Archive | May, 2015

Cloud Gate

27 May

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No through road

20 May

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The invisible woman

15 May

Although some pitifully inadequate details of what the mayor’s chums are meant to be doing for their ‘special responsibility allowances’ have now been published, there is one group of advisors whose role remains a complete mystery: the lead community councillors.

There are nine of them:

  • Beckton – Cllr Ayesha Chowdhury (Beckton)
  • Custom House & Canning Town – Cllr Idris Ibrahim (Green St West)
  • East Ham – Cllr Lakmini Shah (East Ham South)
  • Forest Gate – Cllr Rohima Rahman (Green St East)
  • Green Street – Cllr Hanif Abdulmuhit (Green St West)
  • Manor Park – Cllr Salim Patel (Manor Park)
  • Plaistow – Cllr Forhad Hussain (Plaistow North)*
  • Royal Docks – Cllr Patrick Murphy (Royal Docks)
  • Stratford & West Ham – Cllr Mas Patel (Forest Gate South)

Each one pulls in an extra £6,679 a year. According to the published pay scale that means they are meant to spend a full day a week on their community leading duties.

As Sir Robin endlessly reminds us, Newham is facing the most savage cuts in funding of any council in the country, while at the same time having to cope with expanding demand for services. How can he justify handing out such large sums for vague, undefined, and apparently unaccountable responsibilities?

Forest Gate residents will be especially bemused. Despite having six councillors of our own, the lead councillor represents a ward in Green Street – where she also lives. What advice or insight could she possibly offer the mayor – who lives locally himself and has done for 20 years?

I’d recognise any of the Forest Gate councillors if I saw them in the street (or the Forest Tavern or CoffeE7, or at the station). In fact, I regularly do. But Cllr Rahman could punch me in the face and I’d have no idea who she was.

That may also be true of some of her colleagues. According to council records, In the 2014/15 municipal year, she turned up to just three of the eight meetings of the Health and Social Care scrutiny commission she sits on and not a single cabinet meeting. She attended four full meetings of council, although the minutes do not record her uttering a single word.

* Cllr Hussain also has two other mayoral appointments: Cabinet Member for Commercial Opportunities and Deputy Cabinet Lead for Building Communities. He therefore gets an allowance of £33,395 for working 5 days a week.

Coincidence or magic?

13 May


There have been two significant set backs for Councillor Ahmed Noor this week as he fights for his political career after Newham council served him with an enforcement notice for using 238 Romford Road as an HMO (‘house in multiple occupation’) and not commercial offices.

On Monday night an outraged Labour group suspended him, pending an investigation into his conduct. That will be carried out by the chief executive, who will present a formal report to the mayor.

And yesterday Private Eye led their Rotten Boroughs page with the Romford Road enforcement notice story. A number of his fellow landlord councillors also got a name check. None of them will thank him for that.

I understand that Noor’s defence is that he let the building out to another company and they are the ones responsible; he didn’t know what was going on.

If that doesn’t work he can try another excuse: the council is wrong and the property is being used as offices. 

In a happy coincidence of timing, on May 5th – just a week after the enforcement notice was served – a company called Gas Tech Heating & Plumbing Ltd tweeted that 238 Romford Road was its new head office. It also posted the news on its Facebook page.

You can see from the photo above that their signage now covers all of the windows – even those on the upper floor with curtains drawn.

According to the Companies House website Gas Tech is a “Non-trading company”. No doubt this will change when the company files its next return, due in August.

Out of curiosity, I went round to take a look at the property yesterday evening after work. There were two men sat in a Gas Tech van on the forecourt. They got very agitated about my being there. I was told that this was private property and that I should leave immediately. After I mentioned the Private Eye story and outlined its contents they claimed to know nothing about any of that. I was told, at great length and at considerable volume, that I should find something better to do with my time and that I was only doing this because I’m bored; I need to re-establish a relationship with my creator. 

While this was going on three other people walked up – unchallenged – to let themselves into the building through the locked steel grill and front door beyond. None were dressed in overalls, nor were they carrying plumbing tools. 

Less is Noor

11 May

Given his recent legal problems you’d expect Councillor Noor might worry about not having time for constituency casework.

But it turns out this won’t be a problem for him: he barely does any.

According to an FOI response released in March, the council’s casework tracking system records him as having been assigned just one case in the four months between September and December 2014.

His fellow Plaistow South councillors have been shouldering the whole burden of citizen concerns. Aleen Alarice had seven cases, while Neil Wilson took care of 24.

Ah well, you might ask, Ahmed Noor is a new councillor, so perhaps it’s all being given to more experienced colleagues while he finds his feet?

Nope. Our two freshman councillors in Forest Gate North give the lie to that theory. Rachel Tripp was assigned 36 cases over the same period and Seyi Akiwowo 30 cases. Even Beckton’s Tonii Wilson, elected at a by-election in mid-September, picked up 14 cases.

