Havering’s Annual Council Meeting, 24th May, 2023

Havering’s Annual Council meeting1 is a character-building event. Only political geeks should attend. Out-going mayor Trevor McKeevor, walks and talks like a mayor, so Stephanie Nunn, the new mayor, has a hard act to follow. An instant difference was Stephanie’s easy-going familiarity. She waved to people in the chamber. This included Robert Benham and her spiritual advisor (at 47 minutes). This is a sharp change in tone.

The death of Linda Hawthorn2 was noted without eulogies. That will come at the council meeting on the 12th July. She was a veteran councillor having served 33 years.

The meeting livened up when new Conservative leader, Keith Prince, tried to withdraw David Taylor’s nomination for a council position. He misunderstood procedure and Taylor remained on the candidate list notwithstanding Prince’s efforts to withdraw his name. Taylor was defeated 29-3 with three members not realising they were voting for a non-candidate.3 They demonstrated loyalty (beyond!) the bitter end.

The meeting concluded with Ray Morgon’s summary of the year. He had a good story to tell. Unfortunately, he ruined it with a disastrous metaphor about the sea – in landlocked Havering. His principal highlight was building a successful coalition. The low point was the ‘parking permit’ fiasco, which he4 gracefully accepted as being the antidote of a triumph.


1 For the webcast go to Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) All times relate to this source

2 See Havering Councillor: Linda Hawthorn (Upminster) – Politics in Havering for a summary of her exceptional position in Havering’s political life.

3 The voting was: 29 For the HRA candidate; 3 Against; 7 Abstentions. Interestingly these 39 votes out of 54 mean 15 councillors were doing something else.

4 The responsible cabinet members, Barry Mugglestone and Chris Wilkins, presumably accepted blame in private.

Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny Board: 30th March, 2023

The Overview and Scrutiny Board is Havering’s principal scrutiny committee. It has twelve members and ten attended this meeting. (Non-attendees were cllrs Summers and Damian White.)1

Item 6, Corporate Risk Register, analysed risks to the budget. (Addendum One) Every risk is rated ‘high’.2 The minutes of the ‘discussion’ are shocking.3 There was virtually nothing said about this ultra-specific report. Worse, the viability of the mitigation of risks was unchallenged. Proposed mitigation included wishful thinking…lobbying government. (Addendum Two)

Members discussed ULEZ’s effects on some care workers, which isn’t a Corporate Risk and wasn’t in the report. The existential bombshell below was in the report and was ignored.
Difficulty in identification of further efficiencies and savings following a decade [actually 13 years] of Austerity and increased demand following the COVID pandemic.”
Translated: LBH can’t mitigate risk because the Conservative Austerity programme has destroyed the resilience of the council.

The budget is at ‘High Risk’ of failure. Gerry O’Sullivan should summon Chris Wilkins, LBH’s finance Tsar, to discuss his mitigation proposals. The O/S Board meeting with Wilkins will be an important building block in proactive scrutiny.

Addendum One: High risk factors for the 2023-24 budget

Financial Resilience – Inability to deliver a balanced budget as a result of:

  • Inadequate Government Funding
  • Rising Demographic pressures and/or increased complexity of Social Care
  • Rapidly increasing inflation
  • Cost of Living Crisis
  • Delay or non-achievement of planned MTFS savings
  • Inability to forecast due to uncertainty over medium term Government Funding
  • Uncertainty regarding timing of future Government funding reforms including introduction of the care cap (currently no sooner than October 2025), whilst being required by government to move towards the median cost of care.
  • Difficulty in identification of further efficiencies and savings following a decade of Austerity and increased demand following the COVID pandemic
  • Government changes in policy e.g. changes to Home Office refugee dispersal

Addendum Two: Mitigation of the risks to the 2023-24 budget

Early diagnosis of the financial gap to allow time for actions to be put in place including new savings proposals.

Lobby the Government at every available opportunity to put the case for both lack of Funding for local government generally and more specifically how Havering is disadvantaged from the current distribution formula. (my emphasis)

Work with national lobbying groups such as the LGA and London Councils to put the case for more funding to the Government. (my emphasis)

– The Council has developed over £30m of savings proposals (over 4 years) which are being consulted on to reduce the financial gap which will be monitored for delivery.

