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.”
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