political map of london Councillors by party - Peter Golds & I are that little patch of blue in the east end
I was re-elected on Thursday 3rd May for another four years as Councillor for Canary Wharf ward. Unfortunately Tom Randall lost by just 6 votes to Kyrsten Perry representing Labour.
We now represent the fastest growing ward in the county so there is a lot of work for us to do.
I will continue to work hard for the next four years to represent Canary Wharf ward and to ensure good governance in Tower Hamlets as 42 of the 45 Councillors are now Labour. With only Peter Golds, myself and Rabina Khan (PATH party) providing opposition to John Biggs as Mayor.
But one of the first things I will be working on is a proper holiday in May :)
In summer 2014 I brought two babies into the world and over the following year I plan to give birth to five more babies but I need your help to do it
The first baby was the Facebook group "Canary Wharf & Isle of Dogs Residents" which was born on the 29th June 2014. I started it because many of my residents live in towers that I cannot access, so how do I talk to them as their elected Councillor and more importantly how do they talk to each other? This is the only place where many people (but obviously not all) can communicate with each other about issues, lost cats, recommendations, naked men & dog poo :) With over 11,000 members it will continue to grow and my main role now is a bit like being a gardener. I pull out the weeds, put some fertiliser down and check that people entering the garden are the right people to come in.
I cannot count how many posts I have made in the last 4 years but recently FB said my FB Friends had liked my posts 40,000 times. But on my main email account cllrandrewwood@gmail I have received 17,472 emails and sent 4,536 emails in 4 years (I also have 3 other email accounts with even more emails)
Not forgetting this website
But I was surprised by how little my fellow Councillors communicated by comparison with the exception of Peter Golds. There are 9 Councillors in the core area covered by this group (Limehouse, Poplar, CW, Island Gardens, Blackwall & Cubitt Town) do you know who they are? outside of the election period how much work have they done?
Some have done a good job at the Town Hall but you need Councillors who will do both jobs, the Town Hall job and the local job of working with & for residents.
I also try to communicate on Twitter at @andrewwood17, Streetlife and now Nextdoor. There are 7,000 plus homes in Canary Wharf ward with over 9,000 voters but maybe only around 2,000 doors can you easily knock on which is why I spend so much time on social media but am also door knocking where I can
The 2nd baby born in summer 2014 was the Isle of Dogs Neghbourhood Planning Forum. It is a non-party poliitical resident led group and its membership includes Lib Dems, Greens, Marxists, Conservatives etc etc. Labour party members & candidates are in it as well and are also on the Committee and have made important contributions especially on estate regeneration policy
But over the last 4 years I have done the majority of the work, first setting up the Forum, doing its Comms (except during election periods), gathering the evidence, setting up meetings and talking to stakeholders.
But I have done so as a resident not as a Conservative Councillor regardless of what others think (but being a Councillor does help open doors) and will continue that work regardless of the election outcome
Only by changing planning policy can residents influence what is happening. It has more power then many people realise, you can get a feel for the scale of work by looking at the Councils website
I have chosen or need to be non-party political for the following reasons:
One - I hate the tribalism of British politics. I am half-German and I naturally prefer a more consensual style of politics
Two - I know many of you are put off by UK party politics (sensible people)
Three - some people really do hate people from other parties, I don't, democracy is about choice and the role of policians like me is to provide you with choices at election time
Four - both the Forum and Facebook work better if party politics are left outside of it
So you wont have seen from me posts extolling my party or saying how crap the other party is (although I have been critical of the Council, they are not yet good enough and my job is in part to hold them to account). As you may have noticed my party, the Conservatives are not doing very well right now at a national level but I could say the same about the Labour party as well but these are local elections on local issues (even if you are voting on national issues that does not change the job of a Councillor). All the parties in this election have good candidates and some not so good candidates (and a few who should not be re-elected), it is your job now to sort out which ones are which :)
These are the 5 things I want to do - the new babies I refer to
1. Set up a new Neighbourhood Planning Forum for the northern Isle of Dogs. In April 2016 the Council removed the northern part of the original area that residents voted on in November 2014. I should have done this sooner but have been too busy.
