Havering’s £50 A Minute Councillors

What the Government Says Havering’s Councillors Should Be Doing

The role that overview and scrutiny can play in holding an authority’s decision-makers to account makes it fundamentally important to the successful functioning of local democracy. Effective scrutiny helps secure the efficient delivery of public services and drives improvements within the authority itself. Conversely, poor scrutiny can be indicative of wider governance, leadership and service failure.1 Ministerial introductory statement (my emphasis)

What Havering’s Councillors Did in the First Six Months of 2021

Health Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

23rd February………………………………….1 hour 10 minutes

Chair: Nisha Patel……………………………£55.72 a minute

Crime & Disorder Sub- Committee

18th March…………………………………….1 hour 15 minutes

Chair: Sally Miller……………………………£52.01 a minute

Environment Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

18th February………………………………….1 hour 15 minutes

Chair: Maggie Themistocli…………………£52.01 a minute

Individuals Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

9th March; 13th April…………………………….2 hours 05 minutes (in total)

Chair: Christine Smith……………………….£31.21 a minute

Towns & Communities Overview & Scrutiny Sub- Committee

9th February……………………………………2 hours 15 minutes

Chair: Ray Best………………………………£28.89 a minute

Children & Learning Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

4th March……………………………………. 2 hours 25 minutes

Chair: Judith Holt…………………………..£26.90 a minute

Overview & Scrutiny Board

16th February; 10th March; 22nd June…………4 hours 32 minutes (in total)

Chair: Darren Wise………………………….£27.03 a minute

Chair of the Board is paid £14,706 a year sub-committee chairs get £7803. 2 There’s no interaction or constructive discussion between Overview and Scrutiny committees and the Cabinet. Worse, on no occasion has a Cabinet member attended an Overview and Scrutiny committee to discuss policy issues.

Chairs are are actively preventing Overview and Scrutiny committees from fulfilling their legal duties and are therefore in breach their crucial role in Havering’s democracy.

There were no meetings of any Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee in January or May

Notes

1 Government advice on Overview and Scrutiny couldn’t be any firmer. They place it at the centre of local democracy. Overview and scrutiny: statutory guidance for councils and combined authorities – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

2 2020 Members Allowances final.pdf (havering.gov.uk) 

I made an error on sub-committee chair allowances which was corrected by Cllrs. Durant and Morgon . Thank you to them. The text is now accurate.

Havering’s Children and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee, 6th July, 2021

Children are the major victims of Covid-19 and excellent children’s services are crucial in rescuing them from permanent harm. Children’s services spearhead Havering’s efforts at reducing the pandemic’s impact. This committee should provide constructive criticism and support to hard pressed front-line officers. It doesn’t.

Item 61 of the agenda is a report of the Ofsted findings for their inspection, 12-13 May 2021. The pandemic has caused extensive sick leave and, maybe, a high turnover of front-line staff (Addendum). The implication of this is that the service has an inconsistent outcomes for the vulnerable children of Havering. The chair avoided (evaded?) the critical issue of recruitment and retention. She allowed the director to talk about a ‘training offer’ as if that answered the challenge of recruitment and retention. She doesn’t know what a probing question is.

Judith Holt’s only qualification as chair is she’s President of Romford Conservative Association.2 Havering’s Conservative administration sabotage the Conservative government’s commitment to Overview and Scrutiny because of croneyism. Government advice, is crystal clear,

The method for selecting a Chair is for each authority to decide for itself, however every authority should consider taking a vote by secret ballot.”3 (my emphasis)

Judith Holt wouldn’t win a secret ballot. Havering’s children are being sacrificed on the altar of croneyism.

Addendum: Ofsted Findings (bullet points 4 and 5)

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, social care leaders have an accurate understanding of children’s services and have maintained a focus on improving services to better safeguard children and to improve their outcomes. However, the pandemic has inhibited the leaders’ ability to address some key priority areas, including the recruitment of permanent experienced social workers and managers. Despite best endeavours, a high turnover of front-line staff, and lengthy sickness due to the pandemic, has affected the quality of management oversight and staff supervision. This has led to some children not receiving the help and support they need at the earliest opportunity. In response to this challenge, resources have been secured to recruit to additional senior practitioner posts….. On occasions, as a result of colleagues’ absence due to sickness linked to the pandemic, social workers’ caseloads have been unavoidably high in some teams. For some children, this has meant that they have not seen the same social worker consistently, making it harder for them to build a trusting relationship and share their worries and feelings. (my emphasis)

