Archive | April, 2015

Leading questions

27 Apr

Upton centre consultation

The council is ‘consulting’ on the future of the Upton Centre, which it suddenly closed late last year. One question – shown above – asks residents what their priority would be if the council had just over £4.4 million to spend on something; of course, redevelopment of the Upton Centre is right at the very bottom of the list of options.

When Sir Robin decided to bung £40 million – almost 10 times as much – into converting the Olympic stadium for the benefit of West Ham United FC and its multimillionaire owners, no such consultation took place.

And no-one was asked what they might prefer the council to spend such a vast sum on. 

UPDATE: The whole consultation is bogus. The bias is evident in the questions and in the assumptions that underlie them, as Caroline Tomes has explained on Storify.

Advertisements

A walk on part in the war

24 Apr

Newham councillor Ken Clark (pictured above) enjoys a brief walk on part in the full judgement in the Lutfur Rahman case that was published yesterday.

It is an entertaining and eye-popping read all round. Councillor Clark first appears in paragraph 223:

In 2010 the question arose whether Tower Hamlets should have an elected Mayor. The Labour Party at national and regional level was not keen on a Mayor for Tower Hamlets and the Borough Labour Party was instructed by Mr Ken Clark, the Party’s regional director, to oppose the proposition. Mr Rahman, on the other hand was keen on an elected Mayor, considering himself (not unreasonably) as potentially fitted for that rôle. He therefore campaigned in support of the petition. Although there were widespread suspicions that some of the names supporting the petition were bogus, the petition reached the necessary level for a referendum to take place as to whether there should be an elected Mayor. Again the regional Party instructed the local Party to oppose the referendum and again Mr Rahman campaigned in its favour.

After five paragraphs about the determined efforts of the Labour party to keep Mr Rahman from becoming their mayoral candidate he briefly reappears:

The selection took place on 4 September 2010. A transferable-vote ballot was held among members of the Party in Tower Hamlets. The other candidates included Mr Biggs, Mr Helal Abbas and Mr Keith. Mr Rahman was successful and his candidature was announced by Mr Clark (clearly through gritted teeth). 

Of course, as we know, Lutfur Rahman was very quickly deselected by the national executive committee and went on to win the election as an independent.

It is no small irony that the same Ken Clark who instructed Tower Hamlets Labour party to oppose having an elected mayor in that borough is now right-hand man to the elected mayor of this borough. After his election as councillor for Manor Park ward last May he was immediately appointed to cabinet as lead member for ‘Building Communities, Public Affairs, Regeneration & Planning’. His job is ‘to be the eyes and ears of the council, sharing information and local intelligence.’

For some reason all this reminds me of Pink Floyd’s song Wish Your Were Here

And did you exchange

A walk on part in the war 

For a lead role in a cage?

Who wants to be a millionaire?

17 Apr

Ayesha Chowdhury 

Beckon lead councillor Ayesha Chowdhury owns a property portfolio worth in excess of £4 million

On Monday Newham council officers and the police forcibly took back possession of a flat in Stratford that had been occupied by its former tenant and the Focus E15 housing campaign. Jasmin Stone, the most prominent of the campaigners was arrested and later bailed.

It is the latest in a long line of incidents that highlight the chronic shortage of social housing in the borough and the council’s complete lack of interest in those who need it most. When anyone dares to challenge the mayor’s priorities – “developers, developers, developers,” to borrow a phrase – he has no hesitation in sending in the heavies.

The ‘developers first’ policy means that the gleaming glass and steel towers going up in Canning Town, Royal Docks and Stratford contain few, if any, affordable units. Properties are openly marketed to overseas investors with the tagline ‘no social housing’.

With hundreds of council homes being deliberately left empty and new builds aimed squarely at the investment market, the thousands of families on the social housing waiting list have few options. Demand for private rented accommodation has rocketed and rents have soared – along with the housing benefit bill – transferring wealth upwards into the ever-expanding pockets of the rich.

Which is good news for the large number of Newham councillors who are private landlords.

Take Beckton’s Ayesha Chowdhury, for example. She has amassed a portfolio of Newham properties that – based on estimates from property website Zoopla.co.uk – is now worth more than £4 million. Zoopla also provides an estimate of her potential monthly rental income. If all Cllr Chowdhury’s properties are let out at these rates she’ll be pulling in close to £19,000 a month.

  Purchase Price Current Value Increase Monthly rental
82 Downings, E6 £105,000 £238,000 £133,000 £1,100
95 Lonsdale Avenue, E6 £55,000 £165,000 £110,000 £790
6 Truesdale Road, E6 £122,000 £260,000 £138,000 £1,200
100 Park Avenue, E6 £72,000 £185,000 £113,000 £890
199 Tollgate Road, E6 £65,000 £172,000 £107,000 £828
10 Harrier Way, E6 £249,000 £370,000 £121,000 £1,700
27 Trader Road, E6 £198,500 £295,000 £96,500 £1,365
5 Hogarth Close, E16 £185,000 £296,000 £111,000 £1,588
47 Plymouth Road, E16 £140,000 £219,000 £79,000 £868
205 Tollgate Road, E6 £57,500 £152,000 £94,500 £732
18 Eric Close E7 £189,000 £264,000 £75,000 £1,021
96a Plashet Grove E7 £160,000 £188,000 £28,000 £903
5 Chelmsford Close, E6 £225,000 £334,000 £109,000 £1,546
203 Tollgate Road, E6 £160,000 £197,000 £37,000 £950
5a Hogarth Close, E6* £75,000 £195,000 £120,000 £1,000
39 Albatross Close, E6 £191,600 £287,000 £95,400 £1,380
20 Viscount Drive, E6** £205,000 £210,000 £5,000 £1,011
TOTALS: £2,454,600 £4,027,000 £1,572,400 £18,872

* New build – estimated construction cost

** My estimate – actual sale price not yet available

This might be portrayed by some as a story of hard work and a reward for enterprise. But until 2011 Cllr Chowdhury lived in social housing, paying a subsidised social rent while building her private fortune. She only moved into one of her own properties when the story appeared in the national press.

