Havering’s Timid Councillors

Councillors should make their home address publicly available on the Register of Interests.1 Get-out clauses to this are laid out in government advice (see Addendum). Many of Havering’s councillors don’t make their addresses public and six haven’t made a meaningful response. The six might not live in the borough, who knows? 27 councillors concealed their addresses. Why?

Some councillors are fearful “because they believe the process [making addresses available] risks their safety or makes them vulnerable to abusive activity.” Can this be true? Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor, is subject to intense media attention, which often provokes threats to his safety. His Register of Interests statement deletes his home address, which is understandable. But a Havering councillor?

The fear argument falls immediately for councillors who share wards with co-councillors who do provide home addresses. Veteran councillors, from the 1990s, will remember that addresses and home phone numbers2 were published. Tiresome calls happened but not enough to claim that ‘violence or intimidation’ might ensue.

The notion that addresses are ‘private’ or can be ‘concealed’ is naive. Life in 2022 means living in the Surveillance Society. A malicious person can find an address easily on the internet. Do we want Havering’s councillors to be timid and naïve?

Addendum: Government advice to councillors on publicising their address

The Government wishes to avoid capable individuals being deterred from standing for office because they believe the process risks their safety or makes them vulnerable to abusive activity….The changes made mean that now all candidates in local government elections in England will be able to request that their home address is not made public. Candidates will have a choice – they can continue to include a home address if they wish to highlight their local connection to their ward. (my emphasis)

Source Letter to local authorities about the publication of councillors’ and candidates’ home addresses: March 2019 (publishing.service.gov.uk)

This builds on the Localism Act which spoke of ‘violence or intimidation’ as the principal criteria for concealing addresses. Localism Act 2011 (legislation.gov.uk)

Notes

1 Research done on 24th July, 2022 using Havering’s Register of Interests. This one is for Robert Benham. He wasn’t ‘chosen’ he’s the first councillor on the list mgConvert2PDF.aspx (havering.gov.uk) For Sadiq Khan see Sadiq Khan – Register of interests | London City Hall

2 Veteran councillors from the 1990s are Brian Eagling, Linda Hawthorn, Keith Prince, Michael White and Reg Whitney. This was prior to mobile phones

Havering’s Evasive Councillors

Havering’s Councillors conceal important parts of their economic status. This is despite government legislation demanding they should be open and truthful. The first section of the Register of Interests1 is unambiguous but virtually every Councillor is substantially less than forthcoming. If they don’t want scrutiny then they’re in the wrong game.

Councillors avoid the first question about, “Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain.” Few acknowledge that being a councillor is, ‘for profit or gain.’ Even Cabinet Members conceal their roles despite being paid up to £37,412 pa.2

Business interests must be included in section one and mostly these are stated. Some Councillors are directors or hold senior managerial roles. Others are retired, yet more wrote ‘None’ and some don’t answer the question.3

Havering’s Register includes 14 totally invisible Buy-to-Let Landlords who own 19 properties. These assets are worth about £5m generating £150,000 pa in rental income or, ‘profit or gain’.4 Being a Landlord creates political biases shaping decision-making. The government’s Register demands a truthful, accurate statement because biases are important. There’s a lot of organised opposition to social housing from wealthy Councillors who are motivated by NIMBYism.5 They sacrifice the needs of the unhoused to their privileged comfort.

Havering’s Councillors are evasive about they’re Landlordism and their significant political roles. But this isn’t a matter of taste. They’re legally obliged to reveal details and the Monitoring Officer is tasked with making sure they do. That there’s so much discrepancy suggests a total lack of focus.

Notes

1 see Title (publishing.service.gov.uk)

2 This is £6,000 more than the median wage in the UK for full-time employees. To be fair the Leader describes himself as a full-time politician.

3 Your Councillors | The London Borough Of Havering Research done on 8th July 2022. Sue Ospreay (Rainham and Wennington) signed a blank form. Why LBH’s Monitoring Officer finds that acceptable is beyond me.

4 At a 3% return after tax and business expenses this creates a collective income of about £150,000pa. The £5m is a guess-estimate based on the Havering’s property prices. I took £250,000 as a base figure though there are properties costing less than that most cost more: therefore £5m is probably an under-estimate.

5 NIMBY = Not in my backyard

Havering Council Meeting: 13th July, 2022

Ray Morgon’s cabinet has a lot to prove. None have had policy making positions and one’s only been on Council for two months. So how did they do?

Question Time was Ray’s cabinet’s first outing. Classy Conservative questions were a sharp improvement on the tedious HRA efforts we used to endure. There were two standout moments.