(Public Pack)Agenda Document for Children & Learning Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee, 06/07/2021 19:00 (havering.gov.uk)

Notes

1 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Children & Learning Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee, 06/07/2021 19:00 (havering.gov.uk)

2 News | Romford (romfordconservatives.com)

3 Overview and scrutiny: statutory guidance for councils and combined authorities – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) para 32

 

Havering’s Adjudication and Review Committee: 24th June, 2021

After a hesitant start1 this was one of the best committees I’ve reviewed. Councillors had read their papers and engaged with them. After a detailed officer led summary, three councillors drilled down into the report and, in the process, added value to it. The report was an end-year analysis of stage one and stage two complaints and the outcomes from the Ombudsman. This included penalties for poor performance, which were below a thousand pounds each.

Ray Best (start 13 minutes): He focused his questions on the scale of penalties. It was noted there were semi-disguised penalties where fees were returned for poor service. It was noted that care fees were halved in one case for poor service.

Joshua Chapman (15m): He made important constructive criticisms of the use of complaints. He felt data should be incorporated into training as complaints highlight shortcomings. The chair sensed that this point had been made previously but nonetheless should be highlighted once more. Joshua spoke with refreshing fluent authority.

Linda van den Hende (19:30m): Her important point was that as many of the Council’s services are out-sourced penalties should be ‘forwarded’. The officer said it didn’t matter whether a service was out-sourced, the Council had ultimate responsibility. She also hinted that contractors who had Ombudsman failures should have contracts reviewed. This is difficult to argue against.

Addendum: Jeff Tucker

Jeff was absent once again.To attend this meeting Jeff had to open his Council provided laptop and log in. This committee has met twice in six months. He’s attended neither. Considering the importance of the report, this is abysmal behaviour as he also didn’t arrange a substitute.

Note

1The meeting actually began six minutes after the scheduled time as the chair, Matt Sutton, was late. Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) For the Agenda see (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Adjudication and Review Committee, 24/06/2021 19:00 (havering.gov.uk)

Damian White’s Dereliction of Duty

Background

Havering’s Health and Wellbeing Board is a high powered forum for the Council, the NHS, local GPs and the Council’s directors to discuss the ramifications of the pandemic.1 The 28th April meeting included GPs who offered expertise despite not being full members of the Board.

Discussion

There have been eight meetings of the Board since the pandemic struck. Damian White has attended only two. The pandemic has been catastrophic for Havering, killing nearly a thousand residents. The Board discuss the ramifications of Covid-19 some of which are, as yet, unknown.

At the 28th April meeting, which Damian didn’t attend,2 there was a discussion of Long Covid. This illness is new and not yet understood. At its worst, it’s catastrophic and could be incurable. Neither Havering’s director of Public Health or the NHS know the scale of Long Covid. They know it’s emerging as a medical and social challenge.

Apart from the chair, Jason Frost, none of the other councillors were present. None of them offered apologies. They appear to treat this critically important forum as trivial. The worst offender is Damian White3. His behaviour is a disgraceful dereliction of duty. There should be a vote of ‘No Confidence’ from his own party or they will suffer the consequences.

Addendum One: Membership of the Board

Elected Members: Cllr Robert Benham, Cllr Jason Frost, (Chairman) Cllr Damian White, Cllr Nisha Patel.

Officers of the Council: Andrew Blake-Herbert, Chief Executive, Barbara Nicholls, Director of Adult Services, Mark Ansell, Interim Director of Public Health

Havering Clinical Commissioning Group: Dr Atul Aggarwal, Chair, Havering Clinical Commissioning Group, (CCG) Ceri Jacob, BHR CCG

Other Organisations: Anne-Marie Dean, Healthwatch Havering, Jacqui Van Rossum, NELFT and Fiona Peskett, BHRUT

Addendum Two: Board meeting 23rd June 2021

All four councillors attended this meeting for the first time since the 21st October 2020. Damian went off camera at 41 minutes and didn’t reappear and was silent during the period he was there.

1 These are the Minutes of the most recent meeting 28th April 2021 For enquiries on this agenda please contact (havering.gov.uk)

2 Neither did Robert Benham, deputy Leader, or Nisha Patel. None of them offered apologies to the chair, Jason Frost. Nisha Patel has missed three meetings out of eight (two without apologies).

3 See Damian White and Havering’s Pandemic – Politics in Havering

Havering’s Health and Wellbeing Board: 28th April, 2021

Jason Frost is an effective chair. He’d clearly read the agenda1, understood it and engaged so that he could lead the discussions. Given the importance of the business, an effective chair is vital.

