Thursday, July 02, 2015

Councillor Report to West Ham Ward 2 July 2014

Councillor Report to West Ham Ward


tel: 020 3373 2615 or email

Ward meeting 2 July 2015

Thursday 4 June I attended the ward meeting at Vicarage Lane and then the joint ward social at Nando’s restaurant in Stratford which I thought went really well. We had some great political discussions about General Election result.

Friday 5 June I met a Housing officer from Family Mosaic Housing Association for an inspection of Ladywell Street, E15 with local residents. The officer agreed to look into a number of communal repairs and suggested improvements. I have chased Officer for an update.

Saturday 6 June I meet West Ham CLP members at Stratford Station in order to go campaigning for John Biggs as Tower Hamlets mayor. I also went back to Tower Hamlets to campaign on the 9th and 11th (Election Day)

Monday 8 June I was pleased to hear that I had been re-elected as a member of the UNISON National Executive Committee for a third term of 2 years. In the evening I attended the Stratford and West Ham forum at Stratford Library. There was a very informative presentation by the Chair of Abbey Gardens, Torange Khonsari; important information on the proposed parking restrictions for the Rugby World cup (which may become permanent); a consultation on parking in Hartland Road and surrounding streets (at last!) and a report on Street Enforcement and applications for Community Grants.

On Wednesday 10 June it was the funeral of former Councillor, Alan Taylor, which unfortunately I could not make due to a work commitment. I attended my evening surgery at Brassett Point, followed by a meeting of the Council Investment & Accounts (staff pensions) Committee. There is a new contract for Actuarial services being proposed. I asked to make sure that we do not pick the actuary that has the most optimistic projections about liabilities and investment growth. There is also an “alternative financing...asset backed... pension plan” proposal which I have concerns about but will wait until I see the full details. After this meeting I was still able to make the end of West Ham CLP Executive Committee.

Saturday 13 June I had a morning surgery at Vicarage Lane. On Monday 15 to Friday 19th June I was away at the UNISON NDC conference at Glasgow.

Sunday 21 June I helped out at the reception and registration desk of the London Labour Party Mayoral hustings in the Old Town Hall in Stratford.

Monday 22 June I attended a “Safeguarding course” for school governors. I am the safeguarding governor for Rebecca Cheetham Nursery School. In the evening I attended the Newham local development planning committee and spoke in favour and responded to questions about the application for an “Educational Institute and Community Centre” in Plaistow Road by the Darul Jannah Trust.

Thursday 25 June I submitted a report expressing concerns to the Newham Cabinet meeting about proposals to give some Councillors and the Mayor a pension costing an extra 13.4% of allowances. At the West Ham CLP AGM in the evening I was re-elected unopposed as Agent.

From Wednesday evening to Saturday 4 July I will be in Manchester for the UNISON APF conference so I have given my apologies for the Ward meeting this evening.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if any ward member wishes any further details on this report.

John Gray

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

London Mesothelioma Action Day July 3 2015 "Banned But Not Gone: All Asbestos causes cancer"

London Hazards Asbestos Group will be holding a Mesothelioma Action Day on 3 July 2015 (this Friday)

The theme is "Banned But Not Gone: all asbestos causes cancer"

It will take place at Layden House, 76-86 Turnmill Street, London EC1M 5LG.


Release Doves at 10: 40 outside Farringdon tube near Cross Rail site.

Philip Lewis Chair London Hazards asbestos group opening remarks
Tony Lennon, SERTUC President
Gail Cartmail Assistant General Secretary UNITE
International Speaker from USA, Linda Reinstein, President & CEO ADAO Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

Lunch 12:15 to 1:15
Refreshments provided by Leigh Day
Mavis Nye and Janice Allen mesothelioma cases
Harminder Bains, Partner Leigh Day
Julie Winn Pattinson & Brewer Solicitors
Dave Fisher Thompsons Solicitors

Q&A Motion "this meeting of the London Asbestos Group supports and signs up to the Asbestos Victims Charter for Justice" to be moved by Philip Lewis

Closing remarks by Pete Farrell, Chair London Hazard Trust Board.

