Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Open Government in the Ward

There is a long tradition of the Common Councilmen in each ward meeting secretly behind closed doors, and making decisions on behalf of the ward.

 Our ward has been no different - for a number of years (apart from the annual wardmote) the sitting Common Councilmen, to the best of my knowledge, have held no, or few public open meetings within the ward in their capacity as Common Councilmen, do not appear to have notified residents of their actions in writing, (the monthly ward newsletter technically fulfils this function), published attendance of meetings, etc at Guildhall in an easily accessible manner, and in general, do not engage in what might be called open government.

Ten years ago, when I was last a Common Councilman in this ward, this was how the Portsoken Ward Common Council met.

That might have been acceptable in 1614. It is no longer acceptable in 2014.
(Our local Common Council of Portsoken consists of the sitting Common Councilmen, and Alderman)

My view is that all council meetings of elected officials in the ward should by default be open to the public. When the local Portsoken Common Council meets to discuss ward business among themselves, the public should be allowed to attend as observers.

This is the case for committees at Guildhall. It should also be the case locally within the ward.

If elected, I will hold open public meetings, where residents can bring ward problems directly to their Common Councilmen, and if need be, pass resolutions on matters concerning the ward, which would then be passed on to the Town Clerk, for distribution to the relevant officers at Guildhall. We would then be in a position to follow up the response.

I will also hold women-only ward meetings. This is a matter of particular concern, as we have a significant number of female residents in the ward who will not attend a mixed sex meeting. Their voice is, as a result, not heard. I believe that there is also a need for public ward meetings at the Mansell Street Estate to have a Bengali translator present.

Monday, 24 February 2014

City Constitution and Local Municipal Committees

In 1850, the City's population stood at about the present level - close to 10,000 resident inhabitants. The population dipped down to somewhere around 8,000, before climbing back up to levels not seen in 150 years.

Over this time, due to building works and population movement, the historical memory of local city governance was lost.

The Aldermen and Common Councilmen of the Ward constitute the Common Council of Portsoken Ward.
Over time, the powers of this local Common Council have been taken over by the centralised Court of Common Council and its committees.

Here in Portsoken, and across the City, local municipal democracy disappeared almost in its entirety, legislated out of existence by various Acts of Common Council. The local wardmote council met, but only as an election court and debating forum, all its other functions as a local municipal body had become dormant.

The last record I have of a committee appointed by a Court of Wardmote for local municipal purposes, is 1859.

In Portsoken, no wardmote resolutions had been put for over 150 years, when I first appeared at a wardmote in 2000, armed with some resolutions related to matters affecting the Guinness Estate. Neither the Alderman or Ward Clerk were sure of how to proceed.

Since that date, this dormant aspect of our local municipal government has been revived - not only in our wardmote, but at other wardmotes across the City of London.

The next step to take, in my view, is to revive the formation of local precinct committees of inhabitant householders, which have also become dormant.

Only three of the precincts in the ward still retain inhabitants:
 Tower Hill Precinct - where the Mansell Street Estate and Marlyn Lodge are located.
Barrs Precinct - the area south of Aldgate High Street and north of Little Somerset Street,where there are a number of private flats.
Covent Garden Precinct - where Middlesex Street Estate is located.

These local precinct committees function  as mini wardmotes. Their minimum quorum was usually 3. They can pass resolutions, present petitions (memorials) directly to Common Council (which then get referred to committees at Guildhall). Most local precinct committees stopped being elected by wardmotes sometime in the 1830's.

What could a local precinct committee do? 

What is needed: 
1. Annual scrutiny of the Ward List by a wardmote committee, to ensure it is up to date, and that as many people as possible have the right to vote, who are eligible.
2. To look into nuisances and annoyances in each precinct, and report on these to Common Council, or request the Common Councilmen to act on them.
3. To scrutinise the work of the Common Councilmen and hold them to account.
4. To look carefully at Common Council agendas and minutes, so that the residents of the ward can take a proactive approach to their government, and not a reactive one.
5. To work for better local policing.

Who can vote on wardmote resolutions, or sit on wardmote committees?
While it is clear that anyone who is on the Ward List and a Freeman can stand for election to Common Council at wardmote, it is not as clear that these same people have the right to propose motions at wardmote, or vote on them: the wardmote is a meeting of the resident householders of the ward. Legislation governing the electoral franchise, to my knowledge, does not, and has not, reframed the terms of function of the wardmote as a branch of the municipal government of the City of London for the resident inhabitants of the ward.

Anyone can attend a wardmote nowadays, even non-residents of the ward. In the past, this was forbidden by law and custom.

