Your Green Candidate for Forest Gate North!

A Coalition of Environmental Groups hand in the Microbeads Petition

Hi, I’m Elisabeth, and I’m the Green Party candidate for Forest Gate North. I live on Sebert Road under the Goblin line, having decided to move here when I fell in love with Wanstead Flats four years ago. Forest Gate has been my home for a relatively short time, and yet I feel more a part of the community here than I have anywhere else since I moved out of my parents’ house. I guess it’s that kind of place.

In my professional life I’m an environmental campaigner (in the above photo I’m handing in a petition against plastic microbeads to Number 10!). I’ve led successful campaigns to create marine reserves in far flung corners of the world, getting to know island communities and working with them to protect their incredible underwater life. I also helped to achieve a reversal of government proposals to water down the National Curriculum’s requirement to teach children about nature.

IMG_9902 editedMy degree in psychology and my experience in environmental campaigning have given me the skills to understand how to tackle issues like flytipping, one of the most pervasive problems that this area faces. The recent decision to introduce a £20 charge to collect bulky items seems to me to be a big step in the wrong direction, and shows a real misunderstanding of local people’s circumstances.

You might have met me when I worked at Coffee7 a couple of years ago. While talking to other people who live here, I’ve heard that many are deeply dissatisfied with the current council and Mayor. No matter what your political allegiance, it’s surely bad for democracy to have only one Party represented on our council, with no opposition to scrutinise their decisions.

In the last local elections here in 2014, the Green Party came second in Forest Gate North. If you want to send a strong message to the council, increase the democracy and accountability of the council, and elect a candidate who will listen to residents and fight hard for their concerns, then please consider voting Green on 14th July.

This blog first appeared on forestgate.net

Siân Berry launches the Greens’ East London manifesto

Friday saw the official launch of the Green Party manifesto for East London (pdf), ahead of the Mayoral and London Assembly elections on Thursday 5th May. Support for Green policies is at an all-time high, with a particularly strong presence in East London, and we are aiming to increase the numbers of Greens on the London Assembly from the current two.

Green Party Mayoral candidate, Siân Berry, and local candidate, Rachel Collinson, were joined by local Green Party members outside of the proposed Bishopsgate Goodsyard site.

EL Manifesto Group

Rachel Collinson, who is also the Newham Green Party Chair, said: “The Bishopsgate Goodsyard development controversy perfectly illustrates what is wrong with London’s urban planning system. Boris Johnson has repeatedly ignored the wishes of local residents and Councils. The Green Party’s Jenny Jones AM challenged the Mayor on the decision, and it has now been deferred until after the Mayoral election!

R&S“The Green Party have a strong record of supporting communities, and holding those in power to account. If elected to the assembly I will work with residents to ensure local concerns continue to be heard.”

The Green Party have already highlighted their flagship policies on housing, transport, policing, the living wage and air pollution during this campaign. The manifesto provides more detail on each of these areas and gives examples of what Siân a Green Mayor and Green London Assembly Members would do for East London. Such as…

200,000 new homes across London, for ALL Londoners – with 50% to be built by smaller developers, communities and housing associations to provide truly affordable housing across the city. In East London the party will take a stand against the proliferation of luxury developments for the super-wealthy, such as Bishopsgate Goodsyard and the Newham Council Masterplan to replace the social Carpenter’s Estate with private developer blocks, and fight for the development of genuinely affordable housing for Londoners.

Celebrating and supporting London’s diversity – including rethinking the flawed and discriminatory Prevent strategy, creating a new City Hall position for monitoring policy impacts on London’s older residents, and making sure London remains a leader in LGBT+ rights and culture.

Ending the air pollution crisis – bringing pollution below legal limits by 2020 at the latest. In East London, we will continue to resist the proposed Enderby Wharf Cruise Terminal in Greenwich and the Silvertown Tunnel at Blackwall which would increase pollution across several boroughs that are already dangerously polluted. Also, we’d close London City Airport and use the land for homes and up to 16,000 more jobs.

The London Living Wage for all – currently one in five working Londoners are still paid less, many of whom live in Newham and surrounding boroughs. Siân also pledges to create 150,000 high­ quality apprenticeships, and improving conditions and opportunities for part-time workers.

