Havering’s Multitude of Committees: a Recipe for Poor Governance?

Havering council is awash with committees. There are nineteen altogether, some of which have no other function than providing allowances. What’s needed is a spring clean. This would create savings and make Havering a better governed borough.

The Highways Advisory Committee has been scheduled for 22 meetings since 3rd July 2018. Nine have been cancelled. Brian Eagling, the chair, is a workaholic compared to Michael Deon Burton and Ciaran White. They have chaired the Joint Venture Working Party. Since 22 October, 2018 it’s proceeded at a leisurely pace with three further meetings up to 14th January, 2020. The pay £7,650. Interestingly in Appendix A they state the Working Party’s ‘Meetings will be held at approximately two month intervals’.
Michael and Ciaran are Damian’s cronies.

Ciaran receives more than £2500 an hour. Yet another White, Michael, is chair of the Governance Committee. His committee has had 22 meetings since May 2018: six have been cancelled. He receives £7,650 but as he’s a fellow member for Damian’s ward that’s to be expected.

A clear out of these committees, and others, is long overdue. The fact is allowances look like quasi-bribery (though not with Bob Perry) isn’t the only story. Councillors are wasting their time. Vital issues are buried and the topic opportunity is moribund, notwithstanding the fact that it’s a necessary part of the councillors’ job to enhance their communities.

Source

https://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/s31355/Appendix%20-%20JV%20WP%20Appendix%20A.pdf

Modern drug dealing in Havering

Looking over the estate from my fifth floor balcony I’ve seen many changes. In the last five or six years, a new drugs dealing phenomenon has begun. It began quite unobtrusively. Cars came briefly onto the estate. A quick chat, handshake and that was that. Now it’s far more sophisticated. Those with money and know-how, simply ring their drug dealer and within minutes cars they’re on the estate. Their windows are down and like a “Pizza Delivery” within seconds the deal is done, and they’re gone.

Dialling 101 to report these incidents is slow. There’s a considerable delay before speaking to a police assistant. Fifteen or twenty minutes of hanging on isn’t unusual. By which time the drugs deal has been done. It’s very dispiriting and you lose all motivation. Phoning 999 leaves you trying to explain that it’s a ‘sort’ of emergency. This is because there’s a focus on drug related violence not social degradation. They’re not interested and you’ve wasted everybody’s time.

More concerning is who are the customers of the drug dealers. Young and old and adults with children: no boundaries. Tellingly those same people often want to ‘borrow’ money using spurious excuses. Needless to say, “The school of hard knocks,” soon teaches you not to subsidise addicts even if they do have children.

The rights or wrongs of addiction, are debatable. But it seems, with the reduction in police numbers and Community Police since 2010, drug dealers know they’ll have to be very unlucky to get caught. Austerity has emboldened criminals and brutalised our society. And it’s not just on my estate: it’s Gidea Park, Harold Wood and every other place in Havering. It might not be as blatant as it is on my estate but it’s everywhere.

Mike

Source

Crime and Disorder committee 30th October 2019 minutes on 27th February 2020 https://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/g6201/Printed%20minutes%2027th-Feb-2020%2019.00%20Crime%20Disorder%20Sub-%20Committee.pdf?T=1 item 19

Are Havering’s Home-Schooled Children ‘at risk’?

