Archive | May, 2022

Paul and Beckles quit

16 May

Cllrs Terry Paul and James Beckles

Before the mayor had the chance to announce her new executive team two members of her previous cabinet announced their decisions to stand down.

First was Cllr Terry Paul

It’s been an honour to serve the residents of Newham since 2018 as the Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services, but with regret, I have declined the offer of a different role in Cabinet.

I’m proud to have restored Newham’s financial sustainability and improved its governance and reputation. I have left Newham’s finances in a better place than when I found them, and Newham is in the best financial position to face the challenges of the future.

Over the last four years there are many achievements I’m proud of, but my personal highlights were:

  1. The Covid-19 response: Newham spent £30m keeping services going and protecting residents. This was meaningful to me as I had to shield during the early stages of the pandemic;
  2. The London Living Wage was given to 700 care workers across Newham to the London Living Wage, making sure that those caring for our most vulnerable residents were rewarded fairly for their work. Thanks to this, we were also able to sign up to UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter.
  3. Restructuring the Council finances to provide more money for services: through more efficient use of council funds, we found ways to improve funding for Young People, Children & Adult services, and libraries.
  4. Taking on the banks: Newham renegotiated better terms on its disastrous LOBO loans of circa £435m, reducing our interest payments to the banks and freeing up money for council services.
  5. Addressed the need for improved temporary accommodation in Newham, developing a Temporary Accommodation Housing Programme over 18 months to provide quality homes for people in urgent need.

I’d like to thank my Cabinet and council colleagues for their commitment to making Newham a better place. No one goes into local politics without a desire to improve their local area, and that is apparent in the work all my fellow councilors do for their communities.

It’s a privilege to have the trust of Stratford’s voters, and I intend to continue working hard and speaking up strongly for them over the next four years.

The digital ink was barely dry before Cllr James Beckles announced that he too was returning to the back benches:

After nearly 3 and a half years in the cabinet, I will be stepping down as the Cabinet Member for Crime and Community Safety. It has been a privilege to serve the people of Newham leading a front-line service that has positively impacted the lives of many of our residents.

I’m proud of a number of things that have been accomplished in my three years including:

  • Launching Newham Council’s Women’s Night Safety Charter with Stratford Business Crime Reduction Partnership.
  • Maintaining a council-funded Met police team, able to respond to council priorities.
  • The Days of Action every six weeks tackling ward-based anti-social behaviour.
  • Newham’ Trading Standards, Licensing, and Regulatory Services team winning a National Hero Award from the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards for their rigorous inspection work during the pandemic.
  • Launching our council’s Modern Day Slavery Strategy.
  • Co-ordinated work with the Met Police to disrupt and arrest drug dealers in Stratford Park.
  • A Violence and Vulnerability Reduction Action Plan commended by the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit.

All this could not have been achieved without the dedication and hard work of council officers who are the backbone of our organisation and turn our political ideas into reality.

I’m looking forward to the new term and working for the people of Custom House, who have put their trust and votes in me and my ward colleagues.

Reaction from across Labour’s political spectrum was swift and consistent.

Rita Chadha, recently elected in Canning Town North, said on Twitter

 

Known @Terrympaul for more than 20 years, not always agreed, but you would be hard pressed to find a better representative and public servant. A big loss to the cabinet in Newham

 

Former councillor Daniel Blaney, very much from the left of the party, tweeted

 

Unbelievable! Me & Terry are on different sides when it comes to Labour Party NEC elections and argue all the time, but he delivered progressive policies like London Living Wage for careworkers. This is disappointing news.

To misquote Oscar Wilde, “To lose one cabinet member, Ms Fiaz, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.”

Ten things about the election

11 May

1. Turnout was abysmal

Perhaps to spare the blushes of the various parties and candidates that fought the election the council has published any turnout figures, although reports on social media from the count said it was just over 28% for the mayoral election. Looking at the number of votes cast in some wards, it will have been lower than that in a number of places. This is shocking and everyone involved in Newham politics needs to take a long look at themselves and ask why the local electorate has become so disengaged.