– The Council continues to review its structure to develop a new target operating model which both aligns with current service priorities but also delivers savings and efficiencies.

– The Council is in the process of reviewing the Capital Programme to ensure that all schemes continue to be viable (see regeneration section of this risk register for further details).

– The Council has developed action plans to mitigate and reduce the in-year overspend including:

  • All overspends reviewed and challenged to identify any non-recurrent spend which could be funded from reserves · All use of consultancy reviewed by senior management

Appendix 1: Source: HAV00005 p31


1 For enquiries on this agenda please contact (havering.gov.uk) Cllr Ruck is the vice-chair he attended the meeting via Zoom, which wasn’t noted in the minutes.

2 See p28 for details of categories of risk.

3 For enquiries on this agenda please contact (havering.gov.uk) Minutes para 39

The Politics of Potholes

After 13 brutal years of Austerity, the Conservatives lost 1059 councillors in the May, 2023 local elections. Voters voted against the destruction of council services. The beneficiaries were Labour, LibDems and the Green Party. Worse, for the Conservatives, was lethal tactical voting.1

This happened in Havering in 2022. 20 years of Conservative power ended with a coalition between HRA2 and Labour. An example of the new political reality is Julia Lopez’s position. She has a massive majority and no Conservative councillors, in her constituency.

Havering finances have been hollowed out. The real reduction in funding since 2010, is £97 million p.a.3 An obvious consequence are potholes becoming more dangerous. They’re now causing significant damage to cars when they hit them.

Which brings me to The Politics of Potholes.

Resident Associations used to focus on street care. They reduced councillor allowances to supplement that budget. Now they must make political decisions about the use of resources. Unfortunately, they’re in hock to the ‘Law and Order’ lobby.

The HRA/Labour coalition continued Conservative policies. The Section 92 MetPolice contract at £300,000+ p.a. was renewed. They then turbocharged the CCTV surveillance system with a multimillion-pound investment. Both were agreed without meaningful debate.4

The problem is: What do HRA/Labour “Really, really want?”5. Havering’s roads are a disgrace and need millions of pounds of investment. The money could come from the CCTV capital programme.

Pothole Repairs or CCTV?

Both sides have passionate advocates and it’s the art of politics to prioritise and not lose support. Considering that HRA built their ‘brand’ on street care, it seems quixotic to plump for CCTV. Damian White binned the same CCTV propositions and he ‘won’6 the 2022 election. He only lost power because of a surprise coalition between HRA and Labour. Motorists experience potholes every day and many of them vote.


1 Tories swept out of Home Counties council after Labour and Lib Dems formed a ‘progressive’ pact (msn.com)

2 HRA = Havering Residents Association

3 Havering’s Budget and Rishi Sunak: 2023 – Politics in Havering

4 In a rare moment of sanity about CCTV, Barry Mugglestone gave Christine Vickery a quick lesson in cost/benefit analysis. Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Go to one hour one minute  (1:01) for the exchange.

5 So, tell me what you want, what you really really want. – Bing video

6 23 Conservatives; 19 HRA; 9 Labour plus 4 others

Havering’s Parking Permit Horror Show

In the Romford Recorder, 28th April 2023, there was a headline about the doubling of the price of parking permits. Leadership hopefuls, Keith Prince and David Taylor, attended the photo opportunity. They smelt blood. They were right, there was a cock-up.

David Taylor has discovered the importance of political homework. He’d attended the Overview and Scrutiny meeting and nothing was said about doubling the price of parking permits. The following day they were doubled with, “…the agreement of the chairman.” Gillian Ford said, without irony, that, “…we instigated an inquiry.” That is: an inquiry into her own budget.

Football fans sing, “You Don’t Know What You’re Doing” at referees. If the public had been at the cabinet meeting, it would have been appropriate.

David Taylor was right. Cabinet didn’t know every aspect of their own budget. But the explanation of the cock-up is interesting.1 Ray Morgon said it wasn’t his fault. “We are still looking at how this happened….” This translates as, “The officers run the council and tell us what’s happening afterwards.”

