Thursday, August 22, 2019

"Addaction" drug and alcohol staff to strike on Friday (tomorrow)

Solidarity to privatised NHS UNISON members striking tomorrow. 

Addaction is headquartered in London

"Strike action involving 31 staff employed by Addaction is set to go ahead after Acas talks did not reach a resolution to their dispute on Wednesday.

A 100% vote for strike action was prompted by Addaction’s failure to keep its promise to pay staff the NHS rates for the job. Their union UNISON says that the striking workers stand to lose up to £1000 per year.

The staff are support workers within a drug and alcohol service which is commissioned by Wigan Borough Council. They used to be employed directly by the NHS, and Addaction promised staff that they would continue to receive pay rises in line with NHS rates of pay.

Support workers have been left frustrated as the employer has reneged on this pledge, refusing to implement the NHS three year pay deal which came into effect in April 2018.

Addaction has its headquarters in London and provides services all over the country. It has an annual income in excess of £70million.

Paul Almond, a drug and alcohol worker and UNISON rep, said:

“I never expected to have to go on strike, and I don’t think many of my colleagues did either. We have agonised over this question. But the fact that 100% of us voted to take action shows how strongly we all feel about this issue.

“We’re all willing to stick together to secure the pay rise we were promised.”

UNISON North West regional organiser Paddy Cleary said:

“Addaction have given repeated assurances to staff that they would receive the NHS pay deal, but they have gone back on their word.

“This dedicated group of support workers have been out of pocket for 16 months and have been forced to take strike action by an employer that just won’t listen.

“We had hoped that the Acas talks would be successful, but the local and regional managers who attended made no offer to staff and seemed to have no authority to reverse decisions taken nationally. Assurances made by managers to staff in Wigan and Leigh seem to have been ignored and overridden by bosses in London.

“Our members voted 100% in favour of taking strike action. They are willing to do whatever it takes to secure the pay rise they’re owed. I would strongly urge Addaction to reconsider its position and pay up now.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Archbishop of Canterbury's "Housing Crisis" Commission visits Newham

This afternoon I met members of the Archbishop of Canterbury Housing Commission at a building site in Newham where the Council is to build new high quality homes at truly affordable rents. Officers and contractors explained what we are doing with the site and answered questions from the Commissioners.

The Commission is investigating the UK housing crisis and how to contribute to the national debate on what should be done to resolve the crisis.

They were interested not only about building new homes, but housing policy regarding right to buy, private sector licensing, planning and community involvement.

Afterwards, Councillor Mohammed and myself went back for a presentation by our policy team and then we had an in depth Q&A with the Commission and Newham housing and planning managers.

I hope the Commissioners found their day in Newham helpful. We invited them back next year to check on what we have delivered.

Many thanks to Stephen Timms MP and his staff for helping to organise this event. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

TUC LESE Annual Health & Safety Briefing – Respiratory Health – a Workplace Issue


TUC LESE Annual Health & Safety Briefing – Respiratory Health – a Workplace Issue

Friday 27 September 2019

Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS


·        The central theme for this year is respiratory health, and asbestos past present and future will feature large.

·        This is an event for trade union health and safety reps and trade unionists interested in campaigning on health, safety and well-being issues at work or in the community.

·        Agenda and Guest Speakers to be confirmed  

·        Free event - please register: 020 7467 1218 / jowilliams@tuc.org.uk


Joanne Williams
Administrative Assistant
TUC London, East & South East

020 7467 1218
Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS

Monday, August 19, 2019

Costa Coffee "stealing" money from their staff

Check out this BBC report

Costa Coffee: Employees call £200 deductions for training 'unfair'


This is outrageous and I hope people boycott this @CostaCoffee in Upminister (& any other employer who steals from its workforce). 

This sort of things is what tends to happen in employers who do not recognise trade unions. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Park Road Crime & ASB re-inspection 12.8.19

Last week I went on a second walkabout in Park Road, E6 with Residents, Council Officers, Police and local ward Councillor, Nilufa Jahan. Cllr Jahan had persuaded the Police to send a "design out crime" specialist to the block, who had produced an excellent report on ideas to reduce crime and Anti-social behaviour.

