Forest Gate - short-changed

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Newham is, of course, a one party state, at local council level. There is no formal opposition on the 60-0 body; and the elected mayor, Sir Robin Wales, is able to treat the borough as his personal fiefdom.

Council meetings are over in minutes, public scrutiny is thin on the ground and decisions are taken behind closed doors, in party caucuses, or in pubs by the cronies.

We, the citizens, are administered to and treated with contempt by the power elite.

Robin Wales, like political leaders world-wide (as Cameron will soon be showing us, by the bucket load), has a juggling act to perform, to retain power and keep the comrades happy. And he does so at our expense - quite literally.

Mates are given top, and lucrative jobs in "the cabinet", complete with meaningless sounding "portfolios". Others, whose support, or that of their communities, he needs to retain power are paid off - by our taxes - with sinecures. All but one of the nine mayoral advisors for areas of the borough are, for example, of Asian heritage. Each of the nine of them receive £6,679 p.a. for undefined purposes (i.e. in excess of £60k in total)

Step forward Cllr Rohina Rahman.

Who, you may ask? She has been a councillor for Green Street East (roughly the area south of Romford Road, between Green St and Katherine Rd.), since 2006.

She has hardly made a mark in her 9 years on the council - though has picked up £100,000 for the privilege. Google searches, a trawl through Newham Recorder back editions and the Newham Council website struggle to throw up her name once a year, on average (apart from at election times, when she is looking for votes, of course).

Forest Gate resident, Martin Warne, who runs excellent blog, has tracked her contribution to the council and its democratic processes. He recently wrote:

According to council records, in the 2014/15 municipal year, she turned up to just three of eight meetings of the Health and Social Care scrutiny commission she sits on, and not a single cabinet meeting. She attended four full meetings of the council, although the minutes do not record her uttering a single word.

That works out at about £2,000 per hour on official duties - averaging out her £11,000 p.a. councillor remuneration between recorded attendance at recorded council meetings.

Her track record, to be frank, is probably little different from many of her 59 colleagues, on the council.

So, why single her out?

Because, exactly a year ago Robin Wales appointed her his "Mayoral Advisor" on Forest Gate and awarded her £6,679 a year for the post, allegedly for one day per week's work - in addition to her basic £11k per year councillor remuneration.

What does this onerous position involve? We wish we could tell you. There is no job description or list of duties and accountabilities attached to the function.

Freedom of Information requests to the council, over a year, seeking answers to the "what does the job involve?" question have been ignored/rebuffed/evaded/frustrated.

This website - interested in all matters Forest Gate - decided to try and find out.

Two months ago, we wrote polite letters to Cllr Rahman, Robin Wales, council chief excecutive, Kim Bromley-Derry, and the council's "Head of Complaints, Members Inquiries and Freedom of Information".

The letters asked for a job description, list of duties undertaken in exchange for the remuneration, and sight of any reports produced and recommendations made, affecting our area.

Below, we reproduced the sum total of the answers received, so we can show you, in completely unedited form, what we are getting for our money.

What 2 months time and over £400,000
 a year's salaries and expenses can
 tell us about what Cllr Rahman has done
Why does Robin Wales need a "Forest Gate Advisor"? He has spent most of the last 20 years living within a couple of hundred metres of the area, and is frequently seen in and around E7 - particularly coming in and out of the railway station.

Forest Gate is probably over-represented by Newham councillors who live within the area, and  four of the district's councillors (Ellie Robinson, Rebecca Tripp and Seyi Akiwowo, from Forest Gate North and Dianne Walls from Forest Gate South) are some of the most hard working and diligent members of Newham council, active and visible within the area.

What other advice does he need about the area - that justifies the expenditure of over £6,000 per year? We are still waiting to hear - and will share the answers with you, when we do.

Just a reminder. Robin Wales is paid over £80,000 as the council's mayor - over three times the average Newham wage. Kim Derry-Bromley, the council's chief executive is paid £195,000 a year - and will get a bonus this year for being the returning officer in the general election.

Kim Derry-Bromley - the
£195k p.a. sound of silence
Both of them have a legal responsibility for ensuring that public funds are used responsibly and appropriately. One year on, they cannot, between them, offer a single line of explanation for what Newham gets by way of advice on Forest Gate, for this £6,000+ expenditure.

Cllr Rahman's £6,679 payment isn't, apparently, enough to enable her to be able to account for her actions, either. And presumably the council's "Head of Complaints, Members Inquiries and Freedom of Information", on an estimated minimum of £40k p.a., is too busy applying for other similarly exotic sounding jobs in BBC's excellent W1A to have time to respond to our request.

Robin Wales, of course, has form when it comes to wasting money on vanity projects. Like the £40m he has given Tory peer Karren Brady and her pornography producer fellow directors of West Ham, to move to a ground that most fans don't want to go to. 

Then there is the, who knows what (£1m per year?) actual costs of producing the Wales fanzine - The Newham Mag.

Robin Wales: vanity, patronage
 and no accountability
As we face 5 years of Tory government, the £20bn of cuts they promised - but wouldn't spell out during the election - will begin to tumble out. Local government, we know, will take a big hit.

How will Robin Wales react to the central government imposed cuts, locally?

Protect the poor and sacrifice vanity, or continue to squander £6,679 a year on the silent Ms Rahnam and her ilk (£60k+, in total)? 

A not unreasonable litmus test of his priorities will soon be with us.


  1. Good stuff as usual. Do you send your info to Private Eye?

  2. Yes. I have had editorial and personal contact with the magazine and its staff for over 35 years.

  3. Great article

    One correction though - it's Cllr Rachel Tripp, not Rebecca.

  4. Good stuff, needs more of an airing!!

  5. One answer to this is, of course, opposition councillors and some actual debate. Unhappily, voting is knee-jerk in most of the End End on the [false] presumption that Labour on the label means 'something or other for ordinary people' inside the tin. That was probably somewhat true up to the 1970s, maybe up to John Smith, it now no longer is.

  6. Cllr Raham's public appearances in Forest Gate continued to be seen as frequently as hen's teeth after the article, above was first published. We told we'd keep readers up-to-date with further developments.

    We are delighted to announced that Cllr Rahman has now been replaced, without public comment, by Robin Wales, as his Forest Gate Advisor. The new post-holder is Forest Gate North councillor Rachel Tripp.

    As we suggested above, she is one of Newham's most active and publicly visible local representatives; frequently seen out and about in the area and regularly reporting back to the community on matters of interest to local citizens.

    We look forward to more positive and active engagement from and by the council, locally, in the future.

    Rachel already writes regularly on the recommended and highly informative Forest Gate North Labour party blog: Rachel is also a frequent communicator via Twitter, and can be followed via @rectripp.

    Welcome and good luck, Rachel! I'm sure local people will keep you very busy!


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