Havering Council Meeting, 20th January, 2021

This meeting was a train crash.1 The Mayor can’t chair a meeting, which was then cynically manipulated by the Leader, Damian White. The Mayor finally noticed the manipulation by Damian’s cabinet and was irritated (at 2 hours 10 minutes). Fortunately for Damian the Mayor doesn’t understand procedure and so he didn’t follow through with an extension of the Council meeting to close of business. Detention, as it were, for bad behaviour.

Damian is adroit and is having a ‘good’ pandemic. Numerous media appearances have brushed up his profile. His 16 minutes of repetitious contributions helped destroy the agenda.

The discussion of Covid-19 was based on a report and an amendment (Addenda 1 and 2). This report was for ‘Noting’. The unscientific and hysterical amendment should obviously have been brushed aside. No! There was a 63 minute ‘debate’ dominated by every single one of of Damian’s cabinet. What did they say in their 18 minutes of allocated time? Banalities. Viddy Persaud’s three minute anecdote about her dad was a spectacular example (2:06)

After 63 minutes Jeff Tucker (2:11) said he was voting with Damian. It was his amendment! The Simpsons have more credible storylines.

So what was really happening? Damian avoided embarrassing agenda items. None of the councillors asked for the motion to be ‘Put’ to end the fiasco. This procedural device halts debates when there’s virtual unanimity and further discussion is pointless.

The meeting ended with the National Anthem being unpatriotically murdered by Joshua Chapman (2:41). The Council should invest in a Karaoke machine.

Addendum one: Item 10

REPORT OF THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE SUBJECT: The importance of COVID-19 vaccination SUMMARY The emergence of a new, more transmissible variant has contributed to very high rates of coronavirus infection that threaten to overwhelm the NHS. In response, the Government has enforced a third lockdown to bring infection rates down and thereby relieve pressure on the NHS. A number of effective vaccines are now available, adding a powerful new tool to complement such non-pharmaceutical interventions. The immediate priority is to vaccinate the most vulnerable and those that care for them so that the pressure on the NHS can be relieved, enabling the current lockdown to be relaxed sooner than might otherwise be the case. Vaccination on this scale represents a massive operational challenge to the NHS. Inequitable resourcing and vaccine hesitancy may impede progress locally and leave residents and the NHS unnecessarily vulnerable. Information regarding progress will be needed to ensure the efficiency, equity and effectiveness of the programme for local residents In the short term at least i.e. this side of summer, vaccination must be seen as a complement to, not replacement for non-pharmaceutical interventions. RECOMMENDATIONS Note the contents of the report.

Addendum two: The Independent Residents’ Group amendment

The recommendation of the report be amended to read as follows: Council remits the report for redrafting as it is unduly alarmist, vastly disproportionate and unethical, as no details are provided about the experimental vaccines with possible side-effects it wants the council to promote.

Note

1 All quotes are from this and all times relate to the webcast Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

Havering Council Emasculates Independent Councillors

Havering has had three Independent councillors who were prevented from fulfilling their responsibilities to their electorates. Independent councillors are banned from Overview and Scrutiny committee places. They can only attend council meetings. Overview and Scrutiny committees are pivotal to good governance.1 The Council debate on 20th January 20212 discussed the political balance of the committees but ignored the excluded Independent councillors

The three became Independent councillors in different ways.

Bob Perry (Emerson Park)

Bob was (is?) disgusted by the leadership of the Conservative group. His disenchantment led to a covert recording of a group meeting. At that group meeting Damian White was heard to say words to the effect that he’d had undue influence on forthcoming boundary changes.3 Bob left the Conservative group and is now an Independent.

Jan Sargent (Gooshays)

Gooshays elected Jan as an Independent councillor knowingly rejecting the alternatives. What the electorate didn’t know was that Jan, and they, would be disrespected. Jan has got sick of being ignored and has joined the Harold Wood Three. Alternatively she might have been attracted to the rich rewards that they’ve accrued from propping up the Administration. Maybe she thought it was a good career move. Who knows?

