Just over three months since the UK’s referendum vote to leave the European Union, residents and businesses in Tower Hamlets are extremely concerned about the impacts that Brexit could have on the borough, and on the worrying rise of hate crimes reported in the wake of the vote.
The borough has benefited from significant development funds from the European Union in the past and, with the highest rates of child poverty in the country, continued support for development, infrastructure, employment and training is vital to reverse this trend.
Tower Hamlets secured £675,000 in matched funding to provide grants for social development between 2016 and 2019, but leaving the EU will instead place additional pressures on council funds or central government to make up the shortfall.
Recipients of EU funding in the borough from 2007-2013 included projects in mobile commerce innovation, green printing processes, a Women’s Business Innovation Network, access to finance for growth for East London SMEs and support for young designers to get a foothold in the clothing industry.
The growing East London startup sector also had a scare from the Brexit fallout as the Department of Communities and Local Government froze payments from the £3.7m in funding agreed in the EU CASTS scheme to support over 600 tech companies in the city.
While the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has made a welcome announcement guaranteeing continued funding for some investment projects, particularly in science and agriculture, there is still considerable uncertainty over whether local government can expect continued support for projects in local infrastructure and social development.
Lord Porter, Chair of the Local Government Association, has called for the government to offer “certainty around the future of all of the £5.3bn in EU regeneration funding promised to them by 2020”, warning that continued uncertainty “risks damaging local regeneration plans and stalling flagship infrastructure projects, employment and skills schemes and local growth.”
But it is not only the borough’s underprivileged and early-stage business who are concerned about drifting away from the EU. The borough’s economic centre of Canary Wharf is seen by many as a bellwether for the post-Brexit economy and, while the proportion of banking business in the docklands has been declining slowly in recent years, restrictions on free movement of labour and access to the European market could accelerate the flight of financial firms to other European centres like Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.
Sir George Iacobescu, the Romanian-born CEO of the Canary Wharf Group, warned before the referendum that a vote to leave could see London overtaken as Europe’s financial capital within five years.
Lastly, and perhaps of most concern, is the reported rise in hate crimes since the referendum result. The National Police Chiefs Council announced that complaints filed to True Vision, their online hate-crime reporting site, increased fivefold in the weeks following the vote. In multicultural boroughs like ours, it is important that we take a strong stand against hate. The council launched a No Place for Hate campaign shortly before the referendum vote, and since 23 June we have also seen community-led campaigns, such as Tower Hamlets Stand Together to foster tolerance and mutual engagement within the community.
Last weekend, the Liberal Democrat party agreed that citizens should be given the opportunity to vote on whatever Brexit deal is agreed by the British government. The party is also launching a national consultation on how Brexit will affect British citizens. If you have been affected by the outcome of the referendum or have concerns about how Brexit will affect your business, get in touch.
For too many years our NHS has not got the investment it needs. While Brexiters claimed that the NHS will get another £350million a week when we leave Europe, this has already been shown up as another cheap con trick from Farage, Johnson and Co. to win the referendum at all costs.
Yes our NHS needs more money and that is why Lib Dem Health spokesperson Norman Lamb has called for honesty and straight talking on the cash crisis facing health and care sector, raising the possibility of an extra penny on a new dedicated NHS and care tax. The proposal builds on Mr. Lamb’s previous calls for the introduction of a separate health and care tax, which would be marked out on people’s payslips.
We can no longer deny that the NHS is facing a financial meltdown with treatment rationed because of tight resources.
That's why the Lib Dem are looking into how we can secure the NHS future - considering a dedicated health and care tax, shown on your pay packet. We need to think about fairness between the generations.
We need a national conversation about what sort of service we are prepared to pay for. We should surely aspire to have a modern, efficient, dynamic NHS and care system which treats mental and physical health equally; which ensures that elderly people and those with disability get kind, generous support which helps to prevent ill health and prevents a deterioration of condition; a health system which delivers the best outcomes for patients.
