March- October Councillor Report

Seyi writes…

One of my top three proudest moments as a Councillor is taking a Syrian refugee family I helped apply for resettlement to the UK through Hillsong Church London to their first Friday Prayers in Newham.

Forest Gate North

Woodgrange Market

Since the 8th of July I’ve been supporting Woodgrange Market to be sustainable and to increase footfall. On Sat 28th October I organised a Black History Month grand finale which was about encouraging and celebrating our diversity and diverse traders.

Christmas lights

Very excited to be working on Maryland Christmas lights for the third year. Because of the Crossrail regeneration work it looks like this may be our last Christmas lights switch on for a while… so we want to go out with a big bang and with a Christmas around the world theme. We are looking for choirs, schools musicians to perform and local businesses to set up food stalls. If you’re keen to get involved please email:


Rachel and I met with officers and residents a couple weeks ago to discuss plans to revamping our recycling and collection area on Leytonstone High Rd.

In July I went on a bike ride with Newham Cyclists (it was saved in my diary as “bike ride try not to die” lol). We rode from Capel Road to Coffee 7 to the Velodrome to meet our lovely tour guide who took us on 10.5 miles tour of Mini Holland in Waltham Forest.

It was super inspiring to see all the different treatment and interventions to make the highway suitable for all users.Thank you Newham Cyclists for inviting me!


After months of various community consultations, walkabouts, meetings and call outs, I’m so pleased to announce #Muralland‘s first project… *drum rolls*Teddy Tyres (on the corner of Leytonstone and Maryland Road!) This will be the first Mural land commissioned wall and this will be painted by the Remi Rough.Please vote and share the link with your neighbours

Thorogood Gardens

The Thorogood Gardens project is almost coming to an end. I’m really pleased at the huge difference we’ve been able to make in a year, in terms of communication cohesion and regeneration. We’ve commission the Forest Gate Community Garden to work with local residents to do some community bulb planting in the communal garden. We also supported local residents holding a community party. The Street Connections project went well and we’re very thankful to Hochtief for donating your labour, resources & replacing fences for residents. We have a growing and active local residents group who we will support for the next few months. If you live on Thorogood Gardens or Warner Close the next meeting is next week Tuesday. Please drop me an email for more information

Scrutiny Commissions- Deputy Chair of Crime and Disorder Task & Finish  & member of Overview & Scrutiny Commission

At our last Scrutiny meeting we discussed the East London Health & Care Partnership and Mid-Year Review of 2017/18 budget. I raised questions around quality of the equality impact assessment of the budget, business plans for Red Door Venture and Council Tax Exemption for care leavers. I’m pleased that both the Finance Officer and Cabinet Member for Finance agrees to meet with me to discuss these two issues further. I also raised questions around STP, prevention strategies for diabetes in the borough and the engagement strategy ensuring inclusion of our diverse communities.

Crime and Police

On the 1st July and 21st October I held a joint surgery with the police at the Gate Library.

At number of Newham Council and Labour Group meetings I have raised several questions and concerns to both the Mayor and Cabinet Member for Crime and Disorder about the increase in violent crime in Newham and particularly Forest Gate North ward. I’ve given recommendations on how we can work better with the police.

I’ve met with specialist police teams including the Gangs Unit to better understand the driving factors, I’ve invited these officers to attend our FGN Safer Neighbourhood meeting. Residents appreciated being able to ask questions about incidents.

After Edson died in police custody, I met with the IPCC to raised my concerns around what happened and how IPCC communicate with residents. I also attended the vigil at the police station and wrote an article in the Guardian.

I’ve also built a good working relationship with our new Borough Commander, Ade Adelekan. He has invited me to be part of his Youth Talk Reference Group. This has led to be co-leading on a community call to action on youth safety in the borough. This will take place on Sat 11th November, 11:30am at Sarah Bonnell School.

Last week at General Committee meeting West Ham adopted a motion I proposed on Youth violence which will be taken to London Labour Regional Conference.  

We need to be lobbying for reinvestment in our youth services, outreach programmes and non-formal education. Increasing top and search is not going to solve the problem!

