Havering Council’s Backbenchers: A Plan for Reform

Havering’s backbenchers are deliberately disempowered. This is especially true for administration councillors. Councillors should take part in debate as MPs do in parliament. This is important because the cabinet has identikit members endorsing each other’s biases.

Last week’s council meeting1 was farcical. Conservative councillors sulked and no motions were proposed.2 Twenty-three administration backbenchers were gagged by procedure.

Worse! Councillors who are brushed off, a frequent occurrence, can’t reply. Next question please!

Cabinet makes political choices, which need debate. For example, motorists are pre-eminent in Havering. Any policy limiting their supposed rights is attacked with ferocity. Some claims are uncritically endorsed by cabinet biases.4 Alternatively, the children’s lobby is weak, as are groups associated with volunteering and the environment. Policy making based on who shouts loudest is the politics of the playground bully. Transparent debate is the only way good policies emerge.

Reform Propositions

  • Every cabinet member should attend an hour meeting quarterly with one of the two Scrutiny and Overview committees
  • Question Time should be open to all councillors like parliament’s
  • A follow-up question should be permitted with the Mayor’s approval
  • The Leader should attend a separate committee with both Scrutiny and Overview chairs and deputies along with a further four councillors quarterly.

Notes

1 Havering Council Meeting, 18th January 2023 – Politics in Havering

2 It was ever thus. When the Conservatives were in administration their Overview and Scrutiny committees were an embarrassment

3 Campaign to save Elm Park children’s centre. – The Havering Daily

4 The ULEZ debate is a prime example. In Havering public health is trumped by the right of motorists to pollute with impunity. If readers wish to check their address for levels of pollution go to addresspollution.org – Search (bing.com) The figures relate to WHO statistics.

Havering Council Meeting, 18th January 2023

Damian ‘Mick Lynch’ White has led the Romford Conservatives out on strike. The ‘Winter of Discontent’ suits his mood.1 He doesn’t like his loss of allowances and powerlessness. This council meeting, for the first time ever, had no opposition motions. The Mayor was so pleased he nearly did a jig at the end of the meeting.

The Conservatives used Question Time instead of motions.2 As is traditional, only innocuous questions are asked. Question One by David Taylor concerned Romford FC. This has appeared every four years since the 1990s and isn’t a Number One question. Subsequently David tried a knockabout on London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s consultation methods but he doesn’t know how to land a glove. (We all missed Keith Prince’s ranting passion.)

Question Four about bin collection was pure Martin Goode gold. Barry Mugglestone was brusque. He pointed out Havering doesn’t revolve round Harold Wood. Question Five from Viddy Persaud became a trick question when Barry explained the difference between standing water and floods. She isn’t quick on her feet and floundered. Question 14 on homelessness was complex. Neither the question nor answer were understandable but Joshua Chapman and Paul McGeary seemed happy: so that’s alright then!

But were Havering’s taxpayers served well? Not at all. It was disgraceful.

Notes

1 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) You can watch the meeting here

2 Council Questions 18th January 2023.pdf (havering.gov.uk) All 14 questions are here

Havering’s Budget and Rishi Sunak: 2023

Havering’s lobbying of government is the triumph of hope over experience. Underfunding is government policy and is non-negotiable. Havering’s Chief Executive said some ministers treated him as if he was a ‘naughty school boy’ (@ 23minutes).1 Naughty like Oliver Twist was ‘naughty’.

Havering’s government grant: 2010 = £70 million

Havering’s government grant: 2023 = £1.9 million

Havering’s outcome:…………….: 2023 = Minus £68.1 million

The Bank of England calculates inflation for 2010-22 at 41.7%2

Therefore 2010’s £70 million in 2022 £££s is £99.18 million

Havering’s real 2023 shortfall is £97.28 million

Rishi’s policies rely on people not understanding maths3

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Cabinet Meeting: 14th December 2022

The meeting had a budget item. Councillors are listed in speaking order. (Starting @ 14 minutes)

Chris Wilkins: Chris doesn’t understand strategy or analysis. His jog-trot through ‘highlights’ was unhelpful.

Gillian Ford: She injected passion into her speech and cares.

