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

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

  1. Interesting article but I can say with hand on heart that I did not accept political patronage when I accepted the chairmanship the C&d sub committee .
    I suspect that Damian white appointed me as to be seen to balance out the committee’s between the two associations.

    Since my election in 2018 I have never campaigned anywhere for the Romford association or the administration, the only campaigning I have done was for Julia Lopez MP in the Hornchurch & Upminster constituency.
    On January the 14th at the conservative group meeting was the first time Damian White ordered me, an others, to campaign on Monday evenings for the Assembly Member Keith Prince, I was the one to raise the question of being ill and was told to bring a Dr’s letter.
    I made it clear to Damian White that I would not be taking part in this and subsequently lodged a complaint to the party chairman directly and pointed out that in my opinion this was a misuse of public funds and I found the instructions to campaign under threat was bullying.
    This fell on deaf ears which brought about my resignation of the conservative whip. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I never have nor ever will be bought. Any loyalty I have given to the party was by my choice and not for financial gain. Please put the record straight on your blog. Also for the record I have never been a friend of Damian White as I have always viewed him as a very unscrupulous individual.

    Cllr Bob Perry

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    1. Thank you for this important comment.

      The challenge that was presented by your comment in the Havering Daily is that that it resonated with what I’d heard elsewhere. The reason I have called for an investigation of the events of the 14th Jan. 2020 is that things that are said in the heat of the moment may not represent an actual working position. The O/S committees are not fulfilling their statutory role. Cabinet members don’t discuss policy at committee and policy isn’t challenged. To challenge a policy is not to be ‘oppositional’ it’s to be a critical friend. White leads an minority administration which would, I’d have thought, encourage him to listen to alternative and viable viewpoints.

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