2. Re-start the Police Safer Neighbourhood ward panel, I brought the ward panel back into Canary Wharf ward when i got it restarted at Alpha Grove Community Centre but it has lapsed again (I am not allowed to Chair it) but I have helped the Limehouse Ward Panel expertly led by Conor and know what a difference a good ward panel can make
3. Set up a website as the mirror image of this FB group but to make it easier to find information. I tried to do this last year but again ran out of time to finish it
4. Try and get the Council to improve the security of the area by setting up Public Space Protections Orders like was done around Ropemakers. I was the 1st person to mention PSPO's there. Also introduce physical secuity measures like CCTV (we have no Council CCTV cameras in any residential area of CW ward) better lighting, anti-moped gates etc using the £169 million of funds from developers and the government sitting in the Council bank account
5. Last but not least ask you if you want to set up a Town (Parish) Council for the Isle of Dogs. It would be a new lower level of local government, with its own powers, budget and staff (TH Council would stll be responsible for 95% of what it does but purely local stuff could be managed locally)
I do not think TH Council does a good job of managing the island, they are too big, too remote, do not know the area and have too many false assumptions about the area. I think a Town Council run locally by local people could restore some power back to the island and provide better services.
I grew up in Singapore and have seen what effective government looks like (which is why John Biggs jokes with me that I am really a member of the Peoples Action Party of Singapore) and except for their policies on democracy and capital punishment there is some truth in that
Plus many other things I want to do but this post is long enough
But I need your help now to do all of this.
If you want me to do these things and to continue the work I have already done then re-elect me on the 3rd May. But my workload is enormous and I am currently failing to keep on top of everything (& being a Cllr is meant to be a part time job!)
So I really need help, so please, please elect Councillors who will do the work & also communicate with you elsewhere regardless of which party they belong to. But in my ward elect Tom Randall to help me. He does a lot of work locally behind the scenes to help me to do my work.
Some of these things I can do & will do if I do not get elected (ironically not being re-elected would give me more time :)) but on balance being a Councillor would make my work easier and I wont be able to help people as much if I am not a Councillor
So it is up to you now
1. Vote - even if it is not for me - turnouts on the IoD are too low compared to others areas in TH - if you are a Commonwealth or EU citizen you can vote as well
2. Tell your friends & neighbours who you are voting for especially those not on social media - in 2014 I got elected because a local Marxist told people to vote locally for Conservatives because we do the work
3. If you want me to be re-elected and to give birth to those 5 babies then please share this message on FB or by email
And for members of other parties who will inevitably object to this post, perhaps your party should have tried harder to communicate with residents over the last four years by setting up your own FB groups or getting involved in this one but you are welcome to add to this post what you will do
PS this is what I look like when I do the majority of my work, drinking tea on a sofa, looking at my laptop, looking a mess
I have been a Councillor since May 2014, an amazing four years, fascinating, sometimes very frustrating, occasionally boring but always interesting. I have seen Tower Hamlets Council at its worst – Lutfur Rahman refusing to answer questions, OFSTED saying that we had failed the youngest people in our society, an unwillingness to engage with residents, secrecy over spending £119 million, trying to kick the press out of Council meetings. The list goes on and that is part of my job to expose what is happening. If nobody holds the Council to account they are more likely to make mistakes and to not deliver, imagine the House of Commons with only one party in it!
But my fundamental impression of the Council is that while it is improving, it is doing so at 20mph an hour speed, the rest of the world is driving at 30mph and developers are building at 40mph. The Council needs to catch up and fast but it is still not fulfilling its potential despite some excellent officers and lots of S106, CIL & New Homes Bonus cash. Part of that is because I do not think the Executive Mayor model of government works.
