Thursday, May 31, 2018

RBS LOBO loans a "fraud on the people"

Newham Cllr John Whitworth labels RBS 'inverse floater' LOBO loans a "fraud on the people" at RBS AGM, demanding further disclosure from the bank.

Newham Councillor John Whitworth who is also the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee at the Council posed a series of questions to RBS Chairman Sir Howard Davies regarding RBS LOBO Loans- which Mr Whitworth likened to a: "fraud on the people" at the RBS AGM in Edinburgh.

Sir Howard Davies said during BBC Question Time that PFI was a fraud on the people because "it is always cheaper for Government to borrow than anybody else." Mr Whitworth proceeded to outline that Newham was having to pay an interest rate of 7.6% on its LOBO loans, borrowed in 2010, when RBS was accessing credit from the Bank of England at just 0.5% interest.

Mr Whitworth noted local authorities were still struggling financially having received the bulk of austerity cuts, caused in no small part by RBS, which was the largest bank in the world when it collapsed in 2008. Yet despite this, RBS was looking to extract the "maximum interest possible" from local authorities struggling with cuts.

Commenting for Debt Resistance UK, campaigner Joel Benjamin said:

"Sir Howard Davies admits that it is always cheaper for Government to borrow than banks, and that PFI and by extension LOBO loans are therefore a fraud. What Mr Davies fails to recognise in an act of cognitive dissonance all to commonplace in the banking profession is the role of his own bank in facilitating those frauds, as one of the largest PFI and LOBO loan lenders to UK public authorities.

Frankly, I would have expected more from the man who once ran the Audit Commission and Chaired the Financial Services Authority"

Newham Council currently pays around 70% of all council tax income on servicing interest on debts including £563million of LOBOs borrowed from RBS and Barclays.

You can read the full transcript of Mr Whitworth's AGM question here and watch the video footage, including RBS's response.

Other major LOBO borrowers including Leeds, Kent, Edinburgh, Manchester, Cornwall, Liverpool and Glasgow  should now take action to ensure hundreds of millions in interest savings for local taxpayers can be delivered.

At least 240 councils across the UK have taken out LOBO loans, totalling £15bn. Auditors are currently considering legal objections from residents in 18 councils, filed under the Audit Commission Act last year, which could result in some LOBO loans being ruled unlawful.

Find out more about LOBO loans and if your council has them on the Debt Resistance UK website.
 For press inquiries email:  Phone: 07429637423
Links to further information:
UK Local Authority Debt Audit website:
Interactive map of local authority debt:
What is a LOBO loan?
LOBO Loans are potentially illegal
The conflicts of interest

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Plaistow from the 15th floor

View from 15th floor of Victoria Point E13 Newham London overlooking Plaistow

I did a walkabout of the block & was impressed with repairs & caretaking. 

I was meeting residents with Newham Council Officers about a lift renewal in @WestHamBLP Redfern House.

Shame that so few residents turned up for such an important matter (only one lift in the block).

Need to encourage a rebirth of real tenant and leasehold representation in our borough. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Unsung Hero: The Jack Jones Story - Trailer

‘Unsung Hero – The Jack Jones Story’ is a documentary on one of the greatest British figures of the past century – a man who exercised more power over government economic policy than any other trades union leader in British history.

Jones took on four of the great evils of modern times: poverty, fascism, worker exploitation and pensioner poverty - and took them on with so much conviction that at one point, the public voted him the most powerful man in Britain. 

The life of Jack Jones mirrors the story of the 20th century - a man whose like we may never see again.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Lyn Brown MP: Demanding action on Gaza

Common sense speech by our West Ham MP Lyn Brown, condemns the massacre in Gaza by the IDF (and the the Hamas terrorists who glory in the massacre).

My question is why does the IDF do what Hamas want and create martyrs???

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

VIOLENT CRIME: Labour MP Lyn Brown gives a moving speech in parliament

Intelligent and passionate speech by Lyn on the recent violent deaths of 9 young men (and children) in West Ham.

