Once Upon a Time…

…at the beginning of this year Waltham Forest’s Head of Communications was summoned to a meeting to discuss her redundancy.

Suddenly, the Labour Party casts a spell, ‘Evanesco’, and the meeting is transformed into an interview for the post of Assistant Director of Strategy and Communications.

The only  ‘candidate’, Kathryn Myers, was given the job which attracted a salary between £71,000 and £127,000 a year.

Even the Conservative leader, Cllr Matt Davis, was subjected to Labour’s ‘Stupefy‘ spell as he was on the ‘interview’ panel.

7 months later we hear Kathryn Myers took voluntary redundancy as part of the authority’s restructuring plans earlier this month.

It seems the Labour Party looks after its own. By promoting Myers from Head of Communications to  Assistant Director of Strategy and Communications her redundancy package must of improved dramatically.

To add insult to injury it is alleged that the council is planning to give senior officers pay rises while cutting the wages of its lowest paid staff.

There are two things that spring to mind

  1. An once of hypocrisy is worth a pound of ambition (in this case literally)
  2. Waltham Forest needs strong and competent opposition to challenge Labour’s excesses.
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Council’s Legal Eagle flys away

Waltham Forest Council’s Director of Governance and Law, Terry Osborne, is leaving to take another job after a mere eighteen months in post.

It seems Ms Osborne will not be missed as it is rumoured she was not well liked because of her over zealous behaviour.

We are led to believe an example of such behaviour was when Ms Osbourne threatened former councillor, James O’Rourke, with the Standards Board after he wrote an article on his blog entitled  ‘Council Cowardice’ just before the 2010 local elections. The on-line Waltham Forest Guardian picked the story up but then quickly dropped it before Mr O’Rourke’s article was also removed. Thankfully Mr O’Rourke’s article was copied by a regular contributer to this site, Nick Tiratsoo – click here to read it.

We understand that a comprehensive multi-agency enforcement operation,  relating to thirty flats built without planning permission in Walthamstow was called off at very short notice before the 2010 elections, apparently because Ms Osbourne thought it might be overly political –  ‘purdah’.

Disgracefully, sixteen months after Ms Osbornes ‘political concerns’ there has still been no action against those who built and currently rent out the thirty illegal flats. Interestingly, there has been no official comments from two High Street Councillors who are prominent in the housing market in the area

Inside ilegal flats

Cllr Liaquat Ali who is reputed to have a significant portfolio of ‘legitimate’ property in High Street ward and whose business premises, in St James Street, backs on to the illegal flats.

Cllr Mahmood Hussain whose business is in Hoe Street and has a significant rental portfolio in High Street ward

We sincerely hope that the ‘political concerns’ did not relate to rumours circulating that one or both of the above councillors have a connection to these illegal and unsafe buildings. We agree with Nick Tiratsoo’s comments, on one of our previous articles, that this matter “surely needs investigation.”

Ms Osbourne is not unfamiliar with controversy so we wish her future employers the best of luck.

Beer and Sandwiches

In the days when the big unions wielded vast power union bosses would routinely pop round to Number 10 for “beer and sandwiches” – which meant the said leaders showing up at Downing Street to discuss what it would take to persuade them not to go on strike, and being plied with the afore mentioned refreshments by a Labour prime minister reduced to the proprietor of a seedy pub, with the cabinet as his bar maids.

While Cllr Chris ‘Strong Leader’ Robbins and Cllr Afzal Akram are sacking thousands of front line staff, which a Council report admits will have a negative impact on the homeless, mentally ill, disabled, elderly and vulnerable young people, not a lot seems to have changed in the Waltham Forest Labour party other than the  “beer and sandwiches” have been substituted for hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers money subsidising their union comrades.

This is not surprising given our ‘strong leaders ‘connection to unions as stated in his biography.

Prior to being elected to the Council, Chris worked in the trade union movement for 27 years – fighting against low pay, workplace injustice and unemployment!!!

If the unions want representatives then they, and not the vulnerable or us taxpayers, should pay for them.

Whilst this Labour administration does what it likes the Tories and whats left of the Liberal Democrats are silent.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH – Waltham Forest needs and deserves Councillors who will represent the whole of our community and not just interest groups. If they are unable or unwilling to do so they should stand aside.

Freedom of Religious Expression

Cllr Akram has refused to say why he intervened over plans to expand a mosque saying “he would detail his reasons during the planning committee meeting.”

