Feeds:
Posts
Comments

It seems strange for me to remind a conservative Mayor of London about the power of the market – but someone has to do it. Today Boris Johnson appealed to developers to sign his Mayoral Concordat and to sell their homes to Londoners first.

I have to remind him that “the market” will immediately doom his proposed solution to the housing crisis. Developers are in business to make money – and they are not going to resist gazumping oligarchs pushing locals aside and waving chequebooks.

Whilst I’m glad that he’s woken up to the dangers of foreign investors inflating the housing market and pricing Londoners out (a danger our Fairness Commission flagged when it launched its report in November) his proposed solution will do nothing to provide more homes for Londoners.

Instead of paper promises, we need the Mayor of London to support boroughs to deliver more affordable homes.

We in Tower Hamlets are already on course to deliver 4,000 affordable homes and our London Plan target is the highest in London. However these homes will not meet local needs unless they are truly affordable.

This week I, and eight other London Boroughs, are bringing a High Court challenge against the Mayor of London, in a bid to protect genuinely affordable rents for local people.

For many years, boroughs have been able to ensure new affordable housing is provided at rents local people can afford. Typically, in inner London that is 30-40 per cent of market levels.

However, the Mayor is seeking to impose ‘affordable’ rents in new housing of up to 80 per cent of the market rate, refusing to allow boroughs to negotiate lower rents that local people can afford.

Unless he revokes policies like these, his concordat will just paper over the cracks in our housing policy and condemn generations of Londoners to expensive and overcrowded accommodation whose market rents will be determined by cash-flush speculators from home and abroad.

RIP Bob Crow

I was saddened to hear of the sudden death of Bob Crow, the General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union. 

He took charge of a shrinking Union representing workers in industries battered by privatisation and anti-union campaigns which he leaves as one of the unions still growing, in numbers and strength. He defied mainstream consensus and relied on grassroots organisation to build the Union. Under him the Union fought for public services as well its own members. Interestingly while his Union, one of the founders of the Labour Party, fell out with the national organisation under New Labour, it now sponsors more MPs than ever before.

Tough in his principles, he kept the support of his members despite media assaults. I mourn along with them. His legacy will be a hard one to follow.

20140311-191751.jpg

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.

Since I introduced free school meals for the reception and first year primary school children, they have been very popular. In a borough that has serious issues with child poverty, poor nutrition can hinder academic achievement, so adequate meals make a significant difference educationally, which is why I ensured that they were fully funded.

Continue Reading »

Town Hall chiefs are to sign a UN charter of child rights in public services in London’s East End. More

MEDIA RELEASE

FROM CLLR. ANWAR KHAN, BOW WEST WARD, TOWER HAMLETS

27 February 2014 – for immediate release

 Tower Hamlets Labour party rocked after latest infighting during Council budget meeting

 Councillor Anwar Khan speaks out against “diseased political culture” in Tower Hamlets Labour party.

 At the budget meeting last night (26 February) Labour councillor Anwar Khan delivered a damning verdict on the “amateurish” and “embarrassing” alternative budget proposed by his fellow Labour Councillors as well as hitting out at the culture of intimidation and harassment rife in the party.

Khan, a City professional born and brought up in Tower Hamlets, said that he returned from a business trip to find that mayoral candidate John Biggs had imposed a thinly disguised election buy-off as the party’s budget strategy for the 2014/15 financial year. Labour’s majority on the Council means the party can block the budget proposals of Directly Elected Mayor Lutfur Rahman and force a second meeting.

 Cllr Anwar Khan said:

“The power of blocking a budget is there to prevent serious mismanagement, not to play politics with less than 0.05 per cent of our £1.2bn budget.”

“Last year we were whipped to pull big sums out of services and into reserves but now that John Biggs needs electing it seems there’s cash to spend. And the proposals were laughable. Free school meals funded for two school terms – with funding falling short by over £1m or delaying the relocation of the town hall to Whitechapel when Mulberry Place costs £6m a year rent. I represent some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK during a time of recession and cuts, I couldn’t vote for such terrible policies.”

Cllr Khan’s attempt to speak out was rudely interrupted when former Labour Leader Cllr. Joshua Peck forcibly disconnected Cllr Khan’s microphone in full view of the residents, members and officers present. A public example, Cllr. Khan said, of an established culture of bulling and abusive behaviour amongst Labour councillors.