Plans by the Conservatives to reintroduce grammar schools are being opposed by Lib Dems in Tower Hamlets. Elaine Bagshaw, Parliamentary Spokesperson for Poplar & Limehouse, is arguing that they are socially divisive and could lead to children not being able to go to their local school. “The Conservatives want to select children on the basis of their academic abilities at the age of 11,” said Elaine Bagshaw.
“The flip side of identifying some children as a success at a young age means the rest are labelled as failures. They are then sent to schools that will be regarded as the place where the failures go. In this day and age, this is completely unacceptable. We have fantastic schools in our local area that provide a brilliant education without using selection. George Green’s School; Langdon Park and Wapping High School are all fantastic examples of how you can change people’s lives without using selection.
“The reality behind grammar schools is that they predominantly benefit the children of wealthier households. Often however it is the children from lower income families that need the extra resources to boost their life chances. “The education system needs to breed in them self-confidence and ambition. If they are dumped in schools for those marked out as failures at such an early age, their chances of gaining the education and skills they need to make the most of the life chances that come their way are reduced.
“In the Coalition Government, Liberal Democrats introduced the Pupil Premium. This boosted the amount of money a school received for pupils from poorer backgrounds. There was a clear attainment gap between children from low income households and those from well-off homes. The extra money we provided was used to help close that gap. “Now, the Conservatives’ plans for grammar schools - a better education for the few who largely already have good life chances - goes directly against what we did in Government when we set out to raise the standards for all.
“Liberal Democrats will fight any attempt to change existing schools in Tower Hamlets to grammar schools and we will fight plans to introduce new schools here that are selective.” Elaine Bagshaw has welcomed the announcement by Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron MP that the Liberal Democrats will fight the plans for grammar schools in Parliament. As the plans were not included in the Conservatives’ manifesto, they could be rejected completely by the House of Lords where the Conservatives have no majority.
“The Liberal Democrats are the party of education,” said Tim Farron. That means we believe in an excellent education for all, so any plans to bring in more divisive grammar schools will be utterly opposed by us. “The government cannot and will not win on this.”
Reports across Wapping of increasing levels of anti-social behaviour are leaving residents at the end of their tether, as there seems to be no end in sight to the problems. Residents have experienced a significant rise in incidents of intimidation, drug use, car racing and vandalism.
The local Liberal Democrats and organisations such as LoveWapping.org have collated issues and sent them to the Police, but it isn’t yet making any difference. At the Police Q&A meeting last week local Lib Dem campaigner Stephen O'Shea raised these issues with the local police. We're urging residents to provide as much evidence as possible to the police to persuade them to target resources to the area, and support calls for CCTV and speed guns.
Please use the non-emergency 101 service to report all anti-social behaviour in Wapping and get us the police support we need.
Overseas Territories should be given a fixed deadline to launch public company registers of beneficial ownership.
Corporations should be held criminally liable for actions resulting in serious economic and human harms.
Liberal Democrats in Brighton voted unanimously in favour of a policy motion tabled by the Tower Hamlets local party setting out concrete next steps for the UK to deliver a more ambitious programme of reforms to improve corporate transparency and crack down on white-collar crime in the United Kingdom and Britain’s overseas territories.
The motion called for a deadline to be set for British Overseas Territories to implement public registers of beneficial company ownership, noting the large number of firms registered in British jurisdictions who appeared in the Panama Papers leak earlier this year.
The motion also calls for legislation to address failures to deliver justice when actions taken by corporations cause serious economic or human harms, noting the ‘failure to prevent’ model in the 2010 Bribery Act as a possible solution.
The movers also advocated further development of open data services to make public contracts – both national and local – easier for members of the public to scrutinise.
They also warned that isolating the UK from Europe would hinder the effectiveness of efforts to tackle corruption and white-collar crime, and that any Brexit negotiations should commit to supporting the EU’s actions in these areas.
