Havering Council Meeting 3rd March, 2021: Budget Setting

Taxes Are What We Pay for Civilized Society1

Damian White (Con)2 Damian did entry level bragging about his ‘leadership’ skills. He said other councillors should watch and learn. He discussed the 2020 RA’s budget proposals in a failed political demolition job. Rainham’s flooding problems can be resolved, he claimed. All that’s needed are gutter cleaners when heavy rain is forecast: well good luck with that. The Covid-19 victims (880) are to be memorialised with tree planting. (30)

Ray Morgon (RA) There was a sharp change in intellectual climate with Ray’s speech. It began with a macro-economic survey and Havering. Covid-19 and Brexit are seen as current negatives. He worried about deskilling senior management and was sceptical of performance indicators. The quality of building work in South Hornchurch was highlighted. The £17 million of efficiency savings were probably a negative for quality. (51)

Chris Wilkins (RA) Chris added little to Ray’s speech. (1:07)

Jeff Tucker (RA) Jeff’s speech was a job application. If the Harold Wood 3 perish next year he’ll be ready! Otherwise it was incoherent drivel. (1:20)

Keith Darvill (Lab) Keith did a forensic survey of the budget, citing page numbers and showing unique command of detail. He said Havering’s challenges began in 2010 being deliberately inflicted by central government. Adult social care is demand led and the entire 3% council tax increase for this is probably insufficient. The additional Covid responsibilities are only partially funded, inflicting yet more council tax pain. (1:39)

Martin Goode (RA) Martin slavishly follows Damian. (1:50)

Roger Ramsey (Con) Roger did a masterclass. Quick, articulate and in command of his material, he shone like a beacon of talent. A political knee-capping job on Keith, Tony Blair and Sadiq Khan showed Damian how to do it. Roger could have increased council tax by a further half million pounds. That he didn’t is economically illiterate because Roger is unashamedly political in everything he does. No posturing, just steel. (1:53)

The next five speeches were generic, which went along these lines: 1) Covid has caused significant problems; 2) I’m wonderful; 3) My staff are hard-working; 4) We’ve had tremendous successes; 5) The RAs are awful except for; 6) Jeff Tucker.

Jason Frost (Con) (2:03)

Osman Dervish (Con) (2:12)

Robert Benham (Con) (2:22)

Viddy Persaud (Con) (2:33)

Joshua Chapman (Con) Of the five cabinet generic contributions, this was the best. (2:44)

After an hour of cabinet reports, opposition members were permitted to speak. They’d waited two hours fifty-two minutes for the opportunity. Damian dodged accountability with his cynical manipulation of the speakers’ roster. It was an abuse of elected members who wished to speak for their communities.

Denis O’Flynn (Lab) Denis is a politician to his fingertips and has had a long and distinguished career. He brilliantly refuted Roger’s history lessons about why Havering is in dire straits. The recalibration caused by the collapse of Poll Tax meant that from 1991 Havering was doomed to under-funding. He brushed off the cheap points Benham made. (2:52)

Ron Ower (RA) Ron did a terrific job, especially focusing on the capital receipts programme of the next five years. He was sceptical of its achievement – probably rightly. The massive IT programme of £34 million seemed to be under-scrutinised, whilst the Adult Services budget was optimistic. (2:56)

Michael Deon Burton (Con) Mimicked the cabinet members. (3:00)

David Durant (RA) Repeated his well-known views on Covid. He made an important point about the ‘floods officer’ who left after allegedly being down graded. Perhaps he knows ‘cleaning gutters’ isn’t a viable response to endemic flooding? Worse, perhaps he said so? (3:04)

Gillian Ford (RA) Gillian is a class act and has a calm speaking voice. She riled at Damian’s cheap point scoring about the lack of an alternative RA budget. She made telling points about system failures. The wrecking of the Overview and Scrutiny committees and cancellation of meetings meant that the administration basically gets a free ride. The ‘Pitch and Putt’ sale rumbles on with the administration increasingly looking as if they’ve under-estimated the Upminster RAs (3:08)