In the year since his election Cllr Noor has collected more than £10,000 in allowances. Besides being a total embarrassment to the Labour party, what he he done to earn it? 

Election results – 2015

8 May

East Ham

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Stephen Creswell Timms Labour 40563 78%
Samir Jassal Conservative 6311 12%
Daniel Charles Oxley UKIP 2622 5%
Tamsin Julia Mucha Omond Green 1299 2%
David Thorpe Liberal Democrat 856 2%
Mohammed Farid Aslam Communities United 409 1%
Lois Austin TUSC 230 0%


West Ham

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Lyn Carol Brown Labour 36132 68%
Festus Akinbusoye Conservative 8146 15%
Jamie Ross McKenzie UKIP 3950 7%
Rachel Anne Collinson Green 2651 5%
Paul Reynolds Liberal Democrat 1430 3%
Andy Uzoka Christian Peoples All. 369 1%
Cydatty Bogie Communities United 115 0%


Stratford & New Town – council by-election

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Charlene McLean Labour 4607 57%
Matthew Gass Conservative 1778 22%
Isabelle Clare Anderson Green 1170 14%
Jamie Ross McKenzie UKIP 403 5%
Joe Mettle Christian Peoples All. 99 1%
Bob Severn TUSC 70 1%


There’s really not a lot to say about any of this. The results were a forgone conclusion even before the candidates were formally announced, though Stephen Timms’ 78% share of the vote is certainly eye-catching. I doubt there’s another MP in the country with as much as that.

Charlene McLean was easily returned to the council, with what is now the highest personal vote of any member. Something she might mention to Sir Robin when she sees him at Labour group on Monday!

In West Ham Festus Akinbusoye, the Tory candidate, put up a decent show in what he knew was an unwinnable seat. I don’t share his politics, but I can’t help but wish him luck for the future. The Conservatives made a lot of fuss about the number of new BAME candidates they had selected, while neglecting to mention that they were all in hopeless seats. If there’s any justice central office will give him a crack at something better next time. Samir Jassal’s ‘Vote for Firstname Lastname’ blunder on his leaflets – which went viral and even appeared on Have I Got News for You – is unlikely to be looked on so kindly.

The Greens can be proud of their achievements too. A saved deposit in West Ham (by 12 votes – who says every vote doesn’t count?) and over 1,100 votes – a 14% share – in the Stratford by-election. Starting from a zero base in the ward that is impressive. 

There was some concern on Twitter this morning about UKIP coming third in both seats. Yes, they did. But it is a very, very distant third. The hard right continues – thankfully – to struggle in Newham.

Finally, as I predicted, the Liberal Democrats lost their deposits in both seats. Their failure to even put up a candidate for the council by-election shows they no longer have any real presence in Newham. Is that the sound of the world’s smallest violin I hear? 

Wreckless Robin

6 May

Wreckless Robin

The phantom leafleter of Forest Gate struck again last night, delivering a pre-election message to local households.

Previous examples of the phantom’s work:

Fourth plinth

6 May

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Oh Noor!

5 May

Ahmed noor 323

According to the Newham Labour website, Ahmed Noor “is dedicated to making Newham a better place for everyone.” 

What could be more embarrassing for a local councillor than to be served with an enforcement notice by his own council?

That is the fate which has befallen Plaistow South’s Ahmed Noor.

Councillor Noor, like so many of his nominally Labour colleagues, owns a large number of properties in the borough that he rents out. One of these is at 238 Romford Road, Forest Gate. Quite properly, he lists this fact on his register of interests.

Unfortunately for Cllr Noor the property has at some time in the past ten years been converted from offices to ‘a house in multiple occupation’ without planning permission. Worse still, according to the enforcement notice (my emphasis added):

The conversion of the property to a house in multiple occupation provides a poor quality of accommodation which is to the detriment of the persons who reside there, and at a neighbourhood level, harms the objective of creating healthier neighbourhoods and delivering convergence. It is therefore contrary to policy … and the requirements of the Lifetime Homes Standards.

Given Newham council’s well-publicised determination to improve the quality of rented accommodation in the borough this is quite an extraordinary situation. 

And it could get even worse.

As part of its drive to improve local housing Newham has pioneered a private rented property licensing scheme

It is now against the law for any landlord to rent out a property in Newham without a licence. We work with the Metropolitan Police and other agencies across Newham to find unlicensed properties and take legal action. 

If you are found guilty you could face a fine of up to £20,000. You could also have control of your unlicensed properties taken away … and be ordered to repay up to 12 months rent to us or your tenants. 

A search of the property licensing database for 238 Romford Road produces no results. How exactly does Cllr Noor explain that? As a member of the council he can hardly plead ignorance – not that that would be any defence.

I’m sure the members of Plaistow South Labour party will be keen to hear what he has to say, as will his fellow Labour group members on the council.

Thursday’s by-election in Stratford & New Town is unlikely to be the last in the borough this year.

Plaistow tube station

1 May

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