the plug hole on the London Stadium.

· At the moment Newham Council officers are going up and down the country buying car parks, warehouses, shopping centres in order get money to try and offset government cuts in our grants to councils. I understand the need and lay blame with for the cuts where it lies – which is this thieving tory government but if we are going to borrow billions of £s, where are the checks and balance in place to make sure that this money is invested wisely?

· As a founder member of “Newham against Austerity” I want to support our Schools to remain in the Newham family of Schools and campaign against all education cuts.

· I want to bring back in-house the management of the many outsourced Council Services, stop the use of bailiffs by the Council against the poor and vulnerable and the Council to sign the Ethical Care Charter.

· We need to build decent homes at social rents not homes for private market rent.

· We desperately need better youth services to stop gang and knife killings, we also need accessible citizen advice provision across the borough.

· I work in social housing , a school governor, Pension and Charity trustee and UNISON trade union activist (and member of its National Executive Committee)

· I have been Lyn Brown MP Parliamentary agent for the last 3 General elections & Vice Chair campaigns of West Ham CLP.

· Please also support my Councillor colleague John Whitworth. We have worked together as a team to stop the 40% rent rises of housing association key workers and working with branch members, we persuaded the planning committee to tell the Ford Show room’s developers to get lost until they change their plans and provide far more social housing homes for rent. John and I have been leading the campaign in Newham to call Executive power to account and support Mayoral candidate, Rokhsana Fiaz, in her call for a referendum on the future of the directly elected mayoral system in Newham.

Thank you for your time and hope that I have earned your trust to be your candidate.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Rokhsana Fiaz Interview: On Newham's 'Unhealthy' Mayoral Model, Dog Whistle Politics And Diversity

'I'd be the first directly elected woman of colour' in the UK (hat tip Huffington Post by Paul Waugh)

Rokhsana Fiaz is an EastEnder, through and through.

Born in Mile End Hospital, she grew up in Newham and has lived there for most of her life. She worked in a local McDonalds, went to school and college not far from her current home.

No stranger to challenges throughout her career, she has now embarked on her biggest political task of all: replacing the UK’s longest serving Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, as the leader of the East End borough.

“I want to do it because I absolutely love Newham. It’s the place I obviously call home. I’ve grown up there, lived there all my life.”

Known as ‘Roks’ to her friends, she has been a councillor for Custom House ward for four years. But her frustration with the state of her local area – and of the council - has led her to seek the top job.

“My experience of local government leaves a lot to be desired, especially in Newham, where there’s a lot of ossified thinking,” she says.

Fiaz doesn’t directly name Wales, but she doesn’t need to. As the ‘change’ candidate in the Labour selection race, she makes clear her impatience with the status quo.

Since putting herself forward as the person to end Wales’ 23-year reign, the former media and charity worker is particularly sick of being told she lacks the ‘experience’ of her rival.

“This idea that you need someone with experience. You just have to sit there and question ‘OK, this experience of 23 years and £52m has just been squandered [on the London Stadium]’, I’m not sure that’s good experience.

“It’s a quite facile line to throw out. Local government still is resistant to people from different backgrounds. There’s a reluctance to see the range of skills and competency that someone can bring to the table, because they just don’t look like you, because they may not necessarily have served 23 years in a specific local authority.

“I don’t have 23 years of blankness on my CV. I’ve got 23 years of very much being on the front line, getting my hands dirty.

“I’ve set up my own company, employed and managed teams, won contracts with the EU, I’ve spoken at the State Department. I’ve got an OBE [for her work on race, faith and identity]. You don’t have those three letters after your name if you don’t have much experience.”

Sir Robin Wales is undoubtedly proud of his record on jobs and homes and services. But Fiaz says that while the headlines may look good, the reality for some in the borough is very different.

“If people can’t feel it in a palpable, tangible way you need to question how real that actually is.

“My experience is of being a councillor representing one of the most deprived wards in Newham, notwithstanding the great strides we have made.

“It would be nuts to ignore the impact of having an anchor institution like Westfield, or there are all these wider drivers pushing regeneration towards the east.

“But to say all that success is uniquely down to one individual begs some questions about your collaborative approach. And your willingness to accept great things come from working with other people.”

