Havering, ULEZ and Public Health

Government intervention in urban Public Health began in 1835 when councils were permitted to build pavements and charge them to ratepayers. 120 years later The Clean Air Act was passed by a Conservative government to stop thousands of preventable deaths from air pollution. The Great Smog, 1952, slaughtered Londoners adding to the normal annual toll.

The 1956 Act banned traditional open coal fires and turbocharged the switch to central heating.

 

Domestic coal delivery was a very hard and dirty job

The Clean Air Act was transformative, with housing changed forever. There were significant costs during the transition period. But! Tens of thousands of lives were saved and Londoners lived longer, happier, healthier lives.

ULEZ stands in this tradition. “The ULEZ is central to the Mayor of London’s plans to improve Londoners’ health. It will clean up the city’s toxic air, which leads to the early deaths of thousands of people every year.”2

The Great Smog of 1952 was a physical reality. Parts of London came to a halt with choking polluted air and very poor visibility.

 

The Great Smog of London killed thousands of Londoners

21st century air pollution is invisible, though deaths are unpleasantly real. Three people a week die in Havering from air pollution. Deaths are the gruesome tip of a toxic iceberg. Thousands of people suffer respiratory problems which ruin their everyday lives.

During the transition to EV vehicles, ULEZ is a small and important step. It stands in a long Public Health tradition stretching back to 1835.

Notes

1 Summer 2022. ULEZ is London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone. For the historical contest see Highway Act 1835 – Wikipedia and Clean Air Act 1956 – Wikipedia

2 The Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone for London | London City Hall There are about 9,500 air pollution deaths each year Twice as many deaths caused by air pollution in London – HealthyAir

Havering Councillor: Sue Ospreay (Rainham and Wennington)

Sue’s a maverick politician.1 She was a Conservative elected in May, 2022 and joined HRA2 four months later. Conservative voters thought they’d ousted Resident Association councillors but Sue was Conservative in name only. Despite voting for change, Conservatives now continue to have Residents’ Association councillors.

Sue’s a maverick in other ways too. Her Register of Interests document is blank, simply signed at the bottom. The Register is a legal requirement, which must be filled in within in 28 days of an election. The question is, does a blank answer constitute ‘an answer’?

Question One asks for, “Any employment, office, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain”. Sue’s left it blank but it’s a criminal offense to not ‘disclose a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest’. Sue might be unemployed and living in a tent but she’s a councillor picking up £200 a week. £200 a week looks like a ‘gain’ to me. Sue’s blank ‘answer’ appears to be false.3

Question Two relates to Sponsorship which means ‘…financial benefit….towards your election expenses.’  There’s evidence that Sue had help with ‘election expenses’. Her fellow councillor, Jackie McArdle, declared assistance from the Conservative Party for election expenses.4 It’s unlikely the Conservatives discriminated against Sue. It’s possible this blank ‘answer’ could also be false.

Question Four relates to Land. I’d have thought Sue, as a middle-aged person living in a high home ownership area like Havering, did have an interest in property but there’s no evidence one way or the other. There’s no evidence for blank answers to Questions 3, 5, 6 and 7.

Section B Personal Interests is left blank, which is surprising considering her interest in allotments.

Being a maverick and defecting from one party to another without calling a by-election is one thing. Not fulfilling a legal obligation is dereliction of duty at the very least and calls into question her status as a councillor.

Notes

1 This is her Register of Interests document mgConvert2PDF.aspx (havering.gov.uk) Accessed 9th September 2022

2 HRA = Havering Residents’ Association

3 As is that of her fellow councillor Sarah Edwards who’s also left this question (and question two) blank.

4 mgConvert2PDF.aspx (havering.gov.uk)

Chris Wilkins and the 2023 Budget

Chris is an indentikit HRA councillor. He’s elderly, retired and hates uneven pavements, potholes and nuisance parking. His political life has evolved and he’s now the cabinet member for finance.