Since the last walkabout in November residents, had said that there had been improvements but more needs to be done. I noted that the communal garden maintenance had not been actioned and I have taken this up.

A report has been circulated on problems and possible actions. Our technical officer thinks that we can implement some of the Police design recommendations fairly quickly, which is very positive news. Especially with regard to improving the security of door entry systems.

Ideally we should visit all blocks across the Council with Police design specialists, residents, ward members and technical officers. We do have some money to make improvements.

It may take some time but watch this space. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Concerned about someone sleeping rough?

Hat tip Newham Council "If you are concerned about someone who is rough sleeping and medical attention is not immediately required, you can make a referral to StreetLink through their website or call 0300 500 0914 which is charged at normal call rate.  

You will need to provide:
  • ​a specific location of the rough sleeper to enable our outreach team to find them
  • the time the rough sleeper has been seen at the location
  • any information that will help identify them (gender, approximate age, what the person looks like, what they are wearing etc.).
Once your referral is received by StreetLink, they will alert Newham’s outreach team who will seek to find the rough sleeper and connect them to support services within 24hours. You will receive details of the action we have taken as a result of your alert within 10 working days if you have requested it." 

If the person needs urgent medical attention or you believe they are under 18 years of age please call 999.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

St Matthews public meeting on Crime and ASB

A lovely picture from last Friday evening when Councillors and officers met Residents and Police to discuss how to tackle jointly crime and anti-social behaviour in the area (Forest Gate South ward adjacent to Romford Road).

The meeting was Chaired by Cllr Shaban Mohammed and went in my view really well with constructive but frank views expressed and received. Residents seemed to have been pleased with recent changes (thanks to the new ward Council Housing liaison officers who have been very proactive). Residents let us know that they expected us to deliver for them.

The Police and the Council undertook to support residents with improved enforcement action and also for housing to make improvements in order to try and "design out crime".

We also had a decent discussion about the impact that Government cuts to Police numbers and local authority grants has had. 

I have never been inside St Matthews Church before and did not realise how large it is and its beautiful stained glass windows. It parish war memorial from the first world war was also striking and it stuns you how many local men were killed in a relatively small London parish. There were also 3 family plaques on the walls remembering the war time deaths of young parishioners.


Monday, August 12, 2019

Student Nurse Margaret Matthews circa 1960

Off message but marvellous picture of my Mum, Margaret Gray (nee Matthews) when she was a student mental health nurse aged 18 in Denbigh, North Wales around 1960 (she is on the left).

It was originally in a local newspaper (?) and our family had thought we had lost the picture but my first cousin, Melanie, was told by her fathers cousin, Beryl, that it was on a Denbigh social media page and she sent it to my Mum on Facebook.

Nothing to do with family escapes the Taff Mafia!

My Mum was one of 8 children and all of them I believe worked in this very large mental health hospital in Denbigh. The girls were mostly nurses or office workers and the boys porters. My Grandparents even met when working in a nearby hospital.

Mum remembers this photo and the very strict Sister (who is sitting down).

The traditional large mental health hospitals have now closed down in favour of small community based provision. While I understand why this has happened I am not sure that such provision is best for everyone. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Top 10 Country GDP Ranking History (1960-2017)



Fascinating video chart. The hegemony of USA, the rise and relative fall of Japan and now the rise of China. UK is so, so.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Vote Pete Hannell for London National Labour Link elections - ballot papers out now!


Vote for a London NHS worker to represent you in UNISON’s National Labour committee

I am a front line NHS health worker, a paramedic in the London Ambulance Service, working shifts while still being an active UNISON steward, representing and defending members for 25 years. As a long standing branch activist and LAS Labour Link officer I have experience of being on committees and know how things work.  I have also been a loyal Labour Party member for many years.

My aim is to get a Labour Government elected and into power and for Jeremy Corbyn to be our next Prime minister. Never forget that we, the unions, created the Labour Party because workers needed political power and protection. 

