Tag Archives: newham

Parklet life

17 Nov

Example of a parkelt in Walthamstow

By Lewis Godfrey

I’ve just come out of a really dispiriting meeting with Newham council, and I need to vent about it.

The Newham Community Assemblies allocate money to implement different projects, which are put forward by residents. You can read more about them here.

Being reasonably civic-minded, I volunteered to sit on the Green St Community Assembly working group, the role of which is to scrutinise the projects and how they are implemented.

These projects were voted on by local residents. One of the most popular projects in Green St, where I live, is a project to deliver “pocket parks”, or parklets. You can read about it here if you like.

This looks like a fantastic idea doesn’t it? The London Parklets campaign would of course approve.

So what’s happened? Well, despite the public support for the pocket parks, Newham Council has got involved and watered down the initial proposal. Now instead of replacing car parking, the Green St parklets, so the proposal currently goes, will be put on the footway…

Huh. The initial proposal was fairly clear about where these pocket parks would be placed. Terms like “traffic calming” are used 5 or 6 times throughout the first bid. A second supplementary proposal talked about a need to mitigate rejections from motoring groups.

All of the working group understood that this proposal involved swapping car parking space for a pocket park. I assume most of the people who voted on this thought the same thing. 

Why’s this important? Well a few reasons. Firstly, Green St footways are BADLY congested at the best of times. This means that if you’re walking on Green St it can be impossible to socially distance (remember, Newham is one of the places most affected by Covid, and the pandemic hasn’t gone away. It might not for a while…). 

Secondly, a big reason to install parklets is to reduce the car parking available. You can ask The London Parklets campaign about this – reducing the parking available in an area cuts down on the amount of cars people in that area use. 

Reducing car usage is important in Newham, where a third of people get less than half-an-hour’s activity/ week, and which has the worst air quality of any place in the country.
Thirdly, the initial proposal was pretty clear that taking car parking space was the plan. Seems a bit…weird…dare I say…undemocratic… to change the proposal at the last minute…

So putting the parklet on the footway is a bad idea, I reckon. What’s more, doing so will affect other proposals to implement parklets. If I want to put a parklet in Canning Town, but somebody doesn’t like losing a car parking space, what’s to stop them pointing to Green St and demanding one goes on the pavement? It sets a really unhelpful precedent.

So…hmmm. At the meeting we just had about these issues, I asked why the proposal had been watered down. Well look, I won’t tell you exactly what was said, but the gist of it is that some people “may object”…

Of course, the working group knew people may object already, because the initial proposal had described ways of mitigating these objections, as discussed.

So where does that leave us? Well, not in a great place. The plan is currently to still take space from the existing public footway. Meanwhile, “people who may object”, who may well not live in Green St, are given a working veto over what people who do actually live in Green St get to do with our roads.

I’m very sad about this. The community assemblies were a way for residents to come up with cool projects, which tackled things like our lack of green space in innovative ways. But it seems that the things residents came up with were too radical.

If Newham Council shows guts, this project could still be a radical, exciting way of reimagining our street space. But I’m worried that the plans will be scuppered by a small, undemocratic group of very loud, very angry people. Let’s hope that Newham sees sense, and implements the project as initially proposed.

This post was originally a thread on Twitter. Reproduced here by permission.

Pass Notes: the Newham Referendum

27 Apr

Newham Voting for Change leaflets

So what’s this referendum all about then?

This is it – the referendum promised by Rokhsana Fiaz when she was elected in 2018, on the future of Newham governance – basically, who has the power and who makes the decisions. The options on the ballot on 6 May 2021 will be the Directly Elected Mayor (what we have now) and the committee system (a different model).

Oh yes. I’ve seen the garish yellow leaflets. Is it true that if I vote for the committee structure, parking charges will be abolished, council tax will be cut, diamonds will rain from the sky, and every Newham resident will get a free pony?

Don’t count on it. The referendum is about governance structures – the way that the council works and decides things – not policy, which is decided by the majority party elected. Look out for Newham Voting for Change’s materials (see above), which take a less Nigel Farage-style approach.

So how do I get a free pony?

