Archive | September, 2014

A new life for NewCred?

24 Sep

From the mid-year budget review, due to be considered at next week’s council meeting:

The local credit union NewCred provides loan and banking facilities to Newham residents and staff. The organisation is in negotiations with another Credit Union – London Community Credit Union (LCCU) – about a Transfer of Engagements. In effect this would mean that NewCred would become a branch of LCCU. LCCU’s common bond area already covers Newham and they offer services to Newham residents but do not have a physical base in the borough.

This report asks Council as part of its budget strategy to delegate to cabinet the decision to make a loan ofup to £600k to LCCU [to] enable it take on this transfer of engagement, provided satisfactory terms can be agreed with the Council. This provision would only apply in the event that a transfer of engagements occurred.


With the scale offered by being part of the larger LCCU, could NewCred be a partner in the mayor’s proposed MoneyWorks project? 

Beckton result

12 Sep

Wilson and Wales

Trebles all round as Tonii Wilson’s win maintains Sir Robin’s iron grip on Newham

The results of yesterday’s by-election in Beckton, which was held to fill the vacancy left by the death of Alec Kellaway in June, have been announced:

Syed Hussain AHMED Conservative 584 29.6%
Mark DUNNE TUSC 21 1%
Jane Alison LITHGOW Green Party 70 3.5%
David MEARS UKIP 215 10.9%
Kayode SHEDOWO Christian People’s Alliance 33 1.7%
David THORPE Liberal Democrat 43 2.2%
Tonii WILSON Labour 1,006 51%
Total Number of votes: 1,983    
Electorate total: 10,510    
Turn out: 18.86%    
Number of valid votes: 1,972    
Number of Rejected Votes: 11    

There’s so much to be disappointed about here that it’s hard to know where to start.

Obviously this result means Newham continues to be a one party state and, with that party ruthlessly controlled by the Mayor, it is essentially a one person state. Tonii Wilson was hand-picked by Sir Robin and imposed on the local party through a dubious ‘urgent’ selection procedure. She may have been the best candidate Labour could have chosen and, had Beckton members been given a proper say, she might have been selected any way, but we’ll never know. Right now, it just looks like she’ll be an empty suit waiting to unquestioningly do the boss’s bidding. Trebles all round at Building 1000!

The poor showings by the two alternative left parties is a shame. TUSC came dead last, polling even fewer votes than the CPA, but they put up a paper candidate and made no real effort. At least the Greens ran an active campaign. But 70 votes is a feeble return. If the party aspires to re-establish itself in Newham after a decade-long hiatus it needs to be doing better than this. In May the Greens were runners-up to Labour in Forest Gate North. Perhaps this part of the borough is more fertile territory.

By contrast UKIP is doing well in the south. They polled strongly in both Canning Town wards and in Custom House in May; they finished third here with almost 11% of the vote. Electorally, this will probably be of more concern to the Tories than Labour, but any rise in support for the far right in Newham has to worry us all.

The most disappointing thing though is the pathetically low turnout – 18.86%. Fewer than 1 in 5 voters even bothered registering a preference. It’s a spectacular failure by all concerned. But it’s not just a Newham issue, or a even a Labour issue: it’s a national problem that all parties must address. 

For the next three and a half years Tonii Wilson will sit in council with the active backing of less than 1 in 10 Beckton voters. Unless we do something to address the democratic deficit there is a going to be real crisis of legitimacy in local government.

Mysterious disappearing voters

8 Sep

How many voters are there in Newham?

This was sitting on the electoral register page of the council website for about a year (I took the screenshot in May, just after the elections):

Referendum 1

If 10,350 is 5% of registered voters, simple maths tells us that the total number of people on the electoral register in Newham in April 2013 was exactly 207,000.

But according to the published results for the council elections, the electorate in May 2014 was just 195,419. Some 11,581 voters vanished from the rolls in a year. 

The electoral register page has recently been updated. I grabbed this image today:

Referendum 2

So now the electoral roll stands at 192,600. Another 2,819 voters have disappeared in the last three months.

A decline in local voters is not entirely unprecedented. Between 1971 and 1998 Newham’s electorate declined from 183,00 to 139,000. But those were very different economic times. In recent years Newham’s population has been booming. Between 2001 and 2011 it grew from 243,905 to 308,000 – that’s an increase of close to 26%.

So why, I wonder, has the number of registered voters in the borough taken a sudden nosedive in the past 18 months?

A spectacular success

5 Sep

Sir Robin demonstrates his approach to bringing communities together in Newham

“The Mayor hailed the [Newham Show] as a spectacular success and a demonstration of how important these types of free activities are in bringing Communities together.”

Minutes of Newham council meeting, 14 July 2014

“The Chair advised those present that the Standards Advisory Committee had decided to recommend that a formal investigation should be undertaken into the complaint of a breach of the Code of Conduct […] The complaint concerned the Mayor of Newham.”

Minutes of the Standards Advisory Committee meeting, 31 July 2014

A spectacular success indeed!

Dear Lyn Brown MP

1 Sep

Guest post by Caroline Tomes

Dear Lyn Brown MP,

Your role as an MP is to represent the views and concerns of your constituents, both those who did and did not vote for you. There are many ways to obtain this information, and I for one am glad to see my local MP engaging with Twitter and other social media.

One of the challenges is in assessing whether information you obtain is representative of your constituents.  The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” is a useful reminder about the importance of survey design. And I have some very real concerns regarding the surveys you have hosted recently on your website. 

You had a survey online asking for local views on healthcare. This was the first question:
Lyn survey pic1
Now there is nothing wrong with asking for people’s general opinions of health services (although I do wonder why you feel the need to repeat the work which Healthwatch Newham aptly do). However the response options are limited to ‘excellent’ ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’, thereby preventing any negative feedback. This is ridiculously biased, and any results from this question will be inevitably skewed.

Do you not care if someone is ‘unsatisfied’ with their healthcare?

After I highlighted the poor question design you claimed something had gone wrong with the website ‘download’ (although the source code suggested the issue was with the survey design rather than things not being displayed). Either way, I was glad to see the healthcare survey taken off your website and hope you’ve deleted any data from this flawed survey.

However that wasn’t the only biased survey on your website. Your local business survey on the Olympics includes the following question:

Lyn survey pic2
Now where do I start?

Survey design faux-pas #1: leading questions; suggesting the Olympic Games had a positive impact.

Survey design faux-pas #2: the scale is biased and it also doesn’t make sense.

It’s just a terribly written question. For example: what would you select if you felt the Olympics had a big negative impact? What is the difference between impact two, four or six? I’m not sure what responses you’ve had to this survey, but I’m very confident that you won’t be able to use this information in any meaningful way.

I enjoy being a Newham resident. I’ve encountered many friendly local people, and the diversity of ethnicities and cultures makes Newham an exciting and vibrant place to be. That said; not everything is perfect here. For starters, Newham is currently the most deprived borough in London*, the TB capital of Europe, and I do wish there were more bins / fewer chicken bones in the local parks where I walk my dog.

I’m also pretty concerned that 100% of Newham’s elected representatives belong to the Labour party. Not because I necessarily disagree with that party politics but I strongly beleive that a one-party dominant system is just not healthy. Which is why it is so very important that any local surveys you conduct are unbiased and are representative of Newham people. 

With the forthcoming general election next year, I’m going to need a lot more convincing that you care about the real views of local people to get my vote.
Yours sincerely,
Caroline Tomes is a PhD researcher at UCL, public health professional and Newham resident. You can follow her on Twitter @carotomes

*Correction: originally published as ‘most deprived ward in London’. Edited to amend ward to borough.