Ex-investment banker Chidi Oti-Obihara has lived in Beckton for 6 years and is standing on a platform for improving local lives
I’m proud to announce that our candidate for East Ham is now Beckton-based Chidi Oti-Obihara!
Chidi Oti-Obihara lives in Beckton and became a member of the Green Party while working with us on our investigations into Newham Council’s mis-sold Lender Option, Borrower Option (‘LOBO’) loans.
Previously an Investment Banker, Chidi turned whistle-blower in 2007 and testified to Parliament about the practices he’d witnessed and been bullied for not colluding with. He now works as an independent financial consultant.
Chidi said “It’s a bittersweet moment for me as I became involved in the party largely because of Rachel, so it’s a shame to have this opportunity due to her standing down. However, it’s a huge honour to have been selected by the membership to represent the party, and especially my own neighbourhood!”
Chidi Oti-Obihara has lived in Beckton for 6 years and is standing on a platform for improving local lives:
“My part of the borough – Beckton and the Royal Docks, nearby – has been rather neglected by local government. There isnt enough sustainable planning. Whenever investment does appear, it’s privately funded or uses opaque private-partnerships that rarely meets the needs of local people. The air pollution, which is disgraceful across London, is particularly bad in parts of the borough due to the sewage works, the airport and the endless building works. The air is constantly full of dust particles and unpleasant smells. We deserve better, and that’s a large part of why I want to stand in East Ham.”
Chidi is also keen to discuss the problems with some of the privatisation in local government – such as the use of LOBOs by many local authorities. “Having worked in finance for over 15 years, I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I know some of the more questionable practices used in selling products. We know that Newham Council is by no means alone in having been mis-sold these loans, and I hope we can push this topic into the national agenda.”
Today, Chidi launched his campaign with some leafletting on East Ham High Street, talking to residents, shoppers and business owners.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be holding events and stalls around East Ham, Beckton and the Docks – find out more on Chidi’s Facebook page.
Michael has been our party treasurer for the past few years, and is an IT consultant by day. Mike is sadly one of the dwindling number of East London-born working class residents who has managed to live here his entire life, without being priced out. …Yet!
Concerns around housing and the rise in social injustice was a key part of why Michael joined the Green Party:
“The banks are still ripping us off – nothing has changed since 2008 to fix the system. The mainstream parties just bow down to the super-rich and lobbyists. I believe that the Tory government’s ideology driven “austerity” cuts should end. It’s grotesquely unfair. The super-rich, banks, and multinational companies should take their losses and pay their taxes.
A green, fair and prosperous society is not only achievable but necessary.“
This is his first time standing as a general election candidate, inspired by his time campaigning for recent elections in the borough. If you’ve spoken to us on your doorstep, at one of our stalls or community events, you may well remember meeting Mike.
One of Michael hopes for this election campaign is to encourage voter turnout and show disillusioned locals why the Green Party are a valid choice. “The EU Referendum turnout in Newham was the second lowest in the country. During our campaigning we spoke to countless people who didn’t plan to vote because they didn’t feel their vote mattered. Newham’s residents deserve to have a voice, and many currently feel that they don’t.”
Newham Green Party are thrilled to see action following our 2 year campaign against Newham’s LOBO loans
We are thrilled by Newham Council’s announcement that Barclays are turning 55% of its Lender Option Borrower Option, or LOBO, loans (worth £248 million) into a normal fixed-rate loan. It is estimated that this deal will save Newham Council £1.6 million this coming year!
The move follows years of campaigning by our team, alongside Debt Resistance UK and members of the public who uncovered the toxic debt, totaling 90% of the council’s debt portfolio. The interest payments alone equal 80% of Council tax paid from 2014 to 2015.
We are excited to finally see positive movement on this issue. This should rescue us from over a million pounds of cuts to local services and jobs this year. Newham taxpayers’ deserve to see their money spent on local services, not bank debts from mis-sold financial products.
However, we are concerned that the other 45% of the council’s LOBO loans remain unchallenged, and that full details of this new deal with Barclays have not been released. We can’t be sure that this announcement isn’t just a rewording of last year’s changes initiated by Barclays for all of their LOBOs contracts in the UK.
