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Green candidate announced

4 Apr

Green mayoral candidate Chidi

The Green Party has announced its candidate for Mayor of Newham, Chidi Oti-Obihara.

According to the local party website, he

… lives in Beckton and became a member of the Green Party while working with us on our investigations into Newham Council’s mis-sold Lender Option, Borrower Option (‘LOBO’) loans.

Previously an Investment Banker, Chidi turned whistle-blower in 2007 and testified to Parliament about the practices he’d witnessed and been bullied for not colluding with. He now works as an independent financial consultant.

Chidi Oti-Obihara was the party’s candidate for East Ham at last year’s general election.

He joins Labour’s Rokhsana Fiaz, Conservative Rahima Khan and Liberal Democrat Gareth Evans on the ballot.

UPDATE (9 April 2018):

Newham Green Party has announced that it will not be proceeding with a mayoral nomination:

“A number of factors led to our decision, including the fact that Chidi’s caring responsibilities meant that he couldn’t dedicate the time to it that he wanted, as well as our not wanting to stand in the way of a Labour candidate who has consistently opposed the current mayor and his financial scandals and dictatorial style.”

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Finally…

4 Apr

The last remaining places on Labour’s slate of candidates for the local elections next month have been filled.

With the deadline for nominations to be submitted looming on Friday, the party imposed three candidates in Plaistow South and one in Custom House to replace Rokhsana Fiaz who is now the mayoral candidate.

Plaistow South

  • Neil Wilson
  • Rohima Rahman
  • Carleene Lee-Phakoe

Custom House

  • Sarah Ruiz

Neil Wilson is a sitting councillor for Plaistow South and Rohima Rahman is councillor for Green Street East ward. Her selection is a bit of a surprise, as she’s been on ‘administrative suspension’ from the Labour Party since late 2015. Her suspension made her ineligible for selection in the original process, so it being lifted now is a happy coincidence of timing for her.

The other Plaistow South candidate is the wife of Daniel Lee-Phakoe, the locksmith who featured recently in the Newham Mag and is standing in Plaistow North.

Sarah Ruiz was previously elected three times as a Labour councillor in 1995, ’98 and 2002, but lost her seat in 2006 standing as a Respect candidate.

UPDATE (5 April 2018)

Not so finally after all…

Last night, after nomination papers had been signed and campaign photos taken, Rohima Rahman received an email informing her that she had been re-suspended from the Labour Party. A replacement candidate, Jane Lofthouse, has been imposed instead.

The whole Plaistow South thing is a bit of a farce. The original selection was abandoned after members refused to accept the only two women left on the long list. The party invited fresh applications and had time to organise a proper selection, but for some reason this didn’t happen. They failed to communicate with the branch and left potential candidates in the dark about what was going on. If they’d simply put a few more women on the approved candidate list in the first place they could have avoided the whole thing.

Vile and insulting

8 Mar

Image 2

Remember how Andrea Leadsom torpedoed her own bid for the Tory leadership when she said being a mother gave her “a very real stake in the future of our country,” in contrast to the childless Theresa May? Even Tory MPs described the remarks as “vile” and “insulting.”

Well evidently Cllr Lakmini Shah doesn’t.

In a call with a local Labour member, a recording of which I have heard, she says Rokhsana Fiaz doesn’t understand how important free school meals are because “she’s not married, she hasn’t got children, so she don’t know how hard it is for parents.”

Member: “Cllr Shah?”

Lakmini Shah: “Yes, it is.”

M: “Hi, yeah, I just spoke to you. Basically, I’m with my wife right now. And she’s saying, telling me to vote for Rokhsana, but I told her that, look, you know, they are going to scrap the free school meals. We’ve got two kids in school in, like, infants and one in nursery, so…”

LS: “Yeah”

M; “…but can you explain to her – I’ve put you on loudspeaker – can you just say what you said earlier…”

LS: “Okay”

M: “…about the free school meals?”

LS: “Okay. So Robin has had free school meals for children [pause] and that cost £3 million a year to the council. So Rokhsana says parents should be… because she don’t have children, she’s not married, she hasn’t got children so she don’t know how hard it is for parents. I’ve got three children and I know how hard it is to pay for school meals.

“So they, um, going to stop this free school meals to save this 3 million. I’m not sure if it’s 3 million or 6 million a year, I have to find that number out.”

This is absolutely outrageous.

Lakmini Shah isn’t just some random member canvassing votes for Sir Robin, she’s Cabinet Member for Work & Skills and Domestic Violence Prevention.

Sir Robin needs to take ownership of this and offer Rokhsana Fiaz a full and unreserved apology for what is being said by his campaign.

And Cllr Shah should resign as candidate for East Ham South. If she doesn’t, members should take the decision for her.

