Alight here for Forest Gate

16 Jan

Screenshot 2018 01 16 16 54 07

According to the latest newsletter from the Barking-Gospel Oak Rail User Group (BGORUG), there will soon be an additional to the signage at Wanstead Park station:

At a meeting with TfL last September BGORUG secured agreement for the platform signs giving the station’s name at Wanstead Park to receive straplines reading ‘Alight here for Forest Gate’. This follows on from a similar success in 2015 when TfL agreed to add ‘Alight here for Walthamstow Town Centre’ to the name boards at Walthamstow Queen’s Road. This station is not even very close to the road it is named after!

BGORUG consulted with the Forest Gate North councillors, meeting with Cllr. Rachel Tripp, who was very supportive of the idea.

It is true that the names of many stations on the Barking – Gospel Oak line do not really reflect their true location. Wanstead Park station is closer to Wanstead Flats than the park it is named after and only a matter of a few minutes walk from Forest Gate station.

The new signs will deliver a message that is consistent with the current version of the Tube map, which shows Wanstead Park and Forest Gate as an official interchange.

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Open it up

15 Jan

The chair of West Ham CLP, Cllr Charlene McLean, has written to Labour’s general secretary asking that they skip the re-run trigger ballot and move straight to an open selection:

As Chair of West Ham CLP and on behalf of its Officers, I am writing with regards to the statement issued by Sir Robin Wales on the 21st December 2017  accepting that the original trigger ballot process for the Newham Mayoral candidacy held between October and December 2016 should be re-run, following widespread criticism and continuing concern amongst Labour Party members in Newham members affiliates about the democratic and accountability issues arising from this process.

You will be aware that in January 2017 West Ham CLP passed a motion of no confidence in the trigger ballot process and this was re-affirmed at the General Committee meeting on the 23rd November 2017.

In addition to concerns raised by the CLP, a number of members and affiliates have lodged multiple complaints about the way the Newham Mayoral trigger ballot was run. Since the outcome of the trigger ballot in February 2017, there has been no constructive engagement with West Ham CLP on these issues raised. 

We are now less than four months from the date of the local elections and are concerned that there is no longer sufficient time in which to re-run the trigger ballot and then potentially hold an open selection process, if that is what the trigger ballot determines. We would note that it is the Labour Party’s delay in addressing our concerns which has created this urgency.

We therefore do not feel that a re-run of the trigger ballot is the practical response at this time and request that the Labour Party immediately hold an open selection for the mayoral candidate.

Furthermore, we have additional concerns about the continuing delay with Newham Local Government candidate selections and would like clarity around when the intended timetable for that will re-commence.

The call has been backed on social media by other councillors, including Julianne Marriott:

I’ve just emailed #Labour NEC asking that #Newham goes straight to an open selection. I don’t believe a re-run of a trigger ballot is in best interests of Newham residents.

Regardless of Labour’s internal politics there is a practical reason for going straight to open selection: with the election being held on 3rd May, the deadline for nominations is 4 pm on 6th April.

In 2016 the original trigger ballot process took about 6 weeks, from late October to the declaration of the result in early December. Even if Labour started the re-run by the end of January (and there’s no sign of that happening) it would be mid-March before the outcome was known. Getting an open selection done in three weeks would then be a challenge.

The answer is clear. Sir Robin has been mayor for 16 years. He has a record to run on. Neither he nor the Labour party should be afraid of an open selection.

Do over

4 Jan

The acting regional director of the London Labour Party has emailed Newham members:

As you may be aware, an affirmative ballot to determine the re-selection of the sitting directly-elected Mayor Newham was held in December 2016. This ballot, which was administered by the Local Campaign Forum (LCF), confirmed that Sir Robin Wales was selected as Labour’s candidate to fight the Mayoral election in May 2018.

Following the completion of this process, the party received complaints from a group of members with concerns over the eligibility status of some affiliated organisations who took part in the process. The complainants made it clear to the party that they intended to seek legal judgement on these matters in the courts.

The Labour Party maintains that all rules and procedures were applied correctly and that officers of the LCF acted in good faith with the information they were provided with.