Barry Mugglestone (RA) Barry made a quick point about cancelled council meetings (3:11)

Damian White (Con) Damian appeared to be speaking from an illegal bar with Union Jack bunting and a dart board behind him. His ‘summary’ was a hysterical rant entirely lacking intellectual content. Was he ‘tired and emotional’? (3:12)

Dilip Patel (Con) Dilip murdered the National Anthem. Judith Holt (Con) should take up the baton as she’s a chorister. (3:19)

Damian’s phalanx of poor cabinet speakers lacked fluency and couldn’t sight read ‘their’ speeches. Roger Ramsey, Ray Morgon and Keith Darvill stood out, meeting the demands of the occasion. Others ranged from a blizzard of statistics (Frost), a jog-trot round parks (Dervish), 900 laptops for deprived children (Benham) and various self-congratulatory remarks.

This was an opportunity to demonstrate the Conservative administration fully understands the challenges of Covid, Brexit and seismic changes in working practices in Havering. It was missed.

Addendum Times are in brackets in bold: (53) means the speech began 53 minutes into the webcast. This is the webcast link Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

Notes

1 This is engraved on the Inland Revenue Building in Washington, DC

2 Con = Conservative; RA = Resident Association; Lab = Labour

Havering’s Academies and School Uniform

All Havering’s secondary schools have a compulsory uniform policy. This appears to have parental support and is more-or-less uncontentious. Conflicts occur over detail: hairstyles and jewellery feature heavily in this respect.

Uncontentious or not, there’s a problem. The schools are a monopoly. Children must attend or be educated at home. (Home schooling isn’t viable for most parents. This is especially true at secondary level.)

Children are obliged to attend school and schools are publicly funded. Filters are only legitimate when there’s a shortage of spaces. How does a dress code get elevated to being a filter?

Schools are devoted to learning. It’s implausible to claim not wearing uniform harms learning in any way at all. It’s even less plausible to claim that a child not wearing uniform in some way harms learning for any other child. So why are they of critical importance in Havering?

Other national education systems don’t have school uniforms:

The best European school system is Finland. Finland routinely tops rankings of global education systems and is famous for having no banding systems — all pupils, regardless of ability, are taught in the same classes. As a result, the gap between the weakest and the strongest pupils is the smallest in the world. Finnish schools also give relatively little homework and have only one mandatory test at age 16.1

Havering’s academies aren’t outstanding but keep repeating the old routines. Perhaps spending less emotional energy on school uniform and more time on learning would be beneficial?

Note

1 The 11 best school systems in the world | The Independent | The Independent Compare this with the Coopers Coburn Academy policy on hairstyles. Their policy has a 192 words, which can be summarised in nine words as, ‘If we don’t like it, you can’t have it.’ Year-7_11-Uniform_March-2021.pdf (cooperscoborn.org.uk)






Dagnam Park Football Pitches: ‘Penny pinching gone mad’

Havering’s Conservatives got a huge capital receipt and then subverted a statutory 106 notice. They did this by building two football pitches in Dagnam Park without changing rooms. Naturally they weren’t used and the pitches was closed because of ‘lack of use.’ It’s a grim tale of outlandish decision-making destroying every precept of local government.1

The two football pitches were built to the exacting standards of Sports England. “Whilst the combination of re-grading and installation of pipe drains on the proposed pitch areas will provide a good standard of playing surface, ongoing management will play an equally important role in sustaining their playability during the winter months.2 (my emphasis)

The pitches were engineered for winter use. Expensive drainage, ground management, re-profiling of the ‘slope’, were essential and cost £100,000+.3 They were a sop to Sports England. The council had no intention of the pitches being used.

These pitches are for winter use. There’s no changing room facilities or car parking. They’re unusable for adult football. Adults don’t rent pitches, change in the open air and pop behind a bush to ‘spend a penny’. Having no changing rooms adjacent to football pitches is equivalent to building a house without a bathroom and toilet.