Despite this she was reselected as a Labour candidate for last year’s council election and rewarded by Sir Robin with an extra £6,679 a year as mayoral advisor and lead community councillor.

As the old saying has it, money goes to money.

Where’s Robin?

16 Apr

The start of the election campaign has seen Twitter flooded with pictures of activists out doing their bit for the party. Newham’s Labour councillors have been doing their bit, in locations from East Ham to East Dunbartonshire.

ChowdhuryAyesha 2015 Apr 04

Councillors Jose Alexander, Unmesh Desai, Ayesha Chowdhury & Susan Masters in East Ham

James Beckles 2015 Apr 11

Councillors James Beckles, Aleen Alarice and Terry Paul in West Ham

WestHamLabour 2015 Mar 28

Councillors John Whitworth, Aleen Alarice, John Gray, Julianne Marriott and Neil Wilson campaigning with Mike Gapes in Ilford

Tahmina Rahman 2015 Apr 04 2

Tahmina Rahman with fellow councillors Gray and Abdulmuhit

Mwarne 2015 Apr 13

A rare sighting of Forest Gate community lead councillor Rohima Rahman campaigning in Ilford with Unmesh Desai, Jose Alexander and Stephen Timms

WestHamLabour 2015 Apr 11

Lyn Brown talking to voters in Stratford with councillor James Beckles and by-election candidate Charlene McLean

Tahmina Rahman 2015 Mar 28

Eight Newham councillors on the doorstep in Scotland: Forhad Hussain, Ellie Robinson, David Christie, Joy Laguda, Hanif Abdulmuhit, Terry Paul, Lester ‘3 jobs’ Hudson and Tahmina Rahman.

There is one highly notable absentee from these pictures. Concerned citizens and Labour activists alike have to ask, where’s Robin?

Your 2015 candidates

10 Apr

Nominations closed yesterday for the general election and the council by-election in Stratford and New Town ward. Here’s a list of the candidates standing:

By-election – Stratford & New Town

  • Isabelle Anderson, the Green Party
  • Matthew Gass, the Conservative Party
  • Jamie McKenzie, UKIP
  • Charlene McLean, Labour Party
  • Joe Mettle, Christian Peoples Alliance
  • Bob Severn, Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition

General election – East Ham

  • Mohammed Aslam, Communities United Party
  • Lois Austin, Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition
  • Samir Jassal, the Conservative Party
  • Tamsin Omond, the Green Party
  • Daniel Oxley, UKIP
  • David Thorpe, Liberal Democrats
  • Stephen Timms, Labour Party

General Election – West Ham

  • Festus Akinbusoye, the Conservative Party
  • Cydatty Bogie, Communities United Party
  • Lyn Brown, Labour Party
  • Jamie McKenzie, UKIP
  • Rachel Collinson, the Green Party
  • Paul Reynolds, Liberal Democrats
  • Andy Uzoka, Christian Peoples Alliance 

At last May’s election Stratford voters had a three-way choice between Labour, the Tories and the Christians. This time there are three new options – Green, UKIP and TUSC – though it won’t make much difference to the outcome. And it says something about the enfeebled state of the Liberal Democrats in Newham that they couldn’t find a single person willing even to put their name on the ballot paper.

Voters have a similarly broad choice in the general election but the results are a foregone conclusion. The only thing worth noting is the presence of a Communities United candidate in each seat. The jailing of their leader last year is obviously no deterrent to throwing away £1000 on two lost deposits. Kamran Malik has removed himself from the scene of the crime. He is standing Brent Central.

The loan arranger

8 Apr

The minutes of the council meeting on 23 February include a section called Members Question Time. I don’t recall seeing this before, so perhaps it’s a recent innovation (or I haven’t been paying proper attention – which is entirely possible).

One particular bit caught my eye, which I’ll quote without further comment (though my emphasis added):

Councillor John Gray to Councillor Lester Hudson:

I note that in Agenda item 14 Annual Treasury Strategy Statement 3.2.2 on Borrowing Strategy (page 55) that the Council will not borrow more than it needs purely in order to profit from the investment of extra sums borrowed. However, is this in conflict with recent statements that in the future Newham will earn income from loans it makes and that this is the sort of commercial money making activity that the Council should engage in?

Answer:

Cllr Hudson advised that the Treasury statement was self explanatory and referred members to pages 151- 153 of the report which provides information on the Council’s borrowing and Capital Program. If the Council can borrow at a low rate and lend at commercial rates this adds value to the Council and enables us to extract income to cross subsidise where there are holes in the budget. 

General election update

7 Apr

GE2015 predictions

The brainiacs at FiveThirtyEight.com have come up with constituency-by-constituency predictions for the UK general election.

Their prognostications for the two Newham seats make for predictable reading. I doubt it took them very long to come to forecast the winners or their overwhelming share of the vote.

If I had any quibble with their forecast, I’d say they have significantly over-estimated the likely Lib Dem scores. In my view, they’ll be lucky to save their deposits.