Stop and Shop plans abandoned? No, just deferred

It seems to me more like Labour’s man in charge of parking, Cllr Bassam Mahfouz, has made a tactical retreat rather than abandoning his plans to make Stop and Shop parking in the borough complicated and expensive. Ealingtoday.co.uk used the words “abandon” and “scrapped” in their piece today but if you read down to the bottom you will see that Mahfouz is waffling on about a review and that “Findings from the review will start to be implemented towards the end of the year.”

If I was a local trader I would keep that petition going.

Of course, like most things, it is about money. It was decided at an Ealing Council Cabinet on 24th November 2015 that the council would raise an extra £75K by making life more awkward for shoppers (go to Item 7, Appendix 1, line P03). Click image below to enlarge.

Parking proposals

It is hard for the layman to work out that when the council says:

Introduction of free new parking permits giving residents 30 minutes to ‘park and shop’ in dedicated bays in high street locations, supporting local businesses

that this means we are going to charge you more. It is this kind of murky crap that gives councils a bad name.

I suspect “saving” £140K (ie charging £140K more) for suspensions and dispensations is going to cause even more eye watering increases for a smaller group of people.

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Labour activist tries to cover up Southall MP’s Cape Town jolly

Ian Kingston letter to Gazette 8-1-2016

I shouldn’t have been surprised to see this misleading letter in the Gazette today. I guess someone in the Ealing Labour party saw my blog piece on Sharma’s recent trip to Cape Town and got one of their little helpers to drop a letter to the Gazette.

Ian KingstonThe writer, a local Labour activist called Ian Kingston, has not told Gazette readers the complete story of Southall MP Virendra Sharma’s absence from the Syria vote in Parliament on 2nd December.

When Kingston says that Sharma was “abroad” he means Sharma was in Cape Town, South Africa attending a Global TB Summit that ended on 30th November.

Parliament was sitting at the time of the Syria vote on December 2nd so you might have thought that Sharma would have planned to be back in the UK as soon as possible to do the job he is paid to do. The comparison with Conservative MP Nick Herbert who was Co-Chair of the event in Cape Town but managed to get back for the vote does not show Sharma in a good light.

Obviously Cape Town is a lovely place and it must have been tempting to add a few days on to his trip. Of course it would have cost a lot of money to change his flight to get back in time, money that Sharma was not prepared to spend out of his own pocket clearly. The reason Sharma didn’t turn up for the Syria vote is because he planned a sneaky holiday when he should have been working. The Syria vote caught him out otherwise no-one would have noticed. Shame on Ian Kingston and Ealing Labour for trying to hide the facts.

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Shameless Khan was putting fares up higher when he was a minister

Shameless Labour mayoral candidate has got Labour party members hassling commuters this morning with this leaflet.

Labour fare rise leaflet

They are complaining about fare rises that increased by RPI+1 from 2004 to 2013, a Labour policy to shift the burden of paying for rail fares from the state to passengers that continued for three years under the Coalition. In the last three years the rises have only been RPI so much lower than they were under Labour.

Of course Sadiq Khan was a Labour transport minister in 2009 and 2010 when Labour were asking more from commuters than the Conservatives are now. The guy is totally shameless.

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The leftwing extremists who dominate Ealing’s union scene

Tonight Acton Labour councillor Mik Sabiers seemed pleased that the council had passed a motion decrying the government’s trade union bill and seeking “to continue its own locally agreed industrial relations strategy and good relations with our workforce and their representatives”.

Although Sabiers himself claims to not have anything to do with the Socialist Workers Party the union activists in Ealing he aligns himself with certainly do.

Stefan SimmsI have written about the SWP cell that runs Ealing NUT before. The current incumbent is Stefan Simms who made his name complaining about military recruitment: TES, Daily Mail. He said:

I would be gutted after years of putting time and professional effort into the students I teach, helping their education and preparing them for adult life, to find out that some have said ‘I decided to join the Army’.

