Havering Council Meeting: 23rd March 2022

This was Damian White’s final council meeting as Leader before the election. He’s matured politically, becoming less frenetic and in charge of the agenda.1

The meeting began with very long-standing councillors being honoured. Councillors O’Flynn, Ower, and Ramsey were treated stylishly. They demonstrate the stability of Havering’s politics. More councillors will follow them out of the door, not all of whom will be pleased.

Question time2 (@1 hour 07 for 45 minutes) was effective. Osman Dervish’s boyish charm carried him through a multiplicity of questions mostly about pavements and pot-holes. (There were nine Resident Association questions.) Roger Ramsey answered Ray Morgon’s question (@1:30 minutes) about Havering’s deficit with magisterial ease showing how much he’ll be missed. Ray’s question was uniquely probing.

The debate on crime was peculiar.3 Councillors demanded more crime reporting using Alice in Wonderland logic. ‘More crime = more police and police are a Good Thing therefore Havering needs more crime reporting.’ Jeff Tucker led the ‘discussion’.

Ray (@2:10) stepped into the gutter. He announced Damian had a driving/drugs conviction. Damian subsequently said he’d struggled with his sexuality and was depressed. This explanation sounds sincere. Ray’s intervention was uncharacteristically sour and unpleasant.

Havering Council meetings end with the National Anthem. They’re usually sung quite appallingly. The sound system on this occasion threw in the towel and it was muted.

Notes

1 Damian is still Leader because Nigel Farage’s ego trip prevented him from becoming an MP. See Damian White Scuppered by Nigel Farage! 12th December, 2019 – Politics in Havering

2 The entire Council meeting can be seen here Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

3 The RA motion is here Final – Motions.pdf (havering.gov.uk)

Romford Conservatives, Sadiq Khan and Clean Air

Romford Conservatives are unhinged. They’re opposing Sadiq Khan’s Clean Air policy because it’s a Labour policy.1 This is political immaturity at its worst. Air pollution causes debilitating illnesses like asthma. Romford Conservatives are defending clapped out 17 year-old bangers to make a political point. And their ‘political’ point is:

We Really Don’t Like Labour And Especially Not Sadiq Khan.

For a once great party to be reduced to petty childish opposition to a Public Health programme is shocking. Winston Churchill (see Addendum) would have been astonished. Clapped out bangers are being charged for the health risk they pose.

Every London Mayor, including Boris Johnson, uses the pricing mechanism to achieve policy objectives such as controlling car parking.2 It’s very effective. Surging demand for electric vehicles demonstrates this. They’re subsidised directly,3 ULEZ is the other side of the coin.

Air pollution is invisible but real.4 Air pollution causes long-term illnesses in young children and the elderly. Havering Council monitors air pollution throughout the borough, especially near schools.5 Romford Conservatives are opposing their own policies by opposing ULEZ. Their immature opposition is demeaning.

Addendum: Clean Air Act, 1956

In 1953 Winston Churchill’s government initiated the Clean Air Act.6 This act was hugely disruptive, and expensive, but absolutely necessary. The ULEZ programme is a 2022 version of Churchill’s Clean Air Act.  It’s harder to sell because air pollution is invisible unlike the smogs of the 1950s. They share one thing: without these policies Havering’s children will suffer unnecessary ill-health.

Notes

1 STOP ULEZ | Romford (romfordconservatives.com) ULEZ = Ultra Low Emission zone

2 Toll roads could be introduced to UK roads as electric car ownership surges (msn.com)

3 There is a direct cash payment and nil Road Tax

4 Toxic air in London caused 1,700 asthma hospitalisations in just three years, study finds | The Independent

5 Air Quality in Havering: Environment Overview and Scrutiny sub-committee 20th February 2019* – Politics in Havering

6 The Clean Air Act | HouseFuel

Building Coalitions: Ray Morgon’s Challenge

Havering is a political nightmare where elections usually end in No Overall Control.1 Resident Associations (RA) are wooed into coalitions. (They’ve supported Conservatives and Labour in the past.) 2022 should be different. Ray Morgon’s RAs could be the majority group and he’ll have to create a coalition.