 I am not convinced, however,  that any non-resident, even if they are a Common Councilman with their name on the Ward List, has the right to propose a motion in the wardmote, or vote on it. I am of the opinion that this right is reserved for resident inhabitants. This matter will need clarification from the Town Clerk.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Freedom of the City of London

By Law, all inhabitants of the City of London with residence of over 12 months, who are on the Ward List (i.e. the City's electoral register) are entitled to become registered Free Citizens of the City.

Unlike non-inhabitants, the Freedom application of a resident is automatic by right of law, and does not need the approval of the Court of Common Council. The application is processed directly by the Chamberlain's Court. There is no fee.

For further information on the Freedom of the City email chamberlains.court@cityoflondon.gov.uk or call the Chamberlain’s Court on 020 7332 3055.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Effective Local Governance in the Ward

I am a great believer in effective municipal government.

Many of the shortcomings and defects of Portsoken ward governance have come about because of general complacency by our elected officers,who have, I believe, not fully used the instruments of governance available to them on behalf of the inhabitants of the ward.

Here are some questions:

1. When was the last time a Common Councilman in Portsoken called a General Ward Meeting, (apart from the annual wardmote, which is called by the Lord Mayor) to discuss what he or she is doing with the inhabitants, or to openly discuss policy decisions about to be voted on in Guildhall that might impact the residents of the Ward? I am not referring to a surgery, but a ward meeting, where the inhabitants can vote on resolutions, which can then be referred to the relevant committees and officers at Guildhall to which they may relate?

2. When was the last time Common Councilmen in our ward informed the residents in writing about their activities on their behalf at Guildhall, or within the ward? I do not count the Ward Newsletter, which is too general to be of much use as an instrument of local governance, in its present format.

3. When was the last time a committee of inhabitant residents met together with their Common Councilmen, in a publicly announced meeting, to scrutinise Common Council agendas to look for business that might impact the ward's inhabitants?

4. When is the last time the Ward List was properly scrutinised, to ensure the maximum number of residents are enfranchised,  by the Common Councilmen and inhabitants of the Ward? Officers at Guildhall do not have the minute local knowledge to do this. It is a local municipal responsibility, and it has, to the best of my knowledge,  not been carried out.

I think there is a distinct lack of communication in our ward, and a lack of willingness by the sitting Common Councilmen to use the available ward-level mechanisms of local governance.

Should the inhabitants chose to elect me, I will work tirelessly to reinvigorate democracy at a local level within Portsoken.


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Page views of this blog

I am gratified that my little blog about the March 20 Portsoken Election in the City of London has been getting high page views:

Pageviews last month
Pageviews yesterday

On another topic:  One of my political heroes is Benjamin Disraeli - who in his childhood was a congregant at my local synagogue, Bevis Marks. He also was known for his personal sartorial style, which tended to the flamboyant.

If he were to walk into a Saturday service at Bevis Marks in 2014, he would find little has changed from his time there in the early 1800s:  Congregants still wear top hats at services, and the music and traditions of the service have not changed an iota.

Residents will doubtless have seen me making my way to services at Bevis Marks on Friday nights, and early on Saturday mornings, wearing my topper. I don't like leaving it in my seat-box, as it is an expensive bit of kit.

I attend the daily morning prayer service at Bevis Marks every day of the week, pretty much without fail. 

Full Steam Ahead with local representation on Middlesex Street

The committee of the Middlesex Street Residents' Association has been hard at work, and a newsletter is about to hit the press, informing residents of the past meetings of the Association, and what is upcoming. I have recently attended meetings where we re-worked the wording and content of the newsletter. The Association still needs to hold an AGM, to elect properly constituted officers.

I am a member of this committee. I am also an associate (non-voting) member of the Tenants' Association, which is currently forming. Tonight a productive meeting was held at the Artizan Street Community Centre, where a gathering of long leaseholders went over a final draft of the new Association's constitution.

There were a few small creases to iron out,and a couple of matters that need further clarification - hopefully a final draft of the new constitution will be available soon: all interim documentation can be inspected on the Association's website.

The Ward List

The Ward List is a list of electors in the Ward, that is published annually by the Corporation of London. Only people on the Ward List are entitled to vote at the annual Wardmote, or at local precinct meetings convened by Common Councilmen, which in sum constitute our local mini-council, where resolutions can be passed at Wardmote or at precint-level that have to do with the governance of the ward.

The provisional Ward List is published by Guildhall, and a notice posted on the official Ward Noticeboard - which is outside St Botolph's Without Aldgate Church.

The Common Councilmen for the ward should then meet, to scrutinise the list to see if it is accurate, and to see who has not returned their forms. Residents of the Ward also have a right to view the provisional Ward List, for this purpose.

This year there appear to be a number of problems with the Ward list - they may or may not be - but what is certainly the case, is that prior to today, no Common Councilman or resident from our ward brought these queries to the attention of the Guildhall. 