Is it really no coincidence that 65% of Newham children are brought up in poverty while living in one of the richest cities in the world? I think not. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

ACAS: Religion or belief discrimination: ten myths

Myth:  I can’t be accused of discriminating against someone with the same religion as me.
Fact:   If you treat someone unfairly because of their religion it would be discrimination, whether or not you were the same faith.
Myth:  A philosophical belief is simply what I believe in, so my beliefs are protected.
Fact:   What qualifies as a philosophical belief is not always clear cut. There are guidelines, but they are only guidelines. And the final decision whether someone’s beliefs amount to a ‘belief’ in their individual case will rest with an employment tribunal or court.
Myth:  Employees are only really protected against religion discrimination when they are devout in their faith or work in religion.
Fact:   No, they are protected against unfair treatment whether they are devout or not. And, for example, because their friend holds a particular religion or they are thought to follow that religion, even when they don’t.
Myth:  Away from work, I can say what I want regarding my religion or belief on social media – it’s my profile and my page.
Fact:   An employer has a right to ensure an employee’s personal views are not mistaken for its own. It should have a policy on social media including use away from work.
Myth:  As long as a manager is canny in their questioning in the interview, they can still get away with finding out a job applicant’s religion if they want to.
Fact:   Even a question such as ‘Which school did you attend?’ is likely to be seen as discriminatory if fishing for the candidate’s religion and the question is irrelevant.
Myth:  A request for leave for a religious festival takes precedence over a request for a family holiday.
Fact:   No, religious observance does not necessarily override any other good reason for leave.
Myth:  An employer’s dress code must be strictly followed, otherwise there’s no point.
Fact:   A strict dress code would have to be for very good business reasons to satisfy an employment tribunal. Better to take into consideration that some employees may wish to dress in a certain way because of their religion or belief.
Myth:  An employee can refuse to do aspects of their job because of their religion or belief.
Fact:   Not if there are good business reasons why they are part of the job, such as being essential duties, and the employer’s decision is proportionate.
Myth:  An employee doesn’t have to follow a rule like having a photo ID pass, if having their photo taken is against their religion or belief.
Fact:   Employees should understand that their employer has a right to expect certain things to happen for good business reasons, such as having a photo ID pass for security reasons.
Myth:  A colleague can’t in any circumstances lecture me about their religion or belief.
Fact:   They can’t force their views on you when you don’t want to hear them. However, if you bait them you are less likely to be able to claim harassment.
Want to learn more about these areas? Download the free Acas guide
Religion or belief discrimination: key points for the workplace from:

Monday, May 21, 2018

PLSA Local Government Pension Conference 2018

Just arrived for the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association annual conference in Gloucestershire as
Newham London delegate from Investment and Accounts Committee.

Some interesting speakers and seminars ahead.  Local Government minister Rishi Sunak MP, fees, ESG, economy, change, the regulator, cost cap, funding & current affairs.

Will blog as and when

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Being a Republican but still enjoying the Newham Royal Wedding Celebrations

Picture collage from two events in Newham yesterday that I attended with Gill on behalf of the Council celebrating the Royal Wedding. While I personally believe that our Head of State should not be a hereditary monarch, I respect the views of the majority in this country, who pretty obviously do.

I must admit to being more than a bit worried in light of the experience "across the pond" of us electing a "President Farage" but still think the democrat principal is absolute.

I have blogged previous on this here. It was great to spend time with local residents at the Community Road Centre and the sheltered tower block in Holden Point (Deputy Mayor Clarlene McLean and her lovely deputy, deputy Esme).  

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Janet Daby selected as Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham East By Election

Congratulations to UNISON Labour Link nominated candidate, Janet Daby, for her convincing win today.

Janet won 63% of the vote to become the Labour Party Parliamentary candidate in the forthcoming by election. Well done to Janet and her team of supporters. Commiserations to the other candidates.

Many thanks for her kind comments about the support that UNISON was able to give her.

We have been able to support a number of different successful candidates recently in London.

I have already received an email from the Labour Party asking (I assume to all West Ham CLPers) to canvass at the following dates:-

Let's get teams out to support her.  I assume some evening slots will be available soon.

