Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Plaistow Land Grabbers

Hat tip to a great post by "E7 Now & Then" on "The Plaistow Land Grabbers" who are an largely forgotten but important part of the radical history of West Ham. A second post is to follow.

In a protest against unemployment, local plumber and local Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF) councillor (wearing white hat on left), "Ben Cunningham, and 14 unemployed workers to march on a piece of council-owned, vacant land of approximately three acres, just south of the railway line between Upton Park and Plaistow, on 13 July 1906 - and occupy it".

Check out what happened and more about our local radical history of direct action (pros and cons) here and I look forward to the second installment. 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

West Ham Plays Away at Sunny Solidarity Saturday in Chingford & Woodford Green

West Ham CLP came over today to their nearby sister constituency of Chingford and Woodford Green to support Labour candidate, Faiza Shaheen, who is standing against sitting Tory MP, Ian Duncan Smith.

While driving on route I passed the famous Walthamstow Greyhound racing stadium which is now being redeveloped by L&Q Housing (after a huge row) and remembered going to its famous night club, Charlie Chan in the 1990s.

Today was a national campaigning day for Labour activists. We met with local activists led by Faiza and local Labour ward Councillor, Elizabeth Baptiste. Faiza is a UNISON member and was successfully nominated by UNISON London Labour Link to be the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, while Elizabeth is a former UNISON NEC colleague of mine.

We were split into 3 canvass teams by Faiza. My team was mostly West Hammers led by our MP, Lyn Brown.

We canvassed a former Council estate of 1960s Tower Blocks, which had been knocked down in the 1990s and replaced by low rise housing now owned by Peabody Housing Association.  Residents were generally satisfied with their landlord but concerned with parking, dog mess and fly tips. I could have been campaigning in Newham.

I embarrassed myself and a local resident,when a young women answered the door I knocked upon and who I thought was a child and when I asked to speak to her parents, she said she was the adult in the household. She accepted my apologies and despite me putting my foot into it, she still said she was a Labour voter.

The picture in the top left of college is of all the UNISON members in our team (including a member of my branch who I had not met before) excluding Faiza who was leading another team.

West Ham Labour will be supporting Chingford & Woodford Green Labour in their campaign to elect Faiza as their MP at the next General election. Our residents in West Ham (a safe Labour seat) desperately need a Labour Government to solve the housing crisis, save our NHS and end austerity. Unless we win in marginal seats like Chingford and Woodford Green, we will not be able to do this.

Hat tip pictures Karl Lewis West Ham CLP Vice Chair Campaigns. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

We're Rebuilding Britain

Great new Labour Party youtube video.

In Newham and want to challenge? I will be outside the Atherton Leisure centre tomorrow (Saturday 30/9/18)  at 10.20am to take a car to Chingford & Woodford Green seat to get rid of Tory IDS. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

"Support our strike and say no to pension poverty and privatisation"

Support Staffordshire strike

Dear John,

Staffordshire University employers have announced that they will move lower-paid staff into a “subco” or wholly-owned subsidiary company, with the aim of cutting the pensions of mainly lower-paid women.

Our branch is currently in dispute over these changes. Our employer wants to  transfer grade 1-6 staff over to the new subco. This would strip them of the local government pension scheme (LGPS) and replace it with an inferior defined contribution scheme. This would result in much lower pensions for the majority of these staff – who are already the lowest paid and are mainly women.

In addition, it creates a two-tier pension scheme in the workplace, where the better paid staff remain in the LGPS but the lower paid staff lose out.

Our members at Staffordshire University were recently balloted for sustained strike action. On a 56% turnout over 80% voted yes for strike action; and have embarked on a series of strike days.

We are asking UNISON branches to support us because this issue has national implications and if the employers are successful, it will be attractive to other universities looking to cut costs at the expense of lower-paid workers and other areas of the public sector.

Send us a messages of support to 

Send a donation cheque
Make it payable to UNISON Staffordshire University and post it to:
Staffordshire University UNISON Branch
E237, Cadman
Staffordshire University
College Road
Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 2DE

Together we can stop this and protect fair pensions for our members.

Yours in solidarity,
Amelia Rout
Branch Secretary
Staffordshire University Branch

(letter of support and donation request to be considered at my UNISON branch F&GP meeting next week. Do not expect any problems with this request whatsoever. There will also be smodel motions condemning this thievery submitted to Labour Party CLPs/branches and all Councils.

