Tag Archives: sirrobinwales

Selling Newham by the pound

24 Apr

Newham sold

The pile of last-minute news stories pushed out by the mayor’s PR team just before the pre-election quiet period included the announcement of NewShare – an “innovative shared equity programme” aimed at helping

hard working Newham residents who may not be able to afford a large deposit or the costs of purchasing a property on the open market, buy their own home.

This Tory rhetoric is accompanied by some suitably Tory action: Sir Robin has awarded an exclusive contract to the private sector to market residential properties through this new scheme.

As the council spinmeisters put it:

Countrywide PLC is one of the largest estate agents in the UK … with a proven track record managing and marketing affordable home ownership programmes.

Countrywide will be the “sole point of contact” for people wanting to buy shared equity properties from Newham and they will

guide potential purchasers as to which product is most suitable for them in respect of their earnings and aspirations. Part of their role will be to ensure that whilst applicants are not overstretched, they do maximise the equity stake they can afford to buy.

There’s no mention of how much the shiny-suited wideboys are being paid for this service, but that sounds like an incentive to push people as far as they possibly can to raise maximum revenue. What could possibly go wrong?

But where exactly are these properties going to come from, given that there’s a desperate shortage of affordable homes in Newham and the council is already committed to building 3,000 homes and buying another 500 for its private rental business Red Door Ventures?

NewShare consists of three different housing offers … new homes built by the council, street properties acquired by the council and empty council properties. [my emphasis added]

Yes, the council is going to address its lack of social housing by selling off empty council houses. And then selling the new properties it builds. But it’s all okay because council tenants who buy into the scheme will free up their current home for someone on the waiting list. Ta da!

And if that’s not enough doublethink to convince you:

The scheme will also increase the total volume of affordable housing in the borough as for every three empty council properties which are transferred to the new scheme the council will be able to build or buy two further new homes to offer for shared equity.

In Newham two is a bigger number than three! Selling three homes and building two to replace them will increase the supply of affordable housing.

Planning ahead

11 Apr


Sir Robin Wales surrounded by his 2026 re-election campaign team.

Busy busy busy

10 Apr

Sir Robin unveils his new ‘Every Child a Chess Player’ initiative

It looks like Newham council’s PR machine is going into overdrive to promote the mayor ahead of May’s elections.

Of the ten news stories published on the council website this week eight prominently feature Sir Robin.

On Sunday – this is a seven-day-a-week operation! – they reported that

Sir Robin Wales and Madani Sow, Chairman of Bouygues UK and Bouygues Development, marked [the completion of the first concrete structure for Hallsville Quarter, the new centre for Canning Town] by placing a time capsule in cement on the site. They were joined by representatives from partners One Housing Group, Mountain Capital and Morrisons.

On Monday

Mayor Sir Robin Wales joined more than 160 children from 13 schools across the borough to launch the Newham Primary Schools’ Team Chess Tournament at the Old Town Hall in Stratford…

…Sir Robin said: “Chess is another skill that young people can learn. It improves their concentration and we believe it improves their cognitive skills. Giving children opportunities to find the things they enjoy builds their resilience, and that’s what we’re about.”

The start of a new ‘Every child a chess player’ campaign, perhaps?

Then on Tuesday ‘Every child a Chinese lion dancer’ took centre stage:

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales joined students at Beckton’s Kingsford Community School who got some expert lessons in traditional Chinese lion dancing thanks to Royal Albert Dock developer ABP… Sir Robin visited the school with ABP vice chairman Nancy Xu and London Executive Director John Miu to present a lion’s costume and some Mandarin books.

Later the same day

Mayor Sir Robin Wales helped launch an initiative that will see girls at Sarah Bonnell School in Stratford be able to choose their perfect prom dress thanks to a leading bridal and special occasion retailer.

The diary was packed on Tuesday, as our leader took inspiration for the soon-to-be-unveiled ‘Every child a cheerleader’ programme:

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales gave a big cheer to more than 350 young people from the Ascension Eagles cheerleading squads as they put on a show at their annual Spring Showcase event.The Mayor visited the ExCeL exhibition centre in the Royal Docks to applaud teams from 15 primary and secondary schools from across the borough, and children with special educational needs, who receive cheerleading and dance coaching from the Eagles funded by the council.

