A Better Deal for Newham’s Taxpayers

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.

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Debt Resistance UK’s profile of Newham

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.

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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.
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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.”

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Cllr Hudson speaks at Council Meeting, July 2016. Photo by Debt Resistance UK

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.

Please get in touch if you’d like to join this campaign, and sign the petition to continue the pressure on the remaining RBS loans.

Jesus and the Greens

“…for those who are disillusioned with the mainstream parties and looking for a fresh political vision, going Green on May 7th would be a profound delusion.”

So Gillan Scott writes in his Archbishop Cranmer blog.

When I read through the post, with its undertone that no true Christians would vote for the Green Party, never mind join, I wondered if I had indigestion. No – actually, it was a bowel-ward fire of indignation. Reading certain comments only added to the acid reflux.

The kind of thinking that informs this post and subsequent comments reduces Christianity to a tiny corner of life. A sort of holy box wherein only certain things must go and dissent must be checked at the lid.

Inside the box we have sexuality, right to life, and criticism of the nation state of Israel. Any other subject is an ideological free-for-all.

Any non-Christian observer inspecting this box might well assume that sex is the root of all kinds of evil and money is the root of all kinds of good.

I would like to set the record straight.

My dangerous journey in mixing faith and politics began with a book on theological economics; a dazzling work called ‘Root of All Evil?’ by Antonia Swinson. (A book strongly endorsed, I might add, by Keith Tondeur and Kevin Cahill.) The question the author asked was: “What has the Bible got to say about economics?”

I was expecting a treatise on personal spending, but what I read went so much further than that. The author examined the rules on finance and ownership in the Torah and asked – if we applied those same principles today; what would our economic policy look like?

Her conclusions stayed with me ever since.

The more I discovered about the Green Party, the more I realised that I might finally have found a political home for my theological conclusions. A party that has dared to paint a picture of world where our economy isn’t based on crippling personal debt; where the creation of money is democratised; where true economic equality is feasible; where the playing field for all people is level. I think I’d call it – not the American Dream, but the Mosaic Dream.

I believe that the love of money is indeed the root of all kinds of evil. As it’s a subject that’s one of the most important to Jesus, it’s one of the most important to me. And one of the key subjects that has informed my choice of party. This, alongside such wonderful ideas as:

  • Devolving and spreading out power as much as possible to the people, so that it corrupts as little as possible;
  • Prioritising creation care and preventing animal cruelty;
  • Reuniting families torn apart by visa rules that prevent spouses from joining their children;
  • A refreshing focus on what is best for people rather than best for GDP, which would – for example – allow parents to spend more time with their kids instead of being pushed out to work;
  • Having the teaching curriculum set by teachers rather than by government, giving educators the freedom to teach in the way they see fit, treating children as whole individuals rather than units of economic production.

Those are all things – along with prayer, advice and careful thought – that prompted me to stand as the Green Party’s candidate for the wonderful constituency of West Ham.

So, I encourage any Christian to decide who to vote for based on that party’s policies, and not on the demographics of their candidates.

 Rachel Collinson is the Green Party candidate for West Ham. FInd out more about her here.