Dilip Patel asked about Development (@42 minutes)1. Graham Williamson casually remarked about developing the ‘Green Belt’ in the fullness of time. This is a dramatic policy shift. I wonder if his cabinet colleagues know about it?  Osman Dervish (@53 minutes) asked Oscar Ford about free school meals during holiday periods. He said there won’t be any unless government financed them and then burbled about budget constraints. Ford was unmoved when it was pointed out this meant sacrificing vulnerable children during a catastrophic cost-of-living crisis.

Sue Ospreay (@1 hour10) was emotional about derelict land in Rainham. Morgon said it was a ‘Bad Thing’. They’ll still be wringing their hands in horror in ten years.

Opposing ULEZ2 in Havering (@1:38) was led by David Taylor. Keith Prince’s rant, (@1 hour50) and Judith Holt’s desire to join Essex (@1:52) convinced me some Conservatives are having a mental breakdown. Williamson (@1 hour:55) remarked that 7% of Havering’s death rate was due to air pollution. This is three deaths a week, every week, which is a good argument for ULEZ, I’d have thought.3

There were an unprecedented six Conservatives absent. They included Damian White who’ll be pleased to know his group gave a good show.

Notes

1 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

2 For ULEZ see Ultra Low Emission Zone (ulez.co.uk)

3 Municipality of HAVERING: demographic balance, population trend, death rate, birth rate, migration rate (urbistat.com)

Havering Councillor: Keith Prince (Con: Squirrels Heath)

Keith is a superstar in Havering’s Town Hall. He’s been a councillor for 32 years in various places. He began his career in Havering, moved to Redbridge becoming Leader of the Council, and then a GLA councillor.1 He’s still a GLA councillor – he was re-elected in 2021 – with a massive majority. And in May, 2022 was elected as a Havering councillor. What’s going on?

Keith, like all successful politicians, can smell political blood. While campaigning last year he noticed Romford Conservatives weren’t a happy ‘Band of Brothers’. So, he did the obvious thing and seized the opportunity. Damian White was ousted from his seat in Squirrels Heath. He inserted himself into the newly created vacancy and was elected in May, 2022. Keith is simultaneously a GLA and Havering councillor. Maybe he doesn’t believe that being a Havering councillor is time consuming?

Keith has made two rare misjudgments. He thought Havering would be ruled by the Conservatives and he’d be Leader. Now he’s in Sadiq Khan’s GLA and is a councillor with an HRA2 Administration in Havering. It’s enough to make a grown man weep.

If Romford Conservatives weren’t a happy ‘Band of Brothers’ in 2021, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like now. And they don’t even have Allowances to keep them interested any more.

Addendum: Register of Interests

Keith’s mentor Boris Johnson, aka The Great White Shark, has taught him to be unworried about trivialities like legal obligations. Keith still hasn’t filled in his Register of Interests, which was due no later than 2nd June 2022.3

Notes

1 He’s GLA councillor for Havering and Redbridge neatly drawing together the threads of his career.

2 HRA is the Havering Residents’ Association

3 As of 4th July 2022 Councillor details – Councillor Keith Prince | The London Borough Of Havering

Havering’s Register of Interests: Three Case Studies

Every councillor has a legal obligation to fill out the Register of Interests. The government regard this as so important that if statements are false, it’s potentially a criminal act. Every councillor knows this.

The Register must be completed within 28 days of the election, which, this year, falls on the 2nd June 2022. Anyone not filling in the Register isn’t meeting their legal obligations.

Philip Ruck (HRA: Cranham) apparently hasn’t filled in his form, which is a significant failure. Philip’s a new councillor but Keith Prince (Con: Squirrels Heath) has a long and distinguished career behind him. He too hasn’t filled in his Register of Interests which makes me suspicious. Keith’s GLA entry is overflowing with detail. Can it be that they’ve filled in their forms and been let down by the Council? If not, then it’s a reprehensible failure.1

Sue Ospreay (Con: Rainham and Wennington)2 signed a blank form, which is legally binding. It can be tested under the true/false criteria. On the basis of the Register statement of Jacqueline McArdle (Con: same ward) Sue’s statement is false. Jacqueline received donations from the Conservative Party. It’s highly unlikely that Sue didn’t also receive a donation.

The Register of Interests3 is a vital part of democracy. The Councillors who apparently failed their legal obligation, without a reasonable explanation, should lose their allowances. Sue should be given the opportunity to revise her form if it’s deemed necessary.

