Havering Council Meeting: 13th July, 2022

Ray Morgon’s cabinet has a lot to prove. None have had policy making positions and one’s only been on Council for two months. So how did they do?

Question Time was Ray’s cabinet’s first outing. Classy Conservative questions were a sharp improvement on the tedious HRA efforts we used to endure. There were two standout moments.

Dilip Patel asked about Development (@42 minutes)1. Graham Williamson casually remarked about developing the ‘Green Belt’ in the fullness of time. This is a dramatic policy shift. I wonder if his cabinet colleagues know about it?  Osman Dervish (@53 minutes) asked Oscar Ford about free school meals during holiday periods. He said there won’t be any unless government financed them and then burbled about budget constraints. Ford was unmoved when it was pointed out this meant sacrificing vulnerable children during a catastrophic cost-of-living crisis.

Sue Ospreay (@1 hour10) was emotional about derelict land in Rainham. Morgon said it was a ‘Bad Thing’. They’ll still be wringing their hands in horror in ten years.

Opposing ULEZ2 in Havering (@1:38) was led by David Taylor. Keith Prince’s rant, (@1 hour50) and Judith Holt’s desire to join Essex (@1:52) convinced me some Conservatives are having a mental breakdown. Williamson (@1 hour:55) remarked that 7% of Havering’s death rate was due to air pollution. This is three deaths a week, every week, which is a good argument for ULEZ, I’d have thought.3

There were an unprecedented six Conservatives absent. They included Damian White who’ll be pleased to know his group gave a good show.

Notes

1 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

2 For ULEZ see Ultra Low Emission Zone (ulez.co.uk)

3 Municipality of HAVERING: demographic balance, population trend, death rate, birth rate, migration rate (urbistat.com)

Havering Councillor: Keith Prince (Con: Squirrels Heath)

Keith is a superstar in Havering’s Town Hall. He’s been a councillor for 32 years in various places. He began his career in Havering, moved to Redbridge becoming Leader of the Council, and then a GLA councillor.1 He’s still a GLA councillor – he was re-elected in 2021 – with a massive majority. And in May, 2022 was elected as a Havering councillor. What’s going on?

Keith, like all successful politicians, can smell political blood. While campaigning last year he noticed Romford Conservatives weren’t a happy ‘Band of Brothers’. So, he did the obvious thing and seized the opportunity. Damian White was ousted from his seat in Squirrels Heath. He inserted himself into the newly created vacancy and was elected in May, 2022. Keith is simultaneously a GLA and Havering councillor. Maybe he doesn’t believe that being a Havering councillor is time consuming?

Keith has made two rare misjudgments. He thought Havering would be ruled by the Conservatives and he’d be Leader. Now he’s in Sadiq Khan’s GLA and is a councillor with an HRA2 Administration in Havering. It’s enough to make a grown man weep.

If Romford Conservatives weren’t a happy ‘Band of Brothers’ in 2021, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like now. And they don’t even have Allowances to keep them interested any more.

Addendum: Register of Interests

Keith’s mentor Boris Johnson, aka The Great White Shark, has taught him to be unworried about trivialities like legal obligations. Keith still hasn’t filled in his Register of Interests, which was due no later than 2nd June 2022.3

Notes

1 He’s GLA councillor for Havering and Redbridge neatly drawing together the threads of his career.

2 HRA is the Havering Residents’ Association

3 As of 4th July 2022 Councillor details – Councillor Keith Prince | The London Borough Of Havering

Ray Morgon’s Cabinet Announced: Who Are They?

After 38 days of ‘wheeling and dealing,’ a cabinet is in place.1 It’s less diverse and older than Damian White’s outgoing Conservative cabinet. Ray has welded together the independent Residents’ Associations.2 He’s also brought Labour into a Working Agreement, making sense of consensus politics. Ray’s done interesting political juggling.

The Cabinet3

Ray and Keith Darvill have had 20 years in opposition. Ray has never succumbed to the Conservatives’ ‘pot-of-gold’ politics. His first act was to reduce Councillor Allowances, which suggests personal integrity. Keith has been a lonely figure following the implosion of Labour in 2002. They’ve both been principal members of Council for 20 years and stand head and shoulders above their colleagues.

Gillian and Oscar Ford are the most powerful husband and wife team since Labour’s Arthur and Margaret Lathom. Oscar (2022) is a complete unknown. He might find scrutiny bruising. For example, is his principal qualification for cabinet being Gillian’s husband? Gillian (2002) has flattered to deceive on many occasions. There always seems to be more unsaid than said. Has she got the inner steel to drive an agenda in a very difficult department?

Paul McGeary (2010), Paul Middleton (2018), Barry Mugglestone (2014) Chris Wilkins (2018) and Graham Williamson (2014) fill the remaining cabinet posts. They’re indifferent speakers but experience will rectify that. Their contributions in committee and council suggests they’re sound. McGeary’s professional profile means he’s amply qualified for his post. Wilkin’s qualification for the Finance post is that he’s a buy-to-let landlord. This is probably insufficient.4

Notes

1 14th June 2022

2 From now on Residents’ Associations will be only referred to by the umbrella title Havering Residents’ Association (HRA)

3 Cabinet structure (havering.gov.uk)

4 mgConvert2PDF.aspx (havering.gov.uk)

Havering’s Winds Of Change: HRA Take Over

The Council Tax meeting, 2nd March 2022, saw Ray Morgon attack the ‘pot-of-gold’ politics of Damian White. HRA produced a detailed analysis of allowances paid to Conservative councillors,1 not all of which were value for money. His ‘compare and contrast’ analysis is unambiguous. Every single additional allowance for 2022-23, will be reduced and some ‘jobs’ deleted altogether. Morgon’s proposals shrink the allowance budget by £218,434.

Unfortunately, £218,434 is too small to make a significant difference in the Council’s multi-million pounds budget.2 Nonetheless I applaud Morgon’s direction of travel. The horrible, insincere Osborne slogan3We’re all in this together’ actually means something in Havering.

Conservative councillors are used to significant supplements to their basic allowance of £10,412.4 They now face a dramatic pay-cut. Damian White’s allowances reduce from £56,317 as Leader to £18,062 as Leader of the Principal Opposition. Former cabinet members lose their £29,356 allowance.5 At least two appear to be full-time politicians, which means they’ll be making major reappraisals of their lives.

The Council has suffered catastrophic financial losses from Covid-19. In addition, central government grant cuts and massive increases in demand for statutory services will worsen the dire financial situation. Morgon’s team have massive challenges facing them but this is a good symbolic start.

Notes

HRA is the Havering Residents’ Association

1 (Public Pack)SUPPLEMENTARY AGENDA Agenda Supplement for Council, 02/03/2022 19:30 (havering.gov.uk) p10

2 Every time the Bank of England raises the interest rate by 0.25% it adds £250,000 to the borough’s interest bill.

3 George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer 2010-16, used this slogan to promote the destructive Age of Austerity.

4 This allowance is unchanged

5 They received this and the councillors allowance of £10,412.

Havering Annual Council meeting, 25th May, 2022

What do you really, really want?1 Spice Girls

This Council meeting was pivotal because Havering voted, yet again, for No Overall Control. Minority Conservative leader Damian White was hoping to mop up a few Resident Association (RA) members but failed. Adroit political thinking by Ray Morgon led to an umbrella organization for RAs: the Havering Residents’ Association (HRA). HRA members have decided playing footsy with Conservatives is a mug’s game and they ‘really, really want to be in power’.

HRA face exactly the same challenge as every other minority party. How to achieve a majority? Enter Labour. Labour’s nine votes create a majority but…. Many HRA members dislike Labour which is reciprocated. But…  what do they really, really not want? The thought of four more years of Damian White, is helping to focus minds.

The Council meeting was important but had the drama of paint drying.2 There were two decisive moments. Firstly, the election of Labour’s Trevor McKeever, as Mayor. Secondly, and crucially, Ray Morgon becoming Leader of the Council.

Instantly the challenges Morgon faces were revealed. He was unable to name a cabinet or chairs of committee and so Council was adjourned. On a positive note, Havering’s four LGA councillor nominees3 showed him building consensus politics.

The adjourned meeting is eagerly looked forward to as it points the direction of travel for the next four years.

Notes

1 Spice Girls – Wannabe Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

2 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

3 Local Government Association. Havering’s nominees are Ray Morgon, Gillian Ford, Keith Darvill and Michael White

Damian White gets the Post-Election Blues

Damian has defeated a challenge to his leadership by a single vote. He was challenged in a WhatsApp message from Robert Benham,1 who spoke of ‘in-fighting’. He and his supporters lost and the Conservative ‘pot-of-gold’ politics might inflict a punishment beating on Robert and his supporters. Who knows? Damian might be magnanimous and they’ll all live happily ever after.

The galling fact for Damian is that he leads the largest party but needs five more votes. Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) have 20 seats and are negotiating for Labour’s nine votes to create a Friendly Understanding. HRA have 29 votes in sight but that means taking responsibility. HRA like permanent opposition. It’s painless and well-paid. All of which means that they might actually prefer a seductive offer from Damian.

In 2018 Damian mopped up HRA councillors. He’ll try again but this time it’s harder. Why? Sally Miller, John Mylod and Michael Deon Burton all lost. Their fate is a warning to renegades.2 Individual HRA councillors might take Damian’s offer. It is, after all, a few thousand pounds, for doing little else than agreeing with him.

Can Damian heal? The challenges will test his mettle. The nest of vipers that’s the Conservative group have had a very public split, which could result in flaky members drifting to HRA. Throwing gold around solves some problems but there are some Conservatives with ambitions. And they’re lean and hungry.

The excitement is building towards May 25th when a new Administration is brought into being.

Notes

1 Damian’s deputy in the Conservative group

2 The Harold Wood Three bucked the trend and prospered

Havering: Politics as Friendly Understandings

Eight elections since 1990 have resulted in No Overall Control. Conservatives have ruled Havering since 2002 but only once as a majority party. On every other occasion they’ve used HRA councillors. The last Administration used Harold Wood’s three councillors for four years. The 2022 election has put the Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) in the driving seat.

Damian White was aware of the challenges of getting a majority in Havering and acted accordingly. He believed Rainham was vulnerable. He put in place a team of local Conservatives and won it. The Rainham result was announced and Damian was vindicated. Unfortunately, he hadn’t thought the unthinkable. Romford wasn’t the citadel he imagined and Conservatives lost three seats. Bang went his plans and the ‘nightmare’ of an HRA – Labour Friendly Understanding became a distinct possibility.

Andrew Rosindell could tell Damian a thing or two. In 1996 Havering had a Rainbow Alliance.2 HRA’s Louise Sinclair led an Administration that included Conservatives and Socialists. The Socialists were, by Havering standards, hard left. Andrew was voting with Socialists in a joint Administration. Goodbye political purity! Labour enjoyed watching Del Smith influence them for two years.

Havering has spoken. And what they’ve said is they like Friendly Understandings. If the young Andrew could do it for the greater good then so can anyone.

Addendum: A case for Proportional Representation?

Abstentions: 65% of the electorate

Notes

1 Local Elections 2022: Havering Council live results | The London Borough Of Havering

2 Rainbow Alliance – Politics in Havering

Havering’s Election: Thrills and Spills

Hornchurch and Upminster have no Conservative councillors at all. Emerson  Park fell when Roger Ramsey retired. Labour won their first Romford seat for 20 years but the Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) will take power.

Havering’s politics is complex. The election result1 is a mish-mash. HRA 20 seats, the Conservatives 23, Labour 9 and Renegade RAs three.2 Meanwhile in Rainham the count continued on Monday 9th May and the result was announced during an acrimonious recount. Four burly police officers were there, at huge expense, to protect the Chief Executive in case things got physical. Three Conservatives won leaving them short of a majority.

HRA + Labour reach the magic 28 seats but will they do a deal? Havering’s politics depend on deals. There’s no political ‘purity’. This is the fifth time in six elections with No Overall Control.  In the previous four, Conservatives have done deals with RAs. Now it’s the RAs turn to do a deal or not.