           Sunday 20th May at 2pm, meeting at Grove Park station

·         Monday 21st May at 2.30pm, meeting at Grove Park station

·         Wednesday 23rd May at 2.30pm, meeting at Grove Park station

·         Thursday 24th May at 2.30pm, meeting at the Burnt Ash Hill Methodist Church on Burnt Ash Hill

·         Friday 25th May at 10.30am, meeting at the Burnt Ash Hill Methodist Church on Burnt Ash Hill

·         Saturday 26th May at 4pm, meeting at the Crown Pub, Burnt Ash Hill

·         Sunday 27th May at 2pm, meeting at the Crown Pub, Burnt Ash Hill

Thursday, May 17, 2018

"50th anniversary of Ronan Point" & "Are tenants being listened to on safety?" (NO)

"Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz yesterday (Wednesday 16 May ) laid flowers and attended a special memorial event to mark the day, 50 years ago, that four people died in the Ronan Point tower block disaster.

Ronan Point in Custom House was a 22 storey block near Butchers Road. The building partially collapsed following a gas explosion on the 18th floor in the early hours of May 16, 1968.

Four people died as a result of the blast, Thomas Murrell and his wife Pauline, Thomas McCluskey and Edith Bridgestock. Thirteen other people were injured and 80 families were made homeless.

Mayor Fiaz was invited to the event by campaigners Patricia Jolly and Paul Wade who want to see a permanent memorial those who lost their lives. She was joined by Cllr Pat Holland, who represents the Custom House ward, and Newham Council Chief Executive Kim Bromley-Derry.

Patricia, who lost a relative in the collapse, told a group of around 50 who gathered at St Mark’s Church Community Centre: “People need these memorials that come in the form of statues and plaques. The collapse of Ronan Point was an unexpected and awful tragedy, but it is a part of the history of Custom House and Newham, and should not be forgotten.”

The Mayor thanked the campaigners for their hard work and pledged the council would be working with relatives, friends, and all those who remembered Ronan Point, to create a respectful permanent memorial.

As guests remembered the Ronan Point victims, thoughts were never far from 71 victims of last year’s Grenfell fire tragedy.

Mayor Fiaz said: “None of us will ever forget the feeling of horror and helplessness as we watched the events unfold on that dreadful night, and for those of you that lived in Custom House 50 years ago, it will have brought back the painful recollection of the tragedy at Ronan Point.

“Once again the country has been shocked into action and there is rightly, once again, a renewed focus on the safety of tower blocks, and all social housing. We in Newham have not, and will not forget the tragic lessons of Ronan Point and Grenfell and will make sure building safety lessons are not forgotten.” Hat tip Newham Council Website

and Inside Housing Magazine 

On the 50th anniversary of the collapse of Ronan Point, tower block safety campaigner Frances Clarke questions whether Dame Judith Hackitt is really listening to tenants..

"A great deal is at stake.

The Grenfell Tower tenants said loudly that their block was a fire risk. No-one in power was willing to listen and 71 people died.

We had a completely different experience during the Ronan Point campaign. Ronan Point, which partially collapsed 50 years ago this week, was rebuilt and re-inhabited.

In 1982 the first tower blocks’ campaign national conference brought together a range of tenants, experts, community workers and activists.

During the conference, tenants of Ronan Point spoke to architect Sam Webb and told him of their concerns: they could smell food being cooked many floors below, they could clearly hear the conversations and TV programmes of neighbours far away.

Mr Webb responded by carrying out a survey of the flats during which he dropped a coin between the floor and wall and it disappeared, demonstrating that the flats were not sealed units, and fire and fumes could spread. Regulations were breached.

Pressure from tenants was enormous.

Newham Council voted to empty the block and they offered it to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) so that they could test it thoroughly.

The testing process was very transparent. A flat was set on fire to test one hour compartmentation – after 11 minutes engineers were seen to be scurrying out of the flat above as fumes and flames travelled upwards.

The fire had to be extinguished, the test had failed, the flat couldn’t contain a fire for one hour.

Structural investigations took place which revealed that the H2 joints could not be relied upon to hold the block up, they could not withstand a pressure of 2.5 psi. Instead of being packed with concrete, they contained newspaper and tin cans.

The Tower Blocks Campaign and Newham Council worked together to ensure that tenants were informed and involved throughout.

There were frequent meetings, with free transport and council-run creches. ‘Experts’ were required to talk in plain English and the council funded independent technical advice for tenants.

This experience showed us that effective partnerships can exist between engineers, architects, politicians, tenants, community workers and the media.

