Tag Archives: East Ham

Better late than never

5 Jun

Six months after I submitted it, my FOI request on the East Ham Town Hall fiasco has finally been answered.

Here’s what they had to say, with my original questions and some additional commentary:

1. [Could you please tell me] Why item 11, East Ham Town Hall Campus Update, for the cabinet meeting held on 17th July 2014 was withdrawn? 

Response – The report to Cabinet was withdrawn in July 2014 to allow for all required information to be obtained and collated. 

Comment: This response suggests the problems were known about – if not yet quantified – at least as early as July 2014, but the September cabinet meeting was the first time elected members were told. Does this square with the mayor’s repeated assertion that action was taken as soon as the problems came to light?

2. Is there a steering committee for the East Ham Town Hall Campus (EHTHC) redevelopment project, as there is for the re-build of the Atherton Centre in Forest Gate?

Response – An East Ham Campus Programme Board was established in November 2014 and they convene on a monthly basis. Prior to this Board being established it was simply called a programme board. 

Comment: The only difference appears to be the capitalisation in the name. When was the (lower case) programme board established?

3. If so, please provide a list of all current and past members of the EHTHC steering committee, the organisations they represent and the dates of their membership. Where members are council officers, please state the department or directorate for which they work.

Response – All members of the Programme Board are LBN officers. The Chief Executive chairs the meeting and representatives from the following services are members of the Board:

  • Kim Bromley-Derry – Chief Executive
James Thomas – Director of Commissioning (Children’s Services)
Siobhan Fry – Principal Lawyer

  • Paul Durrant – Senior Business Partner Strategic Commissioning and Community

  • Deborah Hindson – One source MD

  • Mark Butler – Director of Asset Management Services

  • Gary Bird – Interim Head of Communications 

Comment: That’s the current membership; who was on the original board? In evidence to Overview and Scrutiny (OSC) Kim Bromley-Derry insisted no membership list was kept. This answer is consistent with that, but I remain sceptical.

4. Please provide a list of dates of meetings of the steering committee, along with copies of agendas and minutes. 

Response – Please find attached the following: 

  • 12th November 2014: Agenda states 10th November but held on 12th 
  • 25th November 2014
1st December 2014

  • 12th January 2015 
9th February 2015: No agenda was despatched for this meeting 
  • 16th March 2015 

Please note that the name of a junior officer has been redacted.

Comment: Again, these are meetings of the new (upper case) Programme Board. Kim Bromley-Derry said at OSC no minutes were kept of the old board. But reports submitted to it were used to compile the report Cabinet received at their September meeting, so there was some documentation. Perhaps OSC should ask to see it.

5. What project management framework does Newham work within? (e.g. PRINCE2, PMBOK, etc.) 

Response – Newham Council has recently developed a new Project management methodology called MAPP (Managing and Achieving Programmes and Projects) which is embedded in an automated ICT solution called Verto. This work has evolved into the implementation of a corporate PMO. MAPP methodology and Verto system are mandatory to use in every new project at Newham. 

Comment: The clear implication here is that Newham had NO project management framework in place until now. This is truly shocking.

6. Please provide a copy of the project charter and the project initiation document (or their equivalents in the project management framework you use) for the EHTHC redevelopment project 

Response – As this project was initiated before the introduction of MAPP, these documents are not available. 

Comment: To someone who has worked in public sector project management this is simply unbelievable.

7. Which mayoral advisor’s portfolio currently includes oversight of the EHTHC project? 

Response – As this project crosses over a number of portfolios, Sir Robin Wales and Councillor Lester Hudson have oversight.

8. Which mayoral advisor’s portfolio included oversight of the EHTHC project prior to the election in May 2014? 

Response – Councillor Conor McAuley. 

Comment: This will be news to Cllr McAuley. He gave evidence to OSC in March that his involvement was limited to shepherding the initial phase through the planning process. After that responsibility passed to Lester Hudson and Andrew Baikie. 