The pitches were, unsurprisingly, unloved and two years ago were abandoned, because no-one was renting them. The remains are two areas of land, immaculately drained, standing in a soggy wilderness. The Council got a huge capital receipt and successfully evaded their responsibilities for replacing like with like. In brief, they decided it was better to waste £100,000+ to get Sports England off their back rather than do the job correctly. Cynical politics at its worse.4

1 For details see Sports facilities May 2012 (friendsofdagnampark.org.uk) For a 106 notice see What Is A Section 106 Agreement?  | Kingsley Smith Solicitors (kslaw.co.uk)

2 For details see London Borough of Havering 160512 JW (friendsofdagnampark.org.uk) See especially pp5-6, p12

3 See a very informed letter by Dennis Cook in the Romford Recorder Romford Recorder, 1 March 2019, readers’ letters: Dagnam Park football pitches, parking spaces, Upminster Pitch and Putt, me… | Romford Recorder

4 Achieve a healthy weight | The London Borough Of Havering This policy is empty rhetoric as it doesn’t influence decision-making.

Andrew Rosindell, Boris Johnson and Gallows Corner, 2014-20

The Gallows Corner flyover is a notorious ‘temporary’ structure.1It’s so old it could be listed as an architectural treasure for permanent preservation. Andrew Rosindell, MP for nineteen years, hasn’t solved the problem. He’s been thwarted by Boris Johnson.

Andrew said in 2018, “Gallows Corner is one of the most dangerous road junctions in Greater London, after having made representations for its improvement over many years, I am happy to see it shortlisted as one of first five improvement schemes in Government’s Major Road Network.”2 (my emphasis) Chris Grayling made the promise, which proves central government holds the purse strings.3

Ever hopeful, Andrew used a 2020 PMQ to elicit Johnson’s intervention. Johnson said, “I can ensure my honourable friend that we are working with TfL to see what we can do to resolve the issue of Gallows Corner, and we will update him in due course.”4

Obviously Johnson’s 2014 prediction was forgotten. “[Johnson]….confirmed that work by TfL to improve the Gallows Corner junction will be completed in 18 months.”5 And Roger Evans, Conservative chair of Transport, got this from him,Thank you very much, Roger. The issue is topmost in TfL. Thank you very much for raising it on behalf of your constituents….improvements should be completed by the spring of 2016.6 (my emphasis)

Johnson has squandered £43 million on an unbuilt ‘Garden Bridge’. Johnson’s other fantasy project is the cable car link in Docklands at a cost to London of £23 million, which continually loses money.7 The Gallows Corner flyover improvement is costed at £50 million for thousands of users each year. Traffic jams are incredibly expensive and there’s a huge environmental cost.

Andrew didn’t go to Eton or Oxford and isn’t a Johnson crony. Need I say more?

Notes

1 For a quick overview see Why is the ‘temporary’ Gallows Corner flyover in Romford still there after 50 years? | Romford Recorder

2 Andrew Rosindell’s Conservative party newsletter Fixing Gallows Corner | Andrew Rosindell

Keith Prince, GLA councillor, has Gallows corner issues too Gallows Corner Chaos-by Keith Prince. – The Havering Daily

3 For the source of funding he said, The programme allows councils to bid for improvements to local A-roads and it’s part of the biggest road investment since the 1970s as each of the shortlisted schemes will be eligible for up to £50m of funding. (my emphasis) In 2018 in Parliament Andrew identified the government as the solution but was brushed off by the minister A12: Gallows Corner Roundabout – Thursday 5 July 2018 – Hansard – UK Parliament

4 A PMQ question in November 2020 Personal plea to PM: Help Me Fix Gallows Corner! | Andrew Rosindell Andrew blamed Mayor Khan and the TfL for the problem, which is a bit rich considering his disappointments with Johnson as Mayor and Prime Minister.

