Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Llanwyfan - Penycloddiau Hill Fort Circular Walk

Off message but spent Christmas in North Wales visiting family. In between visits (and eating and drinking lots) Gill and I had some fantastic walks. We hired a cottage near Llanwyfan which is about 4 miles from Denbigh. There use to be a large TB hospital at Llanwyfan (I will post on its remains another time). 

We could start hill walking from the cottage. On the Sunday we walked left along the country road then up a footpath to climb to join the Offa’s Dyke path (a long distance footpath that goes across Wales) to the Iron Age hill fort Penycloddiau. You can still make out the earth defences of the fort. At the top is a modern monument to mark a Bronze Age burial mound. The views were also spectacular. You could see Liverpool in the far distance. The weather was lovely (as always in Wales of course). 

We then walked down along Offa’s Dyke path and turned back along the Clwydian Way. Which was very muddy in parts but the views of the Vale of Clwyd were stunning. The mud was probably due to 4 wheel drive “enthusiasts” churning up green lanes and tracks. We could see a convoy in the distance and during another walk we actually came across a convoy. 

A few years ago we were walking along this same track when BBC radio rang wanting to interview me on housing workers facing violence at work. Much to Gill’s annoyance she had to stop and wait until the interview was over (they never used the clip after all that). 

The track took us nearly right back to the cottage. The walk was about 5 miles long with only 1 real climb uphill and took about 2 hours. Perfect little walk.

Monday, December 30, 2019

TUC head calls on labour movement to pull together and avoid “self-pity” and “recriminations” in New Year message

“Working families won’t be sorry to see the back of the 2010s. It’s been a decade of austerity and pay stagnation – putting real pressure on family finances, the NHS and the public services we all rely on.

Looking to the next decade, we face big challenges as new technologies like artificial intelligence become common in the workplace, and cutting carbon emissions across industries becomes ever more urgent. As the world of work changes, unions must win agreements with employers so that everyone gains – not just those at the top.

There is so much at stake for working families.

Boris Johnson says he has been ‘loaned’ blue collar votes - and that he will have to earn their trust. He will be tested earlier than he thinks. His party forced working people to pay the price of the global financial crash. Now it’s payback time. The policies that unions champion - stronger rights at work, a ban on zero-hours contracts, action to get wages rising and fair trade deals - are popular, whichever party people voted for and in every part of the country.

In 2020 the trade union movement will hold Boris Johnson’s feet to the fire on his promises to invest in schools and hospitals, get real wages rising and deliver stronger rights at work. We will resist his attacks on the right to strike and on the very organisations that help people get a better deal at work – unions.

We will fight to make sure that the UK’s Brexit trade deals protect labour standards and good jobs – and to stop Donald Trump getting his hands on our NHS.

And we will stand against the far right, and their attempts to divide workers. Whatever our background, race or religion, unions will always stick up for working families. On the frontline are our legion of elected workplace reps. In 2020, we’ll be by their side, helping them break down prejudice and racism, and build respect and tolerance.

What working people need now is for every job to become a decent job. Good work gives people dignity and control. We should all be able to feel proud of earning a fair wage for hard day’s work. We need a fair share of the gains as productivity rises, and a real voice in how change happens.

As we face the challenges of the 2020s, all parts of the labour and trade union movement must pull together. We must be a broad church - and a bigger one too. Unions’ first duty is to win a fair deal for working people. But to do that we must rebuild our numbers - fast.

My message to the labour movement for the year ahead is this: now is not the time for self-pity or recriminations. Our job is to fight for working people, not against each other. We need to learn the lessons of the 2019 election and listen to the working-class communities we exist to serve. We need to show humility, reflect – and then pick ourselves up and prepare for the battles ahead.

Trade unions are the first resort and the last line of protection for working people. Union workplaces are safer, pay more and treat people better. In 2020, the TUC and the whole trade union movement will step up our efforts to making sure many more working people can benefit from the protection, support and solidarity of a union workplace.

Union membership has been growing slowly – but in 2020 we will up our game. That means making the case for unions in all sorts of workplaces. It means transforming ourselves to meet the expectations of today’s workers. It means getting concrete wins on wages and fairness in places where we are already strong – and using those successes to persuade working people that change is possible, and that workers don’t have to just put up with whatever the government or the boss throws at them.