The failure to replace the large climbing frame in Ropemakers playground for over a year now is a good example. The Council has more developers cash then it knows what to do with but cannot get around to replacing a critical piece of child play equipment. The complete failure to deliver any playgrounds in Millharbour (the densest small place in the UK) is another.
But the Isle of Dogs has some amazing things going for it. Canary Wharf, beautiful & historic docks, Island Gardens, the river Thames, Mudchute Farm. The ability to walk to Greenwich through the foot tunnel. Docklands Sailing Centre, the Rowing club. One of the most diverse and international populations in the world. The list could be even longer if the Council focussed more on quality of life and how to make Tower Hamlets a better, safer and more comfortable place to live.
It is why I have focussed so much on long term solutions. Much of my time has been spent working with the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum, it is non-political but it has real powers to deliver change. Only by changing Planning Policy can you influence the nature of development here. But unfortunately the Isle of Dogs has been required by the GLA & Tower Hamlets Council to deliver much of London’s housing targets. Canary Wharf ward as a result is the fastest growing small place in the UK. We are becoming more like Manhattan but without a plan for how that will work, something I am trying to fix.
I am half-German and grew up in Singapore, in both my mom’s home town and in Singapore I have seen better government, in some areas much better government. For me it is extremely frustrating to see how poorly Tower Hamlets Council performs in comparison. It is why I got involved in local government, I think I can make a contribution to making things better.
Now on the 3rd May it is up to you. The question will be whether you want to re-elect me or not and whether you want to help me in my work by electing Tom Randall as my running mate. The population of my ward will almost double again by the time of the next election in 2022, you need to elect the two most effective Councillors that you can, they will have more work than most other Councillors in London.
The simple rule should be if somebody does a good job you re-elect them, if not you throw the bum out :) But in this case I know some of you will vote on the basis of national issues to ‘send’ a message. That is your democratic choice but I will be standing on local issues, it is all I can do.
It is not that I do not have sympathy with those national issues. The decision to cut Police funding, the Windrush scandal (& it is a scandal), unhappiness over the process of Brexit etc etc (I could add even more). These are all valid concerns that I share but Councillors have no powers over national or international issues. That does not mean that I will not try and influence national debates as you can see from my articles for Conservative Home. https://www.conservativehome.com/author/andrew-wood
But most of my work is purely local and you have to decide whether you want to vote on local issues in what is mainly a Labour Borough or national issues (repeating lasts year general election).
After four years I know how to be an effective Councillor. I have made mistakes in the past and there are things I want to change in how to do my job and I think Tom & I can make a real difference in the next four years, I hope you will give us that chance by voting for the both of us.
Picture with from L to R with myself, Dr Anwara Ali (our Mayoral candidate) and Tom Randall, my running mate
If you live in Canary Wharf ward you will be getting a letter through the post from me (if you are registered to vote). For cost reasons I only sent one per household for larger households, I hope you can share within your family/household.
I know most of you do not read stuff we put through letter boxes but I thought I should do at least one posted letter to ensure maximum receipt about what I have done for the last 4 years. I know it is too detailed but I dislike political leaflets which are full of slogans and minimal detail and many of you know I like writing 10 words when 5 would do. Full copy below or you can get a PDF copy here & here
Fire Safety briefing - part of Councils Overview & Scrutiny Committee Fire Safety Review which I attended
Stephen Dudeney - TH Fire Brigade (FB) Commander - an expert on tall building fires provided a briefing
2 serious fires in Hertfordshire in 2005 and Southampton 2010 each resulted in 2 firefighter deaths. This resulted in major changes to how they respond to big fires + Grenfell
Fire in a high rise building = FB send 5 fire engines and 1 fire ladder
Multiple 999 calls in a high rise building i.e. Grenfell = FB send 8 vehicles plus senior commander (who can call in more resources)
Fire in high rise with known cladding issues = FB send 10 vehicles plus senior commander
Aerial fire ladder - 15 in London with 30 meter tall ladders - built between 2002 & 2007 but will be replaced becuase of Low Emission Zone issues on air quality. Will buy 10 with 30 meter long ladders and 5 with 55 meter long ladders (went to Germany to look at new ladders). Can in theory buy longer ladders but cannot get them around London streets. Do not think they need 55 meter long ladders but post Grenfell cannot take risks.
