Tag Archives: olympics

Dear Lyn Brown MP

1 Sep

Guest post by Caroline Tomes

Dear Lyn Brown MP,

Your role as an MP is to represent the views and concerns of your constituents, both those who did and did not vote for you. There are many ways to obtain this information, and I for one am glad to see my local MP engaging with Twitter and other social media.

One of the challenges is in assessing whether information you obtain is representative of your constituents.  The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” is a useful reminder about the importance of survey design. And I have some very real concerns regarding the surveys you have hosted recently on your website. 

You had a survey online asking for local views on healthcare. This was the first question:
Lyn survey pic1
Now there is nothing wrong with asking for people’s general opinions of health services (although I do wonder why you feel the need to repeat the work which Healthwatch Newham aptly do). However the response options are limited to ‘excellent’ ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’, thereby preventing any negative feedback. This is ridiculously biased, and any results from this question will be inevitably skewed.

Do you not care if someone is ‘unsatisfied’ with their healthcare?

After I highlighted the poor question design you claimed something had gone wrong with the website ‘download’ (although the source code suggested the issue was with the survey design rather than things not being displayed). Either way, I was glad to see the healthcare survey taken off your website and hope you’ve deleted any data from this flawed survey.

However that wasn’t the only biased survey on your website. Your local business survey on the Olympics includes the following question:

Lyn survey pic2
Now where do I start?

Survey design faux-pas #1: leading questions; suggesting the Olympic Games had a positive impact.

Survey design faux-pas #2: the scale is biased and it also doesn’t make sense.

It’s just a terribly written question. For example: what would you select if you felt the Olympics had a big negative impact? What is the difference between impact two, four or six? I’m not sure what responses you’ve had to this survey, but I’m very confident that you won’t be able to use this information in any meaningful way.

I enjoy being a Newham resident. I’ve encountered many friendly local people, and the diversity of ethnicities and cultures makes Newham an exciting and vibrant place to be. That said; not everything is perfect here. For starters, Newham is currently the most deprived borough in London*, the TB capital of Europe, and I do wish there were more bins / fewer chicken bones in the local parks where I walk my dog.

I’m also pretty concerned that 100% of Newham’s elected representatives belong to the Labour party. Not because I necessarily disagree with that party politics but I strongly beleive that a one-party dominant system is just not healthy. Which is why it is so very important that any local surveys you conduct are unbiased and are representative of Newham people. 

With the forthcoming general election next year, I’m going to need a lot more convincing that you care about the real views of local people to get my vote.
Yours sincerely,
Caroline Tomes is a PhD researcher at UCL, public health professional and Newham resident. You can follow her on Twitter @carotomes

*Correction: originally published as ‘most deprived ward in London’. Edited to amend ward to borough.

Sir Robin Wales on ‘The World at One’

15 Aug

Newham’s mayor talking about employment and the Olympic legacy on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One today:

Fortress Wanstead Flats. Olympic police base takes shape. Bloody enormous.

27 Jun

on Instagram http://instagr.am/p/MYSvPckB3k/ – June 27, 2012 at 02:49PM

These are sprouting up all over Newham. Must be something going on!

27 Jun

on Instagram http://instagr.am/p/MYRf77EB2-/ – June 27, 2012 at 02:38PM

More Fun and Games in the Mayor’s Palace of Varieties

4 Jul

The Sunday Times carried a detailed story yesterday alleging that West Ham United made payments totalling £20,000 into the bank account of Dionne Knight, a director of the Olympic Park Legacy Company. This arrangement was put in place by Ian Tompkins, who is the director of West Ham who masterminded its Olympic stadium bid and Ms. Knight’s lover. In a previous life Mr. Tompkins was director of Communications at Newham Council, where he worked closely with the Mayor, Sir Robin Wales.

West Ham claims that the payments were for ‘consultancy work’ helping to prepare procurement documents for contracts to convert the stadium after the Olympics and that, as far as they were aware, the OLPC had given permission for Knight to do the work. They also claim the payments were on behalf of the Legacy Stadium Partnership, the joint venture entity with Newham Council that will own the 250-year lease on the stadium; as the partnership didn’t have a bank account set up they paid Knight directly. 

According to records at Companies House, Legacy Stadium Partnership LLP was first set up on 12 April 2011, but the Sunday Times says that the first payments were made to Ms Knight in the month before the OLPC made its decision in February. Quite how West Ham could have made payments on behalf of an entity that did not even exist is not explained.

Since the story emerged both Knight and Tompkins have been suspended from their jobs, pending internal investigations. Knight has admitted she hadn’t told OLPC about her work for West Ham.

The Sunday Times, perhaps predictably, has billed this as a “corruption scandal” and local anti-Labour blog London Borough of Newhamgrad uses the same word in its summary. That’s going too far, at least on the evidence to date.

But there are a number of fairly obvious questions that arise from all this about what Ms Knight knew about the status of the bids to take over the stadium and what she might have discussed at home with Mr Tompkins, and what he may then have communicated on to his employers at Upton Park to help them construct a winning tender. The OLPC says ‘chinese walls’ were in place and Ms Knight had no access to key information, or influence on the outcome. But as she was working for West Ham without their knowledge it is unclear how much of a grip OLPC had on the situation. One might also ask why West Ham, on behalf of the joint venture, felt it necessary to hire a consultant to work on stadium conversion procurements before it knew the outcome of the OLPC process and why it thought there would be no conflict of interest in hiring an OLPC executive to do it while the bidding process was ongoing. 

Of course Newham residents will have an interest in finding out the answers to these questions, as we are the ones on the hook for the £40 million loan being made to the Legacy Stadium Partnership (to the principle benefit of West Ham United FC), should the whole thing go horribly wrong. And if the 20 grand paid to Ms Knight was on behalf of LSP, as WHU say, half of it is our money – for which the Mayor is accountable.



The World Turned Upside Down

4 Mar

Imagine a council, running one of the 32 London Boroughs. And imagine that this council had just voted overwhelmingly to unilaterally change the contracts of its employees, to make their conditions of service worse, in order to save a few million quid.

You’d be appalled.

Imagine that this same council has just voted unanimously to implement a budget that will cut £100 million of spending over the next 3 years and cost 1,600 jobs among their staff.

You’d think that was a Tory council, wouldn’t you? Or may be a Con-Lib coalition? Bloody typical!

Now imagine that this same council has agreed to take out a £40 million loan and given it to a successful local business to move to swanky new premises, that this business is owned by multi-millionaires and employs some of the highest paid people in the country.

You’d think it was madness. Tory madness.

Imagine the men that own this business made their millions from pornography and sex shops.

You’d be outraged. 

And imagine if you then found out that if their business failed, the people of the borough would be liable, through their council taxes, to repay that £40 million and all of the interest on it. And that the people of this particular borough are among the poorest and most deprived in the country.

You’d organise a march, demand action be taken to stop this nonsense. You’d write to the papers, organise a petition.

Unless you were a member of the Labour Party. Because this is exactly what’s happening in Newham and the silence is deafening.

Our Labour mayor and the 60 Labour councillors (we have no opposition at all here) have done exactly this. The local business is West Ham United football club, who happen to play in the world’s richest league and are owned by Davids Gold and Sullivan, millionaires many times over. And the swanky new premises is the Olympic Stadium.

So while council staff have had their conditions of service downgraded and 1,600 of them will lose their jobs, while services that people depend on are being cut, a Labour council is advancing £40 million to a couple of porn barons to help them fund a football club, leaving some of London’s poorest people to pick up the tab if it all goes horribly wrong.

Truly, the world has turned upside down.