When the Free Pony Party gain a majority of seats on Newham council; so not any time soon, I’m afraid.

So if it’s not about parking charges what’s in it for me?

It’s about having a council where power is more diversified – at the moment the Mayor has full executive power in Newham Council, but with the committee system it would be shared between all 60 councillors.

How does that work?

Newham Council has published the plan for the initial set-up. There will be four committees covering Children and Education, Environment and Transport, Economy and Housing, and Adults and Health, plus a Policy and Resources committee which has general oversight – for the corporate plan and the council’s budget, for example.

So who would be in charge?

The council would still elect a leader, but they wouldn’t have the vast executive power of the current Mayor.

Sounds interesting. Do any other councils work like that?

An increasing number. And on 6 May Sheffield are also holding a referendum on moving to the committee structure. There’s more information on the website of Newham Voting for Change, the campaign for the committee structure. 

Do they make the yellow leaflets?

No – their leaflets are purple, and deal with the actual governance issues we’ll be voting on: who has the power, and how decisions are made.

Why are there multiple campaigns?

Newham Voting for Change was set up last year by residents and councillors who’ve supported a more open system for a long time. The ‘yellow leaflet’ campaign are less transparent about who’s involved, but seem to be connected to Newham Democracy, who earlier this year unsuccessfully sued the council to take the committee structure off the referendum ballot paper.

Wait – so they were against the committee structure then, but now they’re saying it will bring about an earthly paradise?

Welcome to Newham politics. They also seem to spend a lot of time on twitter arguing about which of their accounts is the official one.

And what about the other side in the campaign?

Newham Right to Vote are campaigning to keep the Mayoral system, arguing that residents need a right to vote for the person who’s in charge.

But under the committee structure the councillors would have more power, and we vote for them, right?

Exactly.

Do say:

The committee structure is a more open, representative, co-operative and accountable way of doing things. Vote for change on 6 May!

Don’t say:

£350 million a week for free parking.

A day to shape Newham’s future

23 Mar

Newham Voices  May 6th by John Whitworth

West Ham councillor John Whitworth on why residents should vote for the committee model in the upcoming governance referendum:

May 6th is the date, not only for the election of the London Mayor and Greater London Assembly Member, but also for the important Newham Governance Referendum. This comes 20 years after this borough voted to have one of the country’s first Directly-Elected Mayors in a referendum which was perhaps not widely nor fully understood. Newham was one of only 11 authorities which voted to adopt the Mayor model and there are currently just 15, with many more referendums proposing a Mayor being lost than won. Since 2002, the voters of Stoke-on-Trent, Hartlepool and Torbay have opted to abandon the Mayor model they had previously adopted, two for the Leader and Cabinet and one for the Committee model.

Sir Robin Wales, elected Mayor of Newham in 2002, remained in office until he was defeated by Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz in the selection for the Labour Party’s Mayoral candidate in 2018. Of those who believed this model would work better with Cllr Fiaz in the post, many also felt that the DEM model was in any case flawed. She expressed the view that this model had not worked well for Newham and pledged, if elected, to hold a referendum on its future by May 2021.

How the full powers of the Mayor are used depends greatly on the incumbent’s character but, according to the Local Government Act 2000, the Mayor – elected separately from the councillors and therefore of higher status – appoints and dismisses Cabinet members. Stemming from this authority, the Mayor is able to ensure the Cabinet’s assent and exercise considerable influence over the councillors belonging to the dominant party.

In contrast, under the Committee model the Council delegates decision-making powers to committees corresponding to Council directorates, such as Adults & Health and Inclusive Economy & Housing. Full Council elects the chairs of these committees and the Council Leader, and has direct responsibility for the overall policy framework and the budget.

The campaign group, Newham Voting for Change, believes that the Committee system is more democratic, equal and inclusive than the DEM system because all councillors participate in making policy. Working in committees encourages co-operation rather than division, talent is nurtured and expertise developed more productively, and all councillors are more accessible and accountable for the Council’s actions.

Residents will hopefully participate in the referendum in large numbers to play a role in shaping Newham’s future.

The article originally appeared in Newham Voices, a new independent community newspaper distributed around the borough.