Are buying camera drones as well but for wider policing and security use as well. They borrowed one from Kent for Grenfell.
I asked question are they ready for 75 storey buiding? Yes, critical issue is how quickly they can get from ground to source of fire (they usually start fire fighting ops 2 floors below fire source). They will use lifts to get up quickly if necessary.
Tall buildings now built to much better safety standards and should have wet risers, air tight stair wells, fire risers etc
FB try and visit major buildings regularly and a major tall building would get annual visits so that crews are familiar with layout.
Layout of buildings are uploaded onto mobile data terminals which FB can access on the way
But each major building should have a "Premises information" plate with basic safety information FB need (you may want to check your building)
His advice is still very much to stay in place if there is a major fire elsewhere in building. If you exit building it makes it more difficult for FB to get in and move around as stairwells blocked.
Only two places where advice did not work was Lakanal House and Grenfell. But there are thousands of fires each year and in 99.99% of cases staying put is the right thing to do but sometimes it is not.
Nobody in the UK has died in a fire where the building had operational sprinklers
Next meeting in February will go into more detail on these issues.
Rest of meeting about TH Council role and Social Landlords will post later
Was really surprised only 2 Councillors attended session tonight. I have to admit I missed first meeting where they agreed terms of review as looking after my niece but I had expected a larger turnout from Councillors given the issue
Slightly long read but I hope you will find interesting about some of the problems with politics in Tower Hamlets.
I was elected in May 2014 and part of my job is to hold the administration of Tower Hamlets Council to account since in 2010 voters in TH decided in a referendum to give all power to an Executive Mayor instead of Councillors. But I quickly realised that Council officers had a different view of my job and routinely did not tell me what was happening in my ward, one reason why I always read notices on lampposts and talk to developers to try and find out what is going on.
The perfect example was the South Quay Masterplan consultation process in autumn 2014. On the Saturday I read a small advert in the back of East End Life saying that there would be a public consultation on a new plan for South Quay (I read it in a library as my building like many others did not receive the paper). I had missed the 1st event on Thursday (1 person had turned up after seeing a sign outside). You could only find the notice on the Council website by searching for the words ‘South Quay Masterplan’ and that notice was only posted 90 minutes before the 1st meeting. Nobody told me about what was going on. I told people about the 2nd event and over 20 people turned up. It was the one of the main drivers for setting up the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum and for my spending so much time on social media. The Council are still very poor on communication and in involving residents.
After Lutfur Rahman was removed things have improved. John Biggs has been a very hard working and diligent Mayor and while I might disagree with him on priorities and some decisions I have always respected his abilities. I probably do not spend enough time highlighting the improvements but the Council has 21 Comm’s staff and the whole of the Labour party (as a reminder the GLA assembly member, 2 MP’s, the Mayor and 23 Councillors in TH are Labour) to trumpet their achievements. They should not need my help as well.
