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Navin's News for October 2010

Supporting the Tube strikes protest at King's Cross

Watch Navin being interviewed about the tube strike at Kings Cross on 29 October 2010 here.

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29th October 2010

Plea to end fire brigade dispute

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By James Cracknell

A HARROW councillor has called on London mayor Boris Johnson to end the 'deplorable' stand-off between firefighters and their bosses.

While Harrow and Brent escaped unscathed from Saturday's strike, another is due to begin on Monday and a contentious third has been pencilled in for Bonfire Night weekend, one of the busiest of the year.

If the increasingly fractious negotiations between the London FireBrigade (LFB) and the Fire Brigade's Union (FBU) come to no resolution before November 26, 5,500 firefighters face being sacked.

Councillor Navin Shah (Kenton East) sits on the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority board, opposite its Conservative chairman Brian Coleman.

He told the Observer this week: "There has been a complete vacuum at the political level, including the mayor of London.

"I have been demanding all along that the chairman and the mayor open adialogue with the FBU."

The industrial dispute centres on a bid by the LFB to terminate existing contracts and re-issue firefighters with new shift patterns and working conditions.

Mr Shah said he blamed the mayor for conspiring with Mr Coleman, the Conservative fire chairman Mr Johnson appointed in 2008, on the termination of contracts.

He continued: "This is deplorable. It is the third biggest fire brigade in the world, you would have thought they wouldn't want a major confrontation.

"It doesn't help with the kind of language the chairman is using: 'either you sign up or your contract will be scrapped'.

"The change to shifts does need to happen, there isn't a disagreement about that, but it is how you go about it.

"My fear is that both the mayor and the chairman have been spoiling for a fight."

But Mr Coleman has denied that the decision to sack firefighters was about making job losses. "The FBU have placed firefighters in a terrible position," he said.

"We asked for a meeting with national negotiators on November 5, and the union has responded with a strike.

"There are no cuts, no job losses, this is about reducing a 15-hour night shift, adding those hours to the day shift and doing more community safety work and firefighter training."

Mr Shah himself admitted the choice of date for a 47-hour strike was inappropriate. He added: "It is unfortunate they have gone for November 5, which also happens to be Diwali, when Hindus celebrate with fireworks.

"I understand they want the strike to bite but I think they have miscalculated it."

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28th October 2010

Firework displays jeopardised over strike

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By Glenn McMahon

FIREWORK displays across London could be jeopardised after firemen announced plans to strike over bonfire weekend.

FIREWORK displays across London could be jeopardised or forced to scale down after firemen announced plans to strike over bonfire weekend.

Brent Council’s safety officers ruled the annual event in Roundwood Park could go ahead without a bonfire.

A spokesman for Brent Council said it would consider hiring a private fire-company as cover depending on the cost.

London’s 5,600 firemen will also walk-out on Monday, November 1, as the dispute over working conditions continues.

Strike action was voted for after employers, the London Fire Brigade, sent out formal notices, in August, stating contracts would be terminated if negotiations were not completed within three months.

Firemen would then have to reapply for their jobs under new contracts.

The LFB says it has been trying to agree changes to shift patterns and ‘outdated’ allowances to make more time for community safety work and training.

The Fire Brigade Union says talks were progressing but were forced to take action over the shock move.

The Government announced a 25 per cent cut from fire and rescue service budgets last week over the next four years but said this figure could be reduced if flexible working arrangements, pay restraint and recruitment freezes were implemented.

On Saturday, London fire-crews picketing stations were replaced by 27 fire-engines and 162 contracted firemen.

However, London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, accused strikers of harassment, intimidation and violence towards the contractors.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said the accusations were unfounded.

A decision on whether to allow the termination of contracts or to extend negotiations will be taken by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, made up of 17 London Councillors and two mayoral appointees, at a meeting on November 18.

Navin Shah, London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow and leader of the Labour group on the LFEPA, said: “The problem is a lack of political leadership. They have been spoiling for a fight; London doesn’t need it. We should be looking at how we can diffuse the situation and then see what the best way forward is.”

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26th October 2010

Asian Voice Column - October 2010

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By Navin Shah AM

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT BETRAYAL

Before lecturing Labour Party on its commitment to change and fairness LibDems ought to look at their own record of betrayal of voters. In the coalition government it hasn’t taken much long for LibDems to ditch their flagship pledges and policies.  Ed Miliband has been absolutely right in calling Nick Clegg a “crypto Tory” for selling out to Tories.