Rachel Collinson, Membership Officer of Newham Green Party, and Elisabeth Whitebread, the Green Party candidate in the 2016 Forest Gate North by-election, have worked closely with Debt Resistance UK since investigations started in 2014.
Speaking on behalf of Newham Green Party, Rachel Collinson said “This is a brilliant first step to reduce Newham’s debt problems. However, we will continue to campaign for further action to reduce debt expenditure from the LOBO investments with RBS. Residents, local businesses and Council workers should not be penalised for these banks mis-selling loans to councils.”
Newham Green Party’s campaign started in 2014, following discussions with Joel Benjamin of Debt Resistance about investigating Newham’s LOBO loans.
In 2015 Ms Collinson submitted letters to Newham Council regarding the LOBO loan debt, with little in the way of constructive response. This was followed with a request to the auditors to take the Council to court over illegal spending.
In 2016 Green Party and Debt Resistance activists attended various Council meetings; providing investigation reports, and offers of no win, no fee legal advice to provide the council with a low cost solution.
In addition to the nearly 900 people who signed our petition, we would like to thank all our volunteers, members and supporters, and Newham Councillors Rokhsana Fiaz, John Gray and John Whitworth for their input and questions at some of the Council and audit meetings – often against strong resistance from other Newham Councillors.
In an email to their supporters, Ludovica Rogers of Debt Resistance UK said:
We hope this deal goes beyond a simple PR stunt for Barclays and Newham council and that risk and high costs for taxpayers associated with LOBO loans are being effectively removed. Until Newham Council put the terms of this deal negotiated in secret into the public realm, we can’t comment, in particular on loan breakage costs, interest rates and loan restructuring fees.
Debt Resistance UK would like to thank the hundreds of Newham residents who have signed the LOBOs petition and kept up public pressure on Robin Wales administration, alongside efforts of Newham LOBO loan objector Rachel Collinson
They join us in our disappointment at the poor conduct of Finance Director Lester Hudson and Mayor Robin Wales – “whose financial competence must now be called into direct question.”
We will continue to work with the brilliant Debt Resistance UK team on monitoring the council’s new deal and how the savings are put to use.
Maryland residents and Green Party members have been campaigning to get Maryland station included in Zone 2/3
Maryland residents and Green Party members have been campaigning to get Maryland station included in ‘Zone 2/3’, like all other Stratford stations.
Sadly we discovered this week that the campaign to rezone Maryland as zone 2/3 hit a major stumbling block. Staff from the office of Mayor Sadiq Khan responded with a no, but only commented on the financial concerns campaigners had raised:
The re-zoning of stations in the Stratford area from Zone 3 to Zone 2/3 was done as part of plans to secure the Olympic legacy and on the basis that it would be self-funding due to the increased value of the land owned by the Greater London Authority in the area. These considerations do not apply in the same way to Maryland. The decision to re-zone the other stations was also made to prevent passengers from having to travel through Zone 3 on the Jubilee line to reach Stratford. Without these changes Jubilee Line users would still have had to buy a Zone 3 ticket, which would have put them at a disadvantage compared to Central Line users.
While we are disappointed about this, we’ll continue to urge TfL and the Labour Mayor of London that safety and overcrowding is an issue they should reconsider.
Rezoning Maryland to 2/3 would encourage residents to board there, easing the scary over-crowding at Forest Gate and Stratford stations. Already a real danger, particularly at rush hour and on West Ham match days, station over-crowding will only get worse once the Elizabeth link (aka Crossrail) opens for Stratford, Maryland and Forest Gate in December 2018.
Yes, as an added bonus, it would make travel cheaper for local residents too, which could be a huge relief for many struggling with ever rising costs. However our main priority, and that of TfL and the Mayor of London’s office, should be in making sure all travellers are safe when using Newham’s stations.
Newham Council has proposed changes to the one-way traffic system around the Stratford Mall (including the Broadway and Great Eastern Road), including the introduction of two-way traffic flows.