On 2nd March, 2022 he condemned Damian White’s budget.1 Nervous, constantly wringing his hands and more-or-less incoherent, he realised he’d inherit Damian’s poisoned chalice. (It’s a quirk of local government that the incoming HRA Administration had to implement Damian’s budget.) But the 2023 budget will be his.

Chris said Damian’s budget was ‘catastrophic’ and could end in a section 114 notice.3 The world is a nastier place now. Britain’s economy is deteriorating at the speed of light. Energy prices have increased by 80%, so far, inflation is north of 10%, and there’s widespread strikes like the 1970s.4 There’ll be upward pressure on wages due to rampant inflation. This is bad news for Chris who’s absolutely pivotal in financial decision making.

How will LBH pay for their staff, offices, libraries, leisure facilities and fleet of vehicles? Mandatory services for the elderly and children will explode in unavoidable demand led expenditure. The 2023 Council budget will be torrid for Chris. He’ll be proposing a minimum 10% increase with Damian taunting him.

It’s a long way from moaning about street care, isn’t it?

Notes

1 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) begins at one hour twenty. Damian White was Leader of the Council at that meeting.

2 HRA = Havering Residents Association

3 A section 114 notice is an incredibly significant action for a council to take for several reasons. Not only is it a very public declaration that its budget cannot be balanced, it also results in a suspension of additional spending.

4 Including, amazingly, barristers.

Havering’s 2022 Election: an Unexpected Outcome

Local politics is a cult with a tiny number of activists.1 As a result, local politics relies heavily on these people to finance it, the most important of whom are councillors along with their families and friends. Any significant downturn in their financial status immediately effects their local party.

The 2022 election was a disaster for Romford Conservatives because they were defeated after 20 lucrative years. Damian White and his cabinet lost tens of thousands of pounds in allowances each. Other Conservatives lost smaller, but significant, amounts. Hundreds of thousands of pounds in allowances no longer flow to the Conservatives.2 Romford’s Conservative councillors suffered a lifestyle changing event in May, 2022.3 This reduced their enthusiasm for financing the party.

On the other side of the coin Ray Morgon’s HRA4 have finance they’ve never had before. HRA is a federation which doesn’t have the costs of a political party. Their 2022 poster campaign did, however, indicate a direction of travel. So, it’s possible HRA will become a borough political party. HRA’s junior partner, Labour, have had an increase in councillor allowances with two cabinet posts. This should improve their campaigning.

These unexpected financial consequences could reshape Havering’s political landscape. The Conservatives are starved of money, which could expose them to the mercy of wealthy backers. Another scenario is activists will promote hobby-horses, which might end up being extremism of one kind or another.

Notes

1 John and Philippa Crowder; Oscar and Gillian Ford; Dilip and Nisha Patel. These three families are an extreme example of the cult-like atmosphere. Oscar and Gillian are the most powerful husband/wife politicians since Arthur and Margaret Latham in the 1990s.

2 Romford councillors pick up the basic £10,412 p.a (£239,476 in total so they aren’t entirely bereft and may have a bit left over to contribute towards the party – if they want.)

3 Due to Damian’s pot-of-gold policy virtually every Conservative has lost at least £3,000 per year.

4 HRA = Havering Residents Association

School Uniforms: A Stealth Tax on Education?

All of Havering’s academies have single supplier contracts.1 Parents are captured by this arrangement. They’ve no choice what to buy, where to buy or how much to pay. School uniforms are mandatory. This is contrary to government advice (see Addendum). Multi-academy groups are big businesses who ‘deliver’ thousands of customers to a preferred supplier.2 (It would be interesting to see what’s in it for them, but we can’t because they’re unaccountable.)

The commercial aspect is obnoxious but so’s the ruthless enforcement of uniform policies.3 Ties are crucial to learning in Havering’s secondary schools according to their discipline codes. Where else, in Britain, are expensive blazers worn? Black polished shoes but not black trainers? School logo hoodies but not ones without a logo? Havering’s uniforms are a throwback to the 1950s.

