Friday, November 30, 2018

"Never Commit, Excuse or Remain Silent About Male Violence"

"Newham residents are being urged to wear orange and make a pledge to stand up to violence against women and girls as part of the UN’S 16 Days of Activism, an international campaign against domestic violence.​

Newham Council is supporting the campaign to raise awareness of the issue, which began on the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November and ends on Human Rights Day on 10 December.

To support the campaign, Newham Council is hosting free events in partnership with local community groups to promote the support available, as well as share experiences and send a clear message of zero tolerance towards domestic and sexual violence (DSV) in Newham. Events include a poetry reading and a workshop around healthy relationships.

Councillor Susan Masters, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care said: “Domestic violence can take many different forms including psychological, physical, sexual and emotional abuse. It is essential that the council and members of the public are vigilant to the signs so anyone who may be experiencing it gets the help they need.

“Survivors of domestic and sexual violence need to feel supported and empowered so they can seek the help they need to escape from an abusive relationship. We have a range of services which can help but we need to also raise awareness of the problem. Newham Council has a zero tolerance to any form of gender based violence. We want to send out a message that domestic violence will not be accepted in Newham.”

During the 16 campaign, Newham residents will share photos of themselves on social media using the hashtag #Hearmetoo and pledge never to condone, commit, excuse or stay silent about violence against women and urging others to make the same pledge. At Full Council on Monday, councillors made the pledge.

Anyone experiencing domestic or sexual violence should contact the Newham One Stop Shop 24 hour line on 0845 451 2547 or visit www.newham.gov.uk/dsv​ for information on the range of support services available".

Newham Councillors standing in solidarity before full Council Meeting on Monday 



Thursday, November 29, 2018

UNISON Welfare Trustee Board and UNISON Staff Pension Trustee Board meetings




I am back home after a couple of busy days in my role as a UNISON National Executive Committee (NEC) appointed Trustee. 

On Tuesday I travelled up to Grantham in Lincolnshire to a meeting of the UNISON Welfare Trustee Board. This board is a mix of regional elected reps and NEC members. We have our own UNISON Charity for members who are in crisis called "There for you". Local branches and regions raise funds for our charity and it is heavily supported by our National Union. There is a proud tradition in our Labour Movement of working class people organising and looking after their own. 

The reason we met in Grantham is because it is the headquarters of our Debtline service for members (Provider "PayPlan" in top picture). We had a number of very good presentations including one on their "talk about debt" campaign. 

(On Tuesday evening as a Newham Cabinet lead I appeared before a Council Scrutiny Committee on Homelessness with Cllr Susan Masters, officers and the Housing Charity Shelter, which I think went well and was really constructive.) 

On Wednesday morning I gave a NEC report and took questions at the meeting of the UNISON Community Service Group Executive (will post further). 

I then took the train to Birmingham for a 2 day board meeting and training of the UNISON Staff Pension Trustees (see bottom picture of meal out yesterday with fellow trustees, UNISON officers and advisors). 

Our Staff Pension scheme is, as you can imagine, a decent pension scheme but not as good as the Local Government or NHS scheme. 

The meeting was pretty "heavy duty" on pension funding, equity protection and investment strategy but there was also a very interesting and even provocative training on the dangers of "Group Think" at all forms of trustee meetings. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Residents stories exploring the impact of the housing crisis in Newham


Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz in conversation with local residents with James Murray, London Deputy Mayor for Housing. Finally, some good housing news for Newham residents and the Carpenters Estate in particular. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Grovember: 7 Reasons to Join UNISON





7 reasons to join UNISON

Each of our 1.3 million members has their own reasons for joining UNISON.
But every one receives our help and support.
Legal Help
For you at work and your family at home
Financial Assistance
And debt advice in times of need
Compensation
for you and your family
Discounts
including money off cars and holidays
Helpline
Our helpline is open until midnight weekdays, and 4pm on Saturdays, closed on Sundays
Training
to help develop your career
Support
we’ll be with you when you need it most

Monday, November 26, 2018

Newham Council Budget proposals 2019-2020 - London Living Wage; Cut Council Tax for Poor; Eat for Free & Support Children with SEN

I was really proud of the budget proposals announced today by our Labour Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, at Full Council tonight. In spite of further Government cuts and Austerity, we are proposing a London Living Wage for all our care staff (then rolled out to all other parts of the Council); cutting Council tax for the poorest; retaining free school meals ("Eat for Free") and supporting children with special educational needs (and other policies).