That is why we must get win power at all costs. In order to win, the Labour Party should be taking more notice of UNISON’s policies on defending the NHS, increase public sector pay, stopping all privatisations and defending our pensions. These policies are all very popular with the public and if Labour adopted UNISON’s policies we will win the next general election.

We need more ordinary rank and file union members representing UNISON at the highest level within the Labour Party. If I am elected as your London delegate I pledge that I will  :-

·         Oppose privatisation of the NHS and all other public services

·         Support our claims for decent pay rises for all public workers

·         Demand we keep our pensions and that everyone is given the chance to belong to a decent pension scheme

·         To report back on every Labour committee meeting I attend to all London UNISON branches and tell you what is going on.

Thank you for reading this statement and I hope you will consider voting for me.

Pete Hannell. 

(Ballot papers have been sent out to home addresses of all UNISON members in London who belong to Labour Link by post with SAE)

Friday, August 09, 2019

Why join a union?


"Everyone deserves fairness, equality and justice at work. That's what trade unions stand for. When you join a union, you join a movement that's 6 million strong.

Working people are stronger when they act together. And together, we can make the working world a better place for everyone".

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Newham Council working with TELCO Citizens on the Housing Crisis

Picture from Tuesday with Newham TELCO Citizens. I first worked with TELCO in the 1990s when my trade union branch, UNISON Tower Hamlets was affiliated and I can remember going on demos and lobbies with them over the London Living wage.

Their twitter tweet was : -

Productive meeting @NewhamLondon  Deputy Mayor & Cabinet Member for Housing Services
. We learned about the Council’s proactive action on housing & homeless in the face of huge challenges. Civil society can play an important role

My response to this on twitter:-

A really positive and constructive meeting. I look forward to working with #TELCOCitizens in the the future to improve the life of our residents #housing

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Housing Associations branch supports UNISON End Violence at Work Charter

Tonight I chaired UNISON London Housing Associations Branch Executive meeting during which we discussed our support of the End Violence at Work Charter. 

I am pleased to report that a number of our branch employers are close to signing the Charter so hopefully, we will have some announcements soon.

We will also be chasing employers who haven't been very proactive on this important issue so far.

Watch this space!

(also check out the horrifying findings publicised by Inside Housing in June this year https://www.johnslabourblog.org/2019/06/assaults-survey-full-findings-reveal.html)

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Newham Under the Stars - Sunday 11 August with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra


"The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) and a fireworks grand finale will again delight audiences on Sunday night. The RPO has been performing at Under the Stars for more than six years bringing an ensemble of up to 75 musicians. They cover a huge range of music from core symphonic music by composers such as Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, through the world of musical theatre and up to modern day film soundtracks.

This year’s concert will feature traditional proms in the park favourites under the baton of ever popular conductor John Rigby who has worked on film, screen and stage music.

Making her first appearance is vocalist Alison Jiear who trained classically in voice and piano at Queensland Conservatorium of Music in Australia before moving to the UK in 1988. She has performed in the West End while working on numerous other projects.

Also debuting is British baritone Ross Ramgobin who attended London’s Royal Academy of Music where he gained an MA in Vocal Studies and then his Advanced Diploma from the Royal Academy Opera. He has performed at opera houses all over the world.

The evening will also feature performances by Newham's Young N Gifted Choir as well as the Bridging Sounds Orchestra, Newham Music's flagship ensemble".

Hat tip Newham London

Monday, August 05, 2019

Labour Unions - Campaigning for a Labour Government

I was pleased to see that the 12 trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party have renamed their co-ordinating organisation, formerly called TULO/Unions together, to become "Labour Unions" - which just makes things clearer.

Check out this link for information on campaigns to bring about a Labour Government such as Banning Zero Hour contracts.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

To the last 100 years of Council Housing in Newham and the next 100

Last Thursday evening I came back from holiday and went to the 3rd Newham Council Tenants and Leaseholders forum in East Ham Town Hall for Plaistow and Green Street residents.

There was around 50 residents present. Councillor Shaban Mohammed was the lead and worked with junior and senior housing officers to find out what is good and bad about the housing service in Newham and how can we work together in the future to improve it.