Fiaz says that when she first became a councillor in Custom House she was “horrified” because “here was a community that had largely been ignored”.

“It was an area where the council had essentially just managed decline. I was dealing with residents who were hostile, pessimistic, had lost hope, couldn’t even believe the possibility they had councillors who would stick up for them and fight their corner. And I just remember thinking to myself ‘this is not what Labour is about for me’.”

Within two years she says she secured a £1m estate regeneration programme, took on the outsourced private sector management of empty council homes and secured backing of the whole council. “What is the point of being in politics and calling yourself in Labour if you cannot change this? If I had my way I’d end the contract.”

Fiaz says her deep roots in the area are what connects her most to her constituents.

“I’ve always been motivated around issues of equality and social justice. As someone growing up in Newham in the 1970s where it was the rise of the National Front, those things really touch you as a child and you can’t ignore that.

“Very early on I considered myself to be a community activist and wanted to change the world for the better.”

Before she went on to set up a community engagement consultancy, one of her early jobs was for the northern TV company Granada, and it was an eye-opener.

“I remember my first foray into media at Granada, a kid from the depths of East London coming from a very diverse community entering this corporate sector where everyone was white. It was that moment where I understood issues around social mobility, where because of your class or background you’re moulded.”

At this point, she can’t resist a comparison between her own experience of racial diversity and that of Wales, a Scot who grew up in Ayrshire before moving down to London.

“Individuals that come from a very narrow, monocultural space…I understand he grew up in Scotland. I’m not quite sure what the ethnic mix back in the day was. It wouldn’t have been half as diverse as what it was like for me growing up in Newham,” she says.

“So, I don’t find that mindset or that view in terms of entitlement surprising, I just think it’s a bit sad.”

East Ham’s local Labour party has been effectively suspended since early last year after allegations of irregularities.

But she can’t hide her anger at the Newham Mayor’s recent remark that ‘community politics’ was partly behind multiple sign-ups of Labour members opposed to him.

“I think ‘community politics’ is a really lazy attempt by some individuals to play pretty appalling dog-whistle politics. It’s disgusting.

“It’s too easy to create bogeymen and monsters and it’s irresponsible for any public figure to use that kind of language, given we live in an age of heightened racism, Islamophobia and polarisation. I think we should be doing as much as we can in terms of building bridges.”

“As a woman of colour, I have witnessed and I have experienced the way in which race politics is played to benefit existing hegemonies. For me there’s something fundamentally important about doing ethical politics.

“You can have different ideas on policy, but I would not tolerate this. I’ve heard the sentiment ’Newham is going to be the next Tower Hamlets’. Unpack exactly what you’re saying.

“For me, as a woman of colour, who is a Muslim, it just says ‘Tower Hamlets - Muslims’, ‘Tower Hamlets - Extremism’, ‘Tower Hamlets - White Flight’, ‘Tower Hamlets - We’ve Got To Be Really Vigilant’. I think it’s disgusting.”

Wales is well known by local party members and has strong backing among trade unions like the GMB. Does she have the depth of support needed to defeat a rival who has been around for decades?

“I’m 47 years old, I’m not a baby. I would not have gone for this if I wasn’t serious about my competences. And I don’t need anyone’s permission to step up to the top table.

“It’s a travesty that in London, a global, hyper-diverse city, only 15 leaders of councils in London are women. And only two of the 33 council leaders are people from minority ethnic backgrounds and they happen to be men.

“I think I would be the first directly elected woman of colour [in the UK]. That’s exciting. My aspiration isn’t just for myself it’s about breaking glass ceilings and making the way for other people to come through. I certainly don’t anticipate being around for 23 years…”

The longevity of Robin Wales is a constant theme. But Fiaz insists that she is as determined to challenge the whole policy of having a borough run by a directly-elected mayor.

Introduced by Tony Blair across the UK in the 2000s, the mayoral model replaced council leaders with an executive post and powers that Jeremy Corbyn has long criticised.

Fiaz is making one of her key pledges a promise to set up a democracy commission that she hopes will include a referendum in her third year, asking residents if they want to junk the directly-elected mayoralty and go back to a council leader and Cabinet.

She says that the fact that 59 out of the 60 councillors in Newham are Labour raises real problems of accountability and challenge.