For more information about the campaign for a committee system, check out the website at https://newhamforchange.org/ or ‘like’ the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/newhamvotingforchange.

The campaign is also raising funds and you can donate at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/newham-for-change

Voting for change – online meeting

3 Mar

Newham Voting for Change logo

Newham Voting for Change, the campaign for a committee structure is hosting an online public meeting on Zoom on Tuesday 9 March from 7-8pm. All welcome – we will be discussing the campaign and the advantages of the committee structure.

I will be chairing the meeting and speakers will be local activists involved in the campaign.

Register here!

Newham Voting for Change – launch event

3 Dec

Ballot box trans NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8

Newham Voting for Change, the campaign for the committee system in next May’s governance referendum, has announced its official launch event:

 

Join us on Zoom for a public online meeting to launch Newham Voting for Change – the campaign for a committee structure in Newham.

In May 2021 Newham will hold a referendum on how the local council is run. We are campaigning for the committee system, which is more

OPEN
REPRESENTATIVE
DEMOCRATIC
ACCOUNTABLE

We’ll be joined by:

  • Ruth Hubbard, Sheffield It’s Our City – Sheffield Council will also be holding a referendum on changing to a committee structure and Ruth will talk about the successes of the Sheffield campaign.
  • Cllr Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council (Lib Dems) – Ruth will talk about how Sutton Council works with the committee structure.
  • Cllr Andrew Ansell, Basildon Councillor (Labour) – Andrew will talk about how Basildon Council operates day to day with a committee system in place.
  • Speaker from the Tower Hamlets referendum campaign – TBC.

Chair: Josephine Grahl, Newham Voting for Change

All welcome | Tuesday 8th December | 7-8pm

Register for the meeting on Zoom

 

Voting for Change

28 Oct

FullColor 1280x1024 72dpi

Following a decision by Newham Council last Wednesday, the residents of Newham will have the opportunity to make a democratic decision about how they are governed, in the long-awaited referendum on local government.

The referendum will take place on 6th May 2021, at the same time as the London Assembly and London Mayor elections. The question on the ballot will ask Newham voters to choose between a council run by an executive Mayor and a cabinet, or a committee system made up of committees of elected councillors. This is a genuine choice between an executive model, in which decisions are made by the Mayor and a small group of councillors who make up the Cabinet, and a real alternative where all decisions are agreed by committees made up of elected councillors.

A campaign in favour of the committee system has already been launched. Newham Voting for Change is made up of Newham residents and councillors.

In a statement the group said that it welcomes the council’s decision that the choice on the ballot paper will be between the Mayoral model and the committee system.

Speaking for Newham Voting for Change, Cllr John Whitworth said: “The Mayor promised this referendum as part of her manifesto in 2018 and we’re very pleased that the date and the ballot question have now been confirmed. Newham voters will get a meaningful choice between the current system and a more open, inclusive and democratic system in which all councillors get a say in determining Council policy.”

Another spokesperson for the campaign, Josephine Grahl, said: “We set up Newham Voting for Change to make the positive arguments for the committee system: a co-operative, democratic system which gives a stronger voice to the elected councillors and residents of Newham. This is a real alternative to the Mayoral model and we hope Newham residents will support our campaign.”

The campaign has set up a website, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page.

It will come as no great surprise to regular readers of this blog but, in the interests of disclosure and transparency, I am supporting Newham Voting for Change.

By-election. But not yet.

26 Aug

Julainanne Marriott

Julianne Marriott (left) in her role as education lead

Julianne Marriott has resigned as a councillor for East Ham Central ward. She had announced at a meeting of the Council July that she was standing down as Cabinet member for Education and is now leaving the council altogether.

If a by-election is called to replace her it won’t take place until 6th May 2021, in accordance with the current Coronavirus regulations. So there’s plenty of time for Newham’s political parties to pick their candidates!

Ms Marriott was first elected in 2014 and was re-elected 2018. She will now be devoting herself to a new full-time job. My understanding is that her new role is not politically restricted, so there was no legal requirement for her to resign. She could have sat quietly on the back benches until the next election, collecting the £11,000 a year allowance. That she chose not to is entirely to her credit.

