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?