Tag Archives: Sir Robin Wales

Generous to a fault

24 Feb

89651226 sirrobinwales

By Alan Combe

If he fails to win the nomination this year, Sir Robin will miss the hospitality almost as much as wearing the mayoral collar.

One of the perks of being the Mayor of a borough which is “open for business” as he might say – and probably has – is the manner in which the corporate world queues up to offer you hospitality. And gifts. And opportunities to travel, business class sometimes, to exotic far flung places – and West Ham United FC.

In his 16 years as Mayor, Sir Robin has benefitted from a significant number of invitations from companies keen to do business here. In the last four years alone, Sir Robin has been invited to China, Australia, Germany and France.

He has dined in some of London’s finest restaurants including the Terrace Room at the Royal Horseguards Hotel, Cabotte, the Arts Club, the Cinnamon Club, the Mansion House, Simpsons in the Strand. And at West Ham United FC (which may or may not count as fine dining).

In the last four years Sir Robin has enjoyed hospitality at West Ham Utd on 20 occasions, usually as a guest of the club but, on occasion, London City Airport picked up the bill.

His published list of gifts & hospitality starts in 2006 and his close relationship with West Ham Utd is clear from almost the first entry, which records that he received tickets to that year’s F.A. Cup final (Liverpool vs West Ham), which was held in Cardiff. It was rumoured that the club actually flew him to the match.

In March each year, the town of Cannes in southern France plays host to the international property event known as MIPIM. The Independent newspaper recently described this as the place “where estate agency professionals and wealthy investors cavort around five-star hotels and champagne receptions in the sunshine, while ruminating about the housing crisis many of them benefit from directly”. Sir Robin often attends.

Newham Council Taxpayers do not actually pay for this jaunt. It is funded by “sponsors”. These are not usually identified on the list of Gifts and Hospitality. Perhaps they should be because that have included over the years, London City Airport, Westfield, and a number of housebuilders who all have an interest in growing their businesses in Newham.

Sir Robin has visited China, at other people’s expense, on a number of occasions starting in 2007. He went back in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics and his more recent trips have been funded by ABP London the company developing a new business district on a 35-acre site in the Royal Albert Dock.

I was puzzled that according to his gift declarations, Sir Robin didn’t attend the opening of the Rio Olympics in 2016, but it turned out that he was busy visiting Hong Kong and Perth & Sydney in Australia at the time. The Sydney leg of the trip appears to have been funded by a group of businesses called the “Committee for Sydney”.

Of course, it’s not all travel and dinners. Sir Robin has been invited to, amongst other events, Rugby World Cup matches, the IAAF World Athletics Championships, the Henley Regatta, the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, the Wireless Festival and a concert by Adele.

Over the last four years the most “generous” donors would appear to have been ABP London, who have picked up the bills for trips to China and a number of dinners in London; West Ham Utd, who have since moved into the expensively re-purposed London Stadium as the anchor tenant; London City Airport, whose expansion plans were supported by Newham even when the previous London Mayor, Boris Johnson, tried to put a halt to them; and the mystery “sponsors” who have picked up the bills for Mayor Wales (& Cllr Ken Clark) when they visited Cannes for the international property events.

I struggle to understand what benefit these donors could possibly have enjoyed as a result of this generosity!

If you want to check out the details for yourself, Newham’s website helpfully lists all the gifts and hospitality enjoyed by Mayor Wales and all his Councillor colleagues, dating back to 2006. The list however does not give us the cost of each gift or meal or trip, it merely tells us if the cost exceeded £25.00. It should also be stressed that the obligation to report the receipt of gifts and hospitality rests with the Mayor personally.

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Head to head

21 Feb

RoksvsRobin

Out with old, in with the new?

The Labour Party has written to local members to confirm the shortlist for the mayoral selection:

Last night, the selections panel for the process to select Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Newham interviewed candidates to decide the shortlist that members in Newham will select from.

Their decision is that the shortlist will comprise of:

Rokhsana Fiaz
Sir Robin Wales

Voting starts on 1 March and there will be at least one hustings event – details of which have not yet been confirmed.

In the meantime, party members can get a flavour of the two candidates by reading the in-depth Q&As each has had with London blogger Dave Hill:

Q&A with Rokhsana Fiaz

Q&A with Sir Robin Wales

Banner headlines

15 Feb

Mwarne 2018 Feb 15

Just as the open selection for Labour’s mayoral candidate is about to get underway, the council has seen fit to install a series of new banners across the borough. These extol the virtues of the Dear Leader’s policies, showing him surrounding by his adoring and grateful public.

This is a straightforward misuse of public money to support a candidate in an internal party selection.

And even if the trigger ballot had gone the other way and Sir Robin was already the Labour nominee, how can you justify this blatant propaganda barely 10 weeks ahead of the election?

The trouble is that Wales Rob-in has been in office so long that council officers can no longer distinguish between working in the public interest and working for him. 

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The verdict

12 Feb

Wales Nope

What’s Next?

12 Feb

Copwatcher 2018 Feb 12

On Twitter, Kevin Blowe asks the obvious question:

If Sir Robin Wales is ousted as Mayor of Newham, what happens next?

