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.
Zoom Council meetings are unforgiving. The elderly Mayor, John Mylod, failed utterly from the very beginning.* After ten minutes or so he was still bumbling along, testing the patience of councillors. Several gripped their heads in disbelief, others openly laughed. This was the very public outcome of Damian White’s policy of using jobs to maintain his power, regardless of operational efficiency. It has brought the council into disrepute.
The meeting ended with a long** debate about Havering’s academy schools. Surprisingly, the Conservatives fielded four cabinet members including the Leader,*** deputy Leader and former Leader. The Conservative chair of the Children and Learning committee didn’t speak. This is shocking as her committee will scrutinise Havering academies’ under-achievement. Robert Benham, chair of education, read a script where each word seemed unexpected. Is it possible he didn’t write it? Councillor Ford didn’t develop her good debating points fully. Councillor Darvill opened and closed the debate with considerable authority. There was empty political point scoring by the Conservatives, which fell flat.
The Council meeting was ruined once again by poor chairmanship. This illustrates the negative impact of Damian’s croneyism, which extends to every Overview and Scrutiny committee, none of which are independent of the executive.
* First ten minutes https://aisapps.sonicfoundry.com/AuditelScheduler/Player/Index/?id=980fc1ad-8bc8-4ed9-a60c-548e1f6c560b&presID=52e9140a88324a8fa193e7954f87df451d All times refer to this webcast site
** See 1 hour 33 minutes to the conclusion. The councillors in speaking order, Councillors Darvill, Benham, Mugglestone, Ford, Durant, White D, Ramsey, Tucker, Persaud, Nunn and McGeary
*** Damian said he was uneducated because of Havering LEA. This is implausible. More likely causes are poor teaching and a lack of diligence.
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