5 Boris Johnson announces TfL Gallows Corner plans to be completed by 2016 | Romford Recorder Perhaps this was another Boris Johnson? Gallows Corner Junction | Mayor’s Question Time (london.gov.uk)

6 Roger Evans was the Conservative GLA member for Havering.

7 For the Garden Bridge see Garden Bridge – Wikipedia For the cable car see Emirates Air Line (cable car) – Wikipedia And the flyover is costing money paid by motorists see Annual cost of traffic jams ‘reaches £8 billion’ | ITV News

Flooding and Rainham Councillors

In theory councillors represent their local communities. Councillors should resolve local problems by mediating with the council administration. Political considerations sometimes intercede, such as when the allocation of resources has to be prioritised. Less honourably, personality clashes between councillors also matter. Some councillors are more capable than others at negotiating. Rainham councillors are a case in point.

Rainham has been a Residents’ Association (RA) stronghold since 2002. Jeff Tucker, the leader of Rainham RAs, has been a councillor for nineteen years. The 2018 election result showed the gap narrowing between the RAs and the rest.1 Why?

Jeff’s two RA colleagues aren’t impressive. Neither of them live in Rainham and aren’t part of the community. Tony Durdin had a 29% Council attendance record,2 which is abysmal. David Durant is a let-down in a different way. At a recent council meeting his vaccine scepticism about Covid-19 was discussed. He persuaded Jeff to endorse an amendment. Jeff proposed it but it was so ridiculous he voted against.3 This made him look ludicrous. More importantly, he lost credibility with officers and Conservative administration councillors.

Jeff’s colleagues are poor but how good is he? Rainham is beset with flooding.4 Jeff fully understands this major problem but he doesn’t know how to negotiate. The Conservative administration sits on their hands. Flood prevention isn’t rocket science. It just needs investment and Jeff doesn’t know how to unlock the purse strings. Rainham RAs are a clique who no longer serve their community.

1 Local elections | Election results | The London Borough Of Havering

2 Attendance record – Councillor Tony Durdin | The London Borough Of Havering

3 Havering Council Meeting, 20th January, 2021 – Politics in Havering

4 See for 2014 flooding Flooding causes major problems for drivers in Rainham | Romford Recorder

See for flooding in 2019Rainham residents ‘desperate’ after knee-level floods and sandbags unavailable | Romford Recorder

See drone video of 2021 flooding Rainham Dovers corner floods 31/01/21 – YouTube

Havering Councillor: Natasha Summers (South Hornchurch)

South Hornchurch is a Residents’ Association (RA) stronghold. In the old days RA councillors lived in the ward they represented. ‘We share the same experiences as you and we aren’t politicians’. No more. Michael Deon Burton became a Conservative two days after the 2018 election. Graham Williamson has never lived in South Hornchurch. Natasha is the last relic of RA politics-not-politics. (I don’t understand it either.)

Obviously her community work isn’t publicly available. She might be a tireless councillor but her paid public role is unimpressive. Between 19th August, 2020 to 20th January, 2021 she had 62% attendance. ‘Attendance’ during the pandemic means walking across the living-room and turning on her council provided laptop. 

The council’s principal committee is the Overview and Scrutiny board. There were five meetings in the period and Natasha attended two. The Overview and Scrutiny board is where all contentious and strategic items go for discussion. Members have a great deal of work to do to fully understand crucial long term policies.1 Only senior councillors are on the board and their decisions help shape the future of Havering for years to come. Non-attendance is a disgrace.

The RAs in South Hornchurch are trading on decades of hard work by local councillors who have left a wonderful legacy. This legacy is being trashed.

1 See the agenda for 24th November 2020 as a sample (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Overview & Scrutiny Board, 24/11/2020 19:30 (havering.gov.uk)

Source

For Natasha’s attendance record see Attendance record – Councillor Natasha Summers | The London Borough Of Havering

Havering Council Meeting, 20th January, 2021

This meeting was a train crash.1 The Mayor can’t chair a meeting, which was then cynically manipulated by the Leader, Damian White. The Mayor finally noticed the manipulation by Damian’s cabinet and was irritated (at 2 hours 10 minutes). Fortunately for Damian the Mayor doesn’t understand procedure and so he didn’t follow through with an extension of the Council meeting to close of business. Detention, as it were, for bad behaviour.