It was a really good meeting with lots of robust conversations at times and there was also many positive and constructive comments.

For many years there has been no effective consultation with Newham Council tenants and residents. You cannot run an effective housing management service without involving residents. Full stop.

Cllr Mohammed was also able to introduce the local Council liaison officers. Again, for many years there has been no single Council housing officer responsible for a particular patch or estate. We have now set up teams who will cover all parts of Newham (and our out of borough estates).

Many thanks to residents and officers for giving up an evening to make our housing service better. The last forum takes place on Tuesday. There will be follow up meetings in September.
  • Forest Gate North, Forest Gate South, Stratford and New Town and West Ham - Tuesday 6 August between 6.30 and 8.30pm at Old Town Hall Stratford.
You need to book in advance since places are limited

At Thursday's meeting at the end I mentioned that this week was the 100th anniversary of Council Housing in this country and at this meeting we are planning ahead for the next 100 years of Council Housing.  

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Sunday, July 21, 2019

50 years ago a man walked on the moon. Next week....

50 years ago ago a man walked on the Moon. Next week a buffoon will walk into 10 Downing Street. This is not progress.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Defend local government pensions | Campaigns | UNISON National

Defend local government pensions | Campaigns | UNISON National: The latest attack on pension rights is the thin end of the wedge.

The government is currently consulting on plans to allow universities and colleges in England to opt out of offering the local government pension scheme (LGPS) to new non-teaching staff. The proposal would:
  • Create a two-tier workforce with new starters offered inferior pensions
  • Disproportionately affect women and the lower paid
  • Threaten the future sustainability of the whole scheme
This attack on pension rights is the thin end of the wedge – let’s take action.
The government consultation closes on 31 July so let’s make our views heard.
Download handy template responses for individuals and branches from the resources section via link

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Calling all Newham Council tenants & Leaseholders

We want to hear about where you live and how we can improve these areas. Book at your local forum
http://socsi.in/TenantLeaseholderForums_4ndg2

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

When we also murdered Jews...

Last week I was in York for a UNISON Labour Party conference. In the centre of York there is castle called Clifford’s Tower.

In March 1190 the entire Jewish population of York estimated to be 150 men, women and children had fled to the Tower for protection from an antisemite mob.

The Tower was set alight. Most of them decided to commit suicide rather than surrender to the mob. Those who did surrender were slaughtered.

Jews were also being murdered in London and Norfolk.

Least we forget are own shameful history.

Hat tip https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/cliffords-tower-york/history-and-stories/history/


Friday, July 12, 2019

Fair Tax Week

This week is Fair Tax Week. Imagine what a better world we would live in if the rich individuals and corporations paid their fair share in taxation.

One of my favourite quotations is this “I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization". Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Hat tip Coop Party.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A day with a Community Wealth Builder

I have finally got around to posting on a great "fact finding" visit I had recently with Leader of Preston Council, Cllr Matthew Brown, showing me and a Newham Council officer Community Wealth Building (CWB) initiatives in and around his City centre.

Our aim was to learn from lessons from Matthew and the "Preston Model" for Newham. Matthew took us around a number of CWB related developments starting with lunch at a new co-operative cafe opposite the town hall.  Next was a walkabout around the excellent new market that has been rebuilt offering opportunities to new startups and existing stall holders as well as encouraging locals to shop locally. 

A Preston Cooperative Network has been set up proving advice, informaton, consultancy, training, facilities, finance and access to suppliers.

Reduced rent can be provided for by the Council for cooperatives provided staff are paid a living wage and recognise trade unions.

Matthew also took us to visit a housing coop building new homes and also new build student accommodation built with the help of pension fund investment.

We also had a frank discussion with Matthew and a Preston Council regeneration officer about how difficult the CWB journey has been at times. Dealing with public procurement and partnership arrangements with anchor institutions was never going to be easy or straightforward.  Getting support and close collaboration with the University of Central Lancaster, CLES (economic think tank), Mondragon Corporation (Basque federation of worker cooperatives) and the Open society was important but political buy in from Councillors and officers is key.

