No such thing as a free lunch

14 Jul

When the mayor was running for re-election back in 2014 he promised to ‘Continue Free School Meals for Primary School Children’.

Newham Labour Party’s Local Government Manifesto said:

…our Labour Mayor and Councillors have launched the Every Newham Child programme which helps all our kids achieve more.the Every Newham Child programme which helps all our kids achieve more. Working in partnership with our schools this includes:

Free School Meals for all our primary children which is worth £566 per child to hard working families each year…

Most people reading this – including the party’s own candidates – believed this was a promise to fully fund the provision of free schools meals. But it turns out that was wrong. While central government funds meals for infants (key stage 1) and there is a statutory requirement to fund free meals for children from deprived families, the council only contributes 40% of the costs for the remaining key stage 2 pupils – schools have had to find the rest from their own funds.

With budgets getting ever tighter as public spending cuts bite, a number of schools threatened to opt out of the scheme. Initially, the mayor put his fingers in his ears and pretended not to hear them. 

But in May the council offered to increase funding to 60%.

19 schools told the council it was still unaffordable and they would start charging children for school meals from September. Which would be hugely embarrassing for Sir Robin. Less than a year before the next election and a signature promise would be exposed as a lie.

What was he to do?

Politically, there was only one option: fully fund the scheme! So at the next Cabinet meeting the mayor will finally agree to do what he promised and pay for all primary school meals. This will add an extra £2.5m to the cost this year and £3.6m next year. 

Of course, the cabinet paper dresses this up as a concern for Newham children:

Given the importance of ensuring a universal offer, no other option than funding junior paid meals at 100% will secure the desired outcomes for Newham’s primary age children.

But in truth, this is about ensuring the re-election of Sir Robin for a fifth term.

It’s a man’s world (again)

30 Jun

The latest issue of the Newham Mag includes details of the allowances paid to the mayor and the 60 other members of the council in the last municipal year (April 2016 to March 2017).

Between them they pocketed over £1.2 million.

But that wasn’t evenly distributed. As you can see from the table below, those receiving most had one important thing in common…

Name Basic £ SRA £ Other £ Total £ Gender
R WALES 81,839 0 0 81,839 M
L HUDSON 10,842 37,735 0 48,577 M
I CORBETT 10,842 34,770 0 45,612 M
F HUSSAIN 10,842 33,735 142 44,719 M
A BAIKIE 10,842 33,735 0 44,577 M
K CLARK 10,842 33,735 0 44,577 M
R CRAWFORD 10,842 33,735 0 44,577 M
C FURNESS 10,842 33,735 0 44,577 M
A MCALMONT 10,842 26,988 0 37,830 M
H ABDULMUHIT 10,842 18,835 0 29,677 M
I IBRAHIM 10,842 14,553 0 25,395 M
L SHAH 10,842 14,056 46 24,944 F
T PAUL 10,842 14,056 0 24,898 M
Mas PATEL 10,842 13,991 0 24,833 M
T WILSON 10,842 11,698 2,079 24,619 F
S BRAYSHAW 10,842 13,494 0 24,336 M
D CHRISTIE 10,842 13,494 0 24,336 M
J LAGUDA 10,842 13,494 0 24,336 F
R TRIPP 10,842 11,807 0 22,649 F
R FIAZ OBE 10,842 11,698 0 22,540 F
S MASTERS 10,842 10,683 0 21,525 F
S PATEL 10,842 10,356 117 21,315 M
P MURPHY 10,842 7,872 0 18,714 M
A CHOWDHURY 10,842 6,747 0 17,589 F
F CLARKE 10,842 6,747 0 17,589 F
A EASTER 10,842 6,747 0 17,589 F
M PATEL 10,842 6,747 0 17,589 M
J MARRIOTT 10,842 6,185 0 17,027 F
T RAHMAN 10,842 6,054 0 16,896 F
U DESAI 10,842 5,623 0 16,465 M
K SCORESBY 10,842 2,249 0 13,091 F
W VAUGHAN 10,842 2,249 0 13,091 M
D WALLS 10,842 2,249 0 13,091 F
N WILSON 10,842 0 452 11,294 M
E SPARROWHAWK 10,902 0 0 10,902 M
O AKIWOWO 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
A ALARICE 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
J ALEXANDER 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
J BECKLES 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
F BOURNE 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
B COLLIER 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
J CORBETT 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
J GRAY 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
A GRIFFITHS 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
Z GULAMUSSEN 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
P HOLLAND 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
O KHAN 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
C MCAULEY 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
C MCLEAN 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
F NAZEER 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
F NEKIWALA 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
A NOOR 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
V OAKESHOTT 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
Q PEPPIATT 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
R RAHMAN 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
P SATHIANESAN 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
A SINGH 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
S THOMAS 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
H VIRDEE 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
J WHITWORTH 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
A ISLAM** 7,636 0 0 7,636 M
E ROBINSON* 2,711 1,125 0 3,835 F
Totals: 731,924 500,975 2,837 1,235,735  
  • resigned June 2016
    **elected July 2016

Value for money?

24 May

By Iain Aitch

Is £4m per job good value for our money, Sir Robin?