“I’m chair of [the] scrutiny [committee] and I also sit on the audit board. And the system of governance that we have presently in Newham, the directly elected mayor model, in the context of a one-party state, I don’t think is particularly healthy,” she says.

And the issue has been compounded by Wales’ style of leadership, she suggests.

“In terms of democratic accountability, transparency and I think it has been compounded by the fact that you have had a very small narrow group of people at the helm representing the political hegemony.

“Their reluctance to look outward I don’t even think has got anything to do with politics. I think sadly it must have something to do with some innate fear and anxiety and insecurity. I would certainly be running a council that is outward looking.

“I would enhance residents in decision making. There is a very top down, hierarchical leadership style. We are going to have to go through an educative programme both in terms of ourselves as local party but also with our public.

“I will be setting up a commission to look at our directly elected mayoral model. I will be working toward and I will be hoping to hold a referendum on the model in my third year.

“Personally I’m agnostic on it, but I just think in the context of a one party state in Newham uniquely, it hasn’t worked. And I think it has led to the very polarisation that people will badge as ‘community politics’. Look at your culpability as politicians who have secured the levers of power and influence in our local party. How dare you use a dog whistle to cover what actually it is you’ve done.”

In the suspended East Ham CLP, where she is a member, the lack of party democracy is another issue for Fiaz. “I’ve not been to a GC [general committee] meeting since February 2017, which broke out in chaos. But it was engineered chaos…there was a lot of choreographing going on there to stop a constituency from functioning.”

Fiaz is clear that if she wins it will be because she has harnessed support from across the spectrum of the party, from Momentum to more traditionally ‘centrist’ members, and across all communities.

Like many members locally, she stresses it is “lazy” to look at the battle with Wales through the prism of left-right. “Newham, like its people, represents the full spectrum of opinions. There isn’t one dominant faction,” she says.

And Fiaz says that Jeremy Corbyn has united the party, even if only on the labels members attach to themselves.

“About a year and a half in to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, after much hilarity amongst a certain group of councillors, they all began to call themselves socialists,” she says, with a smile. “So that’s quite interesting to observe...”

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Forest Gate North Labour selects Sasha, Anamul & Rachel

A great picture from the end of last night's Labour Party selection meeting, where local members voted overwhelmingly to return their existing Councillors, Rachel Tripp and Anamul Islam, as candidates for the local elections in May. The vacant position was filled by Sasha Das Gupta due to the standing down of our super ace Councillor, Seyi Akiwowo.

I chaired the meeting and well done to the successful candidates and good luck to those who missed out this time.  

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Re-selected as West Ham Labour (& future Co-operative Party) Councillor Candidate 2018

I am very pleased that I was reselected today as a Labour Party candidate for the local elections in May 2018 for West Ham ward in Newham, London.

Both myself and my Councillor colleague, John Whitworth, were affirmed at the first ballot.

Many, many thanks to all ward members who supported us.

Welcome and congratulations also to the one and only, Charlene McLean, who was selected by the ward as its third Labour candidate.

All three of us are also Co-operative Party members, so I hope we will be (amongst the first?) Labour & Cooperative Party Councillors in Newham.

There are some photos of the new 2018 West Ham ward Labour team out there "somewhere", which I will post as soon as I can track them down. It has been a long day:)

Friday, February 23, 2018

On the "dog & bone" 4 Rokhsana 4 Mayor

I love this picture from the telephone bank tonight of Newham Labour Party members supporting the selection of Councillor Rokhsana Fiaz as the Labour Party candidate to be our next Directly Elected Mayor.

As well as telephone canvassers, there were teams of volunteers knocking on doors and delivering leaflets to local Party members eligible to vote.

The atmosphere really reminded me of a well organised Parliamentary by election campaign. The tele-canvass results are really positive.

If you want to join the fun and volunteer to help out in any way then sign up below :) and choose tab "Volunteering"

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Ian Henderson on the Grenville Fire & Why Labour Needs to Win in Kensington & Chelsea in May

I was late for the West Ham Labour Party General Committee meeting but I really appreciated our guest speaker, Ian Henderson, who spoke on the Grenfell Fire and its aftermath.