This is disgraceful behaviour by Staffordshire University who are simply cheating their low paid workers and condemning them to retire and die in poverty)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

End of Labour Party Conference 2018

I am now back in Newham from a very much "full on" Party conference in Liverpool. I think I attended 9 different fringes on housing, the conference housing debates and learnt from all the speeches and also from all the wide ranging Q&A sessions.

A lot to take in but also lots of fresh new ideas and possible practical solutions to our huge national and local housing crisis.

The Labour Party policy on housing is simply transformational and I am desperate for us to be in Government in order to implement it. We need to build and enable safe, secure and truly affordable homes for everyone. While I am confident that in Newham we will make a real difference for many of our residents, we need a Labour Government in power to get rid of all our housing evils:  homelessness, overcrowding, disrepair, insecurity and unaffordability.

Jeremy gave a great closing speech (the best I have ever seen him deliver) and I really felt today that we are going to win the next General Election. But to be clear this is not a given and you must never, ever underestimate the Tories and the dirty tricks they will use to stay in power.

I will post further on conference later

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

West Ham Labour October update: Solidarity Saturday (get rid of IDS)

Solidarity Saturday:
This Saturday (29th September) we will helping North London CLP Chingford and Woodford Green. Any questions contact Karl on 07857 622 647

Pick up points are 10:15am for a 10:20 departure:
Near Plaistow Station: Corner of Plaistow Road and Bull Road (Google Map here)
Near Stratford High Street DLR station: Corner of Bridge Street and Dawn Crescent (Google Map here
Near Atherton Leisure Centre (Forest Gate): Corner of Atherton Road and Clova Road (Google Map here)

If you can go but would require a lift from another pick up point, please get in touch.
Take a look at our 'Keep It Comradely' statement that applies to all our meetings and our social media. This can be seen here.

Also take a look at Labour's Social Media policy on the main national website here.

All future campaign and event dates
Elections are won on the foundations built and the campaigning done in the years without elections

A number of canvassing and street stall sessions have been organised over the next few weeks. All Labour members are welcome to any session and training will be offered for anyone who requests it.

Saturday 29th September 11:30am - Forest Gate North, meeting at Forest Gate station. Google Map link. Contact: Anam

Sunday 30th September 2pm - Plaistow South, meeting at 683 Barking Road, (E13 9EZ) (E13 9LH). Google map link.  Contact: Neil:

Saturday 6th October 12pm to 2pm - Canning Town North/South, meeting place TBC. Contact: Kevin:

Tuesday 9th October 6pm - Forest Gate North, meeting at Forest Gate station. Google Map link. Contact:

Saturday 27th October 11am - Stratford and New Town, meeting at Maryland Station. Google map link here. Contact: Karl

Saturday 3rd November 11:30am - Forest Gate North, meeting at Forest Gate station. Google Map link. Contact: Rachel

Saturday 3rd November 12pm to 2pm - Canning Town North/South, meeting place TBC. Contact: Kevin:

If you are aware of any other events or have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with Karl: 

Future meeting dates to note:
27th September: affirmative nomination for London Mayor (Sadiq Khan) (GC delegates only, unfortunately guests will not be allowed at this meeting)

25th October: October GC meeting (speaker TBC), all welcome

We look forward to seeing you at future events and campaigns!


Karl Lewis
Vice Chair (Campaigns and Comms) West Ham CLP

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Labour Party Conference 2018 - Liverpool

At Party conference and on route to London Labour regional reception (then the Welsh) 

I am attending as a Newham Councillor (self funding) and looking forward to the speeches, stalls and fringes. 

There is a stack of housing fringes this year but only a few on pensions which is a shame. 

Now, will I make it for a run tomorrow morning or not...?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Three Cliff Bay Walk (The stunning and beautiful Gower Peninsula)

Off message but last month Gill and I spent a week on holiday in the Mumbles, South Wales. This walk was magnificent. I have heard over the years many people praise the Gower Peninsula as a top holiday destination but have never been until now.

This walk is 9.3 miles and a mixture of classic coastline and inland valley walks. Check out Hikideas for the route but make sure you download instructions and have a decent map. You start at a National Trust car park in Pennard where there must be ancient common law rights for cattle to range at will in the car park and village. Reminds me of our own backyard in Wanstead flats, East London where cattle also used to roam freely before the onset of BSE in the 1990s.

Once you leave the amazing cliff tops and go inland the route is a little overgrown and unclear. A fair bit of up and down work but well worth the effort.

Lots of history en route including ancient green lanes and completely isolated medieval (open) churches and the remains of an early non conformist chapel. The last leg of the walk you rejoin the Welsh coastal path route and enjoy more stunning bay views.

