Havering’s Councillors: Value for money?

The Council meeting, 22nd March 2023, was shocking. The shock didn’t come from what was said or discussed. It was because so many councillors didn’t turn up. Out of 54 councillors only 47 appeared. This an absentee rate of 13%. Or, as HR experts call it: ‘A Red Flag’ event. What’s going on? Councillors aren’t amateurs, they’re paid £200 pw as an allowance. They aren’t contracted to do any specific hours but attend a minimum number of meetings per year. Council meetings are their only obligation.

Provoked by this I researched the three months from 1st January 2023.2 The Council meeting, 18th January 2023, had two non-appearances.3 The all-important budget setting meeting, 1st March 2023, is a ‘three-line-whip’ event. Seven councillors were absent from the meeting that set Council Tax for the year 2023-4.4 That decision affects every resident in Havering. And seven councillors didn’t turn up!

On consecutive Council meetings, seven members were absent. There shouldn’t have been any absentees without exceptional circumstances. But 16 different councillors missed three Council meetings. This is worrying.

They couldn’t all have been taken suddenly ill: Could they?


1 Agenda for Council on Wednesday, 22nd March, 2023, 7.30 pm | The London Borough Of Havering p1 Absentees were Councillors Osman Dervish, Brian Eagling, Sarah Edwards, James Glass, Linda Hawthorn, Robby Misir and Susan Ospreay.

2 For January go to Monthly meetings calendar – January 2023 | The London Borough Of Havering Follow links for the next two months, or trace backwards for previous months. Research completed on 27th March 2023

3 Councillors David Godwin and John Wood

4 Councillors Dilip Patel, Robert Benham, Patricia Brown, Christine Vickery, Viddy Persaud, Carol Smith and Joshua Chapman

Havering Council Meeting: 22nd March, 2023

Damian White’s ten-month sulk is over.1 He’s positioning Conservatives in their new opposition role. Damian is ‘Love-Bombing’ the HRA/Labour administration with helpfulness.

At Question Time there were 15 questions and four resulted in requests for further meetings or, even steering groups to help deal with issues. Paul Middleton (@50)2 looked as if he’d been ambushed over the Leisure centre by Damian. Keith Darvill (@54) positively embraced Damian in his Climate Change role. Christine Vickery (1:01) was brushed off by Barry Mugglestone but came back for more over CCTV in Ardleigh Green. Finally, Joshua Chapman (@1:04) had a meeting of minds with Paul McGeary.

Damian’s new ‘Love-Bombing’ policy triumphantly concluded the meeting. Keith Prince (@2:01) accepted an HRA Amendment in its entirety. Keith’s skill-set doesn’t usually include sweetness and light and everyone reeled back. A political earthquake! The CEO was so shocked he took legal advice on what a composite motion meant in this situation. Four minutes later the wrong decision was made.

Judith Holt (@17) hadn’t read Damian’s memo. She presented a petition for anti-ULEZ warriors and read their diatribe even though it’s against Council procedure. The Mayor silenced her and was roundly booed.

‘New Conservativism’ is pleasing but what does Damian really have in mind? Endlessly fascinating.


1 See Havering Council Meeting, 18th January 2023 – Politics in Havering At this meeting the Conservatives opted out from the normal democratic process

2 Webcast is here Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Times relate to the webcast. This is 50 minutes

Havering’s Cabinet ‘debates’ CCTV: 8th March, 2023

The estimated cost of this Upgrade and CCTV Relocation Proposal is £2.423m, to be funded from Capital and CIL monies.1

As a minimum, a ‘debate’ about spending £5 million capital and £500,000+ revenue should include a discussion of effectiveness. Councillors were unaware there were questions to ask. They seemed equally unaware that officers had noted CCTV isn’t a legal obligation. The decision was made without considering the economics and effectiveness of CCTV.