Damian is adroit and is having a ‘good’ pandemic. Numerous media appearances have brushed up his profile. His 16 minutes of repetitious contributions helped destroy the agenda.

The discussion of Covid-19 was based on a report and an amendment (Addenda 1 and 2). This report was for ‘Noting’. The unscientific and hysterical amendment should obviously have been brushed aside. No! There was a 63 minute ‘debate’ dominated by every single one of of Damian’s cabinet. What did they say in their 18 minutes of allocated time? Banalities. Viddy Persaud’s three minute anecdote about her dad was a spectacular example (2:06)

After 63 minutes Jeff Tucker (2:11) said he was voting with Damian. It was his amendment! The Simpsons have more credible storylines.

So what was really happening? Damian avoided embarrassing agenda items. None of the councillors asked for the motion to be ‘Put’ to end the fiasco. This procedural device halts debates when there’s virtual unanimity and further discussion is pointless.

The meeting ended with the National Anthem being unpatriotically murdered by Joshua Chapman (2:41). The Council should invest in a Karaoke machine.

Addendum one: Item 10

REPORT OF THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE SUBJECT: The importance of COVID-19 vaccination SUMMARY The emergence of a new, more transmissible variant has contributed to very high rates of coronavirus infection that threaten to overwhelm the NHS. In response, the Government has enforced a third lockdown to bring infection rates down and thereby relieve pressure on the NHS. A number of effective vaccines are now available, adding a powerful new tool to complement such non-pharmaceutical interventions. The immediate priority is to vaccinate the most vulnerable and those that care for them so that the pressure on the NHS can be relieved, enabling the current lockdown to be relaxed sooner than might otherwise be the case. Vaccination on this scale represents a massive operational challenge to the NHS. Inequitable resourcing and vaccine hesitancy may impede progress locally and leave residents and the NHS unnecessarily vulnerable. Information regarding progress will be needed to ensure the efficiency, equity and effectiveness of the programme for local residents In the short term at least i.e. this side of summer, vaccination must be seen as a complement to, not replacement for non-pharmaceutical interventions. RECOMMENDATIONS Note the contents of the report.

Addendum two: The Independent Residents’ Group amendment

The recommendation of the report be amended to read as follows: Council remits the report for redrafting as it is unduly alarmist, vastly disproportionate and unethical, as no details are provided about the experimental vaccines with possible side-effects it wants the council to promote.

Note

1 All quotes are from this and all times relate to the webcast Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

Havering Council Emasculates Independent Councillors

Havering has had three Independent councillors who were prevented from fulfilling their responsibilities to their electorates. Independent councillors are banned from Overview and Scrutiny committee places. They can only attend council meetings. Overview and Scrutiny committees are pivotal to good governance.1 The Council debate on 20th January 20212 discussed the political balance of the committees but ignored the excluded Independent councillors

The three became Independent councillors in different ways.

Bob Perry (Emerson Park)

Bob was (is?) disgusted by the leadership of the Conservative group. His disenchantment led to a covert recording of a group meeting. At that group meeting Damian White was heard to say words to the effect that he’d had undue influence on forthcoming boundary changes.3 Bob left the Conservative group and is now an Independent.

Jan Sargent (Gooshays)

Gooshays elected Jan as an Independent councillor knowingly rejecting the alternatives. What the electorate didn’t know was that Jan, and they, would be disrespected. Jan has got sick of being ignored and has joined the Harold Wood Three. Alternatively she might have been attracted to the rich rewards that they’ve accrued from propping up the Administration. Maybe she thought it was a good career move. Who knows?