Melvin Wallace (Squirrels Heath)

Melvin became an Independent after an indiscretion.4Maybe Melvin should have resigned but he didn’t. Perhaps he likes doing nothing but he shouldn’t be forced to do nothing.

This undemocratic situation can’t continue. Let’s imagine that all three were black. What would the media make of that?

1 See Havering’s Conservatives Defy the Government’s Guidance on Overview and Scrutiny Committees – Politics in Havering Don’t forget the Harold Wood Three have been richly rewarded for propping up the Conservative Administration since 2018.

2 Go to 50 minutes the debate lasts 16 minutes Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

3 See Local Government Boundary Commission for England Consultation Portal (lgbce.org.uk)

4 See Havering Councillor: Melvin Wallace (Squirrels Heath) – Politics in Havering

Havering and the Covid-19 Parliamentary Debates 6th January, 2021

There were three Covid-19 debates on 6th January and the principal one was led by Boris Johnson. The other two were Education and Health. Andrew Rosindell made two contributions. One briefly in the Education debate and the other at greater length in the Matt Hancock led debate. But astonishingly the most pertinent contribution for Havering came from Barking MP Margaret Hodge.*

My local hospital, Queen’s, is one of many that is facing critical pressure on the supply of oxygen to patients. Demand for oxygen is running at 100% or more of the supply available. Will the Prime Minister assure me and my constituents that action is being taken to ensure a safe and secure supply of oxygen? Will he tell me what contingency plans he has in place to ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed and closed, critically ill patients are not moved, and every patient receives the right amount of oxygen when needed?

Boris Johnson replied

I am very grateful to the right hon. Lady. I will immediately look into the matter that she raises about oxygen at Queen’s Hospital. It had not been drawn to my attention before, but we will make sure that we get back to her as soon as we can.

Margaret Hodge showed how powerful a parliamentary debate can be, especially when the Prime Minister is present.

Note

* Covid-19 – Wednesday 6 January 2021 – Hansard – UK Parliament column 755

Sources

For selected quotes from this debate, without commentary, see Selected Quotes: Covid-19 Debate 6th January 2021 | Odeboyz’s Blog (oedeboyz.com)

For the Education debate see Covid-19: Educational Settings – Wednesday 6 January 2021 – Hansard – UK Parliament

For Andrew Rosindell’s contribution see column 774

For the Health debate see Public Health – Wednesday 6 January 2021 – Hansard – UK Parliament

For Andrew Rosindell’s contribution see column 841

Havering Council Meeting, 15th December, 2020

This was a truncated meeting because chief officers are engulfed with Covid-19 preparations. The Mayor carefully avoided saying the problem was that government announcements always come late, with maximum urgency.

There wasn’t a repetition of ‘the Mayor and the Priest’ fiasco as of 9th September, 2020, which was a bit of a shame.* This time the Priest did his best with a couple of feeble jokes, a nun’s 17th century prayer and a badge of honour. Quite why councillors needed God’s assistance is a curiosity as there weren’t any moral conundrums on the agenda.

Using a tactic Stalin, an atheist, would have been proud of, every vote was ‘Vote Only’. The Conservative minority, with the Harold Wood 3, swept through. Only Damian White’s smirk showed this was how he’d like every council meeting to be conducted.

The meeting ended with Cllr. Joshua Chapman** singing the National Anthem. Unaccompanied. This should have been a coup de theatre but the artistic director fell down on the job. At the very least a Union flag should have been unfurled behind the Mayor’s seat.

