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Personal Trainer

10 Aug

Tumblr inline nxx1r2FH3u1skqymr 500

Assistant chief executive and alleged Labour press flak Douglas Trainer

An intriguing and disturbing FOI request to Newham Council (links added):

The newly promoted Mayoral advisor Cllr Patrick Murphy was the Newham Labour Party procedures secretary to the recent Mayoral trigger ballot. When he has been contacted by journalists interested in the allegations made about this process he has told them to contact the Newham Council Assistant Chief Executive, Douglas Trainer for comment.

Mr Trainer is paid by Newham Residents £111,000 per year and is in a politically restricted post.

  1. Please confirm that Mr Trainer has contacted or discussed the Labour Party Mayoral trigger ballot (and anything associated with it) with any journalist.
  2. If so the names of these journalists; when; where; how and what he said to these journalists and why he has acted as a spokesperson for the Labour Party.
  3. I understand that there are tape recordings of these conversations.
  4. Please list the social events that Mr Trainer has attended with member of Newham Labour Party including at Labour Party conferences.

If the allegation here is true, it is extraordinary. Why on earth would Cllr Murphy think it appropriate to refer press enquiries about an internal Labour election to the assistant chief executive of the council?

And why would Mr Trainer agree to respond to them? He is explicitly forbidden from “acting on behalf of the party … in dealing with non-party members.”

This is no doubt a consequence of Labour’s total grip on power in the borough. Senior officers and councillors alike have come to believe that the council and the party are one and the same.

Note: I linked to the LB of Havering guidance on politically restricted posts because no equivalent page appears to exist on Newham’s website. Which is in itself telling.

Cunning stunt

9 Aug

Cunning Wales 3

A quiet word in your ear, Sir Robin…

If you were an electorally unsuccessful Scottish Labour politician looking to make a fresh start down south, where would you head for?

Newham might look like a pretty good option.

Certainly Barrie Cunning thinks so. He stood for Labour in the Scottish parliamentary elections last year and came in fourth, all-but-halving the party’s vote in the process. Now he lives in Canning Town and has his eyes firmly fixed on a seat in the council chamber.

As if being a white Scottish male wasn’t advantage enough, a bit of good luck has helped get him further into Sir Robin’s good books.

Back in February, Sir Robin was invited to speak at an Edinburgh Networking Breakfast event on ‘Building Partnership in Development.’ According to the mayor’s register of gifts and hospitality, his flights and accommodation were paid for by Newington Communications, the PR firm Barrie Cunning happens to work for.

And when the mayor took his trip to Cannes in March, one of the sponsors was Berkeley Group. They are clients of Newington Communications. According to his profile, Barrie Cunning works across the development and housing sectors.

So, let me be the first to say “Congratulations on your election, Councillor Cunning.”

Holidays in the sun

2 Aug

Sir Robin at MIPIM 2017

Every March the French mediterranean resort of Cannes plays host to MIPIM, an international property event. According to Wikipedia

The event aims to facilitate business between investors, corporate end-users, local authorities, hospitality professionals, industrial and logistics players and other real estate professionals.

It is tailor-made for the big swinging dicks and wannabe Trumps of the property development racket. So obviously the mayor of Newham would want to be there.

And according to a recent FOI response, he was, accompanied by deputy mayor Cllr Ken Clark, Director of Regeneration and Planning Deirdra Armsby and Head of Regeneration Robin Cooper.

But fear not. Your council tax was not funding a penny of this.

All expenses were paid for via sponsorship from Westfield Group, Berkeley Group, Telford Homes, English Cities Fund and ABP (London) Investments

How very generous of them. 

Flights, accommodation, the conference tickets, plus feeding and watering four thirsty delegates would have set them back a few quid. Sadly, we don’t know yet exactly how much as the mayor and Cllr Clark have neglected to update the register of gifts and hospitalities with the information.

At the risk of repeating myself, this is what I wrote back in 2012 when the mayor made a similar, commercially sponsored trip to the south of France:

…if there was a genuine and compelling reason for Newham to be present at this conference I’d have no objection to the trip being funded from public money. I’m entirely prepared to believe the trip was a worthwhile way for Sir Robin and his entourage to spend their time.

In fact, if the mayor’s presence was so vital it absolutely should have been paid for by the taxpayer. Drumming up business for Newham is part of his job…

…If going to a global property conference is the best way to meet developers, then that’s the place to be. The fact that the event took place in the south of France is neither here nor there. Sir Robin didn’t choose the venue.

Public officials travelling on public business should have their expenses met from the public purse. That way everything’s above board and there’s no question about whose interests they’re representing.

But this trip wasn’t funded with public money. And that is extremely worrying. No-one provides hospitality on this scale without some expectation of getting something in return…

…Perhaps Sir Robin is pleased with himself for saving the public purse a few pounds, but it may end up being a poor bargain for Newham.

Until we know who paid for his trip the mayor must recuse himself from all discussions about regeneration and redevelopment in Newham and from consideration of all planning applications.

Otherwise how can we tell if he’s doing the right thing by residents or repaying a debt to his generous sponsors?

Five years on, the same concerns apply.

UPDATE

I have been sent a copy of another FOI response on a similar topic (sadly not available online), which was released in June. This says that the Cannes party included the council chief executive. If he was indeed there, the cost to the sponsors (and the implied obligation) is even greater.

It also raises a question about quality control in the information governance team. How could two virtually identical questions, asked within a few weeks of each other, result in two different answers?

It’s all kicking off

1 Aug

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (pic via @NewhamLabourWTF on Twitter)

The Newham Recorder reports that 30 local Labour members are threatening to take the party to court over the conduct of last year’s ‘trigger ballot’.

Letters sent by Irvine Thanivi Natas (ITN) solicitors to GRM Law, the firm acting on Labour’s behalf, [allege that] procedural rules were “breached” as they were applied differently to different affiliated organisations without their full understanding of what the rules were.

This meant some trade unions with several branches voted more than once, while others with more than one branch believed they only had one vote.

Claimant David Gilles said: “Reluctantly we’re having to resort to legal action to get this vote re-run.”

There’s a lot more information, including full access to the letters exchanged by the two sides’ solicitors here.

The grounds for the complaint are:

  1. The rules were inconsistently applied in respect of which Affiliated Organisations (AOs) could take part
  2. The rules were inconsistently explained; those running the trigger ballot process failed to ensure (a) that AOs were properly informed of voting rights and (b) that the process was fairly run
  3. Labour’s NEC failed to carry out a proper investigation, despite prima facie evidence of impropriety
  4. The NEC endorsed Sir Robin when there was strong evidence that process was flawed
  5. The rules wrongly applied: some AOs were allowed to vote more than once

The result of the trigger ballot was never really in doubt. Sir Robin was always going to find enough votes from among the affiliates to over-turn the results from ward parties. The fact that no agreed list of affiliated organisations was ever published, or even shared with the officers of the two constituency parties, meant the whole process was wide open to abuse.

Despite the protestations from Newham Labour and the national party that everything is fine and that rules were followed, this is not going away. Local members have had enough of trickery and deceit. To borrow a phrase, they want “straight-talking, honest politics.” 

Sir Robin should be worried. His name is not yet certain to be on the ballot paper next May.

Email alert

26 Jul

LakminiShah 2015 Nov 24

Picture from NewhamLabourWTF (figures from 2015)

Following last week’s withering email from Dianne Walls, Sir Robin has finally found a willing dupe to respond. Step forward, mayoral advisor Councillor Lakmini Shah 

Dianne,

I felt that I needed to reply to the email you sent following Monday’s Full Council, and given that you copied in all colleagues, I have done the same.

We have known each other a long time, and hope you will agree that by nature I try to solve problems rather than create them, and that much of my work has been to support other women and encourage them to get involved in politics and in the community. 

As I recall Robin’s comments at the last council meeting, he praised Kay for resigning from the governing body and said it was the correct thing to do. I don’t recall any inappropriate comments that he made towards Kay to embarrass her.

I have experienced and noticed so much division, misinterpretation, accusations, disturbance and disagreements in a negative way in this administration amongst us Labour colleagues. Therefore the good work we want to do gets drawn into unnecessary arguments. The suggestion that Robin marginalises women is particularly unfair. 

I felt that I need to break the silence and speak out and let some members know the struggles I had and the support I received to overcome them from Robin.

What follows is several paragraphs of pure Arslikhan: Sir Robin is portrayed as a heroic battler for women in general and Lakmini Shah in particular. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh out loud. For evidence of how Sir Robin doesn’t marginalise women, take a look at the gender pay gap among Newham’s councillors

In my experience as a woman councillor, Robin has been entirely supportive – far more so than many of my female colleagues.

At which point she puts away her onion and gets to the real point:

With less than a year until the election we need to stop this back-biting and sniping and unite as one Labour team behind Robin. 

As far as I can see, the sniping and back-biting is only coming from one direction…

No such thing as a free lunch

14 Jul

When the mayor was running for re-election back in 2014 he promised to ‘Continue Free School Meals for Primary School Children’.

