Monday, 31 December 2007

Trying to ease overcrowding in Tower Hamlets

It’s clearly welcome news that the government plans to practically tackle overcrowding in Tower Hamlets.

Almost half the population of Tower Hamlets live in Council accommodation. According to a recent Public Health Report, Tower Hamlets, with a population of about 220 400, has the most overcrowded council accommodation in London.

A large number of properties have been declared unfit, with 78% of council properties and 27.7% of private properties being declared “non-decent”.

The Dept of Housing has now announced an Overcrowding Action Plan aimed at increasing the number of larger homes in Tower Hamlets and five other boroughs.

The plan has £15million funding over the next three years. If my maths is right, each of the boroughs involved may receive about £2.5m over 3 years – or about £830 000 per year to solve the housing dilema.

In an area where house prices alone are in the range of £270 000, I’m not so sure that this Action Plan will do much for the overcrowded families.

For its part, Tower Hamlet’s Council says last year it re-housed 32 overcrowded tenants to alternative suitable accommodation. This year it has re-housed 75 under-occupying families, to free up more homes for those most in need.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Hosting big business in Newham

Over 5000 representatives from the travel industry around the world gathered at the ExCel centre in docklands recently.

Called the World Travel Market, the exhibition drew people from over 200 countries. Why meet in Newham? It could be because of convenience – the ExCel is a very convenient place to hold such events.

But there’s also a chance they chose to host it specifically in Newham because international business seems to take the borough seriously.

The area is home to the 2012 Olympics and was the only borough in London to be granted a licence for a super casino.

Like many residents in Newham, I hate the idea of having a casino – big or small – but that’s another matter.

A London Development Agency study says a good measure of the importance of tourism to each borough’s economy is the proportion of employment in tourism related industries, and that the proportion of tourism related employment in Newham is slightly higher than for the sub-region of east London.

On the occasion of the World Travel Market exhibition, Newham mayor Sir Robyn Wales took the international visitors to the Olympics Park, which itself is a newcomer to the borough.

But what about places like Green Street, Queens Market, Silvertown, Canning Town and Forestgate which support local business and tourism? They may not sparkle like the Olympics Park, but they do a lot for Newham business.

West Ham football club backs Enough is Enough campaign

I live close to West Ham Park in Stratford. It looks like any other park – green lawn, ponds and swings.

But for the Darbar family it’s also where their 17-year old son Rizwan was stabbed to death by another teenager for his mobile phone in October this year.

At the time of Rizwans’s death, Detective Chief Inspector Barry Norman of the Met Police lamented teenage killings and violence saying: “I don't think there's anything more important to Londoners than this, with the possible exception of terrorism, especially to parents.”

Police aren’t having it easy containing the situation as many youngsters carry blades for protection or as fashion accessories.

The area has lost of youngsters to many knife killings. Adam Regis (15), Paul Erhahon (14), Stephen Boachie (17), Mohammed Ahmed (17 and Biendi Litambola (17.

Clearly this is too much for any community. After Rizwan’s death, the aptly-titled Enough is Enough campaign was formed to raise awareness that carrying knifes doesn’t pay.

The campaign is backed by Newham Council and the Met Police. A positive development for the campaign is that West Ham football club have joined in and endorsed this much needed move in our area.

Similar campaigns like Stop Da Violence which is run by Teen Spirit in Forestgate, are doing a great job.

Here’s hoping the message will reach those who need it most.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Plaistow event highlights safety

The drizzle failed to put a damper on the buzz at the Newham community forum held recently in Plaistow.

This event was arranged to get residents to mingle and mainly discuss crime and anti-social behaviour in the area.

There were lots of stalls and activities, and many families came along.

The Police had a strong presence at the event. Sgt Richard Egan who is based in East Ham said there has been an increase in youth carrying knives.

‘What we try and do is to educate them not to carry knives. We go to schools – I recently went to Newham College to talk to them,’ he said.

He also told the young people that although they think they are carrying knives for protection, a lot of the time, that very knife is taken off them and used against them.

I asked him why these young people did not turn to the police for protection instead, and he said: “They think it is not cool and we are trying to turn that attitude around.”

Monday, 10 December 2007

Stratford Sprinter shakes off drug shame


I have been quiet for a few days now. Although my head was buried in some stuff elsewhere, my feet were rooted right here in good old East London.

