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Archive for the ‘Lutfur’s Blog’ Category

You may be aware of the recent debate over free school meals provision in Tower Hamlets. Under my mayoralty, Tower Hamlets has led the way as one of the first boroughs to introduce universal free school meals for infants. The government has since adopted this as a national policy, funding meals for all infants across the country.

So now I’m proud to announce that we will be extending this provision to all primary school children, from Reception to Year 6.

This is fantastic news: all data shows that universal free school meals provision results in a dramatic improvement not only in pupils’ health but in educational attainment.

The Opposition have falsely claimed on social media sites that rather than introducing universal free school meals, this administration has blocked the policy. This could not be further from the truth.

The Labour Party’s budget was clearly cobbled together on the back of an envelope, and they seem to have mistakenly funded meals for the financial year rather than the academic year! They put aside £1.3m, but the council’s expert officials have calculated that the real cost will be £2.3m! To risk our kids going hungry from April for an election stunt is beyond contempt. That is why we have turned down their half-baked plan – and for maximum transparency, I’ve reproduced the civil servants’ detailed analysis of it below.

However, I pledge to you that we will bring forward a properly costed alternative at the next meeting of Council that will see all our kids in primary schools receive free meals from this year onwards.

OFFICERS’ COMMENTS ON ALTERNATIVE BUDGET PROPOSAL

BY THE LABOUR PARTY

The following sets our comments by officers
on a proposal offered up in the budget amendment.  Members of the Council should take this advice into
consideration when considering and debating the amendment in question.

Proposal

To provide Universal free school meals for all primary age pupils from September 2014 – £1.3m

Corporate Director’s Comments

Schools currently pay for pupils who are eligible for statutory free school meals through their devolved budgets.  Currently, the Public Health Grant meets the cost of a lunchtime meal for pupils in Reception to Year 1 who are not otherwise eligible.

From September 2014, the Department for Education will pay for a meal at lunchtime for all pupils in Reception – Year 2 for those pupils not otherwise eligible.  This will be funded through a specific grant.

In order to pay for meals for those in Years 3 – 6 who are not otherwise eligible, this is estimated to cost £2.321m in a full academic year.  This is based on 6,784 pupils currently in Years 3-6, not eligible for statutory free school meals at £2.30 per meal for 78.3% (ie current) take-up.

Pupil numbers will fluctuate, as will take-up.  Younger year-groups are larger than older ones, so a steady rise can be expected over time.  If take-up was at 90%, the costs would rise by £0.347min a full year.

The additional costs of the meals is not the only consideration, however.  It is extremely difficult to determine the burden on schools if all pupils were to have a free meal however the expectation is that additional supervision will be required in the dining hall and timetables will need to be reviewed to ensure all pupils have sufficient time to eat which may require staggered lunch breaks.

There would be less of a burden on schools if they were not collecting cash and the use of appropriate software – in conjunction with the kitchen may ease the administration.  Schools may need to purchase additional dining furniture.

From a catering service’s point of view additional staffing would be required along with additional light and heavy equipment and in some instances (dependent on a site by site review) additional space.  Some sites may require additional electrical and gas supply installations.

It is likely that a project officer would be required to carry a full feasibility of each site if this project was to move forward.

Any additional comments of the Chief Financial Officer

The direct costs of this initiative are estimated to be £2.321m in a full year.  So, for 2014/15 financial year (ie from September 2014 to March 2015), the estimated cost would be around £1.354m (ie 7/12ths of the full-year cost).  If the initiative ran for the full academic year, this would require a further £0.967m in 2015/16 financial year.  The actual costs will be dependent on actual pupil numbers and the level of take-up.

Cabinet on 5th February 2014 considered a proposal to allocate £1.3m over two financial years for a Women into Employment initiative which would use the Public Health Grant released by the introduction of the national FSM scheme for R-Y2 pupils. If this were not to proceed, it would cover the first £1.3m of the cost of this alternative proposal, leaving £0.967m to find if it runs for a full academic Year.

There are likely to be costs on schools associated with what might be a stepped change in the number of pupils accessing a meal at lunchtime, but these will vary from school to school and no estimates are readily available.

There may need to be some capital investment if school facilities are insufficient to meet the requirements and the DfE has allocated £0.748m school meals capital grants for Tower Hamlets (including £0.157m for VA schools) for 2014/15, which might be used to deliver this.

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Recently the Cross Government Group on Anti Muslim Hatred reported a growing and disturbing trend of hostility towards British Muslims. One statistic stood out in particular – namely that a quarter of young people apparently “do not trust Muslims”. I was not surprised in the slightest by the group’s further findings.

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A payout by major building companies to “blacklisted” workers has been welcomed by the mayor of Tower Hamlets. Mayor Lutfur Rahman said the decision by eight construction companies to compensate 3,200 employees whose names were on an industry black list was a “fantastic result”.

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Last week the Prime Minister, David Cameron promised to withdraw housing benefit and jobseekers allowance from the under 25 age group. He did so while claiming that he wants to make Britain ‘a land of opportunity for all’. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. There are around a million of our young people, often in the poorest and most deprived areas, who, largely and through no fault of their own are not in education or training or employment. These are the so called ‘Neets’, who Cameron clearly has destined for the streets, for there no other way of interpreting his new pledge.

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Remembering 9/11

The names of the three thousand victims of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, are being read out today to mark the twelfth anniversary.

It is worth recalling that the victims included people from all walks of life, many nationalities and many faiths. The attack on the World Trade Center changed history; the war in Iraq and the continuing conflict in Afghanistan can trace their beginnings to that one terrible event. So today is also the day when we should remember the casualties of all wars and hope that the terrible civil war raging in Syria can be ended through diplomacy rather than through yet more war and destruction.