This comes just a week after Siân and Rachel were joined by fellow Green Party candidates Shahrar Ali and Benali Hamdache to launch the Manifesto for Londoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (pdf) in Newham’s Queens Market.

market-newham

Rachel Collinson – A Greener London is possible

You might have noticed we have the London Mayoral and Assembly elections coming up in May.  This weekend we held the official launch of local candidate, and Newham Green Party Chair, Rachel Collinson, who is running as the candidate for City and East.

Assembly Member Baroness Jenny Jones presided over the launch, which took place in Shoreditch, by the proposed site of the controversial £800 million development of Bishopsgate Goodsyard. This proposal has been rejected by local residents as well as Tower Hamlets and Hackney Councils, and has also been opposed by the Green Party.

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Rachel said “The controversy surrounding the planned development of Bishopsgate Goodsyard is a perfect illustration of what is wrong with London’s urban planning system. Boris Johnson is ignoring the wishes of local residents and both Tower Hamlets and Hackney Councils. A strong Green Party voice within the London General Assembly is crucial for redressing the mayor’s follies.”

We currently have 2 Green Party members of the London Assembly, Baroness Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson AM, who have worked hard to provide Londoners with civil partnerships, the Living Wage and a huge increase in the cycling budget, as well as helped design the new Low Emissions Zones. Just imagine what we could accomplish with even more Green members on the Assembly!

Green Party supporters were out in force, and we were joined by members from the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, and Tower Hamlets and the Young Greens from Queen Mary University. We had a fantastic turn out, and the weather was on our side – only raining after we’d finished our tour of the area and outdoor activities!

Jenny Jones AM, who has served on the Assembly since it was established in 2000, said “It’s great to see so many local Green Party members turning out to support the City and East campaign launch. East London has a vibrant and growing community of dedicated Green Party supporters, and if the enthusiasm on display here today is anything to go by, you can be sure they’ll be making their voices heard loud and clear in the run-up to the London Assembly elections in May!”

If you’d like to make your voice heard too, we’ve launched a crowdfunder campaign this week, to help us pay for the election deposit and campaign materials.

Rachel Collinson, is determined to provide a voice to the people of East London who share our vision to create an inclusive, prosperous, safe area for people to lead productive, well connected lives.

To do this, we need to raise money for our election campaign. This money will go directly to help us stand our candidates and ensuring our vision for a fairer future is delivered to every constituent. By building a Green voice in East London, we can capitalise on the current Green surge and work towards Green success throughout London.

Green Party members of the London Assembly have achieved great things, please help Rachel to carry on their work for a fairer, healthier London for all.

Support Rachel’s campaign

Corbyn’s “not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”

Why Rachel Collinson is sticking with the Greens – and you should too!

Angela Eagle MP looks up at Jeremy Corbyn during PMQsThe election of Jeremy Corbyn is another happy milestone in the journey of British politics out of the right wing hinterland and into the sunny dales of People-over-Profit. The news that he got over 50% of the vote in a 4-way contest was glorious. A poke in the eye for the establishment.

Not only that, it means the Overton Window (if you don’t know about that, it’s worth reading up on) is shifting rapidly back to centre ground. This bodes well for us as a nation.

But, I have a warning for you, my lovely leftie friends. Don’t think that the Labour leopard is about to change its spots, just because one turned out to be a benign mole.

“OUCH! That’s a bit harsh,” I hear you say. “Bitter, much?”

Alright, I know what it looks like. But hear me out, like the open-minded sage I know you are.

Just like you, at one point I was prepared to bet the farm on Labour. I even signed up to volunteer for them at a high level. But what I saw was an organisation unwilling to listen to its members, preferring to trust in its old (failed) guard. An organisation unprepared for a society with a culture and technology that have changed beyond recognition since the 1980s.

Fast-forward 2 years and alas, that’s still the reality. Like the decades-long moribund Battersea Power Station, the only hope for Labour is that Momentum is able to transform the old structures.