The council’s aim is to reduce accidents in the area and “encourage more people to visit the Broadway, High Street and Cultural Quarter” to support local businesses and venues.
The information available online is relatively limited and vague, proposing:
a two-way traffic system and road calming measures like 20mph limits
upgrading the existing cycle tracks making them more distinct
improving shared pedestrian and cycle spaces
widen the pedestrian crossing at Meridian Square
move other intersections to “where pedestrians prefer to cross”
resurface pavements, “removing old street furniture and introducing new landscaping”
enhancements to the ‘public areas’ around St John’s Church and the Theatre Square
So far, we’re quite excited by these proposals – which look like they might resolve many of the issues we’ve had with the shared pavement/cycle paths, although cyclists will still have to fend for themselves in certain quarters. The resurfacing of pavements and improvements to traffic crossings are also very welcome – some paths in Stratford remain uneven or steep, which can be difficult for those with mobility issues, or prams.
Our highlights from the details specified on the proposals map include:
An additional ‘Quiet way’ cycle route (for families and less confident cyclists) along Theatre Square.
Relocating the station taxi rank from tucked away the other side of Westfield stairs to the behind the bus station, so access is improved – brilliant for those of us who are less mobile! – and taxis are easier for visitors to find.
Coaches have also been relocated from both sides of the shopping centre, to Montfichet Road, near the station’s Westfield exit.
The former rank and coach stop on Great Eastern Road will become a pick up/drop off zone.
The main concerns are the execution of changes from a one-way ring road to a two-way traffic flow. Apparently local residents and businesses will be kept informed as the project progresses.
Alternatively, the Council is holding public information events in November, and hopefully more detailed displays of the proposals will be available at Stratford, Plaistow and Forest Gate libraries until 28 November.
Construction is proposed to be completed in phases, starting in summer 2017. Based on current projections, completion is estimated for spring 2019.
Update: Newham Cyclists and the London Cycling Campaign have both published their responses to the proposals, and residents have pointed out that there is a gap between the works featured in this proposal and the works on Maryland point – raising concerns there might be issues if the cycle paths aren’t continued. Stratford has had problems with cycle paths that just stop before, so if you are a cyclist you might want to look at that as an area for feedback.
Deadline is 28 November, so please respond here, if you haven’t already.
The proposed Silvertown Tunnel is a four lane road link between Newham’s Royal Docks and the Greenwich Peninsula. The required land in Newham was purchased by TfL years ago, before any formal planning proposal was submitted.
The scheme entered the planning stage in October 2015 and a decision is expected in late-2017.
The case against:
TfL expects traffic levels to increase by more than a third on major roads across Newham with Silvertown and Canning Town the worst hit.
More traffic means poorer air quality. Newham residents already suffer the impact of some of the highest levels of air pollution in London.
The tunnel will bring many more HGVs into East London, endangering pedestrians and people on bikes.
The earliest possible completion date is 2022/23.
The Silvertown Tunnel is expected to cost at least £1 billion.
The tunnel will be tolled, and a toll will also be introduced at Blackwall Tunnel. Whilst West London river crossings will remain free to use – and as those are all bridges, not tunnels, they are available to pedestrians and cyclists too!
Greenwich Green Party are also concerned about the traffic congestion and air pollution increases this tunnel would cause south of the river. The Woolwich Road flyover is already one of the most polluted spots in London. Furthermore, it will also make existing bottlenecks at Kidbrooke and Eltham – where the A102 and A2 have only two lanes in each direction – worse.
The tunnel will be financed using Public Private Finance Initiatives – essentially a expensive loan from a private company who also builds the infrastructure. These have crippled the NHS and schools with debt.
The Silvertown/Royal Docks area is already heavily over-polluted, from both the airport and existing building works, we feel TfL’s proposal doesn’t give this harmful impact on local residents and businesses enough consideration. We held an townhall-style event in Britannia Village, near the proposed tunnel’s entrance. Understandably, local residents were angry and felt unheard in the process. Many would prefer a bridge, while others didn’t want any river crossing in the area – as their community was being fractured by all the other approved developments.