The vision thing

7 Mar

Sir Robin has a vision

Sir Robin’s vision for Newham in 1997 (my emphasis added):

There are too many people, those currently living in Newham and those attracted from other London boroughs, who survive on low incomes or who present themselves as homeless. Whilst we will offer support and carry out our legislative duties, our aim will be to increase Newham’s property values and raise the income profile of all our residents.

What we must take action to avoid is a continued flow of people from other boroughs requiring sustained support.

Which helps to explain why, 20 years down the road:

  • The Carpenters Estate remains empty, despite offering hundreds of good quality, low cost homes
  • There’s been an explosion in high-rise ‘luxury’ apartment developments, particularly in Stratford
  • Developers are rarely, if ever, held to the requirement for 35-50% affordable housing set out in the local plan
  • The homeless are routinely harassed in Stratford
  • Poor and vulnerable families are encouraged to take up housing far away from London
  • The many private landlords sat on the Labour benches in council are Sir Robin’s most loyal supporters

Now that he’s being challenged for the party’s nomination Sir Robin is promising to build record levels of ‘council-owned housing.’ But he doesn’t mean council houses, or even affordable homes – he means housing built by Red Door Ventures, the private rented property company owned by the council which charges full market rents for its properties. And which is currently buying up blocks of flats on the other side of London.

RDV is funded by loans from the council; money which is borrowed from the Treasury or banking sector and then re-lent. If the housing bubble bursts and RDV goes bust, guess who’s left with the bill? (Clue: the same people who will ultimately pick up the tab for the Olympic Stadium ‘investment’)

Under Sir Robin’s watch the proportion of people living in private rented accommodation in Newham has rocketed. A report in the Guardian last year said

The regeneration of the borough – or as others would call it, the social cleansing – has increased the number of privately rented housing to 40% of the housing stock, the highest proportion of all London boroughs. The effect of the drop in home ownership means that residents become transient and many social housing tenants are pushed out

The landlord registration scheme may keep the worst offenders out of the market, but there’s still plenty of opportunity for the greedy and unscrupulous. Which shouldn’t be a surprise: Sir Robin had a vision.

It’s time now for a fresh view.

Academy antics

7 Mar

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Councillors are so opposed to academies they are paying millions of pounds for this one to expand

Last Monday Newham council passed a motion, proposed by Cllrs Mas and Salim Patel, declaring itself opposed to local schools converting into academies.

Given that half of all Newham schools are already academies and that by April 75% of local primaries will be in ‘multi-academy trusts’, this is all a bit late. Where have these newly radicalised anti-academy councillors been for the past few years?

It also raises an interesting question about the mayor’s apparent preference for expanding academies at the expense of local authority maintained schools.

Back in April last year, Sir Robin and his cabinet approved a plan to expand Brampton Manor Academy and Forest Gate Community School by a total of six forms of entry. Under the plan Brampton would take in an extra 120 pupils a year (on top of the 300 who already join year 7 each September) and FGCS would take an extra 60.

Despite the two schools being academies and therefore directly funded by the Department for Education, Newham council will be footing the bill for the extra classrooms required. And what a bill – the expansion was costed at over £29 million. That’s around £1 million per additional classroom.

Cabinet April 17

Headteachers in other local schools were, understandably, very concerned. They argued that there was no solid evidence that these extra places will be needed. Creating permanent additional capacity at these two academies will likely mean fewer pupils enrolling at other local schools, reducing their income and, potentially, threatening their long-term viability.

To add insult to injury, funding of a previously agreed special educational needs development in Stratford was cut by £7 million to pay part of the cost.

And now it appears the academy expansion bill is getting bigger. On 22 February – less than a week before full council passed its motion – Sir Robin’s cabinet approved a new capital budget that allocated £34.75 million for the extra classrooms at Brampton Manor and Forest Gate schools – an increase of almost £5 million (17%) in less than a year.

Cabinet 220218

None of this was mentioned in the anti-academies motion, or in the debate. Did the councillors Patel not know, or were they sparing Sir Robin’s blushes?

Newham council 2018 -22 (probably)

26 Feb

Forest Gate North candidates and supporters

The Forest Gate North candidates and their supporters

Over the past two weekends Labour members in Newham have been selecting the 60 candidates that will contest May’s local elections. Given the party’s massive polling lead across London and the expectation it will be taking control of true blue Tory boroughs like Wandsworth, the prospect of losing even a single seat in ultra-safe Newham is extremely remote.

One ward, Plaistow South, failed to select any candidates after members rejected both women on the shortlist. The meeting will have to be re-convened.

