Tag Archives: newham

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.

Election 2017 – your candidates

12 May

The lists of candidates standing in the general election for the two Newham constituencies have been published.

East Ham

  • Choudhry Afzal – Friends Party
  • Kirsty Finlayson – Conservative
  • Chidi Oti-Obihara – Green Party
  • Daniel Oxley – UKIP
  • Stephen Timms – Labour
  • Glanville Williams – Liberal Democrats
  • Mirza Zillur Rahman – Independent

West Ham

  • Rosamund Beattie – UKIP
  • Lyn Brown – Labour
  • Paul Reynolds – Liberal Democrats
  • Kayode Shedowo – Christian Peoples Alliance
  • Patrick Spencer – Conservative
  • Michael Spracklin – Green Party

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.

 

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Broken promise

4 Apr

Screenshot 2017 04 04 17 10 06

The mayor’s 2014 manifesto

The Newham Recorder reports:

Free school meals for some primary school children in Newham could be under threat, a headteachers’ union has warned.

In a letter sent out on behalf of the Newham branch of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) on Friday, parents were told “rising costs and a frozen budget mean tough decisions will have to be taken”.

Union officials wrote that the ‘Eat for Free’ programme was “unsustainable” in part due to a new “transparent” funding formula from the council – calculated on the number of children and meals served – asking schools to foot 60pc of the bill moving forwards.

“Schools will not be able to continue to provide free meals for all junior aged pupils unless the national funding picture changes, or the mayor decides to fully fund his initiative,” the letter stated.

The story quotes Forest Gate South councillor Dianne Walls, a former local primary school headteacher, expressing surprise “as a member of the council” that schools were being asked to pay anything at all.

Councillors kept in the dark, promises broken. I am shocked. Shocked.

Spin City

15 Mar

Mayoral ally and ‘full-time’ councillor Clive Furness has circulated his Councillor’s Report for March to local members in Canning Town North. The headline item is the recent expulsion/long-term suspension of Cllr Obaid Khan.

After rehashing the Labour group statement he has a pop at his former friend and colleague:

He has begun a disinformation campaign supported by several councillors and members in which he claims to be the victim. We should have been put on notice after the last council elections when he was arrested for fighting with opposition members at the polling station.

That’s not quite how things went down at the time, when Khan was treated as something of a hero.

Sir Robin personally bought him a new shirt to replace the one that got ripped in the fight, which he presented at the Labour victory party after Khan had been released from police cells. The mayor praised him mightily for his commitment to the cause.

And who was it, just a few weeks later, that held the mayor back during his infamous confrontation with the Focus E15 mums at the Newham Show, saving him from making a bad situation much worse? Cllr Obaid Khan.

Even by Newham Labour standards, this is an outrageous bit of spin.

Furness rounds out his section on councillor misconduct by stating with a completely straight face (link added):

Two councillors remain suspended, one pending the outcome of criminal proceedings and one awaiting action from the [National Constitutional Committee].

I wonder how he will attempt to distance himself and Sir Robin from these two when the time comes.

Co-op cock-up

10 Mar

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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.

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.