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Election 2017 – your candidates

12 May

The lists of candidates standing in the general election for the two Newham constituencies have been published.

East Ham

  • Choudhry Afzal – Friends Party
  • Kirsty Finlayson – Conservative
  • Chidi Oti-Obihara – Green Party
  • Daniel Oxley – UKIP
  • Stephen Timms – Labour
  • Glanville Williams – Liberal Democrats
  • Mirza Zillur Rahman – Independent

West Ham

  • Rosamund Beattie – UKIP
  • Lyn Brown – Labour
  • Paul Reynolds – Liberal Democrats
  • Kayode Shedowo – Christian Peoples Alliance
  • Patrick Spencer – Conservative
  • Michael Spracklin – Green Party

Broken promise

4 Apr

Screenshot 2017 04 04 17 10 06

The mayor’s 2014 manifesto

The Newham Recorder reports:

Free school meals for some primary school children in Newham could be under threat, a headteachers’ union has warned.

In a letter sent out on behalf of the Newham branch of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) on Friday, parents were told “rising costs and a frozen budget mean tough decisions will have to be taken”.

Union officials wrote that the ‘Eat for Free’ programme was “unsustainable” in part due to a new “transparent” funding formula from the council – calculated on the number of children and meals served – asking schools to foot 60pc of the bill moving forwards.

“Schools will not be able to continue to provide free meals for all junior aged pupils unless the national funding picture changes, or the mayor decides to fully fund his initiative,” the letter stated.

The story quotes Forest Gate South councillor Dianne Walls, a former local primary school headteacher, expressing surprise “as a member of the council” that schools were being asked to pay anything at all.

Councillors kept in the dark, promises broken. I am shocked. Shocked.

Spin City

15 Mar

Mayoral ally and ‘full-time’ councillor Clive Furness has circulated his Councillor’s Report for March to local members in Canning Town North. The headline item is the recent expulsion/long-term suspension of Cllr Obaid Khan.

After rehashing the Labour group statement he has a pop at his former friend and colleague:

He has begun a disinformation campaign supported by several councillors and members in which he claims to be the victim. We should have been put on notice after the last council elections when he was arrested for fighting with opposition members at the polling station.

That’s not quite how things went down at the time, when Khan was treated as something of a hero.

Sir Robin personally bought him a new shirt to replace the one that got ripped in the fight, which he presented at the Labour victory party after Khan had been released from police cells. The mayor praised him mightily for his commitment to the cause.

And who was it, just a few weeks later, that held the mayor back during his infamous confrontation with the Focus E15 mums at the Newham Show, saving him from making a bad situation much worse? Cllr Obaid Khan.

Even by Newham Labour standards, this is an outrageous bit of spin.

Furness rounds out his section on councillor misconduct by stating with a completely straight face (link added):

Two councillors remain suspended, one pending the outcome of criminal proceedings and one awaiting action from the [National Constitutional Committee].

I wonder how he will attempt to distance himself and Sir Robin from these two when the time comes.

Sir Robin re-arranges the deck chairs

23 Feb

KenClark

Indisputably number two

In an email sent to all councillors this afternoon Sir Robin Wales has set out his plan to revamp the political leadership of the council and re-structure the executive responsibilities.

Aside from the predictable self-justifying bluster, including the mayor naming himself Lead Member for Business and Growth, the biggest news is the appointment of Councillor Ken Clark as the statutory deputy mayor. Lester Hudson retains his deputy mayoral title, but this is largely meaningless. Ken Clark is unquestionably Sir Robin’s number two.

Dear Colleagues, 

Following my selection as the Labour Party’s candidate for Newham Mayor in 2018, I have reviewed our executive arrangements for the next few years. Our direction of travel has been clear for some time and my new arrangements will help support this. 

When deciding our objectives it must always be in the full knowledge that we face a crisis in our funding. The scale of the attack this Conservative government has made on local authorities, and Labour boroughs in particular, has been well documented. Our recognition in 2010 of the need to plan for a future which involved the complete elimination of government grant has been proven correct. 

Our Approach 

We recognise that government funding will not be re-instated. I am proud that throughout this difficult time, and unlike most other councils, we have managed to invest in the services our residents say matter most to them, protected our frontline services from cuts while continuing to freeze Council Tax. 