Are tenants being listened to now, in the aftermath of Grenfell? Sadly, the example of the remaining large panel system blocks, blocks like Ronan Point, is not positive.

Residents of the Ledbury Estate had raised concerns about gaps in their flats for years, their concerns heightened after the Grenfell fire. Resident Danielle Gregory’s questioning of the Council and of Arups, their consultants, about the existing ‘stay put’ policy was not welcomed.

Nonetheless she was proven right, resulting investigations showed that the flats could not contain a fire for one hour.

Tenants went on to force the examination of structural joints and again the joints could not withstand a pressure of 2.5psi – they should not have had gas or people in the flats.

Would this information have come to light without serious tenant pressure? It is the efforts of these tenants that brought large panel system construction to the attention of Dame Judith.

In these examples, a change in building regulation would not have solved the problem as these blocks were in breach of current regulations.

So the role tenants played was to alert authorities to a dangerous situation. Why do tenants, such as these, have to work so hard to be listened to?

Why can’t landlords work in partnerships with tenants, as with the Ronan Campaign? Will Dame Judith’s Review properly address tenants’ voice?

Will she ensure that a legally enforceable pathway is created for tenants to report their safety issues when their landlords do not respond appropriately to their concerns?

Are you listening Dame Judith, have you heard?"

Frances Clarke, tower block campaigner and co-founder of Tower Blocks UK (JG adds and former Newham Councillor and Cabinet member)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Greater London UNISON Labour Link backs Janet Danby for Lewisham East

Greater London UNISON Labour Link has made a supportive nomination for our union member (and former social worker) Janet Daby in the Lewisham East by election.

She is also the Lewisham Deputy Mayor and will make an excellent Parliamentary candidate.

Check out her on Twitter and Facebook

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

"Mayor unveils first members of Cabinet" - New (ham) Kids on the block!

The last 8 years as a backbench Newham Councillor has been a fantastic experience and a real honour to serve my constituents. It has been "difficult" at times but I have enjoyed nearly all of it.

Yesterday evening it was officially confirmed that I have been appointed by our Directly Elected Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, to be the Cabinet member for Housing Services.

As a Councillor and someone who has worked in Social Housing for most of his adult life I know this will be a "challenging" position but I am absolutely delighted at the appointment and cannot wait to get stuck in.

Hat tip Newham Council Website 

"Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has unveiled the first members of her Cabinet who will support her in ensuring that residents are “at the heart of everything Newham Council does”.

Mayor Fiaz said: “The people of Newham have put their trust in me for the next four years to work with them and for them on making things better for everyone. I am pleased to be able to announce the first members of a talented new Cabinet who have the vision and drive to help deliver the promises I made in my manifesto.”

The first appointments to the Cabinet are aligned to the priorities Mayor Fiaz was elected on. These include addressing the housing crisis by creating genuinely affordable homes at social rent levels, promoting youth safety, ensuring continued improvements in education, delivering regeneration that involves and benefits local people, and promoting financial transparency as well as stability.

The Mayor will be leading on the portfolio areas of Strategic Housing Delivery, Regeneration and Planning. Other appointments confirmed so far, with more to be announced in due course, are:
  • Councillor Charlene McLean – Deputy Mayor, Youth Safety Board and Corporate Parenting
  • Councillor Julianne Marriott – Education, Children and Young People 
  • Councillor John Gray – Housing Services
  • Councillor Terence Paul – Finance
The Mayor added: “The role of a councillor as a public servant is one that we should promote. I am looking forward to working collaboratively with my Cabinet colleagues and with all the elected members to listen to residents who will be at the heart of everything Newham Council does.

“We shall be doing things differently with a huge emphasis on transparency, accountability and with residents involved in the decision making process through public question times and citizen assemblies. I want people to feel more confident in the way the council works, to be able to have the conversations with us that shape our priorities, and be able to hold me, my Cabinet colleagues and councillors to account.”

Monday, May 14, 2018

UNISON "there for you" helping out our low paid members with the cost of school uniforms 2018

One of the many things that I am proud of in my trade union UNISON is its charitable arm "There for you" (which I am one of its trustees). Every year we hold a campaign to help low paid UNISON members pay for school uniforms for their children.

