It’s really hectic at work just now; my postbag is heavier than ever – not that I’m complaining! It is good to know that people are finding me when they want to.
There is so much I could choose to write about this week that it is hard to decide on just one subject. It’s been Fair-trade Fortnight, Apprenticeship Week, (in which I visited Newham College and Tube Lines – talking to apprentices), International Women’s Day and World Book Day. All three issues are close to my heart and I could have written about any one of them. Regular readers will know what a passion I have for libraries and books. I had a truly enjoyable hour or so in Strafford’s library, talking about service improvements and how more people than ever are using the library. I was impressed to discover there are homework clubs in every library and six book clubs dotted around the borough.
I was tempted to use this column to focus on the speech made by the Prime Minister to the American Congress and my very enjoyable evening with Newham Chamber of Commerce. Stephen, Jim and I listened with great interest to the experiences of our local businesses and agreed to meet more regularly, in these challenging times. The positive attitude of the Chamber was inspiring.
I could also mention the meetings I have had over the past two weeks about the Olympic Park, but this is a subject I will come back to, after I have held a coffee morning with residents of Stratford. Any resident of West Ham Constituency wanting to come to this coffee morning should contact me on the numbers below.
And to top it all, I was called to speak in Prime Ministers Questions to ask a question of Harriet Harman as Gordon was in Washington. I got called in the nosiest spot for a back-bencher, just after William Hague had batted for the Tories and before Vince Cable got to his feet for the Lib Dems. I had to bellow to make myself heard above the racket. I raised again the plight of our people living in poor, expensive and over-crowded housing conditions, criticising the Housing strategy unveiled by Boris, which will cut the percentage of new-build homes for rent in the capital.
There are 52,250 families in London in expensive, often poor quality, temporary accommodation and 353,130 on Council waiting lists. Families in temporary accommodation are shunted from property to property, as their lease expires, completely disrupting family life and education. The London Mayor wants to see fewer homes built for rent and more shared ownership schemes, where tenants can part-purchase houses from housing associations. I am not against these schemes at all. They can, and do, help a few of my constituents, but in London we have a surplus of these homes, as ordinary Londoners do not earn enough to be able to buy them.
What is the point of making more shared ownership schemes available, if they are unaffordable to London citizens in desperate need of an affordable home? I do hope Boris listens and responds to these concerns. Too many lives, many of them young, will continue to be blighted if he does not.