Tag Archives: Sir Robin Wales

Value for money?

24 May

By Iain Aitch

Is £4m per job good value for our money, Sir Robin?

The recent raids by HMRC at the London Stadium (Olympic Stadium in old money) may have had some Newham residents worrying about their £40m investment in West Ham’s new ground. The council tax-payer’s hard earned cash is due to be paid back over the next 40 years, but you may well wonder what we are getting for our investment, bar a few free tickets for Mayor Sir Robin Wales and his cabinet. 

With this in mind, I set about composing a Freedom of Information request, basing my questions on the promises made by the council. They were not forthcoming on the number of free tickets handed out, promising the information on the 100,000 promised would be made public at the end of the football season (which has already passed). 

But what was most interesting was the promise around jobs. The council promised up to 75% of jobs at the stadium would go to local residents. The reality is, ahem, somewhat different and wholly disappointing. The actual number is 20%. And full time jobs? Just 10 (ten). I make that 0.8% of total jobs at London Stadium. 

That makes £4m of investment per job. Of 1,207 jobs in total, this 10 is in addition to 253 Newham-ites on casual contracts. A pathetic return and, if chatter amongst old hands is anything to go by, this number may be reduced radically next season. 

You can see the FOI and stats for yourself here (HTML) or here (PDF).

Iain Aitch is an author and journalist who lives in Newham. He has written for the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times and Financial Times.

Up close and personal

25 Apr

A recent Freedom of Information request to Newham council

From your Constitution, it states:

15. PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS – between Members and Officers

15.1 Mutual respect between Members and officers is essential to good local government. Close personal familiarity between individual Members and officers can damage this relationship and prove embarrassing to other Councillors and officers.

15.2 It is not enough to avoid actual impropriety. Members and officers must avoid any occasion for suspicion and any appearance of improper conduct.

15.3 Member and officers must declare to the Chief Executive any relationships with an officer, which might be seen as influencing their work as a Member. This includes any family, business or sexual relationships.

15.4 The Chief Executive will advise both the Member and the officer of the need to avoid creating any appearance of improper conduct on their part.

Please provide the number of relationships reported to the Chief Executive of Members/Mayor having relationships with officers with a grade of SMR1 or above in the last 10 years.

Please provide the number of relationships reported to the Chief Executive of the Mayor having a relationship with an officer in the last 10 years.

Please provide the advice given to both the Member/Mayor and the officer to avoid creating any appearance of improper conduct on their part.

The response:

1. Two.

2. Two.

3. Verbal advice was extended to the relevant parties to remind them of their obligations under Part 5.2 of the Council’s Constitution – The Protocol for Member and Officer Conduct.

Legal advice was sought in respect of the declarations made. We consider the advice extended to be legally privileged under Section 42 of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

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Broken promise

4 Apr

Screenshot 2017 04 04 17 10 06

The mayor’s 2014 manifesto

The Newham Recorder reports:

Free school meals for some primary school children in Newham could be under threat, a headteachers’ union has warned.

In a letter sent out on behalf of the Newham branch of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) on Friday, parents were told “rising costs and a frozen budget mean tough decisions will have to be taken”.

Union officials wrote that the ‘Eat for Free’ programme was “unsustainable” in part due to a new “transparent” funding formula from the council – calculated on the number of children and meals served – asking schools to foot 60pc of the bill moving forwards.

“Schools will not be able to continue to provide free meals for all junior aged pupils unless the national funding picture changes, or the mayor decides to fully fund his initiative,” the letter stated.

The story quotes Forest Gate South councillor Dianne Walls, a former local primary school headteacher, expressing surprise “as a member of the council” that schools were being asked to pay anything at all.

Councillors kept in the dark, promises broken. I am shocked. Shocked.

Unravelling

2 Mar

The Guardian’s Dave Hill, writing on his new blog, reports that another organisation has declared that its vote was improperly cast in last year’s mayoral trigger ballot:

A second organisation whose vote helped Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales go forward unopposed as Labour candidate for next year’s mayoral election in the borough has effectively substantiated a complaint by local party members about an aspect of the candidate selection process.

Inquiries by national officers of Bectu, the media and entertainment union, have concluded that a branch affiliated to Labour locally had not paid the required fee for 2016, the year the vote took place. In a letter to Labour’s governing National Executive Committee (NEC) sent in January, 47 Newham members had argued that the Bectu vote be declared void partly on those grounds.

Last month the national Fabian Society informed its Newham branch, which also voted “yes” to Sir Robin automatically becoming the candidate for 2018, had breached the society’s own rules for determining how votes in Labour affirmative nomination or “trigger ballots” should be cast.

The Bectu delegate that cast the vote in Sir Robin’s favour was Cllr Susan Masters, the secretary of the Labour Group of councillors. The signatory on the letter purportedly from Newham Fabians was Cllr Tahmina Rahman, mayoral advisor for New Media and Finance. Are we spotting a pattern?

