Wednesday, November 14, 2018

LAPFF Chair Cllr Ian Greenwood RIP

I was at a Newham Pension training last night and was shocked to hear of the death of Cllr Ian Greenwood.
I have known Ian for many years and he was a superb chair and Pension activist. A true friend as well of the trade union movement both here and abroad.

He will be an impossible act to follow.

I can't believe that less than 12 months we also lost Kieran as Chair.

Hat tip Professional Pensions

"The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) has announced the sudden death of its chairman, Ian Greenwood, on Monday (12 November) night at age 68.

Greenwood was also chairman of the £46bn Northern Pool of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), having taken on that role in April, after being chairman and then deputy chairman of the West Yorkshire Pension Fund.
Awarded an OBE for services to local government in 2013, he was also a councillor at Bradford Metropolitan District Council, twice acting as its leader, and for West Yorkshire County Council.
Greenwood was also twice the LAPFF's chairman, first holding the role between 2008 and 2013, and then taking on the position again in July of this year following a period of interim service since January.
He had taken over both the Northern Pool and LAPFF roles from Kieran Quinn, who died in post on Christmas Day last year and was also chairman of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund.
In a short statement, the LAPFF expressed its "extreme shock and sadness".
Northern Pool vice-chairs Paul Doughty and Brenda Warrington also expressed their condolences, adding he "would be greatly missed by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him".
They added: "Ian was an inspirational and visionary leader whose knowledge and experience of local government pension schemes was invaluable.
"He truly believed and demonstrated by his leadership that ensuring ordinary people working in public sector jobs serving their communities get to live out their retirement years with security and dignity is a noble cause, and he brought great energy and significant personal commitment to that purpose.
"As Northern Pool chairman at a time of significant change, Ian was instrumental in putting in place simple but effective democratic structures that ensured we continue to deliver low costs and good investment returns for the funds' members and taxpayers alike."
Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe mourned the "enormous loss" of one of the "most recognisable" and "most influential figures in Bradford politics".
"He was immensely proud to be able to service the people of his home city, which he loved dearly, and he wore his passion for the place and its people like a badge of honour," she said.
"Ian was a pragmatic, big tent politician, motivated by an overwhelming desire to bring people together to do the right thing for Bradford. His leadership transcended cultural, community and political party boundaries and his legacy and impact will be long-lasting."

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

West Ham All Saints Remembrance Service Sunday 11 November 2018

On Sunday I represented the Mayor and Newham Council at the 1918-2018 Remembrance Ceremony at West Ham Parish Church All Saints with Chair of Council Cllr Joy Laguda and our Director of Finance, Michael O'Donnell. With our local MP Lyn Brown, we each laid a wreath of poppies together with G Company 7 Rifles (our local British Army Reservist unit based nearby in West Ham), Police, British Legion and local residents.

It was good to see a large contingent of soldiers in uniform from our local regiment 7 Rifles present. In past Remembrance ceremonies at this Church, members of G Company had been on active service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I am now of an age, that they all look too young to put their lives at risk and wish that fighting for all countries and all beliefs was only restricted to older folk such as myself over the age 50.  I doubt that many wars would still happen if this was so.

Chair of Newham Councillor Scrutiny Committees, Cllr John Whitworth and Councillor Winston Vaughan also attended (Cllr Vaughan is a British Army Veteran) While local Cllr, Jane Lofthouse actually had a lovely singing voice (and saved the reputation of the Council since none of us could hold a note).

Newham Council had supported 8 separate Remembrance events across the borough this historic weekend with the Mayor, Cabinet, Senior officers and Councillors attending.

The new Parish Priest, Revd Cannon Alex Summers, led an excellent and moving service (despite a heavy cold) and spoke about two of his great uncles, who were killed in the first world war. He and his young family had visited the war cemetery of one of his uncles in France and noted that the graves of British and German dead were buried alongside each other. It seemed fitting that former enemies were laid in peace together. I completely agree.