9. Which of the council’s scrutiny committees has oversight of major building and 
redevelopment projects such the EHTHC and Atherton Centre?

Response – This is dependant on the nature of the scrutiny being undertaken but it is likely that Building Projects would come under Regeneration Scrutiny Commission. However, the work plans of all Scrutiny Commissions are approved by the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny who can determine which commission is most appropriate including Overview and Scrutiny Commission. 

Comment: We know that OSC itself has taken an interest in East Ham Town Hall, but only after the problems were publicly revealed. They  have yet to publish their report, so we will have to wait and see what that has to say.

Election results – 2015

8 May

East Ham

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Stephen Creswell Timms Labour 40563 78%
Samir Jassal Conservative 6311 12%
Daniel Charles Oxley UKIP 2622 5%
Tamsin Julia Mucha Omond Green 1299 2%
David Thorpe Liberal Democrat 856 2%
Mohammed Farid Aslam Communities United 409 1%
Lois Austin TUSC 230 0%


West Ham

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Lyn Carol Brown Labour 36132 68%
Festus Akinbusoye Conservative 8146 15%
Jamie Ross McKenzie UKIP 3950 7%
Rachel Anne Collinson Green 2651 5%
Paul Reynolds Liberal Democrat 1430 3%
Andy Uzoka Christian Peoples All. 369 1%
Cydatty Bogie Communities United 115 0%


Stratford & New Town – council by-election

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Charlene McLean Labour 4607 57%
Matthew Gass Conservative 1778 22%
Isabelle Clare Anderson Green 1170 14%
Jamie Ross McKenzie UKIP 403 5%
Joe Mettle Christian Peoples All. 99 1%
Bob Severn TUSC 70 1%


There’s really not a lot to say about any of this. The results were a forgone conclusion even before the candidates were formally announced, though Stephen Timms’ 78% share of the vote is certainly eye-catching. I doubt there’s another MP in the country with as much as that.

Charlene McLean was easily returned to the council, with what is now the highest personal vote of any member. Something she might mention to Sir Robin when she sees him at Labour group on Monday!

In West Ham Festus Akinbusoye, the Tory candidate, put up a decent show in what he knew was an unwinnable seat. I don’t share his politics, but I can’t help but wish him luck for the future. The Conservatives made a lot of fuss about the number of new BAME candidates they had selected, while neglecting to mention that they were all in hopeless seats. If there’s any justice central office will give him a crack at something better next time. Samir Jassal’s ‘Vote for Firstname Lastname’ blunder on his leaflets – which went viral and even appeared on Have I Got News for You – is unlikely to be looked on so kindly.

The Greens can be proud of their achievements too. A saved deposit in West Ham (by 12 votes – who says every vote doesn’t count?) and over 1,100 votes – a 14% share – in the Stratford by-election. Starting from a zero base in the ward that is impressive. 

There was some concern on Twitter this morning about UKIP coming third in both seats. Yes, they did. But it is a very, very distant third. The hard right continues – thankfully – to struggle in Newham.

Finally, as I predicted, the Liberal Democrats lost their deposits in both seats. Their failure to even put up a candidate for the council by-election shows they no longer have any real presence in Newham. Is that the sound of the world’s smallest violin I hear? 

Your 2015 candidates

10 Apr

Nominations closed yesterday for the general election and the council by-election in Stratford and New Town ward. Here’s a list of the candidates standing:

By-election – Stratford & New Town

  • Isabelle Anderson, the Green Party
  • Matthew Gass, the Conservative Party
  • Jamie McKenzie, UKIP
  • Charlene McLean, Labour Party
  • Joe Mettle, Christian Peoples Alliance
  • Bob Severn, Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition

General election – East Ham

  • Mohammed Aslam, Communities United Party
  • Lois Austin, Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition
  • Samir Jassal, the Conservative Party
  • Tamsin Omond, the Green Party
  • Daniel Oxley, UKIP
  • David Thorpe, Liberal Democrats
  • Stephen Timms, Labour Party

General Election – West Ham

  • Festus Akinbusoye, the Conservative Party
  • Cydatty Bogie, Communities United Party
  • Lyn Brown, Labour Party
  • Jamie McKenzie, UKIP
  • Rachel Collinson, the Green Party
  • Paul Reynolds, Liberal Democrats
  • Andy Uzoka, Christian Peoples Alliance 

At last May’s election Stratford voters had a three-way choice between Labour, the Tories and the Christians. This time there are three new options – Green, UKIP and TUSC – though it won’t make much difference to the outcome. And it says something about the enfeebled state of the Liberal Democrats in Newham that they couldn’t find a single person willing even to put their name on the ballot paper.

Voters have a similarly broad choice in the general election but the results are a foregone conclusion. The only thing worth noting is the presence of a Communities United candidate in each seat. The jailing of their leader last year is obviously no deterrent to throwing away £1000 on two lost deposits. Kamran Malik has removed himself from the scene of the crime. He is standing Brent Central.

General election update

7 Apr

GE2015 predictions

The brainiacs at FiveThirtyEight.com have come up with constituency-by-constituency predictions for the UK general election.

Their prognostications for the two Newham seats make for predictable reading. I doubt it took them very long to come to forecast the winners or their overwhelming share of the vote.

If I had any quibble with their forecast, I’d say they have significantly over-estimated the likely Lib Dem scores. In my view, they’ll be lucky to save their deposits.

More scrutiny

25 Mar

I was live tweeting from the oversight and scrutiny commission meeting on the East Ham Town Hall campus and Newham 6th Form Collegiate last night.

You can read the stream, plus some additional commentary, on Storify.


23 Feb

Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre

Sir Robin explains to Newham 6th form Collegiate students how their education is at risk because someone ignored legal advice

Tomorrow evening the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee will begin to look at the East Ham Town Hall Campus and Newham 6th Form Collegiate fiascos.

The meeting is, appropriately enough, at East Ham Town Hall. It is open to the public and I’ll be going. [UPDATE: The venue has been changed – it’s now at the Old Town Hall in Stratford]

Councillors and independent members of the OSC have a wealth of material to work through and there are plenty of questions to ask, but if they are looking for a good place to start I’d recommend the PwC  ‘report in the public interest’, which was published on the Audit Commission website last month.

PwC – PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP – were appointed by the Audit Commission to audit the council’s accounts and as such have a duty

… under Section 8 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 and the Audit Commission Code of Audit Practice to bring attention to a number of governance weaknesses identified in respect of the London Borough of Newham’s East Ham Campus project.

The report details a number of failings, including

the fact that the various pieces of legal advice which were sought by the Council in relation to this issue, consistently stated that it was not within the Council’s power to establish the sixth form in its current form. However the legal advice was not followed nor escalated within the Council to the Section 151 Officer or Chief Executive. (emphasis added)

And, alarmingly, that

£10.3m of additional work to one contractor was awarded without following procurement rules and without Members approval.

I submitted an FOI request back in November about the overspend – before the illegality of the 6th form college became known. It was due for a response by 19th December. Newham have not replied and the request in now more than 2 months overdue.

Senior members of the council, the well-paid mayoral advisors and cabinet members who should have been paying attention and weren’t, have consistently claimed this is all the fault of officers; it’s nothing to do with them. I don’t believe that. In Newham no-one farts without the mayor’s permission. That a building project could overspend by £10 million AND a 6th form centre be opened illegally without him and his cronies knowing defies belief.

If Overview and Scrutiny are doing their job properly they’ll be asking who knew what and when they knew it. Officers have lost their jobs over this; it’s high time elected members were held properly to account.