* For the 9th September 2020 council meeting and especially the first ten minutes see Havering Council Meeting, 9th September 2020 – Politics in Havering

** If you wish to do a sing-a-long go to Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) 41 mins 46 secs.

Hornchurch High School, the Pupil Premium and Accountability

Government guidance for publicising the Pupil Premium on school websites says it should include –

1) a summary of the main barriers to educational achievement faced by eligible pupils of the school

2) how the pupil premium allocation is to be spent to address those barriers and the reasons for that approach

3) how the school is to measure the impact and effect of its expenditure of the pupil premium allocation.*

Hornchurch High received £367,218 Pupil Premium funding (PP), 2020-21, which it spent as it chose. The government does however stipulate accountability procedures. (see above)Hornchurch High’s accountability is a travesty.

Hornchurch High allocates 33% of PP funding to Child Protection. Let’s imagine they’ve identified Child Protection as the main method of overcoming “barriers to educational achievement,” and PP finance is “…spent to address those barriers…” Why wouldn’t they publicise the ”…impact and effect of its expenditure…”? When a third of the PP budget is allocated to a single activity, there should be a compelling reason to justify it. The explanation for the expenditure of the PP funding which remains is equally opaque.**

The attainment gap of disadvantaged children is a scandal which PP funding is intended to close. It’s impossible to know if Hornchurch High is fulfilling its obligations. Another Havering school, Drapers Academy (£384,640 PP), is a model of clarity. Why not use it as a template? Accountability isn’t rocket science.

Addendum: The Partnership Learning trust

They’re part of Partnership Learning academy trust which includes Sydney Russell school, Dagenham (£647,882 pa PP). The two schools have a million+ pounds PP funding of potential synergies. Two schools in the same academy trust and facing the similar issues ought to generate significant expertise.

Notes

* What academies, free schools and colleges should publish online – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

** £26,028 for additional English support and £6,000 for additional teaching hours are self explanatory.

Sources

For Hornchurch High school PP see Hornchurch High School » PUPIL PREMIUM

For Sydney Russell school’s PP see Welcome to Sydney Russell School. (follow links for PP)

For Drapers Academy PP statement see Pupil-Premium-Report-2017-2018-v20.pdf (drapersacademy.com)

Havering Council Budget Consultation 2021-22

Havering’s 2021-22 Budget Consultation is a device which will be interpreted as an endorsement. Nonetheless, I ploughed through to see what could be gleaned from the ‘explanations’ which were offered to the questions. In truth there wasn’t much.

The amount raised by Council Tax is £130.1 million. An additional £339.6 million comes from government. Basically, Havering is a conduit funnelling resources into schools and social services. This makes the million pounds spent on councillor allowances unjustifiable. Decisions are made elsewhere. So what’s their role?

Question eight on Adult Social Care, and ‘Better Living’ reveals a saving of £3.569 million.** How? The gist is “…rather than relying on statutory services.” I don’t know what this means for vulnerable people in this context. However those receiving “…statutory services” will know and care rather a lot.

‘Smoke and mirrors’ continue for questions 8, 9, 10, 11. By question 15, the bottom of the barrel has been reached, “This saving was presented as part of the original Business case signed off by Cabinet in 2019.”(my emphasis)And the saving is – £190,000 – on a budget of £469.7 million. It wasn’t achieved in 2020 so why will it happen in 2021?

Question 17 is the crux of the consultation. But my option wasn’t there. I think council tax is too low.*** That was too shocking to be an option.

Notes

* Two informative graphs explain ‘Income-Spend’. They’re scene setting.

** Notice that they claim a saving to the nearest £10,000, which isn’t a rounding error.

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

Source

Havering Budget Consultation 2020 – London Borough of Havering Council – Citizen Space

Havering and the Freedom Pass

Havering Council is consulting the public about the 2021-22 budget proposals.* Most people won’t respond because the majority of the Council’s budget is decided by the government. The consultation is marginal at best. Many big budget items are subject to inter-borough agreements, which can’t be altered because of contractual arrangements.