The recent Council meeting illustrates Ray’s problem. He made an impressive speech showing he understood the principal challenges which he’ll face leading a RA Administration. Unfortunately, two more RA ‘leaders’ were given full status for their speeches. At the March 2nd Council meeting there were three RA leaders recognised by the council.

Martin Goode (RA) supports the Conservative Administration. Martin, and his colleagues have kept the Conservatives in power for four years. If they’re re-elected will Ray ‘bid’ for their support like Damian White did in 2018? Building coalitions involves holding your nose. What will Ray do?

Jeff Tucker (RA) is a maverick. His Council speeches suggest unreliability. His Rainham stronghold is shaky. (He ‘lost’ 600 votes between 2014 and 2018.3) But he’s been a councillor for twenty years and could win in a bad year. Will Ray take the risk?

Labour and Conservative: As political parties they’re reliable. Their leaders can deliver votes and they won’t go off in a huff. But Ray knows they’ll both want their favoured policies endorsed. Will Ray pay the price? Will less motivated RAs go along with ‘horse-trading’?

RAs like being wooed. In 2022 Ray may need to learn political seduction. Damian’s masterclass4 is the template.

Notes

1 Havering London Borough Council elections – Wikipedia The last ten elections from 1982 have had seven NOC outcomes.

2 Havering Council Tax Meeting, 2nd March 2022 – Politics in Havering

3 2018 Havering London Borough Council election – Wikipedia

4 Damian White’s Political Arithmetic – Politics in Havering

Havering’s Elections and the Budget, 2022-23

In the good-old-days voters knew where they stood. Conservatives were heartless; Labour were warm-hearted; Resident Associations (RA) loved pavements. Happy days!

Rishi Sunak’s Stately Home in Yorkshire: Council Tax Band H

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, set Havering’s Council Tax at 3%. He imposed the principal budget item, Adult Social Care, without funding it. This budget is demand led so no-one knows how much it will eventually cost. Councillors do know Havering has the oldest population in London and dozens of Care Homes. Central government has imposed Stealth Taxes on Havering for 12 years.

A £150 million budget1 was nodded through with passionate debate about £70,000 ‘savings’ from Councillors Allowances. This would be allocated to street cleaning. An RA policy!

The 3% Council Tax increase is inadequate. Inflation is 7% rising to 10% by December. The in-coming Administration will have to make some grim decisions in October.

Council officers wrote an analysis of ‘risk’ factors for the budget.2 Item C4 refers to business rates losses, “it is hoped that the Government will fully recognise this in future settlements”.  Interest rates have increased twice in three months. C8 says, “An increase in interest rates will have a direct impact on the Council’s treasury strategy.”  Each 1% increase equals £1 million of additional expenditure. C19 notes a potential loss of “several million pounds” and C22 says government alteration in charging for ‘Green Waste’ will cost £800,000.

The Administration’s 400 job losses will save £7 million.3 They are, “Staffing Reductions Through Efficiency”.  Achieved by removing, “activities that do not benefit residents.” Technology [has] “moved on significantly… [and] efficiencies through modernising work processes and improving service offers to our customers and partners.” A budget based on a ‘wish and prayer’.

Jeff Tucker declared he hadn’t read the budget before speaking for 25 minutes. But it was Rishi Sunak’s Stealth Taxes which needed discussing and he wasn’t present.4 So perhaps Jeff got it right.

Notes

1 Issue – items at meetings – 2022/23 Budget and 2022-2026 Medium Term Financial Strategy | The London Borough Of Havering

2 Microsoft Word – Appendix D – Risk Register (003) (havering.gov.uk)

3 Appendix A Budget Savings.pdf (havering.gov.uk)

4 Havering Council Tax Meeting, 2nd March 2022 – Politics in Havering

Havering’s Elections and Facebook

Facebook matters in Havering’s election campaign. The candidates usually use their own account with a running commentary. Bob Perry (RA) is the king of this technique. Labour candidates in St Alban’s ward, Jane Keane and Hope Mendy also use this technique.

