Havering Council Meeting: 17th November, 2021

Havering’s councillors love eulogies. Nothing deters them. David Amess, the murdered Southend MP, brought Ron Ower to his feet. Ron lived near Amess in Forest Gate as a boy and councillors were pleased to hear about that. Eulogies are supposed to celebrate the deceased, not provide a platform for ego massage.1 They should be given a maximum of 10 minutes to stop time-wasting.

The Climate Change Emergency was the principal item of business. The Council’s plan is huge and lacks detail. It emerged on 10th November and Ray Morgon and Keith Darvill said it needed scrutiny. It didn’t get it and was brought to Council seven days later. Thirteen minutes of argy-bargy ensued. Bizarrely, this means scrutiny will happen after agreement.

Councillors in speaking order:2

Joshua Chapman (44 mins) remarked Climate Change meant “an organisational and cultural change” for the entire Council.

Jeff Tucker (50) said the plan was basically a directive from Boris Johnson, aka ‘The Big Boss’.

Keith Darvill (56) reviewed his previous objections in a telling way.

Viddy Persaud (59) likes the way officers work hard.

Robert Benham (1:01) sold his Jaguar so the Emergency is virtually over.

Ray Morgon (1:03) described the Plan as a ‘massive wish list’, uncosted and ‘all talk’.

Stephanie Nunn (1:07) was scathing, describing it as ‘uncosted’ and ‘rubbish’.

Roger Ramsey (1:08) claimed ‘existing budgets’ would take the strain. He had a straight face proving what an old pro he is.

Michael Deon Burton (1:11) said opposition members were petty for objecting.

Dilip Patel (1:14) wants to spend a lot of money for the future of children.

Barry Mugglestone (1:16) said they hadn’t got the basics right

Chris Wilkins (1:17) said the 2019 report had been ignored.

Jeff Tucker (1:18) spoke movingly about out-of-order lights in Rainham churchyard.

Damian White (1:23) was in combative mode. He claimed councillors hadn’t read the report and the oft quoted £500,000 cost didn’t exist. Surprisingly he added it might cost £10 million. He said Overview and Scrutiny committees were hopeless and never produced anything for the Cabinet to discuss. He’s becoming a class act.

Keith Darvill, Ray Morgon and Damian White should have a round table discussion and get on with substantive decision-making. The drivel that punctuated this debate demonstrates that leadership is called for. Amazingly, Michael Deon Burton was quite right. There is too much pettiness and this matter is too important for that.

Notes

1 The finest recent example of a eulogy was by Roger Ramsey about Del Smith. Havering’s Council Meeting: 1st September, 2021 (part one) – Politics in Havering

2 For the webcast go to Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) All the times relate to this source

Keith Prince vs Damian White: 2022 Conservative Leadership Contest

Keith is a Conservative superstar1 and fancies himself. He was re-elected a GLA Member in May, 2021 but it was a joyless victory. Sadiq Khan’s London Labour are tightening their grip and that’s the kiss of death for Keith who wants to be a mover-and-shaker. Keith now has his sights on Havering. The Havering Conservative Leadership election, 2022, could be blood-thirsty.

Political ironies pile up. Damian is vacating his seat in Squirrels Heath and moving to Havering-Atte-Bower. And who steps into Squirrels Heath ward? Keith!

Damian shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s politically adroit and built a coalition in 2018 out of nothing. For four years he’s used Special Responsibility Allowances2 for the only electorate that matters: Conservative councillors. But that was then. What can Keith offer?

It takes a very brave Leader to re-jig allowances when it’s going to cost councillors money. Neither are going to do that. So the election depends on other things.And what might they be?

Damian has amiable contempt for his colleagues, which he conceals badly. The Bob Perry revelations about possible gerrymandering showed Damian’s unpleasant side. He’s also keen on councillors pulling their weight when it comes to campaigning. This is unpopular with elderly Conservatives who want a quiet life. Perhaps Keith will be more understanding?

