Monday, January 20, 2020

Newham Council Meeting - Living Wage Foundation, Cabinet Reports and Pension Divestment

This evening at the Full Council meeting in Stratford Town Hall we started with a "State of the Borough" debate with speeches from the Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, and updates from all 8 cabinet members.

My very short update was as below :-

"As Cabinet lead for Housing Services dealing with the immense challenges our residents face in housing was an absolute central pledge of our manifesto. I can report on some important progress we have made on meeting those promises.

In 2019 Newham Council Housing Services are used our land and money to support the Mayor to deliver on her 1000 Council homes at social rents manifesto commitment.

Also as promised we are committed to tackle homelessness with care and compassionate and we are looking to invest up to £100 million on buying or building good quality temporary accommodation for homeless families.

We have almost doubled the number of enforcement officers in our property licensing team.

We have reintroduced Tenant and Residents forums; we are spending some £200 million on planned improvements to our stock, including new kitchens, windows, bathrooms, roofs, lifts - tacking fuel poverty and also the climate change emergency;

We are due to open 4 local housing hubs across the borough and have established a new team of named officers with responsibility for all council homes in the borough.

More broadly, addressing this crucial issue of housing is central to our Community Wealth Building Strategy, and developing an inclusive economic strategy. So we will be stepping this up in 2020".

After this debate our Newham Partnership update (and Q&A) was by Lucy Bannister from the Living Wage Foundation. Newham is finalising becoming an accredited Living Wage employer. Last year we got 700 Newham social care workers a Living Wage pay rise. As contracts come up for renewal we implement a Living wage clause.

Last week we took back into public service 50 Park Gardeners, many of whom also got a pay rise. Lucy explained the history of the Living Wage Campaign (it was born in East London) and the advantages to employers as well as staff. They are also thinking of setting up a new campaign for "Living Hours" (zero hour contracts etc).

Next were questions from the public and a number of questions had been submitted on why our Newham Staff pension fund should divest from carbon. There was a substantial written response and an offer from the Chair of the Pension Committee to meet and discuss divestment further.

We do have I think the lowest exposure to carbon investment in all 33 London Council pension funds (1.2%). The main reason for this is our fund managers think carbon intensive industries are not good investments. 

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