So much has good stuff has happened meanwhile. In Stratford, for example, our very own sprinter Christine Ohuruogu won her appeal against a lifetime Olympic ban for missing three out-of-competition drugs tests. Christine went on to clinch the women’s 400m World Champion title. Well done girl!

And the news that Ken Livingston has given the go-ahead for about two train stations to be renamed got hopes high in Brick Lane, as some folk there have made it clear they’d like Aldgate East tube station’s name changed to Brick Lane tube station.

Although this request was not granted, I’d like to think the Mayor’s office will give it a serious think. Soon perhaps?

Friday, 23 November 2007

Black youths slammed after Canning Town murder

When I lived in Plaistow, I used to pass through Canning Town often, and, admittedly, I don’t have any special memories of the suburb which is one of the busiest areas in Newham.

There’s bus after bus on the already jammed Barking Road, groups of boys in hoodies on the streets and kebab shops sliced between colourful African hairdressers and stuffy internet cafes. A 2000 government survey ranked the area as London's most deprived ward.

It is also probably one of the more dangerous parts of Newham. This weekend, 17-year old Biendi “Bobby” Litambola (pictured) was assaulted in the area, making him the 24th teenager to be murdered in London this year.

Last year Peter Woodhams (22), a young father, was murdered near his home in Canning Town, having suffered taunts from a local gang.

Bobby’s brother Sammy told the BBC: "Most of the teenagers killed this year are black and most of it is black on black crime. How can we explain this? It's not the police doing it, it's not other races doing it, we are doing it to ourselves. We need to stamp it out."

Hopefully, Sammy's words will be taken seriously.

May Bobby rest in peace.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Is new Queens Hospital all that bad?

One of the first things I heard about the new Queens hospital in Romford, Essex, was clearly negative – some one moaning about how bad the service “despite all the money the government – and hence the tax payer – has splashed on it!”.

Then I recently came across a story in the Ilford Recorder where a pregnant mother refused to give birth at the hospital.

The woman visited the hospital bleeding and in pain and claims that, after waiting more than 5 hours, she was dismissed and given two paracetemols when no consultants were available.

She said she’d rather give birth at the back of her husband’s van than at Queens Hospital – yes, it was that bad.

But is Queens that bad? Is it staffed with heartless nurses who discharge bleeding women with 2 paracetmols?

I tried to get the facts on the hospital and (what joy!) when I logged onto a site for the hospital and saw a Facts and Figures link. I thought I’d get some serious stuff about the place – but lo and behold - some of the facts were:

- The hospital is made up of approximately 1.5 million bricks

- There are 1186 alcohol dispensers

- The new hospital building footprint occupies 8.5 hectares of the 14.5 hectare site, almost 12 football pitches if applying FiFA regulations.

I hurriedly clicked off this page – for obvious reasons – and googled more about Queens.

Whereupon I came across a site for
who were discussing if they recommend Queens hospital.

I stumbled across a comment from one Pali who said her sister-in-law had a baby there and it was lovely. Pali did say, however, that the matron was quite abrupt. Another said most of the staff are good but some bad.

However you see it, if you live in the Havering area, count your blessings that you got Queens, because King George’s Hospital in Redbridge has been downgraded and women are being forced to go outside Redbridge to have their babies.

So at least you got a hospital – and that’s a lot better than the back of a van, believe me!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Fire! Stratford blaze licks warehouse

I was at university yesterday morning when I glanced up a TV screen in the passage to see the news that a warehouse in Stratford had caught fire.

‘What!’ I gasped to my classmate, ‘I hope that place is not near our house,’ I said, picturing the house, the people and my valuables (yes, I do have a few!) being destroyed.

It turned out the fire was at this one warehouse on Waterden Road, right at the Olympics site in Stratford, close to our house – but nowhere near enough to destroy it. At the time the story broke it appeared, according to news reports, that it may have been started by terrorists. Why terrorists would chose to blow up an empty warehouse may baffle some. But then again, this presumably empty warehouse is significantly located on the Olympics site.

‘It’s quite serious,’ I heard a man behind me say, ‘you can actually see the smoke from here in North London.’

‘Of course not,’ I said rather shakily, ‘it can’t be that bad. Surely, you can’t see a bit of smoke in East London from up here in North London.’

My friend indicated I was implying that the man was a liar. So I tried to make light of it and went away.