A moderate effort but at times a breathtakingly beautiful walk. Recommended. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby speech to Congress 2018 #TUC150

I am not a member of the Church of England (nor any other religion) but the speech by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the TUC was a master class in humanity. This speech was so powerful since he also criticised past abuses of power by his Church and trade unions as well as tax evading thieves and abusive employers such as Amazon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Is it time for a Progressive Alliance to defeat the Tories? Newham Compass with Neal Lawson & Sian Berry

While a very,very worthy aim I don't think it will work nor is it necessarily the right thing to do. What about a progressive alliance within the Labour Party instead?

But I hope to attend and listen to the arguments.  

Monday, September 17, 2018

Newham Full Council Meeting 17 September 2018 (my twitter feed)

A busy evening. Confirmed new Chief Executive. Passed motions, submitted petitions, deputation that schools should have ballots before deciding to become academies, Councillor questions, public questions, Mayor and CEO report.

At Full Council meeting in historic Stratford Town Hall. Delegation speaking to meeting on anti-academy campaign, just moved petition on behalf residents from about repairs & ( Cllrs have been with residents)

His first speech to Full Council, Cllr speaks about how we need to change traffic management and support the near 50% of residents who do not have a car. “The roads belong to all of not just cars”

If this was a unison conference or TUC we would clap first time speakers :)

Now Cllr Shaban Mohammed moves motion on ballots calling for all schools considering becoming a to hold a ballot. seconds

moves sponsored motion against . I spoke about ensuring that the £1.4 billion fund takes action to ensure that we do not allow such exploitation of workers in companies we invest in

Council meeting over. Now presentation by on electoral review of for 2022 elections. ward

Picture of  & councillors supporting campaign and motion on

Sunday, September 16, 2018

TUC Congress 2018: Tuesday Day 3

Still catching up on posts about last week's TUC Congress. After a "late night" on the Monday following the UNISON TUC delegation social (and aftermath) I was in Congress for the 9.30am start on the Tuesday but a little slow on "twitter" for some reason.  

I was really pleased at Congress for the support for "Show Racism the Red Card’s Wear Red Day, which this year will be on 19 October.

Lunchtime, I went to the "digital transformation for unions" fringe where Chair, Jenny Andrews, of Unions21 made it clear that we have to learn from Darwin survival of the fittest theory and as a movement either "adapt or die" to digital change (I sort of agree but not totally). 

Alison Charlton from UNISON digital team spoke about the quote that when digital transformation is done right, it is like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly but when it is done wrong, all you get is a really fast caterpillar.  She also made a really important practical point that don't just ask what people want from digital - but instead ask what is the problem & what do they want to achieve?  Her role as a professional is to provide the digital solution.

Ali Melanie from the NUS said the next big human rights issue will be on our data rights. People are still trying to grapple with the concept of "Ethical digital". He answered my question to the panel on how to deal with all the digital "babble" out there by saying we need to try and compartmentalise the information that unions send out to make it relevant. 

When an assistant general secretary from a more "traditional" union (who many years ago I was on an WEA Employment rights course with him) asked how he can digitalise union circulars sent out to members? Ali asked in apparent all seriousness "what is a circular?". 

I was interviewed by Dr Jeong-Hee Lee, a researcher from the Korean Labor Institute about collective bargaining in Local Government! We also discussed the UK Labour manifesto on this topic. She interviewed me a few years ago when she was researching her PHD. I was given a lovely gift for taking part in the survey. A traditional Korean image on a USB stick (see bottom right on college).

Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, received a standing ovation after announcing to Congress on how he will be able to pay for nationalisation & public services. He has found the Tory Government Magic Money Tree in the Cayman Islands. He will dig it up and bring it back to UK to be planted!

In the evening I went to the "People's Museum" for the Daily Mirror fringe on the fantastic "Wigan Pier Project". It tracks where the author George Orwell went in the 1930s when he was researching his famous book "The Road to Wigan Pier". George wrote about the hunger and poverty he found at this time, while the project has followed in his exact footsteps and compare his findings with the dreadful child poverty, homelessness and unemployment in modern day Tory Britain. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Lehman Brothers collapse - 10 Years on

10 years ago  "The filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by financial services firm Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, remains the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, with Lehman holding over US$600,000,000,000 in assets".

The former head of Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld, (see picture) “earned” $300 million in the previous 8 years.