That’s the Thrill.  Now the Spill.

Damian White had an innovative way of awarding allowances. Consequently, every Conservative councillor is facing a pay-cut. Damian loses about £55,000 a year. This might explain his anger on Election Night as he saw it dribbling away.

Local government has national organizations. There are many committees which demand representation. There’s nothing quite like an awayday at someone else’s expense and Conservative councillors are going to miss them.

There’s also the glory of summoning Chief Officers and strutting round the Town Hall. Demotion to backbench voting fodder is cruel but is the result of depending on a niche electorate.

Four years isn’t too long if you say it quickly.

Notes

1 Local Elections 2022: Havering Council live results | The London Borough Of Havering

2 Harold Wood councillors propped up the Conservatives 2018-22

Havering’s Vibrant Democracy

Havering’s election on May 5th gives voters a choice of 199 candidates.1 They’ve been working hard on the issues that they think matter to the people of Havering. At the time of writing (30th April), postal voting means that about a third of the votes have been cast. How many potential voters will make the effort of voting in person?

Previous experience says ‘Abstentions’ will win on the 5th May. A significant majority of voters won’t vote.

Upminster’s Linda Hawthorn trounced the opposition in 2018 but failed to get a majority of the electorate. That ward held the largest turnout in 2018 with 45.5%, (a 54.5% Abstention rate).2 Does it matter? In her case no but it feels wrong. Conservatives have ruled Havering for 20 years with 16 years in coalition. Thus, Conservatives have been in control with a minority of seats and a minority of votes for 20 years.3

Local democracy needs reform but is highly unlikely to get it.

Addendum: Mayoral election for Manchester, 2021

In Greater Manchester Andy Burnham won an outright majority without preference votes. Abstentions amounted to 67.3% of the electorate and the remaining 34.7% was divided between nine candidates. Andy received 67.3% of 34.7% or, 23% of the total electorate.4

Notes

1 For a comprehensive list of candidates Notice of Poll and Statement of Persons Nominated (havering.gov.uk)

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

3 Robert Benham is a cabinet member and had a thumping majority in Brooklands ward. But! The turnout in 2018 was 32.5%. So, before opposition votes were counted he’d been passively or actively rejected by 67.5% of the electorate.

4  The UK Mayoral Elections, 2021 | Odeboyz’s Blog (oedeboyz.com) Also in 2021 there were two parliamentary byelections where the result was deceptive. See

When Does an Election Become an Undemocratic Lottery? | Odeboyz’s Blog (oedeboyz.com)

 

Romford Conservatives and Boris Johnson

Romford Conservatives were jubilant when Johnson was elected. They immediately talked of the Boris Bounce. No more. Johnson is now an albatross round the neck of Damian White. If he survives it proves how loyal Romford voters are to the Conservatives.

Damian’s Problems

Partygate: ‘Law-breakers can’t be law-makers’. Johnson’s defence of his law-breaking is strange. It’s,

I’m an idiot. I didn’t understand what I was saying in my daily Covid-19 broadcasts.”

Johnson defence

Rishi Sunak’s Wife: Sunak’s billionaire wife has decided to pay taxes in Britain because she’s the wife of the Chancellor.

Cost-of-Living Crisis: If you don’t get a 7% increase in your wages, or benefits, you’re worse off than last year.

Pensioners: Pensions increased by 3%. Every pensioner is 4% worse off. Pensioners are overwhelmingly Conservative voters. The ending of the triple-lock was a betrayal.

Sleaze: Johnson’s £80,000 flat refurbishment was paid for by a donor even though he denied it. He tried to change parliament’s rules to protect his friend Owen Patterson who was paid £100,000 a year to be a lobbyist.

Council Tax: This has increased by 18% since 2018, with 3% this year.1

Conservatives took every Romford seat in 2018 and still didn’t get a Havering majority. If they have any hopes, they can’t afford to lose a single seat. Loyal voters will continue but will flaky Conservatives? One thing’s for certain: Conservatives won’t get the 28 seats needed for a majority.

Note

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