 Cllr Khan said:

“I tried to speak on behalf of my constituents and I was forcefully silenced. If the former Leader of the Labour Group thinks he can behave like that in the Council Chamber, imagine what goes on behind closed doors. There’s a diseased culture in Tower Hamlets Labour Party, bullying and intimidation are rife and any Bangladeshi who doesn’t know their place is reminded quickly and ruthlessly.”

 ENDS

 NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. Cllr. Anwar Khan’s CV:

Councillor Anwar Khan was elected in 2010 in the ward of Bow West, winning a conservative seat from Anwara Ali, a local GP. He has lived in Tower Hamlets all his life, went to Osmani Primary School, Swanlea School. He studied in Newham Sixth Form and later achieved his undergraduate degree in Cass Business School, and has a Masters in Global Politics. Anwar lives in Spitalfields with his family, and works in the financial services industry in the City of London. He has served in Shadow Cabinet in all years, including holding the role of Shadow Cabinet Member for Resources and is currently the Shadow Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Regeneration and Employment.  Anwar was the Chief Whip for the first 3 years, one of the longest serving Chief Whips to date. During his term he has also served as the Chairman of the Pensions Committee.

Issued by Councillor Anwar Khan, Bow West

For queries Cllr. Khan can be  contacted on 07903 016 965 or email  anwar.khan@ymail.com

A group of individuals calling themselves ‘Christian Patrol’ returned to Brick Lane, Spitalfields and Banglatown last night distributing leaflets.

This group have no other intention other than to provoke community tension by distributing provocative and offensive leaflets.

I can reassure the community that the council, police and our partners are taking this latest incident extremely seriously.

I echo the statement of the Rt. Rev. Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney; there is no place for vigilante patrols on the streets of Tower Hamlets, there is no place for hatred in Tower Hamlets.

John Biggs is desperate to get elected. So desperate that he’ll knock down any of the borough’s achievements despite the national and international recognition we’ve gained.

In the last 3 years Tower Hamlets has received £50m in “New Homes Bonus” cash from the government- more than any other local authority- and topped every league table for house building. But Biggs is insulting the intelligence of local people by claiming we’ve only built 15 homes – not 4000.

That’s a big difference so how does he come to this figure? Simple, he moves the goalposts and applies a different definition of “housebuilding” to Tower Hamlets than that used by the whole of the rest of the country. He doesn’t attack Newham, who boast about building 2,000 new homes by the same measure we use, or even Mayor Boris Johnson who has aspirations to build 150,000 affordable homes across London.

But I am proud of my administration’s record when it comes to house building. These 4,000 homes were delivered because my administration took the policy decisions that made sure they were built – that’s what politicians are supposed to do – and we’ve delivered the most affordable homes in the UK by sticking to our 35 – 50 per cent target.

By playing with numbers instead of engaging in the more demanding job of actually delivering, Biggs has shown what kind of politician he is – all spin and no substance, willing to say whatever he needs to get into power and with no idea what to do once he gets there.

As another record-breaking storm heads to our shores, East Enders are appalled by the flood damage in the rest of the country, but we are also aware that the East End of London is one huge flood plain. Thanks to the huge public sector investment in the Thames Barrier, inaugurated under Ken Livingston’s administration, we have some measure of protection. That is just as well, since not only homes, but huge investments in the financial and technical sector in London’s docklands would be at risk if it were not there.

In contrast, while the head of the government’s Environment Agency is a “Climate Change Sceptic,”  even more dangerous is that he represents a government that is skeptical about the value of public investment. The floods are not just a product of climate change, they are also the result of a conservative climate of opinion that sees cuts as the solution to all problems. The Environment Agency reduced the dredging programme.

Tower Hamlets will do what it can, but with the accelerating pace of Climate Change, we need to look to the future and invest more in  our infrastructure to prepare for the eventuality of floods and pre-emptive planning to lower the risks to our homes and jobs.

The brutal murder of four year old Daniel Pelka by his mother and stepfather underlines once again the responsibility of statutory agencies in protecting our most vulnerable. A new report has found that problems in sharing information between such agencies led to a failure to protect Daniel. Tower Hamlets Council is acting to improve our child protection services. That’s why we have launched the new Tower Hamlets Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub. Its purpose is to improve cooperation between local agencies involved in child protection by bringing them into a single team, under one roof, in order to better protect children at risk in our borough. More