Havering’s Conservative party manifesto, 2018, said they’d oppose any attempt to curtail or restrict it. [Freedom Pass]” Two years later, the elderly can’t use the Freedom Pass before 9 a.m. This is because of the Covid-19 settlement between the GLA and the government. Naturally the Mayor blames the government and local Conservatives blame the Mayor. Both are ludicrous. The pandemic has changed everything and this is a minor irritation.**

The pandemic has reduced usage and the Council has benefited.

The usage of freedom passes has understandably reduced dramatically in the current year. Future year settlements with TFL are negotiated with the previous year’s pass usage as one of the key factors. The reduced figures are therefore likely to result in an estimated £850k reduction in the cost of the freedom pass for 2021/22. The reduction is expected to continue through 2022/23 but it should be noted that costs are then forecast to rise significantly in 2023/24 as usage returns to normal.”*** (my emphasis)

Havering’s annual Freedom Pass budget is about £8 million. Dramatic savings could be achieved by negotiating with 32 boroughs and leaving the inter-borough travel concession. Havering has about 50,000 Freedom Pass holders who vote. I wouldn’t expect a saving to be made on this budget item. Would you?

Notes

* Council asks for residents’ views on proposed budget | The London Borough Of Havering

** Freedom Pass | | The Havering Daily A woman complaining she had to pay her fare to go to work.

*** (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Cabinet, 25/11/2020 19:30 (havering.gov.uk) para4:4 p14

Sources

For checks about entitlement in Havering see Freedom pass deadline | The London Borough Of Havering

For a discussion about the Freedom Pass see Freedom Pass funding under threat › Transport for all › Accessible Transport in London

Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny Board 24th November 2020

The meeting received the ‘Inclusive Growth Strategy and Implementation Plan’. It includes statements about educational achievement in Havering in its discussion of economic growth (see table and graph above).

Havering’s secondary schools are, in general, well below the levels of Redbridge, unlike our primary schools which are above average at KS2.Unfortunately, Havering’s secondary academies ‘coast’ instead of building on this wonderful achievement. The government colludes in this,

From September 2019, the department will no longer publish coasting thresholds and RSCs will take no formal action as a result of a school meeting the coasting definition. Whilst local authorities retain the power to intervene, the department is unlikely to support action against a school on the basis of coasting data alone.”* (my emphasis)

Havering’s KS2 general achievement is statistically significant at the national level. Post-16 education, in contrast, is a stark failure, especially NVQ 3 and 4. This is caused by the mediocrity at Havering’s academies (see Addendum). During the debate about future employment and new businesses in Havering, there was much talk about ‘aspirations’ and ‘jobs for Havering’s youngsters’ with ‘higher value jobs’**. None of this will happen without significant improvements in educational achievement throughout the 11-16 schooling period.

Brexit and Covid-19 *** place a premium on education. KS2 achievements should lead to KS4 excellence as a base for achievement at higher education. Havering is sold short by their secondary academies. Only the council can end the cycle of complacency and mediocrity. The government doesn’t want to admit that coasting schools are an outrage but this council should.

Addendum: Education and economic growth

To develop an aspirational programme through the Havering Academy of Leadership, to combat low ambition among young people and their parents. The Local Authority has worked with the early years’ providers, schools, and colleges to develop a shared Education Vision for the Borough. (my emphasis) Para 9:2 p67 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Overview & Scrutiny Board, 24/11/2020 19:30 (havering.gov.uk) Let’s remind ourselves that these children and parents are the same children, with the same parents, who over-achieve at primary schools and then stagnate at secondary level.