Almost immediately the issue of sharing data came up. This was to be a recurring theme as suspension of data protection was implied. There are special procedures in place for the period of the pandemic about data sharing.

Jason immediately understood that the current emergency Covid strategies are expensive – but underwritten by the government- and likely to become permanent. He hoped that they could become part of the environmental officers’ brief, presumably to save money, but that was shown to be an improbable suggestion.

The challenges of Covid extend to Long Covid. The scale isn’t known but it’s a certainty. As there’s no cure, provision will have to be made to protect those suffering from it. Havering and the NHS will have to work closely together to meet this challenge.

A gloomy note was hit when the director of public health pointed out that Covid will be here for an extended period. Any surge would have to be met by stringent local actions, or, at worst, further lockdowns.

Addendum: Falsified Minutes

Damian White didn’t attend, yet again. In the minutes2 it says that he and two other councillors offered apologies. Viewing the webcast3 you’ll see they didn’t apologise for their absence. This pathetic falsification is childish corruption and deeply worrying in this critical period in Havering’s history. Let’s not forget the entire agenda was discussing the ramifications of a pandemic, which has killed 921 Havering citizens.

Notes

1 For the Agenda see (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Health & Wellbeing Board, 28/04/2021 13:00 (havering.gov.uk)

2 For enquiries on this agenda please contact (havering.gov.uk)

3 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Go to start point 2 minutes 55 seconds for announcement of apologies beginning with the chair and then the clerk: about 10 seconds altogether.

Damian White and Havering’s Pandemic

Havering was ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, which killed nearly a thousand people and hospitalised thousands more. The Health and Wellbeing Board is the forum for discussing such things calmly with experts. There were three meetings of the Board, at the height of the pandemic, between January and March 2021. The Board has four senior councillors, and health professionals.1 Damian White, Leader of the Council, his deputy Robert Benham, Jason Frost, chair of the Board and Nisha Patel are the four councillors.

There are monthly meetings, so information is always up-to-date. Reading the minutes of the Board is interesting.

Damian loves publicity. Whilst Havering was being ravaged, he appeared on TV on numerous occasions. He presented Havering’s response well and convincingly. He’s also done dozens of Leaders’ blogs during the period, which were informative and helpful. But was it sincere or just a PR exercise, flashy without substance?

The three meetings of the Health and Wellbeing Board were attended by everyone except Damian.2 He attended none of them. So what’s going on?

If there’s a plausible explanation for this dereliction of duty, I look forward to hearing it.

Notes

1 Minutes Template (havering.gov.uk) This Board is very high powered and includes Havering’s CEO who hasn’t missed a meeting.

2 On the 24th February 2021 he didn’t even offer apologies for absence.

Havering and the GLA Election, 2021

Damian White wept when he saw the results. Havering produced rock solid Conservative majorities whilst he struggles with a minority administration. A short political history lesson will explain why he’s suffering.

Fifty years ago, Jack Moultrie was the Conservative Leader of Havering Council who was dismissive of an Upminster housewife. Tragic error! That woman was the late, great Louise Sinclair. She despised the Romford-centric policies Jack embraced. He offered scraps from the table. She wanted more, much more.

Her formidable talents as an organiser and networker turbocharged the Residents’ Association (RA) movement. They fought and won elections in Upminster and Cranham. When Roger Ramsey was Leader in the 1980s, Upminster was nearly a Conservative no-go area. By 1990 it was. That feud shaped Havering’s politics so there would more-or-less be minority administrations. The RAs moved out of their heartlands taking over most of Hornchurch and south Havering.

To keep power, Damian has to do deals with RAs in one way or another.

Meanwhile the GLA election. ‘Tribal’ Conservative voters ignored the Gallows Corner disaster. Notwithstanding pre-election promises, I’m not holding my breath on that one. Shaun Bailey trounced Sadik Khan 51%-29%. His FaceBook campaign suggested there was lawlessness raging from Cranham to Heathrow. His grip on local government finance is strictly Ladybird and doesn’t inspire confidence. Another reason for Damian to weep.

Louise Sinclair changed Havering’s politics in the 1980s. She knew Jack Moultrie’s plan to turn Romford into central London was ridiculous. Louise knew what local politics means, good housekeeping and aspirations. We’ve got the housekeeping. Where, oh where, is the aspiration?

Damian White’s Political Arithmetic

Damian is a politician, which is a precarious job. In 2018, he finessed a brilliant coup.1 Building on his Romford heartlands he’s maintained a minority administration ever since. Now it’s unravelling.