Forest Gate North Safer Neighbourhood Police Team are looking for local residents who would like to take part in community weapons sweeps in the area. If you’re interested or what to know more you can call the team on 02087212598

Newham Black History Month

After it was revealed that a local primary school in Newham had asked it’s pupils to come to school dressed as slaves to mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month myself and Cllr Beckles took the following actions:

  • We wrote joint statement  expressing our disappointment
  • We wrote to Sir Robin Wales asking for an urgent meeting to discuss relaunching Newham Black History Month
  • We wrote to the Headteacher of St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School asking to meet (we will be meeting tomorrow morning).
  • We’ve organised an open event with Paula Perry, Co-Author of UK Black History teaching guide on Monday 13th November.

Through social media, emails and phone calls we know many, many residents are interested in this and are keen to be kept updated. We’ll do our very best to share regular updates.

On Thursday 26th October, Councillor James Beckles and I met with the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales and the Cabinet member for Equalities, Tahmina Rahman. Ahead of our meeting we prepared a PowerPoint presentation, Newham Black History Month 2018-2022 Plan with a plan for reinstating Newham Black History Month through some quick wins and long term planning. You can read more here.

Committee other LBN Commitments

The Forest Gate Community Neighbourhood now has joint meetings with Stratford and West Ham Community Neighbourhood. At our last few meetings we discussed the Keep Newham Moving programme, many roads in Forest Gate North have been resurfaced including Sebert Road. It’s was also confirmed that all new lamp posts will have non-sticky paint so no more annoying massage stickers!

The #ForestGate North RPZ will be reviewed very soon. We will use this to look into concerns raised to myself and Rachel around visitor permits, timing, needs of businesses, carers, vulnerable and elderly residents and those without a phone to pay for a parking ticket. When we get a confirmed date for this review we will let you know.

We also hear updates of Fixed Penalty Notices and how the street cleansing team is progressing. For example, someone fly-tipped on Maryland Sq was taken to court and fined a total of £8,841 to pay in full within 6 months!

At Full Council on 18th July I asked a question to Cabinet:

In Forest Gate like many areas in Newham we have seen an increase in successful small local businesses and enterprises that support community needs in areas such as childhood obesity, mental health and loneliness. How can we ensure our business rates do not affect community-minded enterprises and small businesses from flourishing?

I’ll be crowdsourcing questions for December’s Full Council meeting early next week.


Here are a few highlights of the events I’ve attended since my last ward report:

Easter Fun day at Forest Lane Park (had way too much fun!)

15th July attened Forest Gate Festival

18th July attended Forest Gate Safer Neighbourhood Ward panel meeting

27th July a vigil to remember the local Nazi atrocity, V1 attack on Forest Gate

19th August I attend the Forest Lane Park Fun Day

25th August I hosted an open air candlelight vigil for the Sierra Leone Flood Victims at St John’s

24th August I dropped into a Let’s Get the Party Started event for young people around Mc Donald Road.

30th September attended the Woodgrange Market Place’s End of Summer Party

21st October Attended the launch of Newham Heritage Week.
West Ham CLP/ Forest Gate North Campaigning

Was great campaigning with you during the snap election here in the Ward and in marginals like Ilford North.
We had a great local Labour presence at the Forest Gate Festival

I’ve been out to Chingford and Woodford Green to support Owen Smith’s Unseat IDS campaign.

We had our first Coffee Morning at Familia Cafe 16th September with Lyn Brown MP.

Our doorknocking around Moore Walk on 19th September was difficult as expected but we met a number of residents and we collected a lot of useful information and key casework. We will be meeting with Swan Housing soon to discuss some of these issues.

Our Street Stall on 21st September went well too.

Thank you to everyone for helping to deliver our Community Update leaflets. We had more residents attend our surgeries and make contact with us which is great

Thank you for reading!

If you have any question please feel free to contact me on

02032874797 or via @SeyiAkiwowo or

My next Cllr surgery is on Sat 2nd December, 10:30am at The Gate Library.