The Church is a beautiful Grade 1 listed building and was founded in the 12th Century.  I recommend a visit. There is a Beethoven Concert there on 24 November 2018 which I sadly cannot attend due to pre booked clash.

After the ceremony my wife Gill and I went over to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to view the "Shrouds from the Somme". Visit, look and listen to the endless names of the unidentified dead. It is heartbreaking.

Monday, November 12, 2018

"Save Our Dinner Ladies" - Ladywood Primary School Strike, Barnsley

"Our members at Ladywood Primary School in Grimethorpe, Barnsley, are in dispute with their employer over proposals to make 9 School Meals Supervisory Assistants (lunchtime supervisors) redundant. 

Donate to the strike fund

You can donate by sending money to:
Account name: UNISON Barnsley
Account number: 20031457
Sort code: 608301

Or send a cheque payable to UNISON Barnsley to:
Branch Office, 4 Burleigh Court, Barnsley, S70 1XY.

They started with 6 days of strike action in September 2018 and since 4 October 2018 have been on indefinite strike. There are seventeen members in total who are taking action; nine SMSAs and eight Teaching Assistants and Higher Level Teaching Assistants.

We believe that the Ladywood dispute is hugely significant and that its outcome may determine the approach that other schools take to addressing budget difficulties. Our members, through their determination and courage, are showing that low-paid support staff are no longer a soft target when savings need to be made.

We hope you will be able to support our members by sending a message of solidarity to

You can also follow us on social media: (on Facebook and Twitter: @UNISONBarnsley).

Every message will be passed on to our members and they really do make a difference. 
Robin Symonds

UNISON Regional Organiser, Yorkshire and Humberside"

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Clear out West Ham CLP HQ aka "the Pie Shop"

Our local Labour headquarters since the 1970s has been sold to a developer who is going to build a high rise block on the site.

It used to be a newsagents and a "fish n chips" shop in the past.

The national Labour Party has a large capital sum and we locally have been promised contractually a space in the new building that will be twice the floor area at a peppercorn rent.

This was probably the 3rd clear out that we have had but we are nearly there. A van full of rubbish was taken to the Newham tip but a number of historical items are being rescued and stored until we get our new home.

The "Vote Labour" roof car sign has not been used according to CLP Premises officer, John Saunders, since Arthur Lewis times. However, I put the plug into my car and it worked. 

Paul Cockerell - Life long Socialist, Trade unionist & Hammers fan - RIP

On Friday afternoon I went to pay my respects at Paul's funeral at Manor Park crematorium.

Paul was a Forest Gate North and West Ham Labour activist who also lived round the corner to me.

A lovely non religious service for a life long socialist, trade unionist, music lover & West Ham FC supporter.

I sat next to a UNISON staff member who remembered the kindness of Paul and his wife Sue, 30 years ago to him when he was a student living nearby.

Some wonderful eulogies from his niece, lifelong university friend and neighbour.

Then typical generous East End wake at the Forest Gate Tavern.

Perfect send off. 

Rest in peace Paul. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Turning rubbish into pensions

Picture collage from a visit on Friday with Cllr Joshua Garfield, Newham Council Pension officer and our Canadian fund managers, Fiera Infrastructure (top left) to the Cory Riverside "energy from waste" plant in Belvedere, Bexley, Kent. 

Newham Council staff pension fund (LGPS) has invested in this company. Look to right side of collage, top to bottom for a outline of what this plant does.

Top right, a rubbish cart dumps rubbish, then a crane collects the rubbish and places it into a furness where the rubbish is burnt and provides the heat to make steam, which drives turbines to produce electricity. This electricity serves 160,000 London households. The "cake" from the burnt rubbish is then transported by barges along the River Thames to be turned into breeze blocks to build homes.  Apparently the pollutants caused by this process are lower than the "normal" air quality in the locality.