In the planning application report Council officers state that

Councillor Akram requested Committee consideration of the
application, if officers were minded to refuse the scheme. No formal
comments have been received from Cllr Akram with his views on the
application.

Freedom of religion is considered by many people and nations to be a fundamental human right and is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

However, with rights come responsibilities. In the case of this planning application it seems Cllr Akram is quite happy to trample over the needs and wishes of local residents safe in the knowledge they have no recourse.

If this planning application is approved, ignoring Council officers sensible rationale and recommendations, then Cllr Akram and his Labour colleagues will rightly stand accused of cronyism.

Cllr Akram’s defense of religious expression seems to be limited though. He has not publicly condemned the death threats to a Leyton Imam,  Dr Shaykh Usama Hasan, or backed calls to protect the Imam and take action against those who threaten him with harm.

Not to Plan?

A senior Labour Councillors intervention in a Chingford planning application has provoked calls for an ultra right-wing and anti Islamic organisation to come to Waltham Forest.

Under delegated powers Council Officers recommended the application for the expansion of a mosque in Chingford Mount Road be refused due to the loss of a residential premises, the impact on surrounding residential occupiers and parking, with the increased number of visitors. However, Cllr Afzal Akram, who represents Lea Bridge ward on the borders of Walthamstow and Leyton and the person responsible for the Councils Corporate Resources, Business & Employment, has stepped in to ask officers to refer the application to the Labour dominated planning committee.

Bloggers have voiced their opinions questioning Cllr Akrams motives for his intervention.

Cllr Akram’s questionable intervention can only but heighten the fears, legitimate or otherwise, that one section of our community is being given preferential treatment over others.

Should have gone to SpecSavers

In the days well before ancient Greeks ever toyed with pseudo-democracy, a biblical sage wrote, ”Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).

Waltham Forest now, more than ever, needs exciting and visionary government yet is getting political drift, administrative incompetence, and a culture of secrecy under the ‘strong leadership’ of Cllr Chris Robbins.

Visionary leadership seeks to take people into a new, morally engaging and uplifting future. Under Robbins and his Labour cronies we are getting procrastination and blinkered vision.

A case in point is Walthamstow Dog Track – The Stow.

Since 1933 this iconic site has been the home to greyhound racing, speedway and banger racing attracting punters, and their money, from far and wide.

The Council recently carried out a a borough wide ‘needs assessment’ for retail and commercial leisure uses in Waltham Forest. The study showed that projected growth in the population and expenditure over the period 2009-2026 is expected to lead to an increase in retail and leisure provision in the borough.

What better place to put a facility charged with providing a mix of leisure and much needed housing, than a site with a long history of leisure facilities with the space for housing.

The opportunity to provide much needed housing and leisure facilities is a chance to fulfil a significant part of Waltham Forests needs, and the Council’s role in that is critical.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Chris Robbins, needs to show some backbone and take the lead of the process and not just call for a meeting between L&Q and the Save Our Stow campaign, headed by multi millionaire, Bob Morton, as Cllr Marie Pye did but ensure Waltham Forest gets the leisure and housing it desperately needs .

Yes, there’s a risk. But to not accept that in the face of the benefits both socially and economically for Waltham Forest would be short-sighted.

If it is vision we want from our councillors then maybe we, the electorate, need to go to SpecSavers before we next enter the polling station otherwise we get the politicians we deserve.

It’s Miliband…

The wait is over for the Labour Party who announced their new national leader today, Ed Miliband.

Of the five candidates, pundits predicted a Miliband will attempt to lead Labour out of the electoral wilderness; and they were right.

However, it was not the Miliband the Waltham Forest Labour Party threw all their support behind when he was the key guest at a Pakistan Independence Day and Ramadhan dinner at Walthamstow Assembly Hall recently.

Notable supporters of David Miliband were Walthamstow MP, Stella Creasy (clearly looking for a higher position in the parliamentary Labour Party), Waltham Forest Mayor Cllr Masood Ahmed, Cllr Akram Afzal and Cllr Robbins, leader of the council who said they hoped that under him the party would win the next election.

If this is the level of their judgement God help Waltham Forest over the next few years.

The real winners in this contest are the unions who helped young Ed secure his narrow victory over his older brother by just one percentage point of the votes. It’s inevitable they will want payback at some point.

All Out Brothers