Posted in Seyi | Leave a comment

Follow up on Newham Black History Month

Seyi writes…

After it was revealed that a local primary school in Newham had asked it’s pupils to come to school dressed as slaves to mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month myself and Cllr Beckles took the following actions:

  • We wrote joint statement  expressing our disappointment
  • We wrote to Sir Robin Wales asking for an urgent meeting to discuss relaunching Newham Black History Month
  • We wrote to the Headteacher of St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School asking to meet (we will be meeting tomorrow morning).
  • We’ve organised an open event with Paula Perry, Co-Author of UK Black History teaching guide on Monday 13th November.

Through social media, emails and phone calls we know many, many residents are interested in this and are keen to be kept updated. We’ll do our very best to share regular updates.

On Thursday 26th October, Councillor James Beckles and I met with the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales and the Cabinet member for Equalities, Tahmina Rahman. Ahead of our meeting we prepared a PowerPoint presentation, Newham Black History Month 2018-2022 Plan with a plan for reinstating Newham Black History Month through some quick wins and long term planning. This was presented to both the Mayor and Tahmina. At the heart of our presentation was a draft set of ideas for a five year plan which if implemented would make the preparation, commissioning and delivery of Black History Month in Newham part of the Council’s work and involving the community. The Cabinet had a week before agreed to set up a working group to explore how best to celebrate Black History Month in the future. This was a positive step but to go further the group will need buy-in at both political and leadership level, both points Seyi and I raised.

We set out how best we could work with this new working group, one of many suggestions was to make it an “action group” so it would be focused and proactive with clear objectives around the delivery of a growing and sustainable model that would mean Black History Month in Newham is relevant, educational and informative.

It won’t be an easy task but me and Seyi are prepared to play our part in getting this group off the ground, developing a plan that is inclusive, informative and more importantly steers us away from the misconceptions held by some about what Black History Month is and should be about.

Two years ago a small group including myself, James, Darren Steer and Rokhsana Fiaz, held a well attended Black History Month discussion. We did that on a very limited budget with good will from UEL/Birkbeck and high profile speakers. It just took will and commitment. We are hoping for the same now going forward. Just imagine what more a local authority could achieve, not just with financial resources and leadership but via a range of partnerships.

In terms of next steps the action group has been tasked to set objectives for Newham Black History Month and we’re waiting to hear from Tahmina and the Mayor, hopefully this week. We will do our very best to ensure that Newham Black History Month is another legacy we can be proud of in our borough.


Posted in Seyi | Leave a comment

‘First of all’ Black People Existed Before Slavery

Seyi writes…

It was extremely disappointing and upsetting to read that a primary school in Newham had asked it’s pupils to come to school dressed as slaves to mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month. As local black councillors and having grown up in one of the most diverse boroughs in the UK it was surprising that a teacher had not taken the time to research appropriate and effective ways to celebrate Black History Month and educate their pupils.

Yes colonialism, slavery and both its impact on future generations and countries is world history-that cannot and should not be forgotten. However, there is so much more to Black History Month than the transatlantic slave trade and this was not the intentions of Akyaaba Addai-Sebo- the founder of UK Black History Month. A more rounded approach to the teaching of black history was needed here. Time and time again we see missed opportunities to celebrate black Britons who have achieved and contributed so much, an opportunity to inspire children and make learning history relatable.
There are several good resources available for teachers, schools and parents to refer to, Paula Perry’s Black British History guide for example. Even a quick search online about Black History Month will yield a large resource of information including notable figures,  diverse cultures and histories pre-slavery which should be explored in a place of learning.We understand regretful mistakes are made. We hope there’s true learning from this awful situation and next year we see all schools mindful of the significance of Black History Month taking a renewed holistic approach to teaching this to our children.


Cllrs. Seyi Akiwowo and James Beckles

Posted in Seyi, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Folk of Forest Gate

Rachel writes…

In the summer I was contacted by Eastside Community Heritage, to ask if I’d be interested in taking part in a project they were running about the oral history and leisure activities of people in Forest Gate. Those who have met me in person will attest to my being a chatterbox, so it was with alacrity that I accepted and spent a very happy hour or so being interviewed about my leisure time and experience in Forest Gate (we spent some time discussing campaigning and political activity, which I’d never thought of as exactly ‘leisure’ before, but there you go…)

They are still looking for people to participate, and I thought I’d give them a quick plug here. Please do contact them and volunteer your experiences, and be part of a wonderful project to preserve our history in a way that is entirely non-onerous.


