Timothy isn’t a well known councillor but is Damian White’s crony. He may be talentless but he’s grateful for crumbs that come his way. So when an embarrassing job needed to be done, Timothy agreed immediately.
Damian’s policy is to use council allowances to cement his position as Leader. In Timothy’s case this means being vice chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. For this Timothy gets £150 a week. He probably appreciates this when we look at his Register of Members’ Interests statement.*
So what favour did Damian request? Earlier this year, 2020, Damian boasted about his control of the Chief Executive and the borough’s boundary submission on reconfigured wards. Damian thought he was amongst friends. He was mistaken. A recording was taken which went viral. This in turn led to an external adjudicator declaring Damian had a case to answer.
A committee was formed to hear evidence.** Timothy and Conservative councillor Matt Sutton sat alongside councillor Linda van den Hende. Timothy announced, at the beginning of the meeting, that he’d excuse himself as he’d been a participant when Damian was boasting. Obviously Damian planned this. They both knew Timothy was unable to serve on the committee. Although quorate, the chair, Matt Sutton, postponed the meeting. Exactly to plan.
Damian’s ploy wasted time and money but Timothy felt he’d done well. Like all Zoom meetings, it’s interesting to see participants’ composure when provoked. Timothy’s action pleased him, pleased Damian and hacked everyone else off. I hope Damian’s boasting isn’t subsequently white-washed.
Damian White’s cronies are undermining democracy in Havering.
This constituency is a safe Conservative parliamentary seat. But it’s also a no-go area for them in local politics. Indeed Conservative candidates have to brand themselves as Resident Association (RAs)to have any chance of success in council elections. The RAs are splintered and don’t have critical mass when it comes to power and influence. As a consequence, the minority Conservative administration has an easy time of it.
Veteran RA councillor, John Mylod, ‘became’ a Conservative prior to the 2018 election after a spat with fellow councillors in St Andrews ward. This ward is an RA stronghold but he still won with a personal vote. Or, maybe, voters didn’t appreciate he’d jumped ship. Harold Wood’s three RA councillors created a working majority for the Conservatives. They were always crypto-Conservatives but being offered lucrative allowances helped them make the crucial decision.
Two wards return Labour councillors. In their heartlands they won five of six seats. The sixth seat went to an Independent novice. The only reliable Conservative ward is Emerson Park, which isn’t rock solid. They lost a seat in 2014 to a UKIP candidate. Then post-2018, Bob Perry found Romford’s councillors too arrogant and he’s now an Independent.
So Julia Lopez MP has a majority of 23,000 in a constituency with only three Conservative councillors. Her seat may not be as solid as it looks. Local politics shows there is dissatisfaction with the Conservatives. Local elections demonstrate that voters are quite prepared to abandon them.
Councillor Perry said: “We were at a meeting on January 14th, Councillor White shouted across the room that we all had to go out and go campaigning or we would lose our chairmanship position.
“Someone then stated ‘what happens if you are ill?’. Councillor White responded by saying that they had to bring in a doctor’s note.
“He is a bully and a dictator. I have decided to speak out and go public in the hope that the Conservative Party decide to do something about this.” [quoted in Havering Daily]
Damian is an ambitious politician whose power base in Romford is the Conservative party in Havering. There’s very little chance that any political party will get a majority in Havering so he must wheel-and-deal to shore up support. He’s done this rather well. Michael Deon Burton, Sally Miller and John Mylod were bagged and three Harold Wood councillors completed the set.
Damian looks to the future. And the future is bleak. The political stability of Havering is creaking. Romford is under attack from both east and west. Following Andrew Rosindell’s techniques, Damian has introduced constant campaigning to, ‘get the Conservative message’ across. This aspiration is unlikely to succeed.
About a quarter of Damian’s group are over 70, including Bob. They like sitting around, picking up allowances and pontificating. They don’t want to ‘do’ anything. Bob is outraged that he’s expected to work. Bob thinks that turning up at meetings is pretty good going.
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.* He also works as a researcher** 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 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