In a farewell note to colleagues she said (emphasis added)

Representing the people of East Ham Central and being part of Newham Council for six years has been an amazing experience and one that I’ve learned so much from. I will forever be a cheerleader for Newham and the role of local government. I can only hope that this Tory Government learns to feel the same way.

The Tories have systematically underfunded and undermined local government over the last 10 years and has now left us with an over £33m bill for supporting our most vulnerable residents through Covid-19. I can only sign off with the exhortation that there is a real enemy out there – and it’s one we need to focus our energy on fighting.

i look forward to seeing you on the doorstep as part of our journey to getting the Labour government Newham’s residents need.

Notice of a casual vacancy has been posted on the council website.

One man, four parties

16 Apr

Albdul Karim Sheikh

Former councillor Abdul Karim Sheikh

Tributes were paid this week to Abdul Karim Sheikh, former councillor and ceremonial mayor of Newham, who has sadly passed away at the age of 82 having contracted Covid-19.

On Twitter Newham Jack (who he?) asked ‘Is he the only person to have stood for election in Newham representing four different political parties?’

While I don’t know the answer to that I can confirm his political career did indeed span standing for four very different parties.

He first stood for the council in Plashet ward in 1986 for the Independent Newham Broad Alliance. He finished in last place with 401 votes.

By 1990 he had joined Labour and was selected to contest Kensington ward, where he romped home with a majority of 1,300. He switched to St Stephens ward in 1994, winning re-election easily. In 1998 he was selected for Upton ward; as no other party put up a candidate the Labour slate was returned unopposed.

2002 saw him stand for the last time on the Labour ticket, this time in Green Street West. He defected to Respect in 2005. 

In an interview with Socialist Worker he explained

The new system of a directly elected mayor, brought in four years ago, has changed the council into a dictatorship. The mayor, Robin Wales, was originally against the mayor plan, but changed his mind after the referendum.

I left the Labour Party and joined Respect last year, partly because I felt councillors were no longer listened to.

The system takes power away from even elected members of the council. That’s why Respect is talking about trying to reverse this system.

Cllr Sheikh was narrowly re-elected in Green Street West for his new party in 2006 alongside Hanif Abdulmuhit, who has since returned to the Labour Party.

He left the council in 2010 after Respect were heavily defeated.

2014 saw him try again in Green Street West. This time for the Conservatives. He was unsuccessful, trailing the winning Labour candidates by more than 1,500 votes. He contested the 2018 election for the Tories again and, completing the circle started 32 years before, he came last.

One man, four parties. Perhaps a unique contribution to local politics.

Maryland Point

30 Oct

Map of proposed Maryland ward

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has published its draft proposal for re-warding Newham and it represents a major victory for local campaigners in Maryland. They argued that their community deserved direct representation on the council and the Commission agreed.

When I wrote about the council’s own proposals I expected them to be accepted. I was mostly right – but also quite wrong.

The Boundary Commission has adopted the majority of Newham’s recommendations, but re-drawn the map in the north of the borough to accommodate a new Maryland ward, which extends from Leyton Road in the west to Field Road in the east and takes in the roads around UEL’s Stratford campus in the south. If adopted, it will elect three councillors.

As a result three other wards have significant changes. The proposed Stratford East Village ward is now smaller and renamed Olympic East Village; it will have two councillors. Forest Gate North is also smaller, having lost almost all of the streets off Forest Lane west of the community school. But it gains the parts of the Woodgrange Estate that currently sit in Forest Gate South. The redrawn FGN will elect two councillors. Forest Gate South, shorn of the Woodgrange Estate, the area around the UEL and streets west of Water Lane, is also reduced to two councillors.

Stratford Olympic Park ward will simply be known as Stratford.

For what it’s worth, I think the boundary between the proposed new ward and Forest Gate North is absurd. Even if you accept that Maryland is a distinct community (I am personally unconvinced) there is no way it extends almost the entire length of Forest Lane. A more sensible boundary would be the western edge of Forest Lane Park and the cemetery.