Workplace by workplace, we can bring the benefit of unions to today’s working class.

And in all we do, we’ll keep working for a prosperous and fair country where people with diverse backgrounds and differing views can work together to achieve the things we all want: a decent life for ourselves and our families, for our workmates and our neighbours.

I wish you and your loved ones good health, happiness and success in 2020 and always.

Frances O’Grady’s New Year message

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Death of Stalin

I watched “The Death of Stalin” on Netflix last night. It is billed as a comedy. While there are some comic moments it is not for the faint hearted. 

An account of a gangster state changing its leadership. I wonder how accurate it is? Strange to see Paul Whitehouse in a drama. 

Makes you wonder what will happen when Putin goes? Also, why does Russia seem prone to be ruled by monsters? netflix.com/title/80208631

Friday, December 27, 2019

#NewhamDemocracyCommission Have you had your say?

Democracy and Civic Participation Commission - tell us what you think. To join the conversation online, and for full details of all events visit: https://www.newhamdemocracycommission.org/


Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Christmas gift from “Battling Bessie” Braddock

An early Christmas present were these historic Labour Party cuff links. My cousin is friends with an elderly Labour supporter in Dolgellau, North Wales who wanted me to have have them. Which is very kind of him.

What is particularly fascinating is that the cuff links were given to him by Liverpool MP and Councillor, Bessie Braddock (1899-1970)

Bessie was a trade union activist and former communist before becoming a Labour Councillor, wartime ambulance driver and from 1945 to 1970 a MP.

Bessie was at times a fiery and controversial figure, she was the first female M.P. to be suspended from the House of Commons. She has also been criticised in Wales for her role in the drowning of the Tryweryn Valley to provide water for Liverpool.  When she died Labour leader Harold Wilson paid tribute "She was born to fight for the people of the docks, of the slums, of the factories and in every part of the city where people needed help“. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Newham’s Rough Sleeper Xmas Shelter

“Volunteers are hard at work putting the final festive touches to the rough sleepers Christmas Shelter which opens today in Stratford at 2pm. It’s the second year #Newham Council has supported the project run by Stratford Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Docklands Settlements.

The Shelter offers a warm bed, food and companionship to #Newham's rough sleeping community over the festive period. Thanks to all who have donated and volunteered to help. The Shelter will now remain open 24 hours a day until 2pm on 2 January 2020.

If you see a rough sleeper please direct them to The Carpenters and Docklands Centre, 98 Gibbins Rd, London E15 2HU”


Hat tip Newham Council

Monday, December 23, 2019

A view from the right

Hat tip free markets think tank  CPS for this article by Glen O'Hara.

The real reasons Labour lost

Labour should not have lost this election. Only once before has any modern British government going for a fourth term won the approval of the voters. Real wages have been stagnating for years (though they are rising now). Prime Minister Boris Johnson is deeply unpopular. Public services, especially the National Health Service, are in a mess. And yet the official Opposition was not just defeated – it was utterly eviscerated. How can this have happened?
The explanation is complicated, despite what you might hear from the crossfire of the Forever War that has raged within the Labour Party since at least summer 2015. For their part, Labour’s leadership wants to make this all about Brexit – to say that the party’s pivot to a second referendum alienated Labour’s Leave voters, especially in the North of England. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was on the BBC making this case within moments of the exit poll breaking.
They are doing this because they want to avoid blame themselves. But their self-serving excuse is a gross oversimplification at best, and a total nonsense at worst. According to pollsters Datapraxis, Labour lost between 900,000 and just over a million of its Leave voters: but 1.1 million of its Remain supporters. And between 200,000 and 250,000 of those Leavers went to the Liberal Democrats or the Greens – hardly an indication that a hard-core Leave policy would have scooped them all up.
In fact, two interrelated crises blew up in Labour’s face this year. The first is a long-term dealignment of lower income workers from Labour and labourism, speeded up by Brexit and reflected in those defecting Labour Leavers; the second is its sectarian and closed-minded leadership clique. Either one of these would have weakened the party: taken together, they blew its electoral coalition apart.
Labour went into an election with Jeremy Corbyn as the most unpopular Leader of the Opposition ever (at a net rating of -60). It alienated voters and party members alike by insisting on installing favoured Corbynites over local choices (as in Bassetlaw), even as it sent its activists into an offensive battle that they never had a chance of winning.
Labour ignored its own internal polling. Karie Murphy was moved from serving as Head of the Leader’s Office to headquarters with zero experience of ever running anything like an election campaign. Only in the last days of the campaign were defensive ditches dug in Labour seats. By then, it was far too late.
Labour is now so deep in a hole that the light must look like a mere pinprick: it would need to gain 123 seats on a swing of over 10% to gain a majority, and 75 seats to govern in alliance with the Scottish National Party (if the latter again returns 48 MPs). To gain even the latter objective, it would have to overturn the Conservatives’ majority of 5,507 in Northampton North on a swing of 7%. To put that into perspective, that would be the largest national change since 1945, with the exception of Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide.
There is no hope even of minority government without winning back many of the seats Johnson wrested from them last week. These towns – and for the most part they are towns – are resentful of London’s dominance of the economy and national debate; feel the economic and social life draining out of their high streets and communities; experience every day their pathetic public transport and have gained the impression that Labour actually disdains, if not despises them.