We must get the message out better since there are huge numbers of our members who are eligible but are either not aware or need help filling out the forms. UNISON branch welfare officers are key to getting the message out but all our activists should do their bit to spread the word.

"There For You are offering a one off grant of £40 per school age child up to a max total of £120 for help with school uniforms.
To be eligible you must be:
  • A member who has paid 4 weeks subscriptions before 14 May 2018.
  • Either receive Housing Benefit  (or the housing element of Universal Credit)
  • Or have a total net annual household income of £18,000 or less. (Note by “net income” we mean all salary after tax, national insurance, superannuation etc and including your partner’s salary if applicable and any benefits. However, do not include in your calculation Child Benefit, the childcare element only of Working Tax Credit if paid, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment)
  • Financially responsible for the child/children
  • Not eligible for funding for uniform costs from you local authority.
Further information is available on the FAQs document listed below.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

#TUCNewDeal March & Rally 12 May 2018

A little bit wet at times but a great day yesterday while on the TUC march and rally for public services in Central London. I was delighted that UNISON members, West Ham MP Lyn Brown and Newham Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, joined the march as did a number of Labour Party branches (including West Ham).

As a Regional Council officer I joined the UNISON London Regional procession which had a great team of enthusiastic drummers in front of our banner.

The rally in Hyde Park was rather soggy but some fantastic speeches, in particular by young exploited agency, waitering and retail workers, who are fighting back against poverty pay and insecure contracts.

The event seems to have got more publicity than similar marches in the past. In light of the current worse wage squeeze in 200 years we should not be surprised.

The photobombing was entirely unplanned :)

Below is what the TUC are calling for:-

1. We need a minimum wage of £10 an hour, now.

2. Ban those exploitative zero hours contracts.

3. Fund our NHS and public services properly.

4. Repeal the trade union act which makes it harder for us to stand up for working people.

5. Crack down on tax dodgers who starve our schools and hospitals of funding.

Levellers Day 2018 May 19

"Join us in Burford, Oxfordshire, to remember the achievements, sacrifice and legacy of the radical thinkers and political activists known as ‘The Levellers’  

In the Churchyard, St John the Baptist Church, Church Green, Burford OX18 4RY
There will be a short commemoration to Levellers Cornet James Thompson, Corporal Perkins, and John Church, who were executed in the churchyard, 17 May 1649. The commemoration will be led by the Reverend Giles Fraser. Flowers will be laid. The ‘Sea Green Singers’ will perform. Trade union banners are welcome.

In the ‘Old Hall’, in Warwick Hall, adjacent to the church, Church Green, Burford OX18 4RY
There will a conversation between the Reverend Giles Fraser and John Rees about ‘religion and the English revolution’, followed by and discussion with the audience. Reverend Giles Fraser was formerly the Team Rector at St Mary the Virgin, Putney, which was the location of the ‘Putney Debates’, in 1647. He is currently the priest-in-charge at St Mary's, Newington, near the Elephant and Castle, south London, and he writes a weekly Friday column for The Guardian. John Rees wrote ‘The Leveller Revolution: Radical Political Organisation in England, 1640-1650’, which was published in 2016 and received excellent reviews".

JG I have never made this event and won't this year either. Below is a plaque remembering a similar execution that I stumbled across in Oxford last year

Saturday, May 12, 2018

West Ham Labour Party Local Council Elections Celebration with Richard Burgon MP

Some pictures from our local elections celebration and fundraiser event held on Thursday evening in Eat16 (Canning Town) compered by our MP Lyn Brown and introduced our guest speaker, Richard Burgon MP, Shadow Justice Minister (while on route back home to Leeds).

Lyn spoke about how proud she was of the local elections result (we won 60-nil with I think over 50% of the vote in every seat) but how we must not take anything for granted at all and work even harder to ensure victory in future elections.

Richard gave a passionate and wide ranging speech about how absolutely vital it was to get a Labour victory at the next General Election. Including why we need to save our NHS from the Tories dream to have an American style NHS were hospitals first reach for your wallet before your pulse.

Nuf said? 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Know Your Newham Politicians

"A short documentary introducing the new Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz OBE and her councillors as they win their seats and highlighting their plans for Newham".