This is predicated on the Conservatives forming an administration in 2022, which is far from certain. Keith could find himself rejected by Squirrels Heath’s voters and nursing even more thwarted ambitions.

Notes

1 Keith was a Havering councillor 1990-5; a Redbridge councillor 2003-18 (Leader 2009-14); GLA member 2016-present. He was re-elected in 2021 with a majority of 15,327

2 2020 Members Allowances final.pdf (havering.gov.uk) For the allowances of individual councillors see Havering Members Allowances 2018-19 summary This is slightly out of date but gives a reasonable idea.

Emerson Park Ward: a Crumbling Conservative Stronghold

Background

Emerson Park is Hornchurch’s only Conservative ward. It’s a wealthy area with ten million pound plus houses for sale.1 It’s the fiefdom of Roger Ramsey who’s a veteran councillor He’s smooth, clever, wealthy, massively experienced, a fluent speaker and everything modern Conservatives aren’t. But Emerson Park Conservatives are vulnerable.

Discussion

Over the years, the Conservatives have lost safe seats in Upminster and Cranham to huge Resident Association (RA) majorities.2 The signs are Emerson Park is going the same way. Roger’s holding it together with his personal vote. He’s done 50+ years but even superstars prefer life without whining colleagues. He’s cabinet member for finance, which is demanding even for eager beavers.

The 2014 election brought UKIP into the equation. One seat was won by a man who wasn’t a Conservative, which was his only virtue. In 2018 three Conservatives were elected but the RAs failed by four votes to win a seat. This is an ultra marginal outcome.

2018 was a good year for Conservatives but Roger Ramsey’s stronghold turned ultra marginal. The next four years weren’t been kind to the Conservatives. Bob Perry left and reinvented himself as a ferocious anti-Conservative campaigner in Squirrels Heath after the gerrymandering scandal.

The Conservatives have been in power 20 years. Their image is tarnished by their use of Special Responsibility Allowances which don’t look warranted. Emerson Park Conservatives may well pay the price in 2022.

Notes

1 Correct on 1st November 2021

2 Linda Hawthorn has a 2000 vote majority over the Conservatives in Upminster, which is unbelievable in local elections. Local elections | Election results | The London Borough Of Havering

Havering’s 2022 Election: Is Damian White Doomed?

Local elections are usually a verdict on mid-term governments, except in east Havering where Resident Associations (RAs) dominate.

Damian knows that in a ‘good’ year, 20181, he didn’t get a majority. He used nifty political footwork and created a majority from renegade RAs.2 Damian looks doomed in 2022 because of his reliance on Romford’s heartlands.3 Romford Conservatives have massive majorities and look impregnable. This is an illusion. No-one survives a vicious political swing, as John Major found out in 1997.

Brexit isn’t the Promised Land of milk and honey. The details will be forgotten by the electorate but there’s a feeling it’s been badly handled. Who’d have expected foreign HGV drivers to be imported to rescue Christmas? And the hospitality sector is reeling from staff shortages.

Damian is facingnational tax increases four weeks before the election. Inflation is rocketing, with electric, gas and petrol leading the way, closely followed by the price of poultry. And saving rates are a joke. Poor council finances means tax increases will be substantial. More trivially, after 20 years the electorate’s bored with Conservatives.

2022 should produce an RA majority but they might implode 2018 style.4 Damian Lazarus White wants to be Leader and knows how to get it. Is there an RA who’s as keen on power as Damian?

Isn’t Havering fascinating?

Notes

1 Jeremy Corbyn was the Labour Leader and Brexit was the Promised Land.

2 See Damian White’s Political Arithmetic – Politics in Havering

3 Local Elections 2018 | The London Borough Of Havering

4 What will happen to the Harold Wood 3? Can anyone work with Jeff Tucker? These are just two significant challenges for an in-coming RA Administration

Havering’s Children and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee, 30th September, 2021

This is an appalling committee. Judith Holt, the chair, is hapless. Her fellow councillors drift along, sleepily ignorant of what scrutiny might mean. Item 7 Schools Quality Assurance demanded intellectual curiosity.1 Officers didn’t do much ducking-and-diving to escape embarrassment as the committee didn’t lay a finger on them.

