Stephen Timms MP answers your questions

I met up with MP for East Ham Stephen Timms and put some of your questions to him.

We spoke about some of the most common and pressing concerns that businesses in Newham have with regard to the Olympics – having to change delivery times, transport problems, lack of communication from the council, and a relaxation of Sunday Trading laws for example.

He told me that he’s pushing parliament to allow businesses located near the Olympic Park who have incurred costs to be able to claim compensation.

Click below to find out how and to watch our discussion…..

‘If the ground goes, we go’ – the family business that wont survive without West Ham

Nathan’s Pie and Eels Shop is a family run business that’s been in East Ham for over 75 years. And it’s been at it’s current location on Barking Road with the Boleyn Ground just behind it since 1974.

Photo: Rosebud 23/flickr

The shop does most of its trade on football days when West Ham United play at home. And hungry fans queuing for an hour to sit down to traditional pie and mash or jellied eels is a sight to behold.

Upton Park Stadium, as it is otherwise known, has a total capacity of over 35,000. That’s a lot of hungry customers!

Photo: Not Forgotten/flickr

But West Ham might be leaving the grounds they’ve been in since 1904.

Owner Richard Nathan

They are among 4 bidders seeking to move into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford after the Games are over. The club had looked set to seal the deal last year, but this fell through after talks with prospective partners Newham Council collapsed in October, following complaints from Tottenham, Orient and another anonymous bidder. This time OPLC, the Olympic Park Legacy Company has offered the stadium on a 99 year lease basis rather than a permanent one.

Owner Richard Nathan told me that if West Ham goes, Nathan’s is going too. He said that the area has changed dramatically over the last few years. And with most of his regular customers moving away, it’s the match days (20 in a year if West Ham is doing well) that provide the bulk of his trade.

He has other sites in mind – but they’re definitely not in Newham.

When I asked him how the Olympic Games will affect his business, Richard told me that he thinks that despite serving up quintessentially East London fare, he’s too far away from the Olympic Stadium to benefit from increased footfall.

But for Richard and other businesses on Barking Road, the West Ham move is a much bigger concern, and they’re watching the progress of the bid with baited breath.

Ask MP Stephen Timms

We will be interviewing MP for East Ham Stephen Timms next week.

Photo:ICAEW Press Office/flickr

He has been MP for the area since 1994, having previously been Labour’s MP for Newham North East. He’s the shadow minister for employment and was formerly financial secretary to the treasury.

Stephen Timms was elected to Newham Council in 1984 and chaired the Planning Committee from 1987 to 1990, before serving as Leader of the Council from 1990 to 1994.

He has lived in the East London Borough of Newham since 1979. He has concentrated on regeneration in East London – including regeneration partnerships, the Thames Gateway initiative, Stratford international station on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and the Olympics in Newham in 2012.

We plan to put some of the concerns we have heard from small business owners and workers over the course of the last few months to him. These include the effect on businesses of road closures, VIP lanes and congestion, compulsory purchase orders, problems of forced labour, how changes to Sunday Trading laws could affect businesses and much more.

If you have any questions you would like us to ask, please tweet us on @2012newham or leave a comment on this site……

We look forward to hearing from you!

A night at Newham Town Hall

Last month, Newham Council decided to freeze council tax for the fourth year in a row. This came as no surprise as most London councils are doing similar due to central government grants. This means that properties in tax band D will continue to pay £945.63 as they have done since 2008/9.

What was different for me was how they did it.

Living across the river in Charlton I often attend Greenwich Council meetings. Fifty-two councillors in the large council chamber at Woolwich Town Hall. Eleven opposition members ensure debate is apparent if not particularly constructive.

When Greenwich Council set their council tax freeze the meeting lasted two hours. Newham’s lasted fifteen minutes.

I arrived at the town hall with five minutes to spare. I walked into the reception area and waited with about fifteen members of the public. It reached 8 o’clock and large man with a torch welcomed us. He was dressed from head to toe in navy blue and resembled a night watchman.