Supporting residents to develop resilience remains our strategic approach. None of us were elected to manage decline but rather to support all our residents to prosper and succeed. Our approach and decisions are driven by our shared Labour values of fairness, localism, reciprocity, solidarity and trust. 

With fifteen months to go to the local elections, we have delivered our shared Labour Party Local Government Manifesto from 2014. Our borough has moved from second most deprived local authority in the country in 2012 to 25th. Together we have achieved much for our residents and understand that there is much more to do.

Investment:

We currently have the capacity and ability to borrow at competitive rates of interest. We are using that power to invest in opportunities which will support our ambitions while always evaluating investments for levels of risk. Investments which further our social aims, such as buying and building homes, will have those benefits included in any assessment of risk versus return. 

Efficiency:

We have no alternative but to continue to drive our efficiency agenda forward. We have already saved considerable sums of money through our focus on efficiencies but there is more to be done. 

We have developed a new way of delivering services through a variety of small businesses based on co-operative principles. Wherever possible, these businesses will increase the participation of workers in the running and management of the company and receive a fair share of any profits arising from greater efficiency or increased business. This will help us deliver responsive and efficient local services in Newham and beyond which are fit for the future and is an effective alternative to privatisation.

Integral to this approach is to realise the benefits within the rest of the Council. We are creating a separate Commissioning Hub to identify exactly what we are buying. 

Finally, we have introduced a transformation programme to ensure we improve our customer services and maximise savings without reducing services in any way. 

Community Neighbourhoods:

A key part of our overall approach is the further development of our Community Neighbourhood programme. 

We realise that Labour Councillors – and the wider Party – should have strong roots in all our communities. The most effective way of ensuring this is to provide local councillors with real power to influence what happens in their local area.

Our individual Community Neighbourhoods are equivalent in population to medium sized towns. This devolution of power and responsibility is our strategic approach to ensure that residents benefit locally. 

A fit for purpose political organisation 

Essentially, therefore, the Council will: 

  • Focus on efficiencies to realise the savings which will protect front line services and a lower council tax
  • Drive operations through small business and our Community Neighbourhoods
  • Invest in areas which support our social objectives and deliver additional revenues. 

To support these I have decided to re-align our political responsibilities into four broad areas: 

  • Community Neighbourhoods will expand and, wherever appropriate, we will devolve operational issues to a more local level. To support this I will establish a team of Delivery Lead Councillors which will report as Mayoral Advisors to Councillor Ken Clark, who I appoint as my statutory Deputy Mayor.
  • To support this I have decided to establish a streamlined team of four Community Lead Councillors to oversee our Community Neighbourhood work. 
  • We will create a team of Resources Lead Councillors reporting to Councillor Lester Hudson, who will also act as a deputy mayor, but not in a statutory capacity. The primary task of this team will be to drive efficiencies and investments to ensure that we have the money to embark on our ambitious programme of service delivery and expansion.
  • There will also be a number of other Member posts, both at Cabinet and Mayoral Advisor level, with responsibility for relationships with schools, health partners, police, businesses and developers. 

The full details are enclosed as an attachment to this email. 

Future initiatives:

As a result of this ambitious realignment I anticipate that by 2020 we will be in a strong position with our budget and will, uniquely amongst councils, be able to invest increasing sums in better services to benefit our residents.  

To ensure we are ready to invest in services which make a difference to our residents I will be conducting a review of existing services and launching a debate within the Council, the local Labour Party and our wider community on what we want to achieve.

In particular, we will be reviewing 

  • Our local skills offer
  • How we deal with non-statutory vulnerability
  • Adult care – both residential and in the home
  • Health investment – particularly in primary care linked to Community Neighbourhoods
  • Our offer for people with mental health issues 

We have one of the most effective policy, research and public affairs teams in the country and we will use this resource to inform our debate within the Council. 

We can be rightly proud of our achievements as a Labour Council in recent years. Together with the plans we are putting in place to safeguard our financial independence for the coming years means we can drive a radical left agenda here in Newham. It is time for a fundamental change and I mean to drive it together with you as my Council and Party colleagues. 