But it has occurred to me how hard it must be to be busy in a lecture at school or getting on with your job, only to turn on the telly and see your home up in smoke because it has probably been blown up by terrorists.

Yet some people go through this almost everyday. Is this what we’ll experience during the Olympics?

But as the day wore on, the police said the fire was not being treated as a terrorist incident.

By the time I got to Stratford in the evening, there was no sign of a breaking-news-fire. No, not even a whiff of the smoke that could be seen for miles across North London skies.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Newham cops bungle with local councillor

Newham police have recently been in trouble with a local Christian People Alliance councillor, Simeon Ademolake.

According to the CPA’s newsletter, Simeon and his wife Grace were at home when two policemen and a bailiff unlawfully entered their home and harassed Grace and destroyed photographic evidence of their assault on Simeon, who ended up in hospital.

I tried to grasp what actually happened here and I imagined Grace, probably, taking pictures while her poor husband was being assaulted.

Then I pictured the hefty bailiff grab the camera from Grace and trample it under his big boots (while the policemen kept punching or shoving Simeon around).

The question is who do you call when police are attacking you brutally? Clearly not the Police!

But wait – there’s more – Simeon was then charged! I know … it’s shocking.

My eyes raced to the end of the newsletter to find out what became of this bizarre case.

A picture of Simeon and his colleagues Cllrs Alan Craig and Denise Stafford smiling and sipping champagne gave a good hint.

The verdict: Simeon was completely cleared by Snaresbrook Crown Court of assaulting police.

Is police misbehaviour unique to East London? Simeon may have the answer.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

How effective are anti-racism gigs and CDs?

There are many anti-racism campaigns in our part of London, take the annual Respect music festival (not to be confused with the Respect political party!) or Rise or Kick it Out, a campaign that uses people in football to challenge racism and work for positive change.

This week, a new CD was launched in Barking by another campaign called Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR).

The 29 track CD features artists like Lethal Bissle. What is interesting – if not frightening – is that, according to a local paper, the project was initiated following reports of levels of racism in UK schools and reports that the far right British National Party is trying to recruit school children.

Campaigns like Rise and LMHR claim to use music to fight racism in the community. A lot of resources are put into these campaigns, but just how effective are they?

Would a racist go to a Rise gig in East London, for example, and come out of the concert a ‘changed man’? But then again, a racist is unlikely to go in the first place.

Perhaps such concerts and CDs work for ‘potential’ racists? They could go to such a concert or listen to such CDs and then they could be won over the other side of the fence and abandon their potentially racist side?

Which ever way you see it, such campaigns are good for highlighting the evil of racism and that it is not welcome in our society. They also bring about community cohesion.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Benefits top-up to tackle Newham jobs dilema

People on benefits will be offered a top-up of their payments if they return to employment and find they are worse off in work, as part of a new employment pilot scheme

Can life get any easier? The new scheme, to be rolled out in Newham, will provide a housing benefit top up for up to a year - at present, the law only allows for an extension of four weeks.

Newham has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and, it appears, has problems convincing some residents to get back to work. Or why else would it need a scheme to entice people to find jobs and earn a living like everybody else?

Newham council says the employment pilot scheme will help participants overcome the psychological and physical barriers associated with returning to employment.

It would be interesting to know what psychological barriers prevent one from going back to working.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Ex-sprinter calls for 'Suss' laws to be brought back

Former Olympic hero John Regis has called for ‘suss’ laws to be brought back, following the death of his 15-year-old nephew Adam in Plaistow.

The ‘suss’ laws allow police to stop and search anyone they think may be carrying a weapon. Regis told London Tonight that tougher sentences shoule be metted to teenage thugs who carry guns and knives.

I lived in Plaistow for a while and while it’s a place with great vibe, it can be dangerous.

Regis also said: “That’s the only way that the message will be sent across the face of Great Britain that if a kid has a knife...the only time you should have a knife is if you’re in the house cutting a slice of bread,” he said.

I recall going to a Stop da Violence concert in plaistow around July. Stop da Violence is an initiative by the Arc Church in Forestgate to encourage young people to stop violence.

Hundreds of young people attended the show. Adam Regis’s mom was there and, in a hearbreaking appeal, called on the youth to co-operate with the police.

For a black man to call for the ‘suss’ laws to be brought back is an intersting development because at times members of the black community have slammed stop and search laws, saying the police deliberately target black men.

