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Archive for March 19th, 2012

I was shocked and saddened to hear of this morning’s fatal incident in Toulouse, France, in which a teacher and three young children were shot and killed outside a Jewish school.

The attack appears to have racist motivations, and police have provisionally linked it with two other recent shooting incidents in the same area, in which three French servicemen of North African origin were murdered.

It also bears echoes of last summer’s horrific attack in Norway, in which 76 people were killed and 92 injured by the white supremacist Anders Behring Breivik.

These are hate crimes of the gravest nature. My heart reaches out to the familes of those whose lives have been so cruelly snatched by these hateful killers, and with the young man who was also injured in today’s attack: I hope and pray that he makes a full recovery.

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On Friday I hosted the Bangladesh Olympic Delegation at the Town Hall. With a large Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets, I am keeping a close eye on progress of athletes from Bangladesh.

Led by Nurul Fazal Bulbul, the chef de mission of the Bangladeshi Olympic Committee, I was pleased to hear how the team is preparing during its pre Games visit toLondon. The Bangladesh team is hoping to win medals in shooting, archery and fencing. I wish the athletes the very best and hope to see you cheering them on during the Games!

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International Women’s Day Q&A

Last Saturday I was delighted to attend our Women in Public Life Human Library at Whitechapel Ideas Store, to celebrate International Women’s Week. The event was organised by Cllr Rania Khan, lead member for Culture, to encourage more women to become involved in public life.

We also held a short listening time, where women could present their concerns and questions to me.

I am sure that many other women, and men, in the borough will be interested in the concerns they raised, as well as my explanation of what I, and the Council, are doing to tackle these issues.

The Financial Crisis and impact on local people:

Q: “Working class people are being made to pay for a crisis they didn’t cause. We need to campaign and fight back against the public sector and welfare cuts, especially against the housing benefit cap, which will especially impact on women. What has theMayor been doing to campaign around these issues?”

 A: “When cuts inflict pain and hardship on our community we must struggle and resist. My cabinet and I have been joining in national campaigns, including the demonstration last March and the day of strike action last November. We are all willing to work with partners to resist and we welcome any suggestions of campaigns we can be involved in.”

Additional Information on our replacement for the EMA scheme here and our welfare reform congress here.

Low Paid Jobs:

Q: “What is the Mayor doing to tackle the discrimination around low paid jobs?”

A: “We need to tackle the stigma attached to low paid jobs, especially when this stigmatises the workers, many of whom are women. We employ 10,000 people in the Council and we value each and everyone of them. In many of the services women outnumber men but we need to do more to ensure that we have women at every level in the Council. One of the most proactive steps we took in tackling low paid jobs was, in 2008, to implement the London Living Wage across the Council. It was a difficult procedure and I am very proud we delivered it.

Additional information the Council’s London Living Wage Policy here.

Prostitution:

Q: “Prostitutes have been let down by the care system, the justice
system; they suffer from stigma, shame, drug addiction. Why are these
women being criminalised and targeted by the police? Would the Mayor
consider including them in the Violence Against Women Strategy and
targeting the men who purchase sex, not the prostitutes?”

A: “I do not think that these women are being deliberately targeted,
and if that was the case I would support a campaign to introduce a
different tactic. The police are with us today, and I would be
interested if they could let us know how they work with prostitutes
and how we can best work together top support these women.

Additional information: I have since asked the director responsible for The Council’s relationship with the police to explore how policing prostitution can be improved to support vulnerable women.

Q: “Prostitutes have been let down by the care system, the justice system; they suffer from stigma, shame, drug addiction. Why are these women being criminalised and targeted by the police? Would the Mayor consider including them in the Violence Against Women Strategy and targeting the men who purchase sex, not the prostitutes?”

A: “I do not think that these women are being deliberately targeted, and if that was the case I would support a campaign to introduce a different tactic. The police are with us today, and I would be interested if they could let us know how they work with prostitutes and how we can best work together top support these women.

ESOL provision and childcare:

Q: “Women want to learn English and be in employment. However the national cuts to ESOL provision and childcare, as well as pressure due to the welfare reform means they are struggling to get into work. How can we support them to get into work?”

A: “Due to Central Government cuts, we had to cut £100m from our own budget. This was extremely difficult for us but we were committed to protecting important frontline services, protecting our investment in the third sector, investing in youth centres and children centres. Last year we opened a new children’s centre. We have also invested £245,000 into ESOL provision through the third sector as we know how important this service is.”

Additional information about the recent opening of our childrens center at Meath Gardens here and funding for ESOL projects here.

Private Schools:

Q: “Many of our young people do not access private schools, even when there are bursaries available. Should we be encouraging them to do so?”

A: “I believe in state education and I am proud of the schools we have in Tower Hamlets. We are seeing some of the best results in London. We have to keep investing to maintain the best facilities, best teachers and best results and we will make sure that our schools do as well as the private schools.”

Additional information about our education results here.

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