Notes

* Schools causing concern guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk) p5

** SQW and BBP’s report to the Board Economic Evidence Base: Havering January 2018 pp 118, 121, 126, 140. Table and bar graph on pp141-2. NB: NVQ 4 are degree level qualifications

*** Neil Stubbings at 21 minutes going forward. Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

Sources

The ‘coasting’ school concept was formulated in 2015 using several key indicators see Coasting Schools Definition: The Nerdy Details Guide (schoolsweek.co.uk)

Havering’s educational institutions are opaque in informing the public about their results usually relying on hyperbole instead of statistics. Havering Colleges Sixth Form Results 2019 says, “I am delighted to announce fantastic outcomes for our students at Havering Sixth Form in 2019.” (my emphasis) Results – Havering Colleges (havering-sfc.ac.uk)

For the disparity between Havering and Redbridge secondary schools see Havering and Redbridge: A Tale of Two Boroughs – Politics in Havering

For the council’s potential response see Havering’s Academy Schools: Councillor Robert Benham’s Dilemma – Politics in Havering

 

R. J. Mitchell Primary School: Celebrating Local History

Introduction

R. J. Mitchell didn’t have a direct personal connexion with Hornchurch but in an imaginative gesture his genius is acknowledged by the school named after him. The incredibly courageous RAF pilots who flew out of Hornchurch flew in Supermarine Spitfires, which Mitchell designed. The Spitfire was so advanced and capable as a fighter plane it made victory over the Luftwaffe possible.Mitchell’s Spitfire designs were a crucial contribution to victory by ‘The Few’.Hornchurch is indelibly identified with the battle of Britain, the Spitfire and R. J. Mitchell.

Discussion

The school concludes their brief history of the period by saying,

We do not seek to glorify war, but to remember the sacrifice of brave people in extraordinary circumstances.”

The school reflects the community by honouring the RAF ‘aces’ of the Battle of Britain. This bonds the school with their community. Many of the school’s students come from streets named after fighter ‘aces’ in the immediate area. The school is located in a place which memorialises those fateful years.

Each passing year pushes those existential days further into the mists of history. So does it matter?

History does matter as it gives a sense of place and identity. The rich heritage that is celebrated by R. J. Mitchell School isn’t jingoistic. It’s measured, respectful and is to be applauded.

Sources

For a quick biography see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._J._Mitchell

For the excellent R J Mitchell School’s celebration of the history of the community see http://www.rjmitchellprimaryschool.com/havering/primary/rjmitchell/site/pages/welcome/historyofourschool

For R J Mitchell School in 2013 see https://www.teachprimary.com/learning_resources/view/outstanding-schools-rj-mitchell-primary

Havering and Free School Meals over Christmas

Havering’s Conservatives are in disarray over Free School Meals. Marcus Rashford highlighted the fact of hunger during the summer holidays. Johnson rejected the request. Government policy was reversed and meals were provided. The issue came back to parliament for the October and Christmas holidays. On 21st October, Conservatives in parliament decisively rejected provision of Free School Meals. Shortly afterwards, Andrew Rosindell stoutly defended the government’s position, which Damian White rejected. Johnson then reversed government policy once more.

Andrew opposed free school meals during school holidays. Andrew’s reply to my blog said,

Extending Free School Meals to over the school holidays would mean effectively handing over responsibility for feeding our kids from parents to the Government and I do not believe that this is right.”*

Damian, Conservative leader of Havering, wrote to me saying,

The Covid crisis we are in continues to have significant impacts on vulnerable people and families in the borough and this is a sensible solution to a problem that is fundamentally about the wellbeing of our children.”**

Romford’s Conservatives are split on Free School Meals because it means higher taxation. It’s now known that most welfare beneficiaries are in work. Welfare payments are a subsidy for employers. Johnson’s flip-flopping illustrates an unpleasant truth, which is that welfare payments are too low for civilised living in Havering today.

Notes

* Andrew Rosindell Letter dated 27th October 2020

** Damian White Letter dated 27th October 2020

Sources

For the blog which Andrew replied to see https://havering.blog/2020/10/24/andrew-rosindell-and-the-free-school-meals-debate-21st-october-2020/e

For the parliamentary debate selected quotations see https://oedeboyz.com/2020/10/23/selected-quotes-the-free-school-meals-debate-21st-october-2020/