What’s interesting is the invisible Chris Wilkins.2 He’s chair of finance. The revenue increase must have been discussed with him and he didn’t alert Morgon. This is remiss.

Officers aren’t politicians and are insensitive to the political implications of their proposals. Decision-making by officers is disastrous.


Havering’s Cabinet Meeting, 3 May 2023

As usual the meeting was dreary.3 Apart from Martin Goode asking detailed questions nothing happened.

David Taylor should have asked about the cost of the parking permit ‘U’ turn. If he had asked he’d have found out it was £250,000 or ten teacher assistants.


1 Havering Council reverses doubling of parking permit prices | Romford Recorder

2 Wilkins spent the entire cabinet meeting glued to his iPad, which gives a terrible impression, after what happened in the house of commons.

3 Webcast Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

Havering Councillor: Damian White (Havering-atte-Bower)

Damian has had a stellar career, which is now ending. First elected in 2010, he became deputy-Leader, 2014-18, and Leader of the Council, 2018-22. In 2019 he nearly became an MP in the Boris Johnson landslide.1 That was his finest hour.

Damian controlled Conservative councillors with pot-of-gold politics. The allowance system was manipulated to ‘reward’ them. He relied on three RA2 councillors, from Harold Wood, for his working majority. They too were richly rewarded.

The 2022 election was disastrous for Damian. Havering’s new coalition Administration3 didn’t include Conservatives. They lost power for the first time in 20 years. Collectively, losing the election cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds in allowances. Damian lost thousands of pounds as well as his status as Leader. It’s debatable which was worse.

Since the 2022 election, Damian has become an absentee councillor even though he remains Leader of the Conservatives. His attendance at committees is an appalling 33%.4 It could be that he is having a gigantic sulk. What’s certain is that if he was an employee he’d be sacked.

The Conservative group’s Leadership election in May should see Damian replaced by someone more dynamic or, at the very least, visible. A likely successor is Keith Prince, seen here with Andrew Rosindell at a St George’s Day celebration.



1 Damian White Scuppered by Nigel Farage! 12th December, 2019 – Politics in Havering

2 RA = Resident Association

3 Havering Residents’ Association as the major group along with Labour to make numbers up to 28

4 Attendance record – Councillor Damian White | The London Borough Of Havering This is for the last six months up to April 2023

Andrew Rosindell’s Big Idea

Andrew1 isn’t a political thinker. His Big Idea is Havering2 joining Essex and damn the consequences. It’s Brexit politics transferred to Havering.

Andrew’s ‘independence’ programme will upset elderly voters who will lose the Freedom Pass.3 ‘Independence’ would end it forever. Popping into London for a cheap day out would be a memory. People from Brentwood are jealous of London’s Freedom Pass, especially since the Elizabeth Line started. The other main benefit is it increases Havering’s house prices.

Independence won’t protect Havering from ‘Mayor Khan’s dangerous [housing] plans…’,4 because there aren’t any dangerous plans. Businessmen make commercial decisions about housing. High rise blocks happen if there’s a market for them.

Andrew says Havering’s motorists are, ‘…being fleeced to the tune of £12.50 a day…due to Khan’s ULEZ tax.’ This is a lie. 85% of Havering’s motorists won’t pay a penny. A typical car in Havering is compliant. The Mayor is implementing a Public Health policy and using a charge to induce compliance. ULEZ is aimed at no polluting cars and clean air.

Andrew wants Havering to, “…be independent of the political structures of Greater London.” This from a man who wanted to be the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London in 2020 and failed! Shaun Bailey defeated Andrew for the candidacy. Shaun was then defeated by Sadiq Khan in 2020.

Andrew ends his Big Idea rant by saying, “….Havering [should] take back control’. Now where have we heard that one before? And didn’t it end well?


1 12 years as a Havering councillor and 22 years as Romford’s MP with an overlapping year. He’s had one year’s political experience 33 times.

2 He means Romford. Hornchurch was independent pre-1964 and was bitter about being taken over by Romford. Andrew was born in 1966 and is advocating someone else’s fantasy.