Michael Deon Burton (South Hornchurch) 48 hours after being elected a Residents’ Association (RA) councillor he joined Damian’s Conservatives, seizing his baubles. His chances in 2022 are nil.

Sally Miller (Elm Park) An RA convert to Damian’s Conservatism. Her Elm Park seat will be RA again after she abandons it.

John Mylod (St Andrew’s) Left his RA group immediately before the 2018 election after a row. He retained it on a personal vote. This seat will probably revert to the RAs.

The Harold Wood Three They discovered the joys of Damian’s baubles but stayed in the RAs. I think they’ll lose in 2022. It’s problematic who’ll win with multiple candidates.

Damian’s arithmetic = minus six?

Damian might win six seats. Rainham is unlikely but South Hornchurch is a lottery with poor RA councillors leaving a poisoned legacy. Beam Park is an unknown and it’s only two seats. New wards in Romford are competitive and Damian can’t take them for granted. He might lose. RA heartlands are as safe as Romford and so the bizarre world of Havering politics jogs on.2

The Conservatives need a terrific 2022 Election. If the RAs unite, Damian is looking at an enormous pay-cut.

Notes

1 Havering Council: Damian White gets power, May 2018 – Politics in Havering

2 The Bizarre World of Hornchurch and Upminster Politics – Politics in Havering

Havering’s Individuals Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee – 13th April, 2021

This meeting1 discussed findings from Healthwatch Havering. Their report was released as part of a NHS survey: Experiences of disabled North East London residents in the Covid-19 pandemic.2

The questionnaire was too long. For example Q2 was sub-divided into six parts whilst Q12 was sub-divided into eleven parts. The document was formidably long at 26 pages. The additional questionnaire for carers was 25 pages long. Ian Buckmaster faced an impossible task summarising the findings accurately. (4-32 mins)

GP services were challenging for disabled residents (13-16). Harrowing anecdotes were told of lengthy delays hanging on the phone. GP websites were problematic and Ian Buckmaster said they could be in breach of NHS contracts.

The chair Christine Smith guided the meeting successfully. The only bleak spot was David Durant (see especially 47-9) who holds his prejudices uncritically. Trivialities like plausible information doesn’t deflect him. The chair used personal knowledge to rebut him. It didn’t make any difference. Too many councillors were silent apart from Jan Sargent and John Tyler.

The report was noted. Recommendations to the cabinet member Jason Frost should have been made. GP services impacts everybody as John Tyler hinted. Havering Council could, perhaps, broker a deal with the NHS and GP services in this critical area.

Notes

1 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) All timings refer to this webinar

2 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Individuals Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee, 13/04/2021 19:00 (havering.gov.uk)

Havering Councillor: Osman Dervish (Pettits)

Twenty years ago Osman was in Andrew Rosindell’s ‘Brat Pack’, now he’s a forty(ish) councillor with cabinet responsibilities for Environment.

Assuming Osman is a full-time Accounts Manager, this raises an important issue.1 His substantial salary as a cabinet member/councillor is £37,750.2.. For many Havering employees this is a full-time salary.

Zoom’s been kind to Osman. He reads pre-prepared statements fluently, unlike Damian White. Osman also looks the part. At the March 24th, 2021 Council meeting he read officer prepared answers. Osman’s answers were on dog ‘poo’, APCs, roads, parks, flooding (2) and pot holes (2).3

He reads pre-prepared answers and what else? Directing environmental policy means rising to challenges locally. Osman should exercise leadership. Major challenges are:

chemicals on roads and pavements,

the climate emergency,

air quality,

electric vehicles (the Council procurement policy?),

flooding.

Osman’s laissez-faire attitude ignores them all.

If Osman did develop policies they should be discussed with the Environment Overview and Scrutiny committee. He’s never attended that committee. He’s never faced probing questions with multiple follow-ups. He’s always been protected. Osman is a very expensive puppet.

His £37,750 is an insult to Havering’s employees. Many of his employees earn less than him for an actual full-time working week. Osman doesn’t do the job that he’s handsomely rewarded for.

Notes

1 mgConvert2PDF.aspx (havering.gov.uk)

2 Havering Members Allowances 2018-19 summary For average wages in Havering see Average London Borough of Havering Salary in United Kingdom | PayScale And for nurses see Nurse Average Salary (UK 2021) | Jobted UK

3 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Council, 24/03/2021 19:30 (havering.gov.uk) Item12. If you wish to watch Council questions go to Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) starting at 28 minutes in