‘Folk of Forest Gate’ is Eastside Community Heritage’s ongoing project to chart the history of leisure in Forest Gate by collecting the memories and stories of local people. By seeing how leisure activities have changed, we can get an idea of the different communities that have moved through Newham in the last 70 years. We’ve already had some fun and fascinating interviews, but we are keen to speak to more residents or ex-residents to get as many perspectives as possible. Whether you have lived in the area for a long time or a short time, whether you moved away or if you’ve only recently moved in, we’d love to hear your first impressions and lasting memories! To get involved please contact or call 0208 5533116.

Hackney band, Sounds like Six, playing in a competition at the Forest Gate Uppercut Club, 1967. The club hosted many of the biggest bands of the 60’s but was only open from 1966-1967. Before then it had been a popular skating rink. It later re-opened to host punk and reggae gigs.

I didn’t hang around much in Forest Gate, though I did in one coffee bar in Plashet Road. I used to like going in there because they had live music, which was skiffle. So I enjoyed that. You know, the drums, and the guitars and things. And it was very amateur. You knew that when you were listening to it. And the way they played it, it was very amateur… They’d play live in all the coffee bars and the theatres and everything. Skiffle more or less took over the theatres. Instead of variety shows, it’d be skiffle shows, you know?” – Keith

Green Street residents partying in their home

I remember one, one day I was playing at home or colouring, and I had all this green ink on my hands from the pens that I was using. And my mum said, during the afternoon, that, ‘We’re going to go to the cinema’… And I couldn’t wash the green ink of my hands. And I was really worried because I thought, ‘When I get to the cinema…’… I think we were going to the Queen’s that time. They used to have commissionaires outside. A person used to stand there in a uniform to guide the queues and to manage the queues. And I thought, ‘If he sees my hands being green he won’t let me in!’ I stood there with my hands clenched so tightly so he couldn’t see the green ink!” – Harold

Before television sets became cheaply available Forest Gate was home to many cinemas. This photo of the Odeon, taken in the 1980s, is after it closed as a cinema. It became a bingo hall and later a snooker club, and is now an Islamic cultural centre.

I just remember a load of noise. I’m sure they were wooden wheels on the wooden floor. I think I was quite amazed that I came out and my bike was still there! I mean, if you wanted to go roller skating you’d go to Forest Gate or Alexandra palace. Everyone had skates. Everyone could skate… I think I actually used my skates in the end and made a box car. That was all the rage. You put a pair of skates on the back and big wheels on the front… Sounds a bit stupid really, but that’s when my skates landed up!” – Kevin

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The stadium loan

Rachel writes…


I want to write a blog post here about the Olympic stadium, because I want residents in Forest Gate North to be able to have one place where they could read the facts, and to know how they are being represented, all laid out clearly in one place. 

Without wanting to sound worthy, I’m also writing this because it’s so important for public bodies and the people who work in them to be transparent. I am a cabinet member at Newham, and I take that seriously, but I am also one of your elected representatives in Forest Gate North, and I don’t feel I would be doing my job properly if I wasn’t always trying to be open, even when the topics are challenging and feelings run high.


Last week (Thursday 7th September) there was a cabinet meeting at 5pm. That afternoon before the meeting, I read on social media that the £40m loan that the Council made to the Olympic stadium had been ‘written off’ and that this formed part of that cabinet report and was being decided that evening. 

I assumed that this must be in the agenda item Medium Term Financial Strategy, a report which is regularly updated and sent to Councillors.  This report gives a commentary and information about where the Council’s finances are.

But in fact the report that contains the reference to the stadium loan is not one that was on the agenda for that evening. It is in the Draft Statement of Accounts 2016-17, which is due to go to the next Investment and Accounts Committee later this month. The draft statement of accounts which contains the reference is here

The bit of this report that is particularly relevant is on page 12 which reads, ‘Impairment totalling £44.4m of a Long Term Debtor in one of the Council’s group undertaking, Newham Legacy Investments Ltd. These charges are subsequently written-off to the Capital Adjustment Account (Note 26)’

I was extremely concerned when I read this, as were many other residents. This was the first time I had seen this kind of assumption made about the Olympic stadium loan.

