Living in Havering: Special August Edition for South Havering, 2019

The astonishing taxpayer funded Living in Havering magazine hit a new low in the south of the borough.* The south of the borough is hostile territory for the Conservatives and it reads like an election leaflet. Damian White looks like a candidate for the Dagenham and Rainham constituency in the forthcoming Brexit election. This magazine has gone way beyond his usual personality cult in the Living in Havering magazine.

First, the Damian personality cult PR photo count. This time there’s five Damian photos. That they are PR photo opportunities is demonstrated by the front cover. Damian stands in the centre of a group in a suit, with everyone else wearing yellow safety vests. Damian is literally the focus of the viewers’ attention. His adoring acolytes,** Robert Benham, Osman Dervish and Joshua Chapman are grouped on Damian’s left and three ‘privileged’ workers are to his right.

Damian’s attempt at being more than a photo opportunity is reflected in his domination of the written word. His Leader’s Welcome is a full page, where he identifies the closure of the Chafford Leisure Centre as a possible ‘error’*** He also says that the replacement is an aspiration, which is denied later in the magazine when he says that the council is, “committed to deliver a new leisure centre …. by 2020.” This announcement has all the credibility of a Boris Johnson ‘promise’ which is political hot air.

This outrageous taxpayer funded magazine should be subject to the normal council rules about inappropriate expenditure as it is little more than a Conservative party propaganda sheet.****

* At time of writing this isn’t on the Havering website.
** There’s another acolyte photo with Keith Prince and Osman tucked away
*** Obviously he doesn’t actually say this. He actually says that he’s ‘listened’ which is code for a disastrous decision.
**** Did the Special Edition require a separate budget and how was that authorised?

Johnson rescues Havering’s Conservatives from their Disastrous Decision

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?” John Maynard Keynes

My long held belief was that Conservatives were lackeys of business. They loved small shopkeepers, favoured car ownership, hated stealth taxes and were competent. These beliefs have collapsed like a pack of cards. Boris Johnson’s infamous ‘F—k business’,* was his colourful pivoting away from traditional allies. We’ll soon see if this was empty rhetoric now he’s PM.

Havering’s Conservatives are catching up. Havering has the highest number of cars per 100 citizens in London. Car owning elderly people will use their vote to punish those they dislike. (The Cranham by-election and the Euro elections, both 2019, illustrate this rather well.) Handing out punishment beatings to voters who vote, isn’t a good idea. And especially not when you’re a minority administration. **

Therefore ferocious increases in car parking charges isn’t politically clever, as numerous letters in the Romford Recorder illustrate. Boris Johnson has destroyed Viddy Persaud’s scheme of five additional policemen with his allocation of 50 policemen for Havering.*** Johnson has given the Conservatives a graceful way of backing out, without loss of face. Additionally he’s released £300,000 with immediate effect. Candidates for this money include Chafford’s leisure pool but it could also pay for 30 minutes free parking. For everyone! Now that is a vote winner.

Destroying the high street is irrelevant for Damian and Viddy but Johnson’s half billion pound announcement (bribe?) has rescued them. The loss of the free 30 minute parking period means people aren’t ‘popping’ to the shops any more. The effect on thousands of elderly voters, living on fixed incomes, is political dynamite. The 30 minute free period should be reintroduced immediately.

* https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44618154
** The Conservative administration works hard at keeping the council tax as low as possible even when it’s political insanity like in the 2019 budget for example.
*** My recent blog explains the apparent merits of Viddy’s scheme for Havering’s Conservatives. Johnson has used the same logic but on a national scale. https://havering.blog/2019/06/22/two-conservative-party-leaflets-and-one-cunning-plan/

Bob Perry, Boris Johnson and Halloween 2019

Johnson’s in No. 10 now. Not my choice but then you can’t have everything in life. His catch phrases, “Do or die!” or the 2016 “£350 million each week for the NHS,” are government policy. Johnson has established a Brexit war cabinet under Michael Gove, which doesn’t fill me with confidence. Let’s hope he doesn’t need to employ Dad’s Army as well.