But I believe strongly that progress must be quicker and there are still huge issues within the Council. We are the fastest growing Borough in the country and need to be much better at some things like construction management and infrastructure delivery. Many of my Labour colleagues agree as they also talk about resistance to change within the Council and that the culture needs to change. Ironically one of the biggest issues we face next May is that too many good Labour Councillors are standing down depriving the ruling party of experienced Cllrs (& Labour is the ruling party in TH)
Unfortunately, things have become complicated recently and not as much progress has been made as I would like and we have gone backwards this year. In particular, there have been serious issues with;
• Children’s Services badly failing OFSTED
• Repeated attempts to build on the gardens at Salmon Lane
• Rushing through £119 million to spend on affordable homes (see below)
• Tower Hamlets schools not improving as quickly as other London schools so our schools are now average for London rather than being the best as is often claimed
• Alpha Square bribery (see below)
This creates serious issues for me. My involvement with the Neighbourhood Planning Forum means that I need to be strictly non-party political in that role and it does include Labour party members, Greens, Liberal Democrats, Marxists etc. who all make important contributions. But I was also elected to hold the administration to account and for the first time there is a conflict between my two roles. I would have preferred for that conflict not to exist as I need to have good relations with the Mayor if I want stuff done for my residents. But I cannot ignore the issues listed above either. The Council should have called the Police to investigate the bribery allegations as soon as they heard rather than wait to be told, it is not their job to decide whether something is criminal or not. For the same reason, they should have clearly informed the Commissioners (one of whom was a former police officers), they are now saying they told them broadly but the Commissioners are saying they did not know.
I think politics in Tower Hamlets (UK as well) is too tribal and that one reason why TH has not improved as much as it should is due to the dis-functional nature of politics in TH.
The £119 million affordable homes decision was issued at 7.31pm on a Friday night as an Executive decision. It did not go through the normal Cabinet process despite being the biggest single decision made in recent years. Then in the following Council meeting Labour keep bringing forward non-urgent motions so that we have less then 2 minutes at 10.15pm to discuss it before voting on it. My group call it in and it gets debated at 9.30pm the following day (I did agree it should go later on the agenda). But we only had thirty minutes to discuss and the Cabinet members spoke for so long that we miss the opportunity to ask the three senior Council officers present any detailed questions.
The issue is that we should be spending more than £119 million on affordable homes, that none of this is creating any brand-new homes only buying old homes or homes already with planning permission. Tower Hamlets Council urgently need to find some big schemes to invest in rather than trying to build on small green sites if we are to build the new affordable homes we need (I have said the same to central government). But rather then celebrating this important investment it is rushed through with no debate and almost no scrutiny.
Now the Alpha Square bribery case is embarrassing for me as well. I have spoken against many planning applications and on the Council website there are many examples of this. But I am not a NIMBY, I am not against all development and sometimes I feel I need to prove that, as it would be easy as a politician to simply say I hate it all. I have spoken in favour of two applications. One was to complete the half-built building by the Hilton hotel. The other was that I spoke in favour of the new primary school, community space, GP offices and the preservation of the North Pole pub at Alpha Square at the Council and GLA. I was not happy with the height and density. But so many planning applications had been approved nearby with no infrastructure attached i.e. Wardian, South Quay Plaza, 2 Millharbour, The Spire, Landmark Pinnacle etc. etc. that I was worried that I would only end up with the one primary school at 3 Millharbour, no extra GP space and would lose one of the few historic buildings left. You can read exactly what I said on page 18 of this link
Fortunately, I now know that in this case the developer did not pay any bribes but I am sure people will say that the final decision was still corrupt. But does this mean that no Councillor can now speak in favour of a planning application in case we are considered corrupt? This is what is so damaging about the Alpha Square bribery is that we cannot be sure anymore that bribery is not there especially as the Police have failed to investigate.
But I met somebody once at a coffee shop in Canary Wharf to talk about local issues, he used to be involved in Tower Hamlets politics and he bought me a hot chocolate, cost about £3.50. But later he was involved in the Alpha Square development. Since then when I meet people I either do not drink, pay for drinks myself or where I cannot avoid it i.e. Canary Wharf Group events make a donation to Mudchute Farm for the value of food and drink received. But to find out what is going on I still need to speak to people and that is best done at coffee shops.
Separately another person running against me next May has started calling me Islamophobic although she has deleted her most recent Tweet. It is typical of TH politics that you use lies to smear your opponents. But in 2010 Phil Woolas, a former Labour minister lost his seat after a court agreed that he had lied in an election. There are rules about lying in the Representation of the People Act 1983.