Havering’s secondary academy parents pay about £3004 for uniforms to fulfil a legal obligation …sending their children to school. If they don’t buy a uniform their child can’t even enter school buildings. Not buying a uniform isn’t failing an educational requirement. It’s avoiding a stealth tax.

The education stealth tax goes like this:

  • Children must attend school
  • Children must wear school uniform
  • Pay up, or else!

Addendum: Statutory advice on school uniforms

Single supplier contracts should be avoided unless regular tendering competitions are run where more than one supplier can compete for the contract and where the best value for money is secured. This contract should be retendered at least every 5 years….Schools should keep the use of branded items to a minimum. (my emphasis)

Source Cost of school uniforms – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Notes

1 Coopers Coburn appear to have changed supplier but it’s unclear if that was after retendering. Research for this blog was done on 4th August, 2022 using school websites

2 Harris Academy group has 28 secondary schools amongst which is Harris Academy Rainham. Harris academy group – Yahoo Search Results Their uniform supplier is Khalsa Schoolwear as it is for all their secondary schools. This contract ‘delivers’ about 20,000-30,000 Harris students nationwide.

3 To the point that students can be excluded from school as non-compliance is interpreted as a major discipline challenge… Like carrying a knife or selling drugs.

4 The pandemic revealed that whilst parents were shelling out for school uniforms they couldn’t afford laptops for their children. Laptops, it was quickly discovered, are essential to education in the 21st century; unlike blazers.

Havering’s Timid Councillors

Councillors should make their home address publicly available on the Register of Interests.1 Get-out clauses to this are laid out in government advice (see Addendum). Many of Havering’s councillors don’t make their addresses public and six haven’t made a meaningful response. The six might not live in the borough, who knows? 27 councillors concealed their addresses. Why?

Some councillors are fearful “because they believe the process [making addresses available] risks their safety or makes them vulnerable to abusive activity.” Can this be true? Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor, is subject to intense media attention, which often provokes threats to his safety. His Register of Interests statement deletes his home address, which is understandable. But a Havering councillor?

The fear argument falls immediately for councillors who share wards with co-councillors who do provide home addresses. Veteran councillors, from the 1990s, will remember that addresses and home phone numbers2 were published. Tiresome calls happened but not enough to claim that ‘violence or intimidation’ might ensue.

The notion that addresses are ‘private’ or can be ‘concealed’ is naive. Life in 2022 means living in the Surveillance Society. A malicious person can find an address easily on the internet. Do we want Havering’s councillors to be timid and naïve?

Addendum: Government advice to councillors on publicising their address

The Government wishes to avoid capable individuals being deterred from standing for office because they believe the process risks their safety or makes them vulnerable to abusive activity….The changes made mean that now all candidates in local government elections in England will be able to request that their home address is not made public. Candidates will have a choice – they can continue to include a home address if they wish to highlight their local connection to their ward. (my emphasis)

Source Letter to local authorities about the publication of councillors’ and candidates’ home addresses: March 2019 (publishing.service.gov.uk)

This builds on the Localism Act which spoke of ‘violence or intimidation’ as the principal criteria for concealing addresses. Localism Act 2011 (legislation.gov.uk)

Notes

1 Research done on 24th July, 2022 using Havering’s Register of Interests. This one is for Robert Benham. He wasn’t ‘chosen’ he’s the first councillor on the list mgConvert2PDF.aspx (havering.gov.uk) For Sadiq Khan see Sadiq Khan – Register of interests | London City Hall

2 Veteran councillors from the 1990s are Brian Eagling, Linda Hawthorn, Keith Prince, Michael White and Reg Whitney. This was prior to mobile phones

Havering’s Evasive Councillors

Havering’s Councillors conceal important parts of their economic status. This is despite government legislation demanding they should be open and truthful. The first section of the Register of Interests1 is unambiguous but virtually every Councillor is substantially less than forthcoming. If they don’t want scrutiny then they’re in the wrong game.