Meanwhile on Planet Emerson Park, Bob Perry is dissatisfied. In a heartfelt article in the Romford Recorder* he expressed frustration with Conservative politicians. Bob’s a councillor in Damian White’s minority administration, which means Damian needs Bob more than Bob needs Damian. Bob has noticed this and could use it as a lever in the future.

Johnson is utterly shameless, that’s part of his charm. He ignores missed deadlines as, ‘just one of those things’? He doesn’t worry about trivialities like keeping promises. Bob does. All those expecting promises to translate into action should bear that in mind. So on the 1st November, 2019 if Britain is still in the EU, what will Bob do? Will he too shrug his shoulders and write it off as ‘just one of those things’, or will he rebel? Maybe he’ll join Farage.

Alternatively Johnson might change the habits of a lifetime** and stay focussed.

* 7th June 2019 p14
** Unlike when he was Foreign Secretary when he remained feckless.

Boris trumps Viddy: the Rent-A-Cop scheme murdered by Johnson

Viddy Persaud’s ludicrous Rent-A-Cop scheme(1) was buried on the steps of No 10 in Boris Johnson’s first announcement on the 24th July, 2019. Unlike Shaun Bailey and Keith Prince who’d been tipped off, Viddy didn’t know her scheme for five ‘Bobbies on the Beat’ would be shot down. Shaun and Keith postulated that 40+ extra police officers were necessary to make Havering safer. Not five! They were very confident about this as their promotional leaflets demonstrated.(2) But Viddy didn’t know.

Boris has announced 20,000 extra police officers in the near future. Havering would get about 50 of them on my calculations.(3)Both Shaun and Keith knew that five additional police for 250,000 people spread amongst 18 wards was useless. That Viddy didn’t know that 5 police officers were useless, this is shocking.

The good thing about Boris’s statement of intent is that Havering’s Conservative administration now has £300,000 of funds looking for a home. Chafford’s leisure pool is an obvious first choice during a long hot summer.

1 https://havering.blog/2019/05/19/damian-white-and-viddy-persauds-rent-a-cop-scheme/
2 https://havering.blog/2019/06/22/two-conservative-party-leaflets-and-one-cunning-plan/
3 Shaun estimated 56 and Keith a more modest 42.

Living in Havering: July, 2019

The Sun newspaper ceased publishing its page 3 photo feature in 2015, forty five years after it began. Page 3 photos are synonymous with topless girls. Amazingly, Living in Havering has resurrected a politicised version of page 3.

The April issue (1) of Living in Havering had seven page 3 photos of Damian White, Leader of the Council. July’s issue also has seven page 3 photos. Seemingly this is the optimum number for a subliminal message: Damian – Man of Action.

Damian has four more photos in the July magazine. Robert Benham (2), Osman Dervish (2), the Mayor (2) and Romford MP Andrew Rosindell (2) also feature. This PR blitz isn’t illegal according to Havering’s Section 151 officer. (see Addendum).

Turning to Havering’s At the Heart magazine for ‘tenants and leaseholders’(2) there’s more of the same. Damian and Joshua Chapman are on the front page. (Joshua has two more photos in the magazine.) These magazines are paid for by Havering Council tax-payers. The bill is tens of thousands of pounds ~ perhaps scrutiny is in order here?

Addendum: Are Damian White’s appearances in Living in Havering legal?

I put this question to the Section 151 officer who, after a lengthy delay, glibly pronounced that there hadn’t been breaches of Council rules or government guidance.(3)

The relevant government guidance says, ….it is acceptable for local authorities to publicise the work done by individual members of the authority, and to present the views of those individuals on local issues. This might be appropriate, for example, when one councillor has been the “face” of a particular campaign. If views expressed by, or attributed to, individual councillors do not reflect the views of the local authority itself, such publicity should make this fact clear.(4,5)

Six of the seven page 3 photos of Damian are pure PR. They’re carefully curated. None illustrate leadership of ‘a campaign’. In fact, none of the 19 photos of Conservative politicians in the July 2019 Living in Havering magazine, are campaign related. A common sense reading of the quoted passage implies taxpayers are paying for thinly disguised Conservative PR.

