Archive | Politics RSS feed for this section

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.

Advertisements

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

Image

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?

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.

Open sesame!

13 Feb

The Labour Party has announced details for the selection of its candidate to be the directly elected mayor of Newham.

Voting will take place from 1 March to midday on 16 March. It will be an online ballot, with no fallback option for those without internet access.

You’re also out of luck if you joined Labour after 1 July 2016 or you are in arrears with your subscriptions (so pay up if that’s you!).

There may be hustings, but no details have been provided yet.

Anyone thinking of standing must have been a member since at least 1 January 2016. They must submit their application form by 12pm on Monday 19 February.

Interviews will be held in central London on Tuesday 20 February. The shortlist will be announced shortly after that.

What’s Next?

12 Feb

Copwatcher 2018 Feb 12

On Twitter, Kevin Blowe asks the obvious question:

If Sir Robin Wales is ousted as Mayor of Newham, what happens next?

Ideas please for unraveling the legacy of hard-right Labour council. Some suggestions:

  1. No more ugly, expensive developers’ gold-rush skyscrapers in Stratford

  2. 100% social housing on the Carpenters Estate

  3. Ending the council / police / immigration enforcement operation to harasss and disperse homeless people in Stratford

Off the top of my head:

  • Abolish the directly-elected mayoralty and return to leader & cabinet
  • No more ‘jobs for the boys’
  • End the out-placement of council services into arms-length companies

And Newham Co-op Party secretary Gill Hay adds:

A re-commitment to use all possible empty housing in the borough for housing people in need.

Feel free to add your own suggestions on Twitter or in the comments.

UPDATE:

Some suggestions from Twitter:

  • No pensions for Mayor or council
  • End of Mayors special advisor payouts
  • A sponsor to cover costs of Under The Stars etc.
  • Sell Building 1000
  • No more photos of the clowns in the Newham Mag
  • Proper independent scrutiny
  • A realistic policy for Council tax to avoid more cuts
  • Instigate a thorough forensic examination of ALL the authorities finacial dealings over the past 16 years
  • No giving away council buildings to hipster developments from outside the borough that speed gentrification
  • No turning music venues into trampoline parks
  • No more donkey & sand posters for the mayor’s £4 million gigs
  • Limited terms for mayors/council leaders

Thanks to Sites of NewhamMike Law, Damnably Records, Kevin Mansell, @iainaitch and @StopCityAirport

Triggered

1 Feb

West Ham

Plaistow South

Plaistow North

Custom House

CT North

FG North

FG South

Stratford NE

GS West

CT South

West Ham Women

All ten West Ham wards and the Women’s Forum voted NO.

And on Saturday all ten East Ham wards voted NO as well.

That’s 21-0 with the affiliates still to declare. The formal result will be announced shortly.