While The Independent reports "Average real earnings – adjusted to take inflation into account – for employees are 3 per cent below where they were in 2008. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Thank you Cllr Veronica Oakeshott - Boleyn Ward

This is simply a lovely photograph of Newham Council Executive Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, presenting flowers to Councillor Veronica Oakeshott, who has announced her resignation in order to move closer to her family outside London.

Veronica has been a fantastic and effective Labour Councillor and campaigner for Boleyn ward who was also instrumental in the successful campaign to keep the World Cup Champions Statue in her ward.

She was a ferocious advocate of her constituents and the interests of all residents in Newham. Veronica will be missed and we have lost a talented Vice Chair of our £1.4 Billion Pension Investment & Accounts Committee.

hat tip photo Ali G

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Red Brick - "The Help to Buy Gravy Train" by Steve Hilditch

A fascinating discussion yesterday evening with London Labour Housing Group on "Policy & Practice". Some great ideas and presentations.

I was a little late and missed items on policy context and improving the private rented sector but was there for - delivering new Council homes, working with with Housing Associations and best practice on community led housing. Chaired by lead GLA housing spokesperson Tom Copley

See below yet another superb article on "Red Brick" about the "Great British Housing Rip Off" by Steve Hilditch.

"Some people suffer because of the housing crisis, others do quite nicely out of it thank you. Land owners are perhaps the best example of those who have traditionally coined it in. Nothing much has changed since Winston Churchill, way back in 1909, called land ‘the mother of all monopolies’, criticising ‘the enrichment which comes to the landlord who happens to own a plot of land on the outskirts of a great city, who watches the busy population around him making the city larger, richer, more convenient, more famous every day, and all the while sits still and does nothing.’ And still they do.

But attention has been drawn more recently to another group of people who have been achieving great riches from the miseries of others – the housebuilders. You might say that at least housebuilders produce something of use, unlike the landowner, and the point is valid. But recently the vast profits being made by the volume housebuilders have been substantially donated by the government, free gratis and for nothing.

The housebuilders’ own special magic money tree is called Help to Buy. In an excellent article in the Times on 8 September, Property Correspondent Tom Knowles showed how the average profit made by housebuilders on each home has doubled since the scheme was launched. Knowles’ analysis showed that ‘the top five builders in Britain are making an average profit of £57,000 on each house they sell, compared with a mean average of about £29,000 in 2007’.

On Red Brick we have criticised Help to Buy from the time it was launched in 2013 because it is a subsidy on the demand side of housing – it enables people to spend more on housing without necessarily increasing supply. A little bit of economics tells us that in the longer term it is likely to be self-defeating because more demand with no more supply will lead to price increases. Far better, we have consistently said, to apply whatever public finance is available to boosting housing supply not demand.

At the launch of Help to Buy the argument was made that the scheme would boost supply by giving developers confidence that they would have buyers for their output – after all, no-one builds what they cannot sell. Yet Knowles confirms that the total number of new houses being delivered is much the same as it was ten years ago. He uses Barratt as evidence: profit per house has doubled since 2007 (he uses that date because it was the last full year before the global crash), but it is building only 411 additional homes. He provides a fascinating chart to illustrate the detail, repeated below.

Knowles quotes analysts who confirm that the largest driver of today's profits is Help to Buy. One assesses that housebuilders would be making £22,000 less profit on each house built for first time buyers if Help to Buy was not in place, and concludes that ‘someone is gaming the system’.

One of my favourite analysts, Neal Hudson, who puts good stuff on Twitter @resi_analyst, is quoted saying that shareholders had become ‘the main priority’ for housebuilders since the financial crash. ‘The over-arching factor has been big pressure from the City,’ he is quoted as saying. ‘The priority for them is profit margin not the number of homes built.’

One housebuilder chief executive was paid £75 million in a bonus last year, putting even bankers to shame. I suppose you could argue that no-one would turn down a nice earner, even if it is on the back of a government scheme designed to tackle the housing crisis. And, of course, it is government policy that is to blame. Since 2010 housing finance policy has been turned on its head. Instead of providing grant to enable genuinely affordable homes for those on low and medium incomes, Government help is now aimed at supporting the private housing market – and not very successfully it seems. The Chartered Institute of Housing’s Housing Review estimated that support for the private market is taking nearly 80% of current investment compared to just over 20% going as support for affordable housing.

At local level, the riches flowing into the pockets of the housebuilders should stiffen the resolve of councils who are fed up with developers pleading that schemes are ‘unviable’ due to modest requirements that a proportion of new homes should be affordable.