Although being educated is compulsory up to 16 years old, going to school isn’t. The Government permits home schooling. Home-schooling is incomprehensible as a viable educational option. It’s not only a scandal it’s a form of child abuse. Let’s reduce that statement to this: would you have been happy to have spent your entire childhood with one or both of your parents?
Children are protected from maverick teachers by the National Curriculum. British state education is well-funded, well-organised and coherent. Britain allocates £75 billion for secondary and primary schools. This investment is subverted by this:-
Section 7 Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age –
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable— (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. (my emphasis)
Any parent, regardless of skill, aptitude or personality, can ‘educate’ their child. Home-schooling parents can ignore the National Curriculum, the gold standard for education in Britain. Havering Council has no right to monitor parental performance (section 7 above). Home education puts children at risk of obsessive parents, slacker parents and incompetent parents. Teaching the National Curriculum demands expertise and a huge amount of resources which aren’t available to parents home-schooling their children. Parents are neither professionally mentored or given in-service training. GCSE is optional. There’s no way anyone can know whether a home schooled child is benefiting from an efficient education.
Sixty thousand home schooled children in Britain are at risk from their parents. Does Havering know how many live in the borough? How extraordinary! Home education is a child protection issue where the child’s rights have been destroyed by dogma. Once home-schooling is redefined as a possible ‘at risk’ scenario then Havering can access their closed world.
ADDENDUM (1)
Obsessive parents who devote themselves to developing their children are not necessarily abusive unless you regard absolute control as abuse, which I do. Ruth Lawrence (b. 1971), a mathematics prodigy, was home schooled with her first experience of formal education being Oxford University, which she entered at twelve years old. A stellar Oxford career was rounded off by her Ph.D when she was eighteen. Her obsessive father is now estranged from Ruth, who has repudiated home-schooling for her own four children. Another famous and tragic example of home education is that of Dylan Seabridge (b. 2003). He died, aged eight, from scurvy. His parents, quite legitimately, barred access to Dylan from both medical and educational authorities and deny that he died from scurvy. Notwithstanding the controversy about Dylan’s death, there is no evidence that section 7 (see above) was adhered to in any shape or form. Meanwhile there are a further 59,998 children about whom nothing is known.
ADDENDUM (2)
Dylan Seabridge wasn’t murdered by his parents but there seems little doubt that he could have thrived in a different family situation. There are about 210 deaths, which “were actually attributable to abuse or neglect”, which demonstrates that being ‘a parent’ isn’t a guarantee of love and kindliness. This is the situation which is current in the UK and the government have legalised total, unmonitored control by parents.
Sources
For the cost of state education see https://www.statista.com/statistics/298910/united-kingdom-uk-public-sector-expenditure-education/
For the 1996 Education Act see http://www.educationengland.org.uk/documents/acts/1996-education-act.pdf
For monitoring home schooled children see http://www.home-education.org.uk/faq-carers.htm that home education was not in itself a risk factor for abuse or neglect – but recommended creating a register of home-schooled children to keep tabs on them.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3682048/Boy-eight-died-SCURVY-denied-basic-human-rights-parents-refused-let-doctor.html
*****See https://www.nspcc.org.uk/globalassets/documents/information-service/factsheet-child-killings-england-wales-homicide-statistics.pdf pp2-3 2014

The Irresistible Importance of Brian Eagling: the Deputy Mayor’s Allowance for 2020-1

The government understands that political patronage is corrosive and they’ve written guidance to police it. This guidance has been trounced by Damian White. The Resident Association’s Brian Eagling will be deputy mayor during 2020-1 and Damian has doubled his Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA). It’s legal but is it wise?
The deputy mayor’s allowance has more than doubled to £8,160. Responsibilities haven’t doubled. The 2018 SRA for the deputy mayor was £4,000 and is now increased to £8,160. This is blatant political patronage, reflecting Brian’s importance to the maintenance of Damian’s administration. He, and the other Harold Wood councillors, are vital to the stability of Damian’s minority administration. Following Bob Perry’s defection, their importance has increased.
It’s politically convenient to throw money at Brian but is this what taxpayers want? The guidance has a touching belief in the acuity of the local electorate:- “the local electorate may rightly question whether this was justified.” In the real world of local politics everyone knows that SRAs are not a major issue beyond a world weary, ‘They’re only in it for themselves’. Damian’s cute move isn’t illegal and won’t be costly in the 2022 election. Its ultimate cost is that that it’s destroying the public’s faith in politicians and democracy itself.
Brian has been a brilliant mayor in the past and will be in his mayoral year but doubling his allowance is an outrageous use of taxpayers’ money for political advantage.
Sources
For the government’s guidance see https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/employment-income-manual/eim65960

For the 2018 Havering scheme for Special Responsibility Allowances see https://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/s30715/Report%20-%20Special%20Responsibility%20Allowances.pdf
For the 2020 scheme see https://www.time1075.net/156776-2-havering-councillors-allowances-increase/

Havering’s Conservatives Defy the Government’s Guidance on Overview and Scrutiny Committees

Havering is close to being a failing council. The Leader of the Council was unequivocal when he linked appointments as chair to campaigning. This is political patronage. Political patronage is explicitly barred by the government’s statutory guidance. (Addenda One and Two)

Conservative councillors are either being paid to campaign or offered an inducement to campaign. The Special Responsibility Allowance is significant. The council defies statutory guidance outlawing control by the executive, “as a tool of political patronage, and the committee itself should remember its statutory purpose when carrying out its work.” (Addendum Two) In brief, both sides are in breach of the guidance. The one for offering political patronage and the other for accepting it.

Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny committees are a farce. Chairs don’t understand their statutory role and the council’s policies don’t have robust scrutiny. This isn’t a formality. A critical friend usually improves policies. Bob Perry’s resignation, 26th February 2020, wouldn’t have happened if car parking charges had been subject to alternative viewpoints.

The council’s statutory officers are asleep at the wheel. Damian White, the Leader of the Council, is drifting into regrettable territory. Statutory officers must take evidence and rule on the events at the Conservative party group meeting of January 14th 2020.

Addendum One: The Conservative group meeting of 14th January 2020
Councillor [Bob] Perry said: “We were at a meeting on January 14th, Councillor White shouted across the room that we all had to go out and go campaigning or we would lose our chairmanship position.
“Someone then stated ‘what happens if you are ill?’. Councillor White responded by saying that they had to bring in a doctor’s note.

Addendum Two: The government’s statutory guidance is unequivocal***
“This is statutory guidance from the Ministry of …. Local Government. Local authorities …. must have regard to it when exercising their functions. The phrase ‘must have regard’, when used in this context, does not mean that the sections of statutory guidance have to be followed in every detail, but that they should be followed unless there is a good reason not to in a particular case.” p5

“The executive should not try to exercise control over the work of the scrutiny committee. This could be direct, e.g. by purporting to ‘order’ scrutiny to look at, or not look at, certain issues, or indirect, e.g. through the use of the whip or as a tool of political patronage, and the committee itself should remember its statutory purpose when carrying out its work.” p9

“…reports and recommendations being submitted to full Council rather than solely to the executive. (my emphasis) Scrutiny should decide when it would be appropriate to submit reports for wider debate in this way, taking into account the relevance of reports to full Council business, as well as full Council’s capacity to consider and respond in a timely manner. Such reports would supplement the annual report to full Council on scrutiny’s activities and raise awareness of ongoing work.”
pp10-1

Sources
Bob Perry’s poor performance is identified here https://havering.blog/2019/08/31/haverings-overview-and-scrutiny-sub-committees-a-weakness/
and that of Maggie Themistocli here https://havering.blog/2019/12/14/haverings-environment-overview-and-scrutiny-committee-3rd-december-2019/
For Bob Perry’s statement see https://thehaveringdaily.co.uk/2020/02/14/conservative-councillor-calls-council-leader-a-bully/
For the government’s statutory guidance see the whole document here https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/800048/Statutory_Guidance_on_Overview_and_Scrutiny_in_Local_and_Combined_Authorities.pdf

Conservative Councillors are a Drag on Damian White

Councillor Perry said: “We were at a meeting on January 14th, Councillor White shouted across the room that we all had to go out and go campaigning or we would lose our chairmanship position.
“Someone then stated ‘what happens if you are ill?’. Councillor White responded by saying that they had to bring in a doctor’s note.
“He is a bully and a dictator. I have decided to speak out and go public in the hope that the Conservative Party decide to do something about this.” [quoted in Havering Daily]

Damian is an ambitious politician whose power base in Romford is the Conservative party in Havering. There’s very little chance that any political party will get a majority in Havering so he must wheel-and-deal to shore up support. He’s done this rather well. Michael Deon Burton, Sally Miller and John Mylod were bagged and three Harold Wood councillors completed the set.

Damian looks to the future. And the future is bleak. The political stability of Havering is creaking. Romford is under attack from both east and west. Following Andrew Rosindell’s techniques, Damian has introduced constant campaigning to, ‘get the Conservative message’ across. This aspiration is unlikely to succeed.

About a quarter of Damian’s group are over 70, including Bob. They like sitting around, picking up allowances and pontificating. They don’t want to ‘do’ anything. Bob is outraged that he’s expected to work. Bob thinks that turning up at meetings is pretty good going.

Source

Conservative councillor calls council leader a bully.