Melvin Wallace (Squirrels Heath)

Melvin became an Independent after an indiscretion.4Maybe Melvin should have resigned but he didn’t. Perhaps he likes doing nothing but he shouldn’t be forced to do nothing.

This undemocratic situation can’t continue. Let’s imagine that all three were black. What would the media make of that?

1 See Havering’s Conservatives Defy the Government’s Guidance on Overview and Scrutiny Committees – Politics in Havering Don’t forget the Harold Wood Three have been richly rewarded for propping up the Conservative Administration since 2018.

2 Go to 50 minutes the debate lasts 16 minutes Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

3 See Local Government Boundary Commission for England Consultation Portal (lgbce.org.uk)

4 See Havering Councillor: Melvin Wallace (Squirrels Heath) – Politics in Havering

Havering and the Covid-19 Parliamentary Debates 6th January, 2021

There were three Covid-19 debates on 6th January and the principal one was led by Boris Johnson. The other two were Education and Health. Andrew Rosindell made two contributions. One briefly in the Education debate and the other at greater length in the Matt Hancock led debate. But astonishingly the most pertinent contribution for Havering came from Barking MP Margaret Hodge.*

My local hospital, Queen’s, is one of many that is facing critical pressure on the supply of oxygen to patients. Demand for oxygen is running at 100% or more of the supply available. Will the Prime Minister assure me and my constituents that action is being taken to ensure a safe and secure supply of oxygen? Will he tell me what contingency plans he has in place to ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed and closed, critically ill patients are not moved, and every patient receives the right amount of oxygen when needed?

Boris Johnson replied

I am very grateful to the right hon. Lady. I will immediately look into the matter that she raises about oxygen at Queen’s Hospital. It had not been drawn to my attention before, but we will make sure that we get back to her as soon as we can.

Margaret Hodge showed how powerful a parliamentary debate can be, especially when the Prime Minister is present.

Note

* Covid-19 – Wednesday 6 January 2021 – Hansard – UK Parliament column 755

Sources

For selected quotes from this debate, without commentary, see Selected Quotes: Covid-19 Debate 6th January 2021 | Odeboyz’s Blog (oedeboyz.com)

For the Education debate see Covid-19: Educational Settings – Wednesday 6 January 2021 – Hansard – UK Parliament

For Andrew Rosindell’s contribution see column 774

For the Health debate see Public Health – Wednesday 6 January 2021 – Hansard – UK Parliament

For Andrew Rosindell’s contribution see column 841

Havering Council Budget Consultation 2021-22

Havering’s 2021-22 Budget Consultation is a device which will be interpreted as an endorsement. Nonetheless, I ploughed through to see what could be gleaned from the ‘explanations’ which were offered to the questions. In truth there wasn’t much.

The amount raised by Council Tax is £130.1 million. An additional £339.6 million comes from government. Basically, Havering is a conduit funnelling resources into schools and social services. This makes the million pounds spent on councillor allowances unjustifiable. Decisions are made elsewhere. So what’s their role?

Question eight on Adult Social Care, and ‘Better Living’ reveals a saving of £3.569 million.** How? The gist is “…rather than relying on statutory services.” I don’t know what this means for vulnerable people in this context. However those receiving “…statutory services” will know and care rather a lot.

‘Smoke and mirrors’ continue for questions 8, 9, 10, 11. By question 15, the bottom of the barrel has been reached, “This saving was presented as part of the original Business case signed off by Cabinet in 2019.”(my emphasis)And the saving is – £190,000 – on a budget of £469.7 million. It wasn’t achieved in 2020 so why will it happen in 2021?

Question 17 is the crux of the consultation. But my option wasn’t there. I think council tax is too low.*** That was too shocking to be an option.

Notes

* Two informative graphs explain ‘Income-Spend’. They’re scene setting.

** Notice that they claim a saving to the nearest £10,000, which isn’t a rounding error.

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

Source

Havering Budget Consultation 2020 – London Borough of Havering Council – Citizen Space