In this debate, profits per home of around 20-25% of the cost are taken almost as a given, a fixed cost. I can remember a developer telling me that the rule of thumb in building costs was ‘one-third for land, one-third for construction, and one-third profit’. In our Brexit-dominated world, construction costs are likely to inflate rapidly in the near future. So, if anything is to be done it must be to bear down on the other two elements: land and profit. We have posted a lot recently about land and taxation: another good step would be to tackle the Help to Buy gravy train.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Let your voice be heard: Stratford & West Ham Citizen's Assembly

Trade Union Congress finished a little early today (we worked through the lunch break to finish business.Not something that trade unionists would normally encourage in the workplace!). I will post further on the TUC.

So I was able to get a train home from Manchester to be in time for the inaugural Citizen Assembly for Stratford & West Ham Community Neighbourhood.

I am a Newham Councillor for West Ham ward.  Citizen Assemblies are intended to achieve newly elected Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, commitment to :-

"Putting Newham Residents at the Heart of Everything We Do.

During September 2018 there will be the first in a series of Neighbourhood Citizens’ Assemblies taking place across the borough in each Community Neighbourhood.

What Neighbourhood Citizens’ Assemblies

Neighbourhood citizens’ assemblies are large open meetings where you and others from your Neighbourhood decide how to improve your area.

The assembly is your chance to:
  • set the priorities for the Community Plan
  • discuss and work together with others to find solutions to local problems 
  • connect with other local people and share knowledge
  • set up local projects
  • find out what is happening in your local area 
  • give directions on how funding available to your area is spent
There will be a daytime and an evening assembly session in each Community Neighbourhood which will last approximately 3 hours, including a break and time to meet and greet others".

I had heard that the morning meeting had gone well with around 90 residents attending. We had about 70 plus residents in the evening. It was by far the most successful community participation event, I have ever known, either as a Councillor or a Housing officer. Residents were thoughtful, constructive and genuinely wanted to understand problems while keen to contribute to possible solutions.

Certainly, a number were quite forthright about about the serious issues that we all face and there was some difficult conversations but there was very little of the negativity and self interest that I have found in other community consultation events I have attended over the years. It showed to me what you can get if you treat residents as grown ups - treat them with respect and make it clear that you are actively listening and really want to involve them. 

The meeting decided and voted upon what would be the Stratford & West Ham priorities and I did a random drew in front of everyone to pick 4 volunteers from each ward to be part of a working Group.  The working group will meet next month and the next Assembly will take place in November.

While I have no doubt that it will not always be sweetness and light I am really excited about our Citizen Assemblies and look forward to the next one. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

TUC Congress 2018: Day 2

A somewhat random selection based on my tweets from Monday.

Frances O'Grady TUC leader in her speech to Congress calls for a 4 day working week for 21st Century. Just as in 19th century the TUC successfully campaigned 8 hour day & in 20th-century for weekend off & annual leave.

Also, she told Mrs May. "If you won't give us the New Deal that working people demand, then stand down. And take your ‘do nothing’ government with you. Give us a General Election. And we’ll do every thing in our power to elect a Prime Minister who will".

UNISON leader, Dave Prentis, while moving composite 7 "Public Services Outsourcing - Lessons from Carillon calls for an end to privatisation and making demands of Labour too. A day one commitment to abolish the divisive, destructive, disastrous policy of privatisation. No reviews, no reports but an immediate end!

Lunch time I went to "Show Racism the Red Card" fringe. Chaired by UNISON Liz Snape & 1st speaker UNISON Roger McKenzie. Last speaker UNISON Liz Cameron. The meeting was packed. Sign of times with growth of racist football lads alliance?

Finished off with evening fringe at Midland hotel on pensions chaired by Henry Tapper. First a short history of pensions then some home truths about the appalling miss-selling of unsuitable investments to British Steel pension holders. Surely this fraud this must be a criminal offence?

While fascinating presentation on new pension scheme for Royal mail workers based on dutch and Canadian models.

UNISON delegates had their delegation social later.  A good time was had by all.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Local Government Chronicle Investment Summit 2018

Last week I went to this summit in South Wales on investment in the Local Government Pension Scheme. There was around 250 Councillors and Council pension staff from all over the country.

I am particularly interested in the latest ideas on Risk, Asset allocation, ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance - also known as socially responsible investment), investment in housing and infrastructure.

