Havering’s Health and Wellbeing Board: 28th April, 2021

Jason Frost is an effective chair. He’d clearly read the agenda1, understood it and engaged so that he could lead the discussions. Given the importance of the business, an effective chair is vital.

Almost immediately the issue of sharing data came up. This was to be a recurring theme as suspension of data protection was implied. There are special procedures in place for the period of the pandemic about data sharing.

Jason immediately understood that the current emergency Covid strategies are expensive – but underwritten by the government- and likely to become permanent. He hoped that they could become part of the environmental officers’ brief, presumably to save money, but that was shown to be an improbable suggestion.

The challenges of Covid extend to Long Covid. The scale isn’t known but it’s a certainty. As there’s no cure, provision will have to be made to protect those suffering from it. Havering and the NHS will have to work closely together to meet this challenge.

A gloomy note was hit when the director of public health pointed out that Covid will be here for an extended period. Any surge would have to be met by stringent local actions, or, at worst, further lockdowns.

Addendum: Falsified Minutes

Damian White didn’t attend, yet again. In the minutes2 it says that he and two other councillors offered apologies. Viewing the webcast3 you’ll see they didn’t apologise for their absence. This pathetic falsification is childish corruption and deeply worrying in this critical period in Havering’s history. Let’s not forget the entire agenda was discussing the ramifications of a pandemic, which has killed 921 Havering citizens.

Notes

1 For the Agenda see (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Health & Wellbeing Board, 28/04/2021 13:00 (havering.gov.uk)

2 For enquiries on this agenda please contact (havering.gov.uk)

3 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Go to start point 2 minutes 55 seconds for announcement of apologies beginning with the chair and then the clerk: about 10 seconds altogether.

Havering’s Individuals Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee – 13th April, 2021

This meeting1 discussed findings from Healthwatch Havering. Their report was released as part of a NHS survey: Experiences of disabled North East London residents in the Covid-19 pandemic.2

The questionnaire was too long. For example Q2 was sub-divided into six parts whilst Q12 was sub-divided into eleven parts. The document was formidably long at 26 pages. The additional questionnaire for carers was 25 pages long. Ian Buckmaster faced an impossible task summarising the findings accurately. (4-32 mins)

GP services were challenging for disabled residents (13-16). Harrowing anecdotes were told of lengthy delays hanging on the phone. GP websites were problematic and Ian Buckmaster said they could be in breach of NHS contracts.

The chair Christine Smith guided the meeting successfully. The only bleak spot was David Durant (see especially 47-9) who holds his prejudices uncritically. Trivialities like plausible information doesn’t deflect him. The chair used personal knowledge to rebut him. It didn’t make any difference. Too many councillors were silent apart from Jan Sargent and John Tyler.

The report was noted. Recommendations to the cabinet member Jason Frost should have been made. GP services impacts everybody as John Tyler hinted. Havering Council could, perhaps, broker a deal with the NHS and GP services in this critical area.

Notes

1 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) All timings refer to this webinar

2 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Individuals Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee, 13/04/2021 19:00 (havering.gov.uk)

Havering Council Meeting 3rd March, 2021: Budget Setting

Taxes Are What We Pay for Civilized Society1

Damian White (Con)2 Damian did entry level bragging about his ‘leadership’ skills. He said other councillors should watch and learn. He discussed the 2020 RA’s budget proposals in a failed political demolition job. Rainham’s flooding problems can be resolved, he claimed. All that’s needed are gutter cleaners when heavy rain is forecast: well good luck with that. The Covid-19 victims (880) are to be memorialised with tree planting. (30)

Ray Morgon (RA) There was a sharp change in intellectual climate with Ray’s speech. It began with a macro-economic survey and Havering. Covid-19 and Brexit are seen as current negatives. He worried about deskilling senior management and was sceptical of performance indicators. The quality of building work in South Hornchurch was highlighted. The £17 million of efficiency savings were probably a negative for quality. (51)

Chris Wilkins (RA) Chris added little to Ray’s speech. (1:07)

Jeff Tucker (RA) Jeff’s speech was a job application. If the Harold Wood 3 perish next year he’ll be ready! Otherwise it was incoherent drivel. (1:20)

Keith Darvill (Lab) Keith did a forensic survey of the budget, citing page numbers and showing unique command of detail. He said Havering’s challenges began in 2010 being deliberately inflicted by central government. Adult social care is demand led and the entire 3% council tax increase for this is probably insufficient. The additional Covid responsibilities are only partially funded, inflicting yet more council tax pain. (1:39)

Martin Goode (RA) Martin slavishly follows Damian. (1:50)

Roger Ramsey (Con) Roger did a masterclass. Quick, articulate and in command of his material, he shone like a beacon of talent. A political knee-capping job on Keith, Tony Blair and Sadiq Khan showed Damian how to do it. Roger could have increased council tax by a further half million pounds. That he didn’t is economically illiterate because Roger is unashamedly political in everything he does. No posturing, just steel. (1:53)

The next five speeches were generic, which went along these lines: 1) Covid has caused significant problems; 2) I’m wonderful; 3) My staff are hard-working; 4) We’ve had tremendous successes; 5) The RAs are awful except for; 6) Jeff Tucker.