Policies for a Labour London

16 Oct

Lyn Borwn delivers the keynote address

Keynote speech by Lyn Brown MP at Newham Fabians’ conference, Policies for a Labour London, on Saturday 12 October 2019

I’d like to thank Anita and Newham Fabians for the invitation and everyone for coming to this event today. I’m so grateful to have an opportunity to take part in this discussion about how our Labour policies can help Londoners and our communities thrive.

As most of you will I hope know I work in the Shadow Treasury team with the fabulous John McDonnell. What I do is social justice and equality.

In London, we see the consequences of inequality and injustice every day. Newham has the worst homelessness in thecountry and shocking numbers of vulnerable people having to sleep rough.

The most vulnerable have been denied a home by the housing crisis. Denied the other support they deserve because of cuts to all of our services and ended up on our street where all their problems can only be exacerbated.

They shouldn’t have to rely on charity to get their lives back. We know only well-funded, totally focused Government action can do that. The kind of action that saw rough sleeping reduced by two-thirds under the last Labour Government[1].

Newham has the highest level of homelessness[2], and appallingly we have the second highest child poverty rate in the country as well. Half our Newham children lived in poverty last year[3]. Half. London as a whole has the highest child poverty rate of any region[4].

And we know what that means – debts and stress over bills that can’t be paid, and rocketing numbers of children homeless in dire temporary accommodation.

Because the rent simply isn’t affordable, social housing is almost non-existent after decades of unreplaced sell-offs, and after Tory cuts, housing benefit simply doesn’t fill the gap.

Dreams are stifled, enormous promise in our community goes unrecognised and unfulfilled, gaping inequalities of class, race, gender, and disability widen.

Worst of all, it means children destitute, going hungry. Last year, you might remember, the headteacher of a primary school in Maryland, just round the corner, she discovered a mum sleeping with her children, in the back alley, behind some bins.

Just a few months later at a visit to a local school, I stupidly remarked to a little girl whose plate was piled high with food ‘that’s a lot of food for such a small person’. She beamed at me and said ‘yes I know, it’s not my turn to eat tonight’.

It’s an utter disgrace that this ever happens in the fifth richest country in the world. But it was quite clear from that conversation that not being able to eat wasn’t a rare event for that little girl, and probably wasn’t a rare event for her friends either.

Because she said it to me, so easily to me, so casually. It had become her normal, and I suspect her friends’ normal as well.

As Labour members, we know poverty and inequality are linked. London doesn’t just have the highest poverty rates, we have the highest inequality as well. 50% of London’s wealth is owned by the richest 10%. The poorest half of us own just 5% of the wealth.[5]

We see this every day. The extraordinary luxury and privilege of a few in the City, sitting cheek by jowl with the deprivation and social exclusion of many in the East End.

In the last year I’ve visited the sparkling new offices of the Financial Conduct Authority. I’ve been awed by some of the developments still going ahead in the Olympic Park, despite Brexit.

And I walk through the Stratford Centre so close by, where rough sleeping, gang exploitation, sexual violence and destitution are a daily reality. Where another young life was ended by violence on Thursday [10th October 2019].

I’ve visited our schools and colleges and been inspired again and again by the resilience and brilliance of our children, and I’ve held parents in my arms after their children have been violently taken from them.

I’ve heard the stories of so many families in my surgery –homeless, mistreated, denied the resources they need to live and the respect they deserve.

These social injustices aren’t equally distributed. Obviously in terms of class, and in terms of race as well. The in-work poverty rate for black British people is 27.5%, more than double that of the rest of the population. And black university graduates face an enormous pay gap because of discrimination and disadvantage: 23.1% less in earnings than their white fellow graduates.[6]

Racial wealth gaps are even wider. For every pound a white British family has in wealth on average, a Pakistani family has around 50p, a Black Caribbean family has around 20p, and Black African and Bangladeshi families both have around 10p.[7]

These social injustices are our challenge. We need to end them, and that’s what we’ll be fighting for in the coming election.

We desperately need to be rid of this Tory Government and keep City Hall Labour – we need Labour in Westminster, in our Councils and in every Combined Authority.

That way we can join up our work against social injustice and make it all the more powerful.

Not just the investment that Sadiq has put into youth services and community policing, but a nationwide youth service commitment and proper police funding across the country.