Matthew was very interested in what we are doing in Newham, in particular our proposed pension fund investment in social housing.

Many thanks to Matthew and Preston officers for taking the time to welcome and inform us. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Unison School uniform grants closing soon!

Members on low income could be eligible for school uniform grants from UNISON “There4You” of £40 per child (up to maximum of £120 for 3 children).

Application forms have to be returned by Friday 19 July. Members who are housing benefit and have limited savings should qualify.

Contact your branch welfare officer or if you do not know how then ring Unisondirect 0800 0 857 857 or check out https://www.unison.org.uk/get-help/services-support/there-for-you/unison-school-uniform-grants-2019/

Hat tip photo UNISON Scotland

Monday, July 08, 2019

UNISON National Labour Link Forum 2019 - Day 2

Final morning of Forum (Saturday). The delegation had sat together for the formal meal the previous evening. There was another 9.30 start with the UNISON Labour Link Annual Report.

There was a lovely presentation by the Chair of Labour Party NEC, Wendy Nichols to Keith Birch, our National Labour Link officer, who is retiring from UNISON (and from the Labour Party NEC). Keith received a standing ovation from Forum for his 30 plus years of service to the union and the party.

Then we debated motions until just before lunchtime.

I was pleased with the number of speakers from Greater London region and that our two London motions were passed (Motion 7. Ambulance Workers Age of Retirement and motion 16. Trade union Freedom).

Another successful Labour Link forum which despite everything the Tories can throw at us shows that the Labour Movement in UNISON is still live and kicking.


Sunday, July 07, 2019

Anne Lister: Lesbian and Diarist

After the end of UNISON Labour Link Forum,  we stayed on at York for the weekend and we went on a guided tour of York, which took us to the Church (Holy Trinity) that Anne Lister and Ann Walker sealed their union in Easter 1834. The film series "Gentleman Jack" is currently on TV (and Saturday was London Pride)

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Motion 2 – Local Government Finance #LabLink19

This is my speech to UNISON Labour Link Forum on behalf of the National Committee on Government cuts to Local Government.

"Forum, the scale of the problem is simply staggering.

Government funding to local authorities has been cut since 2010 by an incredible 60%. This means Councils have lost 60p in every pound since the last Labour Government. 60p in every pound!

While at the same time, councils have had to deal with rising demand for its services. For example.

· the number of homeless families living in temporary accommodation has increased by 34%

· the number of “looked after” children living in our care grew by 11%; and

· the number of elderly people in need of care aged 65 and over increased by 15%

So Forum, we have vulnerable families, children and the elderly suffering the most from vicious Tory and Lib Dem austerity

But surely Forum, last year didn't he Tories claimed that austerity is coming to an end? I think you will find Local Government beg to disagree.

A few special funds, here and there maybe, but nothing, repeat nothing, which meets the real needs we face.

And anything really new in the current Tory leadership debate? Sorry, a big fat zero; nothing about the role of Local Government and its services

A few crumbs on social care but NO concrete plan.

It is only fair to say that Labour’s last manifesto, while excellent on many things, was short on detail for local government – and rather short on cash as well.

However, our colleagues in Labour Local Government, do have plans for what will be needed from day one of a Labour government, to begin the task for putting local government finance back on firm foundations.

And most importantly, where Local Government workers get a fair reward.

UNISON is best placed to be the voice of the local government workforce and residents.

We must build a campaign,

Like no other in recent years

This week at local government association conference, Even Tory council leaders, were admitting that a third of all councils are frightened they will run out of money for statutory services, never mind everything else.

We must be the champions of Local Government across the whole country.

Forum, get behind the motion and fight for local government. Please support".

Motion was passed unanimously.

Friday, July 05, 2019

UNISON National Labour Link Forum 2019 - Day 1

I arrived yesterday morning for a pre meeting of the National Labour Link Committee where we agreed policy towards toward motions and agreed our speakers. In the evening I chaired the London regional delegation meeting, after which 11 of us went for a meal in a local curry restaurant.  

