Tag Archives: Sir Robin Wales

Cunning stunt

9 Aug

Cunning Wales 3

A quiet word in your ear, Sir Robin…

If you were an electorally unsuccessful Scottish Labour politician looking to make a fresh start down south, where would you head for?

Newham might look like a pretty good option.

Certainly Barrie Cunning thinks so. He stood for Labour in the Scottish parliamentary elections last year and came in fourth, all-but-halving the party’s vote in the process. Now he lives in Canning Town and has his eyes firmly fixed on a seat in the council chamber.

As if being a white Scottish male wasn’t advantage enough, a bit of good luck has helped get him further into Sir Robin’s good books.

Back in February, Sir Robin was invited to speak at an Edinburgh Networking Breakfast event on ‘Building Partnership in Development.’ According to the mayor’s register of gifts and hospitality, his flights and accommodation were paid for by Newington Communications, the PR firm Barrie Cunning happens to work for.

And when the mayor took his trip to Cannes in March, one of the sponsors was Berkeley Group. They are clients of Newington Communications. According to his profile, Barrie Cunning works across the development and housing sectors.

So, let me be the first to say “Congratulations on your election, Councillor Cunning.”

Letter to the Editor

8 Aug

A reader writes

Dear Sir,

What on earth is going on at the Newham Mag? I had always thought it was the Mayor’s personal publicity freebie, distributed fortnightly to the adoring masses, and a snip at just £20,000 per issue.

But in the current edition there are only seven (7!)  photos of our Mayor (compared to 20 in the previous edition) and of those, in only 4 is he wearing the Mayor’s ceremonial chain of office. In one photo, he is not even wearing a tie and looking very much the worse  for wear, but possibly this photo shoot was carefully crafted to blend in with a very messy dwelling whose landlord the Council is aiming to prosecute.

And what’s worse there are more photos of the Deputy Mayor (Statutory) and Cabinet Member for Community Neighbourhoods, Ken Clark – he has eight.
Has there been a midnight coup?

Has Clark seized the Mag as part of  his own ruthless drive to succeed the man who has created his Deputy (Statutory)’s political career out of nothing? I think the people deserve an explanation before disllusion and consternation start to take a grip as election year approaches.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Mansell

All excellent questions.

To which can be added, when will the council comply with the direction issued by the secretary of state for Communities and Local Government last December and reduce publication of the Newham Mag to just four times a year?

Holidays in the sun

2 Aug

Sir Robin at MIPIM 2017

Every March the French mediterranean resort of Cannes plays host to MIPIM, an international property event. According to Wikipedia

The event aims to facilitate business between investors, corporate end-users, local authorities, hospitality professionals, industrial and logistics players and other real estate professionals.

It is tailor-made for the big swinging dicks and wannabe Trumps of the property development racket. So obviously the mayor of Newham would want to be there.

And according to a recent FOI response, he was, accompanied by deputy mayor Cllr Ken Clark, Director of Regeneration and Planning Deirdra Armsby and Head of Regeneration Robin Cooper.

But fear not. Your council tax was not funding a penny of this.

All expenses were paid for via sponsorship from Westfield Group, Berkeley Group, Telford Homes, English Cities Fund and ABP (London) Investments

How very generous of them. 

Flights, accommodation, the conference tickets, plus feeding and watering four thirsty delegates would have set them back a few quid. Sadly, we don’t know yet exactly how much as the mayor and Cllr Clark have neglected to update the register of gifts and hospitalities with the information.

At the risk of repeating myself, this is what I wrote back in 2012 when the mayor made a similar, commercially sponsored trip to the south of France:

…if there was a genuine and compelling reason for Newham to be present at this conference I’d have no objection to the trip being funded from public money. I’m entirely prepared to believe the trip was a worthwhile way for Sir Robin and his entourage to spend their time.