Of course as a fulltime officer of the NUT on facility time Simms does precious little teaching nowadays.

New and Turner

The Ealing Trades Union Council (ETUC) is run by a double act.

Oliver New (right, holding megaphone), President of ETUC, helped to organise the spitting mob that attended the Conservative Party conference this year. He is also active in Left Unity, which fielded candidates against Labour at the last election. He is their trade union officer. His election manifesto said (among other things):

Last year UK workers had twice as many days on strike as the year before.

Although most union members and workers are understandably desperate to see the defeat of the current Government, we need to continue to highlight the relationship between Labour and big business, the consequent incapability of Labour to support workers’ struggles and the need to build a left alternative.

I come from South Wales and now live in Southall, West London, where I have been at the heart of many community campaigns. I’m proud to chair Ealing Trades Council, with its history of militant community organising.

After being blacklisted in engineering I became a Tube Driver and RMT activist. I’ve helped organise many disputes and strikes on London Underground as well as supporting the self organisation and struggles of cleaners and other contracted workers. I have been a Rep and both Chair and Secretary of the RMT London Transport Region and a member of the national RMT Executive.

The secretary of Ealing Trades Union Council is Eve Turner (left, speaking into microphone). She has stood as a member of the Left Unity national council. Her election address stated:

I am really excited to be part of Left Unity and want to do everything I can to help to build it as a political alternative to Labour, which has consistently betrayed the working class, the poor and the oppressed.

I am not a member of any other parties or any tendency but have been in other left groups in the past. I even had the dubious pleasure of being Chair of our local Constituency Labour Party for a number of years and was involved in elections both for Labour and for socialist and community campaigns.

I am currently Secretary of Ealing Trades Council which we have established as a militant community campaigning organisation and I’m convenor of our local Save our NHS campaign fighting to save our local hospitals from being trashed.

I live in Southall. I am Membership Secretary of West London Left Unity and was recently elected to represent my branch on the London Regional Committee.

Back in 2001 both New and Turner were part of the Socialist Alliance, essentially a SWP project that predated their attempt to use the Respect Party as a tool to further their agenda.

Anyway, these are some of the unionists that the Ealing Labour party think they need to keep onside.

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Was Sharma totally honest about Cape Town trip?

I did a piece on Southall MP Virendra Sharma’s trip to Cape Town yesterday. I got it wrong. I assumed that he had attended the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health which ran from 2nd to 6th December last week. The Syria vote was on 2nd December and Sharma had told his constituents in an email that he couldn’t attened due to being in South Africa.

I have now been sent a copy of Sharma’s email. He says:

The date of the debate has only just been set, and it is agreed for the 2nd December. For many months I have been booked to travel to South Africa from the 28th November to the 3rd December to attend the ‘Global TB Summit’ in Cape Town. At this meeting I will be part of an international group of nearly 60 countries working to combat Global TB a disease which affects millions of the most vulnerable. I am unable to renege on my commitment to the ‘Global TB Caucus’ to attend this event, and indeed it would be impossible for me to return to the UK to vote without serious financial cost to the charity.

Nick Hebert in SA

It seems that Sharma was in fact at an event for politicians called the Global TB Summit. Fair enough. Only that event was due to run from 28th to 30th November. In other words it ended on Monday and it would have been straightforward to get back to vote on Wednesday if he had wanted to – there are frequent overnight flights from SA to London. In fact the chairman of the Global TB Summit event was Conservative MP Nick Herbert who managed to get back and vote. Whilst Herbert makes frequent refernces to his TB work and South Africa trip on Twitter, Sharma says nothing.

So was Sharma working or simply not prepared to give up a planned post conference minibreak in Cape Town whilst Parliament was sitting? Is he back yet? Will he tell us?

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What was Southall MP Sharma doing in Cape Town last week?

Greg-Lumley Cape Town

Last week when Southall MP Virendra Sharma was being paid to turn up and vote in our Parliament he was off on a jolly in Cape Town.