Ed Long, an activist in Tower Hamlets who moved the motion said:
“The UK has made great progress in building a more transparent and accountable business framework during and since our time in coalition, but the time is now to hold the Conservatives’ feet to the fire in ensuring that they follow through on what we started. I’m delighted the party membership have backed our proposals and look forward to working with supporters in the party and beyond to make them a reality.”
Elaine Bagshaw, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Poplar and Limehouse said:
“I’m very proud that the party has chosen to support this motion. We need to take a stand in the international community against business practices that lead to serious economic and human harms. On a local level in Tower Hamlets, we’ve seen the recent fallout from political favouritism in grant funding and public procurement, so development of better systems for public scrutiny is a powerful tool in ensuring those in power are held accountable.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said:
"It is a stain on our reputation that Britain’s overseas territories are world renowned when it comes to tax avoidance and evasion. They are being asked to implement rules that even Nigeria and Afghanistan have already agreed to meet. We should not be prepared to wait for them any longer."
"If these tax havens don’t agree to open their books, then the UK Parliament must do so for them. Anything less would leave us complicit in tax dodging that is simply unacceptable in the modern world."
"With Brexit already lowering our standing around the world, we cannot afford to take our eyes off the ball when it comes to tackling global tax avoidance."
With the new Lincoln Plaza development this week named winner of the 2016 Carbuncle Award - for those special properties that blight the Docklands skyline - more questions are being asked about whether the Council is competent enough to be in charge of housing in Tower Hamlets.
Local Isle of Dogs residents Richard Flowers said: "The real carbuncle here is a local planning authority that lets developers throw up flats for the luxury market with little or no homes for the people who so desperately need them".
An ITV news report this week suggests that the starting price for ‘affordable’ housing in ‘The Spire’ - London’s tallest residential tower - has been set at £595,000 for a one-bed flat.
Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats are calling on the local Labour Council and Labour Mayor to review the decision and make sure the flats are affordable for local residents.
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Poplar & Limehouse Elaine Bagshaw said: “Once again Labour are showing that they simply can’t be trusted when it comes to building homes that people already living in Tower Hamlets can afford.
To afford a mortgage on one of these “affordable” flats, you’d need to earn about £130,000 a year. In 2013, just under 50% of households had an average income of less than £30,000. These flats are more than four times what local residents can afford and it’s utterly shameful. These homes simply aren’t affordable for people already living in the borough, looking to stay near friends and family.
Lib Dems listen to you. Labour listens to developers. It's time for change in Tower Hamlets."
Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats have had a policy motion accepted for debate at the party’s Autumn Conference setting out steps to tackle corruption and corporate crime more effectively.
The borough has had its share of news stories on the subject in the last year, with former mayor Lutfur Rahman on the receiving end of an asset freeze and banned from running for public office after being found guilty of electoral fraud and corrupt practices. A number of firms in Canary Wharf also found themselves subject to investigations as a result of details leaked in the Panama Papers in April.
Elaine Bagshaw to fight Poplar and Limehouse Constituency
Will Dyer to fight Bethnal Green and Bow Constituency
Elaine Bagshaw and Will Dyer were selected unanimously as the Liberal Democrat candidates for the constituencies of Poplar & Limehouse and Bethnal Green & Bow yesterday.
Elaine has a fantastic record of fighting for the people of Poplar and Limehouse, having first fought for this seat at the last election and since then campaigned for the job of Mayor of Tower Hamlets in 2015, and to be our local London Assembly member in 2016, as well as securing a local vote of 67% for Remain in the EU Referendum.
Will is a student at Queen Mary University in the Constituency and worked on the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign that secured a strong vote for remain vote across London and in particular in Tower Hamlets.
With the Brighton party conference less than a month away, the Tower Hamlets Lib Dems gathered in Kafe 1788, a friendly gallery and café in Poplar, to discuss the Conference agenda over some pizza.
This was a great opportunity to consider and discuss some of the key motions for the Conference, and prepare any positions, questions and amendments. Two key conference issues were chosen: ‘Safe and Free’ and ‘An End to Homelessness’.