The Council’s statements

The Council has subsequently released a statement which I will reproduce in full here, saying:

“The council’s draft accounts for 2016/17 were first published on our website on 3 July and were then open to the normal period of public scrutiny until 11 August. These draft accounts are currently with our auditors for their review. The finalised accounts are due to be considered at a scheduled meeting of our Investment and Accounts Committee on 20 September.

“Our draft accounts, which are subject to change and approval, show a prudent, responsible and regulatory compliant treatment of a Council loan related to the London Stadium. The loan is shown, for accounting purposes, as currently ‘impaired’, or damaged, due to the current financial performance of the Stadium. It is not a write off of the loan.

“The financial performance of the Stadium in its first full year of transformed operation is a matter of public record and it was widely anticipated that the first full year of trading would be particularly challenging. Newham Council is working with the Greater London Authority, the London Legacy Development Corporation and our other Stadium partners on a range of options to improve the financial performance of the Stadium. The future value of our loan, and its treatment in our accounts, is directly linked to that future performance.”

 end of statement

 Other information given to journalists said:

 1. The £40m loan is a repayable one over 40 years.

2. The Mayor of London has commissioned an independent review into the London Stadium and that to inform this work, all partners in the stadium are looking at options to improve commercial performance.

3. There has been a successful summer programme in the stadium, including three major concerts and World Championship Athletics and Para Athletics.

4. Newham residents have enjoyed benefits as a result of the council’s investment in the form of ticket giveaways. This includes 5,000 free tickets to West Ham United’s Carrbao Cup game on 19 September against Bolton Wanderers. These tickets are being issued to residents through community neighbourhoods, community groups, a ticket ballot, and to volunteers and staff.

Other information

I have subsequently also been told that:

– impairment is an accounting term and is not a write-off. If a substantial loan were to be written off, it would come to Mayoral Proceedings, which is a public meeting with a paper. 

– there is a precedent for this, as during the financial crisis, loans made by Newham to Icelandic banks were ‘impaired’ by 100% but were subsequently revalued as the position changed, and were paid off. 

– there are commercial negotiations ongoing which are currently confidential, and more information will be released as soon as an agreement is reached.

What happens next

This information takes us up to now. So I also wanted to set out clearly here what I think should happen next.

Firstly, I’m surprised that this is the first we’ve heard that there was doubt about the value of the loan. Although I have heard various conversations about the profitability of the stadium, and ways in which this could be improved (the costs attached to moving the seating is a relatively well known barrier to making money, just for example), previously the information about the loan has been what a good deal the Council has.

To summarise my understanding of this, we borrowed the money at a relatively low rate of interest, and have loaned it to the Stadium who pay us a commercial (higher) rate of interest. This means that we get back: the original investment, the difference in the two interest rates, the community benefits (community days, free tickets for residents) and also 30% of the profits in perpetuity. Although this loan has been controversial, I have always been assured that the terms of the deal were beneficial to us.

Secondly, I mentioned transparency above, and I think transparency is even more important when the topic is controversial. The impression given here, rightly or wrongly, is that the information has been hidden, and I think this is a great shame. I’m surprised that there wasn’t more explanatory text in the accounts document, and am even more surprised that the term ‘written off’ was used without anyone realising that if the accounts use these words, then residents reading it may – not unreasonably! – not understand the financial term ‘impairment’ and assume that the loan has indeed been written off. So I think we need more public information (where it’s possible to publish it, and recognising that commercial negotiations do sometimes need to be confidential for reasons that are entirely right) so that financial decisions and changes to financial circumstances can be not just published, but explained and understood. 

Thirdly, I need to learn more about the loan, which increasingly appears not to be a loan at all but more akin to an equity share, despite having been consistently referred to as a loan. Apparently, the difference this makes includes the terms under which the interest is payable. Generally on a loan the interest is payable whatever happens. With our loan/equity share, I understand that interest payments are only made once the stadium is profitable.