In fact, if the mayor’s presence was so vital it absolutely should have been paid for by the taxpayer. Drumming up business for Newham is part of his job…

…If going to a global property conference is the best way to meet developers, then that’s the place to be. The fact that the event took place in the south of France is neither here nor there. Sir Robin didn’t choose the venue.

Public officials travelling on public business should have their expenses met from the public purse. That way everything’s above board and there’s no question about whose interests they’re representing.

But this trip wasn’t funded with public money. And that is extremely worrying. No-one provides hospitality on this scale without some expectation of getting something in return…

…Perhaps Sir Robin is pleased with himself for saving the public purse a few pounds, but it may end up being a poor bargain for Newham.

Until we know who paid for his trip the mayor must recuse himself from all discussions about regeneration and redevelopment in Newham and from consideration of all planning applications.

Otherwise how can we tell if he’s doing the right thing by residents or repaying a debt to his generous sponsors?

Five years on, the same concerns apply.

UPDATE

I have been sent a copy of another FOI response on a similar topic (sadly not available online), which was released in June. This says that the Cannes party included the council chief executive. If he was indeed there, the cost to the sponsors (and the implied obligation) is even greater.

It also raises a question about quality control in the information governance team. How could two virtually identical questions, asked within a few weeks of each other, result in two different answers?

It’s all kicking off

1 Aug

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (pic via @NewhamLabourWTF on Twitter)

The Newham Recorder reports that 30 local Labour members are threatening to take the party to court over the conduct of last year’s ‘trigger ballot’.

Letters sent by Irvine Thanivi Natas (ITN) solicitors to GRM Law, the firm acting on Labour’s behalf, [allege that] procedural rules were “breached” as they were applied differently to different affiliated organisations without their full understanding of what the rules were.

This meant some trade unions with several branches voted more than once, while others with more than one branch believed they only had one vote.

Claimant David Gilles said: “Reluctantly we’re having to resort to legal action to get this vote re-run.”

There’s a lot more information, including full access to the letters exchanged by the two sides’ solicitors here.

The grounds for the complaint are:

  1. The rules were inconsistently applied in respect of which Affiliated Organisations (AOs) could take part
  2. The rules were inconsistently explained; those running the trigger ballot process failed to ensure (a) that AOs were properly informed of voting rights and (b) that the process was fairly run
  3. Labour’s NEC failed to carry out a proper investigation, despite prima facie evidence of impropriety
  4. The NEC endorsed Sir Robin when there was strong evidence that process was flawed
  5. The rules wrongly applied: some AOs were allowed to vote more than once

The result of the trigger ballot was never really in doubt. Sir Robin was always going to find enough votes from among the affiliates to over-turn the results from ward parties. The fact that no agreed list of affiliated organisations was ever published, or even shared with the officers of the two constituency parties, meant the whole process was wide open to abuse.

Despite the protestations from Newham Labour and the national party that everything is fine and that rules were followed, this is not going away. Local members have had enough of trickery and deceit. To borrow a phrase, they want “straight-talking, honest politics.” 

Sir Robin should be worried. His name is not yet certain to be on the ballot paper next May.

Come dine with me

26 Jul

Meydansofrasi 2

Last night the Meydan Sofrasi restaurant on Barking Road excitedly tweeted that

THE MAYOR OF NEWHAM, SIR ROBIN WALES visited our restaurant today. 

As you can see from the accompanying picture, the mayor was taking refreshment with some of his nearest and dearest.

Fellow diners included councillors Unmesh Desai, Andrew Baikie, the Corbetts, Lester Hudson and, er, Ahmed Noor.

That’s the same Ahmed Noor who broke the council’s rules on landlord licensing, who’s currently suspended from the Labour party and who was accused by the standards committee of abusing his power to stifle complaints against him from tenants. The report to the standards committee about his conduct makes for hair-raising reading.

With councillor re-selections coming up in the autumn, is this a sign that the disgraced Noor may make a comeback? Even by Newham standards that would leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

UPDATE (13:30): the restaurant has deleted the tweet.