Hat tip Phil (and Lenin). In 2013 as a local Councillor and trade union safety rep, I spoke at the action day which was held in Stratford Town Hall.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Eastenders and cowardly terrorists

Just heard some good news that a mate and East London Housing UNISON colleague, his family and friends staying at the Sousse resort in Tunisia were in a different hotel and unharmed in the recent cowardly massacre. They have though still decided to stay and finish their holiday. Not sure I would do the same but respect to them ‪#‎eastenders‬

Changing London...Discussion event Thursday July 2nd 8pm Forest Gate

Newham's youngest Councillor, Seyi Akiwowo, asked, me to give this event "a shout".

"Dear Friends

Forest Gate North Labour is hosting a 'Changing London' event on Thursday 2nd July from 8-9.30pm
at Coffee7, Sebert Road (opposite Forest Gate Station)

Are you concerned about ever-increasing inequality in London?

Do you want to play your part in influencing the candidates for London Mayor?

Then please join us and the authors of 'Changing London' (described as 'a rough guide for the next Mayor of London' with 'radical but practical ideas') in an interactive discussion to share ideas and suggestions, practical or symbolic, on how to tackle inequality.

We’ll put the best ideas in a letter for candidates to sign up to.

This is your chance to put inequality on the Mayoral election agenda and raise issues you think are important for a better London.

Labour party members, friends, supporters and hangers-on are all warmly welcome, so please bring them along / share the attached flyer".

Please RSVP to"

Changing London: a rough guide for the next London mayor can be ordered direct from the publishers: paperback £9.99 inc free P&P; ebook £4.50.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bevan's Dreamers to Builders: 5 July 1945 Anniversary Tee-shirt by Philosophy Football

It has been a gap since last advert but another great tee-shirt from Philosophy Football. This time to honour the socialist wordsmith, Aneurin Bevan and the Labour Government of 1945. This is what democratic principled political power can deliver.

"We have been the dreamers. We have been the sufferers. And now we are the builders." Aneurin Bevan, 1945

LAUNCH OFFER £5 OFF JUST £17.99. Usual price £22.99 thereafter.

70 years ago, 5 July 1945 Labour achieved arguably its greatest election landslide ever. In a momentous upset the people while lauding Churchill for his war-premiership turned to Attlee to win the peace. Bevan's three line philosophy summed up what was about to be achieved. The welfare state established, an NHS created, a massive public housing programme, comprehensive education, the railways and other public utilities nationalised. A post-war settlement that lasted until 1979, whatever happened to that politics of hope?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Reflections on UNISON National Delegate Conference 2015.

It's now been over a week since the end of UNISON National Delegate Conference (NDC)  in Glasgow and I have just about recovered from the traditional post conference lergy.

This is what happens after being locked up for 4 days in what is really a very large shed, with dodgy air conditioning and thousands of other people.

NDC is one of the largest trade union events in the world. It was announced at conference that there was over 3000 delegates and visitors. The largest number ever registered which is interesting considering the challenges that unions, especially in the public sector face.

There are my personal views and reflections of what I actually think was one of the most successful UNISON conferences I have been to even though of course I have just a few little moans.

I was there as an elected member of the UNISON National Executive Council for Community (Housing Association and Voluntary Sector). My region Greater London, had over 200 delegates and my Branch, Housing Associations, had 4 delegates and had 3 ordinary and one emergency motion accepted for conference.

Two of our delegates managed to speak during conference and the other two tried a number of times but were knocked out by other delegates moving points of order to push conference business on. Most UNISON branches do not send any motions to conferences nor do they have any delegates speaking. So our branch still did well to represent the views of our rank and file members but we need to think again how we arrange speakers in conference to try and make sure that important debates are not closed down too early simply because some activists want their pet motions to be heard.