Forum started at 9.30am with a report by Standing Orders committee followed by debates on motions. I spoke on motion 2 "Cuts in Local Government" on behalf of the National Committee.  Next was a speech and Q&A by Richard Corbett MEP, leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party. Richard is quietly spoken for a politician but gave an impressive and good humoured analysis of the Brexit crisis. I just hope he is right that backing a second referendum will not damage Labour's election prospects.  

After more debates on motions, our Keynote speaker was our General Secretary, Dave Prentis, who pointed out that there is no such thing as a "left wing No Deal" Brexit. "No deal" will be hugely damaging. 

Lunch was followed by a workshops and at 4pm there was a panel of MPs who used to UNISON activists,  Melanie Onn,  Liz Twist and Daniel Zeichner. Mel told Forum that our Party needs to unite and get its act together to defeat the Tories and "stop the nonsense" (to loud applause). 

Later that evening there was the famous Labour Link meal for delegates at the hotel. A good time was had by all. Forum restarted 9.30 sharp the next day. 

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Newham Council Apprenticeship Scheme


Newham Council is recruiting for Apprentices. Please read all documents carefully and take note of apprenticeship criteria below before applying. To apply and for further information please see the below.

CLICK HERE

Should you require any help or advice with your online application, please contact the Recruitment Help Desk on: 0203 373 0909.

The closing date for all applications Tuesday 16th July 2019.

About the Job

Newham Apprentice

£19,803 pa

The Newham Apprenticeship Scheme (NAS) offers an opportunity for you to start an exciting new career, whether it is your first job, returning to work after a career break, or you are looking for a change in career direction.

There are opportunities in 21 different services including Children's Health Service, Resident Engagement, Sports & Leisure, Finance and Project Management. Please see the 'NAS Service Bios Booklet' attached for descriptions of the 21 services and the duties of each role. These opportunities are based in various sites across the borough.

Please see link for Biographies of the services to choose from and a general Job Description.

The roles will be on a two-year fixed term contract paying the London Living Wage.

As an apprentice you will receive off the job training to work towards either a Level 2 or 3 qualification related to your job role. You will also receive practical experience and work alongside experienced professionals who will help shape your professional development. There are even opportunities to progress to a higher or degree level apprenticeship in the future, avoiding tuition fees and potential student debt.

We are planning to offer a range of Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships in the following areas:

Assistant Accountant
Business Administrator
Community Activator Coach
Facilities Management

About You

To apply for an apprenticeship candidates must:
be 16 to 30 years of age*
be a Newham resident with proof of address
have right to work documents e.g. passport and proof of National Insurance number

*As an employer, London Borough of Newham is under represented in this age range, compared to the resident population of Newham.

No formal qualifications are needed to apply but the recruitment process does include an English and Maths assessment.

If you're a Newham care leaver applying, please clearly state this in your supporting statement.

Should you require any help or advice with your online application, please contact the Recruitment Help Desk on: 0203 373 0909.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Community NEC report: John Gray 3 July 2019



Firstly, many thanks to all branches that nominated me and to those who voted to re-elect me to the National Executive Council to represent our service group.

Also, congratulations to Denise Thomas who was also elected for the first time as the other NEC representative for Community.

I offer genuine commiserations to those on this Service Group Executive who were unsuccessful, but at least in Community it was I believe, a clean fight and now we must work together for the betterment of our members.

Both Denise and I stood on a joint platform and promise the SGE, branches and members that we will be accountable to them, will attend NEC/SGE meetings and report back in person and in writing.

If any branch or regional Community branch wants us to attend any meeting or events (especially campaigns or industrial action) then let us know and if we can we will attend.

NEC meeting 29 May 2019
Dave Prentis report on recent industrial action successes; Brexit update and the terrible performance in the local elections for Labour. The recruitment “Go for Growth” programme was a success with membership numbers up in every single UNISON region. The NEC agreed to send congratulations to members involved in the victories.

It also voted to send solidarity messages to members taking action, or preparing to, in other key strategic disputes, including care workers fighting cuts to the sleep-in pay at Alternative Futures Group across north-west England and hospital domestics fighting privatisation.