Email alert

26 Jul

LakminiShah 2015 Nov 24

Picture from NewhamLabourWTF (figures from 2015)

Following last week’s withering email from Dianne Walls, Sir Robin has finally found a willing dupe to respond. Step forward, mayoral advisor Councillor Lakmini Shah 

Dianne,

I felt that I needed to reply to the email you sent following Monday’s Full Council, and given that you copied in all colleagues, I have done the same.

We have known each other a long time, and hope you will agree that by nature I try to solve problems rather than create them, and that much of my work has been to support other women and encourage them to get involved in politics and in the community. 

As I recall Robin’s comments at the last council meeting, he praised Kay for resigning from the governing body and said it was the correct thing to do. I don’t recall any inappropriate comments that he made towards Kay to embarrass her.

I have experienced and noticed so much division, misinterpretation, accusations, disturbance and disagreements in a negative way in this administration amongst us Labour colleagues. Therefore the good work we want to do gets drawn into unnecessary arguments. The suggestion that Robin marginalises women is particularly unfair. 

I felt that I need to break the silence and speak out and let some members know the struggles I had and the support I received to overcome them from Robin.

What follows is several paragraphs of pure Arslikhan: Sir Robin is portrayed as a heroic battler for women in general and Lakmini Shah in particular. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh out loud. For evidence of how Sir Robin doesn’t marginalise women, take a look at the gender pay gap among Newham’s councillors

In my experience as a woman councillor, Robin has been entirely supportive – far more so than many of my female colleagues.

At which point she puts away her onion and gets to the real point:

With less than a year until the election we need to stop this back-biting and sniping and unite as one Labour team behind Robin. 

As far as I can see, the sniping and back-biting is only coming from one direction…

Massive attack

24 Jul

At the last full council meeting Sir Robin launched an unprecedented attack on a small number of chairs of governors of Newham schools. Although it was a repeat of his performance at the Labour Group AGM a fortnight earlier, that was a private meeting and this was in public.

A number of councillors were absolutely appalled. Forest Gate South councillor Dianne Walls has written to the mayor to complain about his behaviour (copying all the other councillors into the bargain):

Robin,

I was very shocked and surprised at the last group and council meeting when you publicly named the chairs of governors of schools in the borough requiring improvement, following Ofsted inspection, in a way that was designed to humiliate.

This is an unprecedented move in my experience and cannot possibly inspire members or anyone else to take on the challenging task of being a school governor.

This cruel and unusual treatment has not been demonstrated towards other councillors who have served, in the very recent past, on one of those governing bodies you mentioned.

Indeed your own mayoral advisor for children and young people has served on the governing body of a number of failing schools / institutions (in some cases as vice chair), without receiving similar rebuke.

I am ashamed of sitting on a council where those in power use their position to bully and humiliate other members without all of the facts of the case being aired. I refer you to Cllr Scoresby’s email on the subject of Monega school.

We all want the best for our children, and you know that many members give up a lot of time and commitment to governing bodies on which they serve (some for many years) and try to do their best in the face of relentless political interference from this government. Your attack on chairs of governors puts that commitment in jeopardy.

So members of governing bodies need support and encouragement (and yes constructive criticism) but not public humiliation when things go wrong.

I have to say, in conclusion, that an attack on a female member in this way was particularly shameful, when we want to encourage more women to participate in public life. We are all diminished by such behaviour.

Regards, Cllr Dianne Walls OBE

The mayor is clearly feeling the strain when it comes to schools. He’s been forced to back down over funding his free school meals “promise” and a dozen secondary school heads are up in arms about his proposal to spend almost £30 million on expanding two local academies, a plan which will put other local schools at risk.

As so often before, Sir Robin’s response to his own mistakes is to lash out at others.

Disclosure: I was one of the chairs that Sir Robin named in his attack.