Archive | October, 2019

23 and me

16 Oct

In my previous post I provided an overview of the council’s proposal for redrawing ward boundaries and distributing council seats ahead of the 2022 election.

If the council’s scheme is approved there will be 66 councillors representing 23 wards – 20 of which will elect three councillors each and 3 will elect two.

Let’s take a look at the 23 wards in turn, starting with the new Stratford wards:

Stratford East Village

This is basically the northern half of the current Stratford and New Town ward, covering the East Village development, Westfield shopping centre, the International station and a chunk of older housing on the streets between Leyton Road and Leytonstone Road. It is projected to have an electorate of around 11,500 and will return three councillors. The preponderance of new, more affluent voters living in the apartment buildings of the East Village will make this a tempting target for both the Liberal Democrats and Greens. Indeed, the Lib Dems have submitted their own proposal for an ‘Olympic ward’ covering the East Village, but excluding the older ‘New Town’ area east of Leyton Road.

Stratford Olympic Park

The southern part of the current Stratford and New Town ward, including the London Stadium and the shopping centre, stretching south to Three Mills. It will also take in streets south of Forest Lane and west of Water Lane that are currently in Forest Gate South. The new ward will have 12,600 electors represented by three councillors.

Canning Town

Such has been the pace of development south of the Canning Town flyover that a new three-member ward can be created from the small area bounded by Newham Way, the Jubilee Line, Victoria Dock Road, Munday Road and Radland Road. This compact ward will hold 11,300 voters. As with the East Village, this ward may be an opportunity for someone to break Labour’s complete stranglehold on the council. 

Canning Town North

Slightly reduced version of the current ward, but retaining three councillors. Bounded to the north by the District line/C2C railway and to the south by the A13, it takes in West Ham station, the Memorial Ground, Eastlea and Rokeby schools and Rathbone Market. 12,500 voters.

Victoria Dock

This new ward is made up of the western half of the current Royal Docks ward, plus a bit of the old Canning Town South. It will include the whole of the community in Silvertown and Britannia Village on the south of the Royal Victoria Dock. Its northern boundary captures the new developments around the DLR line. Victoria Dock will have 8,500 voters and elect two councillors.

Albert Dock

The other, eastern half of the current Royal Docks, taking in City Airport, the North Woolwich community and the developments around Gallions Reach. The council notes that the boundary between this and Beckton could be problematic due to future developments. It suggests the Boundary Commission may want to take a further look, so this ward may yet change. As currently proposed, its 8266 electors will be represented by two councillors.

Plaistow West

That the council has suggested Canning Town East as an alternative name for this ward tells you a lot about where it is. This new ward is bounded by the A13 to the south and the District line the north, with Plaistow High Street/Greengate Street to the east. Hermit Road and the East London cemetery mark the western edge. The Greenway slices through the ward from east to north-west. 11,673 voters will elect three councillors.

Plaistow North

This ward most obviously breaks the council’s own rules about ‘impermeable boundaries’. The District line splits it in two and there is only one crossing point to move from the southern to the northern half. The southern part sits between Plaistow High Street/Greengate Street and Green Street (up to and including Queens Market), north of Barking Road. The northern portion is south of Plashet Road, to either side of Stopford Road. The three councillor ward holds 11,300 voters.

Plaistow South

A rejigged version of the current ward, taking in part of the old Canning Town South ward, so that its western boundary is now New Barn Street. It takes in the area between Barking Road and the A13, with Prince Regent Lane running more or less through the middle. The south east quarter of the ward covers Newham University Hospital, Cumberland School and Newham Leisure Centre. It’s 11,300 electors will be represented by three councillors.

Custom House

Although there is an existing Custom House ward, it is quite different to the one proposed by the council. It takes in the eastern half of the Old Canning Town South and the western half of the current Custom House. The A13 provides the northern boundary and the Excel Centre sits to the south. To the north east the council has opted not to use Beckton District Park as a boundary and therefore residents around Sheerwater Road and Fulmer Road will find themselves in Beckton ward rather than Custom House. This 12,600 voter ward will return three councillors.

Beckton

The geographically largest ward in the borough is mostly unaltered, bar the changes with Custom House mentioned above and a small number of properties going into the new Albert Dock ward. With 12,729 voters returning three councillors, Beckton is at the outer edge of acceptable electoral variance (+9%).

Boleyn

This densely populated ward covers the area north and south of the old West Ham football ground – now a new housing development. There are some small boundary changes from the existing ward, which ‘improve electoral equality’. Just over 11,000 electors and three councillors.

West Ham

No changes from the current boundaries. 10,800 voters, electing three councillors.

Forest Gate South

Apart from the loss of a few streets west of Water Lane to the new Stratford Olympic Park ward, Forest Gate South remains unchanged. Water Lane now forms a distinct boundary between Forest Gate and Stratford. FGS retains three councillors, who will be elected by around 11,500 voters.