Nevermind all the transformational stuff we are doing on housing.

This makes politics worthwhile. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Number of social rented homes

Hat tip John Healey MP Shadow Secretary of State for Housing. This is one of the reasons why we have 105 street homeless living rough in Newham as well as 5,100 homeless families living in temporary accommodation and 28,000 on our waiting list.  This is why we desperately need a change of government. 

“New figures out today confirm the disastrous fall in the number of new affordable homes for social rent under the Conservatives. Shameful”. assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/upl…

Friday, November 23, 2018

Stand Up To Racism March


Top video from Chester at CY Film production on Newham activists and the "Stand up to Racism" march last Saturday. Apologies for muddling date of London Blitz. It was over 70 years not 60.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Home ownership is the most ‘subsidised’ tenure

Another excellent housing "myth buster" by Red Brick (Website of the Labour Housing Group) "home ownership is now easily the most subsidised tenure, much more so than social housing, with private renting receiving the least help".

"It often seems that the term ‘council tenant’ automatically comes with the word ‘subsidised’ in front of it. It is part and parcel of the stigmatisation of the tenure by many politicians and much of the media – and even some within the social housing sector. Following Grenfell, the government in its green paper nodded in recognition of the unfair portrayal of council housing and noted that stigma has a deleterious effect both on the tenure and on the people who live in it. But even as they recognised it, they also repeated their underlying belief in the superiority of home ownership.
Despite overwhelming political and popular support, since 2003 or so home ownership has been in decline as the affordability of housing has deteriorated. For all its efforts, this government has not yet managed to reverse the trend. In his book launched last week, Josh Ryan-Collins showed that this was not just a UK effect, it has happened across what he calls the ‘Anglo-Saxon economies’ where banking systems have been deregulated in  the same way and at the same time. Encouraged by the collateral of bricks and mortar, overly keen banks with liberal lending policies pushed prices up much faster than incomes, hugely stretching price to income ratios. Other countries with different types of bank – notably Germany where banks are regional and based more on co-operative principles – have experienced much less house price inflation and have much less emphasis on houses being investments rather than places to live.
In the UK since 2010 we have seen the amount of public money put into social housing slashed yet there have been many, often costly, initiatives to help slow the decline in home ownership. The net effect is that home ownership is now easily the most subsidised tenure, much more so than social housing, with private renting receiving the least help.
The conclusion that the state gives far more help to home ownership cuts against the grain of conventional thinking. But it has now been very well documented in a report entitled Dreams and Reality? Government finance, taxation and the private housing market published today by the Chartered Institute of Housing and written by housing finance experts Steve Wilcox and Peter Williams. The authors reached their conclusion after an exhaustive analysis, taking account of all types of government intervention in the market, not only spending on grants, loans and guarantees, but also tax reliefs, welfare benefits and regulatory mechanisms which aim to stimulate or control the three main routes by which people get access to housing.
They show that government is directing about £8 billion annually into private housing over the five years to 2020/21, with over half going specifically to support home ownership and the remainder being more broadly aimed at the private market. In contrast, direct funding for new social housing is less than £2 billion annually.
Wilcox and Williams accept that the analysis is bound to be crude because financial support for the sectors comes in different forms – for social housing it is mainly grant spending whereas much of the private market support is via loans or guarantees. Some specifics:
  • In terms of tax reliefs, home owners benefit much more than private landlords: net tax relief for owners was some £29 billion in 2016/17 (£10 billion paid in tax; £39 billion received in tax reliefs) whereas private landlords paid net tax of at least £8 billion.
  • Within the benefits system, tenants receive much more assistance than home-owners, with about £15 billion annually going to social housing tenants and £8.5 billion to private renters.
  • Private renting has a big advantage in mortgage regulation because it can access interest-only mortgages whereas new home buyers have to navigate various restrictions on mortgage availability.
  • Despite the huge increase in general support for the market, the government safety net for those homeowners facing financial difficulty has been much reduced. Support for mortgage interest will soon migrate from paying mortgage interest charges for unemployed home buyers to providing loans – a further erosion.
CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE said:
“This report demonstrates just how much government support is going to the private market, and to home-owners in particular – probably contrary to many people’s expectations. It takes a comprehensive look at the way the government supports our housing system – and we would urge ministers to do the same. Currently just 21 per cent of government investment is going to affordable housing. Rebalancing this budget to support people on lower incomes who can’t afford to buy could make a big difference. It is vital that the government supports councils and housing associations to build more homes for social rent.”
Wilcox and Williams also sneak a look into the future. If home ownership is stabilised at around 60% and if the social housing sector does not grow proportionately, it follows that future net growth will come mainly in the private rented sector. This will lead to a substantial long term increase in the cost of housing benefit (especially as working private tenants retire and become eligible for rent support). Unlike social housing, where housing benefit is retained by landlords and surpluses recycled, HB to private landlords funds profits which are removed from the sector.
‘It serves to make the point’, the authors say, ‘that the continuation of current trends is not a cost-neutral option for government’.
And in a massive understatement they comment that ‘there are questions as to whether we are spending as efficiently as we can in the housing sector, a pertinent point given the general pressure on public finances.’ In particular, they question the emphasis on intervention on the demand-side through Help to Buy and other schemes rather than supporting supply-side initiatives (ie directly building more houses rather than increasing buyers’ purchasing power).
We may have to wait a long time to see ‘subsidised home owners’ replace ‘subsidised council tenants’ in the headlines. But this report demonstrates that government intervention has become critically important to the operation of the private housing market. It seems highly unlikely that the schemes chosen by the government will lead to less volatility and house price inflation. Whatever happens, in future a much sharper focus will be needed on private renting, both in terms of the cost to households in rent but also the cost to government in benefits".