Other considerations

For fairness, there are a few other things I need to point out which are points that have been made to me. 

The investment that Newham made in the stadium was key in ensuring that it would become a multi-use venue in its own right, and not fail after the Olympics. Having a venue like this in Newham, bringing sporting and musical and other events into Newham, is really important to the borough and very positive in terms of employment, place-making, sporting opportunities, visitors, and much more.

Although no one else has made this connection, I also keep remembering the O2, which started life as the entirely ill-fated Millennium Dome, referred to with seeming certainty as a white elephant, but now reimagined as a thriving music venue. Obviously I understand that the analogy is not perfect, but it does show what can be done.

Also, I think it’s worth re-emphasising that since I have become a councillor in 2014, the Newham budget has been cut by around 30%. It’s difficult to overstate what an enormous impact this level of cuts has had on local government across the UK, and the signs of it are everywhere, from libraries closing (not in Newham, thankfully) to the increase in street homelessness. Local authorities are making commercial decisions and in many cases are making capital investments in order to secure longer term income so that they can continue to provide services. 

The money invested in the stadium is capital investment not revenue, and was borrowed by LBN in order to invest. So while it’s still public money, and important to remind ourselves of the vulnerable people the Council has a duty to support, it’s not the case that, for example, ‘that £40m could have been spent on social care’. Also, the consultation that we held in the summer 2015 about makings savings was about cuts to our revenue, so this was absolutely not a consultation asking residents what they wanted to cut in order to fund the stadium. 

I’m also reminded that previous investments the Council has made have been successful. The building at Dockside, for example, has risen in value significantly, whereas at the time the purchase of it was also controversial with strong feelings expressed against it in some cases.

Summary and conclusion

Overall for me the things that need to happen now can be summed up into: the ‘what’, the ‘how’ and the ‘what now’ . The ‘what’ being the money – when do we find out more, was it a good investment, can we be assured that the money comes back, what further information do we need? The ‘how’ being how this information was and is communicated, and the ‘what now’ being, well – obviously –  what happens next.

The joint meeting of the Audit Committee and the Investment and Accounts committee (which approves the accounts)  is due to take place on the 27th September. The Council’s statement above refers to the 20th, but this date has since been changed. I’ll attend it, and report back here as to what is discussed. This is the next important date, but it is not within this committee’s gift to ‘decide to write off’ the loan. The impairment is an accounting term which should reflect current financial values and assumptions, and should be a neutral not a political decision. It will nevertheless be interesting to listen to the discussion of the accounts, and find out more.

Along with all my colleagues, I will do my very best to get all the information I can, and will share whatever I’m able to. I have spoken to the Mayor already, and will do so again, and am going to sit down with my colleague Lester Hudson who is the political lead for Finance to talk to him. I should point out that although this blog post is mine (and I’m responsible for any errors in it) I am certainly not the only council member who wants to find out more. Here in Forest Gate North, we have a blog, and many of our residents are on social media, so it makes sense for me to share this here. Other councillors are doing the same things, but off line and in different ways.  

As ever, I am happy to discuss any part of this, and will answer any questions that I’m able to. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I won’t release or leak confidential information but I will always be up front about what I am and am not able to share. 

I really hope this post is useful. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Aviva community fund

Rachel writes…

A super quick blog post from me to share details of a funding pot that I received by email today. The Aviva Community fund gives the chances for community groups to apply for funding, from small grants up to £25,000, on a range of areas like health, skills, cohesion, and more.

The guide to how to apply is online here.

If you have an idea, or just the beginnings of an idea, then please do get in touch.  I’m happy to discuss it with you, to put you in touch with other people or groups who might be interested in working with you, to look over a completed application and give my input, or do anything else that might help.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rachel’s mini ward report

Rachel writes…

For various reasons our usual ‘every-three-months’ ward report cycle to our Labour members has been delayed, so I thought I’d write a quick mini report and post it online before so much time elapses that everything I say is out of date. So this blog post is just to capture a short update on some of the main pieces of local work I’ve been doing lately.