What can the party possibly do to win them back? Perhaps the answer lies in detail. Labour offered everything to everyone this time, in a highfalutin melange of absurdist promises that floated far above people’s actual lives. Free broadband? Free tuition fees? Free school meals? Cheaper train fares? We can deliver it for you wholesale, all at the same time, right away.
As soon as they printed their dozens of fantastical pledges, Labour not only detonated its own credibility, but also removed the moral and contractual leaven of what they were doing – when they could have focused on elderly care, better hospitals, smaller class sizes, more reliable buses. It was no wonder that many voters assembled for focus groups simply laughed when shown Labour’s promises. Contrary to one’s normal advice, the Left really should sweat the small stuff.
For the big offer that you could ‘win a speedboat’ never touched the sides. Indeed, in a strange way, it made things worse, because all the big talk and the huge pride-before-a-fall came across as somehow patronising, another trick from a untrustworthy political elite. They drove straight into the tank trap that the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, had dug for them.
Cummings wanted the election to face ‘the politicians’ with ‘the people’. So Labour said they’d reorder the economy and nationalise the utilities – that they would do things to the country and to people, rather than let people (shall we say) take back control over their own lives. In an election that saw province and periphery revolt against centre in so many ways, Labour’s impression of statism and centralism was fatal.
So Labour has big problems. But it has small problems as well. Any new leader must address both if they are to have even a hope of success. They must talk in a language people can understand about the real issues affecting their lives, promising legible rather than ridiculous changes, clearing out the entire upper echelons of the party’s management. Can it be done? It is possible. But as Labour’s inner circle go to war to protect their legacy, and the party’s many factions gear up to put their own case, the early signs are deeply gloomy. The British Left may have to toil in the wilderness for a while yet.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

A view from the hard left

Hat tip my libel pal David Osland's (seen here with me and his partner Cllr Stroppy) article in last weeks Telegraph.

“For the hard left - and yes, I’m proudly part of it - it’s time to wake up and smell the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign organic fairtrade coffee.

For the second time in four years, a leadership drawn from our side of the party has led Labour to electoral devastation.

Unless we somehow find a way back from that, and to win next time, our vision for Britain faces obliteration as definitive as that witnessed under Thatcherism. It’s a painful undertaking, and it begins with owning the defeat.

The urgent first move is to eradicate anti-Semitism, mainly because that is the right thing to do anyway. But even on the base level of electoral calculation, it’s costing us seats.

Never again should Labour canvassers feel trepidation when knocking on a north London suburban door to which a mezuzah is nailed.

Then, stop stitching up selections, which demoralises activists, but impose rigid quality controls where local parties make the choice, because it’s better than having to disown wronguns' mid-campaign.

The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink manifesto was an unforced error. The message was too diffuse, too much to take in. You really can have too much of a good socialist thing.

Recognise that the ‘MSM’ is called the mainstream media for a reason. You do not single-handedly offset the impact of the millions of Tory-leaning newspapers sold every day by phoning amateur hour spindoctor hot tips to uncritically adulatory one-man websites.