Since the election we have seen U-turns after U-turns from Liberal Democrats. A select list of their brain-melting volte-face include : Supporting deep and fast cuts in public services when they claimed they supported Labour’s commitment to spending in the first year after the election to boost economic growth rather than axing public services; Scrapping longstanding commitment to tuition fees – a pledge which they claimed had been ‘fully costed’; increase in VAT to 20% which they claimed  they had no plans for;; Supporting non-workable controversial Tory plan to cap non-EU immigration when they claimed they opposed this and supported Labour’s Australian style points based system and Dropping their opposition to Trident Nuclear missiles.

In the post-election period I expressed my fear that the core values held by the LibDems would be ‘watered down or even totally lost’ to enable them to hang on to power. LibDems should be concerned about how they’ve totally wrecked public trust rather than lecturing Ed Miliband and the Labour Party. 

FIRE BRIGADE STRIKE

LACK OF POLITICAL LEADERSHIP

Nearly 6000 fire-fighters of the London Fire Brigade were balloted by the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) for a strike action. On Thursday 14th October 76% firefighters returned the ballot papers and of these 76% fire-fighters have voted for a strike. At the time of dispatching this column FBU have not announced date of the strike but it can commence towards the end of this week.  

The impending strike action has resulted from the controversy about shift patterns changes of fire-fighters.  I have consistently argued that the London Fire Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) must look at a range of options for shift changes in conjunction with the FBU and both make genuine attempts to negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement. However, the biggest obstacle and the cause for rapidly deteriorating industrial relations since the start of the consultation has been the attitude and approach of the LFEPA’s Chairman and his group on the Authority. To date the Chairman has dismissed my appeal to engage with FBU. The Mayor of London too has failed to show leadership on this by failing to intervene to avert the strike. I lay blame for strike ballot on a lack of political leadership at the top. Strike action by fire-fighters is extremely bad news for Londoners and could have been averted with better leadership. No one wants this strike, least of all Londoners. It is because of the aggressive, confrontational way the Conservatives have gone about trying to force through these changes that we find ourselves in a situation that could have been avoided. Mayor Johnson and his Chairman of the Fire Authority have been spoiling for a fight with the union, rather than showing the leadership and fostering the good relations that would have best served Londoners.   

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22nd October 2010

Ticket Office Closures

TfL plans to shed up to 800 ticket office and gateline jobs on the London Underground came under fire this morning after a motion was passed opposing the move.

Labour Assembly Members led the charge against the Mayor of London, asking him to review the decision to lay-off London Underground employees in an effort to maintain service levels in stations across the network.

The motion was supported by all parties aside from the Conservative Assembly Members, who having previously walked away from debating ticket office closures, voted against the motion at the Assembly’s Plenary earlier today.

Navin Shah, Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, said: “I find it disgraceful that the Mayor continues to betray Brent and Harrow and outer borough Londoners by refusing to do the right thing and reverse his decision to close ticket offices and his plans to restrict opening hours of ticket offices.

“The real issue here is the safety of passengers using London Underground and the accessibility of the service for passengers, which the closure of ticket offices severely jeopardises.

“The Mayor has done a complete U-Turn on this issue, having rigorously campaigned against closures in the last Mayoral election in 2008.

Having already cut £16 million from London Underground to staff tube ticket offices as well as cutting £28 million that would have made underground stations step-free, it appears that the Mayor’s policy is to say one thing but do the opposite.”

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20th October 2010

Harrow Mayor Asad Omar's Pakistan flood appeal needs a miracle!

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By Jack Royston

 

TIME is running out on a campaign to build houses for 10 families left homeless by the Pakistan floods.

Harrow's mayor Councillor Asad Omar's launched a bid in late October to raise £50,000 to help some of those worst affected by the disaster, which killed around 1,600 people and left 20m homeless.

The campaign has so far raised £32,000 of a £50,000 target and organisers have been out to the country to decide who in the Kohistan region of Pakistan will benefit from the money.

But snow is starting to fall in parts of Pakistan and if the outer shells of the houses are not completed before November when the bitterly cold winter starts to sets in, construction may have to shut down.

Mohammed Rahman, an organiser of the campaign, said: “In terms of the funds coming in its levelled off.

“Regardless of that we've started the work because we didn't want to hang around. Winter is on its way now and the snow is starting to creep in.

“We should be able to get to £40,000 within the next month but to get to £50,000 by the end of 2010 will be difficult unless something miraculous happens.”

