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 Council Tax Meeting, 2nd March 2022

Setting a council tax is a statutory duty. It was dispiriting watching a debate dominated by trivia. The Mayor didn’t realise that he’s expected to terminate out-of-order speeches. Trivia degenerated into drivel.

The single highlight was Roger Ramsey (@ 2 hours 12 minutes in the webcast). Calm, measured and magisterial, he noted irrelevance with a weary acceptance. His focus was the demand-led Adult Social Care. That budget literally can’t be controlled. It’s a statutory obligation. Children’s services are also demand-led with huge expenditure for personalized transport during the pandemic. Massive shortfalls in government funding were highlighted. This was described as a Stealth Tax (Ray Morgon: (@ 50 minutes).

Damian White (@ 25 mins) is turning into a Socialist. He worried about the cost-of-living crisis, environmental funding, the stigma of Food Banks, and substandard KS3 achievements in schools. 400 job losses which will, amazingly, improve service delivery was used as an example of tough decisions. The government’s £150 reduction of Council Tax for bands A-D was welcomed. Belatedly he recognised that Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA) mattered in an election year and offered half-baked proposals.

Keith Darvill (@1 hour 35) talked of a perfect storm of increases in Rent, Council Tax, National Insurance and inflation, especially energy costs. Ray Morgon actually made a policy proposal. Savings from reducing SRAs would go to street cleaning. There was a lot of expectations on productivity gains from digital working. This was rubbished by David Durant (@ 3 hours 31) who discussed cyber-terrorism. Another policy proposal was by Jeff Tucker (@ 1 hour 53) who wanted fewer councillors (18) because officers made all the decisions anyway. He also proposed himself as Leader as he had ‘the most brains’.

Graham Williamson (@ 2:32) said savings on SRAs were irrelevant, being gesture politics. Gillian Ford (@2:41) did a tour d’horizon which included refugees, Green Flags in parks and Food Banks. I hoped for more.1

Conclusion

Jeff Tucker is absolutely right that there are too many councillors. This meeting was a disgrace and should be used as a training programme for the incoming Mayor so they understand their role in chairing a meeting. Roger Ramsey is retiring and someone needs to step up and fill his shoes as ‘the only grown-up in the room’.

Webcast

Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

Note

1 Other speakers: Martin Goode, Chris Wilkins, Ciaran White, John Tyler, Robert Benham, Darren Wise, Bob Perry, Joshua Chapman, Graham Williamson, Reg Whitney, Ron Ower, Viddy Persaud and Dilip Patel. There may have been others but my webcast failed at 3 hours 42 and so I missed the last hour.

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 Children’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee: 20th January 2022

Item 6: Adaptations due to Covid and Covid Recovery1

This item is extremely important and revealed more than could reasonably have been expected. Through the intervention of the chair, Judith Holt, the focus of the discussion extended beyond SEND children2 to the impact of school closures on the on the more able.

Havering’s education department can be congratulated for their response to a two-year crisis. Staff training, sensitive use of Teacher Assistants, and true engagement with parents was on display. Respite care, for example, has grown in importance3. Nonetheless there’s been regression amongst some pupils, which was anticipated. Vulnerable children taken out of a structured learning environment are unlikely to maintain momentum.

The detailed report on SEND children was superior to comments on the more able. Responses here were anecdotal. They were hampered by disagreement as to what ‘more able’ meant. One anecdote was startling. This was that more able boys ‘thrived’ outside the school environment. Both the chair and Gillian Ford discussed this revelation without drawing a conclusion. There’s a possibility that school behaviour codes are alienating and negatively impact on achievement. More research needs to be done on this important point.

The chair called for this additional meeting and was richly rewarded.

Notes

1 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Children & Learning Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee, 20/01/2022 19:00 (havering.gov.uk)

2 Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

3 £300 grants were given to certain parents who were struggling with the burden of educational provision at home. Educational equipment was also loaned out where required.  It isn’t known whether Academy schools with SEND children were equally proactive.

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 and Redbridge’s Disadvantaged Secondary Students

‘Closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers is the greatest challenge facing English schools. The gap is stubborn because its causes are entrenched and complex, and most lie beyond the control of schools and educators. However, it is clear that schools can make a difference.1

Havering and Redbridge have 18 secondary schools each. Redbridge’s disadvantaged students do markedly better than those in Havering (see Addendum).

Schools receive additional funding through the Pupil Premium (PP) to try to alleviate the challenges disadvantaged students face. PP funding is a flat rate for eligible students.

Marshalls Park, Havering, PP £232,245

The most recent examination results were published in 2019. The academy said their students achieved “…amazing results, some of the best the school has ever had.”    Their disadvantaged students achieved a catastrophic success rate of 18% at GCSE grade 5+ English and Mathematics.

Chadwell Heath, Redbridge, PP £241,230

They said, “This year [2019] our pupils have produced our best ever set of examination results.” Their disadvantaged students achieved 44% grade 5+ English and Mathematics. Chadwell Heath really has ‘Levelled-up’ giving their students a platform for ‘A’ levels post-16.

Discussion

The introductory quote neatly summarises the challenges presented by disadvantaged students. Marshalls Park focuses on, “The [attainment] gap is stubborn because its causes are entrenched and complex, and most lie beyond the control of schools and educators.”  In brief, school leaders work on the theory that the attainment gap is intractable, whereas Chadwell Heath has taken heart from, “However, it is clear that schools can make a difference,” and plan accordingly.

These two sentences sum up senior management responses. Schools which undervalue disadvantaged students hamper their achievement. This is revealed in the GCSE results for the two schools. Disadvantaged students are challenging but PP funding aids skillful management offering an empathetic response. It’s clear that schools that meet the challenge are rewarded with higher achievement for every student.4

Addendum

 

Notes

1 PP-Strategy-and-Costs-Reviewed-2020-21.odt (live.com)

2 Exam Results | Marshalls Park Academy  Marshalls Park Academy  for government statistics see- GOV.UK – Find and compare schools in England (compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk) For a general look at the way that Havering schools are mediocre see Havering’s Academy Schools: Councillor Robert Benham’s Dilemma – Politics in Havering

3 Chadwell Heath Academy – Exam results (chadwellacademy.org.uk)

4 Chadwell Heath’s students at grade 5+ English and Mathematics achieved 61%: Marshalls Park 46%.

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