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?
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.
* 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
Havering Budget Consultation 2020 – London Borough of Havering Council – Citizen Space
R. J. Mitchell didn’t have a direct personal connexion with Hornchurch but in an imaginative gesture his genius is acknowledged by the school named after him. The incredibly courageous RAF pilots who flew out of Hornchurch flew in Supermarine Spitfires, which Mitchell designed. The Spitfire was so advanced and capable as a fighter plane it made victory over the Luftwaffe possible.Mitchell’s Spitfire designs were a crucial contribution to victory by ‘The Few’.Hornchurch is indelibly identified with the battle of Britain, the Spitfire and R. J. Mitchell.
The school concludes their brief history of the period by saying,
“We do not seek to glorify war, but to remember the sacrifice of brave people in extraordinary circumstances.”
The school reflects the community by honouring the RAF ‘aces’ of the Battle of Britain. This bonds the school with their community. Many of the school’s students come from streets named after fighter ‘aces’ in the immediate area. The school is located in a place which memorialises those fateful years.
Each passing year pushes those existential days further into the mists of history. So does it matter?
History does matter as it gives a sense of place and identity. The rich heritage that is celebrated by R. J. Mitchell School isn’t jingoistic. It’s measured, respectful and is to be applauded.
For a quick biography see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._J._Mitchell
For the excellent R J Mitchell School’s celebration of the history of the community see http://www.rjmitchellprimaryschool.com/havering/primary/rjmitchell/site/pages/welcome/historyofourschool
For R J Mitchell School in 2013 see https://www.teachprimary.com/learning_resources/view/outstanding-schools-rj-mitchell-primary
Jack Cornwell was a boy-sailor who died, aged sixteen, from his injuries after the battle of Jutland. His exemplary courage was recognised with a Victoria Cross. Harsh unrelenting attitudes towards the poor meant he wasn’t given a hero’s funeral and was buried in a common grave.* Once this became known it provoked widespread public anger. Jack was re-interred with full military honours in Manor Park cemetery but his family continued to live in poverty.
Because Jack was sixteen and a VC, his death was used for propaganda purposes. Although Jack had no connexion with Hornchurch, land here was cheap and so money which was raised in his name was used to build the Jack Cornwell houses for injured servicemen.**
After the first world war many severely injured survivors were unemployable. The workhouse system was still in place but that was entirely inappropriate. Lloyd George’s slogan Homes fit for heroes haunted him as public pressure demanded meaningful action. Philanthropy kicked in with huge donations from all over the country to build specially designed housing for disabled servicemen. The Jack Cornwell houses are an example.
* For the definition of a ‘common grave’ see https://library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections/collection/729#:~:text=A%20common%20grave%20was%20a,plot%20with%20private%20burial%20rights.
** In Station Lane
For a wonderful summary of Jack’s heroics at the battle of Jutland see https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/boy-1st-class-john-jack-travers-cornwell-vc
For a summary of the estate, including a description of the houses, see https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/48021
For a review of housing and support for severely injured soldiers see https://historicengland.org.uk/research/inclusive-heritage/disability-history/1914-1945/war/
An unusual aspect of the Battle of Britain was the sponsored squadron. RAF Hornchurch had its share of these. A sponsor didn’t pay for specific Spitfires. They contributed an amount, which was the equivalent of the cost. The RAF then designated a squadron’s number with the name in brackets. Sponsored squadrons reflected the patriotic feelings of British cities and countries in the Empire. India, which was in the throes of Gandhi’s Quit India movement, contributed a great deal towards the defence of Britain.
Eleven squadrons served in Hornchurch during the war. ‘The Few’ flew from Hornchurch and suffered many casualties whilst defeating the Luftwaffe. Less well known was the international financial support Britain received in this crucial battle. Of Hornchurch’s eleven squadrons, seven were sponsored from across the Empire and Britain (see Addendum).
Financial resources were provided in a great world-wide rush of good feeling towards Britain and were very important to our ultimate victory. This is an unglamorous but important aspect of the Battle of Britain. Nazi Germany’s repulsive government provoked fear, not respect, and these sponsored squadrons demonstrate this truth vividly.
Addendum: sponsored squadrons
Squadron 74 (Trinidad)
Squadron 122 (Bombay)
Squadron 222 (Natal)
Squadron 264 (Madras Presidency)
Squadron 266 (Rhodesia)
Squadron 600 (City of London)
Squadron 603 (City of Edinburgh)
For Hornchurch’s Battle of Britain squadrons and casualties see http://www.rafhornchurch.thehumanjourney.net/squadrons.htm
For a list of RAF Hornchurch squadrons see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Hornchurch
For a critical analysis of ‘The Few’ in the battle of Britain see https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/the-few-who-saved-britain-were-even-fewer-than-everyone-thought-5369212.html
For Squadron 74’s WW2 service history see http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/74_wwII.html