I say jolly because I cannot imagine how he was doing anything useful at the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health. The conference involved a “five-day scientific programme” from 2nd to 6th December. I know that Sharma does have an interest in TB which affects his constituency more than most but does he really need to be at a scientific conference that just happens to be in Cape Town? Was there a political/governmental stream to the conference? MPs are often very bright and hardworking but are scientific conferences the place where they are most effective? Especially when Parliament is sitting – it is not as if there are not enough recesses (holidays to you and I).

He had to admit to being absent to Ealing Today as the Syria vote was so high profile but would he have talked about it otherwise? He uses Twitter, facebook (not updated since March 30th) and his own website (latest story 9th November) but all three fail to explain what important work he was doing in Cape Town that caused him to be absent from his day job. Maybe he will explain himself? Don’t hold your breath waiting for accountability from this man.

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UN foundation myth

I thought that Hilary Benn’s speech tonight was bang on. But, on one small detail he was wrong.

Too often Labour types try to lay claim to every positive element of the post war settlement. I have written on this before. In particular Benn said:

It was a Labour government that helped to found the UN at the end of the 2nd World War.

It was not.

The Charter of the United Nations was signed at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in San Francisco, on 26 June 1945. The election that ushered in a Labour government took place on 5 July 1945. A facsimile of the charter is here.

You might reasionably suggest that the signing of the UN Charter was an achievement of the wartime coalition government. It might be churlish of me to point out that the coalition was dissolved on the 23rd May and the UN Charter was signed by a caretaker Conservative administration.

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How will Ealing’s three Labour MPs vote today?

Today will see a debate and vote on a motion on extending airstrikes to Syria against ISIL. How will Ealing’s three Labour MPs vote today? I went looking for clues online.

Rupa Huq, Ealing Central and Acton has a website but it is out of date and very thinly populated. There is one piece from 15th November asnd then the next piece is dated 21st July. Although it has a picture of her with someone else’s bicycle it makes no reference to Syria.

On facebook and Twitter Huq reports that she has come out against. The fact that Huq has “pinned” this tweet so that it stays at the top of her page indicates that she wants people to know where she stands.

Been on BBC News 24 to voice my opposition to the UK bombing Syria – caption slightly unfortunate though!

Posted by Dr Rupa Huq for Ealing Central and Acton on Saturday, November 28, 2015

At least Huq is being clear. She is, ultimately, an intellectual, and I am sure she can find lots of reasons for doing nothing and back them up with high minded arguments. Thankfully intellectuals do not rule us, otherwise we would be slaves.

Sharma on Daesh

Apart from showing how right on he is by using the Arabic version of ISIL Virendra Sharma has not said anything beyond that Paris was bad. Otherwise he is silent. Nothing appears online to give you any clue as to what he thinks. As he is usually a Labour loyalist I guess he will follow Corbyn’s line although he might be confused currently as to what a Labour loyalist should do. We won’t get anything but banalities from Sharma if he does make any kind of statement.

Stephen Pound is equally inscrutable as Sharma on this subject. The guy is totally capable of sounding off but he too often uses his great skills for comic effect only. His website says nothing about Syria and he doesn’t do the social media stuff. Pound probably hasn’t got much to lose if he does vote against Corbyn’s line – let’s see if he has it in him. Otherwise we will have three Noes I suspect.

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I am sorry but the people we pay to run local services in Ealing are not telling it straight

The Gazette on Friday regurgitated an Ealing Council press release on “Deeper cuts” without any comment from opposition spokespeople. Interestingly the Gazette headline was more measured than the headline used the council officers we pay to be objective.

The council said:

Deeper cuts bring more pain as council loses £205million over the decade

Whilst the Gazette contented itself with:

Services in Ealing to have lost 50% of funding by 2020

Both of these statements are pretty misleading.

Back in August, in a futile attempt to shore up Liz Kendall, Julian Bell, issued an open letter of support. In doing so he came up with his latest fantasy cuts number – only £183 million back then, see here.