HRA are obsessed with street care, so would £500,000 revenue help enhance meeting residents’ desire for clean and smooth pavements? What about £5M capital?2 The three minute ‘debate’3 that was devoted to this critical issue is less than a new bike shed would get. But then they understand bike sheds. Don’t they? None of the economic points relating to an efficient use of council funds were mentioned. It was rubber stamped.

The Summary statement says CCTV makes, “Havering a safer place.”4 The question is whether it will  improve the current situation. Is there evidence CCTV makes a difference to levels of crime? Item 7, points 2-8,5 is silent on whether CCTV successfully fights crime.

The CCTV programme is very expensive.6,7 It is additional to £300,000+ pa for Havering’s five funded police officers.

Summary point 7 says, “…an effective and reliable CCTV system plays an essential part in assisting the Council to fulfil its duties under the Crime & Disorder Act 1998, which requires local authorities to work with the police and other partners to prevent and reduce crime and disorder”.4 (my emphasis)

The police don’t think CCTV is that great.

Overall, use of CCTV makes for a small, but statistically significant, reduction in crime, but this generalisation needs to be tempered by careful attention to (a) the type of crime being addressed and (b) the setting of the CCTV intervention. CCTV is more effective when directed at reducing theft of and from vehicles, while it has no impact on levels of violent crime.”8 (my emphasis)

Havering’s CCTV has been superseded by 1,000s of private CCTV systems and 10s of 1,000s of smart phones. This cabinet ‘debate’ was abysmal.


1 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Cabinet, 08/03/2023 19:30 (havering.gov.uk) Item 5

2 The 2023 Capital programme is interesting and demonstrates that £5M is significant Appendix 1 – Existing Capital Programme Detail.pdf (havering.gov.uk) The £5M just about doubles the road resurfacing budget from £6M to £11M. This would reduce the costs to residents paying for damaged vehicles.

3 Go to minutes 1-4 for the ‘debate’ Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) See also Report detail p21 para 9:1

3 p14

4 pp14-5

5  p17 para 2:7 main report £500,000 revenue

6 p18 para 6:3 main report £5,000,000 capital

7 p15 See Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (legislation.gov.uk) There is no obligation to fund surveillance equipment. This is noted at p20 para 8:1 There is, however, a duty to have a Crime and Disorder committee which Havering doesn’t have. Para 5:1c (a)

8 http://library.college.police.uk/docs/what-works/What-works-briefing-effects-of-CCTV-2013.pdf p2

Havering’s Democracy and Romford Conservatives

The Romford Conservative gravy train derailed in May, 2022. After 20 years of ruthlessly exploiting the Allowance system, they were booted out. Romford Conservatives really like gravy train politics but are less keen on public service.

In an unprecedented denial of democratic duty, the 18th January Council meeting had no motions for discussion.1 Romford Conservatives were on strike. There were a few questions, only one of which could be regarded as critically important.2 There’s a wealth of experience in their ranks, including councillors who are quite able, which makes this even worse. Their Leader, Damian White, went AWOL for the first three council meetings. In essence, he’s in total denial of the May, 2022 outcome.

The childish anti-democratic sulk continues. In the ten months that HRA/Labour have held office, Romford Conservatives haven’t even filled all their committee places. The council is legally obliged to allocate positions on a pro rata basis. The Places Overview and Scrutiny committee should have four Conservatives. Damian White has filled just two of those places. He’s simultaneously undermining scrutiny and deligitimising democracy. Meanwhile David Taylor spouted off about the need to be, “Not afraid of a late night”, at the Budget Council meeting.3 It would be hilarious if it wasn’t serious.

Romford Conservatives should take a hard look at themselves. They’ve ceased to be a political party.


1 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Council, 18/01/2023 19:30 (havering.gov.uk)

2 Question 8. There were other questions, which mattered, but this one went to the heart of the performance of a contract  impacting on every tenant of LBH. The answer deserved a debate on its own, which it didn’t get because the Conservatives didn’t put down any motions.