However, a court case to determine that matter would be costly to the party and be a massive distraction away from campaigning to elect a Labour Mayor for Newham. Therefore, we have agreed to re-run the affirmative nomination process for Newham to determine if Sir Robin Wales is re-selected as Labour’s candidate for the election. The process will be administered by the Greater London Labour Party.

The ballot will be run with the same freeze date as the original process, 25th October 2016. This means that only members with six months membership at this point will be eligible to take part in any branch meetings where the affirmative vote will take place. If you are an eligible member then the party will be in touch with you to give you notice of this meeting.

We aim to complete this process as soon as possible to ensure everyone in the party can come together to play their part in delivering a successful campaign in Newham.

The local campaign forum is not being trusted to run a fair contest, so the regional party will supervise. And there will be a pre-agreed list of affiliates allowed to submit votes, which rather evens up the playing field.

Game on!

Data breach

22 Dec

Branch secretaries across West Ham Labour party have received an email today from Josephine Grahl, the vice chair for membership, about a serious data breach in Green Street West:

Dear Branch Secretary,

I am writing to draw your attention to a recent incident in which personal membership data of individuals may have been misused or accessed by an unauthorised person.

In September 2017, following the third attempt to hold a branch AGM in Green Street West, a number of members in that ward reported to the CLP Secretary and to myself that their Labour Party membership had been resigned without their knowledge ahead of the AGM. Emails were sent to the National Membership team purporting to be from these members, quoting their Labour Party membership numbers and home addresses, and stating that they wished immediately to resign their Labour Party membership.

Most of these members have now been reinstated with their continuity of membership preserved as the National Membership team recognised that the emails were sent maliciously from email addresses which were not the addresses on record for those members.

This has been reported to both the police and the Information Commissioner alleging illegal misuse of personal data. The matter has also been referred to the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit.

This is a cause for concern as in order to make these fraudulent resignations someone must have had access to the name, address and Labour Party membership numbers of the affected members. I am therefore writing to all officers with access to personal data to make them aware of this breach and ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities.

Branch Secretaries should be aware that their access to the personal data of members is governed by the Data Protection Act, and that misuse of this data may put the Labour Party in legal jeopardy. On no account may membership data be used for purposes other than that for which access is granted. If you are aware of any breach, you should contact the National Membership team on labourmembership@labour.org .uk or 0345 092 2299.

For more information the Labour Party’s data protection guidelines are available on Membersnet at https://members.labour.org. uk/rules-and-procedures [ registration required]

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about the above.

With the obvious caveat that I am not a lawyer, it appears that whoever did this has committed not just an offence under the Data Protection Act but also under the Communications Act 2003. Section 127(2) of that act targets false messages intended to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety. According to the Crown Prosecution Service, they “shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine or to both.”

Someone should be feeling very nervous.

Blink

21 Dec

Sir Robin Wales calls for Labour to cancel trigger ballot result, reports the Newham Recorder.

While claiming that the process was “endorsed by the Labour Party National Executive Committee” Sir Robin said it has been “attacked by a number of often anonymous individuals.”

“A few of these individuals have filed a court case against the Labour Party itself.

“This can only work to the Tories’ advantage, waste the party’s resources, and undermine our position in Newham, particularly given the upcoming local government elections in May 2018.

“The costs of a court case would be significant, and Labour Party members money should not be used in this way. It also risks jeopardising the hard work of our Labour councillors.

“It is on that basis that I have asked the party to cancel the results from the trigger ballot. I am supporting a new process to be undertaken under the auspices of the national or regional Labour Party.

“It is deeply regrettable that at this late stage in our preparation, and with local elections just a few months away, we have to appease a minority for the sake of their own gain.

“I had hoped that our focus together would have been getting Labour re-elected into Newham to ensure a radical and progressive council.

“However, in my view we should take this issue out of the courts, and back into members’ hands.’”

In a briefing sent out to local members Sir Robin also complains about Trigger Democracy:

You may remember just a few months ago these individuals – through an anonymously run campaign – misused Labour Party members data on significant scale, resulting in correspondence and even home visits.

Of course he fails to mention that one of his own supporters is heavily implicated in mis-using party data to maliciously cancel the memberships of at least four local comrades without their knowledge or consent. 

