Wed, 10:25

I know it’s already the middle of January but I want to wish you all a happy new year.

Last year I organised a Politics Summer School for young people living in Newham.

Well, the Christmas tree is back in its box and the lights have been re-wound and put away along with the decorations; the last sheets of Christmas kitchen roll and toilet paper have been used and I have taken down the cards.

I hope you had a happy Christmas and really good start to this year.

In a disappointing intervention just before Christmas, Downing Street has blocked the introduction of Humanist marriages in England and Wales.

When you’re stuck in a traffic jam in Ghana’s capital, Accra, the last thing you expect to see is a street trader wearing a West Ham shirt.

On behalf of everyone at Newham Council I would like to wish you all a happy New Year.

2015 is here and another general election is months away.

Lots of people make New Year’s resolutions. Often they are about losing weight, getting fit or changing behaviour.

EU red tape

Safety regulations may have caused the closure of Upton community centre in east London without warning, throwing staff out of work just before Christmas. It followed an inspection which found parts of the heating system no longer complied with regulations. Critics say there’s too much regulation and red tape choaking everyday life. Even the government is forced to agree. The Business Minister just last week announced his “war on red tape”. But has the government got it right? UKIP blames Brussels for our red tape and says the Government is powerless to stop it…

Haringey's parking charges will rise from next year if proposals are approved.

Local authorities are coining in record sums in parking fines and charges which critics say is out of all proportion to any wrongdoing by motorists. Town Halls are accused of using the revenue to balance their books rather than keeping traffic moving. They made a combined profit of £667 million from parking last year, according to RAC figures. Nearly half the revenue alone is from squeezing motorists in London. Newham Council in east London turned over £16m last year, the RAC says, with a record £7.2m profit. We asked Newham for a response, but were told the lead council-member didn’t want to reply—so none of the other elected members would give an opinion either.

Boris on a bike... arriving at launch of cycle superhighway in Stratford

The Mayor of London has unveiled plans for a new ‘back street’ cycle network so that ordinary folk can “ride in safety” in ordinary clothes away from busy main roads. The first route planned in the New Year would stretch from west London and the City through Canary Wharf, Newham and out to Barking in the east. But it doesn’t replace the deathly ‘super cycle’ blue lane routes which have led to deaths in traffic accidents, especially along the worst blackspot A11 between Stratford and Aldgate. This “Johnson versus Johnson” debate has London Mayor Boris urging us to get on our bikes and feel safe, while London Assembly Opposition member Darren fears super cycleways still lulled cyclists into a false sense of security…

I am gradually amassing a large pile of Christmas presents in my bedroom; my husband, not usually the complaining type, mutters about not being able to reach his sock drawer because of the volume of the pile and wonders aloud whether our grandchildren will really appreciate the number of gifts we have for them.

Sir Robin Wales

On behalf of everyone at Newham Council, I wish you a happy, healthy and safe Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

The festive period is one of the busiest times of the year for the NHS. It’s estimated that up to 40 per cent of people who visit A&E do not need to.

Last Saturday was ‘Small Business Saturday’. I visited a number of Newham small firms to discuss how things are going. Small and independent businesses are the heart of our local economy. They make a vital contribution to the community, providing jobs and adding to the borough’s character. It’s all too easy to bypass them in favour of large chains.

As the festive season approaches, it is often only too easy to get involved in all the fun and goodies of the season – while forgetting the core values that underpin this very special time of the year.

In recent years, as I have met people and explained to them what it is I do for a living, I hear them say: “You know what? I can’t recall the last time I ordered smoked salmon in a restaurant”. “Why?”, I ask. “Because it’s not very nice, is it?” And they are often right.

Fixed Odds gambling at a High Street bookmaker's

A quarter of all local authorities in the country, led by Newham Council in east London, have joined forces to use legislation to block betting shops clustering in high streets with unregulated casino-style gambling. They want the £100-a-spin maximum stakes on fixed odds gaming machines to be cut to just £2. This, they say, would reduce “extraneous profits” that attract so many betting shops to high streets with the “crime and anti-social behaviour” associated with them. Newham says police are called to incidents involving a betting shop every day in its area.

But the Bookmakers Association says there is no evidence that reducing the stake to £2 will have any impact on problem gambling, despite what the Mayor of Newham claims. Most gamblers stop after reaching their voluntary limits, it maintains...

In less than six months we face the most important general election for a generation. Do we want a society and economy that work for ordinary people, or a country that’s increasingly unequal, unjust and unfair?

My favourite story about the First World War is about the British and German soldiers who played football together in No Man’s Land on Christmas Day, 1914.

I first came to Newham in 1989 and worked here regularly over the next eight years. I remember being struck by the energy and friendliness of the people here.

Stratford Broadway

Traders have voted for a £1.2m scheme to promote Stratford town centre. The 250 businesses around Stratford Broadway, the High Street and Great Eastern Road up to Maryland Point are to pay a levy over five years to create a bustling night-time economy. The advantage is night security, opting-in to buy services such as waste, recycling and electricity and a joint loyalty card scheme for shoppers. But critics say such schemes are too easy to go wrong, with lack of transparency by the private companies set up to run them which could “skim off” funds for their own profit...

Housing Benefit cuts... affecting private-rented and council tenants

New figures from the Ministry of Justice reveal the number of tenants evicted by their landlords is at a record high. A peak in repossessions has been blamed on Housing Benefit cuts and a growing trend of ‘revenge evictions’ by private landlords serving notice on tenants who ask for repairs or maintenance. The homelessness charity Shelter has identified Newham, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham among some of London’s ‘hot spots’ where families are most likely to lose their home. The Bedroom Tax at the centre of the controversy aims to move families on when children leave home to ‘free up’ properties. That’s the theory, according to one government minister who argues that people with room to spare should downsize their personal circumstances...

If you have had a cough for three weeks or more you should make an appointment to see your GP. It may be nothing serious, but if you are, or have been a smoker, and are suffering from breathlessness as well, it could be an early symptom of lung cancer.

Most read news

It’s easy to lose sight of how beautiful London is when you’re crammed into a commuter train. Let these flying Instagram users take you on a bird’s eye tour of London.

People have pretty good memories when it comes to the outstanding performance of a tub of lard on HIGNFY.

The UN ambassador unveiled IMPACT10X10X10, a new initiative to end gender inequality as part of the HeForShe campaign.

David Cameron and Tony Blair are among those paying tribute.

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