Newham Council is issuing regular e-bulletins to residents about what’s happening at the Council and in the borough, including the latest information about how we are responding to Covid-19.
You can read the latest message from Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz below:
News this morning was that the largest councils across the country are facing bankruptcy because of the impact of Covid-19 unless the Government agrees to further support. I have repeatedly called on the Government for greater financial support based on need – what I have called the Covid-19 Deprivation Premium – to help those who have borne the brunt of the pain coronavirus has unleashed. I will continue to do so until we get an answer from the Prime Minister.
Newham, with our vulnerability because of deprivation and health inequalities, is paying a high price during the pandemic. I am determined to tackle the poverty, inequality and injustice that affects our residents, and we started on this agenda when I stepped into office back in May 2018 - but without substantial additional funding Newham residents will once again be further significantly disadvantaged. At the moment it is difficult to quantify the full cost on dealing with the pandemic because of all the ongoing uncertainty. We are looking at the overall economic impact and members of Newham’s Cabinet will discuss the situation in July. What I do know is that the impact will be significant.
As we progress through this new phase of ‘living with Covid-19’, my focus over the next couple of weeks will be finalising Newham’s ‘recovery’ framework which will be bought to Cabinet and Full Council in July, following which we’ll be starting conversations with residents about shaping and driving delivery. At its heart, we’ll be accelerating forward with our Community Wealth Building and inclusive economy strategies, making changes where required so we can deal with the economic impact that Covid-19 will have had on Newham during this time and in the coming months and years ahead.
But three things will be central to our approach, building on what we started when I stepped into office back in May 2018. The first is the on-going prominence of public health in everything we do; and the second is bringing out more explicitly our work in tackling inequality – and that means race equality – in Newham, where 73 per cent of our residents are from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority communities. And of course tackling climate emergency as part of our commitment to a ‘green’ recovery. That’s why I am pleased with the news that came out today that the Government’s Committee on Climate Change has called on ministers to use the recovery from Covid-19 as a once in a lifetime opportunity to tackle the effects of climate change.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister announced further significant changes to lockdown to take effect from 4 July. The easing of restrictions are the most expansive and extensive to date. I think the changes are risky because we are far off from being safe from Covid-19. Even the Government’s Chief Medical Advisor, Chris Whitty, has said we have a long way to go before the Covid-19 risk is diminished, and that a significant amount of the virus will be circulating in the country till at least next spring.
The pandemic is not over. The threat of Covid-19 remains substantial. While I understand many of you will be pleased to see vital small businesses and amenities re-opening, including pubs and hair salons, it is vital the Government takes on board the message that not all areas of the country are impacted equally by Covid-19.
During this whole pandemic I have repeatedly warned that Newham is disproportionately vulnerable to the worst and most devastating effects of the virus, be that in terms of the numbers who tragically lost their lives, or the potential for economic carnage. The decision made by the Government to universally relax lockdown across England pays no heed to the disproportionate threat it poses to Newham.
So, although restrictions are lifted, I urge great caution. I say where it is possible, people should continue to practise two-metre social distancing. We have already paid the highest price in terms of mortality. Let’s not contribute to causing a second wave and create more problems for us all. We can’t afford for that to happen, not when we already have the highest number of furloughed workers of any local authority in the country, with 50,000 jobs at stake.
These jobs must be protected by the Government at all costs and not be allowed to fall off a cliff in October when the furloughed worker payment scheme is due to end. That’s why on Tuesday I supported demands by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in a letter sent to the Chancellor, that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is extended beyond the end of lockdown and is targeted at those areas most impacted, like Newham. The press statement with my quote is here.
While on the subject of Sadiq Khan, exciting news yesterday was the announcement of an intention to move the headquarters of the Greater London Authority, which comprises the Mayor of London and the London Assembly, from City Hall near Tower Bridge to The Crystal building in the Royal Docks from 2021.
If agreed, it is really fantastic news for the Royal Docks and for our borough, and demonstrates the potential and opportunity of Newham as an attractive place for inward investment. It will help generate more jobs and economic benefits for our residents. Click here to read my full comments.
On Monday there was a fire on the 12th floor of the Ferrier Point block in Canning Town. Thankfully everyone was safe and in a statement I praised the London Fire Brigade for their swift arrival and life-saving efforts.
Ferrier Point is one of our blocks where we removed Aluminium Combustible Material cladding last year in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Whilst fire in a tall building is always distressing to see, on this occasion it was very well contained within the flat thanks in no small part to the installation of non-combustible cladding and compartmentation measures we introduced, including better fire doors to the flats. This is a requirement across our complete fire door replacement programme and the benefits are obvious.
That’s not the case everywhere. Three years on from the Grenfell tragedy and the UK Cladding Action Group say there are thousands of people across the country still living in homes wrapped in the same flammable cladding as Grenfell Tower. That is thousands and thousands of people and families still going to bed in unsafe homes. The Government must meet full costs of making these homes safe.
On the subject of tower blocks, I have once again repeated my commitment to residents on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford that all options for the future of the three tall blocks on the estate remain on the table. Populo Living, the renamed housing delivery company formerly known as Red Door Ventures, have spent recent weeks carrying out detailed analysis and surveys of James Riley Point, Lund Point and Dennison Point to look at all options for the future of the blocks. There’s an update later in this bulletin.
The killing of George Floyd in America continues to unleash unprecedented solidarity in this country because of our own chequered history on race equality and racism. In Newham, which has one of the highest ethnic minority communities in the UK, we’ve shown our solidarity with George Floyd and Black Lives Matter as we continue to challenge racism, discrimination and inequality.
The stain of the slave trade unacceptably appears on streets, memorials and buildings across the country. This must of course change and we must also shine a light on this shameful history of empire, beginning with greater education and understanding. We are working through plans which will be announced in the coming weeks to show clearly the things we are doing, will continue to do and remain committed to build on.
And a cheery note to end on. Today sees the first of our series of Newham Unlocked Community Broadcasts. During lockdown you’ve been using your creativity to get through these incredibly challenging times, from baking, drawing and painting, to singing and dancing. A comedian, a singer and actress, a composer, a film director, and a poet and star of TV’s Peaky Blinders, are among the first to encourage us to share our creativity through video clips. Why don’t you do the same!
Enjoy the warmer weather while it is still with us, but take all the necessary precautions. And please continue to protect yourself and others from coronavirus by following all the social distancing and personal hygiene measures that remain in place. Stay safe.
Rokhsana Fiaz OBE
Mayor of Newham