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Value for money?

24 May

By Iain Aitch

Is £4m per job good value for our money, Sir Robin?

The recent raids by HMRC at the London Stadium (Olympic Stadium in old money) may have had some Newham residents worrying about their £40m investment in West Ham’s new ground. The council tax-payer’s hard earned cash is due to be paid back over the next 40 years, but you may well wonder what we are getting for our investment, bar a few free tickets for Mayor Sir Robin Wales and his cabinet. 

With this in mind, I set about composing a Freedom of Information request, basing my questions on the promises made by the council. They were not forthcoming on the number of free tickets handed out, promising the information on the 100,000 promised would be made public at the end of the football season (which has already passed). 

But what was most interesting was the promise around jobs. The council promised up to 75% of jobs at the stadium would go to local residents. The reality is, ahem, somewhat different and wholly disappointing. The actual number is 20%. And full time jobs? Just 10 (ten). I make that 0.8% of total jobs at London Stadium. 

That makes £4m of investment per job. Of 1,207 jobs in total, this 10 is in addition to 253 Newham-ites on casual contracts. A pathetic return and, if chatter amongst old hands is anything to go by, this number may be reduced radically next season. 

You can see the FOI and stats for yourself here (HTML) or here (PDF).

Iain Aitch is an author and journalist who lives in Newham. He has written for the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times and Financial Times.

Stand up to racism – public meeting

10 May

From Stand Up to Racism Newham:

PUBLIC MEETING

Defend EU Migrants – Keep Racism Out of the Election!

Tuesday, 16 May at 19:00–20:45

Stratford Advice Arcade, 107-109 The Grove, London, E15 1HP (nr Morrisons car park)

Speakers: Wiktor Moszczyński (The Three Million), Jacek Szymański (EU migrant), Nahella Ashraf (Stand Up to Racism)

Please “like” and share Newham SUtR facebook event here: Defend EU Migrants – Keep Racism Out of the Election

As election day approaches Theresa May is once more playing the anti-immigration card, while UKIP tries to outbid the Tories. Theresa May is aiming to push through her version of a “hard” Brexit with a crackdown on migrant rights and opposition to the free movement of labour. 

We need to make a stand against the anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric that has fuelled the spike in hate crimes since the referendum.

Stand Up To Racism urges everyone to use their vote against racism and scapegoating in the election.

Come to our meeting to discuss how we can help keep racism out of the election.

Up close and personal

25 Apr

A recent Freedom of Information request to Newham council

From your Constitution, it states:

15. PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS – between Members and Officers

15.1 Mutual respect between Members and officers is essential to good local government. Close personal familiarity between individual Members and officers can damage this relationship and prove embarrassing to other Councillors and officers.

15.2 It is not enough to avoid actual impropriety. Members and officers must avoid any occasion for suspicion and any appearance of improper conduct.

15.3 Member and officers must declare to the Chief Executive any relationships with an officer, which might be seen as influencing their work as a Member. This includes any family, business or sexual relationships.

15.4 The Chief Executive will advise both the Member and the officer of the need to avoid creating any appearance of improper conduct on their part.

Please provide the number of relationships reported to the Chief Executive of Members/Mayor having relationships with officers with a grade of SMR1 or above in the last 10 years.

Please provide the number of relationships reported to the Chief Executive of the Mayor having a relationship with an officer in the last 10 years.

Please provide the advice given to both the Member/Mayor and the officer to avoid creating any appearance of improper conduct on their part.

The response:

1. Two.

2. Two.

3. Verbal advice was extended to the relevant parties to remind them of their obligations under Part 5.2 of the Council’s Constitution – The Protocol for Member and Officer Conduct.

Legal advice was sought in respect of the declarations made. We consider the advice extended to be legally privileged under Section 42 of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Note: comments have been disabled on this post

Co-op cock-up

10 Mar

IMG 0137

Although you wouldn’t know from this picture, the second round of Newham Co-opertaive Party’s AGM was extremely well-attended. Indeed more people turned up than for the first part four weeks ago.

The empty seats were earlier occupied by councillors and others associated with Sir Robin’s faction on the council. They departed after a monumental failure of organisation left them without any candidates for the remaining positions on the local party committee. Even an excellent speech by Co-operative party general secretary Claire McCarthy could not persuade them to stay.

Perhaps it is for the best that Sir Robin himself did not attend. He would not have been amused.

Cllr Lester Hudson, who won election to be the party chair in February, was another notable absentee. He preferred the free food and drink on offer at the LGC Awards in London. So much for his commitment to an active Co-op Party in Newham.

The second meeting was called after the original AGM was unable to complete the full slate of elections. In order to ensure there was no repeat of the bad behaviour that marred part one, part two was overseen by national and London region party officers. The atmosphere was much improved.

Unlike at the first meeting, nominations and candidate statements were required in advance for each post. Candidates that had been previously been nominated had to re-submit. A fact that had evidently evaded the leadership faction, who found they had no candidates. Cllr Clive Furness did his best to challenge this on behalf of the absent Lakhmini Shah (who had stood for secretary) but his objection was briskly swatted away by the chair.