Brass neck

12 Dec

The Newham Recorder has finally got round to reporting on the Newham Collegiate 6th Form and East Ham Town Hall debacle.

And entirely predictably it has regurgitated the mayor’s line that this is all the fault of officers.

It even has a quote from Lester ‘3 jobs’ Hudson: 

“There has been a complete and utter failure by senior officers in the governance process in this project.”

That’s some brass neck you’ve got there, Lester!

Are we really expected to believe that governance has nothing to do with elected members? That the executive mayor, his cabinet lead for finance and chair of the audit board have no responsibility for ensuring that major spending projects are running to budget, or that the authority pays heed to leading counsel’s advice on the legal status of a new school?

The supine and pointless Recorder obviously does. 

If our deputy mayor were being honest he’d have said “There has been a complete and utter failure by elected members to do the jobs residents elected them to do and for which they receive extremely generous allowances.”

That would be swiftly followed by the words “I am very sorry and I resign.”

Monumental incompetence

2 Dec

Lester Hudson: too busy eating cake to notice a £9.8 million overspend

At the cabinet meeting held on Thursday 25th September 2014 the mayor and his advisors received a report on progress with the redevelopment of the East Ham Town Hall campus.

The report stated that additional funding of £9.8 million would be required and that

“there has been a clear breakdown in Governance and reporting procedures for this project, hence these issues have not been properly reported to the Mayor and Cabinet previously.”

Now cabinet has been summoned for an emergency meeting to consider the fall out from the investigation into what went wrong.

That includes the ‘discovery’ that the council opened a new 6th form college without any legal authority and has, therefore, acted unlawfully.

The investigation reveals both systemic incompetence and an extraordinary laxity in project governance:

One problem is that the programme board overseeing the East Ham Campus works appears to have changed into a project board focusing solely on the delivery of the Sixth Form element of the Programme. This shift was not discussed, or approved by any of the Council’s Statutory Officers…

… financial matters across the whole Programme were not discussed at project board meetings. The Board became concerned only with the September 2014 opening of the sixth form centre. Officers assumed its role was to oversee the correct fit out, the appointment of staff, communications etc. and it is clear that cost reports were never submitted to the Board.

… There were no terms of reference or oversight of the whole project.

… Minutes of the project board were taken by a member of the Programme Team, meaning there was a possible conflict of interest and reducing the impartiality of minute taking.

… [Cost and budget management] is the monitoring of actual expenditure, committed expenditure and forecast expenditure to project completion, against the approved budget. On reviewing the documents it is apparent that this has been at best poor or non-existent.

… Not only was there no cost reporting until March 2014, the reports produced do not show all necessary information, in that they do not differentiate between actual and committed expenditure, nor is there a detailed breakdown of works.

… It appears that arrangements for Contract compensation events (these are similar to contract variations) were agreed on an informal basis. An automated system was in place with thresholds for authorisation that did not align with the Council’s authorisation limits and there were inadequate controls or documentation within the Programme for compensation events exceeding authorised limits.

… There were a number of compensation events that were found on the application system which were over £100,000, and above officer delegated authority levels.

… Formal contractual arrangements for the Sixth Form project were never entered into by Officers… the builder was requested to provide a price for the Sixth Form. No report was not submitted to the Mayor, Members or Statutory Officers and, in addition, the Council’s procurement rules were not followed. [see note below – MW]

… There was no sponsorship or Programme Board for the East Ham Campus works since spring 2013. This meant that progress in terms of delivery (time and budget) of the East Ham Campus works as a whole was not challenged or scrutinised by the Programme Board for a period of at least six months.

And on and on (and on) it goes. Page after page of toe-curling detail.

So far three officers have lost their jobs over this, including the executive director for Resources and Commercial Development and the director of Legal Services and Governance. More will follow.

But what about the well remunerated cabinet members who should have been keeping an eye the project: how were these failures not spotted? Why were questions not asked?