3 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Go to 30 minutes in

Havering Council: The Budget Meeting: 1st March, 2023

Everyone knows Romford Conservatives are a nest of vipers but usually they attack each other in private. David Taylor’s leadership bid was as subtle as a train crash and Keith Prince repudiated it by voting against Conservative budget propositions.1 HRA’s men wore green ties as a bonding exercise. Seven maiden speeches were an important step towards a more mature council.

Chris Wilkins needs a speechwriter to avoid whining.2 Constant worried glances at the council screens punctuated his flow with pauses. HRA are delusional about lobbying. They expect Havering’s MPs to help. Chris finds Julia Lopez disappointing. Shock horror.

David Taylor praised the HRA/Labour budget, offering minor tweaks.3 His principal point was that his budget proposals showed LEADERSHIP! David is negotiating to be a coalition partner, to replace Labour, but hasn’t cleared it with Keith Prince.

Keith Darvill did a political job. He sees the destruction of Havering’s finances by government under-investment as crippling. He said the entire country is suffering identically. Government policy has reduced growth and national wealth. (0:55)

Martin Goode (1:01) isn’t loved by HRA members who heckled him. Apart from an excellent Captain Mainwaring4 impression, this was a familiar jog-trot through well-known prejudices…  debt, pessimism, conspiracy theories.

General debate – Maiden speeches

Philip Ruck (1:22) He was nervous and a few witty reminisces calmed him down. It was a stellar performance in the circumstances.

Matt Stanton’s (1:32) speech was a tour de force. He surveyed the political and economic scene adding an interesting flair to it.

Mandy Anderson (1:35) spoke of ‘degraded finances’, an interesting phrase. She spoke darkly about finance for the ULEZ challenge.

Kathy Tumilty (1:40) praised Overview and Scrutiny and wondered why the Conservatives hadn’t provided a full roster of members. 

Frankie Walker (1:46) is passionate about statistics and shared this with the meeting. Her statistics damned the government, which  Conservatives didn’t like.

Jane Keane (2:02) upset Michael White who displayed a thin skin for the first time in his life.

James Glass (2:08) praised Conservative councils who are paying for the ULEZ challenge, which means Havering benefits for nothing.

David and Ray Morgon rounded off with banalities.


1 For the webcast, where all the timings refer, go to Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Go to 1 hour 42 m (1:42) for Keith Prince’s announcement. Normally rebellion is punished by loss of the whip but was ‘agreed’  because ex-Leader Michael White joined him.

2 In this case about Westminster council (0:24) For budget detail got to Challenging budget still sees investment in roads, homes, schools, police and free parking | The London Borough Of Havering

3 The proposals for councillor allowances reduces council tax from 4.99% to 4.79% for example.

4 Dad’s Army (TV Series 1968–1977) – Full Cast & Crew – IMDb

Havering’s Politicians and ULEZ

ULEZ involves explaining complicated science with long-term health outcomes. ULEZ’s costs are brutally simple. Car owners with 18-year-old cars suffer immediately. Therefore, there’s a conflict between short-term pain and long-term benefits. This is toxic for politicians. Havering’s politicians have chosen to placate the ‘victims’ of short-term pain at the cost of Public Health.


Jon Cruddas says1 ULEZ is will be a good idea after the cost-of-living crisis finishes.

Julia Lopez says she wants to continue her climb up the political ladder.

Andrew Rosindell says Havering should exit London and ULEZ

Councillor Leaders

Keith Darvill supports Cruddas with ULEZ pushed into an unknown future date.

Ray Morgon thinks ULEZ isn’t right because Havering only has a ‘few’ hotspots.2

Damian White is currently in a Trappist Monastery.

Their Mutual Problem

No councillor or MP acknowledges ULEZ will reduce Havering’s three-a-week death rate.

No councillor or MP acknowledges 100s of children suffer from lung impairment caused by air pollution.