He proceeded to lead the fifteen of us outside the main doors and down a long dark path. We walked into the heart of the town hall past the rubbish bins and reached some steps. I felt like I was being transported back to the 1950’s as we climbed the four flights to the top.

Waiting for me was the council chamber, half the size of Woolwich Town Hall’s. It seemed in serious need of a lick of paint.

There were twenty chairs in the public gallery. I shuffled along and found a seat which seemed to be covered in a fine layer of dust.

As soon as the meeting started it had finished. Newham has sixty Labour councillors and no opposition. Sir Robin Wales naturally did most of the talking. Declaring at one stage that he was “proud of how Newham has created in its own Olympic legacy with little help from the government”. No members asked any questions but we had a good bit of back-slapping as Councillor Gavin Pearson stood up to tell everyone how well the council had performed in the face of central government cuts.

No local journalists were present, despite the importance of the meeting, although this freedom of information request might explain more.

After the meeting was over there was confusion in the public gallery. I turned to my left and realised that my fellow onlookers were trying to get the attention of councillors.

After further investigation, I found out they were all teachers from nearby Langdon School. They told me that new parking charges would mean they would have to pay an extra £300 a year. They had come on mass to the town hall and had formally submitted a question to ask the council. Due to what seemed like an administration error this question had been left off the agenda.

This short meeting didn’t strike me as being a perfect example of democracy. Having said that, these councillors are obviously democratically elected. I just wonder if the good people of Newham realise how little debate actually goes on within the walls of the town hall.

‘London’s secret weapon’ – and how the Olympics is inspiring the business people of the future

Much has been said and written about the effects, both positive and negative, of the Olympic Games on the borough of Newham in particular, and on London and the country as a whole.

But where did it all begin?

Cast your mind back to a time when we didn’t know whether London, Paris, Madrid, Moscow or New York would host the event. In July 2005 Lord Sebastian Coe led a delegation to Singapore to make its final presentation to the International Olympic Committee. Amoung the delegation was 30 young people from East London.

They have since been described as ‘London’s Secret Weapon’.

This is an extract from Sebastian Coe’s speech:

Why are so many here, taking the place of businessmen and politicians? It’s because we’re serious about inspiring young people. Each one of them comes from East London, from the communities who will be touched directly by our Games.

Most of these young people were from Langdon School. It’s a designated sports college, located just 5 km from the Olympic Site.

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I talked to Jan Ward, assistant head teacher at the school. She told me how the students were a key part of the Olympic bid and how, in turn the Olympics is inspiring their futures….

Here’s what some of the students themselves felt about the experience:

Year 8 boy:

Going to Singapore made me learn how much effort was being put into the London bid. It showed me how competitive the bid to get the Olympics was. All the cities that tried to win the bid all tried really hard. Paris has bid a couple of times before, just like London. However, we won! It will mean lots of jobs for the area, and it will be good for businesses and tourism. It will also give people the opportunity to see so many sports right here in London. I can’t wait to be there.

Year 8 girl:

From the experience of going to Singapore, we learnt a lot about other people and about ourselves. We learnt just what we are capable of.  Being there gave us a lot of confidence and encouragement to do more for sports in the future. Not only was this a phenomenal experience but it has also opened up doors to other things. All young people will benefit from this as we will now have the Olympics and it will encourage a lot more people to get involved. It will also open up a lot for careers as well as for sports. All the hard work that went into it really did  pay off. So Thank you for giving me this fantastic experience.

A training venue for Taekwondo 

This summer Langdon School will break up early on July 13th and hand over its facilities to London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG). The school will then become a training venue for taekwondo competitors. Up to 128 athletes will train at the venue every day and LOCOG expects that there will be 12 buses each day transporting the athletes to and from the Olympic village.

But they do not anticipate any disruption to local businesses which they say will be accessible as usual. The school will receive around £50,000 in return and will use the funds for infrastructure upgrading to roadways and fencing and also some redecoration for the sports hall.