Cllr Aleen Alarice, Sir Robin’s candidate for treasurer in round one, was present but said nothing on her own behalf when her opponent Averil Donohoe was elected unopposed. John Gray (assistant secretary) and Alan Griffiths (membership officer) were also returned without a vote being required.

The only significant election was for secretary and Gill Hay won that comfortably over Neil Wilson. Cllr Wilson will have been consoled by his later election as social secretary.

There were no elections for delegates to the two constituency Labour parties, because of the investigation into the alleged attendance of unauthorised Co-op delegates at the recent East Ham AGM. The Co-op does not have any delegates in East Ham and the West Ham delegates only remain in place pro tem.

A significant source of power and influence within the Labour party in Newham has slipped from Sir Robin’s grasp due to an almighty cock-up. Further evidence, perhaps, that his regime is unravelling.

Wrath of Khan

10 Mar

Cllr Obaid Khan, who was handed a two year suspension from the Labour party last week, says that he has been the victim of a political witch hunt.

In a statement he says

“I believe that I am being victimised for having political differences with the local Labour leadership in Newham, as well as asking for processes to be democratic and transparent in the local Labour party.

“I continue to deny the charges and I am taking advise on what further action is available to me. I do not believe that I have been subject to a fair process by any reasonable standard of natural justice in the way the Labour Party has pursued the complaints made against me.”

Cllr Khan claims that although he was initially suspended in December 2015 on the basis of his “behaviour towards other party members at party meetings and in email correspondence” he did not receive specific details of the allegations until January this year – 14 months later.

He further says that the investigation report contained material that was irrelevant to the charges and “gratuitously negative commentary by the party investigators themselves” which was prejudicial to his defense.

Two of the three complainants did not attend the hearing and were therefore unable to be questioned by Cllr Khan or his representatives.

Mr Michael Sullivan, a local Labour Party member who helped Cllr Khan prepare his defence and who attended the hearing, said

“I have a lot of experience of representing trade union members at employer’s discipline hearings and of representing people at Employment and Welfare Benefit Tribunals. I also have a Masters Degree in Law that I undertook when I was a trade union officer responsible for members’ legal cases.

“I can say that the way the case against Councillor Khan was prepared and conducted including the material unrelated to the charges against him that was permitted to be included in the case papers would not be permitted in an employer’s discipline hearings or any Tribunal; and certainly not in any formal court.

“I believe that the conduct of this case reflects badly on the Labour Party, which has fairness and justice among it’s core values”.

Whatever the nature of the charges against Cllr Khan – which have not been made public – the conduct of the Labour party appears to be highly questionable.

And local members might ask why this case has been dealt with ahead of that of Cllr Ahmed Noor, who was the subject of a withering report to the council’s standards board. Cllr Noor’s party membership has been in ‘administrative suspension’ for close to two years.

They might further ask why Cllr Khan’s behaviour warranted his expulsion from the party when the mayor and his chum Cllr Ian Corbett remain members, despite being found guilty of breaching the council’s code of conduct due to their aggressive and bullying behaviour.

Unravelling

2 Mar

The Guardian’s Dave Hill, writing on his new blog, reports that another organisation has declared that its vote was improperly cast in last year’s mayoral trigger ballot:

A second organisation whose vote helped Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales go forward unopposed as Labour candidate for next year’s mayoral election in the borough has effectively substantiated a complaint by local party members about an aspect of the candidate selection process.

Inquiries by national officers of Bectu, the media and entertainment union, have concluded that a branch affiliated to Labour locally had not paid the required fee for 2016, the year the vote took place. In a letter to Labour’s governing National Executive Committee (NEC) sent in January, 47 Newham members had argued that the Bectu vote be declared void partly on those grounds.

Last month the national Fabian Society informed its Newham branch, which also voted “yes” to Sir Robin automatically becoming the candidate for 2018, had breached the society’s own rules for determining how votes in Labour affirmative nomination or “trigger ballots” should be cast.

The Bectu delegate that cast the vote in Sir Robin’s favour was Cllr Susan Masters, the secretary of the Labour Group of councillors. The signatory on the letter purportedly from Newham Fabians was Cllr Tahmina Rahman, mayoral advisor for New Media and Finance. Are we spotting a pattern?

Sir Robin “won” the trigger ballot by 20 votes to 17. Less these two it’s now 18-17, though arguably if the Fabians had held a proper members meeting they’d have voted No, making it 18-18. 

Whatever shaky mandate the mayor had to claim the nomination unopposed has now entirely vanished. Labour needs to cancel the result and run an open selection. It’s what members want and what they deserve.

Time for bed, sleepy head

1 Mar

Sleepy Aleen

Councillor Aleen Alarice pitched up at Newham Fabians last night, paid her £7 membership fee and promptly nodded off.

She’s ever hopeful of preferment and is Sir Robin’s candidate for treasurer of the local Co-operative party at the reconvened AGM next week.

I suggest she pays a bit more attention to what’s going on there.