Havering’s Legal Obligation

Our [the government] landmark Environment Bill places a duty on us to set at least two air quality targets by October 2022, including an ambitious, legally-binding target to reduce fine particulate matter – the most damaging pollutant to human health. We know local authorities are best placed to address the issues they face in their areas. We look forward to receiving innovative ideas for ways to reduce emissions, help communities understand how they can limit their exposure to air pollution, and promote cleaner, greener alternatives.

Source Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the UK – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The impact of Fine Particulate Matter

Studies have found a close link between exposure to fine particles and premature death from heart and lung disease. Fine particles are also known to trigger or worsen chronic disease such as asthma, heart attack, bronchitis and other respiratory problems…..An association between mothers’ exposure to fine particles and birth defects has also been established by several reports.

Source What is PM2.5 and Why You Should Care | Bliss Air

Havering’s Politicians and ULEZ

Havering’s politicians won’t admit there’s a Public Health air pollution crisis. They deny the science and impacts of air pollution, which are well established. The NHS can’t save the lives of 178 people p.a. and only mitigates child lung impairment. That’s the political challenge.

Havering’s politicians are dodging the decision-making bullet. They’ve made the ‘decision’ to maintain the status quo ante.3 As a result, 100s of children will pay an awful price in impaired lung capacity. Meanwhile older people die gruesome deaths from respiratory failure.

Havering’s politicians are spineless because they never discuss the consequences of their position. They never say how many deaths and lung impairment events are acceptable in their protection of those owning elderly cars. The unstated position is that short-term political advantage is more important than Public Health.


1 “says” This is a paraphrase of the implications of public statements. For Julia this is satire as it is for Andrew. None of them actually said what I say they said. Keith and Ray said things which are loosely connected to this section. Damian isn’t in a Trappist Monastery.

2 £9 million fund opens for local projects to tackle air pollution – Defra in the media (blog.gov.uk) accessed 17th February 2023. The government clearly think that the time for action has arrived and look forward to Councils putting their best foot forward. This is in addition to ULEZ.

3 NetFlix’s film ‘Don’t Look Up’ was based on the idea that if you couldn’t see a threat it didn’t exist

Havering Councillor: Martin Goode (Harold Wood)

Martin leads a splinter group of Resident councillors.1 He’s traditional RA, remorselessly focused on apparent trivialities. Pot holes, uneven pavements, overhanging bushes, inconsiderate parking and so on. Martin, unlike most councillors, isn’t a ‘world statesmen’, or, less lovably, on a ‘nice little earner’.

Martin’s Havering’s most diligent backbencher councillor. He doesn’t flick through his papers at meetings. He reads his documents, forming opinions and is unafraid to share them at committees. He’s a hard-core Conservative with a myopically narrow-minded approach to finance. He’s also hard-core RA. This means that where street cleaning is concerned he wants more expenditure.2 It’s difficult understanding his four years of support for the Conservatives, 2018-22, unless it was the allowances.

Uniquely, Martin attends cabinet meetings, even though he isn’t a member. In brief, he’s a one-man scrutiny committee. Given his diligence he’s treated with respect by the chair with whom he shares so much. They sing from the same hymn sheet on most things. More councillors should exercise their right of attendance, especially if they’re going to challenge pre-emptive mindsets. However, if they do, they should do their homework first.

Martin is a role model. He works hard in the Town Hall and, presumably, in his constituency.


1 East Havering Residents’ Group

2 Needless to relate he didn’t object to the subsidy to motorists with 30 minutes free parking in Hornchurch and Upminster.

Havering’s Budget: Between a Rock and Hard Place

Havering’s administration is delusional. They refuse to accept that government underfunding of Havering is policy. The government is in perma-turmoil and their policies are too.1 The administration ignores all the evidence and asks MPs to assist. It’s as if Havering’s MPs are an unknown.2

On consecutive nights, government underfunding was demonstrated.3,4 On the 7th February, officers used many slides showing the iniquities of Outer London’s funding formula. Havering is hardest hit because of our peculiar demographics.