I’m sorry, but I don’t hold out much hope for that. Why? There are too many hints that the foundations are sandy. Here’s a few:

A reluctance to collaborate

As the resurgent Left grapples with our new political landscape, Labour have shown a disappointing lack of interest in collaborative politics. I applaud Caroline Lucas’ stance, offering an open hand to other parties who share the will to implement policies where they overlap.

I also applaud the stance of councillors here in East London who are open to working together on problems that affect us all. However, there are precious few hints that Labour MPs are open to joint projects, whether that’s an alliance, a pact or sharing of resources. There’s no understanding that this kind of politics can benefit all parties.

In the meantime, Caroline Lucas continues to do Corbyn’s job (for example, relaunching the Railways Bill) while Labour continues its public squabble over Old vs New.

All mouth and no green trousers
Support for polluting industries that benefit the rich more than the poor – such as air travel – is still a Labour priority over sustainable development. East Ham Labour MP Stephen Timms supports expansion of City Airport, despite the fact that 1 in 3 children who live around the airport are sick from the pollution.
Poll showing twice as many yes as no votes to the question "London City Airport. Do you agree with the Green Party’s proposal?"
Never mind the dire signs of global warming all around us.
Not only is this environmental folly, it doesn’t make economic sense.
The Green Party’s proposal for replacing City Airport, is partly based on a 2014 report from the New Economics Foundation, which found that using the land for housing, small businesses, schools and hospitals, it would create 15,000 more jobs and serve everybody.
A poll in the Newham Recorder shows that residents agree with us.

Forgetting how to win elections

Since 1997, Labour have bought into the Tory idea that winning elections is all about winning over the media. Ed Miliband’s over-coached speech-making, the stone of doom, and romancing Russell Brand were all cringey symptoms of this problem.

Corbyn’s ability to listen and rally the ranks of ordinary people is masterful. But his ground troops haven’t yet caught up. Labour’s canvassing strategy is, frankly, broken. Those doing it well were told by HQ that they were misbehaving and should follow orders from on high.

Having seen the Green Party’s plans to re-engage people in politics from the ground up, I can tell you that they surpass anything Labour has yet devised. The astonishing swing to the Green Party in Bristol West – one of the biggest in English election history – is testament to this.

A lack of commitment to democratic reform

Labour let us down badly in 1997, when they had the chance to reform the House of Lords and change our voting system. However, no lessons have been learned from this. The Old Labour souls seem to pine for the old times (in reality, all ten minutes of them) when First Past the Post served this country well.

If Labour were the party this country really deserved, they’d be all over the opportunity to reform our voting system and end the hereditary principle once and for all. We’d be seeing murmurs of land reform and an end to Royal interference in politics. Sadly, no dice. Not even loaded ones!

There are many more policies and qualities I could list where the Green Party has a huge edge over Labour in solving the UK’s (and the world’s) deepest problems. Such as Land Value Tax, devolution of power as far as possible, Community Land Trusts, Citizens’ income, net neutrality, investment of 1% of GDP in research, restorative justice, Positive Money, Piketty’s wealth tax… the list is extensive.

Yes, I love Corbyn. I especially love the hope that he’s inspired in hundreds of thousands of people. But as far as I can see, he’s more the establishment’s no-tie naughty boy. Not the Messiah.

Will the red shoots of growth around him become fruitful plants?

I hope I am wrong about this. But if I’m judging by the ground these seedlings are growing in, we’ll be waiting a long time for that to happen.

And that, in summary, is why I’m sticking with the Green Party. I am prouder of my membership now than I’ve ever been.
Monty Python gif:

 

Rachel Collinson is Newham Green Party’s Chair, and is currently running as a candidate for City and East London in the London Assembly elections in May.

Newham to lose 286 affordable properties to ‘estate regeneration’

New figures obtained from the GLA (pdf) by Darren Johnson, Green Party Assembly Member, show that estate regeneration schemes in London are set to cost Newham up to 286 socially-rented homes, and leave the borough with a newly-built ‘affordable’ stock of just 77.

According to figures from the London Development Database, this would result in a housing market where the stock of ‘affordable’ rented homes make up just over 5% of the Borough’s rentable properties.