Jason Frost (Con) (2:03)

Osman Dervish (Con) (2:12)

Robert Benham (Con) (2:22)

Viddy Persaud (Con) (2:33)

Joshua Chapman (Con) Of the five cabinet generic contributions, this was the best. (2:44)

After an hour of cabinet reports, opposition members were permitted to speak. They’d waited two hours fifty-two minutes for the opportunity. Damian dodged accountability with his cynical manipulation of the speakers’ roster. It was an abuse of elected members who wished to speak for their communities.

Denis O’Flynn (Lab) Denis is a politician to his fingertips and has had a long and distinguished career. He brilliantly refuted Roger’s history lessons about why Havering is in dire straits. The recalibration caused by the collapse of Poll Tax meant that from 1991 Havering was doomed to under-funding. He brushed off the cheap points Benham made. (2:52)

Ron Ower (RA) Ron did a terrific job, especially focusing on the capital receipts programme of the next five years. He was sceptical of its achievement – probably rightly. The massive IT programme of £34 million seemed to be under-scrutinised, whilst the Adult Services budget was optimistic. (2:56)

Michael Deon Burton (Con) Mimicked the cabinet members. (3:00)

David Durant (RA) Repeated his well-known views on Covid. He made an important point about the ‘floods officer’ who left after allegedly being down graded. Perhaps he knows ‘cleaning gutters’ isn’t a viable response to endemic flooding? Worse, perhaps he said so? (3:04)

Gillian Ford (RA) Gillian is a class act and has a calm speaking voice. She riled at Damian’s cheap point scoring about the lack of an alternative RA budget. She made telling points about system failures. The wrecking of the Overview and Scrutiny committees and cancellation of meetings meant that the administration basically gets a free ride. The ‘Pitch and Putt’ sale rumbles on with the administration increasingly looking as if they’ve under-estimated the Upminster RAs (3:08)

Barry Mugglestone (RA) Barry made a quick point about cancelled council meetings (3:11)

Damian White (Con) Damian appeared to be speaking from an illegal bar with Union Jack bunting and a dart board behind him. His ‘summary’ was a hysterical rant entirely lacking intellectual content. Was he ‘tired and emotional’? (3:12)

Dilip Patel (Con) Dilip murdered the National Anthem. Judith Holt (Con) should take up the baton as she’s a chorister. (3:19)

Damian’s phalanx of poor cabinet speakers lacked fluency and couldn’t sight read ‘their’ speeches. Roger Ramsey, Ray Morgon and Keith Darvill stood out, meeting the demands of the occasion. Others ranged from a blizzard of statistics (Frost), a jog-trot round parks (Dervish), 900 laptops for deprived children (Benham) and various self-congratulatory remarks.

This was an opportunity to demonstrate the Conservative administration fully understands the challenges of Covid, Brexit and seismic changes in working practices in Havering. It was missed.

Addendum Times are in brackets in bold: (53) means the speech began 53 minutes into the webcast. This is the webcast link Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

Notes

1 This is engraved on the Inland Revenue Building in Washington, DC

2 Con = Conservative; RA = Resident Association; Lab = Labour

Dagnam Park Football Pitches: ‘Penny pinching gone mad’

Havering’s Conservatives got a huge capital receipt and then subverted a statutory 106 notice. They did this by building two football pitches in Dagnam Park without changing rooms. Naturally they weren’t used and the pitches was closed because of ‘lack of use.’ It’s a grim tale of outlandish decision-making destroying every precept of local government.1

The two football pitches were built to the exacting standards of Sports England. “Whilst the combination of re-grading and installation of pipe drains on the proposed pitch areas will provide a good standard of playing surface, ongoing management will play an equally important role in sustaining their playability during the winter months.2 (my emphasis)

The pitches were engineered for winter use. Expensive drainage, ground management, re-profiling of the ‘slope’, were essential and cost £100,000+.3 They were a sop to Sports England. The council had no intention of the pitches being used.