She said I was Islamophobic because I said that a publicly owned building built on public land should not have separate male and female entrances. This is because I believe that government and religion should be separate. I did tell her that separate entrances in a mosque were acceptable if privately built but that increasingly in Europe there are Muslim prayer groups where men and women pray together which I think is the right solution. There is a lot of online material proving that I am not Islamophobic and I have many Muslim friends willing to testify in Court that I am not Islamophobic in case she wants to lie again. As an example, I am on record at the GLA asking to ensure that new community space is also appropriate for Muslim prayer as well as other community wide uses. I am an atheist who believes in freedom of religion.
Top of page 8 https://www.london.gov.uk/…/gla_-_former_westferry_printwor…
But with elections approaching on the 3rd May 2018 we will see more of this. I will be standing to be elected again as the Councillor for Canary Wharf ward in May. If people think I have done a good job I hope they will vote for me but if I am not elected I can go on a proper holiday for the first time in 4 years :)
Following the Sunday Times exposure of corruption in the planning process, Tower Hamlets Conservatives call for Commissioners to be re-instated and oversee planning applications and for a full and proper police investigation into this scandal.
The Sunday Times exposure that a “fixer” with close connections to the local and national Labour Party requires immediate answers.
There is more large scale development in Tower Hamlets than anywhere else in the country and this development dominates the Isle of Dogs. In the last seven years Tower Hamlets Council has approved residential towers of 75, 68, 67, 60, 55 storeys in height plus many more between 40 & 50 storeys high, most within walking distance of Alpha Square.
There has long been a belief locally that the system has been corrupted by fixers and middle men with connections to councillors. Now we have overwhelming evidence that the system may have been deeply corrupted through influence peddling and even the bribery of Councillors.
We therefore find it astonishing that this was all kept secret and that Labour’s Mayor John Biggs did not report this issue immediately to the police on the 26th November 2015, five months after his election, when he was told about it and demand that the police fully investigate.
Nothing appears to have been done until at least five months later when external consultants Ernst and Young were brought in sometime during April 2016, who then recommended calling in the police. During this entire period Councillor Shiria Khatun, named in the Sunday Times, was Cabinet member for Community Safety which involved her dealing with the police on a regular basis.
The Councils own anti-bribery policy says:
‘Rigorously investigating instances of alleged bribery and assisting police and other appropriate authorities in any resultant prosecution’1
and its anti-fraud and corruption strategy says
‘We expect our Directors and Heads of Service to deal firmly and quickly with anyone who is responsible for fraud or corruption. Head of Paid Service/Director of Resources in consultation with the Corporate Anti- Fraud Manager may refer matters to the police if there is suspicion of any criminal activity having taken place.’2
Calling in Ernst and Young after five months as opposed to the fraud squad does not satisfy the Councils own policy requirements.
Were other developers approached by this individual after meetings set up by the former Deputy Mayor for Tower Hamlets? Was the Mayor concerned about donations made directly to the Labour Party?
Councillor Andrew Wood, deputy leader of the Conservative Group said:
“Whilst this story maybe one of a businessman close to the Labour Party trying his luck the delay in reporting this to the appropriate authorities and the resultant secrecy we believe is extremely damaging at a time when the Council was trying to emerge from the cloud left by Lutfur Rahman. It suggests nothing much has actually changed.”
Councillor Peter Golds, Conservative Group leader is calling on the Secretary of State to;
The Conservative Group are also calling for full disclosure by Tower Hamlets Council on:
Finally in the public interest, we call upon;
1. New Homes Bonus for building the most new homes in the country
2. Council Bribery Policy https://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/Documents/Risk-management-and-insurance/Anti-Fraud/anti-bribery-policy.pdf
3. Council Anti-Fraud & Corruption Strategy https://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/Documents/Finance/Financial-transactions-management/Fraud/Anti-Fraud-Strategy.pdf