Ian is a Labour Councillor Candidate in Kensington & Chelsea (K&C) local elections in May but is also a long serving TRA rep who is, let me say, not very complimentary about Housing Associations.

He is genuinely appalled about what happened at Grenfell and knows personally the blogger whose warnings about safety at that block were ignored and how that bloggers was so lucky to escape with this life that night thanks to dedicated public service firefighters who risked their lives to save him.

K&C Labour Group believe they can win control of the Council in May and are planning a radical housing policy to build homes at a social rent.

As the CLP Vice Chair Campaigns I promised Ian that West Ham Labour will be out to help him and his colleagues win in May as well.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz promises council transparency and affordable housing if elected as Newham mayor"

Newham Councillor Rokhsana Fiaz was selected last night by a Labour Party interview panel comprising West and East Ham CLP Executive Officers and London Labour Board members as the only candidate to take on long time incumbent, Robin Wales, to be our next  Newham Directly elected Mayor.

This is great news. Rokhsana will make a fantastic change and unity candidate.

After work I was out delivering #NewhamRokhs leaflets and door knocking members with supporters.

All the members I spoke to were delighted that Robin Wales was being challenged after seeking almost 3 decades in charge.  They want a new face, a collaborative approach and fresh ideas from a Labour Mayor of Newham.

Hat tip Newham Recorder

"Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz has outlined her plans for Newham if she becomes mayor after being shortlisted
as a Labour candidate this morning.

She named housing as her priority, but also pledged for greater council transparency and opposition to the Silvertown tunnel scheme.

She is one of just two candidates in contention to be Labour’s mayoral hopeful, with the other being Sir Robin Wales.

“In Newham, we have some 20 to 24,000 families on our house waiting lists and huge numbers of homeless people, which will invariably increase once the homeless treaty comes into force,” Cllr Fiaz said.

“We have a situation where people are struggling to survive here because of the cost of living, with an average Newham income of around £25,000.

“The important issue will be the need to start building council owned homes, meaning genuinely affordable homes at social rent levels. My target will be 1,000 built by the end of my first term.”

Cllr Fiaz also promised to double the number of youth hubs in the borough from four to eight and pledged to oppose academisation.

Improving council transparency is another focus point.

She said: “I know that there’s an issue around the way we as a council involve the residents in our decision making.

“We need to become more open and transparent, and Newham residents need to be at the heart of what we do.

“I will be looking at introducing measures improving accountability of the council and of councillors to our residents.”

She pledged to oppose the Silvertown tunnel scheme, claiming it will contribute to congestion levels, and promised to commit the council to London’s transport strategy.

As a lifelong resident of Newham, she said her candidacy was supported by a vested interest in the borough.

“I’ve been pleased with Newham’s progress but I want more,” she said.

“This is the place that I call home, and I can see its potential.

“I’ve got a very distinctive and different idea of what I want our council to be. We’re a very insular and closed council and we seem almost scared to be engaging with our residents. Ultimately we have to become much more open.”

The vote to select Labour’s mayoral candidate will open to eligible party members on Thursday, March 1. The mayoral elections will be on May 3".

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Planning Battle Won for More Social Housing (War continues)

I was really proud tonight of West Ham Ward residents who objected, organised and worked hard to oppose a planning application that would have robbed local people and the homeless of chance of homes at an "affordable" or social rent.

We managed to persuade the Newham Strategic planning Committee to unanimously defer the application due to failures in consultation and uncertainty around the provision of social housing. Many thanks for taking this decision and to the members of  West Hammers Team 4 Social Housing - Tina, Ian, John, Joe & Seyi (sorry if I have missed anyone out).

Tina was very good at the meeting, quoting that the Newham Mayor, Robin Wales, had very  recently told Clive Betts MP and his House of Commons Select Committee that at least 35-50% homes are always affordable in Newham development. So she asked why in this scheme are we only be offered 25%?

We all had 2 minutes to speak.

I said "My name is John Gray and I have been a Cllr since 2010 for West Ham ward where this site is located, speaking in support of residents objections against this application. I would like to start by saying ward Cllrs and Residents want to work with the developers to resolve our differences but the percentage of social housing offered is utterly and absolutely unacceptable

I also speak as someone who has spent most of his professional career working in housing in east London, I am genuinely amazed that this application is only proposing that 25% of these homes to be so called “affordable”.