These pitches are for winter use. There’s no changing room facilities or car parking. They’re unusable for adult football. Adults don’t rent pitches, change in the open air and pop behind a bush to ‘spend a penny’. Having no changing rooms adjacent to football pitches is equivalent to building a house without a bathroom and toilet.

The pitches were, unsurprisingly, unloved and two years ago were abandoned, because no-one was renting them. The remains are two areas of land, immaculately drained, standing in a soggy wilderness. The Council got a huge capital receipt and successfully evaded their responsibilities for replacing like with like. In brief, they decided it was better to waste £100,000+ to get Sports England off their back rather than do the job correctly. Cynical politics at its worse.4

1 For details see Sports facilities May 2012 (friendsofdagnampark.org.uk) For a 106 notice see What Is A Section 106 Agreement?  | Kingsley Smith Solicitors (kslaw.co.uk)

2 For details see London Borough of Havering 160512 JW (friendsofdagnampark.org.uk) See especially pp5-6, p12

3 See a very informed letter by Dennis Cook in the Romford Recorder Romford Recorder, 1 March 2019, readers’ letters: Dagnam Park football pitches, parking spaces, Upminster Pitch and Putt, me… | Romford Recorder

4 Achieve a healthy weight | The London Borough Of Havering This policy is empty rhetoric as it doesn’t influence decision-making.

Flooding and Rainham Councillors

In theory councillors represent their local communities. Councillors should resolve local problems by mediating with the council administration. Political considerations sometimes intercede, such as when the allocation of resources has to be prioritised. Less honourably, personality clashes between councillors also matter. Some councillors are more capable than others at negotiating. Rainham councillors are a case in point.

Rainham has been a Residents’ Association (RA) stronghold since 2002. Jeff Tucker, the leader of Rainham RAs, has been a councillor for nineteen years. The 2018 election result showed the gap narrowing between the RAs and the rest.1 Why?

Jeff’s two RA colleagues aren’t impressive. Neither of them live in Rainham and aren’t part of the community. Tony Durdin had a 29% Council attendance record,2 which is abysmal. David Durant is a let-down in a different way. At a recent council meeting his vaccine scepticism about Covid-19 was discussed. He persuaded Jeff to endorse an amendment. Jeff proposed it but it was so ridiculous he voted against.3 This made him look ludicrous. More importantly, he lost credibility with officers and Conservative administration councillors.

Jeff’s colleagues are poor but how good is he? Rainham is beset with flooding.4 Jeff fully understands this major problem but he doesn’t know how to negotiate. The Conservative administration sits on their hands. Flood prevention isn’t rocket science. It just needs investment and Jeff doesn’t know how to unlock the purse strings. Rainham RAs are a clique who no longer serve their community.

1 Local elections | Election results | The London Borough Of Havering

2 Attendance record – Councillor Tony Durdin | The London Borough Of Havering

3 Havering Council Meeting, 20th January, 2021 – Politics in Havering

4 See for 2014 flooding Flooding causes major problems for drivers in Rainham | Romford Recorder

See for flooding in 2019Rainham residents ‘desperate’ after knee-level floods and sandbags unavailable | Romford Recorder

See drone video of 2021 flooding Rainham Dovers corner floods 31/01/21 – YouTube

Havering Councillor: Natasha Summers (South Hornchurch)

South Hornchurch is a Residents’ Association (RA) stronghold. In the old days RA councillors lived in the ward they represented. ‘We share the same experiences as you and we aren’t politicians’. No more. Michael Deon Burton became a Conservative two days after the 2018 election. Graham Williamson has never lived in South Hornchurch. Natasha is the last relic of RA politics-not-politics. (I don’t understand it either.)

Obviously her community work isn’t publicly available. She might be a tireless councillor but her paid public role is unimpressive. Between 19th August, 2020 to 20th January, 2021 she had 62% attendance. ‘Attendance’ during the pandemic means walking across the living-room and turning on her council provided laptop. 

The council’s principal committee is the Overview and Scrutiny board. There were five meetings in the period and Natasha attended two. The Overview and Scrutiny board is where all contentious and strategic items go for discussion. Members have a great deal of work to do to fully understand crucial long term policies.1 Only senior councillors are on the board and their decisions help shape the future of Havering for years to come. Non-attendance is a disgrace.

The RAs in South Hornchurch are trading on decades of hard work by local councillors who have left a wonderful legacy. This legacy is being trashed.

1 See the agenda for 24th November 2020 as a sample (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Overview & Scrutiny Board, 24/11/2020 19:30 (havering.gov.uk)

Source

For Natasha’s attendance record see Attendance record – Councillor Natasha Summers | The London Borough Of Havering

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 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.

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