Tag Archives: newham

Conference pairs

25 Sep

Jess Shawcroft Buxton 23 Sept 2018

West Ham CLP delegates posing with former NEC member Christine Shawcroft (picture via Newham Momentum)

It’s party conference time and it seems like half of Newham council has trekked up to Liverpool.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz had a prime slot to address conference on youth violence as a public health issue and various councillors have appeared on fringe platforms and in the media. Stratford’s Josh Garfield featured on BBC 2’s Victoria Derbyshire show and Canning Town councillor Rohit Dasgupta was interviewed on BBC Asian Network. East Ham North’s Daniel Blaney spoke at the Labour CND fringe meeting.

Other councillors attending either the official conference or Momentum’s parallel ‘The World Transformed’ gathering include James Beckles, Terry Paul, Susan Masters, John Gray, James Asser, Sasha Das Gupta, Shaban Mohammed, Hanif Abdulmuhit, Mohammed Muzibur Rahman and Suga Thekkeppurayil.

Despite the vast number of them, none of these councillors are actually delegates. West Ham CLP is represented by Tina Jess and Carel Buxton (pictured above), while East Ham has no official representation. It seems odd that a CLP for a seat with one of the largest Labour votes and majorities in the country doesn’t have a delegate. But that is a consequence of it being essentially non-functioning. Which is itself a consequence of Sir Robin’s approach to party management.

Hopefully, for the sake of ordinary party members, that is something that can quickly be put right.

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The casual vacancy

17 Sep

Grayee 2018 Sep 14

On Friday Boleyn ward councillor Veronica Oakeshott tweeted:

After three years as a Councillor I am stepping down today to move house, closer to my family. It has been a huge privilege to serve in Boleyn. Thank you Boleyn for your friendship – I’ll miss you!

Cllr Oakeshott won her seat in a by-election in 2015 following the death of Cllr Charity Fiberesima. She held it easily at the local elections in May.

During her time in office Cllr Oakeshott successfully campaigned to keep the Champions Statue in her ward and, less successfully, to ensure the council lived up to its promise that 35% of homes on the old West Ham stadium site would be ‘affordable’.

There will be a by-election to fill the ‘casual vacancy’, most likely in late October. Labour will, of course, hold the seat easily. The real interest will be in who is selected as the candidate.No names have emerged yet, but Momentum is already organising to ensure that it is one of their people.

UPDATE:

The date for the by-election has been set for Thursday 1 November. Boleyn ward will be holding its selection meeting on Tuesday 2 October. 

New parliamentary constituencies – again

10 Sep

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

As part of the government’s drive to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and make parliamentary constituencies more equally sized, the Boundary Commission has now published it’s final recommendations.

At the moment there are two seats in Newham – East Ham and West Ham. Each contains 10 of the 20 wards in the borough. But both seats are very large – in fact West Ham is the largest in London, with more than 80,000 voters. By contrast, the Kensington seat has only 55,000.

The Boundary Commission’s recommendation divides Newham between four seats, ripping apart West Ham and dividing it the bulk of it between three new constituencies. East Ham loses a couple of wards to a new seat, but gains Green Street West.

The exact make-up of the new constituencies, with wards, boroughs and current voters:

Poplar and Canning Town

Canning Town North Newham 8,333
Canning Town South Newham 8,543
Custom House Newham  6,971
Plaistow North Newham 8,215
Plaistow South Newham 8,290
Blackwall & Cubitt Town  Tower Hamlets 7,284  
Canary Wharf Tower Hamlets 6,517
Island Gardens Tower Hamlets 7,220
Lansbury Tower Hamlets 9,623
Limehouse Tower Hamlets 3,659
Poplar Tower Hamlets 3,418
  Total 78,073

East Ham

Boleyn Newham 8,696
East Ham Central Newham 8,867
East Ham North Newham 8,682
East Ham South Newham 8,347
Green Street East Newham 8,875
Green Street West Newham  8,752
Little Ilford Newham 8,873 
Manor Park Newham 8,636
Wall End Newham 8,418
  Total 78,146

Leyton and Stratford

Forest Gate North Newham 8,392
Forest Gate South Newham 8,862
Stratford & New Town Newham 12,471
West Ham Newham 8,073
Cann Hall Waltham Forest 6,921
Cathall  Waltham Forest 6,515 
Grove Green Waltham Forest 7,387
Leyton Waltham Forest 8,067 
Leytonstone Waltham Forest 7,691 
  Total 74,379

Barking and Beckton

Abbey  Barking & Dagenham 7,039 
Becontree Barking & Dagenham 7,631 
Eastbury  Barking & Dagenham 6,652 
Gascoigne  Barking & Dagenham 5,598 
Goresbrook  Barking & Dagenham 6,637 
Longbridge Barking & Dagenham 7,599 
Mayesbrook  Barking & Dagenham 6,013 
Parsloes  Barking & Dagenham 5,836 
Thames  Barking & Dagenham 6,625 
Beckton  Newham 7,335 
Royal Docks  Newham 6,081 
  Total 73,046

These recommendations now go to parliament. If they’re approved, the next general election will be fought on these boundaries.