Obviously, due diligence was done to ensure that our pension fund investment in this plant was made on the basis of matching liabilities and maximising return but the idea that instead of expensive and wasteful landfill, rubbish is turned into electricity and into pensions is very attractive.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Councillor Report to West Ham Ward 8 November 2018

Councillor Report to Ward
As 8 Nov 2018

tel: 0203 373 3456 or email

Ward issues

·        On 4 October after my surgery I attended a meeting of Leather Gardens Residents & Tenants Association with Cllr Whitworth in Brassett Point. It was a lively but constructive meeting with the Council concierge manager, discussing communal repairs, anti-social behaviour (ASB) & service charges. An inspection of David Lee Point was agreed as was a further inspection of Brassett Point.

·        A Council tenant who has caused ASB in the ward for many years to local residents was jailed this month for violent behaviour and homophobic abuse. A 3 year banning order was also imposed. Many thanks to local Police and Council enforcement officers for finally being able to bring this perpetrator to justice and protect residents.

·        23 October I took part in an inspection of all 21 floors in David Lee Point with Cllr Whitworth, Concierge officer, Leasehold services officer and a resident. The block was clean but minor repairs were noted and reported. Issues of ASB were also discussed.

·        All ward Councillors, Council senior officers and the Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz attended a remembrance ceremony on 24 October organised by the local Police to honour PC Nina Mackay, who was killed on duty 21 year ago in Arthingworth Street E15

·        All 3 Ward Councillors met on 29 October with representatives of Newham Clinical Commissioners to express our concern on behalf of many constituents over the pending closure of West Ham GP surgery following the retirement of its main doctor. There had been huge opposition to this plan. We asked for the closure to be reconsidered or at least postponed but this was refused on the grounds that the premises were totally unsuitable and the practice was too small. At my surgery on Saturday residents told me that they are collecting a petition and will be asking for a meeting with the board of the local NHS Trust to protest further.

·        The planning application for a very large private tower block in Abbey Road next to the DLR station has been refused by the local planning committee. Congratulations to local residents for their very effective campaigning against this unsuitable application. It is likely that the developers will come back with a revised plan which probably will still be of concern to residents.

·        I was pleased to attend the 2nd anniversary of the opening of the Darul Jannah Community centre on November 5 and give out prizes to top performing students with Councillor Whitworth and other Councillors.


·        I was also pleased that the Labour Candidate Moniba Khan was elected as a Councillor in the recent Boleyn by-election with 74% of the vote. I had been campaigning with ward members.

·        I am due to present on my role as Cabinet member for Housing services to next month’s meeting of the branch (Now January 2019).

If any member wishes to contact me about this report or my work as a Cabinet member please do not hesitate to do so.

Surgeries and case work

Please note the new time and place of my Councillor Surgeries

·        Stratford Library,  3 The Grove, Stratford E15 1EL 1st Saturday in every month 10am-11am
·        1st Floor Tenants’ Room
Abbey Road, E15 3LA
. 1st Thursday in every month 5pm-6pm.
I can also be contacted by email or phone (see top) or even via twitter (@grayee) or Facebook (search “John Gray Newham”)

John Gray
West Ham Ward Councillor

Thursday, November 08, 2018

"UNISON celebrates becoming the UK’s biggest union"

"UNISON is marking becoming the UK’s biggest union by launching a month of recruitment activity today to reach out to every worker in the country providing public services.
The union has now more than 1.3 million people in its membership who work in education, local government, the NHS, the police service and the energy sector. Members work in both the public and private sectors.
But there are still tens of thousands of public sector workers who aren’t part of a union. During the month of November – renamed Grovember in UNISON – the union’s reps will be working hard to attract new recruits in every town and city across the UK".
Great initiative by UNISON to build our Union. Non members need to realise that the more of us in the union - the better the deal the union will always get for its members. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Happy 101st Birthday Bolshevik Revolution

Today is the 101st anniversary of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution. Who knew? and it is Trotsky's birthday as well. Today I attended a Newham Council Audit meeting and 3 people present out of 15 or so also had their birthdays today. Spooky or what?