Best wishes,

Robin

Newham’s political leadership – February 2017

Mayor and Lead Member for Business and Growth: Sir Robin Wales

Deputy Mayor (Statutory) – Strategic Delivery and Cabinet Member for Community Neighbourhoods, Regeneration and Planning and Public Affairs: Cllr Ken Clark

Deputy Mayor – Resources and Cabinet Member for Finance: Cllr Lester Hudson

Cabinet Member for Strategic Policy: Cllr David Christie

Cabinet Member for Financial Inclusion and Health Promotion: Cllr Frances Clarke

Cabinet Member for Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour, Sports and Leisure, and Deputy Cabinet Member for Community Neighbourhoods: Cllr Forhad Hussain

Cabinet Member for Children and Young People: Cllr Quintin Peppiatt

Cabinet Member for Work & Skills and Domestic Violence: Cllr Lakmini Shah

Cabinet Member for Transformation and the Small Business Programme (and Equalities): Cllr Rachel Tripp

Mayoral Advisor – Adults & Health – Cllr Clive Furness

Delivery Lead Councillors

Mayoral Advisor – Neighbourhoods Support – Cllr Ayesha Chowdhury

Mayoral Advisor – Neighbourhoods Support – Cllr Ann Easter

Mayoral Advisor – Environment – Cllr Pat Murphy

Mayoral Advisor – Housing – Cllr Terry Paul

Resources Lead Councillors

Mayoral Advisor – Place Commissioning – Cllr Andrew Baikie

Mayoral Advisor – Commercial Property – Cllr Ian Corbett

Mayoral Advisor – People Commissioning – Cllr Richard Crawford

Mayoral Advisor – New Media and Finance – Cllr Tahmina Rahman

Community Lead Councillors

Mayoral Advisor – Community Neighbourhoods Lead Councillor (and Adult Care) – Cllr Hanif Abdulmuhit

Mayoral Advisor – Community Neighbourhoods Lead Councillor (and Mental Health) – Cllr Idris Ibrahim

Mayoral Advisor – Community Neighbourhoods Lead Councillor (and Regeneration) – Cllr Mas Patel

Mayoral Advisor – Community Neighbourhoods Lead Councillor (and Children & Early Years) – Cllr Salim Patel

Civic

Chair of Council and Civic Lead – Cllr Joy Laguda

As it stands

18 Nov

After the first set of trigger ballot meetings, the score stands at nine wards to three in favour of automatically reselecting Sir Robin Wales as Labour’s candidate.

The detailed results are: 

Ward Yes No
Beckton 16 3
Canning Town South 6 8
Custom House 7 6
East Ham North 20 23
Forest Gate North 13 30
Forest Gate South 34 21
Green Street West 36 32
Manor Park* 30 30
Plaistow North 27 17
Royal Docks 11 1
Wall End 20 18
Totals: 220 189

* Result of the first ballot. A re-vote was taken, even though two people had left. The final result was 29 yes, 28 no, with one vote declared spoiled. 

 In an interview with the Newham Recorder Cllr John Gary said

“It is neck and neck… the wards that were always more likely to vote yes were held this week.

“The wards that are more likely to vote no are more likely to vote next week.

 “There is already an earthquake in Newham politics; there has never been a challenge like this in Newham wards.”

The decision to hold the trigger ballot early, thereby disenfranchising hundreds of new party members, is the subject of a complaint to Labour HQ. And at the London Labour conference last week Jeremy Corbyn promised to raise the matter with the national executive.

Trigger democracy

31 Oct

How else are you supposed to illustrate a post about a Trigger ballot?

The process to select Labour’s candidate for mayor of Newham at the May 2018 local elections has begun. And it’s being run to a very tight timetable.

An email went out last week from Cllr Patrick Murphy to members of the local campaign forum (LCF) setting out the process. Local party branches and affiliated organisations – trade unions, the Co-op Party – have to meet before 4 December to consider an ‘affirmative nomination’. The borough-wide result will be announced the next day.

The clear intention is that Sir Robin Wales will be re-selected unopposed via this so-called ‘trigger ballot’. Only if a majority of branches vote No will there be an opportunity for other candidates to put themselves forward.

But why the hurry? The election is more than 18 months away and Newham is rock-solid Labour. There’s no disadvantage to the party in taking a bit more time to select its candidate.