Forest Gate North

No changes to this three councillor ward, which is home to 11,329 electors.

Green Street West

Another ward with no changes. With just 10,600 voters and three councillors it is at the margin of acceptable electoral variation (10%). The council says it is difficult to identify changes that would improve this.

Green Street East

Remains within unchanged boundaries. It’s electoral variance is -9% (10,695 voters and three councillors) 

Manor Park

Popcorn time for Labour watchers. This ward is reduced in size with properties furthest from the centre moving to Little Ilford and Plashet wards, leaving just 8,300 electors. As a result, it will only have two councillors and one of the current three will have to look elsewhere for a seat. 

Little Ilford

Unchanged, bar the addition of First Avenue and streets to the east, and a section of Romford Road from Manor Park. The reconfigured three-councillor ward will have 12,200 voters.

Plashet

The ward previously known as East Ham North gains a few properties from Manor Park (Monega Road and parts of Shrewsbury Road and High Street North), but is otherwise unchanged. 12,150 voters with three councillors.

East Ham

The new name for East Ham Central. This ward covers the area either side of the High Street, south of the District line and encompasses the main shopping area, the old Town Hall and Central Park. To improve ‘electoral equality’ there are some minor changes to the boundary with Burges ward (or Wall End, as it is currently known). East Ham ward will have 11,770 voters and three councillors.

East Ham South

The ward takes in a few streets on its western boundary from Boleyn, but is otherwise unchanged. It covers the residential areas either side of High Street South down to the A13. It is projected to contain 11,791 voters and will be represented by three councillors.

And finally…

Burges

The current Wall End ward, with the addition of Keppel Road, Streatfield Road, Latimer Road and Altmore, plus properties on the north side of Barking Road east of Keppel Road (all from East Ham Central). I have no idea why Burges is a better name than Wall End for this ward – does it have some local significance? 11,500 Burges-ites will have three councillors representing them.

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View from the Boundary

10 Oct

The current structure of Newham council – a directly elected mayor and 60 councillors representing 20 wards – has been in place since 2002.

The mayoral system was put in place after a referendum 17 years ago and its future will be decided in another vote, probably 18 months from now. In the meantime, the Local Government Boundary Commission for England is taking a look at the rest of the council. How many councillors do we need and how should the wards they represent by drawn up?

The last review, which produced the 20 wards we have today, was in the late 1990s and a lot has changed since then! The population has grown substantially and that has resulted in considerable ‘electoral inequality’ between wards. Stratford and New Town has more than 18,000 electors, while Royal Docks has just 8,600. Yet both elect the same number of councillors.

Newham has argued – apparently successfully – that the total number of councillors should increase from 60 to 66, to take account of the growth in population and the large amount of casework (especially around housing issues) that has resulted. It has also put forward its own proposal on how the borough should be divided up into wards.

The council claims its proposal reflects existing local communities and the few ‘natural’ boundaries in the borough – the A13, the District line and the Docks. 

The new map, if agreed, would result in 23 wards, 20 of which would elect 3 councillors and three that would elect only two. The council rejected the option of creating single-member micro-wards. 

Of the 23 wards, nine are completely new, three have significant changes and 11 are either unchanged or have minor adjustments. All of the wards are within 10% (plus or minus) of ‘electoral equality’.

The biggest changes are in Stratford & New Town, where the existing mega-ward is split into two new – East Village and Olympic Park – and Royal Docks, which is also split in two, with each of them represented by two councillors. Canning Town South disappears; its western half becomes a more ‘electorally equal’ Canning Town ward while the eastern parts go into the new Plaistow West and a substantially redrawn Custom House.

Keen observers of local Labour politics will want to get the popcorn in for the reselection meeting in Manor Park, which will go from three councillors to two.

The full list is:

Ward name Forecast voters (2025) Councillors Electoral Equality
Beckton 12729 3 9
Boleyn 11067 3 -6
Burges* 11481 3 -2
Canning Town 11363 3 -3
Canning Town North 12425 3 6
Custom House 12594 3 7
East Ham South 11791 3 1
East Ham 11771 3 0
Forest Gate North 11329 3
Forest Gate South 11477 -2
Green St East 10692 3 -9
Green St West 10607 3 -10
Little Ilford 12185 3 4
Plaistow North 11321 3 -3
Plaistow South 11297 3 -4
Plaistow West 11673 3 0
Plashet** 12157 3 4
Stratford East Village 11522 3 -2
Stratford Olympic Park 12620 3 8
West Ham 10825 3 -8
Manor Park 8334 2 7
Albert Dock 8266 2 5
Victoria Dock 8530 2 9
Totals: 258056 66  
  • Burges is the current Wall End (with some small additions).