Oscar Ford: He gave a very competent review of an OFSTED report. Unfortunately, the prevailing counsel of despair continued.

Graham Williamson: He was woefully unprepared for a budget meeting.

Keith Darvill:  A brief brilliant intervention about the impact of decision-making by the government. His political point was welcome.

Ray Morgon: He’s self-depreciating and as Leader needs to be positive. Cabinet members should be warned about being unacceptably casual.  

Paul McGeary, Paul Middleton and Barry Mugglestone: All three were mute.

Notes

1 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

2 Inflation calculator | Bank of England

3 So it’s surprising that he’s keen that everyone studies maths until 18 Rishi Sunak wants all pupils to study maths to age 18 – BBC News

Havering’s Million Pound Mistake, 2019-22

Damian White, Havering’s Council Leader in 2019, signed a contract with the MetPolice1 costing a million pounds over three years. He did this for bragging rights in the ‘fighting’ crime Conservative agenda. The contract paid for Havering to have five additional police officers who clearly couldn’t make a difference. The contract wasn’t just about policing, it was also a PR stunt.

Havering is,

“….among the top 10 safest cities, and the 1,978th most dangerous location out of all towns, cities, and villages.”2

The Conservatives’ fantasy is that only they can be trusted to fight crime. Their posturing will cost taxpayers an additional million pounds to the MetPolice GLA precept.3 Havering’s only significant crime area relates to cars. The five police officers can’t make a difference because they don’t have cars. (Police cars were an optional extra in Damian’s contract.)

The RM13 postcode area had 267 offences for every 10,000 vehicles – more than double the national average of 121. 4(my emphasis)

The MetPolice contract is flaky and should wither away. Unfortunately, if it isn’t renewed, Ray Morgon’s HRA/Labour administration will be vilified as ‘Soft on crime.’

Notes

1 FINAL Cabinet report MET s92 Police FINAL.pdf (havering.gov.uk) p5 See also my critique Posts ‹ Politics in Havering — WordPress.com
2 Havering Crime and Safety Statistics | CrimeRate
3 md2954_appendices.pdf (london.gov.uk) item2
4 Havering car crime hotspots revealed – Rainham and South Hornchurch ‘worst’ | Romford Recorder Andrew’s constituency, “Romford was next with a rate of 227 in RM1.” This is almost double the national average.

Havering People Overview and Scrutiny Committee, 6th December, 2022

This meeting was ‘technical’ and gave an interesting insight into the new Overview and Scrutiny committee structure. Committees have always had the ability to create Topic groups but usually didn’t. These are important issues and the committee has formed working parties. These will scrutinize the principal issues and produce a report for the committee. If additional resources are needed the Overview and Scrutiny Board will vet the proposition before transferring it to Council.

Darren Wise, lead member, will investigate social care for adults (see Addendum One). A much bigger topic than he was unaware of and he massively underestimated the time implications. He believed the Topic could be done in about three meetings. Jason Frost, the chair, (8 minutes) hinted this might be inadequate. Darren will be on a sharp learning curve.

The second topic (see Addendum Two) is investigating school readiness. Frankie Walker, lead member, gave an impassioned introduction (14 minutes) complete with a blizzard of statistics. Frankie is principally concerned with the impact of poverty. The key indicator is Free School Meals but there are other elements. She’s driven by the notion that current resources might not be used effectively. Jason was helpful pointing out there are both very poor wards and wards with significant pockets of poverty (26 minutes). Frankie insisted that the first point of call would be very poor wards so that best practice could be developed.

At last, ‘backbenchers,’ are taken seriously.

 

Addendum One: Social care for adults

  • To understand the current SEND and social care provisions for adults to assess their strengths and weaknesses · Regulate and create a local authority quality assurance process and written framework for current and future SEND adult provisions to meet · Signposting for current 16-25 provisions and employment opportunities · Investigate current provisions for 25+ and explore the areas to improve employability opportunities · Scrutinise Havering borough’s own delivery to modernise/update the current service model in place.