Hat tip CV TV

I declare an interest and love that there is a video record of this historic day (and my joy at being elected - 10 mins 45 seconds into the video) and also of my quietly spoken Labour Councillor ward colleague, John Whitworth, being raised on the shoulders of excited supporters.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

West Ham CLP fundraiser with Richard Burgon MP Thursday 10 May

Post-election CLP fundraiser/social Thursday 10th May 2018

Dear John
Many, many thanks to all the West Ham CLP members who came out to get all sixty of our Labour councillors elected in Newham last Thursday as well as our Mayoral candidate Rokhsana Fiaz who was elected with 73.4% of the vote.

As for those members who also campaigned in nearby marginal wards, the Labour party can be proud that we achieved the best local election results in London since 1971, as well as making gains nationwide.

Join us to celebrate/recover/socialise and raise a little money for the party on Thursday 10th May at 7pm for a CLP fundraiser.

Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon MP, will be joining us to reflect on the outcome of the elections, locally and nationally.  Richard is one of the best speakers on the Labour front bench and we are delighted he is visiting the CLP.

Details about time and venue below:

Thursday 10th May, from 7pm

Eat 16 Cafe, 89 Tarling Road, Canning Town, London E16 1HN

Please bring some food and drink.
We look forward to seeing you there,
West Ham CLP

PS - Crowd-funding for a second conference delegate closes tomorrow! West Ham CLP agreed that if we can crowd-fund the money, we will send a second delegate to Labour party conference. If you want to donate but haven't yet, please follow this link to the crowd-funding site where you can pledge an amount to support this project. If sufficient funds are raised the delegate will be elected at the General Committee meeting on Thursday 24th May. The crowd-funding concludes on Thursday 10th May.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

A new era for Newham - Labour Briefing

Hat tip my fellow ward Councillor, John Whitworth - Labour Briefing 23 April.

"ON 15TH MARCH 2018, after many years of struggle for democratic governance in Newham, Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz won the selection for the Labour Party mayoral candidate in the May elections by 861 votes to 503 for the seemingly perennial incumbent, Sir Robin Wales. This larger than anticipated margin of victory represented a triumph for local democracy after 16 years of authoritarian rule - which had fully exposed the dangers of the directly-elected mayoral model.

A small number of party members had sustained a continuous fight for democracy in Newham Labour Party and council since it became apparent  in 2002 that Robin Wales would use the mayoral constitution to gather all power into his own hands. After the May 2014 local elections, this struggle began to have an effect within the council. A group of eleven councillors quickly coalesced to work for open debate, more effective scrutiny and greater transparency regarding the council’s dealings, particularly financial, as well as to replace the mayor when the opportunity arose.
When the first mayoral trigger ballot was declared in October 2016, a number of party members rallied around the democratic councillors to form a core group of about 25 campaigners for an open selection. The movement was fuelled by a frustration with the trigger ballot process and its mismanagement by Newham Local Campaign Forum and London regional officials, and finally by the intransigence of the NEC in refusing to grant a rerun or order an open selection.
This group then took part in a year-long stand-off with the Labour Party before ultimately wrenching from the NEC the authorisation for a trigger ballot rerun in January-February of this year. The struggle to remove Robin Wales did not constitute a simple left-right conflict - it was rather one of democrats versus fixers. The movement to obtain the selection of Rokhsana Fiaz in his place was a democratic alliance which mobilised members from across the Labour Party spectrum, including Momentum members and a few right wingers, with its centre of gravity located around the centre-left of the party.
Between the mayoral trigger ballot rerun and the mayoral selection contest, the delayed councillor selections took place in February. As Newham has a record of electing Labour candidates to all 60 seats, the profile of the councillor candidates is likely to prefigure that of the council. However, as nearly half of the candidates are new and some of them are not widely known, it is difficult to predict the balance of forces in the new council.
Nevertheless, it would be fair to classify the candidates into three approximately equal groups: those who are proven supporters of Rokhsana Fiaz (around ten of whom are firmly on the left), those who remained committed to Robin Wales until the end, and those whose allegiance has not clearly emerged. It is perfectly possible that members of the two latter groups will gravitate towards the new mayor.
Out of the mayoral selection campaign came a transformational manifesto. It is committed to placing  housing  at  the top of the agenda, with an undertaking to build 1,000 new council-owned homes within four years to  be  let  at  social rent levels, while ensuring that 50% of developer-built homes will be council- owned and also  let at  social rent levels. Another notable commitment is to ensure that the benefits of Newham’s economic development are shared among the residents by using the council’s procurement and supply chain to spend public money locally, thereby supporting the borough’s businesses.
With  education,  there  is  a  promise to   develop   stronger   partnerships with schools and oppose further academisation. There is also a pledge to double the number of youth hubs and break the cycle of violence by working with young people to set up a youth safety action group. Recognising the need to democratise local governance after a long period of autocracy and cronyism in Newham is an undertaking to build a culture of trust and openness that involves residents in the council’s decision-making process. This also entails a promise to hold a referendum by 2021 on the continuation of the directly elected mayoral system.
With a democratically minded mayoral candidate and a radical manifesto is the exciting prospect of a new era in Newham. There is great optimism that this project of transformation will be accepted by the electorate, carried through by the new mayor, and supported by the majority of the council and Labour Party".
(Update: Rokhsana Fiaz was elected Executive Mayor 3 May with a massive 73% of the vote which is more than 12% better than the previous Mayor. All the 60 Councillors elected that day are also Labour with similar majorities.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Great Expectations Met: Northward Hill and Halstow Marshes walk