So here are 57 of the 60 people who will (almost certainly) be your councillors for the next four years:

(* = sitting councillor for the same ward; ** = current councillor for a different ward)

East Ham

Beckton

  • James Asser
  • Ayesha Chowdhury*
  • Tonii Wilson*

Boleyn

  • Genevieve Kitchen
  • Veronica Oakeshott*
  • Harvinder Singh Virdee*

East Ham South

  • Susan Masters*
  • Quintin Peppiatt*
  • Lakmini Shah*

East Ham Central

  • Julianne Marriott*
  • Aisha Siddiquah
  • Sugathan Thekkeppurayil

East Ham North

  • Daniel Blaney
  • Zuber Gulamussen*
  • Firoza Ahmed Nekiwala*

Green Street East

  • Muhammad Ali
  • Nilufa Jahan
  • Muzibur Rahman

Little Ilford

  • Nazir Ahmed
  • Pushpa Makwana
  • Riaz Mirza

Manor Park

  • Ken Clark**
  • Mariam Dawood
  • Salim Patel*

Royal Docks

  • Steve Brayshaw*
  • Anthony McAlmont*
  • Patrick Murphy*

Wall End

  • Jennifer Bailey
  • Omana Gangadharan
  • Lester Hudson*

West Ham

Canning Town North

  • Ann Easter*
  • Shaban Mohammed
  • Delphine Tohoure

Canning Town South

  • Rohit Dasgupta
  • Alan Griffiths*
  • Belgica Guana

Custom House

  • James Beckles**
  • Rokhsana Fiaz*
  • Patricia Holland*

Forest Gate North

  • Sasha Das Gupta
  • Anam Islam*
  • Rachel Tripp*

Forest Gate South

  • Mas Patel*
  • Tahmina Rahman**
  • Winston Vaughan*

Green Street West

  • Hanif Abdulmuhit*
  • Mushtaq Hussain
  • Mumtaz Khan

Plaistow North

  • Zulfiqa Ali
  • Joy Laguda*
  • Daniel Lee-Phakoe

Plaistow South

  • Selection suspended

Stratford and New Town

  • Joshua Garfield
  • Nareser Natalie Osei
  • Terry Paul*

West Ham

  • John Gray*
  • Charlene McLean**
  • John Whitworth*

A number of sitting councillors are seeking re-selection but have so far not secured a position (with only Plaistow South still to be resolved):

  • Aleen Alarice (sitting councillor in Plaistow South)
  • Jose Alexander
  • Andrew Baikie
  • Clive Furness
  • Idris Ibrahim
  • Mukesh Patel
  • Paul Duraisamy Sathianesan
  • Neil Wilson (sitting councillor in Plaistow South)

In addition, a large number of councillors decided step down this year:

  • Seyi Akiwowo
  • Freda Bourne
  • David Christie
  • Frances Clarke
  • Bryan Collier
  • Ian Corbett
  • Jo Corbett
  • Richard Crawford
  • Unmesh Desai
  • Forhad Hussain
  • Conor McAuley
  • Kay Scoresby
  • Amarjit Singh
  • Ted Sparrowhawk
  • Sheila Thomas
  • Dianne Walls

And three councillors were not eligible for selection as Labour candidates due to suspension from the party:

  • Obaid Khan
  • Ahmed Noor
  • Rohima Rahman

Over and out?

15 Feb

Councillor Forhad Hussain is not seeking re-selection as a candidate for the elections in May.

He has written to residents and colleagues to let them know:

After eight enjoyable years serving as a local elected councillor in Plaistow, I sadly write to inform my ward residents and local Labour colleagues that I will not be re-standing as a councillor candidate in the upcoming local elections in May 2018. I have thought about this decision a great deal, it was not an easy choice to make but I feel that I need to focus on my young family and develop my career further outside Politics.

However, this is not the end of my involvement in Politics. I will continue to help the Party to win in May’s local elections and in the next General Election to bring in a Labour government.

I would like to thank the Mayor, my local Councillor and Labour party colleagues, council officers, and most importantly Newham residents for their continued support during my time as an elected Councillor and Cabinet Member.

It has been my honour and privilege to represent Plaistow North. I will always cherish the memories I have of working with local residents to deliver many successful community projects. Some key highlights for me include the development of First Avenue Community garden, Plaistow Big Local Glen Rd Murial Project, our first Christmas Tree and Lights switch-on outside Plaistow Station, saving our local library and converting it to an oasis of community activity, the Queen’s visit to Lister Community School and the Tour de France and the Paralympic flame going through Plaistow High St. There are so many more highlights I could mention!

I am really proud of these achievements and my part in making them happen and believe that they have left a lasting legacy in terms of community cohesion.

I want to wish good luck to potential candidates in the Newham local labour Councillor selections. If selected and elected, you have a huge responsibility to help Newham residents improve their lives and support them in the continued challenges they face in everyday life under this vicious Tory government.

My final message to new Councillors: please always remember the reason why you became public servants. Put the interests of Newham residents’ first and deliver local services to improve the lives of our residents. Most importantly do this with a smile on your face! ☺

Many people thought Cllr Hussain would announce a run at the mayoral nomination once the trigger result was formalised. If he was considering that, he’s obviously decided against.

That he’s also decided to stand down altogether is a big surprise. I’m not sure what it says about the state of the Labour Party in Newham, but it’s not good.