Source (Public Pack)Agenda Document for People Overview & Scrutiny Sub Committee, 06/12/2022 19:00 (havering.gov.uk) p11

Addendum Two: School Readiness

  • Defining what school readiness is in accordance to the Government guidelines and Havering’s framework · To understand and explore the inequalities within Early Years children’s school readiness and the effect of this on individual’s long-term development · Reviewing how non-English speaking, ethnic minority parents access Havering’s resources

Source (Public Pack)Supplementary Agenda Agenda Supplement for People Overview & Scrutiny Sub Committee, 06/12/2022 19:00 (havering.gov.uk) p1

Note

1 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

How Havering’s Academies Conceal their 2022 GCSE Results

Havering’s academies are unaccountable. Their principal role is educating Havering’s children but how good are they? Looking at their websites (see Addendum) it’s more or less impossible to find out. With notable exceptions, GCSE results are concealed. Drapers Academy demonstrates it’s a choice to prevent understanding.

Drapers Academy: a stellar example of good practice

Compare this with Harris Academy, Rainham1. They present their results as though they are conducting a seminar for education professionals.

And Harris Academy isn’t the worst. Marshalls Park’s results date from 2019. And it isn’t the worst either. Other schools don’t publish results at all. They only give a link to the government website: step forward Hornchurch High School!

The Council have no role in Havering’s Academies, which is disastrous. Academies are run as if GCSE results are a commercial secret. Havering’s academies are adept at cherry picking the information they publish on their websites. Parents literally don’t know whether their children’s schools are successful or not.

Dissatisfied parent should use Freedom of Information2 requests to reveal uncensored GCSE results. Drapers Academy have shown it can be done and other academies should follow them.

GCSE results information is not a commercial secret.

 

Addendum: Links to each academy’s website exam results page

1 Achievement And Performance – Abbs Cross Academy

2 Key Information – Bower Park Academy Nothing on exam results

3 The Brittons Academy

4 Learning (thecampionschool.org.uk)

5 GCSE Results 2022 – The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School (cooperscoborn.org.uk)

6 Headline-Results-2022.pdf (drapers-academy.s3.amazonaws.com)

7 Emerson Park Academy – Find school and college performance data in England – GOV.UK (find-school-performance-data.service.gov.uk)

8 Secondary – The Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls – Find school and college performance data in England – GOV.UK (find-school-performance-data.service.gov.uk)

9 Gaynes school best ever GCSE results – News – Gaynes School

10 Examinations – Hall Mead School results for 2020 see also Subjects entered at key stage 4 in 2021/22 – Hall Mead School – Find school and college performance data in England – GOV.UK (find-school-performance-data.service.gov.uk) Appears to be slightly above average

11 Examinations Results – Harris Academy Rainham (harrisrainham.org.uk)

12 Hornchurch High School – Find school and college performance data in England – GOV.UK (find-school-performance-data.service.gov.uk)

13 Exam Results – Marshalls (marshallspark.org.uk)

14 Secondary – Redden Court School – Find school and college performance data in England – GOV.UK (find-school-performance-data.service.gov.uk)

15 Sacred Heart of Mary Exam results 22.xlsx – Google Sheets

16 Royal Liberty School – Examination Results

17 Sanders Draper – Examination results (sandersschool.org.uk) A good analysis showing progress over 3 years

18 St Edward’s Church of England Academy – Find school and college performance data in England – GOV.UK (find-school-performance-data.service.gov.uk)

Note

1 As from 14th December 2022 Harris Academy Rainham will adopt best practice.

2 How to make a freedom of information (FOI) request: Overview – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Havering Council Meeting, 23rd November, 2022: Question Time

Resident Association councillors used to ask questions about potholes and such like. Osman Dervish would smile sweetly, pat them on the head and say, ‘Well done’. Drivel, but everyone felt better. Now the roles are reversed. The question is, ‘How well are Conservatives doing?’

The first question was by Keith Prince.1 His question (Q1) was about ULEZ.2 He knows opening questions are routine with the supplementary question being the killer. Cunning politicians put cabinet members3 in a tough spot and score a triumph. I thought Keith would be classy.