Rach&BoleynDev banner
Rachel Collinson (second from right) of Newham Green Party protests with campaigners from Boleyn Dev 100 and FocusE15 Mothers

Separate figures published by the Mayor of London, requested by Darren, also reveal that estate regeneration in the Mayor’s Housing Zones will lead to a net increase in all types of homes that is 3,099 lower than the Mayor has claimed, due to demolitions of existing homes. The Mayor has not yet provided a breakdown for types of affordable homes.

At the announcement of these figures, Darren Johnson AM said:

Under the cover of tired stereotypes about sink estates, the Mayor is whittling away at homes that are genuinely affordable to Londoners. He then tries to deceive by talking about new homes being built, without mentioning all those he is knocking down. With a few exceptions, estate regeneration has been a complete disaster in London and has made our housing crisis worse.
It’s time he called a stop to the demolitions and got behind community-led plans to renovate estates, with infill development where it makes sense and demolition where it’s absolutely necessary.

Across London there is expected to be a net loss of 1,389 affordable homes, and more dramatically the net loss of 7,326 social rented homes. These are schemes with planning permission, but that have not yet started or been completed.

R-CollinsonSmlRachel Collinson, Green Party Spokesperson and London 2016 GLA candidate for City and East constituency, said “Many of the 24,000 Newham residents left hanging on the council housing waiting list are rightly angry about the lack of social housing available to them. The fact that Newham is set to lose hundreds more social rented homes – the joint fault of our Labour council and Tory London mayor – will make this even worse. A Green mayor would ensure that our existing council housing stock is not destroyed but renovated and extended.”

The Renters Union: A legal perspective

We were incredibly excited about Sian Berry’s Renters Union proposal, but how did we get to this state in the housing market?
Local member and paralegal, Tim, gives us a bit of historical perspective

renters_union_logo_final_720Last week, Sian Berry announced her Renters Union plans, which would be funded by City Hall, and help renters to rein in private rents and expose rogue lettings agents.

As many of our members are private renters we were incredibly excited about this proposal, especially following Lastminute.com’s recent PR stunt based on rent increases.

Profit over people turned into an advert… Is that meta or just a sad state of affairs? –
top-secret-hotels
lastminute stats

(Of course, most of the us effected by renting increases can’t afford the hotel option either!)

But, how did we get here?
Newham Greens member and Paralegal, Tim, gave us the rundown.

The Renter’s Union: A Legal and Historical Perspective

The American journalist and political economist Henry George, in his first book Poverty and Progress, wrote of what he saw as the danger of an over-mighty class of landlords is presented uncompromising terms; ‘Could he thus concentrate the individual rights to the whole surface of the globe, he alone of all the teeming population of the earth would have the right to live’. George’s words, written in 1879, probably sounded somewhat comical, even to the Victorians, in their sheer apocalyptic heft. One can assume that he was exaggerating for effect, to give an illustration of the dangers of excessive claim to ownership being brought by only a small group of people. But surely, things would never become as bad as that?

Since 28 February 1997, it has been the default position that all tenancies granted in England and Wales, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the relevant agreements, were to be Assured Shorthold Tenancies. These differ from Assured Tenancies in that the occupant, upon expiry of the agreement (usually after one year) has no inherent security of tenure, a position enshrined in section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

The reasons for this move are well documented; property as a resource was intended to become more alienable and therefore more saleable, so as to allow for the greatest ease of commercial transaction. There has been a deliberate shift in legislative emphasis away from the idea of property as, primarily, a place in which to live, and towards an idea of property as an exploitable commodity.

Statistics from NPI research - poorest private renters pay 57% of earnings in rent
Source: New Policy Institute

This is no great secret; the intention behind the legislation has been a well-documented, relatively uncontroversial matter in parliamentary and judicial circles for years. It was even opined as recently as 2005 in the Court of Appeal case of Secretarial and Nominee Co. Ltd. V Thomas that the ultimate result of all of this would be to make the letting of residential property ‘more attractive to landlords and thus more available to tenants’

Evidently, Lord Justice Rix did not have in mind a housing and rental market warped by successive property bubbles and the terrifying speed with which wage growth was outstripped by the growth of house prices. (Perhaps, but for these factors, something of that libertarian utopia, guaranteeing a ‘right to roam’ for anyone who had the means for it, might have been realised?) And yet all of this risks overlooking the simple reality of how the use of land and property is linked, at a more fundamental level, to human wellbeing. In the words of Lord Bingham, giving judgment in the House of Lords in 2004 in Harrow LBC v Quazi “few things are more central to the enjoyment of human life than having somewhere to live”.