But one factor dominated everything else. Sadly, the few who foresaw the extent of the kicking about to be imparted on account of Brexit were dismissed as namby-pamby nay-sayers.

In hindsight, we’d have been better served shucking off the Lib Dem guilt trip and sticking to the 2017 position of respecting the result. Ironically, that was probably Jeremy Corbyn’s private judgment as well. Yes, it would have hurt in London and the South. But voter haemorrhage would have been less severe overall. All that is by the by anyway. Hard Brexit is now happening whether we like it or not.

Disaffection among what New Labour euphemistically dubbed ‘the heartland vote’ hardly commenced under Corbyn, of course. The malaise dates back decades, allowing the Brexiteer-led ‘party of the metropolitan elite’ critique to gain traction.

Scotland looks a lost cause for at least a generation, after Ed Miliband’s disastrous decision to campaign alongside the Tories in the 2014 independence reference. The Red Wall may not be so beyond repair, but won’t be rebuilt by London calling to the faraway towns.

Where we should not resile is in justifying Corbyn’s four-year stint as leader. Indeed, if you want to get all Marxist about it, you could even call it historically inevitable.

By the 2000s, Labour had moved well to the right of where any left of centre party ever has any business being. Without what City pages call a long-overdue market correction, it would likely be languishing with the sort of single-digit poll standings afflicting many continental counterparts. Even after this week’s collapse, its vote share remains higher than under Brown and Miliband.

It’s not Labour’s reloved economic leftism that is unpopular. If it was, the Tories would not have ditched four decades of orthodoxy and pay lip service to tax-and-spend economics, solely in the name of electoral expediency.

So to paraphrase a popular National Rifle Association bumper sticker, New Labour can have the party back when they pry it from our cold dead hands.

Yes, Corbyn himself has made it plain that he is going, and the ‘process of reflection’ may prove shorter than he ideally wishes. Luckily the hard left retains sufficient membership support to secure the succession.

Rebecca Long-Bailey will likely be designated to carry the flame, but needs to prove she is more than merely a favourite daughter. The right may well stand Jess Phillips, who possesses bucketloads of the charisma Long-Bailey transparently lacks. But some rightists fear her overtly confrontational style makes her too divisive a proposition.

An overcrowded field of soft lefts, semi-Corbynistas, Brown leftovers and centrists such as Angela Rayner, Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry, Clive Lewis, Yvette Cooper and Lisa Nandy could all make credible unifiers. I’ll reserve judgment until I see the platforms.

So congratulations, Mr Johnson. You now have your mandate to Get Brexit Done, open up the NHS to US Big Pharma, get us all eating chlorinated chickenburgers, create a Singapore-on-Thames that will reduce much of Britain to Detroit-on-Teesside, and such other deleterious schemes as may strike your fancy.

Just don’t forget that most of the electorate didn’t vote Tory, and you may only have your parliamentary majority on loan.

David Osland is a former member of the Labour Representation Committee national committee and ex news editor of Tribune

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The reality about illegal evictions & criminal landlords

You wouldn't believe a landlord would tell a family that they need to be evicted so s/he could hold a Christmas party?