Unfortunately, the blind were leading the blind. Barry Mugglestone hadn’t read the ULEZ proposals and thinks, wrongly, it’s about climate change. Even worse he thinks it’s a tax. Barry was reading a prepared answer from officers, who also haven’t read the proposals, or have, and Barry didn’t accept their answer. It’s beyond stupid to misunderstand ULEZ’s purpose, which is, “To help clean up London’s air 

Furthermore “…ULEZ is central to the Mayor of London’s plans to improve Londoners’ health. It will clean up the city’s toxic air, which leads to the early deaths of thousands of people every year.”5 (my emphasis)

Keith isn’t guilty of misunderstanding. He’s playing politics. On this occasion he ranted about taxation, which he knows isn’t true.6 He then made progress. He said if people driving 18 year old bangers are charged £12.50 a day for destroying people’s health, Havering’s businesses will collapse. Keith doesn’t have a grip on economic realities.

The principal purpose of ULEZ is saving lives in Havering.

Addendum: Question allocation

If the Administration believe that ULEZ is about climate change why wasn’t it given to Climate Change cabinet member Keith Darvill to answer?

Notes

1 Council questions.pdf (havering.gov.uk)

2 Ultra Low Emission Zone – Transport for London (tfl.gov.uk)

3 Barry Mugglestone. Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Got to 29 minutes in

4 Ultra Low Emission Zone – Transport for London (tfl.gov.uk)

5 Havering, ULEZ and Public Health – Politics in Havering About 3 people a week die in Havering from air pollution

6 Because he knows what taxation means.

‘Keep Taxes Low! Sell the Family Silver!’ The Road To Bankruptcy

Henry VIII looted monasteries because he wanted their wealth for his aspirations by the 17th century Britain was impoverished once more causing civil wars.1 Between 1700 and 1900 British vast wealth came from exploiting the Empire. This was spent between 1914-8 and 1939-45 on two world wars. In the 1980s Britain’s wealth came from North Sea oil. Margaret Thatcher squandered this on war and defence spending.2,3 She followed this by selling national industrial assets, which were sold in, ‘Everything Must Go,’ sales.

Thatcher’s self-serving reason was ‘efficiency’. She included social housing in her off-loading of public assets. This turbo-charged the housing crisis of the 2000s. Her economic policies ended in 2013 with the Royal Mail privatisation.4

George Osborne’s fig-leaf was Austerity. By out-sourcing tax increases to local government he maintained the illusion that Conservatives are a Low Taxation party. The current (2023-4) Council tax permissions illustrate this graphically. Havering can increase tax by 3%, for local purposes. This can be increased by two percentage points to help pay for social care.5 Social care is a mandatory, demand-led service and very expensive.

Osborne, and successive Conservative Chancellors, out-sourced tax increases to local government to dodge bad publicity. However, the golden goose will die when well-run councils, like Havering, are bankrupted.6

Beginning with Henry VIII, Britain has had successive governments believing sound financial management is optional. Boris Johnson’s economic policy was, ‘Having my cake and eating it.’ All very amusing when a child says it but when a prime minister acts on that premise? Britain’s economically illiterate governments continue to impoverish the nation.

Notes

1 a) a parliamentary civil war 1629-40, b) three civil wars 1641-49, c) regime change 1649-60, d) another regime change, 1660-88, e) invasion/civil war 1688, f) yet another regime change 1688-1714. The 17th century was very unstable.

2 The Ricardian Curse, Margaret Thatcher and North Sea Oil | Odeboyz’s Blog (oedeboyz.com)

3 The British Army’s Global Delusions | Odeboyz’s Blog (oedeboyz.com)

4 Ironically the Royal Mail was established by the Tudors in 1516.

5 This a 67% increase on the basic, government approved council tax figure. 67%!

6 The UK councils facing potential ‘bankruptcy’ as coronavirus pandemic takes huge toll on public finances | National (inyourarea.co.uk) and also Local authority financial sustainability and the section 114 regime – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Havering and the Budget: Council Tax 2023-4

If the Government is serious about raising money to pay for social care, as well as level up the country, it could increase revenues from council tax without putting an extra burden on the less well off, by overhauling the bands used to calculate it.1

Conservative governments have wrecked Havering’s finances since 2010. Funding has been slashed as has the ability of the council to replace lost revenue through increasing council tax. The 2022 budget statement allows councils to increase council tax by 3% plus 2% for social care responsibilities. This decision may result in Havering becoming bankrupt.2

The facts

In 2010-11, band D council tax was £1505. If this had increased by inflation, the 2022-23 council tax would have been £2123.94, it’s actually £1970.97.3 The shortfall is £152.97 for band D houses in Havering, which is 10.16%. Owners of band H houses have benefitted massively from this policy.4 Havering council is losing huge amounts of revenue because Conservatives like to ‘keep taxes low’.