2. Labour still dominates

The party won 64 council seats and retained the mayoralty. It took 56.2% of the votes for mayor and 61.5% for council. Although this was not the 100% sweep of recent elections, Labour is still by far the biggest force in Newham politics. Across the 26 wards in the council election the party took 100,535 votes.

3. The Greens are number two

For the first time since 2006 an opposition party won seats on the council, as the Greens took both in the newly created Stratford Olympic Park ward. They were the only other party to field a full slate of 66 candidates (the Tories had 65). Although they narrowly missed out on second place in the mayoral election they finished as runners-up on total votes across the council election with 27,268 – 4,000 ahead of Tories.

4. Your surname is worth votes!

In 21 of the 26 wards the candidate with the most votes had a surname closer to the front of the alphabet than their party colleagues. So in Beckton James Asser finished ahead of Rohima Rahman and Tonii Wilson. In Green Street West Lewis Godfrey topped the poll, followed by Mumtaz Khan and Ama Virdee. The candidates that bucked this trend were Rachel Tripp, Neil Wilson, Mariam Dawood, Steve Brayshaw and Imam Haque.

5. Is Manor Park Labour’s safest seat?

Measured by the gap between the lowest ranked elected councillor and the highest ranked loser, Manor Park is the safest ward in Newham. The opposition will have to close a gap of 1,647 votes to take even one of the three seats.

6. Or is it Maryland?

The new Maryland ward saw Labour score its highest individual vote share, with Carolyn Corben getting 33.8%. Her running mate Ken Penton scored 30.3%, more than 20 points clear of the next best candidate. Given the entire ward is covered by low traffic neighbourhoods and the candidates were unashamedly in favour of them on the doorstep, this should be seen as a vindication of the policy. 

7. Plashet is the most marginal ward

On the same basis, the newly created two councillor ward of Plashet is the Borough’s most marginal. Independent Mehmood Mriza finished just 196 votes behind Labour’s Pushpa Makwana. Beckton is also tight, with a margin of 230 and the Greens only have a 267 vote cushion between themselves and Labour taking back a seat in the Olympic Park.

8. The Independents got nowhere 

The group made a huge fuss about leaving ‘right wing’ Labour and standing on a ‘socialist’ platform of free parking permits, more traffic and setting illegal budgets. They won no seats and five of their seven candidates scored fewer than 200 votes.

9. The Christian Peoples Alliance is surely over

This has been true for several election cycles now, but they keep up coming back. This time their 26 candidates averaged just 131 votes and two of them recorded the joint lowest score across the entire borough with 25 votes each in Stratford Olympic Park. Maybe that’s God’s way of telling them to stop.

10. First Past the Post leaves many voters unrepresented

Labour took 61.5% of the votes and 97% of the seats. The Greens got 16% of the vote and 3% of the seats. The Conservatives got 14% of the vote and no seats at all. Is that fair? I don’t think so.

 

UPDATES (13 May)

First of all, a bonus thing about the election: more people voted to abolish the Mayor in last year’s referendum (36,424) than voted for the mayor last Thursday (35,696). I know it changes nothing, that turnout was lower and it’s a binary choice versus a multi-candidate election, but it amuses me.

Secondly, Cllr Nate Higgins has been in touch to point out – quite reasonably – that looking at closeness by number of votes instead of by percentages makes it seems like the smaller wards are closer than they actually are. The Greens are almost 20 points clear of Labour in Stratford Olympic Park; it’s just a low population ward (because of expected growth). 

No surprises

11 May

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To absolutely no-one’s surprise Rokhsana Fiaz was re-elected for a second term as mayor of Newham.

The Labour and Co-op candidate took comfortably more than 50% of the first preference votes. Conservative Attic Rahman finished second, narrowly ahead of the Green Party’s Rob Callender.

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Attic Rahman Conservative Party 7,390 11.64%
Lois Austin Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 2,096 3.30%
Simeon Adewole Ademolake Christian Peoples Alliance 2,405 3.79%
Saleyha Ahsan Liberal Democrat 3,528 5.56%
Robert Alexander Callender The Green Party 7,003 11.03%
Rokhsana Fiaz Labour and Co-operative Party 35,696 56.23%
Mehmood Mirza Independent 5,369 8.46%
  Total 63,487  

Who’s side are you on?