Hat tip Nearly Legal

"The new government’s Queens Speech confirmed that there will be a Bill that will involve the ending of section 21 ‘no ground’ possession procedure. This is something we’ve talked about before. It will be complicated, will involve new grounds of possession for Housing Act 1988 tenancies, and will have to address all those regulatory breaches for which invalidating a section 21 notice is currently a penalty. But still, blimey. This will be a new landscape in many ways. Not all of them good, I strongly suspect.
Of course, the ‘there is no such thing as a no fault eviction’ brigade are out in force, asserting that tenancies are always ended because of tenant fault.  For them, may I present this heart-warming Christmas time story from the forum r/LegalAdviceUK on reddit.com (The original 16 December 2019 post has been deleted by the moderators, but was archived with the moderator’s express hope that “the tenants can use this as evidence in their civil claim“). The archived post is here. It reads:
Please listen to the whole truth before you lambaste me.
I asked the family (one woman, four kids, one adult teenager) that live in my property to find another place to live because I wanted the house back. I gave the section 21 notice ages two months ago. They did not leave. I said, ok, if you don’t leave by 1st of December, I will go to court to evict you.
I asked nicely; I told the woman my family are coming to join me for Christmas, we have not seen each other for over a year and my current property is not big enough to host dinner; so I needed my old property back urgently but she didn’t care.
I have changed the locks before and no one has taken legal action against me and I ONLY DO IT for emergency/drastic measures when the tenant doesn’t listen or has broken our agreement and I can’t be bothered to spend my business (time/money) going through the court system which takes ages.
Every landlord I know changes the locks and it gets the tenants to comply with eviction.
Unfortunately, on 2nd December evening, she called the Met saying i was harassing her (false) and that she was stranded outside and could not access her house- they told her it was a civil matter but the police recorded the incident and she has used the police statement as evidence in the letter before action.
I have already taken repossession of the property, I believe they are residing in a BnB at the moment provided by Greenwich council?
What are my options and my defence to this alleged unlawful eviction claim by the tenant and her solicitor?
Oh where to start? Without lambasteing. The wanting the property back because they needed it to host Christmas dinner for their family? The ‘look I’ve illegally evicted people before but only for emergencies/when I can’t be bothered going to court’? The ‘everybody does it’? The sheer screaming sense of entitlement and self pity?
But I think the crowning glory is posting this on a public forum at a point where the tenant is represented and the details given in the post are such that identification that this is their client’s case should not be too difficult. So, a confession in a public forum, while asking for advice on a defence, may be the very stupidest thing that this landlord has done.
If the tenant’s solicitors are reading this – happy Christmas, here is an early present.
To every decent private landlord out there – and there are plenty – sorry but you’ve lost the argument. It isn’t necessarily you, but so long as you can’t stop this, you’ll lose the argument.
And with that, I’m off to plan how to lambaste the turkey".

Friday, December 20, 2019

Totally fed up of losing General Elections: UNISON NEC

On Wednesday there was a post general election meeting of the UNISON National Executive Committee at our headquarters in Euston. I hold one of the two elected NEC seats for UNISON members who work in the UK Voluntary Sector and Housing Associations.

The NEC was supposed to  have met last Thursday 12 December but for obvious reasons it was postponed until this week.

The General election result dominated the meeting. In order to move business along, our President, Josie Bird, asked NEC members not to make detailed arguments why they thought Labour had lost the election since we need more time to reflect and need to concentrate on what to do next. However, many members, particularly those who lived in the previously rock solid Labour heartlands did give chapter and verse on the calamity.

I gave my pennyworth as well. Firstly, I made a joke since everyone was so depressed. I had stolen it from a colleague of a certain age, who had said the 2019 result was the worse since 1983, but at least in 1983 we had a really good music scene to lighten the defeat. I pointed out that this defeat was actually the worse since 1931 and I have no idea what music they had at that time.

My point was that I have no firm views on who should be the next leader but I want someone who can unite the Party and win the next general election.

Where I live in Newham, East London (population 359,000), a report this morning from housing charity Shelter found that 1 in every 24 of residents are homeless. 1:24!

In Newham once you take into account the cost of housing, 50% of families with children live in poverty. 50% of families!

We need a Labour government in power to tackle homelessness and poverty. No if's or buts.

We have lost 4 general elections in a row. I am totally fed up of us losing general elections. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Christmas Tale: "Newham has the highest rate of homelessness in the country, report reveals, as council ramps up support"

A modern day Christmas tale: Hat tip Newham Recorder 

"Newham has the highest rate of homelessness in the country, a report by housing charity Shelter has revealed.

The council says a shortage of social rented property, high private rents and benefit changes are pushing more people into homelessness, which Shelter's annual report estimated affects one in 24 (a total of 14,535) people in the borough.

Deputy Mayor John Gray said the council is putting "significant resources" into dealing with the crisis, including expanding its street outreach team and day service provision, and funding a high needs rough sleeper unit.

New figures from Shelter reveal 280,000 people - one in every 200 - are recorded as homeless in England and all but three of the 28 worst affected local authorities are in London, where private rents are notoriously expensive.

The next worst rate after Newham was in both Haringey and Kensington and Chelsea, where one in 29 are homeless.