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Marching Against School Cuts

Picture collage from yesterday's evening demo and rally in Westminster against cuts in school funding. Despite the rain, it was a cheerful, noisy and well attended event. Newham Labour Group met up with local activists beforehand at Stratford Station (second time within 4 days) led by our Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz and cabinet member for Schools, Cllr Julianne Marriott, to travel to the demo together.

We all arrived at the rally somewhat wet and bedraggled but signed the "Enough is enough" petition on cuts to school funding to send to Chancellor, Philip Hammond. I had to leave rally before main speakers, Angela Rayner MP and our Leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP to attend my local Newham Citizen Assembly in Stratford.

(Hat tip pictures stolen from various Party members & activists twitter & Facebook accounts). 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Newham Homelessness Action Group: 20 Nov 2018 #OurDay

Many thanks to all participants at @NewhamLondon Homelessness Action Group. We had residents with lived experience, DWP, Charities & officers working together to tackle the scourge of Homelessness. We have a way to go #OurDay

We had a presentation on Newham Homelessness Prevention & Advice Service - now 5100 families in Temporary Accommodation & over 28k on waiting list but only 604 empty homes became available last year. 50% increase in homeless application this year (due largely to the new Homeless  Reduction Act)

Monday, November 19, 2018

National School Dinners Week: Manor Primary School, E15

Last week was National Schools Meals Week and up and down the Country, Councillors have been to their local schools to have a meal with pupils and staff.

Cllr John Whitworth and I went to Manor Primary School in our West Ham ward and met the Head Teacher, Kate McGee, catering staff and children. It is probably 37 years since I last had a school dinner.