I admit to be a conference junkie and enjoyed reading all the flyers and the newsletters and listening to all the debates, even to those who try to explain how the revolution and a land of milk and honey is just around the corner, if only we demanded a "general strike". If only it was so simple.

There was also some amusing calls for unity by those who then went on to attack the unions lay leadership, our national officers, the Labour Party and uncle Tom Cobley.

Others appear to not realise that Labour has been out of Government since 2010 and that the Tories were actually re-elected in May for another 5 years.

Instead of complaining constantly that the Labour Party is not going to be the 5th International, we should be making sure that our members are supported and encouraged to further our union aims and values within our own political wing.

The vast majority of speakers and debates were fantastic and UNISON should be very proud of its delegates and their informed, intelligent and often witty contributions about the great issues of the day.

There is a genuine debate to be had about the future direction of the union and how we support and protect our members and strive for change. I feel confident that we can win battles if we choose carefully and don't seek out cliffs to march over in search of more "glorious defeats".

Our General Secretary, Dave Prentis, made it clear that we were prepared to take on the Government. We survived 2010 and we will survive 2015. He promised to increase number of stewards, treble the number of fighting fund organisers, double our legal funds and take a national lead in campaigning and protest.

We also had fantastic international speakers and fringe events.  Brilliant stalls and exhibitions in the UNISON zone. We even had our own demo and lobby outside Glasgow City Hall in support of sacked SECC UNISON steward Robert O'Donnell and striking Glasgow Homeless caseworkers.

I chaired a fringe on the Local Government Pension Scheme and spoke twice as a NEC member. Firstly to move the composite on Pensions on their behalf and then in support of the re-prioritised composite on Housing. Both composites had motions from my branch incorporated in them. Last year none of the motions I was going to speak upon came up so I did not speak. Such is life.

I thought my fellow NEC trustee on the UNISON staff pension fund, Lucia McKee, was one of our great lay Presidents and chair of conference. Lucia was fair minded but took no nonsense and was a good humoured but to the point champion of conference. I am a cynic about some things at times but am so proud that UNISON continues to grow its activists and show time and time again that genuine working class women and men can prove to be great leaders of our union.

At the end of conference the new NEC met for the first time and we elected our President for the year, former school meals cook and long time Labour Councillor, Wendy Nichols. London Ambulance Service Branch secretary, Eric Roberts, is now the senior Vice President and West Mids, Carol Sewell, was also elected as the new Vice President.

I eventually got home in London just before midnight and have spent the last week since largely coughing and spluttering with conference lergy. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Red Line Voting gets Green light to Save Planet, Respect Human Rights and Stop Fat Cats

I was really pleased to take part in the debate and vote in favour of the AMNT's Red Lines initiative which was approved at our summer conference on Wednesday this week. They cover a wide range of environmental, social and corporate governance issues.

Red Line Voting empowers pension trustees to make responsible investing a reality and will direct fund managers to oppose poor governance practise in companies where failure poses a risk to its shareholders.

Trustees bodies will be able to instruct fund managers to follow all Red Lines en bloc or a sub section.  It should not cost the scheme for doing so. Fund managers will have to comply with these instructions or explain why not and then run the risk of being sacked by trustees.

On environmental Red Lines the AMNT  worked with Carbon Disclosure Project and will be urging pension schemes to adopt them as they believe it would take climate change up the UK corporate agenda.

On social issues the Red Lines include trade union recognition, race equality, gender equality, commitment to equality monitoring and publishing the data, that companies should have a plan to introduce the Living Wage, and get rid of zero hours contracts.

On governance there will be a vote against the remuneration policy if any director is paid more than 100 times the average pay in that company’s UK workforce. Also on governance companies should have a tax policy stating what their tax practises are.

The AMNT are now planning to launch Red Line Voting in Autumn, in time for the 2016 voting season. They have have worked closely with UKSIF on the development of these Red Lines and major fund managers are already preparing to implement Red Line Voting instructions.