The violence has got to stop. Full stop.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Now Newham children join in Channel 4 protest

A group of children from Newham today protested outside Channel Four in response to it’ survey that ranked the borough as the 3rd worst place to live in the UK.

The independent survey was based on data from bodies such as local authorities, the Home Office and the Office For National Statistics.

Researchers ranked the best and worst UK places for the Channel 4 show <Location, Location, Location.

The school chidlren and some young people sang a song praising Newham and also presented the Channel 4 staff with a hamper of food items from Newham, including Indian sweets.

I can’t understand why only children went out to protest.

Surely, if Newham was far from the worst place to live, then adults, community leaders, cultural groups would have turned out in full force to protest?

I’m also not convinced that the sweets from Newham will change Channel 4’s view of the place, bearing in mind the programme is being shown tonight.

Anyway, happy eating to those who got the food hamper!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

What? Newham worst in the country?


A Channel 4 poll has stated that Newham is the third worst place to live in the UK. This especially hurt the East London borough’s Mayor Sir Robin Wales who furiously disputed the poll.

The independent survey was based on data from bodies including local authorities, the Home Office and the Office For National Statistics.
Researchers ranked the best and worst UK places for the Channel 4 show Location, Location, Location.

Middlesbrough was top of the list, followed by Hull and then Newham.

While Newham does have its lows i.e. unemplyment, crime and poor education results, it surely has its highs. I live in Newham, and have never felt like I am living in the 3rd worst place in the whole country.

Believe me, Newham is not that bad!

Could obesity seriously threaten our hospitals?

The issue of obesity in the country is now ranking high on the government’s agenda – it’s on par with global warming.

Children in London, as elsewhere in the country, are becoming obese at increasingly fast rates. Some of you may have seen the frightening clip in the papers yesterday of a patient who could not fit on a mobile chair in the hospital because she was too obese. In fact, if I remember correctly, the story said average hospital beds and other facilities will become too small for the average person in the UK. They won’t be able to cope!

If we don’t do something about it, things could be dire folks. Imagine hospital floors at the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel (or Homerton Hospital in Hakney), becoming shaky as beds get weighed down by the heavy bodies?

Common, let’s get to the gym and save our hospital beds from crashing!

Friday, 12 October 2007

Stop-n-search for terrorists in Stratford

Thurdsay morning as I was coming out of Stratford station, which is one of the busiest in East London, I noticed that there were quite a few policemen carrying out a stop-and-search.

Now I do try and not be forward (honest) but I guess I didn’t try hard enough because I suddenly saw my-self standing in front of a policewoman and asking her a few questions.

‘Erm, officer,’ I said in a small voice, ‘sorry to ask, but why are you stopping these people, has something bad happened?’

‘No,’ she said laughing, ‘we are carrying out a random stop-and-search.’

‘What for?’ I asked eyeing her colleagues stopping several men. One was telling a man to raise his arms as they searched his pockets.

‘Well, for terrorists mainly,’ she said.

‘What, terrorists here in our Stratford?’ I said, raising my bushy eyebrows.

‘Yep, right here she said,’ dangling her note pad leisurely.

‘Have you got a profile of a typical terrorist that you look out for?’ I asked.

‘No. One day we search women, one day men. Any race, any background, any age. In fact, we’ve even come across people wanted for other crimes,’ she said proudly, ‘and the media says we are not doing a good job!’

I thought of the elderly folk and noisy school kids walking past, and found it hard to image them being terrorists; but anyway, I remembered I was not the expert here.

‘But what I want to know is what would make you approach some-one?’ I interjected.

‘Well, we can pick those people who have been standing around for too long, which can be suspicious,’ she replied.

She also explained that there are plain clothes policeman planted in the busy shopping mall 1-miute away.

A lot of the time Asians and Muslims have complained that they are stereotyped as typical terrorists.

Emma, this police officer I spoke to, gave the impression this is not so with the police. Is that really the case?

So there you go folks: be careful of hanging around Stratford mall for too long in case you are mistaken for a terrorist wanting to bomb up the trains, pigeons and Burger King.


Thursday, 4 October 2007

Man dies in Ilford bus No. 25 horror

I have ridden on the bus 25 countless times and have never had a big problemwith it really. The bendy bus runs from Oxford Circus right through to Ilford.

But it has been slammed by a number of people for varius things, including being overcrowded. Some have had items pinched on the bus.