Sir Robin “won” the trigger ballot by 20 votes to 17. Less these two it’s now 18-17, though arguably if the Fabians had held a proper members meeting they’d have voted No, making it 18-18. 

Whatever shaky mandate the mayor had to claim the nomination unopposed has now entirely vanished. Labour needs to cancel the result and run an open selection. It’s what members want and what they deserve.

Timing is everything

22 Dec

Image

Cllr Lakmini Shah, Cabinet Member for Children’s Safeguarding, was among those who discussed the future of the Carpenters estate last week

Here’s a curious tale.

When the Focus E15 protesters turned up at East Ham Town Hall last Thursday to watch Sir Robin and his cabinet discuss plans for the future of the Carpenters Estate they found they couldn’t get into the public gallery because it was already full.

Frustrated, they ended up in a side room where they were unable to see what was going on, with only a dodgy audio feed of proceedings to listen to.

As they were leaving at the end of the meeting they saw a group of Asian women emerge from the public gallery. They weren’t Carpenters residents, as no-one from the estate recognised them.

Who were they and what agenda item had they come to watch being discussed?

It’s great that people are interested in watching democracy at work. But what an unfortunate coincidence that a group exactly large enough to fill the seats in the public gallery should turn up on the same day as the Focus E15 campaigners and prevent them getting in.

No Mandate

9 Dec

The Newham Labour party Trigger Democracy campaign has sent out a powerful email to local party members, telling them that Sir Robin has no mandate to continue as the mayoral candidate without a proper, open selection.

On Monday, you’ll have heard media reports about the Labour Party Newham Trigger Ballot result in which the current Mayor is claiming victory. What you won’t know is that his ‘victory’ is on the back of shady affiliate organisation votes. While 11 out of 9 Labour Party branches voted decisively for NO, the vote of those Newham Labour Party members don’t count because the Mayor has ‘gamed’ the process through 11 secretive (including some very small) affiliate organisations. 

So the Mayor can only claim a false victory. He has lost the confidence of Newham Labour Party members and has #NoMandate.

#NoMandate Charge Sheet

Charge #1: Newham Fabians co-chaired by GLA Member Cllr Unmesh Desai and Mayoral Advisor Cllr Tahmina Rahman, didn’t hold a meeting with all its eligible members and in line with the Fabian Society’s  constitution. It is unclear if they are even a paid up affiliate of East Ham Constituency Labour Party! The Fabian Society’s General Secretary is now investigating this breach of their rules and voting irregularity. 

Charge #2: The Christians on the Left affiliate organisation didn’t even hold a formal vote at their meeting. They thought a discussion chaired by Mayoral Advisor Cllr Clive Furness  to ‘canvass opinion’ was sufficient . 

Charge #3: The BECTU affiliate organisation made up of one (that’s right, ONE) member unilaterally voted to reselect the sitting Mayor. That one vote cancelled out the votes of the entire East Ham Central Labour Party branch where 59 members voted. @BECTU HQ is also investigating, as they weren’t aware of the vote either. 

Charge #4: A GMB representative with no connection to Newham signed all four of the Newham GMB affiliate votes while no meetings were held with local Newham GMB members. So while the current General Secretary was happy to endorse the Mayor openly and the GMB is campaigning against LIDL for not respecting the voice of its workers – they clearly can’t be bothered to respect the voice and votes of local Newham GMB members. 

Charge #5: The national TSSA Trade Union have no record of an eligible TSSA branch affiliate in Newham and are currently investigating where this mysterious TSSA vote for the Mayor has actually come from. 

Charge #6: The Procedures Secretary, Cllr Pat Murphy  who oversaw the rigged Trigger Ballot process is a paid Mayoral Advisor, depends on the mayor’s goodwill for his livelihood and highlights a fundamental conflict of interest. He’s the one that’s tried to stop Labour members in Green Street East branch from even holding a trigger ballot meeting. 

Charge #7: The vast majority of Newham Labour Party members who took part in the Trigger Ballot process voted for an open selection not the automatic reselection of the Mayor. But because of the dirty tricks by some of the Mayor’s supporters and fraudulent actions of some dubious affiliates, their vote has been disregarded.

So how can Sir Robin Wales claim ‘victory’ when he clearly has #NoMandate. 

Campaigners are asking party members to email Sir Robin, asking him to respect the votes of members and agree to an open selection, and to sign a petition calling on the Labour party to do the same.

Xmas cancelled – again

6 Dec

The relaunch of the long-dormant Newham Fabian Society has been postponed.

Dear Friends,

Due to venue and logistical reasons, we are having to postpone our Fabian Xmas Social. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Best wishes,

Tahmina

Perhaps the venue was too small to hold the very large number of people who want to ask Cllr Tahmina Rahman how come she signed a letter saying the Fabians were voting in favour of Sir Robin in the trigger ballot when the local society hasn’t met for years.

Or perhaps the guest speaker feared his talk on “Political development and future of Newham” would be met with howls of cynical laughter.

What is it with the mayor and Christmas socials? It’s all eerily familiar.