So has Sir Robin blinked first in his battle with the Trigger Democracy campaigners? Maybe. While he knows he will win a re-run of the trigger ballot, because he can always conjure enough affiliate votes to cancel out any deficit among the local ward parties, he must be a little nervous about what might come out if the case ever got to court.

The honest and brave course of action would be to agree unconditionally to an open selection, with other candidates able to offer their alternative vision for Newham.

PS: hats off to Rita Chada on Twitter for spotting that this announcement was made on National Robin Day – somehow he always manages to make it about him!

Newham’s Red Door Ventures to buy Collective Old Oak

7 Dec

EGi – News Article – Newham’s Red Door Ventures to buy Collective Old Oak:

“The Collective Old Oak is close to being bought by Newham Council’s PRS developer Red Door Ventures.

“The arms-length development company, which uses council funding to build rental schemes around London, is understood to be paying close to £120m for the co-living scheme.”

And where is this £120 million investment located? NW10. The London Borough of Brent.

Not meeting expectations

5 Dec

By Iain Aitch

Those attending Newham’s full council last night (4 December) may have been expecting fireworks, given that the loss of £52m of public funds in the London Stadium debacle had just been confirmed. But, in the end, any protest by councillors was limited to a whimper, rather than a bang.

In truth, it was all over bar the shouting by the time the meeting began. Only there was no shouting.

A cowed Labour group had, prior to full council, voted against instituting a judge-led inquiry by a margin of 34 to eight. And, with no elected opposition in the one-party borough, only a few Labour councillors dared to mutter any disquiet in public.

There had been whispers of calls for Mayor Sir Robin Wales’s resignation and even a #RobinWalesMustGo campaign on Twitter, backed by some councillors. Rumours abound that the Mayor was asked to step down at Labour group, but he ignored the question and moved on.

So the Mayor was able to read his prepared statement without so much as a heckle. One councillor even fed him an easy “Sir, sir, please, weren’t Tories to blame, sir?” question to calm his nerves and the room. The Tories were, of course, to blame, said the Mayor, as he waved away the losses with the casual air of someone who had just lost 50p each-way on a Grand National bet.

Judges cast aside, Wales announced a ‘forensic inquiry’. One imagines this is to be led by the Mayor and his close team, with the head of the inquiry appointed by the same. Expect the answer as to where blame lies to begin and end with everyone but the Mayor or Newham’s Labour administration.

The meeting was inexpertly chaired by Councillor Sathianesan, whose handling of the room made Theresa May’s conference speech look like an example of measured competence. Councillors at least felt brave enough to openly laugh at his endless cock-ups, but there was no air of rebellion or anger in the room about the London Stadium. It was palpably absent.

Whether the opposition to the Mayor had blown itself out in Labour group meeting is hard to say, but Councillors John Gray (who appeared visibly upset) and Rokhsana Fiaz did at least pose questions about the £52m loss and the competence of the council in matters financial.

Sadly, these questions were never incisive enough to rouse the spirit of rebellion whispered about earlier in the week. Wales batted away Gray’s questions with put-downs about his drafting abilities, while Fiaz was timed out by the Chair.

Wales consistently spoke about how well council tax-payers had done from the deal to lose £52m, citing housing wins, jobs and legacy. This raised some smiles from Wales loyalists, despite these figures not adding up. £52m could, after all, have built 250 council homes.

But most of the chamber stayed silent on the issue. Councillor Corbett seemed more concerned that a greener London initiative may allow middle class tree-huggers to stop the building of homes for the working classes. And they said irony was dead.

Many Newham council tax-payers will be angry that their elected representatives seemingly did nothing when they had the chance to speak up in public about their concerns over the loss of £52m in yet another failed investment (this one was a ‘sure thing’). They are, it seems, too cowed by the Mayor, too guarded of their salaried positions in the Mayor’s cabinet or too worn down by the dominance of the Wales and his loyalists.

Even MPs Lyn Brown and Stephen Timms have not spoken out about the Mayor’s £52m drop. Don’t expect that to change any time soon.

The Mayor wound up his proclamations on a bright note, promising ‘more to come in the week’ from his signing away the £52m investment. He couldn’t say what it was, but hinted at benefits for Newham residents.

Every Child A West Ham United Season Ticket Holder anyone?

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