Tag Archives: robinwales

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.



Is Sir Robin channelling St George, or or turning into a Tory?

19 May

This is something I posted a few days ago on the e-Democracy web site:

The BBC is reporting that Newham libraries are to remove all foreign language publications, quoting the Mayor as saying the move will “encourage people to speak & learn English.”

The decision has, predictably, comes in for some criticism from members of communities that will be affected by the move. But the Mayor rejects this, saying, “English language is something that we’re pushing very strongly.

“Two things about the English language: You need it to get a job; secondly it brings a community together.

“Public money should be spent encouraging people to speak and learn English. Whenever I raise that with my residents they all agree with that.”

Leaving aside for a moment Sir Robin’s self-aggrandising description of Newham people as “my residents,” this is an interesting position, and much more in tune with current Conservative thinking, which rejects multiculturalism as a failure, than the view taken by the left since at least the 1960s.

In a speech earlier this year in Munich David Cameron said, “We have allowed the weakening of our collective identity. Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.” He added that we need to make sure that “immigrants speak the language of their new home.”

I wonder if this apparent conversion to Tory thinking is a just an excuse for a bit of mean-spirited penny-pinching, trimming into the prevailing political wind, or whether the Mayor genuinely believes it. If so, will he follow up by axing the translation services that put the borough’s myriad communications into a variety of community languages, on the basis that if people want to transact with government they should do it in English? It would be controversial, but would have the merit of consistency.

There is some small irony in a Scottish mayor presiding over a London borough with an ethnically diverse population positioning himself as a champion of Englishness. It would be fascinating to know what other councillors think of all this, and whether they were consulted before Sir Robin decided on this latest campaign.


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.