The recent raids by HMRC at the London Stadium (Olympic Stadium in old money) may have had some Newham residents worrying about their £40m investment in West Ham’s new ground. The council tax-payer’s hard earned cash is due to be paid back over the next 40 years, but you may well wonder what we are getting for our investment, bar a few free tickets for Mayor Sir Robin Wales and his cabinet. 

With this in mind, I set about composing a Freedom of Information request, basing my questions on the promises made by the council. They were not forthcoming on the number of free tickets handed out, promising the information on the 100,000 promised would be made public at the end of the football season (which has already passed). 

But what was most interesting was the promise around jobs. The council promised up to 75% of jobs at the stadium would go to local residents. The reality is, ahem, somewhat different and wholly disappointing. The actual number is 20%. And full time jobs? Just 10 (ten). I make that 0.8% of total jobs at London Stadium. 

That makes £4m of investment per job. Of 1,207 jobs in total, this 10 is in addition to 253 Newham-ites on casual contracts. A pathetic return and, if chatter amongst old hands is anything to go by, this number may be reduced radically next season. 

You can see the FOI and stats for yourself here (HTML) or here (PDF).

Iain Aitch is an author and journalist who lives in Newham. He has written for the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times and Financial Times.

Election 2017 – your candidates

12 May

The lists of candidates standing in the general election for the two Newham constituencies have been published.

East Ham

  • Choudhry Afzal – Friends Party
  • Kirsty Finlayson – Conservative
  • Chidi Oti-Obihara – Green Party
  • Daniel Oxley – UKIP
  • Stephen Timms – Labour
  • Glanville Williams – Liberal Democrats
  • Mirza Zillur Rahman – Independent

West Ham

  • Rosamund Beattie – UKIP
  • Lyn Brown – Labour
  • Paul Reynolds – Liberal Democrats
  • Kayode Shedowo – Christian Peoples Alliance
  • Patrick Spencer – Conservative
  • Michael Spracklin – Green Party

Stand up to racism – public meeting

10 May

From Stand Up to Racism Newham:


Defend EU Migrants – Keep Racism Out of the Election!

Tuesday, 16 May at 19:00–20:45

Stratford Advice Arcade, 107-109 The Grove, London, E15 1HP (nr Morrisons car park)

Speakers: Wiktor Moszczyński (The Three Million), Jacek Szymański (EU migrant), Nahella Ashraf (Stand Up to Racism)

Please “like” and share Newham SUtR facebook event here: Defend EU Migrants – Keep Racism Out of the Election

As election day approaches Theresa May is once more playing the anti-immigration card, while UKIP tries to outbid the Tories. Theresa May is aiming to push through her version of a “hard” Brexit with a crackdown on migrant rights and opposition to the free movement of labour. 

We need to make a stand against the anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric that has fuelled the spike in hate crimes since the referendum.

Stand Up To Racism urges everyone to use their vote against racism and scapegoating in the election.

Come to our meeting to discuss how we can help keep racism out of the election.

Up close and personal

25 Apr

A recent Freedom of Information request to Newham council

From your Constitution, it states:

15. PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS – between Members and Officers

15.1 Mutual respect between Members and officers is essential to good local government. Close personal familiarity between individual Members and officers can damage this relationship and prove embarrassing to other Councillors and officers.

15.2 It is not enough to avoid actual impropriety. Members and officers must avoid any occasion for suspicion and any appearance of improper conduct.

15.3 Member and officers must declare to the Chief Executive any relationships with an officer, which might be seen as influencing their work as a Member. This includes any family, business or sexual relationships.

15.4 The Chief Executive will advise both the Member and the officer of the need to avoid creating any appearance of improper conduct on their part.

Please provide the number of relationships reported to the Chief Executive of Members/Mayor having relationships with officers with a grade of SMR1 or above in the last 10 years.

Please provide the number of relationships reported to the Chief Executive of the Mayor having a relationship with an officer in the last 10 years.

Please provide the advice given to both the Member/Mayor and the officer to avoid creating any appearance of improper conduct on their part.

The response:

1. Two.

2. Two.

3. Verbal advice was extended to the relevant parties to remind them of their obligations under Part 5.2 of the Council’s Constitution – The Protocol for Member and Officer Conduct.

Legal advice was sought in respect of the declarations made. We consider the advice extended to be legally privileged under Section 42 of the Freedom of Information Act.


Note: comments have been disabled on this post

Broken promise

4 Apr

Screenshot 2017 04 04 17 10 06

The mayor’s 2014 manifesto

The Newham Recorder reports:

Free school meals for some primary school children in Newham could be under threat, a headteachers’ union has warned.

In a letter sent out on behalf of the Newham branch of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) on Friday, parents were told “rising costs and a frozen budget mean tough decisions will have to be taken”.

Union officials wrote that the ‘Eat for Free’ programme was “unsustainable” in part due to a new “transparent” funding formula from the council – calculated on the number of children and meals served – asking schools to foot 60pc of the bill moving forwards.

“Schools will not be able to continue to provide free meals for all junior aged pupils unless the national funding picture changes, or the mayor decides to fully fund his initiative,” the letter stated.

The story quotes Forest Gate South councillor Dianne Walls, a former local primary school headteacher, expressing surprise “as a member of the council” that schools were being asked to pay anything at all.

Councillors kept in the dark, promises broken. I am shocked. Shocked.