Thorogood Gardens

I’ve blogged about this before, and I’m delighted to report that the work Seyi and I have been doing here has been yielding some great results. The road has now been resurfaced, and the lighting replaced, and old bollards removed. A previously scruffy green space has been transformed into a communal garden, and Seyi and I have worked with Hochtief, the contractors who are working on Maryland station, to get support from them for replacing fence panels in gardens that face onto the cul-de-sac, and money for planting flowers in the communal garden. I’m really delighted that Forest Gate Community Garden are doing this with us, bringing their expertise and enthusiasm to a space that has been a bit unloved. There will also be a  Council ‘Street Connections’ project held in Thorogood Gardens soon, bringing neighbours together to get to know each other through planting, and we’re even hoping to paint some play markings on the tarmac to encourage children to play on what is currently a large unused space. I wrote a community update leaflet for the residents, outlining what feedback they’d given us, what’s been done, and what’s been planned, and Seyi and I hand delivered these and spoke to residents about their feedback, and any further ideas. It feels like a lot has been achieved, which is really rewarding.

Forest Lane Park fun day

I attended this in August with my family, and was so thrilled to see such a great day put on by the staff who work at the Gate library. One of the reasons for holding this event was to, in Council parlance, ‘activate the park’, which is to say bring people to the park, encourage them to explore it, and hopefully thereafter to use it regularly. Forest Lane Park is an incredible gem, with a large green space, a pond, woodland trail, and an outdoor gym as well as the playground (which faces the road so is a little more well known). It does have some problems with some anti-social behaviour, but the more that people use it the less this will occur. Next steps here are to work with the Community Neighbourhood staff and Communications to get some better signage for the park – many people walk past it regularly and do not know it’s there! – and in the longer term to look at establishing a residents’ group or ‘Friends of Forest Lane Park’, starting with the people who live in Magpie Close.

Street cleansing

I’ve had some casework recently about inadequate street sweeping, and am following this up as fast and as firmly as I can. Which isn’t to say I’m slow or shy about casework generally, but that I know street cleansing is really important not just in terms of how our streets look, but how litter encourages more litter, how it affects how we all feel about the area, and how it contributes to everyone’s satisfaction with the Council as a whole. There have been some changes to how street sweeping is delivered – part of my Cabinet role is overseeing the ‘Small Business Programme’ where council services are spun out into smaller, co-operative style businesses in order to do things better, and to protect what we do from privatisation. It is pretty obvious, however, that our starting point has to be that services do in fact become better and not worse, so I’m questioning officers and will visit streets with them to ensure that what I’m told are teething problems are just that, and that we can all see improvements.

Gun crime

I am so saddened to write this part of my report, as I know many residents are too, as we read today that one of the teenage victims of the recent shooting in our ward has died in hospital. My heart goes out to his family at this terrible time. I know that the police have appealed for any information to help them make an arrest, and are working hard both for justice but also to reassure residents and to keep everyone safe. They have met with Council officers to discuss what happens next, which will I hope include some community reassurance work as well as some more combined work on preventing this kind of terrible occurrence. We’ll share more information as we have it.

Forest Gate Community School

I would love to claim credit for this, but I am just sharing it in the spirit of spreading good news – Forest Gate Community School had their best ever GCSE results in English and Maths. This is part of a huge success story in Newham with educational results at all levels rising year on year and in many cases exceeding significantly the national average despite the challenges our schools face. It’s so great to see FGCS thriving, building on their amazing Ofsted result, and going from strength to strength. Great schools for our young people is such an important part of our community, and I’m so grateful for all the work that the team at FGCS have done.

Cemetery Road

I received some feedback about footway parking, which in Forest Gate North is those parking bays on some narrow roads that are partly on the pavement and partly on the road. The resident complained that footway parking can block the pavement, can damage it, should be avoided wherever we can, and particularly objected where it had been introduced in Cemetery Road where he didn’t feel it was necessary… and I have to say I felt he had a point. So between us, Anam, Seyi and I (accompanied by some local Labour members) did some specific door knocking down Cemetery Road to ask residents whether we might remove one or more of the parking bays on the northern side of the road, which appeared to us on all our sessions to be largely empty. I wrote a leaflet for those residents who weren’t in, explaining that we were exploring removing some parking and asking for their views. Feedback from residents was cautiously positive, so the next step is to contact the Cemetery itself to discuss their parking needs, and then depending on how that goes, to contact parking design to ask them to remove a bay or two. Watch this space.