The opening speaker John Roe from Legal & General gave his perspective on the UK and global economy. He argued that he did not think that the equity market was expensive and made an observation that rising income inequality had led to the rise of fascism and the anger that caused Brexit. I asked him in the Q&A what was the solution and he said greater taxation of the international elites and an open debate on immigration. Not often do I hear calls for greater taxation in such conferences (I agree totally with him on this point)

Next we were invited to visit different briefing sessions. I went to the one on "Fixing our broken housing model". Which turned out to be an introduction to the merits of pension funds investing in purpose built private sector rental but not alas, fixing the complete and utter mess that UK housing is in.

Back in the main hall we heard of research by Hymans Robertson that following the changes in the LGPS in 2014 some scheme members had actually seen their future pension entitlement rise by 24%.  Which is mainly due to rubbish pay in the local government in recent years which has failed to match inflation.

In a focus session on ESG investing there was some compelling evidence from MSCI that good ESG is "material". Good ESG investments tend to have better cash flow, be less risky, result in greater dividends & make it 3 times less likely to suffer serious incidents such as the Volkswagon fraud and BP Deepwater disaster.

At the next focus session, Abbie Llewellyn-Waters, from Jupiter gave evidence that ESG can deliver "Alpha" performance. Also, with regard to the S (social) in "ESG", she was clear that “the better that companies treat their workers, the better the companies financial results.....without a shadow of a doubt”

Roger Phillips, chair of  LGPS National advisory board spoke to a meeting of Councillors only on its annual report. Membership of the LGPS had increased to 5.6 million members, had £263 billion in assets, 1700 different employers and enjoyed in 2017,  a 19.5% increase in investment performance. However funds need improve their data management.

At the session on “Infrastructure, urban regeneration & real estate”, to wake everyone up, I asked the panel who had spoken about the investment opportunities on investing in this asset class about the statement by Sir Howard Davies, Chair of RBS who said on Question time early this year that “PFI was a fraud on the people”.  He had argued it was always cheaper for Governments to borrow money than private organisations to spend on infrastructure. How do you respond to this statement?

The response was that Government does not want such debt on its balance sheet. Which is an argument post 2008 crisis and post quantitative easing that I have not heard for many years.

In the last session of the day with the Pension Regulator & the FRC, I asked both speakers why was it that in private defined benefit schemes, up to 50% of trustees were nominated by beneficiaries but in the LGPS, a public defined benefit scheme, there was no obligation whatsoever to have any beneficiary representation on its boards?  The regulator replied that they did support member nominated representatives in the private schemes because they can challenge "group thing" but they also have pension trustees boards that only have professional trustees on it.

I note that Labour is committed to make 50% member nominated representation compulsory in all pension schemes.

At the summit dinner the guest speaker RH Lord Winston of Hammersmith, who was as entertaining and as "nice" in real life as he appeared on the telly.

In the morning after more presentations on successful partnership working (Pooling) and protecting your equity portfolio from a future crash (which I am sure is coming sometime soon) I went to a briefing session on "Is sustainable investing just a romantic notion?" session with Newton.

Who pointed out that some $300 billion was invested in alternatives to carbon in 2017. They also compared modern day oil reserves with the 19th century slave ships which became "stranded assets" when slavery abolished

Secretary to the National LGPS advisory board, Bob Holloway, reflected on 35 years involved with local government pensions and announced a meeting with the minister for council pensions committee chairs on 15 November 2018.

In the last session on Devolution and Regionalism, Dawn Turner, CEO of the Brunel Pension Partnership talked about not investing infrastructure because the Government tells us to do it but if it fits our needs & purposes. Also, we are not impact investors but should be aware of any positive or negative impacts from our investments. Not just globally, but in the UK as well

Final speaker was Paddy Dowdall, from Greater Manchester Pension Fund about their investing in housing... “Council provides the land and the Pension fund provides the capital” also “by definition residential housing is local & who knows more about local than councils”. For many years they have invested a percentage (5%?) of fund locally and managed to avoid any "moral risk" by making sure that the actual investment decisions are made independently.

Overall, a very informative and useful summit. It has now been running for 30 years but will no doubt have to change in the future when the pools take on investment decisions from local funds even though funds will retain responsibility for liabilities and asset allocation.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

TUC Congress 2018: Celebrating 150 years

I am at the TUC Congress in Manchester as part of the UNISON delegation which started at 4pm
today. This is the 150th anniversary of the 1st ever Congress which was also held in Manchester which is why we are back to celebrate.  Then only 34 delegates gathered nearby to discuss

The Congress guide reports this year that there are 519 delegates from affiliated trade unions. 268 Male and (only) 251 Female.  UNISON has has 57 delegates. 21 Male and 36 Female.