Notes

1 Councillor details – Councillor Philip Ruck | The London Borough Of Havering This entire discussion is based on the information held on this site. The information was accessed on June 21st 2022. For other councillors go to the relevant entry. For Keith Prince see for his GLA statement Keith Prince – Register of interests | London City Hall

2 mgConvert2PDF.aspx (havering.gov.uk)

3 MPs also fill in a Register of Interests. This one is for Jon Cruddas (Lab) (Dagenham and Rainham) House of Commons – The Register of Members’ Financial Interests (3 May 2022: Cruddas, Jon ) (parliament.uk) For other MPs just fill in the relevant name.

Ray Morgon’s Cabinet Announced: Who Are They?

After 38 days of ‘wheeling and dealing,’ a cabinet is in place.1 It’s less diverse and older than Damian White’s outgoing Conservative cabinet. Ray has welded together the independent Residents’ Associations.2 He’s also brought Labour into a Working Agreement, making sense of consensus politics. Ray’s done interesting political juggling.

The Cabinet3

Ray and Keith Darvill have had 20 years in opposition. Ray has never succumbed to the Conservatives’ ‘pot-of-gold’ politics. His first act was to reduce Councillor Allowances, which suggests personal integrity. Keith has been a lonely figure following the implosion of Labour in 2002. They’ve both been principal members of Council for 20 years and stand head and shoulders above their colleagues.

Gillian and Oscar Ford are the most powerful husband and wife team since Labour’s Arthur and Margaret Lathom. Oscar (2022) is a complete unknown. He might find scrutiny bruising. For example, is his principal qualification for cabinet being Gillian’s husband? Gillian (2002) has flattered to deceive on many occasions. There always seems to be more unsaid than said. Has she got the inner steel to drive an agenda in a very difficult department?

Paul McGeary (2010), Paul Middleton (2018), Barry Mugglestone (2014) Chris Wilkins (2018) and Graham Williamson (2014) fill the remaining cabinet posts. They’re indifferent speakers but experience will rectify that. Their contributions in committee and council suggests they’re sound. McGeary’s professional profile means he’s amply qualified for his post. Wilkin’s qualification for the Finance post is that he’s a buy-to-let landlord. This is probably insufficient.4

Notes

1 14th June 2022

2 From now on Residents’ Associations will be only referred to by the umbrella title Havering Residents’ Association (HRA)

3 Cabinet structure (havering.gov.uk)

4 mgConvert2PDF.aspx (havering.gov.uk)

Havering’s Winds Of Change: HRA Take Over

The Council Tax meeting, 2nd March 2022, saw Ray Morgon attack the ‘pot-of-gold’ politics of Damian White. HRA produced a detailed analysis of allowances paid to Conservative councillors,1 not all of which were value for money. His ‘compare and contrast’ analysis is unambiguous. Every single additional allowance for 2022-23, will be reduced and some ‘jobs’ deleted altogether. Morgon’s proposals shrink the allowance budget by £218,434.

Unfortunately, £218,434 is too small to make a significant difference in the Council’s multi-million pounds budget.2 Nonetheless I applaud Morgon’s direction of travel. The horrible, insincere Osborne slogan3We’re all in this together’ actually means something in Havering.

Conservative councillors are used to significant supplements to their basic allowance of £10,412.4 They now face a dramatic pay-cut. Damian White’s allowances reduce from £56,317 as Leader to £18,062 as Leader of the Principal Opposition. Former cabinet members lose their £29,356 allowance.5 At least two appear to be full-time politicians, which means they’ll be making major reappraisals of their lives.

The Council has suffered catastrophic financial losses from Covid-19. In addition, central government grant cuts and massive increases in demand for statutory services will worsen the dire financial situation. Morgon’s team have massive challenges facing them but this is a good symbolic start.

Notes

HRA is the Havering Residents’ Association

1 (Public Pack)SUPPLEMENTARY AGENDA Agenda Supplement for Council, 02/03/2022 19:30 (havering.gov.uk) p10

2 Every time the Bank of England raises the interest rate by 0.25% it adds £250,000 to the borough’s interest bill.

3 George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer 2010-16, used this slogan to promote the destructive Age of Austerity.

4 This allowance is unchanged

5 They received this and the councillors allowance of £10,412.

Havering Residents’ Association: Who Are They?

HRA is an umbrella organization, which maintains the legacy identities of Residents’ Associations (RA). The hard political miles over next four years will be very demanding for this arrangement. Having to make policies for the whole borough and balancing spending priorities is challenging.