Havering’s primary sector is good, unlike the secondary academies but councillors weren’t interested. The chair didn’t provide a steer to officers about expectations and so that’s what they got. No discussion about the fragile academy sector which is systematically under-achieving. A feeble protest from the chair was brushed aside.

Four academies are failing,2 but the officers won’t name names. A lay member asked about St Edwards and was fobbed off.

Academies are unaccountable, arrogant businesses.3

Hall Mead is a high achieving academy. Examining their statistics shows Pupil Premium student outcomes are weak.4 They receive £166,000 for vulnerable students, which doesn’t level-up achievement. Hall Mead fails these students in exactly the way that the other 17 academies do. Draconian discipline codes and an obsession on school uniform is a failed strategy. Perhaps they should try something else?

Because this committee is pathetic, crucial issues like Item 7 escape scrutiny. It’s obvious the council’s policy is to avoid damaging the reputations of academies. Or, to put it another way, they prefer that children receive an inferior education. In secret.

Notes

1 From 1 hour 5 minutes to the end. The presentation lasts until 1:16. Councillors Misir, Lawal, Carol Smith, Durdin and Whitney. Gillian Ford bogs herself down in petty detail. The committee relies entirely on lay members for scrutiny.

2 See Havering’s Academies’ GCSE Results, 2021 – Politics in Havering

3 The Loxford Trust runs Abbs Cross Academy amongst others. The CEO gets £260,000 p.a. Loxford 2020ACCSWIZ.cvw (loxfordtrust.s3.amazonaws.com) p70 The Harris Trust has many schools with one in Rainham. It has four staff earning between £200,000 and £460,000. 1222_H0147_Signed accounts 2020_Buzz.pdf (harrisfederation.s3.amazonaws.com) p49

4 Hall Mead School – GOV.UK – Find and compare schools in England (compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk) The statistics are buried in the summary but can be found at Disadvantaged children.

Havering’s Academies’ GCSE Results, 2021

The government…announced that it would not publish school or college level results data on Compare school and college performance (also commonly referred to as school and college performance tables) in autumn 2020 or autumn 2021, and that this data would not be used to hold schools and colleges to account (my emphasis)1

 

Havering’s academies awarded GCSEs in 2020 and 2021 through teacher assessment. Most of them interpreted the government’s position to mean they shouldn’t publish detailed GCSE results. As a consequence there’s no celebration of achievement or any accountability to students, parents and the people of Havering.

Abbs Cross: their most recent data for 2021 is devoid of content. The summary statement for 2021 is an obfuscation. What does “9-4 English and Maths 78%” mean? This entirely undifferentiated statement is meaningless. Likewise, “9-4 Best English.”2 They do say Pupil Premium students achieve significantly less well than the rest.

Marshalls Park: their most recent data is from 2019.3 They’ve published a subject list and grades without saying how many students sat each subject. This makes the data ambiguous. Bizarrely the Romford Recorder published a report on Marshall Park’s 2021 results even though the academy didn’t. The most successful students were female in a ratio of 9:4.

Coopers Coburn: is Havering’s Gold Standard for transparency in publishing their 2021 GCSE results.4 Their data is intelligible and unambiguous. Each subject is listed with the numbers of students and the outcome grade-by-grade.

Coopers Coburn demonstrate how the 2021 exam results should be published. They are the template and inspiration for the other 17 academies.

Conclusion

Havering’s Academiescoast’ by dodging scrutiny.5 They specialise in misinformation and fluffy generalisations. Positive and negative feedback is avoided by concealing GCSE results. Havering’s academies are excellent at bombastic drivel. Harris Academy Rainham said this 2020,We are….immensely proud of our students for the results they achieved and wish them well with the next stage of their education.”6 Needless to relate there wasn’t any data supporting this statement.