Recently there’s been paid content. This is a waste of money.1 The voting statistics2 all deny a ‘value for money’ narrative. The Havering Independent Residents’ Group and David Taylor (Conservative) paid to be viewed across Havering but their target audience is only two of the 18 wards. They should use leaflets. But who’ll deliver them?

Addendum: Three examples from two sample days3

  • Havering Independent Residents’ Group Paid for content. No names or target wards are attached 22 February 2022 A further blog (paid for) shows they’re the Harold Wood 3: 23rd February 2022

Our councillors put the community first. Havering Independent Residents Group’s record speaks for itself in getting roads resurfaced and potholes filled. We will always fight for continued investment in public facilities and services.

  • Councillor Bob Perry’s regular blog on his campaign in Squirrels Heath 21st February 2022
    Myself and HRA colleague Dave Godwin were called out earlier by worried residents of Copthorne Gardens reporting activity of tree clearance on the area protected by TPO’s. When we arrived the activity was actually happening in an adjacent field, after we have a word with the contractors we were satisfied that they were only clearing back hedgerow and brambles so the land could be used as a paddock, we also saw the work plan they were working from and had it confirm that no trees would be trimmed or felled.
    We would like to remind residents of Copthorne Gardens to contact the team if they suspect further activity in the protected area.

 

  • David Taylor paid content. Candidate for St Edwards (he didn’t mention the other candidates) 22nd February 2022
    I’m standing as a Councillor in Romford, to protect our town’s character and to improve local’s lives. Follow my page for updates, policy and more.

 Notes

1 “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” | B2B Marketing

2 Local elections | Election results | The London Borough Of Havering See Squirrels Heath for their 35.27% turnout in 2018.

3 These examples are from my Facebook feed and if there are any others they’re invisible to me. This is another challenge for paid content.

The Power of Positive Politics

Visitors to the Ingrebourne Hill Country Park1 don’t realise that it was once an environmental disaster zone. There were major fly-tipping problems, rat infestation, motor-cycle nuisance and horses were tethered and left over the winter months, many of whom starved to death. In the long hot summer of 1976 major fires happened frequently because of the rotting waste producing methane gas. On at least two occasions the flames rose above the height of the houses.

Airfield ward councillors Ray Emmett (1982-2002) and Chris Purnell (1990-2002) led a campaign for a positive environmental solution, with the Labour Administration. There was a wonderful proposition, which resulted in the country park. Nothing less likely could have been imagined. Derelict land ravaged by decades of abuse was given an enormous facelift to the benefit of the entire community.

But there was a cost. The land was used as a dumping site for inert waste from all over London with hundreds of lorry movements each month. Simultaneously there was gravel winning which also meant a great deal of industrial activity. Ingrebourne Hill was engineered using that inert waste and then capped and sculpted into what it is now. The lake which is adjacent was the result of the gravel winning. Years of disruption for the Park’s neighbours have been richly rewarded.

The Ingrebourne Hill Country Park has mountain bike tracks, a short and challenging climb to the top and also, less energetically, gentle walks through to Albyns Farm. A further cost was the political careers of the Labour councillors who promoted that vision, which took just too long for the voters to see through to fruition.

Note

1 Ingrebourne Valley | The London Borough Of Havering

Havering’s Resident Associations and Planning

If, as expected, Ray Morgon, becomes Leader of the Council in May 2022 he’ll be faced with many challenges. One of which is that Resident Associations (RA) routinely oppose anything that looks remotely like over-development. To the outside observer it appears that RAs have a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction, which opposes strategic decision-making. The two photographs below demonstrate what over-development actually looks like outside Havering. RAs in power will have to learn to think strategically, which is going to be a culture shock.

These photographs make the intensity of development in Romford and elsewhere in Havering look positively rural.

Havering’s Elections and Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson’s ‘partygate’ is poisoning the political blood stream. Politicians are never held in high esteem but this scandal has reached new levels of awfulness with all politicians being tarred with the same brush.