3 The Freedom Pass is very expensive for local authorities. Havering spends about £8 million p.a. Havering and the Freedom Pass – Politics in Havering

4 Romford Recorder ‘Make Havering Independent’ p34 14th April 2023 All quotations are from this article.

Havering’s Councillors: Value for money – March, 2023

Councillors are at the apex of Havering’s democracy. Their only obligation is attending eight Council meetings a year. In Havering there’s nothing like a 100% attendance, which is astonishing. Meetings are notified a year in advance and absence should be exceptional.

Recently1 I discussed attendance at three Council meetings, January-March 2023. This received critical comments from councillors and I wondered if I was unfair. I’ve analysed all eight meetings held in March.2

Those meetings should have generated 162 councillor attendances. The actual outcome was 139. This is a 14.19% non-attendance rate. A 14% absentee rate is a key indicator of malaise in an organisation. High absenteeism is associated with organisations in decline. ‘Red Flag’ events, like absenteeism, aren’t brushed aside because they’re a cause of urgent action to rescue the situation.


Councillors aren’t employees. They can’t be sacked and managers – party leaders – can’t sanction them in a meaningful way. It’s entirely the responsibility of councillors how they perform. And they get paid regardless of their effectiveness.4

The Conservative Leader, Damian White, is faced with a dramatic problem. He can’t persuade enough of his members to fill the Conservative quota on the Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee. This is disgraceful and worse than absenteeism. It is contemptuous of democracy itself.

Councillors aren’t doing the people of Havering a favour by attending meetings. It’s their public service duty.


1 Havering’s Councillors: Value for money? – Politics in Havering

2 Monthly meetings calendar – March 2023 | The London Borough Of Havering One meeting doesn’t have published minutes and I don’t know which councillors were present

3 If a councillor doesn’t attend any council meeting for six months they lose their seat Part 3: The Good Councillors Guide – …ask your council

Havering’s Councillors: Value for money?

The Council meeting, 22nd March 2023, was shocking. The shock didn’t come from what was said or discussed. It was because so many councillors didn’t turn up. Out of 54 councillors only 47 appeared. This an absentee rate of 13%. Or, as HR experts call it: ‘A Red Flag’ event. What’s going on? Councillors aren’t amateurs, they’re paid £200 pw as an allowance. They aren’t contracted to do any specific hours but attend a minimum number of meetings per year. Council meetings are their only obligation.

Provoked by this I researched the three months from 1st January 2023.2 The Council meeting, 18th January 2023, had two non-appearances.3 The all-important budget setting meeting, 1st March 2023, is a ‘three-line-whip’ event. Seven councillors were absent from the meeting that set Council Tax for the year 2023-4.4 That decision affects every resident in Havering. And seven councillors didn’t turn up!

On consecutive Council meetings, seven members were absent. There shouldn’t have been any absentees without exceptional circumstances. But 16 different councillors missed three Council meetings. This is worrying.

They couldn’t all have been taken suddenly ill: Could they?


1 Agenda for Council on Wednesday, 22nd March, 2023, 7.30 pm | The London Borough Of Havering p1 Absentees were Councillors Osman Dervish, Brian Eagling, Sarah Edwards, James Glass, Linda Hawthorn, Robby Misir and Susan Ospreay.

2 For January go to Monthly meetings calendar – January 2023 | The London Borough Of Havering Follow links for the next two months, or trace backwards for previous months. Research completed on 27th March 2023

3 Councillors David Godwin and John Wood

4 Councillors Dilip Patel, Robert Benham, Patricia Brown, Christine Vickery, Viddy Persaud, Carol Smith and Joshua Chapman

Havering Council Meeting: 22nd March, 2023

Damian White’s ten-month sulk is over.1 He’s positioning Conservatives in their new opposition role. Damian is ‘Love-Bombing’ the HRA/Labour administration with helpfulness.