Newham recently adopted a dedicated Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Strategy for the first time in a decade, which was developed with the support of Shelter and covers the two years to December 2021.

Cllr Gray, the council's lead member for housing, said: "Since this administration came into office in May 2018, addressing the challenges created by the government's housing crisis has been a key priority and considerable work has been done in this area.

"We are directing significant resources to deal with the crisis and are set to spend an additional £1.4m per year to improve services supporting rough sleepers and creating preventative measures to reduce the risk of others becoming homeless.

"To increase housing supply, we are increasing the number of genuinely affordable social rented homes with plans to build at least 1,000 in place and building work already under way.

"We are also looking at providing our own supply of quality temporary accommodation so we are not reliant on private landlords."

The council's street outreach team, which has been expanded from two to 10, works with the rough sleeping community to gather evidence of needs, find solutions, and engage with them to develop pathways away from the streets.

A recent effort to engage with rough sleepers in the Stratford Centre area, where a large number of tents appeared over the summer, resulted in 13 people placed in emergency accommodation, 13 assessed for health and other needs, and 19 tents removed.

Overall, 52 rough sleepers were accommodated in November.

Twenty beds are available at a high needs rough sleeper unit at Caritas Anchor House in Canning Town.

A temporary 25-bed assessment hub has been set up to allow rough sleepers, where health treatment, money and immigration advice, addiction and mental health support is available under one roof.

Cllr Gray said: "With the raft of measures already implemented and working with partners and the community, we are determined to drastically improve the current situation and reduce the threat of homelessness facing some of our most vulnerable residents."

Shelter's review of government data also revealed that almost 220,000 people in England were threatened with homelessness in the last year.

The true level of homeless is believed to be higher than the recorded figures show, as a lot of it is undocumented, including sofa-surfing and some rough sleeping.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: "Homelessness blights lives and leaves a lasting imprint of trauma, and yet 280,000 people in England are without a home this Christmas - and many are only days away from joining them.

"As well as those facing serious ill-health or even death sleeping rough on our streets this winter, there are thousands of families trapped in grotty emergency B&Bs, with no space for children to sit and eat, let alone play.

"This is the grim truth our new government must confront and do something radical to change."

To donate to Shelter's Christmas appeal, visit www.shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70030 to donate £3. Texts cost your standard network rate plus £3.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

International Migrants Day: We all stand together

"All migrants are entitled to equal protection of all their human rights. On this International Day, I urge leaders and people everywhere to bring the Global Compact to life, so that migration works for all".
UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Visit to ThamesReach Martha Jones House

This morning I went on a visit to Martha Jones House, which is a 50 bed high needs hostel in Vauxhall, run by Thamesreach, a London based charity helping homeless and vulnerable people. I had been invited with my fellow Deputy Mayor (Tower Hamlets not Newham), Cllr Rachel Blake (see photo top middle).

Martha Jones House, is an impressive, purpose built hostel, just over a year old. I once went to a UNISON branch meeting in the nearby old hostel a few years ago and Martha Jones is much better.

We had a tour of the building and spoke to residents and staff about the facility and what they offer. Many of the residents are former rough sleepers who are referred by assessments centres. All must have a Lambeth "local connection". The hostel is supported financially by Lambeth Council. What I found particularly impressive is that they have no absolute "exclusion" policy and will potentially accept residents with the most challenging needs or behaviour. Residents are normally expected to stay for a maximum of 9 months.

After the tour we had a really useful and constructive "brain storming" session with staff about homelessness, rough sleeping, temporary and permanent accommodation. What do charities such as Thamesreach want local authorities to do and what can charities do to assist local authorities?

My takeaway from this is as well as specialist hostel provision you need effective floating support in suitable permanent accommodation is get people off the streets.

Adequate funding is also essential. You cannot deal with rough sleeping on the cheap.

Many thanks to Thamesreach Chief Executive, Bill Tidnam, Catherine Parsons, Director of Operations (the fantastic manager of the hostel, whose name I have rudely forgotten) and to residents C and N for their insights. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

Newham Planning Committee approves 3 new developments at 100% social rents; rough sleeping assessment centre & new emergency family accommodation

(after a rotten few days some good news)

This evening I took part in a 3 hour plus Newham Council Local Development Committee (LDC) meeting (small scale planning). There were 20 applications to consider.