Gillian Ford is a fan of lobbying despite knowing the funding formula hasn’t changed since 2013.5 Oscar Ford focused on demographic changes in Havering with costs associated with increasing the numbers of children.6 Lobbying won’t change anything. Paul McGeary said rents only increased by 7% instead of 13.6% because of government intervention. A government decision to reduce rent increases from 13.6% to 7% was for Housing Benefits7 reasons not to help tenants during the cost-of-living crisis.

The council should lobby to increase the council tax cap.8 An increase to 10% would mean Havering avoiding bankruptcy in 2026. Lobbying to avoid bankruptcy would embarrass the government. It’s high-risk but death by a 1,000 government generated cuts is worse. Government will blame Havering whatever decisions are made. Why not take the battle to the government and pillory them for capricious incompetence?


1 Three Prime Ministers and four Chancellors of the Exchequer

2 Julia Lopez is a minister and wont bite the hand that feeds her. Andrew Rosindell’s a veteran MP who always supports the government on financial matters.

3 Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting 7th February 2023 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

4 Cabinet meeting 8th February 2023 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

5 Go to 38-43 mins where she cites two organisations, which, allegedly, have influence

6 Go to 45 minutes. He says the government is “incapable”. This implies he knows the government is incompetent insofar as they don’t understand their own policy.

7 At 9 minutes

8 Four bankrupt councils have increased their council tax by 10%+. They were all bankrupted by searching for additional revenue to pay for statutory services through commercial activities. They all failed

Havering’s Academies and Community Governors

Havering’s secondary academies’ policies on school uniform and personal appearance are virtually identical. It’s as if they collaborate in an institutional Group Think. Their decision-making is embedded in collective unchallenged beliefs. No academy has councillors, parents or teachers as governors. School uniform and personal appearance policies don’t enhance educational achievement. This emphasises that the academies’ approach to micro-managing students is bizarre.

In October 2022 this blog discussed coloured shoelaces,1 which are uniformly banned. Wearing coloured shoelaces can result in students being excluded from lessons. Hairstyle conformity is also an important ‘appearance’ policy.2 Schools seem unaware some ‘extreme’ hairstyles are legal and can’t be banned because of their racial context.

Race-based hair discrimination has been illegal in the UK since the Equalities Act became law in 2010 but the Halo Collective says it is still a really big problem.

A recent survey said 46% of parents say their children’s school uniform policy penalises afro-hair.3

In 2020 a Hackney student took her school to court because of the enforcement of a hairstyle policy. She won her case.

A pupil who was repeatedly sent home from school because of her afro hair wants to make sure it doesn’t happen to any other UK schoolchild.

Ruby Williams received £8,500 in an out-of-court settlement after her family took legal action against The Urswick School in east London .4

Excluding the community alienates the principal stakeholders. It’s difficult to believe legal Afro hairstyles are permitted in Havering’s academies for example.2 Community involvement challenges extremist Group Think policies, which have no educational purpose. Academies are in an intellectual cul de sac in relation to school uniform and appearance codes.


1 Havering’s Academies: School Shoes and Shoe Laces – Politics in Havering

2 This is typical: “It will be for the Headteacher to decide if a hairstyle is “extreme”. It is difficult to definitively set out in advance what will be regarded as an “extreme hairstyle” as styles vary regularly according to fashion. Students are therefore expected to speak to their Head of Year before they alter their hairstyle or dye their hair to obtain confirmation that the proposed new hairstyle will comply with this policy.” Year-7_11_September-2021.pdf (cooperscoborn.org.uk) This can be summarised as, ‘If we don’t like it, you can’t have it.’ Compare Uniform-Expectations-September-2021.pdf (bowerpark.co.uk) And FBA-uniform-policy-June-2020-r-1.pdf (fbaok.co.uk) Frances Bardsley The other 15 Havering academies cluster in the same territory.

3 Halo Code: What is it and how does it protect afro hair? – CBBC Newsround 10th December 2020
4 Ruby Williams: No child with afro hair should suffer like me – BBC News 10th February 2020

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.


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.