Tag Archives: newham

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?

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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.

Spot the Difference (part 94)

25 Sep

The draft Statement of Accounts originally published in July, which set off a furore once people spotted the words ‘written-off’ in the section dealing with the Olympic Stadium loan:

DSoA Original

The version being considered by the Audit Board/Investment and Accounts committee meeting on Wednesday :

DSoA audit board

Did they think no-one would notice?

Long-serving councillor Conor McAuley (Custom House) has devoted his September ward report to the Stadium loan write-off. The report is worth reading in full. But here is the conclusion:

The Mayor and one or two other councillors are arguing that an ‘impairment’ is not a ‘write off’ but they are contradicted by the very next line in the accounts which states that these charges are subsequently written off.

I am appalled not only by the loss itself but by the fact that we had to study the annual accounts to find this information.

Such a fanfare was made about the original investment, one might think that the Council was seeking to bury the loss

It tends to remind me of the £4.3+ million lost in the Council’s investment in 2012 in the London Pleasure Gardens project that was supposed to animate the Silvertown Quays area south of the Royal Docks. The Council lost every penny of this investment and it even had to pay the winding up costs of the company.

As I understand it, Newham’s Overiew & Scrutiny Committee has never looked at this loss, so I doubt their commitment to look at the Stadium debacle.

The Council’s draft accounts will be discussed further at the Council’s Audit Board on 27 September. It could be a difficult meeting.

That final sentence is a masterpiece of understatement.

Not just a river in Egypt

8 Sep

My blog post yesterday prompted a flurry of media interest, which resulted in the following statement being issued (my emphasis added):

A Newham Council spokesperson said: 

“The Council’s draft accounts for 2016/17 were first published on our website on 3 July and were then open to the normal period of public scrutiny until 11 August. These draft accounts are currently with our auditors for their review. The finalised accounts are due to be considered at a scheduled meeting of our Investment and Accounts Committee on 20 September.” 

“Our draft accounts, which are subject to change and approval, show a prudent, responsible and regulatory compliant treatment of a Council loan related to the London Stadium. The loan is shown, for accounting purposes, as currently ‘impaired’, or damaged, due to the current financial performance of the Stadium. It is not a write off of the loan.”

The draft statement of accounts, which I linked to in my post, says on page 12 (again, my emphasis added):

“These charges are subsequently written-off to the Capital Adjustment Account.”

If Newham don’t want people thinking they’ve written things off they should probably avoid using the words ‘written-off’ in the accounts.

But let’s not split hairs. Let’s accept that the loan is indeed, as that spokesman says, “‘impaired’, or damaged, due to the current financial performance of the Stadium.” And then compare that to what Sir Robin said when the loan was first taken out (my emphasis added):

“Even on the most disastrous figures, even if everything goes wrong, we still make a profit on this.

“The risk is really, really minimal.

“The debt, which costs our residents nothing, will be repaid and then we start to share in the profit.“

Just one season into the operation of the stadium and it turns out that not a word of this true.

The Investment and Accounts Committee meeting on 20 September is a joint meeting with the Audit Board. It is public and details are on the council website. I predict the public gallery will be busier than usual.

UPDATE (13/09/2017): The meeting has been moved to Wednesday 27th September. Same venue: Committee Room 2, Newham Town Hall, East Ham, E6 2RP.

Hey Porsche

25 Aug

Ayesha Porsche Tweet

My heart goes out Beckton’s lead community councillor, Ayesha Chowdhury. Her beloved white Porsche was stolen from her driveway last night.

The Twitter announcement attracted two ‘likes’ before being deleted. Such cruelty. Who celebrates a Labour councillor in one of London’s poorest boroughs being deprived of their high-powered luxury German sports car? 

And this is not the first piece of ill-fortune to have befallen her. In 2011 she had to move out of her housing association property when the national media focused its attention on her buy-to-let portfolio in Newham, then valued at over a million pounds. 

Happily for her, the soaraway London property market has since inflated her wealth to over £4 million, with an estimated monthly rental value of close to £19,000.

So if the Porsche doesn’t come back she can probably afford a new one.

Time after time

15 Aug

By the time next year’s election rolls around 15 current members of the council will have held their seats continuously for 20 years or more.

The table below shows exactly how long they’ve been around

Name Date elected Years to date
A SINGH 04/05/1978 39.31
C McAULEY 06/05/1982 35.30
R WALES* 09/07/1992 25.12
I CORBETT 09/07/1992 25.12
L HUDSON 05/05/1994 23.30
E SPARROWHAWK 05/05/1994 23.30
N WILSON 05/05/1994 23.30
C FURNESS 01/05/1997 20.30
Q PEPPIATT 01/05/1997 20.30
U DESAI 07/05/1998 19.30
R CRAWFORD 07/05/1998 19.29
J LAGUDA 07/05/1998 19.29
W VAUGHAN 07/05/1998 19.29
P SATHIANESAN 07/05/1998 19.29
P HOLLAND 07/05/1998 19.29

 *Robin Wales was also previously on the council from 1982 to 1986.

When local branches meet this autumn to select their candidates, one thing they should consider is the urgent need to freshen up the Labour group.

NOTE: The original version of this post stated that 16 members will have held their seats for 20 years or more and the table included Cllr Bryan Collier. It has been pointed out that Cllr Collier was defeated at the 2006 election and returned to the council in 2010, so his current continuous service is just over seven years; first elected in 1994, his total period as councillor is more than 19 years. The same is true for Cllr Alan Griffiths.