Havering’s academies are doomed to repeat the same failed teaching strategies each year as they don’t engage with the actuality of their performance. Public accountability is an essential part of the learning process that all organisations must undertake as part of constant improvement.

 

Addendum: research note

Research for this blog was done on October 10th 2021. Eleven Academy websites were reviewed and there was a consistent theme of shifty evasion about GCSE results.

Notes

1 Coronavirus (COVID-19): school and college accountability 2021/22 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

2 Achievement and Performance | Abbs Cross The academy costs £5.14 million per year Abbs Cross Academy and Arts College – Schools Financial Benchmarking – GOV.UK (schools-financial-benchmarking.service.gov.uk)

3 Subject-breakdown.pdf (marshallspark.org.uk) Surprisingly there was a press release which sort-of summarised the 2021 results GCSE Results 2021: Romford school shares students results | Romford Recorder The academy costs £6.24 million per year Marshalls Park Academy – Schools Financial Benchmarking – GOV.UK (schools-financial-benchmarking.service.gov.uk)

4 GCSE-Results-2021.pdf (cooperscoborn.org.uk) The academy costs £9.39 million per year The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School – Schools Financial Benchmarking – GOV.UK (schools-financial-benchmarking.service.gov.uk)

5 Havering and Redbridge: A Tale of Two Boroughs – Politics in Havering

6 Examinations Results (Not Current) – Harris Academy Rainham (harrisrainham.org.uk) The academy costs £6.16 million per year Harris Academy Rainham – Schools Financial Benchmarking – GOV.UK (schools-financial-benchmarking.service.gov.uk)

Langtons Gardens, Hornchurch

Langtons Gardens doesn’t have Havering Park’s magnificent redwood trees, or the broad acres of Hornchurch Country Park. Nor does it have a deer park with vistas across Havering that are so good they could be prescribed by your GP. Right in the centre of Hornchurch the gardens are the beating heart of the urban area.

 

The Georgian house in Langtons Gardens. It’s now a wedding venue

Covid-19 has taught us about the critical importance of parks. Havering is blessed. Langtons Gardens are part of Havering’s historical legacy, which is very easy to take for granted.1 The magnificent gardens are maintained at a very high level, which is essential because they are under constant pressure by thousands of visitors. The garden’s constant improvement has seen a cafe opened and public toilets.

The lake in Langtons Gardens with the Georgian house in the background

Langtons has a wonderful Georgian house and Orangery. These are picture perfect for wedding photos. The gardens include lawns, flowerbeds and a large lake. The pathways are smooth and readily accessible by everyone. There are numerous benches. After Fielders Field was opened there are more extensive walks. In the summer Fielders Field is used for cricket. Young children use the woodland adventure playground.

The woodland play area for children

Langtons Gardens are a delight and a credit to Havering Council.

Note

1 Langtons Gardens, Havering | GoParksLondon

Havering’s Ambulance Service is being ‘Reformed’

Four ambulance stations in north-east London – Romford, Ilford, Hornchurch and Becontree – have already been earmarked for closure in the first stage of the plan. They will be replaced by one new ambulance deployment centre in Romford in Havering.1

If all trusts implement the practice of the best, the scope for greater productivity is around £200 million by 2021.2

Havering’s the test bed of the reorganisation of London’s ambulance service following Lord Carter’s review. His review was embraced by the London Ambulance Service (LAS) in 20183 with ‘hubs’ the first of which will be in Romford. Lord Carter’s survey found great differences between ambulance services. He created a ‘Top Down’ package of solutions. LAS comment,

we plan to transform our estate to better serve our patients and to improve our staff and volunteers’ places of work. This will also reduce our costs and be better for the environment.” (my emphasis)

The reduction of costs is LAS’s principal motivation with anything else a bonus.

Political context matters. The government’s Levelling Up policy is led by two multi-millionaires. They’re former Hedge Fund manager Rishi Sunak (Chancellor) and former Deutsche Bank managing director Sajid Javid (Health). Both regard the NHS as Socialism. LAS savings will be sent to the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, the worst service in England.