Some problems seem to arise from duplicated entries.  One business had two names that seemed unfamiliar - I contacted that particular business, and the owner did not know who the people were, whose names were recorded as voters on the Ward list for his business. Thus, this particular business has lost its franchise in this election.

I doubt indeed that any residents in our ward even knew that the provisional list had been promulgated, or that there was a right of scrutiny. 

I propose that we need a committee, to meet annually soon after the date the provisional Ward List is published, to scrutinise the provisional ward List.

The committee could perhaps be chaired by the Ward Beadle, as it is his historic role (now pro forma, as the work is done by other officers at Guildhall) to compile a complete and accurate list of inhabitants of the ward. (Not voters mind you, but inhabitants, including children).

 Also on this committee would be at least one serving Common Councilman, a representative from each residents' or tenants' association, a representative of the Ward Club, and representative from any other group in the ward, for example, the Bengali Ladies' Group.

In this way, proper scrutiny of the Ward List can take place, at ward level. It is important for our local democracy that the Ward List should be accurate, and that as many residents as possible who have the franchise, register, so that they can exercise it.

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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Lord Glasman and the Secret City

Lord Glasman has had an interest in the City of London Corporation for some years. I first met him back in 2001, along with Ayesha Azad and William Taylor. This was at the time of my first entry in City politics.
The only prior elected position I had held, was as Cultural Affairs Officer of the University of Canterbury Students' Association. I also was appointed Orientation Controller for the University for Orientation '87, one of the only Orientation Festivals held at Canterbury on record that was within budget. But I digress....

Lord Glasman encouraged residents to stand in our ward. For this he must be thanked.  He was against outsiders muscling their way in, and thought that local residents should be standing for election - yet in Portsoken no local residents had stood for election for a number of years. Iris Samuel ruled the ward.

William Taylor and Maurice Glasman have remained closely associated, and frequently co-operate on projects. Their names often crop up together in articles and discussions about the City of London Corporation.

As an example of this, the anti City of London film by Michael Chanan and Lee Salter comes to mind. This short film features both Taylor and Glasman, as can be seen from the transcript, which can be read here.

As you can see, Taylor has, as Facebook would put it, a complicated relationship with the City Corporation. Now, the way I see it is this: Portsoken is already a thorn in the Corporation's side. We are a 'difficult ward' purely as a result of our demographics. We do not want to see that thorn mutate into a stake, thrust into the heart of the body politic of the Corporation of London.

Yes, the City needs reform. I agree with that  as a general proposition. However, the paramount needs of the residents of this ward cannot be sacrificed to that greater good. Should hypothetically Taylor be elected as our Common Councilman, he would have a massive hurdle of opposition from the sitting Councilmen  to clamber over, before he could even contemplate effective lobbying on our behalf at Guildhall. That is apart from his putting himself forward as a Party Political candidate in this election, which brings its own difficulties along with it, given the non party political nature of the City of London.

William Taylor was previously a Member of Common Council for our ward, from 2001 to 2003, and again from 2005 to 2008. As such, he swore the oaths required of a Common Councilman. In my view, that oath remains morally binding even after the end of the Councilman's period of office.  My question is, is gaining access to the City's private accounts, and then publishing them online, an action taken in accord with the spirit of the oath of a Common Councilman? I don't know the answer to that question, but upon it hinges more than a fine point of moral philosophy.

Here is the Occupy London page that talks about this action of Father Taylor's:  Father William Taylor claims to have no interest in Occupy. Occupy on the other hand, appears to have considerable interest in him.

Now whether you agree with Father Taylor or not in this action of publishing private City documents online, we here in PortsokenWard need to ask a narrower question:  Is any of this going to do us any good up at Guildhall?

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Monday, 17 February 2014

Falling Between the Cracks

A resident contacted me today about an all-too-familiar problem - the City of London's blindness to the effects of administrative decisions on the disadvantaged inhabitants of our Ward.

The City and Hackney form a joint NHS Trust. Patients in the City need to access services in Hackney, and this includes additional travel costs for City residents if they are dealing with a specialist unit that is only based in Hackney.

In this particular instance, the Hackney based service issued a request for a discretionary (disabled) Freedom Pass, which would have been granted pro forma by Hackney Council in this case.

The patient was sent the Hackney paperwork, as that is the default setting for City and Hackney NHS - only a handful of City residents would need this type of discretionary travel pass in any particular year, the majority of patients live in Hackney.

The paperwork was rejected, as the patient is a City resident. A City form was then requested, and submitted to Guildhall. It was not processed, as the City does not issue such 'discretionary' passes anymore. It used to, but about three or so years ago, a committee in Guildhall decided to no longer issue such passes.