Because I want those bastards who run county lines and exploit our children caught, charged, and the key thrown away.

We can’t forget that the biggest impact of austerity is a failure to invest in our children and our future. It’s had very unequal, unfair impacts, and I’m afraid we won’t see the full damage for many years to come.

Towards the end of the last Labour Government, we were spending almost 6% of our GDP on publicly funded education and training. By last year, that had fallen to just over 4%—a cut of more than a quarter.

Given the challenges we face, we clearly need far more investment in skills and knowledge, to transform our economy with a green industrial revolution and make it more prosperous but also fairer.

Instead, as we know, during Tory rule school funding per pupil has fallen by 8% in real terms.

The consequences are glaringly obvious.

More than 1,000 schools nationally have had to rely on crowdfunding for basics such as pencils and textbooks.

At least 26 schools are closing their classrooms because they don’t have the money to keep teaching.

The proportion of pupils in supersized classes with more than 31 pupils to a single teacher is at its highest level for 36 years.

The number of pupils doing a GCSE in music has fallen by almost a quarter since 2010, just as industry is asking us for more creativity and collaboration in education, because those skills are needed.

Our further education providers have been cut even more: sixth forms by 21% and FE colleges by 8%.

The Social Mobility Commission found that 41% of FE providers had reduced their careers guidance and 48% their mental health support. I don’t think people get why that’s so important – for class equality, careers guidance is fundamental.

In its report, it also cited evidence that 51% of colleges had stopped teaching modern language courses. So much for a global Britain post-Brexit!

Some 38% of schools and colleges have dropped courses in science, technology, engineering and maths —the courses our economy needs to sustain our green industrial revolution. It’s jaw-dropping that schools and colleges have been forced into that.

We have a recruitment crisis in nursing after the Government scrapped bursaries, and frankly, because of Brexit.

We have a productivity crisis because the Government hasn’t invested in skills. People lucky enough to have a career are struggling to progress at work.

Adult education – so important now that people have to change careers —nobody goes into a job at 18 and stays till in it until they’re 67. But no: funding has been cut in adult education almost in half since 2009-10.  Apprenticeship spending has fallen by 44%.

The Open University, which has given a second chance to millions of people, is on its knees because of the Government’s tuition fees regime. Older and part-time learners are simply scared off by the level of debt they’re expected to take on if they want to improve their education or change their course in life.

That’s the situation across the board — cuts, cuts, cuts, and not investment.

What about early years? SureStart has been cut by two thirds since 2010. And 1,000 centres have closed. We know about the amazing benefits of Sure Start.

Just on one measure: Children are almost 20% less likely to be hospitalised by the age of 11 if their family has access to a Sure Start centre – that’s massive – and the most disadvantaged children benefit most.

The impact on the NHS alone of fewer children being hospitalised, is enough by itself to pay for 6% of Sure Start’s costs, and that’s just one impact among many.

The story is the same with youth centres, cut by 40% on average across the country and by as much as 91% in some places.

When investment in youth services is taken away, young people are far more likely to have their lives blighted and their potential wasted by becoming victims of exploitation.

Here in Newham, we know that only too well. Youth centres and youth workers provide young people with spaces away from the county lines groomers on our streets.

Places where young people know they can find an adult to talk to – somebody who can listen to their problems, offer them real resilience against the troubles on our streets and point them towards opportunity.

What is so essential is not the bat and ball and the table tennis in the youth club, but the adult standing on the other side of that table an adult they can trust who can give them different ways of dealing with the so-called ‘elder’ on the street, who grooms that child by offering them chicken to be a lookout for while he sells his drugs.

Good youth work stops children being groomed, stops children’s potential being wasted. We know it’s often the brightest most articulate children they pick on.

And we know those older teenagers seem to offer an alternative economic model.

I can see why that might be appealing, because those teenagers are watching their parents go to work for all the hours God sends and still unable to afford basics let alone luxuries.

The lower quartile rent on a two bed flat in Newham is dearer than the lower quartile earnings for Newham residents. Your whole pay packet in the lower quartile doesn’t cover the lower quartile of rent.

