Archive | July, 2017

Come dine with me

26 Jul

Meydansofrasi 2

Last night the Meydan Sofrasi restaurant on Barking Road excitedly tweeted that

THE MAYOR OF NEWHAM, SIR ROBIN WALES visited our restaurant today. 

As you can see from the accompanying picture, the mayor was taking refreshment with some of his nearest and dearest.

Fellow diners included councillors Unmesh Desai, Andrew Baikie, the Corbetts, Lester Hudson and, er, Ahmed Noor.

That’s the same Ahmed Noor who broke the council’s rules on landlord licensing, who’s currently suspended from the Labour party and who was accused by the standards committee of abusing his power to stifle complaints against him from tenants. The report to the standards committee about his conduct makes for hair-raising reading.

With councillor re-selections coming up in the autumn, is this a sign that the disgraced Noor may make a comeback? Even by Newham standards that would leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

UPDATE (13:30): the restaurant has deleted the tweet.

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Email alert

26 Jul

LakminiShah 2015 Nov 24

Picture from NewhamLabourWTF (figures from 2015)

Following last week’s withering email from Dianne Walls, Sir Robin has finally found a willing dupe to respond. Step forward, mayoral advisor Councillor Lakmini Shah 

Dianne,

I felt that I needed to reply to the email you sent following Monday’s Full Council, and given that you copied in all colleagues, I have done the same.

We have known each other a long time, and hope you will agree that by nature I try to solve problems rather than create them, and that much of my work has been to support other women and encourage them to get involved in politics and in the community. 

As I recall Robin’s comments at the last council meeting, he praised Kay for resigning from the governing body and said it was the correct thing to do. I don’t recall any inappropriate comments that he made towards Kay to embarrass her.

I have experienced and noticed so much division, misinterpretation, accusations, disturbance and disagreements in a negative way in this administration amongst us Labour colleagues. Therefore the good work we want to do gets drawn into unnecessary arguments. The suggestion that Robin marginalises women is particularly unfair. 

I felt that I need to break the silence and speak out and let some members know the struggles I had and the support I received to overcome them from Robin.

What follows is several paragraphs of pure Arslikhan: Sir Robin is portrayed as a heroic battler for women in general and Lakmini Shah in particular. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh out loud. For evidence of how Sir Robin doesn’t marginalise women, take a look at the gender pay gap among Newham’s councillors

In my experience as a woman councillor, Robin has been entirely supportive – far more so than many of my female colleagues.

At which point she puts away her onion and gets to the real point:

With less than a year until the election we need to stop this back-biting and sniping and unite as one Labour team behind Robin. 

As far as I can see, the sniping and back-biting is only coming from one direction…

Massive attack

24 Jul

At the last full council meeting Sir Robin launched an unprecedented attack on a small number of chairs of governors of Newham schools. Although it was a repeat of his performance at the Labour Group AGM a fortnight earlier, that was a private meeting and this was in public.

A number of councillors were absolutely appalled. Forest Gate South councillor Dianne Walls has written to the mayor to complain about his behaviour (copying all the other councillors into the bargain):

Robin,

I was very shocked and surprised at the last group and council meeting when you publicly named the chairs of governors of schools in the borough requiring improvement, following Ofsted inspection, in a way that was designed to humiliate.

This is an unprecedented move in my experience and cannot possibly inspire members or anyone else to take on the challenging task of being a school governor.

This cruel and unusual treatment has not been demonstrated towards other councillors who have served, in the very recent past, on one of those governing bodies you mentioned.

Indeed your own mayoral advisor for children and young people has served on the governing body of a number of failing schools / institutions (in some cases as vice chair), without receiving similar rebuke.

I am ashamed of sitting on a council where those in power use their position to bully and humiliate other members without all of the facts of the case being aired. I refer you to Cllr Scoresby’s email on the subject of Monega school.

We all want the best for our children, and you know that many members give up a lot of time and commitment to governing bodies on which they serve (some for many years) and try to do their best in the face of relentless political interference from this government. Your attack on chairs of governors puts that commitment in jeopardy.

So members of governing bodies need support and encouragement (and yes constructive criticism) but not public humiliation when things go wrong.

I have to say, in conclusion, that an attack on a female member in this way was particularly shameful, when we want to encourage more women to participate in public life. We are all diminished by such behaviour.

Regards, Cllr Dianne Walls OBE

The mayor is clearly feeling the strain when it comes to schools. He’s been forced to back down over funding his free school meals “promise” and a dozen secondary school heads are up in arms about his proposal to spend almost £30 million on expanding two local academies, a plan which will put other local schools at risk.

As so often before, Sir Robin’s response to his own mistakes is to lash out at others.

Disclosure: I was one of the chairs that Sir Robin named in his attack.

Tory candidate selected

21 Jul

Rahima Khan, Conservative mayoral candidate for Newham

Rahima Khan, Conservative mayoral candidate

Newham Conservatives have selected their candidate for next year’s mayoral election.

And their announcement throws a good deal of shade at their Labour counterparts

Conservatives in West Ham have come together with fellow members from East Ham for a full open democratic selection to pick Rahima Khan as the Conservative candidate for the directly elected Mayor of Newham, to be elected on 3rd May 2018, the same day as the election for Newham Council.

“A full open democratic selection.”

When the Tories can claim the democratic high ground, you know you’ve got a problem.

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.