There will be an Autumn fair on Sunday at North Harrow Assembly Halls from 11am to 3pm, featuring martial arts displays, a raffle, a bouncy castle and a barbeque, to raise money.

Navin Shah, London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, is promoting another event to highlight young talent in Harrow on Friday, October 29.

Sham D will headline the event at arenas one and two of Harrow Leisure Centre, in Christchurch Avenue, Wealdstone, and will be supported by Tasha Tah and Romy Shay.

All volunteers will pay their own expenses, including to fly out to the country to help, meaning 100 per cent of the money raised will go to helping those in need.

Anyone wishing to donate can make out a check to the Mayor of Harrow's Pakistan Flood Appeal and send it to the Mayor's Parlour, Harrow Civic Centre, Station Road, Harrow.

Alternatively visit www.harrowfloodappeal.org.uk for other ways to give money.

 

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18th October 2010

London Firefighters announce strike dates

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By Martin Hoscik

 

London firefighters are to stage two eight-hour strikes in a row over new employment contracts which would see changes to the lengths of their shifts.

 The Fire Brigades Union announced on Thursday that members in the capital had voted by 3,482 to 943 to take strike action unless Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson “withdraws his letter of 11 August which began the legal process of sacking the capital’s 5557 uniformed and 41 non-operational firefighters.”

The union has now confirmed its members will strike from 10am on October 23rd and November 1st. Speaking earlier this week FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said “Firefighters hate going on strike – but they hate being bullied even more.”

Ahead of the ballot result the London Fire Brigade announced it had “withdrawn” 27 fire engines from stations across the capital “to prepare for the introduction of a contingency fire service” in the event of a strike.

Responding to the announcement of the strike dates. Cllr Coleman said: “Firefighters are going to be striking over plans to reduce a 15 hour night shift by three hours, and add those three hours to a 9 hour day shift. That is all these proposals seek to do, no station closures, no increase in hours and no change to the four day rest period between shifts. This is about making more time in the day for vital training and fire prevention work.

“We’ve been discussing this for five years and have offered to compromise, so it’s time for the FBU to stop blocking these changes.”

Navin Shah, London Assembly member and Labour’s leader on the Fire Authority said the strike was “bad news for Londoners” and claimed it could have been averted with better leadership.

Shah called on Cllr Coleman and Mayor of London Boris Johnson to “get round the table now and avoid a strike that nobody wants.”

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15th October 2010

Navin Shah blames Mayor of London Boris Johnson for firefighter's strike

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A LABOUR member of the fire authority has blamed Boris Johnson for a planned strike.

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members voted in favour of the walk-out by more than three to one after a ballot yesterday and will set dates this afternoon.

The industrial action follows a row over contracts to extend day shifts and shorten night shifts.

Firefighters will not be doing any more hours than they are now but say the changes will stop them from seeing their families.

Navin Shah, London Assembly member for Brent and Harrow, placed the blame for the dispute firmly with Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Brian Coleman, head of fire authority the LFEPA.

He said: “No-one wants this strike, least of all Londoners. It is because of the aggressive, confrontational way the Conservatives have gone about trying to force through these changes that we find ourselves in a situation that could have been avoided.

“Boris Johnson and his Conservative chair of the Fire Authority have been spoiling for a fight with the union, rather than showing the leadership and fostering the good relations that would have best served Londoners.

“They should get round the table now and avoid a strike that nobody wants.”

But his comments provoked a furious response from fellow LFEPA member Councillor Susan Hall, who is also leader of the Harrow Council Tory opposition.

She said: “That is absolutely outrageous. He is politically grandstanding yet again. This is way beyond politics and it is absolutely unforgivable for him to play political games. The safety of London is far more important.”

She said the agreement was arrived at cross party and said the strike was “a shame because it won't solve anything”.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This is a huge vote for strike action. Firefighters hate going on strike – but they hate being bullied even more.”

Mr Coleman said: “It’s disappointing and saddening that the only losers in all of this will be firefighters.

“A strike by the FBU will be unnecessary, unjustified and viewed unsympathetically by Londoners. This dispute centres on proposed changes to make people safer.”

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “Our contingency plans will of course now move forward to ensure the capital is protected during any period of strike action by the FBU.”

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15th October 2010

Police cuts to hit Brent

Letter to the Press from Navin Shah AM:

Brent Police have continually improved the quality of life for the borough’s citizens over the last decade. I feel therefore that it is a backwards step for 19 police officers to be lost in Brent this year because of a freeze in recruitment, with the possibility of bigger cuts on the way.