Our children know this is the reality for their parents – low wages, high rents. They live with the stress of poverty and their parents struggling to pay bills day in and day out. They are looking for alternatives.

But a good youth worker can help our young people understand the very dark places that the offer of food and friendship and that alternative economic model can lead to.

If we’d invested earlier, how many of the lives that’ve been blighted by county lines exploitation could have been saved?

We know investment in social infrastructure benefits not only the economy but our society in so many ways for decades into the future.

We don’t just need billions of pounds more investment in social infrastructure, but also to change the way Government works, at every level, so the investment we put in is focused on tackling social injustices, and is there for the long term.

It’s about making sure there are good Labour people in Downing Street AND in City Hall. It’s about giving Boroughs, Cities and towns the space to step up their work against social injustice by restoring and targeting central government funding. But it’s also about joining up our work – national, regional and local. That’s something I’m working on in John’s team.

We’re going to replace the Social Mobility Commission with a Social Justice Commission to investigate the fairness of our society across every policy area, and every kind of injustice: class, race, gender, disability, sexuality.

It has to be about creating fair opportunities for all. We don’t want a grammar school society where some get on and are lauded and applauded. But they have often got on because of luck – being in the right place at the right time. Tokenistic social mobility policies just aren’t enough.

We’ll match our new Commission with co-ordination on social justice across a Labour Government. We’ll have a Minister for Social Justice in our Treasury to drive forward our agenda. And we’ll ensure it’s matched with the levels of investment our communities need.

Cutting poverty and increasing life chances will be core goals. We’ll assess every policy to make sure it plays a part in cutting child poverty and creating a fairer society. We’ll look at new ways of tackling class discrimination and all other forms of inequality.

I believe the first step should be bringing the Socioeconomic Duty from the Equality Act into force. That would mean that every different part of Government – not just Whitehall Departments but councils, health authorities, schools, and the police. All of them will have a duty to consider the impact of their strategic decisions on working class people, and try to reduce socioeconomic inequality.

I’m also looking at the idea of class audits for large companies as well as the gender and race audits we’re already committed to. And we’re considering building protection against class discrimination into the Equality Act as well.

And finally, when it comes to social justice, we won’t mark our own homework; our policies and our statistics will be trustworthy because they’ll be checked from the outside. Part of this is the Social Justice Commission, but another bit could be the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The Tories have used the OBR to turn their budgets into carnivals of cuts. Every time there’s a Budget, the size of the public debt is all the media and unfortunately a lot of the public have talked about. Not the consequences of austerity plans for public services, for our community, for poverty and inequality.

But wouldn’t it be amazing if budgets weren’t just about the numbers – how much spending, how much growth, how much debt. But about how much poverty is being reduced, and how much fairer our society is becoming. 

If we made those changes we might find we don’t just have a better policy. We might have a better conversation where it’s easier to win over the people who matter as well: our voters, those people who are going to be determining our marginal seats.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they wanted to talk to us about progress on poverty, rather than repeating the kinds of lines that have come out of Tory Governments to shamelessly justify their fiscally failed and socially unjust austerity.

So, comrades, let’s been clear. Our economy does not work for the many in London. I often have to remind colleagues and activists from other places about the huge poverty and social problems we see here every day.

Because London and the South-East are always seen to be receiving more than our fair share from the public purse. And it’s true, we do get a lot of infrastructure investment.

There is regional inequality, and there is also enormous inequality and poverty within our big cities. Labour has to tackle both these problems, and we absolutely can if we work together across the country, and across every level of Government, for the many not the few. Solidarity. 

Footnotes & references:
[1] https://www.crisis.org.uk/media/239453/everybody_in_how_to_end_homelessness_in_great_britain_short_edition_2018.pdf
[2] https://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/newham-has-the-highest-number-of-homeless-people-in-england-1-5791719
[3] http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/poverty-in-your-area-2019/
[4] https://cpag.org.uk/child-poverty-london-facts
[5] https://www.trustforlondon.org.uk/data/wealth-distribution/
[6] https://www.jrf.org.uk/blog/we-must-turn-tide-inequality-all-our-children
[7] https://www.friendsprovidentfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Runnymede-report.pdf