Perhaps there’s a clue in Cllr Murphy’s email. In it he also announced the freeze date – October 25th. Only members who have been in the party for six full months prior to this date are able to participate in the vote. So all those new, enthusiastic members inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign who joined over the summer are bang out of luck. 

And it’s certainly no coincidence that the person in charge of the process – Cllr Murphy – is a member of the mayor’s inner circle. He’s on the payroll as ‘community lead councillor’ for Royal Docks and has a personal interest in getting his man into position ASAP. Indeed he is so keen that he has already been out door-knocking unsuspecting party members to canvass support for the incumbent. In any sensible organisation his role as Procedures Secretary would be untenable. 

But maybe – just maybe – this time Sir Robin won’t get things all his own way.

A group of local activists has launched a campaign called Trigger Democracy, calling on local members to vote No to the affirmative nomination and trigger an open selection.

They point out that Wales has been running Newham since 1995 – first as leader of the council and then from 2002 as the directly elected mayor. Only once in all that time has he faced a contested vote among party members. In 2002 he defeated John Saunders for the very first nomination. A lot has changed in Newham and the Labour party in the past 14 years!

Of course an open selection does not necessarily mean the end of Sir Robin. He might prove to be the best possible candidate and if so members could re-select him. But the very least that the party should do is give themselves a choice. Surely among the 60 councillors there are a few who have the ambition and vision to offer an alternative. Or maybe there is a credible candidate in another role?

I’m not in the Labour party – I left more than 10 years ago – but I urge all those who are to vote No. Give yourselves – and the rest of us – a chance to debate an alternative vision for Newham’s future.

There’s more information on the Trigger Democracy campaign on the web, on Twitter and on Facebook.

Boundary review 2018

13 Sep

As part of the government’s drive to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and make parliamentary constituencies more equally sized, the Boundary Commission has published its proposals for London.

At the moment we have two seats in Newham – East Ham and West Ham. Each contains 10 of the 20 wards in the borough. But both seats are very large – in fact West Ham is the largest in London, with more than 80,000 voters. By contrast, the (Tory-held) Kensington seat has only 55,000.

The Boundary Commission’s proposals add about half a seat to Newham, but do so by ripping apart West Ham and dividing it between three new or revised constituencies:

We propose a Forest Gate and Loxford constituency, which includes three wards from the existing East Ham constituency, two wards from the existing Ilford South constituency, and four wards from the existing West Ham constituency. This configuration brings the Newham borough wards of Green Street East and Green Street West together in the same constituency. 

In Newham, we noted that the borough was too large for two constituencies. We propose an East Ham constituency, which retains seven wards from the existing East Ham constituency, and adds two wards from the existing West Ham constituency. We also propose a Bow and Canning Town constituency, which includes four wards from the existing West Ham constituency, two Tower Hamlets borough wards from the existing Poplar and Limehouse constituency, and two wards from the existing Bethnal Green and Bow constituency. 

The exact make-up of the new constituencies, with wards, boroughs and current voters:

Bow and Canning Town

Canning Town North Newham 8,333
     
Canning Town South Newham 8,543
     
Stratford and New Town Newham 12,471
     
West Ham Newham 8,073
     
Bow East Tower Hamlets 10,427
     
Bow West Tower Hamlets 7,850
     
Bromley North Tower Hamlets 5,980
     
Bromley South Tower Hamlets 6,532
     
Lansbury Tower Hamlets 9,623
     
  Total 77,832


East Ham

Beckton Newham 7,335
     
Boleyn Newham 8,696
     
Custom House Newham 6,971
     
East Ham Central Newham 8,867
     
East Ham North Newham 8,682
     
East Ham South Newham 8,347
     
Plaistow South Newham 8,290
     
Royal Docks Newham 6,081
     
Wall End Newham 8,418
     
  Total 71,687


Forest Gate and Loxford

Forest Gate North Newham 8,392
     
Forest Gate South Newham 8,862
     
Green Street East Newham 8,875
     
Green Street West Newham 8,752
     
Little Ilford Newham 8,873
     
Manor Park Newham 8,636
     
Plaistow North Newham 8,215
     
Clementswood Redbridge 8,051
     
Loxford Redbridge 8,841
     
  Total 77,497

You can comment on the proposals at the Commission’s special review website, or at a public hearing. The nearest one to us will be at Romford Town Hall on 31 October and 1 November.