Tower Hamlets Mayoral selection hustings – calling on the Tories to give us the Work Programme to sort out

photo speaking hustingsLast night was the first hustings of the mayoral selection, held at Queen Mary university.   We had some good conversations – I’m looking forward to the next two.

In my speech I called on the Tory government to let local authorities get on with running the Work programme, because the Tory government has failed to get people into work.

I said:

“I have a clear vision for how we create a shared future for Tower Hamlets.

A greater focus on adult skills, demanding that the Tories give the Work Programme to the council to run, because this government has have failed in getting people into work.

Holding business to account – money flows through Tower Hamlets – Crossrail, Canary Wharf, the Olympics on our doorstep – but local people see little benefit.  This must change”.

Currently Newham’s Workplace programme gets three times the number of people into work that the Tower Hamlets equivalent Skillsmatch manages – that’s excluding all Olympics related jobs.  There are great local voluntary organisations having a real impact supporting people into work – as a council we need to map what’s already available, challenge business and back up the voluntary sector to do more, then sort out our own provision.  There’s so much more we can do working with sector skills councils and employers to develop qualification frameworks that work for us, and will equip our people for work in sectors that are likely to see future growth.

With the Tories attacking the support available to our communities in Tower Hamlets there is an urgency to getting people into work.  We are surrounded by economic opportunity, but our people aren’t seeing the benefits.  I’m standing in this selection to change that.

photo candidates

For more detail of the failure of the Tory Work programme see:,2012-11-27

Tower Hamlets New Generation councillors back Rachael

Cllr John Pierce, like me, a by election winner, was one of my earliest supporters, and I am glad to release his statement today about why he’s backing me. Cllrs Amy Whitelock and Carlo Gibbs, along with John Pierce, are amongst the leading lights of Tower Hamlets Labour’s new generation of councillors. They, with me, want to take Tower Hamlets forward.

Their statements are below.

Councillor Amy Whitelock, Mile End and Globe Town ward and Children’s Services Scrutiny Chair

“I’m backing Rachael because she is passionate about challenging inequality and will strive to make Tower Hamlets a fairer place. Through her campaigning to end violence against women and to stop the EDL march, Rachael has always been a powerful and vocal champion for equality. Canvassing together over the past 5 years, I’ve also seen how effective Rachael is on the doorstep, connecting with voters personally and convincing them Labour is the party that listens. We need a high turnout to win in 2014 and Rachael can deliver that.”

Councillor John Pierce, Weavers ward

“I’m backing Rachael because she’s the only candidate with a plan to tackle the unacceptable levels of child poverty in Tower Hamlets. Too many children live in shockingly poor housing and I know Rachael is committed to delivering affordable, decent housing for all. And by focusing on improving skills and getting local people into work, Rachael will ensure Tower Hamlets residents benefit from the expected economic growth in the borough.”

Councillor Carlo Gibbs, Bethnal Green North ward and Labour’s Finance Lead

“I’m backing Rachael because she will fight against the unfair cuts from this Conservative/Lib Dem Government and tackle the financial black hole left by the current Mayor. Her experience of working in partnership with local residents, businesses, charities and community groups is exactly what we need to lead us through these challenging economic times.”

See the other supporters announced so far at

3 Tower Hamlets Labour Leaders back Rachael

Today I am announcing that Julia Mainwaring, Denise Jones and Michael Keith, three previous leaders of Tower Hamlets council, are backing me to be the next Labour Mayor for Tower Hamlets.
Leading Tower Hamlets is a big job – I am proud to have three people who have done that job before uniting to back me to win back the council and move Tower Hamlets forward.

Julia Mainwaring Labour Councillor from 1994 – 2006 and Leader of the Council from 1998 -99, said:

“I am backing Rachael because she is intelligent, honest and hardworking.
She has the strength and determination to take on all the challenges that come with the role of Mayor .
Rachael will ensure that integrity becomes the top priority for Tower Hamlets politics.
It will be good to see a strong woman providing leadership in this Borough.”

