Archive | November, 2018

Itchy feet

19 Nov

Having finally got rid of Sir Robin Wales, some Labour councillors are itching to ditch the directly-elected mayoralty altogether. A motion is being put to Labour Group tonight (Monday 19 November):

Motion for a change in Newham governance arrangements 

Since 2002, the London Borough of Newham has been governed using the directly elected Mayoral model of executive arrangement to determine how decisions are made in the Council.

This Council recognises that democratic engagement should be continually promoted and Newham’s system for local governance must always reflect the ongoing need for strong democratic engagement and accountability. It should also ensure that it has a model of governance that best ensures scrutiny and a rigorous series of checks and balances on the exercise of power.

The Council notes the Localism Act 2011 which permits the holding of a binding referendum on the abolishment of the directly elected Mayoral model and replace it with a Leader and Cabinet model.  

Therefore this Council commits to hold a binding referendum by May 2020, on a change of governance from a directly elected Mayoral model to a Leader and Cabinet model.

The motion is being proposed by Cllr Suga Thekkeppurayil, who is chair of the Labour Group, and seconded by Cllr Hanif Abdulmuhit.

Obviously, I fully support having a referendum and will campaign for abolition of the directly elected mayoralty. But this is already the policy of the new administration. At the election in May Rokhsana Fiaz promised to hold a referendum on the directly-elected mayoralty, saying:

The Directly Elected Mayor model of governance is broken in Newham. We will hold a referendum on its future before the end of my third year as Mayor.

Despite some councillors might think (or hope), holding a referendum in May 2020 instead of 2021 won’t end the directly-elected mayoralty any sooner. Whatever happens, any change to Newham’s governance arrangements won’t come into effect until the next local elections. Rokhsana Fiaz will be the mayor until 2022.

What might happen if a referendum is held in May 2020 is the election of a Tory mayor of London. Whilst Sadiq Khan is a popular mayor his re-election is not guaranteed. Every vote will count and there’s a lot of Labour votes in Newham. Do local campaigners really want to be distracted by having to spend part of their time canvassing to get rid of the Newham mayor while at the same time trying to get votes to re-elect the London Mayor? That’s a recipe for confusion.

Labour Group should amend the motion to read ‘by May 2021’ and pass it. Then, after (hopefully) re-electing Sadiq Khan they will have a year to plan and execute a successful campaign to return Newham to a more sensible form of local government.

UPDATE:

An amendment has been submitted by Cllrs John Whitworth and Daniel Blaney removing the specific date and replacing it with

in good time for any consequent constitutional changes to be factored into the 2022 Local Elections.

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Greens call on council to back a People’s Vote

7 Nov

Newham Green Party has written to Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, calling on her and the council to publicly back a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal, with the option to Remain in the European Union.

Research from Survation/Channel 4 has today shown that in a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal, more than 65% of Newham residents would vote to Remain in the European Union, representing an almost 15% shift towards Remain, the largest shift towards Remain of any local authority in the country.

The campaign for a People’s Vote hopes to give the public the chance to vote again on the final Brexit deal, between leaving on the deal the government makes, leaving with no deal, and staying within the EU.

Newham Greens Convenor Frankie-Rose Taylor, who stood for the party in the recent Boleyn by-election, said:

“As one of the poorest and most diverse boroughs in London, Newham is exactly the kind of area that would be hurt most by leaving the European Union. It is no surprise to me that Newham has swung towards Remain by nearly 15%, in the largest shift of any borough in the country. We saw through the lies of Brexit campaigners when we voted to Remain in 2016, but since then their lies have only become clearer and support has only grown.

“I call on Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and her 100% Labour council to express their support for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal. Newham deserves to be protected from the hurt that we know Theresa May’s Brexit plan will bring.”

At the same time, the grassroots Remain Labour campaign is calling on its party’s MPs to vote down the Withdrawal Agreement and back a People’s Vote. Research that shows a majority of Labour voters in every single Labour constituency backs staying in the EU. In both Newham seats 77% of Labour voters now back Remain.