Whose portfolios included oversight for the East Ham Town Hall development and the opening of the new 6th form college? Who among our elected representatives is ultimately accountable?

As Sir Robin has thus far declined to publish details of what his army of ‘mayoral advisors’ are supposed to be doing, beyond vague job titles, we can only guess. 

Deputy mayor Lester Hudson double-jobs as the cabinet member for finance and regeneration. He previously also had ‘Property and Assets’ in his portfolio. If his job title actually meant anything you’d expect him to have taken at least a passing interest in what was going on.

That he didn’t either means his job is meaningless or he’s monumentally incompetent. Either way, if he had a shred of decency, he’d be drafting his resignations from both cabinet and council.

Note: As the cabinet report points out, “It should be made explicitly clear that the liability for the failures in establishing adequate or compliant contractual arrangements rests entirely with the Council and there is therefore no evidence of poor practice or impropriety on the part of the Contractors.”

Without authority

27 Nov

From the cabinet papers for next week’s meeting:

it is apparent from the investigations led by the Chief Executive [into the East Ham Town Hall overspend and reporting failures – MW] that the Newham 6th Form Collegiate was opened without any officer delegated decision notice being prepared as expected under recommendation 5 of the Cabinet decision of 21st February 2013, and that therefore the decision was not properly implemented in accordance with Council procedures.

Further it is also apparent from an investigation into the handling of Legal advice during the development of proposals for the Newham 6th Form Collegiate that the Council has no specific statutory powers to open a Centre without formal public consultation.

Legal advice obtained by the Chief Executive from leading Counsel also indicates that the Council does not have the power to establish a 6th Form under the current statutory framework. 

Coupled with an overspend of £9.8 million on the re-building and the failure of elected members to even notice this, the whole East Ham Town Hall Campus project looks like a cock-up of monumental proportions!

Next year’s council election results today

8 Jul

This is the full list of Labour party candidates selected this weekend to fight next year’s local elections. Given the electoral history of the borough, the vast majority of these people – and probably all of them – will be elected as Newham councillors on May 22nd 2014:

Beckton: David Christie, Ayesha Chowdhury, Alec Kellaway

Canning Town North: Ann Easter, Kay Scoresby, Clive Furness

Canning Town South: Sheila Thomas, Alan Griffiths, Bryan Collier

Custom House: Pat Holland, Rokhsana Fiaz, Conor McAuley

East Ham Central: Unmesh Desai, Ian Corbett, Julianne Marriott

East Ham North: Paul Sathianesan, Zuber Gulamussen, Firoza Nekiwala

East Ham South: Quintin Peppiatt, Lakmini Shah, Susan Masters

Forest Gate North: Ellie Robinson, Seyi Akiwowo, Rachel Tripp

Forest Gate South: Mas Patel, Winston Vaughan, Dianne Walls

Green Street East: Jose Alexander, Rohima Rahman, Mukesh Patel

Green Street West: Hanif Abdulmuhit, Tahmina Rahman, Idris Ibrahim

Little Ilford: Andrew Baikie, Farah Nazeer, Ken Clark

Manor Park: Amarjit Singh, Jo Corbett, Salim Patel

Plaistow North: Forhad Hussain, Joy Laguda, James Beckles

Plaistow South: Gordon Mackinnon-Miller, Aleen Alarice, Neil Wilson

Royal Docks: Steve Brayshaw, Anthony McAlmont, Pat Murphy

Stratford: Richard Crawford, Terry Paul, Charlene McLean

Wall End: Lester Hudson, Ted Sparrowhawk, Frances Clarke

West Ham: John Gray, John Whitworth, Freda Bourne

Boleyn ward has not yet been able to select its candidates due to a dispute with East Ham CLP. The ward party was unexpectedly suspended last week, despite this being the sole prerogative of the national executive. So expect any of Sir Robin’s favourites who failed to make it in the other 19 wards to be imposed on Boleyn.