Prof. Michael Keith, former Councillor and Leader of Tower Hamlets Council from 1999 – 2001 and 2005-2006

Michael Keith said: “I am happy to support Rachael Saunders for the mayor of Tower Hamlets. She is the best candidate for the job; the most likely to beat Lutfur Rahman and the most plausible candidate to unite the borough. Rachael would be a mayor who is energetic, committed and talented. She is someone who is equally comfortable on Brick Lane or in a board room in Canary Wharf. Rachael’s drive and determination makes her the best choice to move Tower Hamlets forward.”

Councillor Denise Jones, St Katharine’s and Wapping ward, Labour’s Lead for Culture and former Leader of Tower Hamlets Council from 2006-2008 said:

“I’m supporting Rachael for Mayor of Tower Hamlets because I think she has the skills to unite the borough again. She’s a woman whose strengths lie in her commitment to public service. Like many of us, she wants to restore the council’s reputation to the ‘Excellent’ rating that was achieved by previous Labour Leaders until 2008 and has a well worked out vision for the future. Since she was elected as a councillor Rachael has worked extremely hard to make improvements in her ward and is popular with her constituents. She’s a warm person and a good communicator with anyone from all backgrounds. She has more than 17 years experience campaigning for Labour policies and is leading on the local campaign to save the NHS and on health issues for all residents in the borough. I recommend you meet her and listen to what she has to say – then vote for Rachael!”

To keep up to date with my supporters as they are declared click here:

Taxis, redundant social workers – Tower Hamlets Budget Full Council

Last night at Budget Full Council I spoke about the silent crisis in social care in Tower Hamlets.

Previous budgets have relied on savings from “service transformation” plans in social care to balance the books, ie there have been plans to deliver services differently to save money. The “transformation” hasn’t happened – page 19 of the council’s budget pack says:

“A number of savings put forward in 2014/15 are not being progressed at this time due to issues encountered during implementation. These relate in the main to the Adults Health and Wellbeing and Children Schools and Families and amount to £2.89m in 2013/14. Alternative savings have been put forward”.

No information has been given about these “alternative savings”. Taking close to three million pounds out of social care budgets can’t be done easily, especially when cuts are being made because planned savings are off track.

Then in this year’s budget the Independent Mayor proposed to save a further £3.5 million through “vacancy management” – expecting the directorate covering social care to make do with a 5% cut to their staffing budget.

I went to speak to the staff side trade unions about the impact these cuts would have. They told me that social workers are already under pressure, with admin support cut in previous budget rounds and restructuring and voluntary redundancy meaning that social workers are already on their knees, with huge case loads. Workers with previously unblemished records are being taken through capability procedures because their caseload is too much to cope with.

They spoke about the bitterness that social workers feel when they sit in increasingly cramped offices, on the phone fighting for desperately needed resources for the vulnerable families they care for, and look out the window and see the Mayoral Mercedes gliding out of Mulberry Place (other council leaders happily use public transport) and watch the Mayor’s office rapidly expanding in size and cost, stuffed with over paid advisors.

Some of the Mayor’s spending proposals sound great. Some of the best are the cheapest – a grant to the Unite organising centre at St George’s Town hall is less than one advisors salary, but could be transformative, as the partnership seeks to tackle our adult skills gap.

Last night’s budget spending spree is paid for off the backs of the most vulnerable. The “efficiency savings” that the Mayor cites in his press releases are cuts to social care staffing budgets.

There is a failed leadership in the Town Hall when the Independent Mayor and his cabinet are sailing around in the borough in tax payer funded taxis and chauffeur driven Mercedes, and social workers are under pressure to take voluntary redundancy.

The people making those decisions are doing all they can to hide that truth. Overpaid advisors release nonsense press releases, scrutiny committees ask for information they are never given, and all the rhetoric and bombast from the Town Hall is intended to distract from a real public debate about the future of our borough.

Times are tough for many in Tower Hamlets, and will get harder for many in April when the Tory government benefit cuts hit. We have the highest child poverty in the UK.