Granted, one of the rights which an Assured Shorthold tenant is supposed to is that of ‘exclusive possession’ of the property, that is, the ability to eject anyone from the property, including the landlord, except for the purpose of carrying out necessary cleaning or repair duties. However, this right is only guaranteed for the life of the tenancy. Section 21 ensures that after the terms of the tenancy have expired the tenant can effectively be ejected at will and must, if the court so orders it, vacate the property within 14 days. The courts enjoy maximum discretion to delay the eviction for up to six weeks in cases of ‘exceptional hardship’, but so long as the paperwork is in order, that’s it.

Crisis - cause of homelessness
Source: Crisis – Homelessness Monitor England 2015 (pdf)

In some cases, the tenancy will continue unofficially as a ‘periodic tenancy’, with the landlord continuing to accept rent every month even after the expiry of the tenancy. However, this leaves the tenant in an even more vulnerable position, whereby a landlord can effectively hold the tenant to ransom in exchange for allowing them to overlook some of their own duties as landlords to maintain the property. So-called ‘revenge evictions’ are an ever-present danger.

According to the homelessness charity Shelter, 52,270 households were accepted as homeless by their local councils in England in 2013 and 2014. Of those, over a quarter were made homeless by the ending of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. In London, this proportion rises to four cases in ten.

gov figures homeless Q1 2014
Source: Dept. of Communities and Local Government – ‘Statutory Homelessness: January to March Quarter 2014 England (Revised)’ (pdf)

Fighting one’s case becomes that much harder when, after the coming into force of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (‘LASPO’), Housing cases were one of a number of sectors which were deemed to be no longer eligible to receive civil legal aid. Anyone finding themselves at the sharp end of a landlord’s notice and in need of advice or representation now either has to put up the cash or, in the majority of cases, represent themselves, usually appearing opposite a well-briefed advocate for the other side in an uneven fight.

Although the ability to fight these cases and knowledge of such rights as tenant’s do have is only one facet of a much larger problem, it is nevertheless one where practical action can be taken now, and which Sian Berry, as part of her Mayoral campaign, is now proposing. The official briefing (pdf) cites the successful growth and campaigning power of a number of other citizen’s organisations, including ACORN in the USA (and now sprouting in parts of the UK) and the network of tenants’ unions being fostered by NUS Scotland, together with a growing number of London-based community associations.

A Renters Union, of which every one of the 2.3 million privately renting tenants in London would automatically be a member, would be an important step in trying to redress this unbalanced state of affairs. After that, the long work of root-and-branch reform of decades of housing policy must begin, and soon.

 

We’ve seen so many loved ones and valued community members forced out of their neighbourhoods by rising housing costs, if you have a story to share please let us know in the comments below.

If you need help with your housing situation, you should contact UK housing charities Shelter and Crisis.

#FairFares for London transport

Rachel Collinson outside Pontoon Dock station Today Rachel Collinson, our local representative for the upcoming GLA election, joined Newham Greens members out around the borough to leaflet and talk to commuters about TfL’s latest fare changes, and how we hope to make a difference with our own #FairFares policy if we can secure a bigger presence on the Greater London Assembly, and perhaps even our first Green Mayor of London!
(The GLA and Mayoral election is run on PR vote, we usually get a much better result than at more traditional FPTP elections for MPs and local councillors. We came third in 2010, so we think Sian is really in with a shot!)

Rachel Collinson leafletting in Stratford
We had a lovely (if a bit chilly!) morning with volunteers around Newham, watching the sun rise on a beautiful day.

Sun rising over Thames Barrier Park

In fact, it was so nice that Rachel and a few more volunteers headed back out to meet people on their homeward journeys in the Royal Docks and at London City Airport station this evening.

We heard stories and feedback about all sorts of transport concerns, as well as about a lot of other local issues. Interesting and helpful conversations were had around the borough, whether it was 7 AM or PM, and we’d like to thank everyone who came to volunteer or stopped for a chat – the time was truly appreciated!

Rachel Collinson with volunteer Ed at London City Airport

In case you missed our volunteers today, what could #FairFares mean for you? Well, you can find the full lowdown at Sian Berry’s website, but here are the parts we’re most excited by:

  1. Simplify the zone pricing structure, leading to fairer charges London-wide.
  2. Single zone with a fairer flat-rate fare for all of London by 2025. Prices would start to get cheaper from 2016, with 2 of the current zones removed in 2017.
  3. Our “ONE Ticket” policy means that you pay 1 charge for your complete journey, not each time you change bus/train/tube as part of it.
  4. Lower rates for the daily pay-as-you-go caps, so part-time workers can gain from the savings too.
  5. Integrating TfL’s cycle hire scheme, taxis and riverboats into the Oyster system for easier payments on the go.

FairFares policy transition timeline

Leader Knows Best

R-CollinsonSmlNewham Green Party Chair, Rachel Collinson, reports back from Newham Council’s August meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to follow up on concerns around recent council budget decisions.

“I know how this vote is going to go. If the motion was ‘the earth is flat’ councillors Rokhsana, Seyi, Kay and Susan would vote 4-2 for it,” thunders Lester Hudson, as he eyes the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting.
 
I’m so offended and shocked by this that I can’t help snorting, despite being in the public gallery.

Hudson continues as though nothing has happened. “If the motion was ‘Geoffrey Boycott is useless at cricket’ they would vote 4-2 for it.” Nobody’s laughing this time. His tirade continues: “I sincerely hope this time, common sense will prevail, but I doubt it.”

There is general uproar, and the female councillors who have been the subject of these personal attacks are rightly livid. (Later on I realise that John Gray – also a member of the rebellion against the Robin Wales regime – is spared the vitriol. Could it be that the Y chromosome is a safeguard?)NewhamLogo

A chap to my left passes me a sheet of lined A4 notepaper, with “Attendance Sheet” scrawled at the top. There is a name and one signature on it so far. I pass it on without signing.

A few minutes later, an unnamed lady shouts “Has everybody signed the attendance sheet?”

“I’ve never been asked this before as a member of the public in a council meeting,” I say, annoyed. “It doesn’t say on it how the data will be used, so I didn’t.”

“I just need to know who is here,” she replies.

Well, that much is obvious.

This meeting has been called because Newham Council’s Cabinet have seemingly approved a dubious investment proposal without oversight of the Investment and Accounts Committee. Councillors heard about it in passing and were horrified. They have decided to ask the Mayor to reconsider spending £500,000 without due process.

Council Officers will not let members of the public (or even certain councillors) see more details of what’s proposed. All we know so far is that the Cabinet are attempting to reduce payments to the council’s pension fund – which already has a £238 million deficit – using a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’. We understand that the council is using some of their buildings as security on a risky investment. How do we know it’s risky? Because their financial advisors are warning them against it.

It seems common sense to me that if the proposal were common sense, then the Cabinet would not resort to bending the rules to avoid scrutiny.

What I am seeing in action here is the Labour belief that Leader Knows Best, and democracy is merely a frustrating blot on the master plan. The belief that the people ought to shut up and take their medicine. The belief that is shown up at its worst in the Executive Mayoral system.

This is further confirmed when a member of the public stands up and questions whether the chair should be asking loaded questions of his own committee. The offender, Anthony McAlmont, says that members of the public are not allowed to speak, despite having allowed an earlier question. For some reason this breach of meeting protocol goes unnoticed by the Legal advisor present.

Newham Town Hall in East HamI hear the words ‘p&%$-up’ and ‘brewery’ emanate loudly from elsewhere in the public gallery.

With dogged persistence, the female Councillors draft a resolution that no more money should be spent until the investment and accounts committee has had a chance to review the proposal in more detail. In the end, the meeting vote is 5-1 for this motion.