Boris Johnson is said to have broken ‘rules’, which doesn’t sound too bad. But lockdown regulations weren’t ‘rules’: they were laws backed up by the courts.1 Boris Johnson’s excuses would shame a teenager not handing in homework.

No-one is suggesting that Damian White’s councillors attended these parties, or indeed, any party at all but they’re likely to be punished as if they had attended. Why?

Millions of British people suffered dreadfully during the lockdowns. ‘Partygate’ is shocking but it’s actually worse than that. Tens of thousands of people died and their loved ones couldn’t see them in their final days or attend funerals. Johnson’s parties were despicable. But he can only be punished in the electoral box: in the local elections. And that is precisely what will happen.

May’s elections could be ‘the slaughter of the innocents’.

Note

1 How many people prosecuted for breaking lockdown rules | South Wales Argus This included one person getting six months and 3500+ people being fined.

Havering Councillor: Linda Hawthorn (Upminster)

Linda’s been a councillor for thirty years. She’s maintained her position at the top of the polls since 1990.1 She’s the best example of Havering’s bizarre political life.

Upminster is the living heartbeat of outer-London Conservative domination. Julia Lopez’s enormous majority is guaranteed by places like Upminster.2 However if she and Linda went toe-to-toe in a council election she’d be trounced. In local elections the Conservatives are toxic. The Residents’ Association (RA) reign supreme. Why?

There was a political earthquake in Upminster in 1990. A Conservative ‘impregnable’ majority was destroyed by Linda and her two RA colleagues. In 2002 Linda received 4202 votes, an unprecedented result. Linda’s majority was a stunning 3223. In 2018 there wasn’t a single councillor who got 3223 votes.3 She’s been a turbo-charged vote gathering machine for 30 years.

The Conservatives lost an impregnable majority through arrogance. They haven’t learned. The recent sale of the Hall Lane site is entirely typical.4 What made this worse was the foolhardy decision to buy the Marks and Spencer site in Romford.5

Linda’s political career is astonishing. She epitomises RAs in Upminster with her unwavering commitment to defending the area from predatory Romford Conservatives.

Notes

1 Historic (Pre 2010) local election results | The London Borough Of Havering

2 Julia Lopez (politician) – Wikipedia her majority is 23,308

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

4The sale of ‘Hall Lane Pitch and Putt’: Conservative Revenge? – Politics in Havering

5 Damian White and Romford Marks and Spencer (M&S) July, 2019 – Politics in Havering

South Hornchurch Ward: Utter Chaos

South Hornchurch is Havering’s political disaster zone. It’s a Residents’ Association (RA) stronghold which has imploded.

Michael Deon Burton fell out with the RAs and was re-elected as an Independent. 48 hours after being elected he became a Conservative. As Conservatives are toxic in South Hornchurch this was Damian White’s only route into the ward. Michael is an important part of Damian’s coalition. Damian’s Conservatives failed to get a majority and he had to win over those who were susceptible to his charms.

The re-drawing of Havering’s ward boundaries reduced South Hornchurch to two seats from three. Easy-peasy you might think. As there are only two RA councillors left, they carry on. Unfortunately life since 2018 has been unkind. Michael is awaiting trial for harassing RA Natasha Summers1,2 and as a renegade he’s unlikely to be elected. She hasn’t enjoyed being a councillor and might not stand.

The elderly, but feisty, Graham Williamson3 is the last RA standing. The self-inflicted damage the RAs have suffered will help Labour’s Julia Offord Pearman and Adeel Akhtar. Unlike Graham they live in the ward. Ironically this used to be the RAs selling point. Labour is campaigning. This is a skill complacent RAs forgot long ago. Campaigning can make a difference even in safe seats.

2022 is throwing up interesting contests but, as always, democracy is about who turns up to vote.

Notes

1 Havering Council Conservative denies harassment at court | Romford Recorder

2 See my blog Havering Councillor: Natasha Summers (South Hornchurch) – Politics in Havering

3 Graham features in Wikipedia Graham Williamson – Wikipedia