Ideas please for unraveling the legacy of hard-right Labour council. Some suggestions:

  1. No more ugly, expensive developers’ gold-rush skyscrapers in Stratford

  2. 100% social housing on the Carpenters Estate

  3. Ending the council / police / immigration enforcement operation to harasss and disperse homeless people in Stratford

Off the top of my head:

  • Abolish the directly-elected mayoralty and return to leader & cabinet
  • No more ‘jobs for the boys’
  • End the out-placement of council services into arms-length companies

And Newham Co-op Party secretary Gill Hay adds:

A re-commitment to use all possible empty housing in the borough for housing people in need.

Feel free to add your own suggestions on Twitter or in the comments.

UPDATE:

Some suggestions from Twitter:

  • No pensions for Mayor or council
  • End of Mayors special advisor payouts
  • A sponsor to cover costs of Under The Stars etc.
  • Sell Building 1000
  • No more photos of the clowns in the Newham Mag
  • Proper independent scrutiny
  • A realistic policy for Council tax to avoid more cuts
  • Instigate a thorough forensic examination of ALL the authorities finacial dealings over the past 16 years
  • No giving away council buildings to hipster developments from outside the borough that speed gentrification
  • No turning music venues into trampoline parks
  • No more donkey & sand posters for the mayor’s £4 million gigs
  • Limited terms for mayors/council leaders

Thanks to Sites of NewhamMike Law, Damnably Records, Kevin Mansell, @iainaitch and @StopCityAirport

London stadium enquiry

12 Feb

London Stadium 886749

At the Council meeting on 4th December, Sir Robin announced a review of the decisions that led to the “investment” of £40m into the former Olympic Stadium, which part-funded its transformation into a new home for West Ham United. The review would also cover the due diligence undertaken (or not) and advice provided to the Council.

Daniel Fenwick, Newham’s Director of Legal and Governance, has now written to councillors to announce the appointment of a senior QC to lead the enquiry:

The Mayor and Chief Executive instructed me as Director of Legal & Governance to lead on the review for the Council and I write to announce that I have appointed Peter Oldham QC to undertake the review of the Council’s decisions to invest in the former Olympic Stadium.  The decision to instruct a QC provides the Council with senior and independent scrutiny of the Council’s decision-making and an expert legal analysis of the decisions made.  It will also enable to obtain legal advice on any rights or remedies the Council may have in respect of the decisions made.  Mr Oldham is a leading QC on local authority matters and his details can be found here.

He will be assisted by Peter Lockley, a junior barrister at the same chambers and will, if required, have access to support from the Council through myself and external expert advisors, if he requires.

It is anticipated that Mr Oldham will complete his review by the middle of March for submission to the Mayor and members.  It is the Council’s intention to make as much of the report as possible publicly available but I will  need to consider whether any legal advice provided to the Council must be kept confidential to protect the Council’s interests at this time. If this situation arises, I will consider the ways in which such information may be shared with members whilst remaining confidential.

I am in the final stage of agreeing the Terms of Reference with Mr Oldham and will circulate these as soon as they agreed and they will also be a public document.

The draft terms of reference, which are due to be finalised today (12 Feb), outline the purpose of the enquiry:

…to produce a report for submission to the Mayor and members, addressing the following issues:

4.1.1.  A narrative of the Council’s Decisions (and related activity) to invest in the Stadium;
4.1.2.  A review of the Council’s rationale for the Decisions and whether or not the Decisions were reasonable to make in all the circumstances, including:

(a) the financial and operational projections that underpinned Newham’s original investment;

(b) the due diligence conducted by and on behalf of the Council and Newham Legacy Investments during the time period stated and whether or not any liability to the Council may arise;

(c) To identify further steps to be taken with regard to any matters identified at b. 

4.1.3. To identify any lessons that the Council can learn for future investments and decisions and what further steps the Council may take.

Although this is not a public enquiry, and the expectation is that meetings and interviews will take place privately, it appears Mr Oldham has the option to decide otherwise.

Included within the scope is the original decision to invest £40m in a joint venture with West Ham, which was aborted when Boris Johnson cancelled the procurement. Newham could have walked away at that point, so it will be interesting to see what, if anything, turns up to explain Sir Robin’s utter determination to throw £40m at the stadium come what may.

The final report is due to be delivered on 23 March and, as Mr Fenwick says, the intention is to make it public. However, this is Newham, so I expect that as many FOI exemptions as possible will be applied to prevent anything seriously embarrassing from being revealed. 

You need wheels

4 Feb

Sir Robin's new wheels

When Lutfur Rahman was swanking around Tower Hamlets in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz, Sir Robin took great satisfaction in pointing out that he drove his own car – a used Toyota.

But judging by the car currently sat on the mayoral driveway, the Wales household has recently opted for a major upgrade.

A shiny new Range Rover may be a bit less ‘man of the people’ than his dusty old Toyota, but at least Sir Robin can arrive at the open selection meetings in comfort and style. I’m sure Labour members will be suitably impressed.

Hat-tip to the reader who spotted this and sent the photo

UPDATE 9/2/2018

A reader left a comment on Wednesday (see below) saying the car belongs to Sir Robin’s neighbour. Yesterday Alan Olive, a retired Labour Regional Director and Elections Officer living in Hemel Hempstead, reached out on Twitter to say the same thing. And the reader who sent the original tip-off confirms that, as of yesterday evening, the car is indeed parked next door.

Maybe these aren’t Sir Robin’s wheels. If anyone has anything more definitive, one way or the other, I’d be very grateful.