There were 3 applications by Newham Council regeneration team for new build developments on the site of a former housing office in Romford Road and by knocking down disused garages in Forest Gate and Plaistow.

22 new Council homes - all of which will be at London Affordable rent including family units and wheelchair accessible.

We also approved a temporary assessment centre for rough sleepers. I spoke to the committee on how we have to be able to not only offer a bed to rough sleepers but get them assessed by trained staff who can arrange appropriate medical help and support in keep them off the streets.

Finally, we approved a brand new 27 unit emergency family accommodation block.

Newham Council's development company "Red Doors Ventures" is already building new homes on 8 sites with another 3 sites were work is expected to start soon. We are on target to reach the Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, manifesto commitment of 1000 new council homes at council rents by end of her first term.

At the next LDC meeting there will be a 5 further Newham Council new build housing applications

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Impact investing in Social Housing: An Asset Owner & Landlord Prospective

Last month I was on a panel at a seminar on "social impact investing" in property. In my capacity as a pension trustee seeking long term financial returns and as the lead member for Housing in a Council with a desperate housing crisis. 

While the primary objective for any pension fund investment must be to pay pensioners their money when they retire. Full stop. If at the same time a social good or impact can be achieved that pension scheme members are likely to support and does not have a determental impact on the financial returns then that is surely win, win?  

The Newham Council pension fund (for its staff) has £1.5 billion in assets and as part of its investment mix needs assets which are relatively safe, stable and inflation linked. So we have been actively looking for some time for investing in social housing to achieve our income requirements and also a positive social impact. 

At the same time we have 27,000 residents on our Council housing waiting list and over 5000 families in often expensive temporary accommodation. A number of investors including large pension funds have made "pitches" to Newham about building or buying homes then leasing them back to us for temporary accommodation. These will be cheaper than private sector "nightly paid" accommodation and better quality. So, if these proposals make financial sense this should be "win, win" as well. 

The Pension fund (which is run separately to the Council) and Newham Council is actively considering these different proposals and we have also put a capital growth bid in this years budget to buy property. 

Following the General Election last week we will all have to raise our game. 

Below is a video promo for the event. There was a number of great speakers and a lively Q&A. 

Saturday, December 14, 2019

UNISON winter fuel grant for low paid members

"Get help with winter fuel bills

Members living on a low income constantly struggle to make ends meet – and this can be particularly acute in the winter when the cost of heating homes rises as the outside temperature falls.
But it’s not all bad news – help IS available.  The union’s welfare charity There for You has once more set up a limited fund to help members on low incomes towards the cost of their winter fuel bill through a one-off payment of £40.
The process is very similar to previous years and an amount of money has been ring-fenced to support this initiative. However, once it’s gone it’s gone! 
So don’t miss out.  Apply early and send your form and supporting paperwork in as soon as possible.  All the information you need can be found below.   Alternatively, contact UNISON Direct on 0800 0857 857 for a form to be sent to you. 
Just one more thing please don’t keep details of this grant a secret.  Help us to help even more members and let your work colleagues know that help is at hand.  There will be many, like you, worrying about how they will cope this Winter. 
Completed applications need to be sent to There for You, (WFG) UNISON Centre, 130 Euston Road, London, NW1 2AY by Friday 14 February 2020 at the latest.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Success in Peoples Republic: Failure Nationally #GE2019

Congratulations to Lyn and Stephen for their "Landslide" victories for Labour in West Ham and East Ham (both in the London Borough of Newham).

However, as soon as I saw the exit poll on the 10 O'Clock news last night I knew that Labour nationally was going to be heavily defeated. At the time we were briefing our count agents on sampling so had no time to stop and think, we just had to get on with the count.

To echo many thoughts I have read today, we need to now lick our wounds, reflect on our national defeat then come back fighting.

I am desperately sorry that we did not elect a government that for example would let Newham Council build the 27000 (plus) homes that we so desperately need. However, again, we just have to get on with it and fight to protect our public services while serving our community. We will hold Boris to account.

I will post further on the day itself and the count another time, however as West Ham Labour Agent many thanks for all the hard work by all our activists, near and far during this election. Also Newham Council staff for their public service before, during and after polling day.