National Delegate Conference 2019

I was present at Conference which I thought went well but a little boring. I spoke on behalf of the NEC on the Housing Composite (my speech is on my blog and other posts on conference https://www.johnslabourblog.org/).

John Gray

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Local Government Conference 2019

Yesterday I went to Day One of this year's Local Government Conference in Bournemouth representing Newham. This is the annual conference for all councils in the UK and all political parties.

I arrived to hear the the debate on climate emergency & UN sustainable development goals moved by Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees. To my surprise (not the only one that day) there was no speakers against and it was passed unanimously. 

During speeches by the outgoing and new Conservative Party Chair's of the LGA, I was astonished (and pleased) by the "one nation" Toryism I heard. I felt that I could be (almost) in a meeting of "Defend Council Housing" as both Lord (Gary) Porter and the new chair, Cllr Jamie Jamieson between them praised Council Housing as cheaper and better quality; called for reversal of austerity cuts and pointed out that local authority schools do better than academies.

Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, started his speech by saying because of the leadership election and Brexit he cannot announce anything and then spent the next 10 minutes proving it.

The keynote speaker was Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, who successfully charmed the conference. I was able to ask him a question that if there's an economic trade shock from Trump or Brexit, will there be a role for councils to build homes as a fiscal stimulus? He replied basically Yes, you get more multiplier effect, "more bang for your buck", from investment in infrastructure /housing but he doubted that councils had capacity to build to scale needed.

I went to the UNISON conference stall and supported their  campaign and next door and met chair of LAPFF (Local Authority Pension Fund Forum) Cllr Doug Murdo.

The workshop on preventing homelessness & rough sleeping chaired by Cllr Nick Forbes (Newcastle) was fascinating. How come Newcastle only has an average of 6 rough sleepers per night?

In the evening I went to a fringe organised by the LGiU and Camra on the importance of supporting local pubs (no particular reason of course) then in the evening I met up for a late night chat with my Newham Comrades Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and Cabinet Finance member Terry Paul who travelled down after our Cabinet meeting.

Back to London in morning for UNISON NEC meeting.


Monday, July 01, 2019

Warrior Square Walkabout

Picture college from this morning's walkabout in Warrior Square, Little Ilford with Councillors and officers from Housing liaison, Caretaking, ASB, Repairs and Technical.  Also, a local Police Community Support Officer was in attendance.

I am determined that we try to "design out crime" on our estates as far as possible. We identified the demolition of disused pram sheds and greater use of mobile CCTV cameras as being possible way forwards.

We also need to make it clear that all forms of anti-social behaviour will simply not be tolerated and  that residents who cause (or allow) such criminal behaviour will face eviction and/or termination of their leases. 

I am really pleased that we now have a dedicated Housing Liaison officer for all blocks and estates in the borough and that there will be regular inspections of estates by officers, Councillors and local residents. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Newham Councillors at Debden House - Now and then: 1949 and 2019

On Friday we had a Cabinet training day at the Newham Council owned Debden House Conference, Education and Camping centre in Epping Forest.

This is the first time I have been at the centre and I was amazed at the facilities and that there is such a beautiful 50 acres campsite that Newham residents can use at reduced rates.

On the venue website there was a picture of Newham (East Ham) Councillors standing outside the main building in I think 1949.

70 years later, modern day Newham Councillors were here and I think you would agree we are quite different but still East Londoners.

(I would point out that our training event on Friday was informal but the picture from 1949 was probably of a more formal occasion).

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Assaults survey: full findings reveal rising abuse of frontline housing staff


He came right up to me and had his finger within inches of my face – it was awful.”

Alison* is describing an experience she had while working as a frontline housing officer in the North East of England. She was leading a public meeting for her local authority when one resident began complaining that he was having difficulty contacting the council. The incident quickly escalated and the resident became threatening.

“I started to have a panic attack,” she recalls. “It is not something I’ve ever experienced before – I had to leave the room
.” Hat tip reporter Jack Simpson

The trade magazine for Council and Housing Associations "Inside Housing" has carried out an annual confidential survey of workers and freedom of information requests on "violence at work".

