Havering’s Annual Council Meeting, 24th May, 2023

Havering’s Annual Council meeting1 is a character-building event. Only political geeks should attend. Out-going mayor Trevor McKeevor, walks and talks like a mayor, so Stephanie Nunn, the new mayor, has a hard act to follow. An instant difference was Stephanie’s easy-going familiarity. She waved to people in the chamber. This included Robert Benham and her spiritual advisor (at 47 minutes). This is a sharp change in tone.

The death of Linda Hawthorn2 was noted without eulogies. That will come at the council meeting on the 12th July. She was a veteran councillor having served 33 years.

The meeting livened up when new Conservative leader, Keith Prince, tried to withdraw David Taylor’s nomination for a council position. He misunderstood procedure and Taylor remained on the candidate list notwithstanding Prince’s efforts to withdraw his name. Taylor was defeated 29-3 with three members not realising they were voting for a non-candidate.3 They demonstrated loyalty (beyond!) the bitter end.

The meeting concluded with Ray Morgon’s summary of the year. He had a good story to tell. Unfortunately, he ruined it with a disastrous metaphor about the sea – in landlocked Havering. His principal highlight was building a successful coalition. The low point was the ‘parking permit’ fiasco, which he4 gracefully accepted as being the antidote of a triumph.


1 For the webcast go to Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) All times relate to this source

2 See Havering Councillor: Linda Hawthorn (Upminster) – Politics in Havering for a summary of her exceptional position in Havering’s political life.

3 The voting was: 29 For the HRA candidate; 3 Against; 7 Abstentions. Interestingly these 39 votes out of 54 mean 15 councillors were doing something else.

4 The responsible cabinet members, Barry Mugglestone and Chris Wilkins, presumably accepted blame in private.

Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny Board: 30th March, 2023

The Overview and Scrutiny Board is Havering’s principal scrutiny committee. It has twelve members and ten attended this meeting. (Non-attendees were cllrs Summers and Damian White.)1

Item 6, Corporate Risk Register, analysed risks to the budget. (Addendum One) Every risk is rated ‘high’.2 The minutes of the ‘discussion’ are shocking.3 There was virtually nothing said about this ultra-specific report. Worse, the viability of the mitigation of risks was unchallenged. Proposed mitigation included wishful thinking…lobbying government. (Addendum Two)

Members discussed ULEZ’s effects on some care workers, which isn’t a Corporate Risk and wasn’t in the report. The existential bombshell below was in the report and was ignored.
Difficulty in identification of further efficiencies and savings following a decade [actually 13 years] of Austerity and increased demand following the COVID pandemic.”
Translated: LBH can’t mitigate risk because the Conservative Austerity programme has destroyed the resilience of the council.

The budget is at ‘High Risk’ of failure. Gerry O’Sullivan should summon Chris Wilkins, LBH’s finance Tsar, to discuss his mitigation proposals. The O/S Board meeting with Wilkins will be an important building block in proactive scrutiny.

Addendum One: High risk factors for the 2023-24 budget

Financial Resilience – Inability to deliver a balanced budget as a result of:

  • Inadequate Government Funding
  • Rising Demographic pressures and/or increased complexity of Social Care
  • Rapidly increasing inflation
  • Cost of Living Crisis
  • Delay or non-achievement of planned MTFS savings
  • Inability to forecast due to uncertainty over medium term Government Funding
  • Uncertainty regarding timing of future Government funding reforms including introduction of the care cap (currently no sooner than October 2025), whilst being required by government to move towards the median cost of care.
  • Difficulty in identification of further efficiencies and savings following a decade of Austerity and increased demand following the COVID pandemic
  • Government changes in policy e.g. changes to Home Office refugee dispersal

Addendum Two: Mitigation of the risks to the 2023-24 budget

Early diagnosis of the financial gap to allow time for actions to be put in place including new savings proposals.

Lobby the Government at every available opportunity to put the case for both lack of Funding for local government generally and more specifically how Havering is disadvantaged from the current distribution formula. (my emphasis)

Work with national lobbying groups such as the LGA and London Councils to put the case for more funding to the Government. (my emphasis)

– The Council has developed over £30m of savings proposals (over 4 years) which are being consulted on to reduce the financial gap which will be monitored for delivery.

– The Council continues to review its structure to develop a new target operating model which both aligns with current service priorities but also delivers savings and efficiencies.

– The Council is in the process of reviewing the Capital Programme to ensure that all schemes continue to be viable (see regeneration section of this risk register for further details).

– The Council has developed action plans to mitigate and reduce the in-year overspend including:

  • All overspends reviewed and challenged to identify any non-recurrent spend which could be funded from reserves · All use of consultancy reviewed by senior management

Appendix 1: Source: HAV00005 p31


1 For enquiries on this agenda please contact (havering.gov.uk) Cllr Ruck is the vice-chair he attended the meeting via Zoom, which wasn’t noted in the minutes.

2 See p28 for details of categories of risk.

3 For enquiries on this agenda please contact (havering.gov.uk) Minutes para 39

Havering Councillor: Damian White (Havering-atte-Bower)

Damian has had a stellar career, which is now ending. First elected in 2010, he became deputy-Leader, 2014-18, and Leader of the Council, 2018-22. In 2019 he nearly became an MP in the Boris Johnson landslide.1 That was his finest hour.