At Question Time there were 15 questions and four resulted in requests for further meetings or, even steering groups to help deal with issues. Paul Middleton (@50)2 looked as if he’d been ambushed over the Leisure centre by Damian. Keith Darvill (@54) positively embraced Damian in his Climate Change role. Christine Vickery (1:01) was brushed off by Barry Mugglestone but came back for more over CCTV in Ardleigh Green. Finally, Joshua Chapman (@1:04) had a meeting of minds with Paul McGeary.

Damian’s new ‘Love-Bombing’ policy triumphantly concluded the meeting. Keith Prince (@2:01) accepted an HRA Amendment in its entirety. Keith’s skill-set doesn’t usually include sweetness and light and everyone reeled back. A political earthquake! The CEO was so shocked he took legal advice on what a composite motion meant in this situation. Four minutes later the wrong decision was made.

Judith Holt (@17) hadn’t read Damian’s memo. She presented a petition for anti-ULEZ warriors and read their diatribe even though it’s against Council procedure. The Mayor silenced her and was roundly booed.

‘New Conservativism’ is pleasing but what does Damian really have in mind? Endlessly fascinating.


1 See Havering Council Meeting, 18th January 2023 – Politics in Havering At this meeting the Conservatives opted out from the normal democratic process

2 Webcast is here Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Times relate to the webcast. This is 50 minutes

Havering’s Cabinet ‘debates’ CCTV: 8th March, 2023

The estimated cost of this Upgrade and CCTV Relocation Proposal is £2.423m, to be funded from Capital and CIL monies.1

As a minimum, a ‘debate’ about spending £5 million capital and £500,000+ revenue should include a discussion of effectiveness. Councillors were unaware there were questions to ask. They seemed equally unaware that officers had noted CCTV isn’t a legal obligation. The decision was made without considering the economics and effectiveness of CCTV.

HRA are obsessed with street care, so would £500,000 revenue help enhance meeting residents’ desire for clean and smooth pavements? What about £5M capital?2 The three minute ‘debate’3 that was devoted to this critical issue is less than a new bike shed would get. But then they understand bike sheds. Don’t they? None of the economic points relating to an efficient use of council funds were mentioned. It was rubber stamped.

The Summary statement says CCTV makes, “Havering a safer place.”4 The question is whether it will  improve the current situation. Is there evidence CCTV makes a difference to levels of crime? Item 7, points 2-8,5 is silent on whether CCTV successfully fights crime.

The CCTV programme is very expensive.6,7 It is additional to £300,000+ pa for Havering’s five funded police officers.

Summary point 7 says, “…an effective and reliable CCTV system plays an essential part in assisting the Council to fulfil its duties under the Crime & Disorder Act 1998, which requires local authorities to work with the police and other partners to prevent and reduce crime and disorder”.4 (my emphasis)

The police don’t think CCTV is that great.

Overall, use of CCTV makes for a small, but statistically significant, reduction in crime, but this generalisation needs to be tempered by careful attention to (a) the type of crime being addressed and (b) the setting of the CCTV intervention. CCTV is more effective when directed at reducing theft of and from vehicles, while it has no impact on levels of violent crime.”8 (my emphasis)

Havering’s CCTV has been superseded by 1,000s of private CCTV systems and 10s of 1,000s of smart phones. This cabinet ‘debate’ was abysmal.


1 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Cabinet, 08/03/2023 19:30 (havering.gov.uk) Item 5

2 The 2023 Capital programme is interesting and demonstrates that £5M is significant Appendix 1 – Existing Capital Programme Detail.pdf (havering.gov.uk) The £5M just about doubles the road resurfacing budget from £6M to £11M. This would reduce the costs to residents paying for damaged vehicles.

3 Go to minutes 1-4 for the ‘debate’ Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) See also Report detail p21 para 9:1

3 p14

4 pp14-5

5  p17 para 2:7 main report £500,000 revenue

6 p18 para 6:3 main report £5,000,000 capital

7 p15 See Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (legislation.gov.uk) There is no obligation to fund surveillance equipment. This is noted at p20 para 8:1 There is, however, a duty to have a Crime and Disorder committee which Havering doesn’t have. Para 5:1c (a)

8 http://library.college.police.uk/docs/what-works/What-works-briefing-effects-of-CCTV-2013.pdf p2