Havering’s Council Meeting: 1st September, 2021 (part one)

The tributes to former Mayor and Councillor Del Smith dominated this Council Meeting. As usual there were eulogies.1 On this occasion they weren’t pro forma crocodile tears.

Del was Harold Hill’s outstanding councillor during the 1980s and 90s. At the meeting, six councillors knew him personally, 23 years after he left council. This demonstrates Havering’s political stability.

Roger Ramsey, Havering’s classiest councillor, began. Roger’s an outstanding speaker and looks like a nice old gentleman. He’s a ruthless political operator though. Del wrecked the Labour Administration in 1996 over a matter of principle.2 Ignoring trivialities, Roger allied the Conservatives with Del’s Socialist group to get glittering prizes. Roger also did a deal with the Residents’ Association (RA). Desmond Tutu’s Rainbow Nation3 became Havering’s Rainbow Alliance. Del was very witty.

Del created the ultimate political group. Very left-wing Socialists with Conservatives and crypto-Conservative RAs. It was hilarious. Del laughed for two years. His mastery of Havering’s politics equalled Arthur Latham4 and Roger. When Del became Mayor, Andrew Rosindell5 choked. But as Roger said, Del was a superb Mayor who orchestrated debate like a maestro.

All six eulogies were sincere and wonderful to hear for those of us who knew him. On a personal level I’ve lost a very dear friend who I mourn.

Notes

1 To watch the eulogies see Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) From 7 minutes to 26. This includes a minutes silence.

In speaking order: Roger Ramsey, Linda Hawthorne, Ron Ower, Keith Darvill, Brian Eagling and Denis O’Flynn. Ray Morgon and Jeff Tucker spoke but didn’t know Del personally.

2 For a massive blow-by-blow account see Del’s Arthur Latham, my part in his downfall (friendsofdagnampark.org.uk) For my critique of Roger see Havering Councillor: Roger Ramsey (Emerson Park) – Politics in Havering

3 Having Conservatives and RAs in a group, with Socialists, epitomised his style. For Tutu’s Rainbow Nation see Rainbow nation – Wikipedia

4 Arthur Latham was an ex-MP and Leader of the Council. He was a restless political operator who never accepted peace and quiet. He didn’t realise that other people were also cunning.

5 Andrew took the cowardly way out of his problem. He couldn’t vote for Del – a Socialist – and he couldn’t defy Group Leader, Roger Ramsey, so he left the chamber until after the vote. This amused Del.

Havering’s Concrete Barges: relics of World War Two

In 1986 Correlli Barnett wrote The Audit of War. he believed that war speeds up innovation. Obviously not every innovation is successful and some look ridiculous in the cold light of day.1 Barnett’s said the stresses of war creates an atmosphere where creative people can ‘think the unthinkable’ and they get an influential audience. Havering’s concrete barges, which are rotting adjacent to the Rainham Riverside Thames path are a wonderful example of bizarre innovation.They are the remains of concrete, iron rod-enforced ships from World War II. Despite appearances, they are lighter than the water they displace, and so can float.”2

Concrete barges at Rainham Riverside

The Americans developed concrete ships but ours’ were barges meant to transport material across the Channel for D-Day. They were invented to overcome a dangerous shortages of steel, which was used for strategically important munitions.

The Rainham Riverside walk starts at a small car park and the concrete barges are adjacent on the edge of the Thames. These 16 historical curiosities are part of Havering’s heritage. If you continue walking eastwards (towards QE2 bridge) you reach the RSPB reserve, which has a visitor’s centre, cafe and fascinating wildlife with accessible paths and viewing points.3 This is an easy walk but there aren’t many benches.

Notes

1 An aircraft carrier made from a mixture of wood pulp and ice is certainly innovative but??? See Project Habakkuk – Wikipedia

2 See Thames History at Rainham (londonriversidebid.co.uk) See also the excellent blog Rainham Marsh Concrete Barges – Beyond the Point and also 16 Ships Made Of Concrete, Hiding In The Thames | Londonist

3 untitled (rspb.org.uk) This shows you the circular walks which are available

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?

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

R. J. Mitchell Primary School: Celebrating Local History

Introduction

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.

Discussion

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.

Sources

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

The Jack Cornwell Victoria Cross Houses, Hornchurch

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.

Note

* 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

Sources

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/

Sponsored Squadrons at RAF Hornchurch in World War 2

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)

Sources

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