Archive | March, 2018

Bières brassées localement

31 Mar


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Last chance saloon

27 Mar

!04 studios in this converted office building

Last week Sir Robin’s cabinet approved a loan to Red Ventures, the council-owned property company, of £28.9 million to buy a property in north London.

The property in question is Zenith House (pictured above), a refurbished office building in Seven Sisters. Planning rules for converted commercial properties are much looser than for purpose-built residential buildings and the developer has crammed in 95 studios and 9 flats.

The website advertising this development says the studios “range from 319 to 388 square feet.” Which sounds quite a lot until you translate it into square metres – it’s just 29.6 m2 to 36 m2.

The UK government’s ‘Technical housing standards – nationally described space standard’ sets the minimum gross internal floor area and storage for a one-person dwelling as 37 square metres.

So even the biggest studio in Zenith House is smaller than the minimum. But the standard doesn’t apply because this is a refurbished commercial building.

It is fair to say that if this scheme was it was in Newham and required planning permission, it would never be given.

Despite the high number of units and some fairly optimistic assumptions about occupancy, the return to the council over ten years is paltry.

By the end of year 10  LBN will receive a net income of £113,000.

Overview and Scrutiny has called the decision in and will meet tomorrow to discuss it. Sir Robin has scheduled an emergency cabinet meeting for Thursday at 10 a.m. to receive O&S’s verdict and, if necessary, overturn it.

But why the rush?

The government is changing the rules on ‘prudential’ council borrowing to prevent them taking out loans to fund purely commercial acquisitions and from ‘investing’ outside the borough. These new rules come into effect on 1 April. If Sir Robin doesn’t get this through by close of business on Thursday the deal will fall through.

Let’s hope it does. Why is so much being staked for such a low return, in a scheme that doesn’t provide a single new home in Newham? Sir Robin has only a few weeks left in power. Councillors should not let him bind his successor’s hands by tying up cash in imprudent and sketchy ‘investments’.

Rejecting Lakminism

23 Mar

Motion passed by West Ham Labour Party last night:

“Whether or not a political candidate has children is never an issue for men and nor should it be for women. It’s deeply inappropriate that anyone in the Labour Party – a party committed to equality- should make it so.

“The West Ham Women’s Forum aspires to a Newham in which a woman’s family status is never a barrier to achievement. There is much to be done nationally and locally to achieve this, whether further improving the child care offer for our residents or respecting the opportunities or private choices of party members and politicians. We urge all MPs, Councillors and Labour Party members to commit to this vision and work with us to achieve it.”

Lakmini Shah, take note.

Liberal candidate selected

22 Mar

NewhamBDLibDems 2018 Mar 21

Newham and Barking & Dagenham Liberal Democrats have selected Gareth Evans as their mayoral candidate for the election in May.

He joins Labour’s Rokhsana Fiaz and Conservative Rahima Khan on the ballot.

The Green Party will be announcing their candidate shortly.

Generous to the last

20 Mar

Oddly shaped balls

Picture via @NewhamLabourWTF

A few months ago a set of new signs appeared in West Ham, directing people towards the Memorial Recreation Ground, home of the East London Rugby Club.

This wasn’t the first time the rugby club had benefitted from the generosity of the council. In 2015/16 in the guise of ‘Memorial Rugby’ it received £560,000 from the community infrastructure levy – the largest such payment to any organisation that year.

And it won’t be the last time either.

A recommendation is going to cabinet on Thursday to award a further £662,000 to the Memorial Recreation Ground to fund the installation of a second synthetic pitch “to replace the existing turf main rugby pitch.”

The Memorial Ground is run by a charity, East London Community Sports Association (ELCSA). Their accounts and a list of trustees can be found on the Charity Commission website.

The report to cabinet notes the extensive use of ruby facilities at the Memorial Recreation Ground, which 

… is home to East London Rugby Club which runs three adult teams with an estimated pool of 60 players. East London Ladies Rugby Club is also based at the site, running 2 teams with an estimated pool of 35 players. King’s Cross Steelers, London’s largest gay rugby club, also play from the site, running 4 teams with an estimated pool of 75 players.

Impressive, but…

Football drives the most significant level of participation at the site. An estimate of 2635 participants is reported to the Football Foundation as part of their annual monitoring and evaluation requirements.

There are a couple of FOI requests in progress (here and here) trying to get to the bottom of the Council’s generosity towards ELRC over the last four years which seems, on the face of things, to be out of all proportion to its significance.

Council COO Nick Bracken is a trustee of ELCSA and is also President of the rugby club. Simon Letchford, Director of Commissioning (Community and Environment), is also an ELCSA trustee. Newham CEO Kim Bromley-Derry is a member of ELRC. And soon-to-be-ex-Mayor Sir Robin Wales is a past rugby club president.

All of these are duly noted in the report to Cabinet. We are assured that none of the officers has been involved in decision-making about the proposal because

ELCSA… has a long lease on land adjacent to Memorial Park and could benefit from the provision of the funding.

What will annoy non-rugby playing residents of Forest Gate and Stratford is that this S106 and CIL money could have been used on the rebuilding of the Atherton Leisure centre. Costs and specifications on the Atherton were cut to meet a very tight re-build budget (in contrast to the East Ham campus project, which took place at the same time) when we could have had a much better Leisure Centre!

The Ballad of Mas Patel

19 Mar

Fgslabour 2018 Mar 17

In good Sir Robin’s golden time, when loyalty no harm meant,
A zealous Walesite councillor was I, and so I gained preferment.
To teach my ward, I never missed: mayors are by the GMB appointed
And damned are those who dare resist or touch Our Leader’s anointed!

(Chorus)
And this be law, that I’ll maintain until my dying day, sir
That whatsoever mayor may reign, Still I’ll have my SRA, sir.

When Rokhsana was our candidate declared, to ease the party’s grievance,
With this new wind about I steered, and swore to her allegiance.
Old principles I did revoke; Set conscience at a distance,
Passive obedience was a joke, a jest was non-resistance.

(Chorus)
And this be law, that I’ll maintain until my dying day, sir
That whatsoever mayor may reign, Still I’ll have my SRA, sir

The illustrious House of Fiaz and democracy’s succession
To these I do allegiance swear – while they can hold possession.
For in my faith and loyalty I never more will falter,
And Rokhsana my lawful mayor shall be – until the times do alter.

(After The Vicar of Bray)

Trainer out

16 Mar

Small beer compared to today’s other big news, but Douglas Trainer has left Newham Council.

In an email to councillors, chief executive Kim Bromley-Derry writes:

Dear Members

I would like to inform you that Douglas Trainer, Director of Customer and Strategic Services, has decided to leave us to pursue new opportunities elsewhere.

Douglas joined Newham Council in January 2011 as Head of Communications before taking up duties as Assistant Chief Executive in 2016 and most recently as Director of Customer and Strategic Services.

During his time here Douglas used his experience in public relations and public affairs to instil across the organisation an increased awareness of wider strategic, reputational, and policy matters.

We thank him for his contribution to delivering the council’s strategic priorities and many of our resident-facing activities.

Douglas’ contact details have been updated and he’s now available on [email redacted] and [phone redacted].

He is having some leaving drinks [details redacted] to which, he says, you are all invited.

This won’t come as much of a surprise, as rumours of his departure having been circulating for a while, along with lurid stories of him being marched out of the building.

It seems Mr Trainer got himself on the wrong side of chief operating officer Nick Bracken. And there was only ever going to be one winner in that fight.

All in all, not a great day for the Scottish community in Newham.