This is a clear case of City policy discriminating against  residents with additional needs, where a similar vulnerable resident, using the same NHS services just across the municipal boundary, would have access to better quality support.

The City is unable to provide the specialist NHS services required by its residents within the City boundary. That is why we have a joint NHS service. If a  patient needs to travel to Hackney access specialist NHS services, and the nature of their treatment is such as to qualify them for a disabled FreedomPass in the Hackney part of the NHS Trust, then it should also qualify them in the City..

This is a typical example of the lack of joined-up governance that affects City residents. Due to the demographic profile of Portsoken residents, with our high percentage of young families,unemployed and elderly, we tend to suffer more from this than other wards.

I hear this complaint over and over again from residents in Portsoken - that in many respects they would be better served living in Hackney, or in Tower Hamlets. The so-called 'benefits' of living in the City ring hollow to many of our local residents.
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Sunday, 16 February 2014

Middlesex Street Enhancement Strategy

The White Paper for Middlesex Street Enhancement can be seen here:

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Friday, 14 February 2014

Residents United

News on the ground is that possibly three locally resident citizens of London may be stepping forward in this coming election in Portsoken Ward.

There are also people from outside the ward, non-resident freemen, who are seeking election for their own political agenda.

My strong view is that Portsoken needs local representation.

I urge you to vote in this upcoming election for a locally resident citizen. This is what Portsoken needs.
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And the Turkeys will vote for Christmas?

William Taylor has in the past been associated  in some way with the 'Occupy' movement, although the movement had other ideas about that.

William  works closely with Lord Glasman, who is no friend of the City of London.  It was Glasman who got Campbell Taylor to stand in Portsoken the first time ten years ago, through his involvement in campaigning against the redevelopment of Spitalfields by Mike Bear.

I believe most residents in Portsoken are generally proud of our local authority, and think that it runs quite well - though it could be improved, and that is what effective Councilmen are for - to make it work better on behalf of the residents and citizens.

The Fifth Column

"Campbell-Taylor - a handsome and articulate Oxbridge-educated priest - probably felt more at home than Glasman in front of the assorted City scriveners, aldermen and barristers. Glasman has thick, tousled black hair, horn-rimmed glasses and an easy, slightly dishevelled charm. Born in 1961, a grandchild of eastern European refugees from the Holocaust, he was educated at a rough north London comprehensive but won an exhibition to read history at Cambridge. He bunked off lectures, took up the trumpet and joined a band, the Ashtrays, though the big break never came. "I had to do a reckoning with who I was," he told me. "I thought for a long time that it was women I was interested in. But I was having a lot of anxiety: I thought it was because I was with the wrong women. Eventually I realised it was political work and academic engagement that made me happy. I had made a simple category error."

He took on various academic posts and wrote a book called Unnecessary Suffering, about the Solidarity movement in Poland. In 1995, he took a job at Guildhall University, where he made friends with Campbell-Taylor, the chaplain. Campbell-Taylor first properly encountered the corporation through a campaign called Spitalfields Market Under Threat (Smut), confronting a property development on the fringes of the City. They were astonished to find that the corporation was a big shareholder in the development - a public authority acting as a private company, outside its jurisdiction. They resolved to find out more. Campbell-Taylor got himself elected as a City ward councillor, running on a campaign to save a school. Once inside, he discovered the matter that would take him to the law lords."
 source for the above quote

Here is a typical article from 2013
"Revolt against the City of London Mediaeval Elders"

Here are the Occupy Movement's Demands:

• An end to business and corporate block-votes in all council elections, which can be used to outvote local residents.

• Abolition of existing "secrecy practices" within the City, and total and transparent reform of its institutions to end corporate tax evasion.

• The decommissioning of the City of London police with officers being brought under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan police force.

• Abolition of the offices of Lord Mayor of London, the Sheriffs and the Aldermen.

• And a truth and reconciliation commission to examine corruption within the City and its institutions.

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Monday, 10 February 2014

Portsoken All-Age Early Intervention Review

The document for the March 2013 Portsoken All-Age early Intervention Review can be read here.

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Committee at Middlesex Street

The Committee at Middlesex Street is still up and running and working on behalf of the residents.

I recently attended a meeting, and found the atmosphere amicable, efficient, constructive and fully transparent.

In due course, a general meeting will be held so that a new constitution can be adopted.

At this time of change on the Estate, with the next phase of building works in the pipeline, it is particularly important that the residents are represented by a strong committee.

The residents'committees on Mansell Street Estate and Middlesex Street Estate are important parts of our local democracy here in Portsoken Ward.

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Sunday, 9 February 2014

The History of our Ward is Fascinating.

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Portsoken Ward was sold to the City of London during the reign of Elizabeth the First.