Wednesday rolled around and Newham PR kicked off with news about Workplace, claiming that it has now “secured employment for more than 20,000 Newham residents.”

Sir Robin Wales Mayor of Newham said: “We’re extremely proud of our highly successful employment service, Workplace. It has done an amazing job in supporting so many Newham residents into sustainable employment.”

Not letting the grass grow under his feet, the mayor went tree planting in Canning Town

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales joined Ian Sutcliffe, executive director of Countryside Properties, head teacher Violet Otieno, and 15 pupils to plant a tree in the new rooftop garden [at Keir Hardie Primary School]…

…[he] said: “We’re committed to providing our residents with great homes, excellent schools and new and exciting neighbourhoods as part of the Canning Town and Custom House regeneration programme.”

Despite it being the first week of the Easter holidays, this was followed by a report on visits to no fewer than four other schools in the borough

to see how the [building] works were progressing, meet head teachers and pupils and to perform topping out ceremonies…

… ”It was great to meet the teachers and pupils at these schools and see the breadth on teaching on offer. Our primary schools already provide a wealth of learning opportunities to inspire our young people and help them achieve their potential.”

It was of course simply a happy coincidence that this bustle of activity occurred just before the start of the election campaign and that the council’s slick PR team could report it all in such gushing terms.


6 Feb


Same suit, same shirt. Even their ties match. And it’s not the first time:


It’s like they’ve been playing in the same dressing up box.


More Rotten Boroughs

17 Oct

The mayor makes yet another appearance in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs column this week.

The article essentially repeats the story told on Mike Law’s blog about Sir Robin’s pay rises and contributions to charity.

I’ve lost count of the number of times over the past few years that Newham has featured in the Eye. Surely it’s time for someone – the leader of the Labour Party, perhaps – to take Sir Robin to one side and tell him to sort it out.

Or maybe our 60 Labour councillors might start doing their jobs and hold the mayor to account. Isn’t bringing the council into disrepute against the code of conduct?

Snouts in the trough – again

15 Aug

After a bit of prompting Newham has published details of the allowances and expenses paid to councillors during the financial year 2011/12.

The basic allowance paid to all councillors (except the mayor) is £10,829 per annum, less a £60 fee for using their council laptop for personal use and a £35 data protection registration fee. Around half of the council also receive additional ‘special responsibility’ allowances. 

In total our 61 councillors raked in £1,210,323 in allowances last year. That’s an average of £19,841 each.

The table below shows the top dozen earners on the council.

RA WALES (Mayor)  81,029
AR BAIKIE  46,389
IK CORBETT  42,811
LT HUDSON  42,111
U DESAI  41,776
C MCAULEY  41,776
A KELLAWAY  37,635
CW FURNESS  37,291
JH LAGUDA  33,499
Q PEPPIATT  29,358


It is worth bearing a couple of things in mind while looking at this list:

Firstly, ordinary Newham people earn the second lowest wages in London at just £29,518 a year. A dozen councillors earn that or more just from their allowances, never mind any additional income they enjoy from their regular jobs.

Secondly, as recently as 2002 the basic allowance for councillors in Newham was just £533 a year. As council leader Robin Wales received an additional special responsibility allowance of £16,631. That scheme was replaced as soon as Sir Robin became mayor, when allowances rocketed to over £9,000 for councillors and £65,000 for the elected mayor.

Things have only got worse (or better, if you are lucky enough to be among the favoured few) since then.

A copy of the full report, listing all councillors, can be downloaded from the Newham website.

A place to live, work and stay?

6 Jul


The Carpenters Estate, on the fringes of the Olympic Park in Stratford, is going to be demolished to make way for a new east London campus for University College London. The residents are, understandably, not happy about this and I have a great deal of sympathy for their position.

It seems perverse at a time when there is a desperate need for affordable housing in London that an estate of perfectly serviceable homes is to be bulldozed and replaced by a university campus.

The borough’s motto is ‘a place to live, work and stay.’ How are people supposed to stay if you knock their homes down?

It is all very well Sir Robin banging on about building resilient communities, but how can communities develop resilience if they are scattered to the four corners of the borough – or indeed beyond – because their homes are demolished and they can’t afford anything else? How many of the flats in the shiny new blocks springing up in Stratford are truly ‘affordable’ to Newham people?