Hudson warns this is a waste of time. What does he know that we don’t?

During this fiasco, I am reminded of the botched Labour leadership elections. You can vote for anything, as long as it’s the right choice.

As if to reinforce this, the Mayor rejects the motion day after.

It would be easy to despair right now. But I’m seeing a new movement emerging amongst the people of Newham. I see it in the snowballing, hopeful tweets about Jeremy Corbyn. I see it in the growing bravery of left-wing councillors against their bullying leaders. I see it in the swelling numbers of Newham Green Party.

And it’s almost reassuring to observe some councillors in utter denial of this growing trend. It means we will win, and soon.

If you’re interested in helping the Green Party challenge Labour’s one party state in Newham, do sign up here. (NB: We have a No Purge Promise™)

 

This post originally appeared as a guest post on ForestGate.net on August 27th 2015.

Alternative Budget for Newham

Labour-led Newham Council launched their ‘Budget Challenge’ today. They are asking Newham residents to support cuts of £50 million for the next year. We think you’ll find Rachel Collinson’s alternative budget much more appealing. Let us know your thoughts!

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 19.04.46Newham council have decided to spend money to tell us all that we need to save money.

This week their budget consultation starts, asking the people of Newham where we think we can make savings. (Not in itself a bad idea!) The Green Party are delighted to help and thank the Mayor for this opportunity. We think we have the answer. But will he listen?

We have not only found the £50m in savings he is asking us for, but also… well, you’ll see…

First of all – Newham Council’s LOBO contracts. These were mis-sold by the banks as loans, when in fact they are complex financial products known as derivatives. These are illegal for councils to use. Suing the banks for this would save us £35m in interest every year – and possibly even more in compensation.

That leaves us with £15m to find.

So, then we have several Private Finance Initiatives – the brainchild of the Conservative Party in the 1990s. Newham’s Labour council grabbed them from big developers like free chocolate samples. This means £26.5m of our council tax is going directly to groups of big companies like Lend Lease.

We could buy out these PFI contracts from the council’s quarter-of-a-billion pound annual capital budget. Perhaps we could use the money set aside for Red Door Ventures, a private housing company?

£35m + £26.5m = £61.5m.

Look at that – we’ve overshot our target by £11.5m.

So, Newham Green Party would like to issue a ‘People’s Budget Consultation’ – what would you like to spend this extra £11.5m on?

230 additional teachers? 100 new small businesses for Newham, creating thousands of jobs? Council tax reductions for 30,000 families on low incomes? Community energy schemes that would reduce our air pollution and slash our electricity bills?

Tweet us your ideas at @newhamgreens and we’ll publish our own consultation results in October alongside Newham Council’s.

Should we change our voting system?

Rachel Collinson from Newham Green Party says yes, we should.

Many broadcasters portrayed last week’s win for the Conservative Party as a decisive victory. However, the hidden truth is that David Cameron kept his place in Number 10 because of only 1,384 votes.

Yes, really. That’s all it took.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 20.44.26That number is the difference in votes in the 6 closest races for MP. For example, in constituencies like Gower, Conservative candidate Byron Davies beat Labour by 37 votes.

As if that weren’t bad enough, consider that it took 25,972 votes to elect one SNP candidate, whereas it took nearly four million votes to elect a UKIP MP.

This happens because we use a voting system called First Past the Post (FPTP) to elect MPs to Westminster. FPTP is only used by a handful of countries, most of them former British colonies and tiny islands. It only works properly when there are two parties to choose from.

We do, however, use another voting system in the UK – the Additional Member System. You will be using this system when you vote for candidates for the London General Assembly next year. It’s fairer and receives far fewer complaints than our current system. It delivers stable governments that represent a greater range of views held by the public.

Our democracy thrives on debate. If politicians hear a wide range of differing opinions before they vote on an issue, they will make better decisions. For example, without Green representatives in the London Assembly, we would not have had the successful Cycle Hire Scheme (wrongly known as Boris Bikes).

Our current system only benefits those who are already powerful. We urgently need a change in our voting system to restore faith in politics, and rebuild healthy democracy.

Do you believe votes should match seats?

Then sign this petition to show your support today.