It has its own charters, unlike any other ward in the City of London, as it was originally an independent borough, and is mentioned separately in various of the City's Charters.

This excerpt is from Gurdon, "The History of the High Court of Parliament", pg230.

What was the original 'constitution' of Portsoken, before it became part of the City?
Ballard - British Borough Charters:

Madox, Firma Burgi, pg 30

What we now call the ward-mote is the surviving remnant of this ancient constitution.

4 Feb 1531 - The Soke was surrendered to King Henry VIII by Nicholas Hancock, Alderman and last Prior of Holy Trinity.
Did this terminate the franchise? (Jacon and Tomlins, Law Dictionary, 1809, vide 'Franchise".
The Franchise of the Cnighten Gild had been created 'de novo'. it did not become extinct when it was surrendered to the King. As we can see, it was subsequently gifted to Sir Thomas Audley, who became Alderman.

Henry gave it to Sir Thomas Audley.

While most of the City’s attempts to undermine the liberties’ franchises were
fruitless, it met with notable success in the precinct of Christ Church (or Holy Trinity
Priory) at Aldgate. In February 1532 Holy Trinity became the first London religious
house to meet its end under Henry VIII.107 For centuries Holy Trinity’s prior had been ex
officio alderman of the City’s Portsoken Ward.108 When the site passed to Lord Chancellor
Thomas Audley in April 1534, the City encountered the stubbornness of post-monastic
owners for the first time. Audley claimed the rights of the prior both within the precinct
and in the civic government.
 The aldermen finally paid Audley two hundred marks in
1537 to relinquish his claim to the aldermanship.
 After Audley’s 1544 death, the precinct passed to his daughter Margaret, who in 1558 married Thomas Howard, fourth duke of Norfolk.
 Norfolk made the precinct his London home for a period, from which it earned a third name, Duke’s Place. Norfolk also purchased the London Charterhouse from Lord North in 1565 and renamed it Howard House.

 After Norfolk’s conviction for treason in 1572, his sons were allowed to keep much of the
estate. Philip (later earl of Arundel) took Howard House while his brother Thomas (later
earl of Suffolk) inherited Duke’s Place. Philip was convicted of treason and attainted in
April 1589, but Thomas survived to become ‘one of the most extravagant courtiers at
the extravagant Jacobean court.’1
 In January 1586 several aldermen met with him ‘towchinge the sale of Christe Churche within Allgate’,which finally occurred in July 1592. Afterwards, the Corporation of London governed Duke’s Place as landlord and as holder of the precincts’ franchises, but it had to wait until 1608 for its jurisdiction there
to be regularised. (5 CLRO Let Bk AB, fo 106)

Audley died April 30 1554, and his daughter Margaret inherited the Soke, which passed to her husband,  Thomas Duke of Norfolk.

He was beheaded June 2, 15th Elizabeth.

His eldest son, Thomas Howard, earl of Suffolk, inherited the Soke.

On July 21st, 34th Elizabeth, he sold the Soke (Franchise) to the Mayor, Commonality and Citizens of London.

On the question of whether any liberties remain for Citizens of London, see McBain,2013, International Law Research, Volume 2, number 1, 2013. The answer is, essentially, "no".

Items collected that throw light on wardmote powers:

The Power of Wardmote to Appoint Committees:

The wardmote appears to have had the power to appoint a committee, for carrying out a particular function within the ward. Here is an example from Farringdon Without, from 1789:

Here is another, explicit request that committees be appointed at the wardmote, dated 1803: These committees were to comprise common councilmen and inhabitants, jointly.

The two excerpts below are from an article by Toulmin Smith, mid 1800'

Note:  From the article quoted above, there appear to be Acts of Common Council that allow the occupiers to requisition the wardmote to meet.

Here is yet another reference to a local ward based committee involved in local governance of the ward (1771)

Yet another precedent for a wardmote to appoint a committee, is found in the 1792 wardmote of Cripplegate Without.

A more recent example comes from the Wardmote of Farringdon Without, 1859, where a committee appointed by the wardmote in the previous year delivered its findings to the wardmote:

Ward Precincts:

Municipal Ward Precincts have administrative function in the ward.

All the wards of the City are divided into administrative areas, which are known as Precincts. These are small areas, and among other things, the residents of each precinct originally elected the men of the Wardmote Inquest every year, according to their ancient Custom. This was a local government committee that investigated nuisances and annoyances in the ward, and reported to the Court of Wardmote.

The names of our Precinct areas are: 
The Barrs Precinct, (The cluster of buildings south of Aldgate High street, up to the edge of the Guinness Estate, comprises this precinct)
Covent Garden Precinct, (Modern Middlesex Street Estate is located here)
 High Street Precinct, (The Central traffic island containing the church, tube station, etc is located here)
 Hounsditch Precinct, (John Cass School is all that remains of this precinct)
and Tower Hill Precinct. (Mansell Street Estate is located here)

Each Precinct can have a committee for local governance of the Ward, headed up by a Common Councilman.