I was not impressed with his misuse of statistics so I wrote to the Council’s chief executive to get the full picture. I wrote to him on the 17th August and got the final, corrected response on 9th September. Not having a suitable hook to hang publication of the numbers on I sat on them. Now that even the council’s own officers have joined in the misinformation I figured it was time.

I simply asked the chief executive to spell out the council’s past income and future income in a comparable way so that the layman could properly judge the eye watering cuts numbers numbers being bandied about by Labour politicians (and by council officers rather shockingly this week). The key numbers are set out below (click picture to enlarge).

Gross budget

The headline number here is the Gross Budget. The total amount of money coming into the council every year for eight years. Of course lots of detail needs to be explained but in 2009/2010 – the last year under Gordon Brown the council spent £790 million and in 2017/18 it predicts that it will spend … £790 million. The later number is likely to be an underestimate – the predicted income will have been low balled and the predicted expenditure will have been high balled.

I don’t want to belittle the achievement of council officers in having to deal with massive changes to council finances. But, you can see how we can still be running an overall budget deficit at national level whilst all the time spending agencies are wailing about cuts.

It is clear from these numbers that we need to divert funding from housing benefit and the council has had to make room for more schools spending as school rolls have expanded. But, it is also clear that the numbers being used by the council do not usefully convey the real picture.

I have reproduced the more detail from the council below. Happy to discuss some of the details in the comments.

  1. Total gross expenditure includes two significant areas, schools and housing benefit, where the level of spending is not controlled by the council. These areas of spend are also ring-fenced so they can only be expended on specific functions.
  2. In April 2013, statutory responsibility for Public Health, together with the associated funding, was transferred to local government from the NHS. Of the current funding received by the Council £22m relates directly to the discharge of this function.
  3. As requested the starting year for the analysis is 2009/10. However the 2010/11 financial year is shaded because this was the final budget set before the election of the coalition government in 2010 and is therefore the relevant baseline.
  4. During the period there have been a number of changes to the local government funding system which will have impacted on individual income lines set out in the analysis. The most significant of these is the replacement of council tax benefit with the localised council tax support scheme in April 2013, which explains why the council tax figure reduces at that point. There will be other changes that are not as significant or apparent but which may affect like for like comparisons.
  5. The analysis identifies the cash reduction in the council’s total funding. The figure of £183m takes into account unfunded inflationary and some demographic pressures over the period.
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Ealing Council blows £200K on virtue signalling

I am quite happy to see Ealing Council being broadly supportive of higher wages for the low paid but I am not sure to what extent it should be a priority if it means taking cash from frontline services for what is essentially virtue signalling by businesses and the council.

Citizens UKYesterday’s announcement of £200K in business rates relief for local businesses looks good on the face of it but is in reality just a bung to Citizens UK which is a churchy advocacy movement. All well and good but there is no way that Ealing Council could ever justify a £100K a year grant of unrestricted funds to Citizens UK and this looks all too much like a back door way of supporting an advocacy group rather than a boon to local businesses. There will be lots of voluntary organisations which do work directly with needy people in Ealing who will wonder why Ealing council has taken millions of Pounds off them in recent years but is now bunging Citizens UK £200K.

The money that the council is diverting from vital services such as childrens’ services is going to be used to pay £500 a year fees for businesses to be accredited by what is effectively a campaign or subsidiary of Citizens UK called the Living Wage Foundation. This is really just a trading name of Citizens UK which is constituted as a charity.

Citizens UK sucks and blows about £1 million per annum so this new source of funds for Citizens UK is worth about 10% of their total income for two years – a good deal for them if Ealing businesses take it up.

This exercise is just virtue signalling on the public purse. The Council itself says:

Ealing Council is marking its intention to become a Living Wage Borough

Great, £200K worth of marking. More expensive even than Bassam Mahfouz’s Christmas tree which was £13K spent signalling the council’s recycling credentials. Next time Julian Bell tells you how heartbroken he is over cuts ask him how he found this £200K.

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