At the same time we have the highest economic growth potential in London, and Tower Hamlets is full of people and organisations with so much to contribute to bringing hope and jobs to the borough.

What local people need is honesty about the scale of the challenges and opportunities we face, a public conversation about solutions and open transparent decision making to renew trust in our politics and create a shared future for the people of Tower Hamlets.

The Tower Hamlets NHS Pledge

Cllr Rachael Saunders, Sam Everington GP and Jim Fitzpatrick MP at the
launch of the Tower Hamlets NHS Pledge
On the 13th February I, alongside Dr Sam Everington, the chair of the Tower Hamlets clinical commissioning group and Jim Fitzpatrick MP, with Labour members and local people, launched the Tower Hamlets NHS Pledge. 
This was an important moment.  Andy Burnham and I launched our consultation on the NHS Pledge in November, and I’ve been talking to members and residents about what matters to them since.  This Pledge is the outcome. 
The NHS Pledge demonstrates our commitment to shared values at a difficult time for the NHS.  Activists, councillors and our MPs stood together with GPs and health professionals in opposition to the Tory top down NHS reorganisation.  Now, we stand together again, united around a core set of values.  At a time of change for the NHS, with £50 million of cuts to make locally, we will continue to campaign together to protect our health services from this Conservative led government and to improve the physical, social and mental health of the people of Tower Hamlets. 
NHS Pledge Tower Hamlets
We are committed to working together to improve the physical, social and mental health of the people of Tower Hamlets.  We intend to narrow the health inequalities between Tower Hamlets and the UK, and between the communities and areas of Tower Hamlets. 
Protect NHS founding values. 
The NHS was born under a Labour government rooted in the east end of London.  We will protect an NHS that is free at the point of use, resisting charging and restrictions.   
Promote collaboration over competition
Primary and acute care providers, commissioners and the local authority must combine resources to achieve person centred health and social care.   We will not allow artificial targets or market pressures to undermine patient care.  Mental health must be brought to the heart of the NHS, with parity of esteem with other services.  Innovation in public health will be driven through broad collaboration between the NHS, local authority, voluntary sector and local people. 
Guard Against Longer Waits
Waiting times across the UK have already increased by 25% since the General Election.  We are committed to maintaining Labour’s waiting standards for cancer care, operations and A&E and will seek to develop standards for talking therapies.   
Prevent postcode lotteries
The availability of services in Tower Hamlets must be on the basis of need.     Decision making must be transparent. 
Put patients before profits. 
We will stand against any introduction of financial incentives that could lead to sub optimal care in the NHS. 
We believe in putting people before profits, valuing our workforce.

Launch of Tower Hamlets NHS Pledge

In November 2012 Andy Burnham came to Tower Hamlets to launch a conversation with local people about a Tower Hamlets NHS Pledge. 
I’ve been leading that consultation, and have had many conversations with activists and residents about their priorities for our NHS. 
I will be launching the Tower Hamlets NHS Pledge on Wednesday at 7.30pm, with Dr Sam Everington GP, the chair of the Tower Hamlets clinical commissioning group.  GPs in Tower Hamlets stood with us in opposition to the damaging Conservative top down reorganisation of the NHS.  Now we stand together again to protect local health services and to improve the physical, social and mental health of the people of Tower Hamlets.  
Do come along if you can – full info here:

Keep the NHS Public

Cllr Rachael Saunders with Dr Anna Livingstone

On Wednesday I spoke at a Keep the NHS Public rally alongside local GPs, an ambulance worker, a mental health worker and others, as well as a campaigner from Lewisham. I spoke about the importance of a united coalition to protect our NHS. We stood together against the Tory legislation. Now we have to stand together to protect our local services.

On the 13th February we are launching the Tower Hamlets NHS Pledge. Andy Burnham came to Tower Hamlets in December to launch a consultation on the priorities that local people have for our NHS. On the 13th February I will stand alongside Sam Everington GP, the chair of our clinical commissioning group, to launch our local pledge, setting out the principles we unite on to protect local services.

Do come, sign up below: