Damian White should ‘Think the Unthinkable’

Damian’s 2019 budget was a vain effort at mitigating the Conservative government’s austerity programme, which has hollowed out Havering’s services. His response was a moral disgrace.1 It attacked the vulnerable,2 the bereaved and charities. Havering’s finances are challenged by demand pressures from social services for the elderly and vulnerable children. Damian needs to ‘Think the Unthinkable’.

Damian’s the victim of an extremist government who squander money. Without even bothering to highlight Chris Grayling’s farcical failings,3 the catalogue of major abortive programmes is, seemingly, endless. HS2’s budget has been extended to £30 billion to reduce the journey time to Birmingham by 20 minutes. This makes Crossrail look cheap. Brexit is costed at £26 billion, which doesn’t look like value for money.

So Damian has to ‘Think the Unthinkable’ and call out the government. In 2017 Surrey’s council leader, David Hodge, did precisely that when he proposed a 15% Council Tax increase! The proposed increase was withdrawn, presumably after a sweetheart deal was done.4 Havering could do with a deal like that instead of repressive immoral attacks on the poor.

1 It was a moral disgrace because Damian chose not to increase Council Tax by the amount authorised by the government. The difference was made up by attacking the vulnerable and disabled. This attack was a choice by Damian to cause harm in order that he should have bragging rights in ‘keeping Council Tax low’.

2 Council tax arrears for 2018-9 was £4,743,189. To increase Council Tax by 67% for the vulnerable and 33.4% for the disabled could well mean that those arrears will increase for the year 2019-20. Piling debt and stress onto the vulnerable and disabled doesn’t appear to me to be a sound programme. Tax arrears information from Freedom of Information reply AIR 17906 C dated 25th June 2019

3 £500 million on the Probation Service changes was the most costly of his errors.

4 There were four Cabinet ministers with Surrey constituencies in 2017.

See https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/19/surrey-confirms-plans-to-raise-council-tax-by-15 and for the withdrawal see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-38895493

Two Conservative Party Leaflets and One Cunning Plan

The two leaflets are intouch with you and News from Shaun Bailey. Conservatives in Havering were obliterated in the 2019 Euro elections and this is their attempt at retrieving the situation.1

Hornchurch’s leaflet leads with a banner front page More Bobbies on the Beat. This refers to five police officers Havering is sponsoring for £900,000 over the next three years.

The leaflet refers to Viddy Persaud’s Rent-A-Cop scheme. Her proposition is:

1. Five additional police officers will patrol Havering, which has

2. 18 wards including Romford, Hornchurch, Collier Row, Harold Hill and Rainham, which has

3. 250,000 people, who

4. will feel safe and grateful to the Conservative party.

Leaflets like this heighten expectations but make unachievable promises. Worse, voters might feel £900,000 could be better spent elsewhere.

Shaun Bailey sent me News from Shaun Bailey. He’s the Conservative Mayoral candidate. Shaun isn’t delusional in the same way as Viddy. His proposition is:

1. 1800 additional Met police officers, which means

2. Havering gets 56 more police officers, which means

3. 18 wards will get three additional police officers each, which means

4. 250,000 people will feel safe and grateful to the Conservative party.

Shaun’s delusion emerges when he says, “I’ll cut waste at City Hall,” to pay for these police officers.2 Even the Conservative GLA candidate, Keith Prince, disagrees with him because he’s only got finance for 1400 additional police officers from the same ‘City Hall waste’.

Neither candidate comments on the billion pounds the Conservative government have taken from the Met’s budget, which is why the Met is understaffed in the first place. The Conservative austerity programme has left Havering without sufficient police to fight crime.

Conservatives face oblivion in the GLA elections. The Rent-A-Cop scheme is meant to bolster Conservative credentials for that election. Baldrick’s cunning plans usually ended in disastrous failure perhaps Viddy’s Conservatives will go the same way?

1 Both were delivered week beginning 10th June 2019.

2 Shaun is committed to about £18 million once all the costs are included like: senior officers, cars, administration staff and buildings.

Alan Bennett doesn’t live in Havering

On our Council estate in north-east London we have a diverse group of people including some very obnoxious individuals. At the repulsive end of the spectrum our caretaker came across a woman sleeping rough in the basement of one of our tower blocks. She was sleeping on a two seater sofa and smelt to high heaven. When challenged she was clearly either drunk or on drugs. Notwithstanding the famous film The Lady in the Van which portrayed the kindly, tolerant Alan Bennett she wasn’t dealt with in that way. She was a nuisance to be removed as quickly as possible. A knee jerk reaction but what did it reveal about us and our society?

Give our caretaker his due he persisted in a non-aggressive way as he knew she wasn’t a resident. She claimed to have been visiting friends. This proved to be true when the woman actually named two of our residents. He reported back to the office, and our Estate Manager immediately contacted the police.

This was the first step. Already the rough sleeper had been promoted to being a threat when in reality all she was was a vulnerable person with catastrophic low self-esteem. She was only a threat to herself as anyone could see. But no steps were taken to ascertain what simple, compassionate things could be done for her. Simple non-threatening things like showing her where the shower was; getting her a sandwich and a cup of tea; asking if anyone could come and pick her up and whether she was on a social worker list. No. The police were called to potentially criminalise her.

The second step happened when the police arrived. Our Manager and a woman PC went to see if she was still there. She was. Whilst being spoken to by the police officer, the Manager noted how filthy she was and she had horribly ulcerated legs. When asked how she came to be on the sofa, she said “a bloke had dragged it out of one of the pram sheds for her.” The officer was reluctant to arrest her, and the Manager only wanted her off the estate, so she was told to go! Everyone in authority wanted to sweep this woman under the carpet- Out of sight, out of mind. So even though they knew that she had been rejected by her friends and was clearly ill the solution was to put her back on the streets.

The woman’s friend told us that the woman had a serious drug and drinking problem. So much so that she had slept around in order to raise cash for her habits. Her ‘social’ life resulted in her having seven children over the past ten years. Whilst she was living in her own council flat, she had gotten into trouble several times for shop-lifting. However, with the drinking and the unruly behaviour she was evicted for non- payment of the rent. Everyone knew that she led a chaotic undisciplined life but they still applied the ‘rules’ associated with making yourself intentionally homeless. Without cash or savings she was now homeless and the downward spiral of her life accelerated.

She tried a housing associations and two charities but the court order was implemented in two weeks leaving this vulnerable woman on the streets. The system was hostile to her. At rock bottom of the ladder called humanity she once again turned to prostitution to finance her life.

Alan Bennett showed that even the most vulnerable and weakest members of society deserve compassion but I’m afraid that he is very much the exception. This vulnerable woman wandered off the estate to everyone’s relief and became a problem for someone else.

Mike

Havering Councillor: Bob Perry (Emerson Park)

Bob Perry and the Conservative leadership are at odds.1 Bob is threatening to leave the Conservatives if they don’t buck up their ideas. He’s failed to notice that the Conservatives aren’t the party he joined in the 1970s. The current leadership battle should have told him that the Conservatives he knew and loved have parted company.

If we look at them in terms of bookies favourites they are far away from Margaret Thatcher.

Boris Johnson: serial adulterer, ego-driven Mayor of London and buffoon

Michael Gove: self-confessed cocaine user who’d be a criminal if he lived in Havering

Dominic Raab: the Brexit secretary who signed ‘The Deal’ and then voted against it in Parliament.

Sajid Javid: as Home Secretary introduced immigration laws which would have meant his father would have been deported.

Jeremy Hunt: forgot that he’d bought flats in Southampton worth millions.

I’m sorry Bob but none of the above care about suburban Conservatives like you. They live on a different planet. They’ve all taken drugs and they’re all multi-millionaires. You can’t leave them, they’ve already gone. Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative party has sold its soul to chancers, criminals, opportunists and spivs.

1 Romford Recorder 7th June 2019 p14

Havering and Evidence Based Decision-making

After reading many committee reports, what is shockingly obvious is the lack of evidence based decision-making. Many decisions are entirely political or worse, fly in the face of evidence.

The recent decision about car-parking is entirely flawed. Prior to this decision, car-parking charges were sensitive to the needs of shop-keepers. 30 minutes of free parking promoted a steady flow of casual car based customers which is characteristic of Havering’s elderly shoppers. That policy was abandoned. The new decision wasn’t based on evidence from an impact study of shoppers or shop-keepers. Given the challenging retail environment, this is irresponsible at best.

Not a single decision has been reversed due to subsequent evidence. Car-parking charges demand further analysis as their effect could be cataclysmic. Maybe the anticipated increase in revenues won’t happen. What will the cabinet do then? Increase charges again or reverse the decision? The latter is profoundly unlikely whereas the former is probable.

Likewise additional investment in the police is problematic. The justifications are vacuous remarks about making Havering ‘safe’. Is approximately 1100 days of policing per year for £300,000 value for money? Five police officers spread round 18 wards?

Committee members have an opportunity to ask for Topic1 working parties to review important issues. These opportunities are rarely used. Both of the above examples have long-term implications for Havering and should be constantly reviewed.

1 Interestingly members of public can raise Topics for possible committee discussion. There is a direct link in the committee papers inviting citizens to outline why a specific item should be discussed.

Havering and the European Elections 23rd May 2019

Havering’s ultra Brexit MPs, Julia Lopez and Andrew Rosindell, didn’t swing the vote the Conservatives’ way in the European elections. The electorate ignored their valiant efforts in parliament. Nigel Farage’s ego-driven Brexit Party trounced the Conservatives, who came fourth behind the LibDems and Labour.1 This bodes ill for Romford Conservatives. They were engulfed from the right, by the Brexit party, and the left, by Labour/LibDems/Greens.

Both Julia and Andrew had huge majorities in the 2017 general election but the electorate is fickle.2

Conservatives are seen as hopelessly divided and incompetent, in part, because of the constant opposition to Theresa May’s deal. Havering, which is solidly Conservative, now has a ruling party which is fourth in a national election.

Taking the European and Cranham elections3 together, they point towards old political truths in a new guise. Democracy is about which voters turn up. The current iron grip on Havering’s two parliamentary seats could change, notwithstanding the enormous majorities.4

1 https://www.havering.gov.uk/news/article/583/2019_european_parliamentary_election_results

UKIP did better in the 2014 election than the Brexit party in 2019. They got 34560 votes in 2014 in comparison to Brexit’s 32,165.

2 The 2017 general election result from Canterbury is etched into their psyche. The Conservatives increased their vote by 1.8% but Labour’s vote shot up by 20.5%. Result: a narrow Labour win.

3https://www.havering.gov.uk/news/article/569/cranham_by-election_results

4http://democracy.havering.gov.uk/mgElectionResults.aspx?ID=3&RPID=0

UKIP got 20% of the vote in comparison to the Conservatives 28% but only won 7 seats.

Havering Councillor: Brian Eagling (Harold Wood)

Brian was a Labour party councillor and Mayor before he discovered he’d never become Leader. Brian switched allegiance and joined the Harold Wood Resident Association (RA). He was eventually elected as an RA councillor. Once more, he found unimpressed colleagues who valued his vote, but not his opinions. So he separated Harold Wood RAs from the RA mainstream and greatness arrived. He became Leader of Harold Wood RAs.

The 2018 election put Brian in poll position. Damian White came calling. Brian straightened his back and accepted the pivotal position of holding the balance of power. Damian didn’t just offer glory. Brian and his two colleagues had their stellar qualities recognised, at last, with all three having remunerated positions of responsibility. For septuagenarian pensioners this was very pleasant, if long overdue.

The allocation of ‘roads’ refurbishment capital stayed in Romford.1 Harold Wood got nothing. Is Brian disappointed? Did he even notice? Harold Wood RAs are an old boys’ clique who’ve long ago forgotten the driving motives behind their movement.

Harold Wood councillors are tied irrevocably to Romford Conservatives. This might not be a shrewd move as Brexit alters Havering’s voting habits. The RAs moved into the ascendency in 2018 at the expense of the Conservatives but what if Harold Wood RAs are tarred with that toxic brush?

1 Living in Havering April 2019 edition p15