Councillors avoid the first question about, “Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain.” Few acknowledge that being a councillor is, ‘for profit or gain.’ Even Cabinet Members conceal their roles despite being paid up to £37,412 pa.2

Business interests must be included in section one and mostly these are stated. Some Councillors are directors or hold senior managerial roles. Others are retired, yet more wrote ‘None’ and some don’t answer the question.3

Havering’s Register includes 14 totally invisible Buy-to-Let Landlords who own 19 properties. These assets are worth about £5m generating £150,000 pa in rental income or, ‘profit or gain’.4 Being a Landlord creates political biases shaping decision-making. The government’s Register demands a truthful, accurate statement because biases are important. There’s a lot of organised opposition to social housing from wealthy Councillors who are motivated by NIMBYism.5 They sacrifice the needs of the unhoused to their privileged comfort.

Havering’s Councillors are evasive about they’re Landlordism and their significant political roles. But this isn’t a matter of taste. They’re legally obliged to reveal details and the Monitoring Officer is tasked with making sure they do. That there’s so much discrepancy suggests a total lack of focus.

Notes

1 see Title (publishing.service.gov.uk)

2 This is £6,000 more than the median wage in the UK for full-time employees. To be fair the Leader describes himself as a full-time politician.

3 Your Councillors | The London Borough Of Havering Research done on 8th July 2022. Sue Ospreay (Rainham and Wennington) signed a blank form. Why LBH’s Monitoring Officer finds that acceptable is beyond me.

4 At a 3% return after tax and business expenses this creates a collective income of about £150,000pa. The £5m is a guess-estimate based on the Havering’s property prices. I took £250,000 as a base figure though there are properties costing less than that most cost more: therefore £5m is probably an under-estimate.

5 NIMBY = Not in my backyard

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

Havering’s Register of Interests: Three Case Studies

Every councillor has a legal obligation to fill out the Register of Interests. The government regard this as so important that if statements are false, it’s potentially a criminal act. Every councillor knows this.

The Register must be completed within 28 days of the election, which, this year, falls on the 2nd June 2022. Anyone not filling in the Register isn’t meeting their legal obligations.

Philip Ruck (HRA: Cranham) apparently hasn’t filled in his form, which is a significant failure. Philip’s a new councillor but Keith Prince (Con: Squirrels Heath) has a long and distinguished career behind him. He too hasn’t filled in his Register of Interests which makes me suspicious. Keith’s GLA entry is overflowing with detail. Can it be that they’ve filled in their forms and been let down by the Council? If not, then it’s a reprehensible failure.1

Sue Ospreay (Con: Rainham and Wennington)2 signed a blank form, which is legally binding. It can be tested under the true/false criteria. On the basis of the Register statement of Jacqueline McArdle (Con: same ward) Sue’s statement is false. Jacqueline received donations from the Conservative Party. It’s highly unlikely that Sue didn’t also receive a donation.

The Register of Interests3 is a vital part of democracy. The Councillors who apparently failed their legal obligation, without a reasonable explanation, should lose their allowances. Sue should be given the opportunity to revise her form if it’s deemed necessary.

Notes

1 Councillor details – Councillor Philip Ruck | The London Borough Of Havering This entire discussion is based on the information held on this site. The information was accessed on June 21st 2022. For other councillors go to the relevant entry. For Keith Prince see for his GLA statement Keith Prince – Register of interests | London City Hall

2 mgConvert2PDF.aspx (havering.gov.uk)

3 MPs also fill in a Register of Interests. This one is for Jon Cruddas (Lab) (Dagenham and Rainham) House of Commons – The Register of Members’ Financial Interests (3 May 2022: Cruddas, Jon ) (parliament.uk) For other MPs just fill in the relevant name.