** Plashet is the current East Ham North ward (again, with small additions) renamed.

In the next post I’ll look at the make up of each of the 23 new wards.

Pass Notes: the ‘People’s Petition’

8 Oct

Tahir Mirza

East Ham CLP chair Tahir Mirza is the public face of the ‘people’s petition’

What’s the story?

A “people’s petition” has been launched to force a referendum next year after councillors voted to push the date back of a public vote on how the borough is governed, according to the Newham Recorder.

Whose bright idea is that?

The petition is the ‘brain child’ of a group calling themselves Newham Democracy, though in reality this is a small group of ‘left’ Labour activists led by East Ham CLP chair Tahir Mirza. Others involved are West Ham vice chair Mehmood Mirza (no relation), former councillor Obaid Khan and Councillor Suga Thekkeppurayil. 

Didn’t the mayor already promise to have a referendum?

Yes, it was a key part of her manifesto in the Labour candidate selection and it was in her election manifesto for mayor in 2018. She pledged to

Hold a referendum on having a Directly Elected Mayor by 2021 and change the way the Council works so that we build a culture of trust and openness that involves our residents in our decision making.

That sounds unequivocal. Has she broken her promise?

No. Council recently voted to to hold the Governance Referendum on a date between June 2020 and May 2021, with an indicative date for 1st April 2021.

Didn’t the council vote before to have it in May 2020, on the same day as the London elections?

Sort of. In November 2018 it voted 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. 

So the date has slipped then?

Yes, but council agreed to that in April 2019. A report from the chief legal officer pointed out that

the motion was not sufficient to be taken as part of the statutory process to commence a referendum. In short this is because, as a motion, it did not comply with the statutory requirements for such a Council resolution and did not provide a rationale for holding a referendum, that would comply with the legal principles for making a council decision, which in turn would place the referendum process at risk of legal challenge had it been commenced.

What were the problems with the motion?

Well, first of all it didn’t specify a date but, more importantly, it didn’t take account of the variety of alternative governance models that might replace the directly elected mayor. These should be consulted on rather than councillors simply saying what they want. And there’s a detailed process to be gone through before the referendum can happen.

But it could still be held in May 2020, right?

In theory, yes. But in practice there are big disadvantages to holding it on the same day as the London elections. There are already three different ballot papers (mayor, City & East assembly member and London-wide assembly members). This is confusing for a number of voters and adding a fourth ballot risks making it worse. London elections already have a high rate of rejected ballots and City & East has one of the highest rates. 

That might be a problem for Sadiq Khan…

Quite. From a purely partisan Labour point of view, confusing voters with both an election for one mayor and a referendum to abolish a different mayor on the same day is not a great idea. And more spoiled ballots in a solid Labour area in a potentially tight election is not a genius tactic. In fact, Sadiq Khan and the London Labour Party have been pretty clear they doesn’t want to take the risk.

Even so, holding to on the same day would save the council money…

Yes, but not much in grand scheme of things. The report estimated savings compared to a standalone vote at just £40,000.

Okay, so what happens now?

A democracy and civic participation commission has been set up and part of its remit is to propose different models of governance for Newham. These might include leader and cabinet; council and committees; or even delegating powers down to a new tier of ‘community (parish) councils’. Council will consider the commission’s recommendations before deciding which alternative model to put on the ballot paper against the current one. 

The commission will be chaired by Professor Nick Pearce. Professor Pearce is Director of the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) and Professor of Public Policy at the University of Bath.  He has previously worked as Head of the No 10 Downing Street Policy Unit.

Yawn. That’s going to takes ages, isn’t it?

Not really. The Commission will hand down their final report with findings and recommendations in March 2020.

I’ve seen people on Twitter say that the sooner we have the vote, the sooner we can get rid of the directly elected mayor.

They’re wrong. Even if we had a vote tomorrow the change couldn’t take place until the next local election in 2022. That’s the law and there’s no getting round it.

Newham Democracy says that holding the vote in 2021 means there won’t be enough time to put the change into effect before 2022 and we’ll have to have an elected mayor for another four years. Is that true?

No, it’s horse shit. In 2002 there was a referendum to change from being a ‘normal council’ to having a directly elected mayor. That was at the end of January. The first mayoral election was at the start of May, just over 3 months later. A year is plenty of time to change to reverse the change.

So, the mayor and council have already agreed to have a referendum in 2021; there’s no financial or legal advantage to having it earlier; and the Labour Party doesn’t want it at the same time as the London elections. Why are these Labour members organising a petition?

Now, there you’ve got me… 

Do say:

“The directly elected mayoral model places too much power in one person’s hands and, as we have seen in Newham, leads to cronyism and poor decision-making. We will be well rid of it in 2022.”

Don’t say:

“That Rokhsana Fiaz needs to be shown who’s boss.”

(apologies to the Guardian for ripping off their format)