 Due to adjustments in the Ward Boundaries, some of these Precincts no longer fall inside the Ward. Professor Derek Keene, the Leverhulme Professor at the Centre for Metropolitan history, has reconstructed the boundaries of the precincts, using old tax records.

These ward precinct meetings were more regular occurences than the annual warmote: They could, apparently, directly petition Common Council, as we see from the Court of Common Council minutes from December 4 1794:

The City's Economy is Apparently Recovering

Some good news: more than 3,300 new jobs were created in the City of London in January 2014. This is the highest total in 18 months.

Hopefully this is further evidence of a genuine sustained recovery, and not a short-term fluctuation.

The full press release from Astbury Marsden can be read here.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Bedroom Tax - proposed resolution for the Court of Wardmote

The Court of Wardmote is mostly a formality  - however, unlike residents' association meetings, etc, resolutions passed at Wardmote must come before the Court of Aldermen (here styled the Grand Court of Wardmote). The Court of Wardmote has a few powers of appointment of ward officers, but its other powers have either been abolished, or are dormant.

 It is doubtful that a wardmote resolution has any legal power, however, passing a resolution is one of the few ways the inhabitants of the Ward can directly influence the City's governance, by literally putting their views 'on the agenda' of Common Council.

A resolution on the "Bedroom Tax" at Wardmote is, I believe, a worthwhile thing to propose:

The 'Green Box' and Medical Facilities in the Ward also have their origin in resolutions of Wardmote, where the inhabitants requested the Common Council carry out a feasability study, and report back to the Wardmote. The Portsoken Working Group sub-committee was also set up in 2011, as a direct result of resolutions passed at our wardmote, and subsequently discussed at the Grand Court of Wardmote.

Here is my proposed resolution for the forthcoming wardmote: The precise wording may change, after consultation with other parties.

The inhabitants of the Ward of Portsoken in Court of Wardmote assembled,  resolve:
" That Grand Court of Wardmote of the City of London  convey to Court of Common Council the expressed desire of this wardmote, that residential spare bedrooms in properties in the Ward of Portsoken, until now designated 'bedrooms',  should be re-assigned formally as 'rooms of unspecified use' by the Common Council, in order that the penalty mentioned in the Welfare Reform Act 2012, popularly known as the 'spare bedroom tax' may not be applied to such 'spare' rooms in the Ward of Portsoken.

Note - the Union of Parishes Act (1907) abolished all the Parish Councils and Vestries in the City, and their powers were taken over by the Court of Common Council. 
This act explicitly excluded the Courts of Wardmote. 

"Nothing in this Act shall affect the division of the city of London into wards or the holding of the wardmote in any of such wards or the appointment of ward clerks beadles and other officers in the said wards."

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Portsoken Ward - The Tolerant Ward

In Portsoken, we pride ourselves on our open and accepting village atmosphere, where everyone rubs along together - Muslims, Christians, Jews and Atheists, gay people and straight people and everyone in between.

 Portsoken ward has historically been a friendly place for minorities, and one of the earliest battles for minority rights in the UK was fought right here in our ward, following the election of David Salomans in 1835 in Aldgate, and then again in Portsoken as Alderman in 1844,  on both of which occasions the election was declared void by the Court of Alderman, as Salomans was a Jew, and refused to swear the oath as a Christian. This lead to the law being changed in 1845, so that oaths for municipal office in the UK could be sworn without the words 'on the faith of a Christian'.

Salomans was eventually returned as MP for Greenwich in 1851, and that lead to an incident in the House of Commons, where once again he refused to take the oath as a Christian. This lead to the law being changed.

I have only once been subject to an anti-semitic incident in the Portsoken area - a few weeks back, walking through Devonshire Square, a couple laddish types told me that the 'crematorium was that way'. Charming. I had sharp words with them, and moved on.

There is no place in our ward for Anti-Muslim, Anti-Jewish or Anti-Gay agitation. Portsoken has a centuries-long history of tolerance.

Portsoken should be a bye-word for openness, tolerance and mutual respect for all the various minorities who inhabit our ward.