We had an excellent meal. I cannot believe that schools have salad bars nowadays. I had a low carb version (save for the red Jelly) while Cllr Whitworth had the chips and cake!  No rhubarb crumble and custard anymore (my past school favourite) but thinking about my greedy habits learnt from childhood maybe this is a good thing.

Many thanks for the invite and we both really enjoyed the meal and talking to pupils and staff. I cannot wait until next year!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Kyffin Williams: The way to the cottages

Love this. Calendar present 2018 (March) from my Mum. Painting by Welsh artist Kyffin Williams sometime 1990 - 2006. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Newham Labour Family at Unity Anti-Racist & Anti-Fascist March

This picture collage is from today's March and Rally in Central London. Newham Labour Councillors, Party members & supporters met in the morning outside Stratford Station in order to travel down together to the march.

While we were gathering there was a series of speeches including our London Assembly member Unmesh Desai and a young person, 10 year old Unais, who reminded us that the same hearts beat under our skins regardless of race or colour.

I also gave a short speech reminding everyone that only last Sunday many of us had attended ceremonies remembering those who died defending us against fascists and in November 1940 fascists bombers had rained bombs on London including Stratford, killing thousands of Londoners. We must never forget this and always fight fascism and racism in all its forms.

The march formed in Portland Place near the BBC headquarters. I helped carry the West Ham Labour Party banner with my ward Councillor John Whitworth (and others). At the end of the march there was a rally in Whitehall (near Downing Street) and a number of speeches including that of our Newham Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, who passionately attacked all supporters of hate in our society. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Beethoven's Symphony No.9 - All Saints Festival Chorus & Orchestra Sat 24th Nov 2018

Some culture for a change on my blog even though I have a clash next weekend and cannot make it!

"Symphony No. 9 in D minor op 125 (Choral Symphony) by Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most famous pieces of music ever written. Instantly recognizable, it is unusual in featuring singing by four soloists and a full choir. The words are based upon a poem by Friedrich Schiller, Ode an die Freude (in English: Ode to Joy or, perhaps freedom). The poem has a strong message to all mankind: it is about living in peace and harmony together".

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Your November Citizens' Assembly - 20 November 6-9pm (I hope Westhammers can attend their Assembly)

Your November Citizens’ Assemblies

Join us to have your say on local priorities. The second round of Citizens’ Assemblies will run throughout November and build on the findings from the first round that took place in September.  Through the first round, and the working parties that were set up following these, 6 key priorities have been identified to address.  The top three for Stratford and West Ham are:
  1. Community Safety and Cohesion / ASB
  2. Community Development and Culture - Including Support for Young and Elderly People
  3. Environment Concerns (Litter, Flytipping) - Including Parks and Green Spaces 
Email CN.Stratfordwestham@newham.gov.uk to let’s know what priority interests you the most and we will reserve your space on the round table discussion.  
Across all of the Citizens’ Assemblies  Youth, Highways and Housing were highlighted as priorities for residents. This information will be collated and will feed into the borough wide strategy for these areas.


You can find more information and register at www.newham.gov.uk/CitizensAssemblies
For more information contact CitizensAssemblies@newham.gov.uk

Putting Newham Residents at the Heart of Everything We Do.
Register for Your Citizens' Assembly
Newham Heritage Week 2018
Thursday 8 November - Sunday 18 November


Exhibitions, heritage bus tour, films, walks, talks, children’s activities, open houses and more. This year we will be celebrating women’s right to vote and remembering the end of the first world war, alongside many more events and activities highlighting Newham’s rich heritage. For more information and updates on Newham’s Heritage Week www.newham.gov.uk/heritageweek or pick up a full programme in any Newham library.

Putting Newham Residents at the Heart of Everything We Do.

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 branchoffice@unisonbarnsleylg.org

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. 
Thanks
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
WEST HAM WARD LABOUR PARTY

tel: 0203 373 3456 or email John.Gray@Newham.gov.uk

  
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.

Other

·        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”)

Regards
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