In addition to the negative health and infrastructure impacts, this project unfairly targets East Londoners to pay for the privilege of crossing the river, with the introduction of the proposed tolls.
TfL’s proposal claims the tolls are to aid with congestion reduction – but this could, and should, have been thorough trialled at the existing tunnel before public funds are committed to building such an expensive and polluting new tunnel.
It’s also confusing that TfL highlights the continuing need to reduce congestion on these routes, when the argument for building the Silvertown Tunnel was initially to relieve congestion at Blackwall. Is this new tunnel not fit for purpose? Or are the tolls really more about providing a guaranteed revenue stream for the private-partnership funders?
“The Mayor of London is loudly promoting a £750 million Silvertown Tunnel between the Royal Docks and the Greenwich peninsular as the solution to congestion on east London’s roads.
But a simple investigation of the facts shows this scheme to be expensive, unnecessary and dangerous.
TfL admit the only way to stop a tidal wave of extra traffic flooding roads across east London would be to impose toll charges. Motorists would pay around £2.50 to cross the Thames using either the new tunnel or the old Blackwall Tunnel which is currently free.”
Darren Johnson, Green Party London Assembly Member in 2014 , challenged in a Big Debate piece in the Newham Recorder against Newham Councillor Ken Clark, who claimed that “A Gallions bridge and the Silvertown tunnel would reduce the congestion we see in Newham”, without any details on how, or indeed IF, local infrastructure would be improved to deal with the extra traffic these crossings would generate.
Newham has one of the lowest levels of car ownership in London with two thirds of residents commuting by public transport. Newham Green Party believes that residents should have the choice to cross the river on foot or by bike. We welcome new north-south public transport links that would take the strain off current routes.
“I will continue to support local people to fight this road tunnel through the planning process and at City Hall I will hold the Mayor to account for his decision to progress this scheme.”
In a recent announcement, Mayor Sadiq Khan attempted to greenwash the project by announcing that buses services through the tunnel would have space for bikes. The Mayor’s support for the Silvertown Tunnel is utterly incompatible with his commitment to reduce air pollution in London.
The Green Party, with locals on both sides of the river, are not the only group campaigning against the tunnel – Hackney, Lewisham and Southwark Councils coming out against it in 2015, and Newham Council in 2016 – after having initially supported it. Greenwich Council gave their support via formal feedback in the second stage of the consultation (Nov. 2015).
We’re taking part in the public consultation – several members have responded independently with their views, but we are also preparing an official response from the Newham branch of the party, and welcome feedback from local residents and/or businesses, if they would like it included. Closing date for this final feedback to the consultation is 15th November 2016, therefore we ask for all feedback you would like us to include to be submitted to us by 5pm on Friday 11th November, either in the comments or by email.
Help us get our council taxes paying for much needed services, not paying interest to banks
So you may have heard by now that there is a by-election coming up in Forest Gate North.
While I’ve been going round talking to local residents about what we can do to help them, I hear time and time again about environmental concerns: fly-tipping, rubbish on the streets, and dog mess.
If elected, I would prioritise solving these problems. However, some of them come down to one thing: money. And we all know how this Conservative government has tightened the screws on the most disadvantaged boroughs in the country. Newham is high up on that list.
Sir Robin Wales has been spreading the news everywhere that we have to save £50 million a year from now on; potentially even more after the economic disaster of last week. So Labour in this area have been quietly getting on with privatising one public service after another. So far this includes:
Council housing (Red Doors);
Supplies to council services (NewCo);
Waste collection (East London Waste Authority);
Language and translation services (Newham Language Shop);
However, Newham Greens have a plan to raise the money we need without privatising one more service. It can get us the extra money we need to stop fly-tipping, and improve street maintenance, as well as reopening Sure Start centres and community centres!
Throughout the 2000s, our Labour council took out over £500million in loans (called LOBOs) from private banks. They were a very bad deal. And now we are paying the equivalent of 80% of our council tax in interest each year. How much does that work out at? Surprise: £50 million!
Our legal advisers say that Newham’s mayor, Sir Robin Wales, could put a stop to all this by taking the banks to court for mis-selling, just like we can do with PPI.