The LAS over-achieves in bombastic self-regard,

In focusing on providing the best possible working environment for our staff and volunteers through these changes, we hope this will enable us to achieve our vision of being a first-class employer and a world class ambulance service for our patients across London. (my emphasis)

We’ve heard it all before and there’s a credibility gap as big as the Grand Canyon to overcome.

Notes

1 Fears over NHS plan to close all local ambulance stations in London | NHS | The Guardian

2 Lord Carter’s review of ambulance services in England Operational_productivity_and_performance_NHS_Ambulance_Trusts_final.pdf (england.nhs.uk)

Cost of the English ambulance service £1.78bn NHS Ambulance Services (nao.org.uk)

3 Our estates vision – London Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Havering Council and Religious Diversity

Romford Town ward has been reconfigured into two: St Alban’s and St Edward’s. The question is why were they given names linked to the Church of England, which is a minority sect within the Christian community? Although 65% of British people say they’re Christian, overwhelmingly they’re semi-detached.

The Church of England isn’t pre-eminent in Havering but the Council has named three wards after their churches. Historical importance can justify St Andrew’s and St Edward’s but St Alban’s?3 It’s devoid of stellar historical qualities and is anonymous.

The Council’s Diversity Policy aims at creating harmonious communities. Objective three of the policy document says they are Promoting Community Relations, diversity and Civic Pride.4 If the Council is determined to celebrate Faith in their ward names, why not chose a Roman Catholic church who have the largest congregations. Or a Baptist church or maybe, a Methodist? There’s also a non-Christian synagogue in the ward. The Council has shown a tragic lack of imagination and commitment to religious diversity.

It’s a moot point whether a secular Council should ostentatiously celebrate Faith. Most councillors are, statistically, non-believers or non-communicant Christians, which deepens the puzzle.

Which Back to the Future Conservative powered this decision through?

Notes

1 Romford Town Demographics (Havering, England) (localstats.co.uk)

2 Faith Survey | Christianity in the UK

3 The Parish of St. Alban Protomartyr – A Church Near You This church community is a minority sect being Anglo-Catholic.

4 2. 2019 – 20 Equalities Champion Annual reportv2.pdf (havering.gov.uk)

Havering’s Council Meeting: 1st September, 2021 (part two)

After the tributes to Del Smith,1 Damian White resumed orchestrated time-wasting. His Leader’s speech (26 minutes)2 outlined his achievements, which includes future Olympians. Havering’s problems are someone else’s fault but he’s resolving them. There was, amazingly, criticism of the government funding regime thrown in by accident.

Damian’s time-wasting (45) had 20 minutes of ‘reports’ by committee chairs. Nothing was said apart from Judith Holt waffling energetically.

At Question Time, (I:05) Paul Middleton attracted support as councillors barracked Damian for drivel. Osman Dervish had a number of questions and he read the answers quite well. Joshua Chapman likes statistics and Paul McGeary got a lot of them. Ray Morgon discovered Damian doesn’t understand that an uncharged service isn’t free. Many dim GCSE students make the same mistake.  Perhaps Roger Ramsey can explain? Graham Williamson asked about CCTV. He could have asked about a £5m capital programme for an uncosted project.3

Damian doesn’t like debates and the only item discussed was the loss of experienced staff. He missed Ray Morgon, Linda Hawthorne, Barry Mugglestone’s point. They were discussing a specific department and its loss of experienced staff, not the Council as a whole. Keith Darvill said the debate was a waste of time. He was wrong. For Damian the debate4 was an opportunity to not discuss lethal cladding on blocks of flats.

Game, Set and Match to Damian: the anti-scrutiny Leader.

Notes

1 Havering’s Council Meeting: 1st September, 2021 (part one) – Politics in Havering

2 Times relate to this webcast Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

3 I discuss this here Havering’s Crime and Disorder Committee, 5th August 2021 – Politics in Havering

4 Robert Benham went as far as discussing the national shortage of HGV drivers