East Ham Constituency results

Stephen Timms Labour Party - 41703
Michael James Fox Liberal Democrats - 2158
Kamran Malik Communities United Party - 250
Scott Curtis Pattenden The Conservative Party - 8527
Alka Sehgal Cuthbert Brexit Party - 1107
Michael John Spracklin (commonly known as - Mike Spracklin) Green Party​ - 883
Turnout - 62.05%
Total votes cast - 54628

West Ham Constituency results​

Lyn Carol Brown The Labour Party - 42181
Paul Martin Jobson Christian Peoples Alliance - 463
Humera Kamran Communities United Party - 143
Daniel James Keeling (commonly known as - Danny Keeling) Green Party - 1780
Sanam Sara Kumar (commonly known as Sara Kumar) Conservative Party Candidate - 9793
Eimear O'Casey Liberal Democrats - 4161
Emma Jane Stockdale Brexit Party - 1679
Turnout - 61.68%
Total votes cast - ​60200

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Vote Lyn Brown - Your Labour Candidate for West Ham (& what to do on election day)

I have been the election agent for Lyn since 2010 (now the 4th time) and below are some responses to enquires I have had previously on General Election polling day
  • Check out West Ham Labour website if you want to help Lyn out today
  • Polling stations are open 7am -10pm and if you are in a queue at 10pm you will still be allowed to vote. 
  • If you do not know where your polling station is check https://action.labour.org.uk/page/content/polling-station-finder
  • Ring 020 8470 3463 if any Labour supporters in West Ham needs a lift to their polling station. 
  • If you have not posted your postal vote you can still hand it into any West Ham polling station before 10pm. 
  • If you have not registered to vote - it is now too late. 
  • You cannot vote by telephone or internet
  • You do not have to speak to any canvassers outside the polling station. By all means take any literature they offer. 
  • If they ask you on the way out how you have voted you do not have to tell them but it will probably stop them having supporters knock on your door later to remind you to vote, 
  • You do not need your polling card or ID - it makes things slightly quicker if you have your polling card but all the Council officers need who run the polling station is your name and address.
  • It normally only takes a matter of minutes to vote. You give your details, you are given a ballot paper and are shown to a private booth, pencils are supplied, you mark a single X against the candidate or Party you prefer, you fold the ballot paper and put it in the box. 
  • Job done.  Remember your vote is completely private. 
also don't forget when deciding to vote :- 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

There are 10,000 fewer doctors to see you now. Your Vote can save our NHS


West Ham Labour Phone banking, leafleting & canvassing in marginals - Eve of Poll & Election Day

WED 11th DEC (hat tip Andy at West Ham Labour)

West Ham
leafletting 7.30am – Wansted Park Station
leafletting 7.30am – Stratford Station
10.30 am – meet up for canvassing in Enfield Southgate
phonebanking 5-7pm St Lukes community centre Tarling Road E16 1HN
Marginals Canvass
10am Thurrock (all day till 5.30) – Croydon Central
10.30am Hendon  – Putney – Finchley – Wimbledon– Dagenham (all day till 6)
11am Kensington – Harrow East – Dagenham –Battersea
11.30am Enfield Southgate
12pm Uxbridge – Eltham
2pm Hendon – Enfield Southgate – Wimbledon
2.30pm Putney – Finchley
3pm – Harrow East
3.30pm Croydon Central –Battersea
6pm Kensington– Chipping Barnet – Hendon – Finchley – Harrow East – Enfield Southgate – Wimbledon – Uxbridge
6.30pm Putney – Westminster –Battersea – Eltham
6.45 Chipping Barnet
7pm Harrow East
7.30am we will be leafletting stations Maryland Stratford CT etc – details to follow – if you cant make it to a marginal then plan to leaflet locally
phonebanking from 11am St Lukes community centre Tarling Road E16 1HN
Sign up with a Marginal from early morning to get out the Vote
Kensington       Thurrock     Chipping Barnet     Hendon  
Finchley             Putney          Harrow East          Battersea
Dagenham       Uxbridge       Wimbledon             Eltham 

We urgently need to know your polling day plan so we can make sure we have enough people on the ground in each marginal. Fill in your polling day plan at MyPollingDay.com now! 👇