In recalling the innocent people who lost their lives on 9/11, we should never forget the role played by the emergency services, the fire-fighters and the New York Police Department on that terrible day. Their often heroic role reminds me why it is so important to continue to fight attempts to cut back vital public services here and why we need to re-double our efforts to tell Mayor Boris Johnson that cuts cost lives.

I’m grateful to readers for pointing out a typographical error that suggested I was advocating more war and destruction in Syria.

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PRESS STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ENGLISH DEFENCE LEAGUE BANNED FROM GATHERING IN ALTAB ALI PARK, TOWER HAMLETS, ON SEPTEMBER 7TH

MAYOR RAHMAN ACCUSES EDL OF; “DEEPLY PROVOCATIVE AND GRATUITOUS” INSULT TO LOCAL COMMUNITY

DEMANDS INTENSIFY FOR HOME SECRETARY TO ACT

Mayor Lutfur Rahman has condemned the far Right English Defence League for attempting to get permission to use Altab Ali Park following their planned march through the borough on September 7th. He has already written to the Home Secretary and local police chiefs calling for a ban on the march.

Mayor Rahman said; “This was a deeply provocative and gratuitous attempt by the EDL to use a park named after a young garment worker who was murdered by racist thugs in 1978.   I am delighted that Tower Hamlets Council officers have refused permission for our park and the name of Altab Ali to be abused in this way. I am today redoubling my efforts to make sure that the Home Secretary stops the racist EDL from marching though our borough on September 7th.”

Glyn Robbins of United East End said; ‘Our unity is stronger than ever.  The EDL is not welcome here.  The people of Tower Hamlets will stand shoulder to shoulder to defend our community against those who seek to divide us.’

An unprecedented number of national and local figures have joined with Mayor Lutfur Rahman in calling upon the Home Secretary to ban a proposed march in Tower Hamlets being organised by the English Defence League and being planned for September 7th.

The Mayor has been joined by the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, former Cabinet Minister, Clare Short and the Chairman of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, Keith Vaz as well as leaders of Britain’s trade unions, faith group leaders and local community and campaigning groups in the biggest protest directed at the EDL.

They have also written an open letter to the Guardian newspaper, published Friday, declaring;

‘The EDL intend to bring a message of hate to our borough. They seek to exploit the shocking murder of Drummer Lee Rigby for their own destructive ends. Their target is the largest mosque in the country.

On previous protests, the EDL have abused worshippers and threatened to destroy mosques. Their protests invariably result in violence against local communities, property and the police.

In light of the recent street disturbances in Birmingham as a result of an EDL visit, we have real fears that the EDL presence will act as a catalyst for further violence, disorder and destruction of property.

We oppose anyone who would wish to incite hatred against others because of their religious belief, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. We will continue to work together to peacefully demonstrate that Tower Hamlets is ‘No Place for Hate’.

The Home Secretary must act, and act now, to ensure that the EDL is not able to continue with its tour of hate through the streets of East London on September 7th’.

The call for action has come from Mayor Lutfur Rahman and is supported by the following;

Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London

Len McCluskey General Secretary, Unite the Union

Rt Hon Clare Short

Billy Hayes, General Secretary Communication Workers Union

Jim Fitzpatrick MP

John Cryer MP

Grahame Morris MP

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Christine Shawcroft, Labour Party NEC

Maulana Shams-ul Haq, Chair, Council of Mosques Tower Hamlets

Rev preb. Alan Green, rector St John on Bethnal Green

Leon Silver, Nelson Street Synagogue

Max Levitas, veteran; Battle of Cable Street

Sajjad Miah, Acting President, Brick Lane Mosque

George Iacobescu, Canary Wharf Group

Salma Yaqoob

Giles Fraser

Neil Jaminson, London Citizens

Dilowar Khan, Executive Director, London Muslim Centre

James Grayson, Chair Tower Hamlets Co-operative Party

Jan McHarry, London Buddhist Centre

Phil Sedler, Chair Tower Hamlets Federation of Tenants & Residents Associations

Jenny Fisher, Secretary Tower Hamlets Federation of Tenants & Residents Associations

Jack Gilbert, Rainbow Hamlets

Len Aldis, Tower Hamlets CND

Guy Harper, Organiser, Tower Hamlets Left Unity

David Rosenberg Jewish Socialist Group

Julia Hunt, Secretary, Stepney Historical Trust

Steve Hart, Chair, Unite Against Fascism

Sabby Dhalu, Joint Secretary, Unite Against Fascism

Pasha Khandaker

President, Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA)

Mukim Ahmed

Chair, British Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce (BBCC)

Dr Hasanat M Hussain, MBE

Leader, Voice for Justice World Forum

KM Abu Taher Choudhury

Secretary, Voice for Justice

Barrister Ataur Rahman

Chair, Greater Sylhet Council (GSC)

Islam Uddin

President, SoyttenSen School for Preforming Arts & UDICHI( Cultural Group)

Aziz Choudhury

Chair, Spitalfield Small Business Association (SSBA)

Shiraj Haque

Dilu Naser

General Secretary, Sommilito Sanskritik Parishad (Cultural collection)

Sirajul Basith Choudhury

General Secretary, Bangledeshi Teachers Association UK

Tower Hamlets interfaith Forum

East London Mosque

United East End

Searchlight Magazine

Trade union Friends of Searchlight

Islamic Forum of Europe

Redbridge and Epping Forest Together

For further information, please contact;

Mark Seddon

Seddonm:@verizon.net

07918 759780

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Alan Bennett, the award-winning playwright and author of The History Boys, has endorsed a London borough’s bid to introduce a policy for hard-pressed local young people that has echoes of the old university grant system – while laying into the coalition’s student policy.

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