If you experience a personal attack because of your race, religion or sexuality, and feel you want to do something about it, you can either contact one of your Common Councilmen,or one of the organisations below:

Tell Mama - for anti-Muslim incidents

The CST - for anti-Jewish incidents

Stonewall - for anti-Gay incidents

Bishopsgate Police Station (open 24 hrs) 0207 601 2606

Printed and promoted by Evan Philip Millner of 19b Petticoat Tower, Petticoat Square, City of London E1 7EF

Monday, 3 February 2014

Tenants and Residents Associations, Clubs and Societies in the Ward of Portsoken

The bulk of the inhabitants of the ward fall under the umbrella of three residents' associations:

Residents' Associations
1. The Residents' Association at the Guinness Estate on Mansell Street. AERA

2. The Residents' Association at Middlesex Street Estate. MSERA

3. The Long Leaseholders' Association at Middlesex Street Estate (as yet unrecognised by the Corporation of London) the PSLA

4. In addition, there exists an association that represents the tenants who lease commercial premises from the Corporation of London at Middlesex Street.

The Chairpersons of these various associations form an important part of the local government of the ward.

The Ward Council of Portsoken  is formed of six Members who are elected by the Ward's electors at the Court of Wardmote:
1. Alderman Sir Michael David Bear B.Sc.
E-mail: Michael.bear@hammerson.com
Tel: 07778 218 725
2. Deputy Henry Llewellyn Michael Jones
E-mail: Henry.jones@cityoflondon.gov.uk
Tel: 07976 421 966
3. Councilman: Delis Regis
E-mail: Delis.regis@cityoflondon.gov.uk
Tel: 07786 278270
4. Councilman: John William Fletcher B.Sc
E-mail: COL-EB-TC@cityoflondon.gov.uk
Tel: 07177 526 853
5. Councilman: vacant
6. Ward Beadle: Mr Stan Brown.

In addition to these, we have:
1.The Portsoken Ward Club
2. The Bengali Ladies' Group
3. A conjoint club for the Elderly (Wingate Golden Oldies and 3 Score Club),
4. Two Gardening Clubs
5. The Portsoken Militia
and a number of other smaller clubs and societies.

Ward Church: St Botolphs' Without Aldgate

A bit of history: The Ward Church has functioned as the religious heart of the Ward for centuries, and the names of our Aldermen and Councilmen are still posted there. The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, Bevis Marks, has, since the time of Oliver Cromwell, also had a close association with Portsoken Ward, despite, curiously, being situate in the adjacent Ward of Aldgate: This is an ancient association - in the year 1266, the Alderman of Portsoken, Thomas Wynborne, was given the role of protector of the Jews in the City of London.

The synagogue at one time was obligated to send 3 men to the local (presumably Portsoken) militia.

Printed and promoted by Evan Philip Millner of 19b Petticoat Tower, Petticoat Square, City of London E1 7EF

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Petticoat Lane Market

Traders on the Lane are concerned about the continued  fall-off of trade - just as the "High Street" across England is suffering, so is the Lane here on the edge of Portsoken Ward, and for similar reasons. However, Spitalfields Market has successfully reversed this trend, and is buzzing with life.

It is small consolation that problems with the Lane have been ongoing for over a century. Neglect has continued, and is not helped by the Lane's position smack bang on border with Tower Hamlets. Progress means effective cross-borough co-operation, something that has not always been in ready supply.

The Petticoat  Lane Experience needs serious upgrading - and more thought put into it - for example,  a wider selection of vendors, no block booking of multiple stalls by the same vendor - which leads to a boring Sunday Market  offering a narrow range of clothes, a market that fewer and fewer people want to visit. Punters are voting with their feet, and the world-famous market, while it will doubtless soldier on if left to continue as is, is in a pretty sorry state. The Lane now lacks character, and it is only character, an experience to 'buy into', something unique to distinguish the Lane from similar markets elsewhere, that will perhaps begin to lure the punters back.

The Lane  needs promotion and proper marketing. Things cannot be left to go on as they currently are, if we want to see this ancient clothes market prosper into the future.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Some links related to the upcoming Portsoken 2014 Election

The following links may (or may not) inform.

They relate to Rev Taylor-Campbell and Andre Walker, who are  both  standing for election in Portsoken Ward in 2014.

Both gentlemen stood in other wards in the 2013 City elections, but were not elected.

William Taylor

William Taylor joined a group called the City Reform Group, associated with the Occupy movement. He used to be local to the Ward, and was heavily involved in campaigning against Michael Bear and the redevelopment of Spitalfields market. This lead to his involvement in the City's politics.
His expressed agenda is Reform of the City - in my view here in Portsoken we have more immediate problems - and we need Common Councilmen who will focus on residential matters, not politics. 

Lord Glasman  first brought Taylor to stand in Portsoken back in 2001.

"When did you become involved with 'citizen organising'?Lord Glasman: That really begins roundabout 1999. A very important person in this story is the chaplain of the university, William Taylor. I was writing my book on Catholic soc­ial thought, which he'd never heard of, and we used to talk often together and a real friendship developed." 

Lord Glasman was Best Man at William Taylor's wedding.  The two are very closely connected.