The political labels that Havering’s Democracy Department uses for councillors illustrates the problem.1 HRA has six councillors not 20.2 Neither the Leader, or his deputy, are identified as HRA councillors. Ray Morgon belongs to the Residents’ Group; Gillian Ford to the Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Group.

This isn’t nit-picking.3 Amateurism is lovable, until it lurches into a destructive shambles when people discover that not every decision is applauded.

HRA’s 20 councillors includes five women. Conservatives have nine out of 23, Labour five out of nine and East Havering Residents’ Group none. HRA and Labour have female deputy leaders so women’s issues should, hopefully, get a voice. Gillian Ford has an especial role in this matter. HRA’s female councillors are middle-aged and their life experiences should have sensitised them to sexist injustices.

HRA’s male councillors are mostly old.4 It should be remembered that Havering is an ‘old’ borough, so this isn’t a complete anomaly.

Ray Morgon has begun consensual politics with his nominees for LGA positions.5  This policy has to be applauded if it’s a sign of things to come.

Notes

1 Your Councillors | The London Borough Of Havering This list is used for this blog. It’s published by the Democracy department of Havering Council and is based on the information given to the Council by councillors. As of 8th June 2022 HRA, as an umbrella organisation, is recognised on the Democracy site.

2 There are two HRA councillors for Emerson Park and Hylands and Harrow Lodge wards. There’s one each for St Andrew’s and Elm Park.

3 Oscar Ford describes his party as the Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Association. The other two councillors in that ward describe themselves as the Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Group. This is bizarre. The three councillors can’t even agree what party they’re in.

4 Councillors ages aren’t revealed by the Democracy Department but photographs offer clues. The Conservatives have the ‘youngest’ group of councillors including Damian White their Leader.

5 Local Government Association. The national organisation for councillors.

Havering Annual Council meeting, 25th May, 2022

What do you really, really want?1 Spice Girls

This Council meeting was pivotal because Havering voted, yet again, for No Overall Control. Minority Conservative leader Damian White was hoping to mop up a few Resident Association (RA) members but failed. Adroit political thinking by Ray Morgon led to an umbrella organization for RAs: the Havering Residents’ Association (HRA). HRA members have decided playing footsy with Conservatives is a mug’s game and they ‘really, really want to be in power’.

HRA face exactly the same challenge as every other minority party. How to achieve a majority? Enter Labour. Labour’s nine votes create a majority but…. Many HRA members dislike Labour which is reciprocated. But…  what do they really, really not want? The thought of four more years of Damian White, is helping to focus minds.

The Council meeting was important but had the drama of paint drying.2 There were two decisive moments. Firstly, the election of Labour’s Trevor McKeever, as Mayor. Secondly, and crucially, Ray Morgon becoming Leader of the Council.

Instantly the challenges Morgon faces were revealed. He was unable to name a cabinet or chairs of committee and so Council was adjourned. On a positive note, Havering’s four LGA councillor nominees3 showed him building consensus politics.

The adjourned meeting is eagerly looked forward to as it points the direction of travel for the next four years.

Notes

1 Spice Girls – Wannabe Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

2 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

3 Local Government Association. Havering’s nominees are Ray Morgon, Gillian Ford, Keith Darvill and Michael White

Damian White gets the Post-Election Blues

Damian has defeated a challenge to his leadership by a single vote. He was challenged in a WhatsApp message from Robert Benham,1 who spoke of ‘in-fighting’. He and his supporters lost and the Conservative ‘pot-of-gold’ politics might inflict a punishment beating on Robert and his supporters. Who knows? Damian might be magnanimous and they’ll all live happily ever after.

The galling fact for Damian is that he leads the largest party but needs five more votes. Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) have 20 seats and are negotiating for Labour’s nine votes to create a Friendly Understanding. HRA have 29 votes in sight but that means taking responsibility. HRA like permanent opposition. It’s painless and well-paid. All of which means that they might actually prefer a seductive offer from Damian.

In 2018 Damian mopped up HRA councillors. He’ll try again but this time it’s harder. Why? Sally Miller, John Mylod and Michael Deon Burton all lost. Their fate is a warning to renegades.2 Individual HRA councillors might take Damian’s offer. It is, after all, a few thousand pounds, for doing little else than agreeing with him.

Can Damian heal? The challenges will test his mettle. The nest of vipers that’s the Conservative group have had a very public split, which could result in flaky members drifting to HRA. Throwing gold around solves some problems but there are some Conservatives with ambitions. And they’re lean and hungry.

The excitement is building towards May 25th when a new Administration is brought into being.

Notes

1 Damian’s deputy in the Conservative group

2 The Harold Wood Three bucked the trend and prospered