This is a prime site, right next to a tube station with excellent other transport, retail & leisure facilities. There is limited decontamination works to be done to prepare the site.

Therefore, if Cllrs were minded to pass this application, I would like them to suspend the process and order that the financial viability plan put forward by the developers, claiming that they can only only afford 25% is published and put out to public scrutiny like other local authorities do.

Let me be clear, I have never met nor no knowledge of these particular property developers however it is in the public arena that other developers have padded out their plans with costs that they have no intention of spending.

For example, claiming they will use expensive building materials, when in practise they use much cheaper materials, in the knowledge that the local authority will not have the ability or resource to check.

So please, pause this application and let elected representatives and residents make sure that no one is cooking the books".

Result was application deferred and developers have (sort of) agreed to disclose viability plan and agreed to meet us in person (and I will want team West Hammers)

(see pictures of some members of West Hammers outside the dreadful hoarding outside the Stratford Town Hall which I have already complained about further to the Newham Chief Executive Officer) 

Monday, February 19, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Sir Robin Wales challenges critics and claims trigger ballot ‘fix’ against him as re-selection contest looms

Blimey, is this supposed to be an Alan "Olive Branch" to the community?

Since nearly all the young, talented (and mostly female) Newham Councillors are now standing down - I think this is just a little late...

But rather bizarre and strange quotations methinks?

Hat tip article in "On London" by Journalist Dave Hill

"Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales has urged local Labour Party critics to judge him on his record and told his critics to show that they have better policy ideas as he prepares for a selection battle that could end his 23-year leadership of the East London borough in May.

In an in-depth and often combative interview with On London, his first since the “open selection” contest was announced, Sir Robin pledged that, if he wins, his next mayoral term will be his last “no matter what” and that he would bring new councillors into his mayoral team to “give them a chance to show what they can do” as he prepared the ground for his successor.
He characterised Newham’s as “the most radical council in the country”, citing current policies on employment, housing, homelessness, education and supporting poorer residents as models that could be followed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and saying that improving health care and skills would be his priorities in any fifth mayoral term.
Sir Robin also strongly defended the conduct of the 2016 “trigger ballot”, which initially saw him re-selected as Labour’s 2018 mayoral candidate by 20 votes to 17 but was later annulled following complaints and legal action by local members, claiming that the main problem was simply poor record-keeping by party volunteers and that he was the true victim of procedural irregularities.
He claimed that the outcome of the Newham Co-operative Party trigger vote in 2016, which went against him by a single vote, was “fixed” by what he said was his wrongful exclusion from casting a vote himself and by a fellow Co-op member being permitted to cast one against him despite leaving the relevant meeting before the ballot itself was held.
He also said he has evidence of invalid votes having been cast at ward branch meetings during the original trigger ballot process and that there had been, in breach of party rules, a concerted prior effort to sign up members in order to influence the outcome, leading to “about 200 votes across a number of wards” being cast against him. There were 20 individual branch ballots, resulting in nine trigger ballot “yes” votes to Sir Robin going forward automatically as mayoral candidate for 2018 and eleven “no” votes.
Sir Robin said he has written to individuals he believes were involved, informing them that “we might take you to court”. Referring to “a particular group in a community” he likened the situation to that in a neighbouring East London borough, Tower Hamlets, where Labour has a history of contending with allegations about the signing up of substantial numbers of people from among its Bangladeshi residents, who are thereby enfranchised to vote in candidate selection contest ballots but who make no other contribution to the party.
Though declining to identify the “particular group” by its ethnicity or religion, Sir Robin said the members concerned were “all men”, reiterated his long-standing disquiet over that he terms “community politics” and was keen to place on record his view that in Newham Labour “there are loads of Muslims who are progressives”.
Describing his approach as Mayor as guided by “considered risk”, he talked up the potential of the Newham-owned Red Door Ventures housing company to build new homes for market and affordable rent on the large scale required and stressed the need for such initiatives by London councils, given that commercial developers have consistently failed to meet housing demand in London and that government policy restricting borrowing for house building was “moronic”.
Responding to criticism that Newham’s £40m investment in the conversion of the 2012 Olympic stadium, now the London Stadium, has failed to produce a return, he urged people to look at the bigger picture of the Olympic Park and its environs, saying that Newham’s commitment had been to a wider regeneration programme and that this would eventually produce “somewhere between £120m and £160m in value” to the borough".
Read the full On London interview with Sir Robin Wales here.
THANK YOU for visiting this website. has led the way in covering the Newham trigger ballot story. It needs your donations to keep it going, growing and continuing to provide fair and detailed journalism about a range of big issues facing the capital. Please support this Crowdfunder today.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

25% so-called "Affordable" Housing is not enough! West Ham Branch Labour Canvass & Petition about former Ford Car showrooms development.