Legacy

10 Sep

NewImage

Legacy, a play developed with residents of the Carpenters Estate and members of the Focus E15 campaign, will be staged for three nights at the end of the month at the Rich Mix arts centre in Shoreditch.

Legacy is a celebration of community, an analysis of class and part of an artistic and social groundswell to end the so-called housing crisis. This is a naturalistic play, with a fantastical counter reality, examining the impact of the Olympic legacy and corporate investment on estate residents and their health. Over 50,000 families have been shipped out of London in the past 3 years – a result of welfare cuts and soaring private rents. Official figures show that councils are currently moving homeless mothers and children out of their boroughs at a rate of close to 500 families each week. That number is increasing. The main inspiration is Mary Finch who, since 2010, has lived in uncertainty when plans to demolish part or all of the Estate, her home for the past 40 years, were proposed. Since then, she has witnessed the gradual decanting of her neighbours and has been vociferous in the campaign to repopulate the estate.  

The play is very timely as the Estate was marked for demolition this year.

I was lucky enough to see a reading of the play last year and it is excellent. Tickets are £10 to £12 and can be booked online.

Newham and the IHRA

4 Sep

No-one can accuse Newham council of not being ahead of the curve. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ‘working definition of antisemitism’ was debated in September of last year. And, as with the national Labour Party now, there was disagreement about the 11 illustrative examples. A motion to adopt the definition in full, with all examples, was proposed by Cllr Clive Furness and seconded by Terry Paul.

Concerns about free speech and the ability to criticise Israel were raised in Labour Group and I am told there was a “left faction” led by Cllr Anam Islam who claimed many Muslim voters were ‘troubled’. There was another group, led by Rokshana Fiaz, then a backbench councillor, who championed the removal of the examples in order to maintain group cohesion. That argument won the day.

An amendment was put at council – and accepted by the proposers – that removed all 11 examples and made some other minor adjustments to the text. 

The amended motion was unanimously agreed by Council (reproduced below exactly as it appears in the minutes):

This council notes: 

This Council expresses alarm at the rise in antisemitism in recent years across the UK. This includes incidents when criticism of Israel has been expressed using anti-Semitic tropes. Criticism of Israel can be legitimate, but not if it employs the tropes and imagery of antisemitism.

This Council therefore welcomes the UK Government’s announcement on December 11th 2016 that it will adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, making Britain one of the first countries in the world to adopt it. This definition has also been adopted by the Labour Party and featured in the Labour Party’s Race and Faith Manifesto (page 12) published during the 2017 General Election. The IHRA definition defines antisemitism as thus:

This Council notes that:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries). Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.

Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

This Council welcomes support within the Council for combating antisemitism in all its manifestations.

This Council hereby resolves to adopt the above definition of antisemitism as set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and pledges to combat this pernicious form of racism through awareness raising and education; and through engagement with the range of Jewish opinion on how best to address antisemitism in addition with all communities that live in Newham.

This Council also condemns all forms of racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia and sexism and on-line abuse and we commit to fighting against them.

Gaining Momentum

22 Aug

Newham Momentum members with Chris Williamson MP

Newham Momentum members with Chris Williamson MP in Ilford

Chris Williamson MP will be in Forest Gate next month to address the Newham branch of Momentum, as part of his Democracy Roadshow. Although ostensibly a call for mandatory re-selection of all Labour MPs, these ‘road show’ events are mostly being held in constituencies held by MPs on the centre left of the party, leading them to be dubbed by some as the ‘Deselection Roadshow.’ 

Earlier this month Williamson spoke in Ilford, whose two MPs – Mike Gapes and Wes Streeting – are noted Corbyn-sceptics. A number of Newham Momentum members attended, including the chair of the council’s Labour Group, Cllr Suga Thekkeppurayil and former councillor Obaid Khan. This resulted in the invitation to for Williamson to come to Newham. I wonder what Lyn Brown and Stephen Timms make of that?