Forest Gate Pride

I was thrilled to help support Forest Gate Pride in July, a fabulous day filled with rainbows, diversity, celebration and love of all kinds. I provided some support to the organisers whilst they were preparing, including putting them in touch with Licensing, reassuring Licensing about the kind of family-friendly event they were planning, supporting their application for funding, and generally encouraging them whenever I could. I was especially pleased when I spoke at an LGBT breakfast to be able to tell Ruth Hunt from Stonewall, who was previously a Forest Gate resident, that we were holding our first pride and that all were welcome.

It was an honour, therefore, to be asked to open proceedings on the day, and I’m happy to report that I diligently followed through my commitment to the event by going out to the evening section of the event and sampling the entertainment (stunning) and the beverages (as ever, very nice) at the Forest Tavern that night.

Woodgrange Road Crossrail works

The Crossrail works have begun around the station, and I’ve been peering in a very geeky way past the pink barriers at the lovely new pavements we are getting. The quality of the materials, I am assured by officers, is really high quality, and the whole project, which you might remember includes planting and bike racks, and more, will make a huge difference to our town centre. There will be some disruption to put up with as it’s done, but if we can grit our teeth and get through that, it will definitely be worth it.

Keep Newham Moving

The Newham-wide Keep Newham Moving programme continues, with work completed on Leonard Road, on Essex Road and Suffolk Road, and now also on Odessa Road. Having received consistent feedback on the poor condition of Sebert Road, I’m delighted to say that this is also now underway, as is Chestnut Avenue, and I mentioned before the resurfacing of Thorogood Gardens. I am however sorry to add that the point I made in my last blog post about this still stands – I still do think there is more that we can do to maximise the impact of the money we are spending here, in terms of making other improvements too like pedestrianising, cycle infrastructure, traffic calming, planting and more. But this is a view that others share, so I am optimistic that with the help of colleagues we can make this happen as well.

Car-free around Godwin School

Along with Frances Clarke (a Forest Gate North resident who is also a councillor in East Ham, and whose remit includes health) I have been in touch with colleagues in highways and with Godwin school to look at making Cranmer Road car-free at school drop-off and pick-ups. Some of you might have read about similar schemes in other boroughs, aimed at encouraging families to walk to school, and to improve the air quality around schools. If we do this, it would be a pilot, to see how it could work, to look at the results, and to get feedback. Discussions are at an early stage, but I am very hopeful that this could be the beginning of more work that encourages other forms of transport as well as contributing to the Mayor of London’s healthy streets policy.


Always on the look-out for ways to make the ward greener, I recently agreed with officers a plan to introduce some additional planters in front of Emily Duncan House on Woodgrange Road. A resident had complained to me about cars parking on the pavement there which is particularly wide, and it seemed a good chance to create something positive to prevent this from happening. I am even more pleased that Forest Gate Community Garden have agreed to plant and maintain one of the planters there, and am really hoping that this could be the beginning of a number of planters that are adopted by local people and organisations.

I was also reminded via twitter about the ‘energy garden’ scheme that London Overground are doing on some of their stations. We had a meeting to look into doing this at Wanstead Park station, but this was delayed because of the work going on for the electrification of the line. Now that the work is (ok, largely) finished I’ll come back to this and see if it’s still possible, especially as both Forest Gate Arts and the community garden have said they are interested.


As ever, it seems I have run away with myself, and what I intended to be a super short update has turned into something a bit longer. I will however, end by apologising that the various demands of the summer and my family life at the moment have prohibited me from sharing more fully. This isn’t everything I’ve been doing… but equally, almost none of this is work I’ve done on my own, it’s all in collaboration with my colleagues and officers.

I’m always happy to discuss the work we’re all doing to make the ward a better place. You can always contact me if you have any questions about work already being undertaken, or even better if you have an idea that you’d like to make happen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment