Does Havering have too many councillors?

There are 54 councillors in Havering’s council chamber. It’s impossible to justify 54 councillors for 250,000 people. This ratio is only apparently democratic. Councillors are expensive and get in the way of good government.

Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor, represents 8.2 million people.
The GLA has 26 members representing 316,000.
MPs The Romford constituency is about 74,000
Havering has 54 councillors representing 4,600 people each

Andrew Rosindell’s represents 16 times more voters than the average Havering councillor. Do Havering councillors really have so much work that it justifies squadrons of them? What do they do that requires 54 councillors?

The reality is local government is gripped in the dead hand of history. It’s like it is because it has always been that way. And those councillors create administrative clutter. They’re not nimble and don’t represent the people. Havering’s council chamber has become the haunt of the elderly who linger in ‘safe’ seats reflecting a by-gone era. No wonder turn-out is so poor in local elections.

Havering’s local government needs to move out of the era of the horse and cart and slim down. One councillor per ward should be more than enough and then they could be paid a proper salary and held to robust account.

Havering Car Parking Charges: the farce continues

After nine years of Conservative government, Havering has lost 40% of its funding. Havering is a victim of the ‘Age of Austerity’. The pitiless budget* earlier this year was caused by the Conservative government but Damian White is too loyal to say so. In that budget the most vulnerable had council tax increases of 67%, which only raised a million or so. Damian needed more. He turned to car parking charges. Unlike the poor, motorists are politically powerful and were enraged.

Damian doesn’t make evidence based decisions. He seems to use Tarot cards. As a sop to Havering’s motorists, he announced** there’d be six weekends when car parking charges wouldn’t apply. Those weekends are immediately prior to Christmas. This is a period when the council makes a fortune from its car parking charges and is crucial to the annual budget.

The twelve weekend days declared ‘free’ will ‘cost’ the council £500,000 for Romford*** alone. The cost for the whole borough is a million. What’s the strategy? Offering freebies immediately prior to Christmas is insanity. Damian’s freebies should be after Christmas when shops need a boost. Doesn’t he understand why there are January sales?

A post Christmas freebie would have been applauded. Damian’s election prospects in Dagenham and Rainham would’ve been enhanced.

* https://havering.blog/2019/02/02/havering-council-meeting-an-act-of-pitiless-indifference-on-23rd-january-2019/
** Romford Recorder 25th October 2019
*** This is a guess-estimate and is probably on the low side as there’s more intensity at Christmas.

Havering’s Conservatives, Brexit and the Government

Havering’s Conservative voters were unimpressed to find that ‘Taking back control’ meant immediately handing it over to Northern Irish bigots. Johnson’s deal will end with Northern Ireland unifying with Ireland thereby breaking up the UK. Does Havering care? Probably not. Our MPs however care intensely and they wrecked the May deal to prevent the unification. Johnson’s deal is much worse as it guarantees the unification of Ireland.

Havering’s Conservative voters know what they voted for and it wasn’t Northern Ireland. Cameron’s In-Out question concealed intricate foreign policy, which no-one understood. Yet the Referendum was solely about foreign policy with the EU and the World Community. Both 2016 Remain and Leave campaigns avoided this point. Our current paralysed politics is the consequence of that deception.

Johnson’s defeats of the 19th, 21st and 22nd October illustrate how unsuitable parliament is in negotiating foreign policy. The Referendum result ended the possibility of ‘Remain’ but Havering’s voters feel betrayed. They were presented with a simple question and expected straight-forward answers. Answers which never existed. The ERG’s* ideological posturing ruined Theresa May’s deal and worsened the outlook for Britain.

Havering’s Conservative voters have no where else to go**. This is lucky for Andrew Rosindell and Julia Lopez who are, in a small part, responsible for this chaos and ought to be punished at the ballot box.

* Both Conservative MPs in Havering belong to the European Research Group (ERG). They must be tortured by Johnson’s deal, which will lead to victory for Sinn Fein.
** https://www.havering.gov.uk/info/20046/elections_and_voting/196/election_results/7 They did have somewhere else to go in May 2019 and they went to the Brexit Party with enthusiasm. That party is a one-trick pony and entirely unsuitable for national politics.

Living in Havering, October 2019

When the USSR was a super power it was a closed society and MI6 spent a lot of time working out who mattered. They were called Kremlinologists. They studied official publications and May 1st parades. The Soviet newspaper ‘Pravda’* was invaluable. Meanwhile Havering has ‘Living in Havering’ a cut-price version of Pravda. Do MI6’s techniques help Havering’s citizens understand what’s going on (see addendum)?

Damian White’s personality cult is alive and well. Havering’s communications department needn’t worry about salt mines. This edition features Damian with eight photographs and three quotations**.

But which cabinet members should be looking over their shoulders? Damian’s has six cabinet members. Previous evidence pointed at Osman Dervish and Robert Benham as an ‘inner cabinet’. This edition has Osman enhancing his position with a cheery photo sharing a pint with Damian and two quotations. It’s all positive stuff. Robert? No photographs and an anodyne four line quote. Worrying times.

Joshua Chapman has two photographs. He’s lurking near Damian looking happy. The remainder of the cabinet aren’t photographed. Viddy Persaud has two quotations in compensation. Political submarine Jason Frost is invisible as is Havering’s ‘Grand Old Man’ Roger Ramsey. Multi-millionaire Roger was unavailable for photographs. Maybe he was counting his money?

To the uninitiated eye ‘Living in Havering’ is a Conservative party propaganda publication. The finest legal brains in the Town Hall disagree. Who could possibly argue?

Addendum: As tenants in tower blocks aren’t on the delivery list not every taxpayer in Havering is given the chance to ‘know’ what’s going on. Are they second class citizens? ‘Living in Havering’ allegedly serves every resident in Havering. Indeed this is their boast,
“Living in Havering is delivered to every home in Havering free of charge thanks to the support of our advertisers.” p4
Do advertisers know that coverage is deliberately incomplete?

* Pravda = Truth in English
** Analysing the syntax, grammar and sentence construction of cabinet member quotations suggests there’s only one author. If true, and that single author is a Havering employee, a full scale investigation is essential.

Havering Council Meeting, 25th September 2019

Politicians are people who resolve challenges and create compromises where none seem possible. They can make even those that have sacrificed the most, feel good. A statesman is a person who does all of this but in extreme situations. The most recent example was Tony Blair and the Northern Irish Good Friday Agreement,* which built on years of negotiations by both the Thatcher and Major governments. Damian White is moving towards being a politician.

The long standing dispute over the designation of New Zealand Way and Gooshays Green as housing opportunities has been withdrawn. This is notwithstanding the fact that it would be entirely within the legal rights of the council to build on both amenity areas. Campaigns led by local residents and councillors crystallised the principal areas of debate.

Although passions were raised, the campaign was remarkably civilised. Damian has had to consider a world where compromise is necessary. He’s become a politician because he’s mediated conflict. He’s as much a victor as the communities which have benefited. The issues were debated successfully and Havering is the better for it.

* 10th April 1998

Havering’s Councillor: Jason Frost (Mawney)

Jason is cabinet member for Health and Adult Services. Havering councillors have unrelenting trust in officers and Jason is no exception. Indeed this trust amounts to a democratic deficit. Like other cabinet members, he receives an allowance which is roughly the median wage in Havering.1 He also works as a researcher2 in Bishop Stortford. So at the very best he’s a part-time politician. Is there any evidence that he doesn’t pull his weight as a cabinet member? Well, yes there is.

The Individuals Overview and Scrutiny committee decided to have a member ‘topic’ group (see addendum one) into Safeguarding Adults. This topic group was established at their meeting on 3rd September, 2019. The structure of the topic group is set out in agenda item 7.3 The group have a planned series of meetings which will take a few months to complete (see addendum two).

What’s interesting is that the list seems to be comprehensive. It isn’t. Jason hasn’t been scheduled to be interviewed. Has he nothing of interest to say? This is amazing. He’s the principal policy maker in the cabinet and yet is as useful as a cipher in the investigation of Safeguarding. This area is contentious and consumes vast amounts of resources. It’s very difficult to get ‘right’. Dealing with the most vulnerable people in Havering is a delicate balancing act and political support is essential to officers. Is Jason providing that support?

It’s incomprehensible that Jason could be merely a spokesperson for chief officers unless his principal virtue is being slavishly loyal to the Damian White.

Addendum One: What is meant by a topic group in Havering
Sub-Committees will often establish Topic Groups to examine specific areas in much greater detail. These groups consist of a number of Members and the review period can last for anything from a few weeks to a year or more to allow the Members to comprehensively examine an issue through interviewing expert witnesses, conducting research or undertaking site visits. Once the topic group has finished its work it will send a report to the Sub-Committee that created it and will often suggest recommendations for the Overview and Scrutiny Board to pass to the Council’s Executive.

Addendum Two: Witnesses to be called by Individuals topic group
Head of Integrated Services (responsible for safeguarding across adult social care)
Service Manager for Safeguarding Adults (specialist role)
2-3 service users (and carers/families) with lived experience of safeguarding intervention (where at least service user has reported their outcome has been met and where at least one service user has reported their outcome has not been met.
2-3 service users (and carers/families) who are currently subject to safeguarding (with consent) to observe safeguarding practice. This would be subject to client consent and Head of Integrated Services
Commissioners, including Quality Team.
2-3 providers of services (such as homecare and residential/nursing)
NELFT safeguarding lead
BHRUT safeguarding lead

1 For Havering’s allowances see http://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/s35795/190227%20minutes%20appx%201%20-%20members%20allowances%20scheme.pdf
2 http://democracy.havering.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=942&T=6
3 http://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/g6268/Public%20reports%20pack%2003rd-Sep-2019%2019.00%20Individuals%20Overview%20Scrutiny%20Sub-Committee.pdf?T=10