Trigger action

20 Nov

On Saturday afternoon the crowdfunding campaign to challenge the result of last year’s mayoral trigger ballot hit its initial £10,000 target.

As Dave Hill reports:

Labour Party members in Newham seeking to overturn the re-selection of Sir Robin Wales as their mayoral candidate next year have hit an initial target of £10,000 to pursue a legal case against their party’s governing body

In January, Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) declined a request to investigate the affirmative nomination process or “trigger ballot” held last autumn, which saw Sir Robin endorsed to seek a fifth term as mayor despite claims that a number of “irregularities” had “made a material difference to the result”.

They are now in a financial position to issue a statement of claim, setting out the grounds which they content that their party has “behaved improperly” over the trigger ballot, both at local level and in failing at a national level to conduct an inquiry into how the process was run.

With the news coming out of Zimbabwe at almost exactly the same time, Sir Robin must be starting to feel a little nervous. This is not a good time for longstanding dictators with a penchant for gold chains.

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TSSA trailer

7 Nov

Salim Patel 121

Cllr Salim Patel, mayoral advisor and TSSA delegate

London blogger and ex-Guardian journalist Dave Hill has an intriguing account of how one union affiliate’s vote ended up in Sir Robin’s pile in the trigger ballot.

It’s well worth reading the whole piece, but the nut of it is here:

The TSSA [Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association] branch in question is its Euston one. That branch had had previous ties with the East Ham Constituency Labour Party (CLP) in Newham, and in May 2015 became affiliated to it again. A letter from the branch, which I have a copy of, informed the CLP’s then treasurer of this, said that affiliation fees and a donation of £50 had been paid by credit transfer from TSSA head office, and stated: “Our delegate will be Councillor Salim Patel.”

Councillor Patel represents Manor Park ward in Newham. His Labour Party profile describes him as a train manager with Virgin Trains. He is also one of Sir Robin’s appointees as a “community lead councillor” with additional children and early years responsibilities. For these duties he received in 2016/17 a special responsibility allowance of £8,433.39 in addition to his standard councillor allowance of £10,842.

The person in charge of running the trigger ballot was Councillor Patrick Murphy, chosen by  Newham Labour’s Local Campaign Forum in conjunction with the party’s London region for the task of procedures secretary. His duties included distributing trigger ballot papers. Councillor Murphy too was a mayoral adviser at the time, receiving a special responsibility allowance of £7,871.50. He is still on Sir Robin’s team, currently as a “delivery lead” councillor, with responsibility for environment policy.

My information is that the TSSA Euston branch received no direct communication from Councillor Murphy, unlike other unions entitled to vote in the ballot. Rather, Councillor Patel in person brought the ballot paper to a Euston branch officer, who signed it off without really appreciating what it was or giving it more than a moment’s attention. A vote was eventually added to the pile favouring Sir Robin’s automatic re-selection. The final result was 20-17.

Hill says he has contacted Cllr Patel for his side of the story and promised to update his story if he’s got anything wrong. He has not yet had any response.

If Salim Patel won’t talk to Dave Hill he should at the very least explain himself to local Labour members.As with everything else connected to the affiliate votes in the trigger ballot, this absolutely stinks.

Unlocking votes

6 Nov

D Lee Newham Mag

A nice bit of promotion in the latest issue of the Newham Mag for local locksmith Daniel Lee.

Especially nice, as Daniel Lee is a local Labour party member who’s just passed the interview panel to be a candidate at next year’s council elections. And local branches will be holding their selection meetings in the next few weeks.

No doubt this is a complete and utter coincidence.

An Olympic-sized black hole

17 Oct

The London Stadium

Tomorrow (Wednesday 18 October) the Budget Monitoring Sub-Committee of the London Assembly will question the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and GLA representatives on the long-term financial sustainability of the London Stadium.

They will ask if it Is fundamentally un-profitable and try to find out what has happened to Sadiq Khan’s investigation into the Stadium.