You can check out the business programme of Congress here and final agenda here.  As usual there are a number of fringes during lunchtimes and evening which I will try and attend as many as possible.  There is also a large exhibition hall full of stalls.

Despite falls in membership in recent decades, the TUC still represents a massive 6.23 million UK workers. Last year there was a welcome small increase.

Unions are as needed now as much as they were needed in the past. UNISON published today research on Housing and how it is now practically impossible for most public service workers to afford to buy a home. The Bank of England restricts mortgages to a maximum of 4.5 times their income. This means that for example NHS cleaners or teaching assistants cannot afford to buy anywhere in any English region. All unions have unfinished business to complete on behalf of their members.

Picture above of TUC President Sally Hunt from the UCU who gave her address and received a well deserved standing ovation.  Afterwards she mentioned the campaign by a TUC delegate who is also the Granddaughter of one of the Match Girl 1888 strikers (Sarah Chapman) who is buried in Manor Park, Newham without a headstone. Sign the petition here to provide one. 

Saturday, September 08, 2018

NEC Celebrating 25 years in UNISON: NDC 2018

Picture of the UNISON National Executive Council at this year's National Delegate Conference.  All of us (including the General Secretary) are elected via secret ballot by rank and file UNISON members from all parts of the union.

We are wearing green to honour Grenfell victims. 

Forest Gate North September Canvass & Street Surgery

Summer is now over and the never ending cycle of political campaigning and street surgeries continues. I missed a canvass session on Wednesday evening in my home ward but went out with local Councillors Rachel Tripp and Anamul Islam this morning (Sasha is on holiday).

Very positive response, in particular, local residents appreciated the support that their Councillors had given in opposing a recent attempt to close a nearby right of way.

I did not hear any mention of national party issues or Brexit. Mostly when you ask residents whether or not they support Labour they look at you as if almost insulted. "Of course we vote Labour!" (do you think we would vote for the Tories? one resident asked me today)

The Newham Council housing blocks we visited seemed in good order (well done to managing agents Swan Housing) but the L&Q Housing Association blocks had some shoddy bodged disrepair and a definite trip hazard on communal stairs. Cllr Islam will be contacting them with photos.

The picture on the bottom of the college (2nd left) is of a property I canvassed a couple of years ago. A young woman came out to speak to me and her front door slammed shut behind her. No one else had keys and I had to climb the wall into the garden to see if there was a window open. There wasn't so eventually we had to get the lock drilled and smashed the window of the front door for her to get in. I got a new lock fitted and she "sorted things out" with her landlord. Never a dull moment when you are canvassing. Thanks to retired caretaker manager (and Party member) Montrose Matty.

New CLP vice chair for campaigns Karl Lewis ran the board (told us who to contact and recorded information) while the ace campaigner of the day was Rachel's daughter India (Child Labour).

Anam, Karl and I went for coffee at "Freds" afterwards to gossip and chew the fat. 

Friday, September 07, 2018

In Memory of 13 West Ham Heroes killed by Enemy Action 7 September 1940

"Memorial at LBN Abbey Road Depot, to those killed on one of the first attacks on the 7th September, 1940, known as `Black Saturday`. This was the start of the `Blitz`, although not the first bombs to fall on West Ham, Beckton Road was bombed on the 31st August". Hat tip Robert Rogers Newham History Society on Facebook. 

"account of the incident from The London Blitz – A Fireman’s Tale by Cyril Demarne who was a Sub-Officer in the Auxiliary Fire Service at the time and later became Chief Fire Officer for West Ham" hat tip Richard Durack Newham Council Heritage Service.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Unison affirms Sadiq Khan as our London Labour Mayor Candidate

Greater London UNISON’s Regional Labour Link Committee yesterday unanimously agreed to support Sadiq Khan as Labour’s candidate for the Mayor of London in 2020.   

It was great that Jeremy headed the list of endorsers and that all wings of the Party in UNISON support him. 

"UNISON affiliates to the London Labour Party and was asked to decide whether or not they wish for Sadiq Khan to be automatically reselected as Labour’s candidate. 

The Committee decided to unanimously back Sadiq based on his record of supporting Londoners at work, promoting trade unions and trying to tackle London’s challenges on housing, transport and crime.

John Gray (UNISON Labour Link Chair) said “Sadiq has always placed Londoner’s and UNISON members concerns at the heart of everything he does, we are proud to offer our support to him to carry on the job of housing Londoners and making London cleaner and safer”.