Newham Labour Party’s Local Government Manifesto said:

…our Labour Mayor and Councillors have launched the Every Newham Child programme which helps all our kids achieve more.the Every Newham Child programme which helps all our kids achieve more. Working in partnership with our schools this includes:

Free School Meals for all our primary children which is worth £566 per child to hard working families each year…

Most people reading this – including the party’s own candidates – believed this was a promise to fully fund the provision of free schools meals. But it turns out that was wrong. While central government funds meals for infants (key stage 1) and there is a statutory requirement to fund free meals for children from deprived families, the council only contributes 40% of the costs for the remaining key stage 2 pupils – schools have had to find the rest from their own funds.

With budgets getting ever tighter as public spending cuts bite, a number of schools threatened to opt out of the scheme. Initially, the mayor put his fingers in his ears and pretended not to hear them. 

But in May the council offered to increase funding to 60%.

19 schools told the council it was still unaffordable and they would start charging children for school meals from September. Which would be hugely embarrassing for Sir Robin. Less than a year before the next election and a signature promise would be exposed as a lie.

What was he to do?

Politically, there was only one option: fully fund the scheme! So at the next Cabinet meeting the mayor will finally agree to do what he promised and pay for all primary school meals. This will add an extra £2.5m to the cost this year and £3.6m next year. 

Of course, the cabinet paper dresses this up as a concern for Newham children:

Given the importance of ensuring a universal offer, no other option than funding junior paid meals at 100% will secure the desired outcomes for Newham’s primary age children.

But in truth, this is about ensuring the re-election of Sir Robin for a fifth term.

It’s a man’s world (again)

30 Jun

The latest issue of the Newham Mag includes details of the allowances paid to the mayor and the 60 other members of the council in the last municipal year (April 2016 to March 2017).

Between them they pocketed over £1.2 million.

But that wasn’t evenly distributed. As you can see from the table below, those receiving most had one important thing in common…

Name Basic £ SRA £ Other £ Total £ Gender
R WALES 81,839 0 0 81,839 M
L HUDSON 10,842 37,735 0 48,577 M
I CORBETT 10,842 34,770 0 45,612 M
F HUSSAIN 10,842 33,735 142 44,719 M
A BAIKIE 10,842 33,735 0 44,577 M
K CLARK 10,842 33,735 0 44,577 M
R CRAWFORD 10,842 33,735 0 44,577 M
C FURNESS 10,842 33,735 0 44,577 M
A MCALMONT 10,842 26,988 0 37,830 M
H ABDULMUHIT 10,842 18,835 0 29,677 M
I IBRAHIM 10,842 14,553 0 25,395 M
L SHAH 10,842 14,056 46 24,944 F
T PAUL 10,842 14,056 0 24,898 M
Mas PATEL 10,842 13,991 0 24,833 M
T WILSON 10,842 11,698 2,079 24,619 F
S BRAYSHAW 10,842 13,494 0 24,336 M
D CHRISTIE 10,842 13,494 0 24,336 M
J LAGUDA 10,842 13,494 0 24,336 F
R TRIPP 10,842 11,807 0 22,649 F
R FIAZ OBE 10,842 11,698 0 22,540 F
S MASTERS 10,842 10,683 0 21,525 F
S PATEL 10,842 10,356 117 21,315 M
P MURPHY 10,842 7,872 0 18,714 M
A CHOWDHURY 10,842 6,747 0 17,589 F
F CLARKE 10,842 6,747 0 17,589 F
A EASTER 10,842 6,747 0 17,589 F
M PATEL 10,842 6,747 0 17,589 M
J MARRIOTT 10,842 6,185 0 17,027 F
T RAHMAN 10,842 6,054 0 16,896 F
U DESAI 10,842 5,623 0 16,465 M
K SCORESBY 10,842 2,249 0 13,091 F
W VAUGHAN 10,842 2,249 0 13,091 M
D WALLS 10,842 2,249 0 13,091 F
N WILSON 10,842 0 452 11,294 M
E SPARROWHAWK 10,902 0 0 10,902 M
O AKIWOWO 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
A ALARICE 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
J ALEXANDER 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
J BECKLES 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
F BOURNE 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
B COLLIER 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
J CORBETT 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
J GRAY 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
A GRIFFITHS 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
Z GULAMUSSEN 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
P HOLLAND 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
O KHAN 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
C MCAULEY 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
C MCLEAN 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
F NAZEER 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
F NEKIWALA 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
A NOOR 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
V OAKESHOTT 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
Q PEPPIATT 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
R RAHMAN 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
P SATHIANESAN 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
A SINGH 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
S THOMAS 10,842 0 0 10,842 F
H VIRDEE 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
J WHITWORTH 10,842 0 0 10,842 M
A ISLAM** 7,636 0 0 7,636 M
E ROBINSON* 2,711 1,125 0 3,835 F
           
Totals: 731,924 500,975 2,837 1,235,735  
  • resigned June 2016
    **elected July 2016