The Derby MP previously courted controversy by suggesting that Labour MPs who agreed with Theresa May that Russia was behind the Salisbury poisonings were as much “political enemies” as the Tories. He suggested they should face de-selection (are you sensing a pattern here?). He has also shared a platform with Marc Wadsworth, who was expelled from the Labour party for haranguing Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth at the launch of the party’s anti-Semitism review in 2016.

Yesterday the Huffington Post reported:

A Labour MP has said it was a “privilege” to meet and listen to a talk by a controversial pro-Assad blogger, who has previously described murdered MP Jo Cox as a “warmongering Al Qaeda advocate”.

Vanessa Beeley made the comment in a tweet almost a year after Cox’s death, and has also written that “Zionists rule France”.

… She has written that the White Helmets, the volunteer group that rescues people from the rubble of Syria’s civil war, is a terrorist-linked organisation that fakes its activities to elicit sympathy in the West for a regime change plot against Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

Who you appear on a platform with and how their views then attach to you is a hot topic right now. Might councillors who are now so publicly embracing Chris Williamson come to regret it? It’s not just MPs who can find themselves in a re-selection battle.

Time to close the Red Door?

14 Jun

By Conor McAuley

On 18 July last year Newham Council’s Strategic Development Committee, after a long discussion, approved a major planning application (No 17/00951/FUL) to build 100 flats in buildings ranging from 2 to 23 floors at London Road E13 and a further 82 flats in buildings up to 15 floors at Valetta Grove E13.  These are two sites sitting on Plaistow Road beside and opposite Plaistow Station.

A total of 182 “residential units”, all to be let at “market rents”, intended for Newham Council’s private renting company Red Door Ventures (RDV) at two locations that would appeal to commuters.

There was considerable public interest in this application and a number of objectors addressed the committee. They were listened to but ignored.

Clearly as Newham Council owned both sites, the complete absence of affordable housing within this application, can only have been deliberate and not the product of some dodgy developer’s “viability assessment”.

Instead Red Door Ventures proposed to deliver 45 affordable units in three “linked sites” at Eve Road E15, Baxter Road/Alnwick Rd E16 and Chargeable Lane E13. These sites were covered by three separate planning applications on the same committee agenda.

This was a device to subvert the planning policy requirement to deliver 50% affordable housing that would otherwise be required. Except of course that 45 units when added to the 182 non-affordable units gives us 227. The four linked planning applications (barely) delivered 20% affordable units.

So this left an affordable housing shortfall of 30% or 68.5 units.

A further device was then employed to help bridge the gap so to speak: the “review mechanism”.

Here I quote directly from the committee report; ‘To ensure that the proposal fully complies with the Newham Core Strategy and London Plan target of 50% affordable housing, a review mechanism is proposed that shall capture any uplift in scheme viability.

Once the ‘Break Even Rental Threshold’ (BERT) has been achieved the Planning Authority will receive 50% of the net additional revenue generated, where the profit level is between 15% and 24.99%, and 70% where profit is above a 25% threshold’.

I trust you have followed the logic so far.

The only real link between the four planning applications is that the sites involved are within the same borough. They are only “linked” in this process to enable Red Door Ventures to avoid having to provide affordable housing on the more valuable site adjacent to Plaistow Station. The “review mechanism” then kicks the remaining shortfall of 65.5 units into the even longer grass.

This was a perversion of the Council’s Planning regime and it was a disgrace that the then Committee Chair, Cllr Ken Clark, allowed these applications to be pushed through in this manner. Indeed, it was Cllr Clark who moved acceptance of the recommendations.

The four planning approvals were then to be wrapped up into a series of S106 Planning Agreements. The Strategic Development Committee decreed that these legal agreements should be completed and signed by 18 January 2018.

Subsequently, in November the Committee moved the completion deadlines to 18 May 2018.

It would appear that these legal agreements have not yet been signed because a further report (item 14) has been tabled on the agenda for the Strategic Development Committee meeting (next week) on 19 June seeking a further extension of the deadlines to 9 November 2018.

The report goes further, to say that if the legal agreements have not been completed, the Head of Planning has delegated authority to refuse the planning permissions.

Surely this is the moment when our elected representatives could signal a sea change in Newham’s housing strategy. It’s the time to end the expansion of Red Door Ventures and to start building genuine affordable and social housing again.

This is not a decision to be delegated to a Council officer.