Yvonne Green (UNISON Regional Convenor) said “with our decision we confirm what Londoners know already, this Mayor is committed to making London a fairer and more equal city for everyone”.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Newham bids to deliver pledge for 1000 homes at social rent

At tonight's Newham Council Cabinet meeting, it was agreed to support an ambitious bid to the GLA for grants to deliver up to 1000 homes to be built for our residents at social (council) rents.

This was a key part of the newly elected Newham Labour Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz's, manifesto commitment. 

We are also looking at building other homes at social rent outside GLA grant.

The Council will be consulting on changing our planning policy to have a minimum 50% of all future developments at social rent as well.

I must admit to being a bit of a sour puss at the meeting by reminding everyone that it was fantastic that we are aiming to build 1,000 homes at social rent but we do have 27,000 households in Newham on our waiting list (probably a vast underestimate of those in real housing need).

It will be great for those we are able to house but we have to manage expectations.

We will only be able to house all of our people in need when we have a Government in power that will commit to housing all people in safe, secure, social rent & low cost owner occupier homes.

This government will also (most importantly) have to give us the subsidy needed to deliver this.

Without some sort of subsidy you will not get any sort of affordable homes in high cost areas.

Someone has to make up the gap between the cost of building a home and a social rent. 

Monday, September 03, 2018

Old ladies tell off kids playing in London council estate 1970s

An age old problem. It hadn't changed that much when I first started working in Council Housing in the early 1990s in Bethnal Green and still goes on in Newham and elsewhere today.

hat tip "From the Kinolibrary Archive Film collections. To order the clip clean and high res or to find out more visit Clip ref CC8"

Shot on the Loraine Estate and Holloway Estate, Holloway Road. Which by coincidence is near to where my UNISON Housing Association branch office is located.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

"Len McCluskey hits out as he joins fellow union bosses in urging party to adopt full IHRA definition"

Well said! elected General Secretary of UNITE, Len McCluskey who gave support in advance of the Labour Party NEC meeting on Tuesday, where the issue regarding the IHRA definition will be discussed and hopefully begin to be resolved.

I also agree with Len that some of the anti-labour responses by some Jewish leaders have been seemingly ridiculous and over the top but if  my neighbours had been murdering my Grandparents and turning their skin into lampshades and soap then perhaps I would also react in a similar manner.

I watched this morning a clearly distressed, John McDonnell MP, on the  Andrew Marr show give a sensitive but powerful response to the interview comments by the former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. 

I agree with John's response that there are profound misunderstandings afoot but also his implicit assurance that this mess will be dealt with and that Labour will (and should in my view) adopt the full IHRA definition and all the examples, as does UNISON, GMB and UNITE.

As a grassroots trade union steward for over 30 years, while I understand the genuine concern about adopting all the "examples" I simply do not accept that this will restrict me or anyone else from calling out the Israeli state for murdering unarmed civilians, building illegal settlements, carrying out collective punishments while being clearly racist towards Palestinians.

Unless we lance this boil and return to our natural moral high ground on all forms of racism we will destroy the Labour movement and also destroy our chances of getting rid of this completely vile Tory Government and electing Jeremy as our Prime minister. 

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Walter Tull & 11 November 2018

A couple of weeks ago I went to Folkestone (via the high speed rail link in 46 minutes) for a Friday night beer and curry with an old mate. The following morning hangover cure was a brisk walk along the beach and back along the prom.

Near the town War Memorial on the prom there was an information board which featured a Newham connection (above). Walter Tull was born in Folkestone 1888 but he was also one of the first UK black professional footballers and was first spotted playing for Forest Gate based (Now London Borough Newham) Clapton FC.

After the outbreak of the First World War he joined the British Army in 1914 and was commissioned as an officer in 1917. Arguably the first ever Black commissioned officer despite apparently military regulations forbidding it. He was killed in action in Northern France 8 March 1918. His body was never recovered.

My Taid (Welsh for Grandfather) Captain Frederick Matthews MC RND, another working class volunteer, also fought in the Western Front during First World War. He survived.

The Folkestone War memorial is next to what is now called the "Road of Remembrance". During the First World War troops used to get off trains at a nearby depot then march down that road to the port below then take the military ferry to France. I suspect that Walter and my Taid had marched at different times up and down that same road several times during the War.

On 11 November 2018 it is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Time to remember and reflect on everyone (regardless of class, race and nationality) who fought in this bloody, dreadful War.