The mayor says, “you can’t do things for people, they’ve got to do it for themselves. All we can do is help. They have to build personal capacity, and that means being able to deal with the things that life throws at you. Grit, determination, aspiration, you have to build it in to communities.”

This language of ‘resilience’ is basically about blaming the poor for their own condition. Too poor to afford some where to rent or buy? Don’t know how to negotiate the bureaucracy to get yourself re-housed? Confused by complex forms and processes? The services you use and rely on no longer exist because of budget cuts? Tough. Not our problem. Go away. 

Sir Robin claims to be ambitious for Newham, but he seems not to have much empathy for the people who actually live here.

[a version of this was posted on the Newham Issues e-democracy forum]

Image from The Cheese Grater


Cannes of Worms

17 Apr

Back in March, Ted Jeory, writing in the Sunday Express, reported that various local councils in the UK had been represented at an international property convention in Cannes, a resort town on the French riviera, including Sir Robin Wales at the head of a 6-man delegation from Newham council.

The story was repeated by Mike Law on his blog, highlighting the presence of Sir Robin and the revelation that the trip had not been funded by local taxpayers but by private interests.

The Newham Recorder picked this up and asked who had paid for the trip. Predictably, the council declined to say. The Recorder’s reporter claims this has been followed up by a request under the Freedom of Information Act, though as far as I know no response has yet been forthcoming.

In a comment posted on Mike Law’s blog I said that 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. And there’s plenty of building to be done around the Olympic Park, plus a large number of brownfield sites across the borough that could be usefully redeveloped. 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. The fact that Newham is refusing – so far at least – to disclose who picked up the tab indicates that they feel there’s something to hide. 

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?

It is a mystery to me why Sir Robin has chosen put himself in this position. It is a massive lapse of judgement.


The mayor’s register of gifts and hospitality has been updated to include the trip to Cannes:


  • 07/03/2012 – Hospitality: Olympic Park Legacy Dinner. offered by Olympic Park Legacy Company, 29-35 West Ham Lane, London E15 4PH; Hospitality received at MIPIM 2012 International Conference, Cannes. Value: at least £25.00 ; Value £25
  • 06/03/2012 – Hospitality: Olympic Park Legacy Lunch offered by Olympic Park Legacy Co., 29-35 West Ham Lane, London E15 4PH; Hospitality received at MIPIM 2012 International Conference, Cannes. Value: at leat £25.00 ; Value £25
  • 06/03/2012 – Hospitality: City of London – The London Reception evening event. offered by City of London, Guildhall, PO Box 270 London EC2P 2EJ; Hospitality received at MIPIM 2012 International Conference, Cannes. Value: at least £25.00 ; Value £25
  • 06/03/2012 – Hospitality: London First Cocktail Evening Reception. offered by London First, Whitcomb Street, London WC2H 7HA; Hospitality received at MIPIM 2012 International Conference, Cannes. Value: £25.00 ; Value £25
  • 05/03/2012 – Travel from London to Cannes France: MIPIM 2012 Internatiional Conference offered by Various sponsors.; Travel via Eurostar – St. Pancras to Cannes, via Paris. Value: £362.28p ; Value £25
  • 05/03/2012 – Accommodation at the Croisette Beach Hotel, Cannes; MIPIM 2012 International Conference offered by Various sponsors.; x3 night accommodation 5-7 March 2012. Value: £687.00
  • 05/03/2012 – Hospitality – London First evening reception offered by London First, 3 Whitcomb Street, London WC2H 7HA; Hospitality received at MIPIM 2012 International Conference, Cannes. Value: at least £25.00 ; Value £25


Although the people paying for the various meals and receptions are named, the big ticket items – the cost of travel and hotel accommodation – are listed as “offered by various sponsors.” And there’s no mention here of a conference registration fee. The MIPIM 2012 website states visitor registration as being €1,590 (excluding VAT). That’s £1,312 at today’s exchange rate, plus French VAT at 19.6%.

Taken together these come to over £2,361 (excluding the VAT on the registration fee). Assuming all the other members of Newham’s delegation travelled together, stayed in the same hotel and attended the conference these “various sponsors” have stumped up well in excess of £14,000.

I repeat the question: who are these people and what do they expect in return for their largesse?