Together, Glasman and Taylor worked on the 'City of London Campaign'. To understand this campaign, this link to the New Statesman is instructive:

Does William Taylor's appearance in our ward mark the next phase of  Lord Glasman's move against the Corporation of London? Is this going to be of any benefit to the residents of Portsoken?

William has the necessary intellect to take on the Corporation, and is competent. He could be an excellent Common Councilman for the ward. However, residents need to ask, will the battles William fights in the City, be battles  for Portsoken, or for some other more abstract agenda?

The Occupy Faith Blog contains a statement written by the Multifaith and Belief Working Group of Occupy London that discusses William Taylor's association with Occupy in the previous 2013 City of London Election, as William stood for election in a different ward, but was not elected. It is instructive to follow through the links at the bottom of this blog entry.

William Taylor backed Bryn Phillips in the 2013 election  writing an article in support of his candidacy. Never mind that Bryn had been arrested for violent disorder and burglary. Bryn was a 'breath of fresh air. Here is Guido Fawkes on events on election day.

Which leads me on to a  peculiar circumstance, and our next candidate. The web address for Andre Walker's campaign in Cheap Ward  from 2013 now redirects (at time of writing 02-02-14) to Guido Fawkes' blog. (see footnotes). This is perhaps not unsurprising, as Harry Cole, the News Editor for that blog, also works for the TURC, where Andre Walker is Press Officer (see below).

Andre Walker 

Why is Andre Walker campaigning in Portsoken? The answer to this mystery, is that Andre Walker was introduced to the ward by Councilman John Fletcher some weeks ago. John Fletcher showed him around the ward, and introduced him to a few people in the ward as he walked around.  John has clearly stated that he is not advocating people vote for Walker as a candidate, but was just doing the gentlemanly thing of showing Andre around, as he had been asked. You can see John's note about this at the foot of this post.

Andre Walker has a page on Wikipedia. He also has a blog that is unrelated to Portsoken issues.

Andre stood unsuccessfully for Common Council in 2013, as a candidate for the Young Britons Foundation, a conservative  group. He came last in Cheap Ward, but is trying again this year in Portsoken. Here is part of his campaign from last year.

What is the Young Briton's Foundation?
The Young Britons’ Foundation is a non-partisan, not-for-profit educational, research and training organisation that promotes conservatism in schools, colleges and universities.

Andre Walker  is currently listed as a speaker on the Young Britons' Foundation website.

Here is an informative article about last year's election by Josh Neicho in the Evening Standard.

Andre Walker  also has had a few articles written about him in the National Press
Here is an article from the Daily Telegraph. Here Hugh Muir in 'The Guardian' adds more on the same topic.

There is another blog post about Andre Walker here, that discusses unusual activity on his Twitter account. Another blog discusses this issue here.

Andre is involved in the Trade Union Reform Campaign. According to its website, Andre Walker currently works as their Press Officer. What is the group? An informative article about the TURC and who runs it can be found here.  Another article is here. The Chairman of TURC, who is Andre Walker's boss, is Aidan Burley. Burley was sacked from government by Cameron for hiring a Nazi uniform. He retained his post at TURC however. 

The CEO of TURC is Mark Clarke, who lost his seat on Common Council in the 2013 elections (Ward of Farringdon Within).

Some more Andre Walker thoughts and statements are quoted here.

Hugh Muir in his Diary, has a few pointed remarks to make about TURC, about halfway down the column of this diary entry.

In addition to his work at TURC, Andre Walker is aide to David Morris MP 

He has another job - writing up Prime Ministers' Questions for 'Trending Central'

Andre Walker on gay rights:
"Andre Walker, an aide to the Tory vice-chairman Andrew Rosindell, said on a BBC radio show last week that gay marriages were "deeply offensive to religious people" and that homosexuality should be "tolerated but not encouraged".
"I'm saying that a gay relationship is inferior to a heterosexual relationship. I'm sorry if that offends people but sooner or later that was going to come through," he said."
This quote is extracted from here. It also is discussed here, and originally was reported in the 'Sunday Times'.

  Interestingly, according to the 2004 Census results, a breakdown of the data shows that Brighton and the City of London are the only areas in the UK where more than one per cent of the resident population lives in a homosexual relationship. 
In 2012 OFcom revoked the Iranian government's TV licence. Andre Walker was opposed to this.   Andre Walker has appeared on Iranian State TV several times in the past including - 20 August 2011 and 21 May 2011. 

In 2010 Andre was active in the campaign to unseat  Sadiq Khan MP. 
Type cheapward.com into Google and you get a redirect from the url cheapward.com which was used by Andre Walker in last year's election, and this now leads directly (on 2-2-14)  to the Guido Fawkes blog, namely to this page:

The Guido Fawkes blog is closely associated with the TURC