Hat tip Red Army Choir. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Remembrance services to be held across Newham Sunday 11 November 2018

"Residents are invited to join Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz and the Royal British Legion at remembrance services to commemorate those who have lost their lives while serving their country.​​

Services are taking place across the borough and will include a Cenotaph parade in East Ham and an unforgettable and haunting art installation at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

This year has added significance as it is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the agreement in which Germany surrendered to end fighting in Europe during the First World War.

On Sunday 11 November, Mayor Fiaz and Chief Executive Katherine Kerswell will attend a service of remembrance at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as part of the Shrouds of the Somme art installation. This art installation by Rob Heard depicts more than 72,000 people who were killed in the Battle of the Somme. The shrouds have been hand-stitched and will be laid shoulder to shoulder in hundreds of rows on the park’s South Lawn. The service starts at 10.30am and open to the public. Residents planning to attend should arrive at the park no later than 10am.

On the same day, Newham councillors will join residents and the Royal British Legion to reflect on the sacrifices made by members of the armed services and civilians in conflicts past and present.

The Royal British Legion will parade from Newham Town Hall, High Street South to Central Park at 10.30am ahead of the remembrance ceremony which will take place at the Cenotaph at 10.55am. The service will be led by Rev Fred Ashford-Okaim. Deputy Mayor Councillor Charlene McLean and Councillor Terence Paul will be in attendance.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said: “It is important in this centenary year marking the end of the First World War that we remember all those men and women in our armed services, and civilians, who gave their lives to protect us in conflicts past and present. It is their sacrifices that inspire those who serve today and we must never forget them.”

Other services will be taking place on the following dates and locations:

Friday 9 November

A service of remembrance will be observed at 10.45am at the Cenotaph in Central Park, East Ham. A two-minute silence will take place at 11am. Schools invited include St Joachim’s, St Antony’s Primary, St Michael’s Primary, St Winefride’s Primary, St Bonaventure’s and St Angela’s Ursuline. Councillor Julianne Marriott will attend.

Saturday 10 November

The East Ham branch of the Royal British Legion will be holding a service at Woodgrange Park Cemetery, off Romford Road, Forest Gate, E7, from 11am to 11.45am.

Sunday 11 November

All Saints West Ham Parish Church, Church Street, E15​ - The service will commence at 10.45am. Guests are asked to be seated for 10.30am. The service will be led by Rev Alex Summers and will be attended by Councillor Joy Laguda and Councillor John Gray.

St Luke’s Memorial, Tarling Road, Canning Town, E16 - The service will be led by the Venerable Emeka Ejinkonye at 10.45am. Councillors Susan Masters and Julianne Marriott will attend.
St Mark’s Memorial, (grounds of Brick Lane Music Hall), Factory Road, North Woolwich, E16 - 

There will be a parade to St Mark’s Memorial departing from the Royal British Legion Club in Constance Street, Silvertown at 10.15am. An olive tree will be planted and the service, led by Canon Ann Easter, starts at 10.45am. Councillor Rachel Tripp will attend.

East London Cemetery, Hermit Road/Upper Road, E13 - There will be a short service at the cemetery from 10.45am to 11.10am led by Rev Ben Atkins, vicar of St Matthias Church, Canning Town.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Darul Jannah Community Centre 2nd anniversary & Student Prize Awards

I was really pleased tonight to be a guest at the Darul Jannah community centre in my ward, alongside Cllr John Whitworth, Cllr Anam Islam and Cllr Shaban Mohammed as well as local Police and other community activists.

The centre has been open for 2 years and the ceremony tonight involved making speeches, listening to prayers, islamic hymns and giving out prizes for achievements and attendance to the students who have religious classes at the centre. There was a fantastic hymn by a group of young girls.

In my speech I compared the Darul Jannah Islamic tradition of a strong inclusive community, charity and love of family with the close knit, socialistic community that I knew growing up as a child in North Wales.

Towards the end, newly elected Newham Councillor, Moniba Khan, also attended. The centre gave everyone a delicious meal afterwards. 