I recall speaking to a woman who was new to Stratford and telling her she could take the Bus 25 to get to stratford. She seemed horrified at my suggstion. Apparently, a policeman had warned her against that bus, he described it as probably one of the most dangerous buses inLondon.

Only last week a 21-year old man died after being dragged for more than a mile under the wheels of a bendy bus.

The passenger was getting off the bus in east London at 5.05am with a friend when he slipped and fell under the wheels.

The bus only stopped when the driver was alerted by passers-by at the junction of Ilford High Road and Rabbits Road in Ilford.

No, this is not linked to what the policeman is menat to have said about bus 25. It is a separate incident – clearly no foul play.

Is new ratings scheme bad news Brick Lane touts?

You now don’t need to guess the hygiene rating of a restaurant you want to visit.

It’s all been rated for you already under a scheme supported by the Food Standards Association, and you can now access this anytime.

Under the new scheme called Scores on the Doors, restaurant and food outlets are rated according to their latest food hygiene inspection reports, enabling consumers to make informed choices about where to eat.

One of the areas in East London known especially for its restaurants is Brick Lane, a narrow street sliced between Whitechapel and Bethnal Green High Road.

Every night, hundreds of people from all over London patronise the several curry houses.

Noisy touts are perched at the doors of these restaurants, competing for customers to come in to their particular spots.

Is Scores on the Doors a good thing? Of-course it is for the thousands of people living in the capital.

It’s especially good news for us in East London.

A friend once went to do some work at a restaurant in Brick Lane.

He said he was appalled at the cockroaches and dirt behind the scenes.

He was also shocked at the way the workers in the kitchen prepared the food.

As part of the scheme, businesses will also be issued with a certificate and window sticker with their star rating on.

This is currently voluntary.

Discussions are taking place to make it a legal requirement for all London businesses to display their star rating.

Now if it becomes compulsory for restaurants to display their ratings on the door, what would become of our colourful touts in Bricklane?

Will they need to entice customers to come in when a mere FSA badge will say it all?

To view your favourite restaurant’s ratings check out

Happy eating!

Cabbies slam scheme to assist black drivers

This week hundreds of London black-cab drivers protested against London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s scheme to get more ethnic drivers working as cabbies.

The scheme will enable this target group to have special help so they can pass the industry test, The Knowledge. They will also have free numeracy and language classes and childcare. Other freebies include maps and scooter hire. The white male members say these benefits are not available to them.

Is this fair? Let’s look at both sides. In parts of East London, like Newham, unemployment is so high for black males.

In such areas in East London, a large chunk of the population are black, and rather than have these people turn to crime to make a living, surely it doesn’t hurt if they are offered help to get jobs as cab drivers?

Ken Livingstone on his part dismissed the LDA’s as a group with an outdated attitude. Only 5% of London’s taxi drivers are from ethnic minority communities.

On the other hand, it is likely to create tension between the new ethnic drivers and the established white ones. Alan Flemming, the head of the London Drivers Club said it will create tension between those ethnics who have completed The Knowledge without financial assistance.

Whatever folks, have a nice weekend!

Children in East London Using Cheap Cocaine

Hi out there

Things are getting quite rough on our streets in the east ends. It has emerged that children as young as 15 are using cocaine.

Last month a report released by a UK charity Drugscope showed that the drug is now more easily available. It said that in many areas dealers are offering two grades of cocaine to buyers, effectively dividing their sales into ‘economy’ and ‘luxury’ cocaine, putting it in reach of more – and younger – users.

I spoke to Mike, who’s a member of a Narcotics Anonymous, a group of recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. The group operates like Alcoholics Anonymous. Mike also works with a drug charity project in Hackney.

He says the problem is big in east London too, and that before, cocaine was an expensive drug people in the West End were using. But now that it is cheaper, folks in East London can afford it. He added that it was a problem also affecting young people, including black girls.

This was spooky for me, because I see a lot of young people in the buses or at the malls, and they look so full of life and have a great future ahead of them. But it is sad to think that some of them are caught up in cocaine.

Sad musings.

Later folks!

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Welcome to East End Window

Hey there,

Welcome to the crowds, markets, noise and festivals that make Tower Hamlets and Newham one of the best places to live in London. Along with you, I think we could delve into the heart of these stories.

We'll also scan the Walthamstow, Greenwich, Barking and Dagenham scene for similar stuff.

So stick around!