‘Keeping taxes low’ has been popular since 2010. But the chickens are coming home to roost. Conservatives want something for nothing. And the result is their policy will bankrupt Havering and wreck our society.

Very challenging decisions will be made by Ray Morgon’s cabinet because the government obliges Havering to ‘balance the books’. He can’t ‘print’ money to sort out Havering’s problem unlike the government. Statutory care services will be degraded along with other services like the weekly bin collection.

The Road to Bankruptcy

  • The amount collected in Council Tax for 2022-3 was £176.185m.5 If this had been increased by inflation, since 2010, revenue would be £17.9 million more this year.

Shortfall £17.9 million

  • If the £70 million government grant of 2010 had been increased by inflation it would be worth £77.12 million. Havering received £1.5 million for the 2022-3 financial year.

Shortfall £76.62 million

Total Shortfall for 2022-3: £93.52 million

The entire budget programme of cuts, efficiencies, job losses and service degradation are a direct result of Conservative policies since 2010. Morgon’s four year savings programme of £70 million is less than a single year of revenue shortfall caused by government policies.

Notes

1 Comment: ‘A council tax rise (done right) might not be a terrible thing’ (msn.com)

2 Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny Board, 13th October 2022 – Politics in Havering See this for an analysis of the budget Autumn Budget: Council tax could rise above £2,000 per year for the first time | ITV News

3 2010-11 24 February 2010 Council (Council Tax) Agenda.pdf (havering.gov.uk) £1505 council tax if growing with inflation, as calculated by the Bank of England, means that in 2022-3 that figure should have grown to £2123.94. Search results | The London Borough Of Havering £1970.97 2022-3

4 Havering Council Tax: Is It Too Low? – Politics in Havering

5 10 – Appendix G – Council Tax statement.pdf (havering.gov.uk)

Havering’s Register of Interests: The Cabinet

Filling in the Register is a legal obligation and yet Havering’s councillors struggle. Havering’s councillors have professional assistance but seem disinclined to use it. The Cabinet are elite councillors so it’s very important they’re open to scrutiny. Question One is stupid simple and is routinely not answered, ignored, or misunderstood.1

Q1 “Prescribed Description: Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain.”

Cabinet members receive £35,000, which qualifies, “for profit or gain.” Surprisingly none of Havering’s cabinet members think so. There are other anomalies, which will be revealed in this survey.

Keith Darvill’s1 entry says he’s a self-employed consultant. He doesn’t remark he’s a cabinet member.

Gillian Ford’s entry says she’s an Associate of Shared Service Architecture Ltd. She doesn’t say she’s deputy leader of the Council on £37,500. She’s also a member of the Local Government Association’s2 City Regions committee earning £8,908

Oscar Ford ignores the fact he’s a cabinet member despite it being a substantial supplement to his pensions.

Paul McGeary’s entry says he’s Head of Estates, NELFT without adding he’s a cabinet member.

Paul Middleton owns Essex PC Fix without adding he’s a cabinet member

Ray Morgon’s entry says that he’s a “Full-time councillor”. That understates his actual position as Leader of the Council on £50,000

Barry Mugglestone answered ‘None’ for Question One. As a cabinet member he earns £700 pw

Christopher Wilkins agreed with Barry and answered ‘None’. He’s a cabinet member and a landlord (Q4).

Cabinet members earn more than many Havering Council employees who work full-time. If they can’t understand “profit or gain” what else can’t they understand?

Graham Williamson I couldn’t access his entry.

Notes

1 For Keith Darvill see Councillor details – Councillor Keith Darvill | The London Borough Of Havering All the other named councillors have identical access points.

2 Keith Darvill, Ray Morgon and Michael White are also on this association but aren’t paid. For paid members see SRAs September 2022 (local.gov.uk)