Under plans revealed in a report presented to the Metropolitan Police Authority the force is set to recruit 900 fewer officers by next year than previously planned. I believe these cuts do not reflect the necessity to maintain a police presence in Brent, especially when it will lead to the police having to choose which crimes they tackle with reduced resources.

The report warns that the Met will not be putting the same amount of resource into tackling winter crime this year. In previous years "Operation Bumblebee" has sought to tackle the traditional rise in burglary around Christmas time. Budget pressures could mean the force having to decide "where to target resources (e.g. serious youth violence vs. burglary)", according to the report.

The report says the Met failed to meet twelve key targets in the first quarter of financial year 2010/11. Robbery is up 5.8 per cent; knife crime has increased to 4.1 per cent; and car thefts have increased for the first time in eleven years.

The country's finances obviously mean tough choices have to be made but when it comes down to having to choose between tackling violence or burglary, it's there for all to see what the government's cuts really mean. People round here didn't cause the financial crisis yet they are being expected to take the hit for it.

In the last few years we have seen record numbers of police, dedicated safer neighbourhood teams and falling crime. It looks like this is now under threat from the new government and Mayor.

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13th October 2010

Asian Voice Column - 1 October 2010

 

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By Navin Shah AM 

 

A BIG BLOW TO THE NATIONAL HEALTH SRVICE

The coalition government’s white paper Equity and excellence - Liberating the NHS’

published in July on alleged ‘health reform’ proposes the biggest shake up of the NHS London with its proposal to abolish the strategic health authority and London’s 32 primary care trusts.

Like many of the coalition government proposals this is yet another half baked initiative. The radical shake up was not in the Tory manifesto and the flagship concept of GP Consortia replacing PCT is a crude attempt to privatise NHS through the backdoor. At a recent consultation meeting in Brent one of the panel members suggested that eventually GP consortia may look like PCT in years to come! How true. Surely the proposals are about replacing public quangos (PCT) by privatised quangos (GP consortia). If I had to choose between the two I’d opt for PCTs with a good level of accountability than the privatised commercial GP Consortia, controlling public funds worth billions,   driven by commercial interests rather than patient care and accountability. The Financial Times commenting on the proposal said ‘The HHS faces its most radical shift of power and accountability and the largest structural upheaval in its 60 year history.’

Health and Public Services Committee of the London Assembly conducted a discussion with Ruth Carnell Chief Exec NHS London on the white paper with a focus on its impact on London.  Key aims of the meeting were how NHS London will be affected by changes  - with a particular attention on

  • Reconfiguration of community and acute services
  • Changes to commissioning and management structures (GP Consorita)
  • Achieving efficiency savings
  • Londonwide working and potential role of the GLA / Mayor.

In summary the discussion highlighted

  • The changes would affect every part of the system.
  • Given the changes how do we hang on to a significant level of improvements / achievements made in London when 54% reduction in management cost is sought through financial controls. Is this practically possible without affecting patient care?
  • With the abolition of NHS London where will the current functions go?
  • Ms Carnell expressed strong views about impact / issues related to London.

-          The strategic importance of London, the leadership it provides and significant role London plays that needs protection.

-          Research and development including training. 

-          Wide range of special services and expertise London provides which require protecting.

-          Unique diversity related health issues in London.

Mayor’s Role:

-          Extended scrutiny role.

-          Issues related to public health and Councils responsibilities. How will this fit in with Mayor’s strategic role.

-          How will local Councils work with GP Consortia?

-          Should the current status of London Ambulance Service remain unaltered?

GP Consortia:

-          Current PCTs to provide active support.

-          Accountability: Proposals for National Commissioning Board but no mention of regional monitoring regime.

-          What are the risks and how big Consortia should be? If small: they’ll require support services from elsewhere. If big inherent problems of bureaucracy.

-          How the transition will from PCT to GP commissioning will work and how much will it cost to implement the change.

NHS Finances:

-   Concerns expressed by London Assembly Members as to how PCTs and NHS         would produce major management cost savings and at the same time oversee the structural changes proposed in the white paper.

I remain wholly unconvinced about the white paper proposals and I support the legal action by Unison against the Secretary of State for Health, challenging his refusal to consult the public on proposals in his White Paper.  The union has argued that no steps should be taken to implement the changes in any way, until the public have had the opportunity to consider and comment on them.