2 May

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Mehmood Mirza is standing as an independent candidate for the Mayor of Newham.

At a Mayoral hustings last week, at which Mr Mirza did not appear in person – preferring instead to be represented by a member of his campaign team – the issue of his property portfolio was raised.

Despite posturing as a left-wing socialist Mehmood Mirza is a significant private landlord. He and his property company, Phoenix M Properties Ltd (No. 10216604), own or control at least 10 homes in Newham. Filings at Companies House show that Mr Mirza is the sole shareholder and director of the company.

The availability of good quality, affordable housing is a huge issue in Newham. According to the Office for National Statistics 35.5% of households in the borough live in the Private Rented Sector. Many of these homes suffer from overcrowding, disrepair and have poor standards of amenity and thermal efficiency at a time when energy costs are heading skywards. Combatting abuses by private landlords and improving standards has been a priority for the council under both the Wales and Fiaz administrations.

Were he to be elected, Mehmood Mirza would have a significant conflict of interest to manage between his role as Mayor in enforcing the Council’s policies on the Private Rented Sector and his role as a rentier property owner whose actions would be regulated by, er, himself.  It is unclear as to how he would resolve these conflicts.

Mirza has said very little about how he would treat the Private Rented Sector if he were elected as Mayor of Newham. His published leaflets are silent on the matter.

By contrast, the Labour manifesto for Newham is quite clear on its approach to the private rented sector, stating that the next Labour Council will:

  • Seek Government approval to extend the private landlord registration scheme for an unprecedented third term of 5 more years.  It will include all Temporary Accommodation.
  • Introduce an enhanced inspection regime for the private rented sector in Newham, zero tolerance of poor landlords and provide the staffing resources needed for rigorous enforcement activity.
  • Set clear property standards so that landlords have to provide high quality housing that has good space standards, is safe and well managed.
  • Place particular emphasis on establishing minimum standards of energy efficiency so that private rented homes meet EPC Band C where practical, cost effective and affordable and also have high standards of security. 
  • Campaign for a future Labour Government to introduce both rent controls and security of tenure, subject to cause, for private rented sector tenants.

So here are ten questions Mr Mirza needs to urgently answer ahead of the polls on Thursday:

  1. How many homes do you and any companies that you have an interest of any sort in, own in Newham?
  2. Do you charge more than the Local Housing Allowance to any of your tenants/occupants and by how many percent have you increased your rents in the last one, two, five and 10 years?
  3. Are (or have) any of the homes that you own/control /have a beneficial interest in ever been in a state of disrepair or had repairs outstanding for more than a short period of time?
  4. 35.5% of homes are in the Private Rented in Newham. How can the residents of these homes expect you to treat them fairly when you are a significant private landlord?
  5. As a significant private landlord, explain how there would be no conflict of interest between your role as a landlord seeking to maximise your profits and your role as Mayor policing the private rented sector in Newham and rooting out wrongdoing?
  6. If you were elected Mayor would you rid yourself of all interests in the property you own or control and, if so, how would you do this? If not, how would you resolve your conflicts as a private landlord with the responsibilities of the Mayorality?
  7. How would you ensure that all the decisions you made on the private rented sector were open and accountable to scrutiny?
  8. What lawful policies would you pursue as Mayor to increase the supply of social rented homes and reduce that of private rented homes?
  9. Do you agree that the Council should crack down on private landlords, campaign for security of tenure for private tenants and for rent controls? Should the Council issue Compulsory Purchase Orders on the homes operated by private Landlords in Newham who misbehave?
  10. How much income do you receive in either salary or dividends from the homes that you own/control/have a beneficial interest in, directly or indirectly, and is this the income that allows you to say that you will only take a Living Wage from the Council?

The people of Newham deserve answers. Will they be voting for someone who is on their side, or the side of landlords?