They found (pay wall) :
-

"Our 2019 assaults survey shows violence against #ukhousing frontline staff on the increase

Welfare reform agenda, social media and mental health concerns blamed for rise in assaults on #ukhousing workers
There are nearly eight assaults for every 100 frontline #ukhousing workers – read the shocking results of our exclusive survey


I was interviewed as a branch officer of UNISON London Housing Associations. When I was a front line housing officer in East London for 25 years,  I had been punched, spat at, abused and even threatened with an axe attack. While physical attacks and threats were thankfully rare, verbal abuse was sometimes commonplace.

My response to the rise was “We are pretty sure that the problem is far, far worse than even these shocking statistics lay out...The sector is plagued by under-reporting".

With regard to modern day social media abuse I said “There used to be the occasional instance where tenants would follow workers home to sort of say ‘we know where you live’,” he says. “The social media stuff is a different form of that.

"there is a problem with training throughout the sector and that associations need to work harder to ensure workers are prepared for situations where they are at risk.

But most of all employers need to act. “This is really, really crucial. If an employer doesn’t act, staff are brutalised and this will ultimately affect the service it provides to tenants.”

I also recommended to the reporter that a possible solution is employers signing up to the simple but effective UNISON "End Violence at Work" charter. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

"With a huge sense of relief I have just resigned as Chair of West Ham CLP"

Message from Josephine Grail

"The exhausting experience of chairing a set of increasingly hostile meetings has taken a personal toll.

Last night's AGM gave me no sense that there is a majority on the general committee who are interested in a collective effort to achieve our shared aims.

If there is a time when the left ought to be generous, confident and open it is surely now in Britain, despite the dark times we live in. I've never been interested in factional politics; I've never thought that individual political positions should take precedence over any other qualities, such as kindness, honesty, or diligence; and I've never understood why political disagreement should be a cause for personal hostility.

The arid insularity of some political activism pre-Corbyn always struck me as a symptom of the weakness of the left, not a viable way to organise for a better future. This is no longer a ‘pre Corbyn’ political era, and that excites me and motivates me. It includes an inevitable conflict, but I don’t believe that this has to be played out in the local party as it currently is in West Ham - a situation which looks likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

In any case you can't chair this kind of war; you can only fight it, or refuse to fight. I have no intention of continuing to preside over a battleground in which defeating one's internal opponents takes precedence over advancing the cause of socialism. There are more productive outlets for my political energy.

I'm saddened that people who have worked tirelessly to achieve what I saw as our shared aims - a better party, a better Labour Council, a Labour government - were rejected last night in favour of those who have no such record.

Furthermore, there are publicly and privately expressed concerns that one of the new self-identifying officers has not been sincere about their identification. If this is the case, it’s also a deeply concerning situation. Seema Chandwani, the Vice-Chair of London Labour, has already picked this up; at a time when the rights of LGBT+ people are under threat globally the left must be in the forefront of the struggle to defend these.

Some of the best people I know are in the local party and I hope they know who they are. In particular I wouldn't have been able to endure the low points of the last year without the kindness, integrity, and wisdom of John Saunders.

The struggle continues. But not this struggle".

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Drakes Walk Walkabout (2)

This is a great picture from this morning of Newham residents, Officers (and myself) at the end of a "walkabout" in Drakes Walk, East Ham.

I am really pleased that the estate is looking far better than it did in March during a previous "walkabout" and it was good to have caretaking, repairs and environment officers with us this time.

As well as the most friendly little dog (front left) I have met in ages (sorry Cara, you have a rival).

There was a long list of repairs and improvements but I feel confident that we will make a difference in our residents lives by such joint walkabouts (every month for tall blocks and every 3 months for low rise) and putting them at the heart of everything we do.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The cost of renting in the capital (Newham average rent is 75% of average salary)


Shocking statistics but no surprise. Hat tip @GVKitchen via @HelloHowsy. We need a change of Government, we need this now. Nearly everyone accepts that there is a "Climate Emergency". There is also a "Housing Emergency".