Off message. Please excuse the "Great Expectations" pun but we went for what turned out to be an unexpectedly lovely walk yesterday near Rochester in Kent. The guide book claimed this was the countryside described by Charles Dickens in "Great Expectations". We did not see any Abel Magwitch, in fact we hardly saw a soul once we left the High Halstow RSPB reserve at the start of the walk.

Despite the sight of the docks across the Thames in the far distance,  the sense of isolation and solitude was a perfect break from the manic election campaigning of recent weeks.

A wonderful lush, varied and surprising "up and down" (for Kent coast) walk. It is 8 miles long and you go through woodland, meadows, arable fields, plantations, quiet country roads, white shell beaches, marshes and coast line. Weather was very warm but there was a cooling breeze. Only 50 minutes by car from East London.

The guide book instructions were a little unclear at times and may be outdated but head for "Saxon Shoreway path " sign at beginning to start the walk and if in doubt check the map.

A 8/10 walk! Recommended.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

WestHam CLP fundraising 4 conference 2018

I love going to Labour Party conferences and think that our West Ham Constituency Labour Party should send as many delegates as possible, so I fully support this fundraising attempt to pay for and send more delegates.

(I love this picture as well. Apart from Seyi being chopped in half)

Click here if you can help

March with UNISON on 12 May

Local elections are now over but no rest for the wicked. Big pro public services Trade Union demo next Saturday in London. If you haven't been on a London demo beforehand this video is incredibly informative. Please share as widely as possible.

Let's organise Labour branches as well as unions to attend.

Look forward to seeing you on Saturday 12 May with UNISON in Victoria Embankment at 11am

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Re-elected & Newham Council Local Elections Count 2018

I was delighted to be re-elected yesterday as a Labour (and also now Co-operative) Councillor in London Borough of Newham for a 3rd term with Cllr John Whitworth & Cllr Charlene McLean.

We have 3 Councillors per ward and this time I had the highest personal vote. In the past my retiring colleague Cllr Freda Bourne always had the highest personal vote. I used to put that down to her name appearing first on the ballot paper. Now that my surname comes first, it is surely due to my hard work and personal following?

Seriously though, the Labour vote in our ward is humbling, we got about 5x the support of the nearest Conservative opponent. All 60 seats in Newham are Labour with similar massive majorities. Whilst I recognise that the "first past the post" system is outdated and needs reform, this result demonstrates the historic and ongoing support of the people of Newham for Labour. We must not take this for granted and must deliver despite the savage Tory cuts.

I was also really pleased that Rokhsana Fiaz was elected Labour Executive Mayor with a staggering 73% of the vote (note under a transferable vote system). She has increased the Labour Mayoral vote by 12% since 2014. A fantastic mandate for change in Newham. Rokhsana is the first directly elected black female mayor in the UK (and possibly Europe?) and has I think the highest percentage vote of any Executive Mayor.

When I recover I will blog further. Many thanks to our Agent, Carl Morris and all the Labour Party activists who worked their socks off for us (including my good lady wife, Gillian)