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Out and about Newham Council Housing: Cundy Street Centre, David Lee Point, Janson Close & Park Road

Picture collage from recent visits, talks and walkabouts I have been on as Newham Housing lead with local residents, Council Officers and local Councillors.

While visiting our housing estates and meeting residents I have found lots of things that we need to do much better but also examples of excellent practice and dedicated Newham staff doing, what is at times, a really difficult job.

I really enjoy "walkabouts", meeting residents and also getting things done. So, if you are a Newham Council tenant or a leaseholder and want me to to come to your estate then please contact your local Councillors and ask them to invite me. 

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Max Levitas - Battle of Cable Street Anti Fascist Veteran RIP

Life long anti-fascist and former "Red Stepney" Councillor for 15 years, Max Levitas, has passed away aged 103. I first met Max many years ago when he was probably in his late 80s and he addressed a meeting of Tower Hamlets residents opposed to the stock transfer of its Council estates to housing associations.

To my surprise, after savaging the Council, he then turned his fire on certain left wing anti stock transfer protestors, who he also attacked in no uncertain terms. I asked a trade union colleague, who was a member of the trotskyist SWP sitting next to me, what was going on? He replied "We are still the Wreckers and Splitters".  Max was of course also a lifelong supporter of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). Fabulous photo of Max above by Charlotte Barnes.

Max was the son of Jewish refugees who fled Eastern Europe to escape Russian persecution. He and his brothers Sol and Maurice fought alongside thousands of local residents and stopped the fascists marching through East London at the Battle of Cable Street in 1936.  See the Battle of Cable Street Memorial above.

Check out this marvellous interview of Max on Channel 4 News.

Max used to take number 25 bus from Stepney to do his shopping twice a month in the Stratford Centre, Newham and occasionally he would join our regular Saturday, West Ham Labour Party street stall and have a chat with us, warn us about Trotskyists, exhibit the "Morning Star" and happily pose for photos. He told us that he would always vote Labour unless a "real communist" was standing.

Definitely end of an era and an important link in our history but the modern day battle against fascism in all its forms continues. RIP Max

Friday, November 02, 2018

Boleyn (Newham) result:

Boleyn (Newham) result: LAB: 74.8% (+4.3) CON: 14.2% (-4.4) GRN: 7.5% (-3.4) LDEM: 3.6% (+3.6) Labour HOLD.

Well done. Moniba Khan (right of picture next to our Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz) is elected as a Labour Councillor in a by-election last night.

The 74% victory margin is humbling. Moniba and her agent, Alan Griffiths, both worked their socks off for this victory as did many activists. 

Moniba is also the nicest election candidate I have ever met. 

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Child Poverty in London

This is from a hard hitting report by the Child Poverty Action Group. 37% of children in London (700,000 kids) live in poverty. It is projected to rise 2019-2021 to 41.5%. What a shameful statistic for one of the richest cities in the world. 2/3rds of such children live in families where at least one parent works#.

You can download a London borough specific report here.

Newham has the highest child poverty numbers in London at 36,780 affecting 43% of all our children.

The reasons for this must be linked to fact we have the highest level of low paid residents at 36% (London average is 21%) as well as exorbitant housing costs. The average rent of the bottom 25% of Newham properties is a staggering £1200 per month and the lowest paid 25% of Newham residents spend 72% of their gross income on rent.

All this is a major reason why we in Newham have (arguably) the worst homelessness crisis in England.

#"A child is living in relative poverty if living in a household with below 60 per cent of contemporary median income, according to government measurements".

While I am convinced that the new Labour administration in Newham (I declare an interest) can make a huge transformational difference to many people's lives.  For example by building a 1000 Council homes at a social rent, community wealth building or tackling violence amongst young people by increasing the number of youth hubs. The sheer numbers mean that we will only be able to defeat child poverty in London by a change in Government.

We need a government in power that will tax those who can afford it to really provide for all our children in need.