No pass for Maryland station

Maryland residents and Green Party members have been campaigning to get Maryland station included in Zone 2/3

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Maryland residents and Green Party members have been campaigning to get Maryland station included in ‘Zone 2/3’, like all other Stratford stations.

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‘Maryland is a Stratford station’ by @MarylandPoint

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.

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Newham Record piece on complaints to TfL about overcrowding at Stratford

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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.

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Local campaigners in the Friends of Maryland group have pledged to continue the campaign, with support from Councillor Seyi Akiwowo and their ongoing petition.

Hopefully the increase in foot traffic from the Elizabeth Line will lead to a full review of the situation, if we’re unable to get it resolved sooner.

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.