The big campaign now is to persuade pension schemes to adopt Red Line Voting, particularly those in pooled funds. Up to now investors in pooled funds were in practise unable to direct the engagement and voting on the shares associated with their investments. Red Line Voting gets round this. Fund managers may receive dozens of Red Line Voting instructions, but they are all the same instructions so they can then allocate votes pro rata. Since more than £2-trillion of assets under management in the UK are in pooled funds this could have a significant impact.

The AMNT has been granted £75,000 by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable trust over two years to develop and launch this initiative.

Red Line Voting is a revolutionary concept. I agree with "Responsible Investment" magazine that this is "a major evolution in UK Pension funds" but think "Engaged Investor" got it right when they called it "Power to the People: the new power for trustees to control fat cat behaviour".

Many people have been involved in the AMNT project on Red Lines but special mention to its Co Chair Janice Turner, who thought it up and was the driving force behind it and Co Chair, Barry Parr and Committee member, Bill Trythall. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Voting Systems: Newham Compass debate 1 July 2015

A topical subject again after May 7. I suspect that those of us who support a change in "first past the post" missed the boat during the AV referendum and we are now stuck with the current system for at least the next 5 years.

Yet it is important that the debate continues. One of the many difficulties is getting people who support change to agree what is the best (or least worse) alternative. Party lists system for example, are in my view, worse than FPTP.

I will have to give my apologies due to clash with UNISON event. It would be interesting to hear Francis and Rachel speak but it's a pity that there is no speaker who supports FPTP (is Red Tel available?)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Generation Rent Rip Off: Private rents in UK double the European average

This article from National Housing Federation shows that not only are rents in UK the most expensive but double the European average.

A staggering 40% of income is spent on rent compared to 28% European average.

This means that workers have less money to save for a deposit and explains why the housing benefit bill is rocketing.

Germany has the most people privately renting and their average is only 25%.

Solution? We need to increase supply by building more homes of all tenures and introduce rent controls.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

#uNDC15 Housing Composite

"President, Conference, John Gray, National Executive Committee speaking in favour of Composite F on Housing on behalf of the NEC

Conference, in that wonderful East London expression, it is the “bleedin’ obvious”, that housing is a key issue for our union.

Many of you here today, like me, work for housing organisations. So it has on the a direct impact on the terms and conditions of many members but all of us, regardless of whether we rent or buy, have to have somewhere to live, and lay down our hat.

So in a time of rapid change in the sector and a national housing crisis in terms of demand, quality, affordability and supply, as a union, we must to have a compelling and convincing political and campaigning strategy.

This strategy must have as a central plank the simple truth that we have not been building enough homes. For the last 5 years we have been building less that than half the homes we need to meet supply. But in truth, undersupply has been a growing problem for decades.

We must not only make the case for more and better homes but hammer the point to all political parties, that the only way to meet need is for the resumption of the post war political consensus, that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that its people are decently housed.

It is hard to believe, conference, but in even my lifetime the Conservative Party, the tories, used to compete with Labour on who could build the most Council homes and who would charge the lowest rents.

To build quality homes that people can afford needs money and it needs subsidy. You need money up front to pay for it and you need a subsidy to make it affordable if you are on a low income. This is an unquestionable truth and therefore so is the need for a progressive system of taxation to pay for it.

Even after the disaster of May 7, this is not totally pie in the sky. Tory voters complain that their adult children cannot afford to leave the family home, that if they rent there is no money left over to save for a deposit. They know that expensive, insecure short term lets destroys communities and damages our economy. We must continue to press the national interest case for more and cheaper homes

Conference, the Composite sets out a comprehensive programme and strategy of campaign work which the NEC and this union is committed to campaign around, let me reiterate them - an increase in the supply of housing, particularly social housing; improving the quality of existing homes; effective regulation in the private rented sector; campaigning for a “living rent” – based on a system of rent controls alongside measures including landlord regulation and licensing, more secure tenancy agreements, and long-term solutions to welfare reform, including abolishing the hated bedroom tax.

Conference, please support this composite"