Picture collage from last Sunday when I was with Cllr John Whitworth and a West Ham CLP Labour team campaigning in my ward, West Ham. We were again asking for signatures for a branch petition calling for more social housing on the proposed development of the former Ford Car showrooms in 259 Plaistow Road, E15. Every resident I spoke to signed the petition.

There is a meeting of the Newham Council Strategic Planning Committee this Tuesday 20 February 2018 at 6pm at the Old Town Hall in Stratford to decide on the application.  Councillor Whitworth and I have asked for speaking rights on opposing the application. Other local Party activists are also attending.

I am really disappointed that Council officers have decided to recommend that the committee accepts the developers offer of only 25% of the development being for so-called "affordable" homes and not the 35-50% required according to the Newham Plan and the 50% requirement according to the GLA London wide (draft) plan.

This is a significant development with 323 homes proposed.

Below is copy of an email that we sent to Council officers about the development last year

Dear Deirdra, In response to your letter to residents, inviting them to comment on the application to develop the 259 Plaistow Road site, we as ward councillors would like to state that we will only support this application if the Assessed in Section 8 of the report. London Borough of Newham,259 Plaistow Road, E15 3EU proportion of agreed affordable housing is in the 35-50% range and that 60% of this is social housing. This is, of course, a requirement of Newham’s housing policy. We believe that we reflect a strong feeling in the ward and beyond that this site should yield a large number of much needed social housing units. 

Thank you for your attention. 

Cllr Freda Bourne, Cllr John Gray, Cllr John Whitworth West Ham Ward”

While I understand that that there are legal restrictions on what Council officers and planning committees can consider in such applications, I think it should be rejected and the developers told to go away and come back with a fresh proposal with far more social housing to be included. I believe that the developers will face very significant local opposition including lawful direct action if this does not happen.

Check out my previous post here  and there is still time to sign the on line petition 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

BBC "World Tonight" LOBOs Loans and why Councils including Newham are still being being ripped off by the Banks

On BBC Radio 4 "World Tonight" on Wednesday there was a feature on the LOBO derivative loans scandal  and how they have played a role in the recent bankruptcy of Northamptonshire County Council.

Check out World Tonight - 36 minutes 25 seconds into programme. (lasts about 10 minutes).

Northamptonshire had £150 million exposure in these toxic loans. Local Councillors were quoted as saying that they have to pay twice as much as they should - an extra £3 million per year. Paying up to 11.35 % interest per year, which is 22 times the current base rate.

Joel Benjamin from the campaigning group, Debt Resistance pointed out that these are 50-60 year loans and not only do you face financial mark risks from such derivatives but that you face crippling exist penalties of up to 90% of the face value if you try to get out of them.

The biggest LOBO derivative loans borrower in the Country is Newham with exposure at one stage of £532 million (now apparently reduced).

I was interviewed as one of the many Councillors in Newham, who are convinced that we have been totally ripped off by the Banks.

"We are paying far more than we should.  If we had taken out different loans from the government we would be paying about 1 or 2% per year but instead we are paying up to 7.6% in interest per year. We we are paying millions of pounds per year, to the banks, rather than spending that money on services to our residents"

I was pleased to hear on the programme Rob Whiteman, the CIPFA Chief Executive (which is the professional accountancy body for local government) made it clear that Council should actively consider suing the banks. Whiteman (a former Chief Executive of  next door Barking & Dagenham Council) said that councils could consider suing banks over the issue.

He said, “If councils have made bad deals I think they should not be defensive about that but go to litigation and challenge the banks and say, ‘We think we have been mis-sold’, or, ‘We think there are bad deals here and we want to change the nature of the deal’.