The Section 151 officer might wish to review the opinion sent to me on 17th June, 2019.

1 If you wish to see what Living in Havering looked like immediately before Damian became Leader go to https://issuu.com/haveringcouncil/docs/5348_living181_issuu
2 https://issuu.com/haveringcouncil/docs/5658_at_the_heart_spring_19_issuu
3 email dated 17th June 2019
4 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/5670/1878324.pdf
5 The government clearly anticipate that opposition councillors will also feature in Council magazines. “If views expressed by, or attributed to, individual councillors do not reflect the views of the local authority itself, such publicity should make this fact clear.” This hasn’t happened in recent years but regional Conservative politicians have featured recently: Keith Prince the GLA Conservative member for Havering for example.

Here’s why the consultation(1) on Havering’s library service is a farce

Damian White’s a right-wing extremist who oozes machismo fuelled malice whilst inflicting spending cuts. His tragic lack of political aspiration only extends to keeping, “council tax increases as low as possible..”(2) (my emphasis)

Damian reduced Havering’s budget by £2 million when he defied government approved increases. The two million would have saved the library service and kept Chafford pool open.

Damian presents his political choices as though they’re inevitable.

“The funding Havering Council gets from central government has reduced by over £29 million since 2014/15 and £7 million more will be lost over the next two years.”(3)

This seems to tell us that cuts have been inflicted by the government. They haven’t. If the government’s proposition had been followed, libraries would have been saved. The 1,196,805 library users were sacrificed because they aren’t valued by Damian.

1,196,805 users of the libraries are victims of Damian’s obsession. His choice over Chafford leisure pool is a political punishment beating for the 100,000 users in an area which doesn’t vote Conservative. This pool allegedly needs £233,000 of maintenance, which is unaffordable.(4) If you deliberately reduce revenues then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that essential services become unaffordable.

Damian’s minority administration should be stopped before irreparable damage to Havering is done.

1 https://consultation.havering.gov.uk/communications/haveringfrontdoors/supporting_documents/Havering%20front%20doors%20consultation%20PDF.pdf p7 Havering’s population is about 250,000 and therefore four times more than the total population use the library service.
2 ibid p3 The figures are: libraries cuts will yield £1.14M and another £233,000 from Chafford. Putting both together they are comfortably inside the £2 million not raised from Council Tax.
3 ibid p6 Damian is trying to protect the Conservative government by dating this from 2014. George Osborne’s austerity programme began in 2010. If we take that as the starting point then we find that there has been
“49.1% real-terms reduction in government funding for local authorities, 2010-11 to 2017-18.” This translates into a,
“28.6% real-terms reduction in local authorities’ spending power (government funding plus council tax), 2010-11 to 2017-18.” https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Financial-sustainabilty-of-local-authorites-2018.pdf p6
4 https://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/rainham-s-chafford-sports-complex-set-to-close-1-5943625
havering library

Is Havering’s Academy System an Expensive Failure?

There are eighteen secondary schools in Havering, none of which are administered by the council. They are grouped into six categories of governance, costing huge amounts of public money. Apart from OFSTED inspections, they are broadly unaccountable. Only when the annual examination season reports in August are they reported as Havering schools.1 Then the borough takes responsibility when they excel or fail. Why aren’t the trusts which administer them held directly accountable?

Let us take the case of the Loxford School Trust. This Trust is responsible for six secondary schools2 in Barking and Dagenham, Essex, Havering, Redbridge and Southend. Perhaps the question should be: how well did the Loxford School Trust do? Their flagship school, Loxford in Redbridge, was deemed below average in 2018.3 Warren School in Barking and Dagenham was average,4 Tabor school in Essex was below average.5 Two Havering schools, Abbs Cross and Gaynes, are respectively below average and average.6 Finally we have Cecil Jones school in Southend. Well this school closed in March 2019. I wonder why?

Loxford School Trust is meant to be an improvement on the, now extinct, Havering LEA. It clearly isn’t. They’re grimly mediocre. Their pinnacle is average. And the educational reputation of Havering has been out-sourced into their hands. Loxford Trust isn’t a bargain basement option. Their CEO is paid £255,000 pa for underwhelming outcomes.7

Let us consider Empower Learning Academy Trust. They are an entrepreneurial off-shoot of Hall Mead school. They run Bower Park, Brittons Academy and Hall Mead. The leadership of Hall Mead was dazzled by their success in making their school OFSTED rated outstanding in 2013. In truth this is a brilliant result but has it induced hubris? The business plan is: we transplant Hall Mead to Bower Park and Brittons Academy and then they too will be outstanding. So how has it worked out?

In terms of examination results Hall Mead is now average and it appears that they have destroyed value in the period since 2013. Bower Park is below average and Brittons Academy well below average.8 Achievement in the academy system is illusionary.

British politics is wedded to quick fix solutions. Tony Blair’s government, 1997-2007, prioritised education but his timescale wasn’t decades, it was yesterday. The pre-eminence of private education in Britain meant that was the favoured model. The school system has, allegedly, benefited from shedding the ‘shackles’ of local government. This PR ‘solution’ has been embraced by Michael Gove who claimed, without evidence, Free Schools were even better. His Free School system is an expensive failure,9 playing politics with children’s futures.10 The result is administrative chaos. There is confusion as to where accountability lies. The principal achievement of the academy system has been to create a new breed of fat cats at the expense of children’s educational opportunity.

Addendum: Havering schools in 2018
Basic statistics tell us everything can’t be above average. In Havering there are 18 secondary schools. The optimum outcome would be 6:6:6 shared between above average, average and below average. The actuality is 5:6:7, which is well within the tolerances of acceptability. (Quick fix politicians want every school to be above average.) Breaking up Havering’s LEA has smashed financial restraint for the senior managements of academy trusts. The Harris Trust leads the way with £500,000 pa for their CEO. Even the small Partnership Learning Trust (Hornchurch High School) pays their CEO £220,000.11 These figures dwarf Council salaries.

1 For 2018 see https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=311&la-name=havering&geographic=la&for=secondary&basedon=Overall%20performance&show=All%20pupils
2 Plus one primary school in Redbridge.
3 https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=317&la-name=redbridge&geographic=la&for=16to18
4 https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=317&la-name=redbridge&geographic=la&for=16to18
5 https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=881&la-name=essex&geographic=la&for=secondary&page=2
6 https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=311&la-name=havering&geographic=la&for=secondary
7 See http://www.loxfordschooltrust.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/126527-Loxford-School-Trust-1718-FinStat.pdf p58 By way of comparison Havering’s Chief Executive is paid £170,000
8 https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=311&la-name=havering&geographic=la&for=secondary For Hall Mead in 2013 see https://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/education/gcse-exam-results/gcses-hall-mead-school-pupils-celebrate-exceptional-results-1-2348681
9 See https://schoolsweek.co.uk/revealed-the-hidden-cost-of-free-schools/
10 In Havering there are also:
(a) Academy Converters Sacred Heart, Campion School, Marshalls Park, Redden Court and Royal Liberty
(b) Foundation schools Coopers Company and Coborn, and Sanders
(c) Various free standing academy’s St Edwards, Emerson Park and Francis Bardsley
(d) Draper’s Multi-Academy Trust Draper’s School. Once again there is an untested belief in transferable skills, from Queen Mary’s College, London. Draper’s school is rated well below average.
(e) Harris Academy Harris school, Rainham, rated above average. Harris CEO is on £500,000.
11 http://www.partnershiplearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Accounts-for-website-v2.pdf p34