The discussion will include the Stadium itself, the cultural and education district, affordable housing and overall financial sustainability.

The meeting starts at 2.30pm in The Chamber at City Hall (The Queen’s Walk, London SE1) and is open to the public and media. It will also be streamed live via webcast and YouTube.

Papers for the meeting are available online.

Man overboard

11 Oct

Council CEO Kim Bromley-Derry has been re-arranging the executive deckchairs at Newham Dockside:

A few weeks back I announced my new executive leadership arrangements which took effect immediately. The executive team includes myself supported by Nick Bracken, Grainne Siggins and Deborah Hindson. 

The executive leadership is supported by a wider team of current and new Directors. This new Strategic Leadership Team provides us with the skills and experience necessary to drive through our transformation agenda, the principles of our new operating model and deliver the savings required of us this year and in the years ahead. Details of the full leadership arrangements are attached. I would like to offer my congratulations to Jane Sherwood in her new role as Interim Director of Regeneration and Planning to replace Deirdra Armsby who has joined Westminster City Council. 

I have every confidence in our Strategic Leadership Team to continue delivering the services that matter most to our residents and achieving the political outcomes and priorities of our Mayor Sir Robin Wales and Members. The strategic leadership team will meet on a regular basis.

One notable absentee from the ‘Executive Leadership Team’ is Douglas Trainer. Mr Trainer previously combined the role of Assistant Chief Executive (Strategic Services) with being the Labour group’s part-time PR flak.

Now he appears on the organisation chart with the reduced title of Director of Customer and Strategic Services, reporting to former plod Nick Bracken, the COO. How odd.

What has the poor fellow done to deserve demotion?

Less than zero

9 Oct

Not paying a penny

West Ham United has yet to hand over a penny in business rates for its London Stadium home, according to a report in London freesheet City AM.

Some 16 months after settling into what was called Olympic Stadium, the body responsible for setting UK business rates is yet to decide whether the Premier League club must pay anything, the Press Association first reported.

Earlier this year it was revealed that West Ham only had to pay rates on retail and office space it lets, rather than the entire stadium. This left landlord E20 Stadium to foot the remainder of annual £2.3m business rate bill. (emphasis added)

West Ham’s annual rent for the stadium is £2.5 million a year (halved if the club is relegated from the Premier League).

Newham loaned £40 million to the stadium partnership to help meet the cost of turning it into a football ground. The hope was that future profits would repay the loan and more. That loan has since been ‘impaired’ and the council’s finance director estimates its current value as zero. It will almost certainly never be repaid.

Adding insult to injury, a multi-millionaire owned football club, playing in the world’s richest league, is having its business rates paid by taxpayers too.

UPDATE

One of the supposed benefits of Newham ‘investing’ in the stadium was the prospect of jobs for local residents. ‘Up to 75%’ of new jobs created would go to local people, they mayor claimed.

A recent FOI response shows what a dismal failure this has been (percentages added):

The total number of jobs created at the stadium currently is 1,531 jobs. The number of Newham residents employed on full time contracts is 15 out of 70 jobs (21.4%) and the number of Newham residents employed on casual contracts is 469 out of 1,461 jobs (32.1%).

15 full-time jobs and 469 casual jobs. For £40 million.

Resigning matters

25 Sep

Forest Gate North councillor Rachel Tripp has resigned from cabinet.

Speaking to the Newham Recorder, she said:

“As Robin knows, I have been unhappy for some time about our direction of travel as a council on specific issues. Despite the fact that I have hugely enjoyed my cabinet work in both equalities and the small business programme, I have decided to stand down.

“I remain fully committed to working as a local councillor in the very best interests of the residents and everyone else in the wonderful place that is Forest Gate North as well as wider Newham.”

Resigning on a matter of principle: I can’t remember anyone doing this before in Newham, at least not in the Wales era.

It would have been so much easier for Cllr Tripp to sit back, shut up and collect the cash, as others have done (and many still do). This is a brave and principled decision.