It is very difficult for banks to defend what may be demonstrably a bad deal and so I see no reason at all why councils shouldn’t try and remedy this through the courts if that is the right thing to do.

He did however couch his remarks with caution about making sure there was a proper legal case before spending money on suing the banks.

This is what Newham Councillors including myself, Cllr Roksana Fiaz and Cllr John Whitworth have been saying for years.

Finally, LOBO stands for the seemingly innocuous "Lender Option, Borrowing Option" derivative loans. However, LOBO is also the Spanish term for "wolves".

Apparently, it was the Bank's sale teams who coined the term "LOBO" and these City traders who earned millions in commission had a great laugh at our expense that they were really wolves ripping off local government treasury teams. Who had forgotten this biblical warning:-

Matthew 7:15:
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves".

Friday, February 16, 2018

John Gray Newham Councillor: Selection Statement

"I have been a pro-active Newham Councillor since 2010 and keen Labour activist and campaigner. If I am selected to serve as your Councillor for the next 4 years

I pledge to:-

  • · Hold regular surgeries in the ward; 
  • · Attend ward meetings and community events 
  • · Make written and verbal reports. 
  • · Campaign for Labour. 
  • · Represent the ward and constituents to the very best of my abilities. 

As a Councillor I will continue to argue for:-

  • A London Living wage for all Council workers (including agency) and make Newham a Living Wage Borough. 
  • · Improve governance to prevent further financial failures such as the LOBO loans and London Stadium. 
  • · As a founder member of “Newham against Austerity” I want to support our Schools to remain in the Newham family of Schools and campaign against cuts. 
  • · I want to bring back in-house the management of outsourced Council Services and the Council to sign the Ethical Care Charter. 
  • · We need to build far more decent homes at social rents 
  • · Provide better youth services and citizen advice provision

My main job is as a housing officer, I am also a school governor, Pension and Charity trustee and UNISON trade union activist (and member of its National Executive Committee).

(All Newham Council candidates have to submit a 200 word statement to selection meetings. Picture of me speaking as a UNISON delegate at London Labour Party Conference on a Social Housing motion)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Newham Councillor Selection Meetings - East Ham 17/18 Feb & West Ham 24/25 Feb

East Ham 17/18 February at East Ham Town Hall, 328 Barking Road, London E6 2RP

Ward Name
Manor Park
Little Ilford
East Ham South
East Ham Central
Green Street East
Royal Docks
Wall End
East Ham North

West Ham 24/25 February at Stratford Old Town Hall, 29 The Broadway, London E15 4BQ

Ward Name
Stratford & New Town
24 Feb
Plaistow North
24 Feb
Green Street West
24 Feb
West Ham
24 Feb
Forest Gate North
24 Feb
Canning Town North
25 Feb
Custom House
25 Feb
Forest Gate South
25 Feb
Canning Town South
25 Feb
Plaistow South
25 Feb

Meeting process

Just to briefly outline the process for each meeting:

·         After preliminary business, trigger ballots will be held on each sitting councillor seeking reselection, without speeches. Any councillor not automatically reselected will be shortlisted.

·         There will then be shortlisting, with the size and composition of the shortlist determined by the number of vacancies and how many AWS places remain to be filled, plus members’ choice. Members will need to nominate people for the shortlist. They will have the names of those who have expressed an interest in the ward in front of them but can nominate any longlisted candidate if they wish, and will have access to all statements. If more candidates are nominated for the shortlist than places available there will be a ballot to determine the shortlist.

·         Once the shortlist is agreed, candidates will then be asked to draw lots for the order to speak. You will in turn address the meeting with a speech of up to THREE minutes, then have FIVE minutes to answer questions. The questions will be the same to all candidates at that meeting.
·         Members will vote by eliminating ballot for their candidates, first for any AWS positions, then for remaining vacancies.

(This is an attempt to concisely convey how meetings work rather than provide an exhaustive guide.)

A reminder that only eligible members will be able to attend the meetings – they are fully paid-up members who are registered to vote, have lived in the relevant ward since 1 January 2017 and have been a continuous party member since 1 July 2016.

Hat tip London Labour. #AWS minimum number of women on shortlist. Picture collage from 2014