Damian controlled Conservative councillors with pot-of-gold politics. The allowance system was manipulated to ‘reward’ them. He relied on three RA2 councillors, from Harold Wood, for his working majority. They too were richly rewarded.

The 2022 election was disastrous for Damian. Havering’s new coalition Administration3 didn’t include Conservatives. They lost power for the first time in 20 years. Collectively, losing the election cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds in allowances. Damian lost thousands of pounds as well as his status as Leader. It’s debatable which was worse.

Since the 2022 election, Damian has become an absentee councillor even though he remains Leader of the Conservatives. His attendance at committees is an appalling 33%.4 It could be that he is having a gigantic sulk. What’s certain is that if he was an employee he’d be sacked.

The Conservative group’s Leadership election in May should see Damian replaced by someone more dynamic or, at the very least, visible. A likely successor is Keith Prince, seen here with Andrew Rosindell at a St George’s Day celebration.



1 Damian White Scuppered by Nigel Farage! 12th December, 2019 – Politics in Havering

2 RA = Resident Association

3 Havering Residents’ Association as the major group along with Labour to make numbers up to 28

4 Attendance record – Councillor Damian White | The London Borough Of Havering This is for the last six months up to April 2023

Havering’s Councillors: Value for money?

The Council meeting, 22nd March 2023, was shocking. The shock didn’t come from what was said or discussed. It was because so many councillors didn’t turn up. Out of 54 councillors only 47 appeared. This an absentee rate of 13%. Or, as HR experts call it: ‘A Red Flag’ event. What’s going on? Councillors aren’t amateurs, they’re paid £200 pw as an allowance. They aren’t contracted to do any specific hours but attend a minimum number of meetings per year. Council meetings are their only obligation.

Provoked by this I researched the three months from 1st January 2023.2 The Council meeting, 18th January 2023, had two non-appearances.3 The all-important budget setting meeting, 1st March 2023, is a ‘three-line-whip’ event. Seven councillors were absent from the meeting that set Council Tax for the year 2023-4.4 That decision affects every resident in Havering. And seven councillors didn’t turn up!

On consecutive Council meetings, seven members were absent. There shouldn’t have been any absentees without exceptional circumstances. But 16 different councillors missed three Council meetings. This is worrying.

They couldn’t all have been taken suddenly ill: Could they?


1 Agenda for Council on Wednesday, 22nd March, 2023, 7.30 pm | The London Borough Of Havering p1 Absentees were Councillors Osman Dervish, Brian Eagling, Sarah Edwards, James Glass, Linda Hawthorn, Robby Misir and Susan Ospreay.

2 For January go to Monthly meetings calendar – January 2023 | The London Borough Of Havering Follow links for the next two months, or trace backwards for previous months. Research completed on 27th March 2023

3 Councillors David Godwin and John Wood

4 Councillors Dilip Patel, Robert Benham, Patricia Brown, Christine Vickery, Viddy Persaud, Carol Smith and Joshua Chapman

Havering Council Meeting: 22nd March, 2023

Damian White’s ten-month sulk is over.1 He’s positioning Conservatives in their new opposition role. Damian is ‘Love-Bombing’ the HRA/Labour administration with helpfulness.

At Question Time there were 15 questions and four resulted in requests for further meetings or, even steering groups to help deal with issues. Paul Middleton (@50)2 looked as if he’d been ambushed over the Leisure centre by Damian. Keith Darvill (@54) positively embraced Damian in his Climate Change role. Christine Vickery (1:01) was brushed off by Barry Mugglestone but came back for more over CCTV in Ardleigh Green. Finally, Joshua Chapman (@1:04) had a meeting of minds with Paul McGeary.

Damian’s new ‘Love-Bombing’ policy triumphantly concluded the meeting. Keith Prince (@2:01) accepted an HRA Amendment in its entirety. Keith’s skill-set doesn’t usually include sweetness and light and everyone reeled back. A political earthquake! The CEO was so shocked he took legal advice on what a composite motion meant in this situation. Four minutes later the wrong decision was made.

Judith Holt (@17) hadn’t read Damian’s memo. She presented a petition for anti-ULEZ warriors and read their diatribe even though it’s against Council procedure. The Mayor silenced her and was roundly booed.

‘New Conservativism’ is pleasing but what does Damian really have in mind? Endlessly fascinating.


1 See Havering Council Meeting, 18th January 2023 – Politics in Havering At this meeting the Conservatives opted out from the normal democratic process

2 Webcast is here Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Times relate to the webcast. This is 50 minutes

Havering’s Budget: Between a Rock and Hard Place

Havering’s administration is delusional. They refuse to accept that government underfunding of Havering is policy. The government is in perma-turmoil and their policies are too.1 The administration ignores all the evidence and asks MPs to assist. It’s as if Havering’s MPs are an unknown.2

On consecutive nights, government underfunding was demonstrated.3,4 On the 7th February, officers used many slides showing the iniquities of Outer London’s funding formula. Havering is hardest hit because of our peculiar demographics.

Gillian Ford is a fan of lobbying despite knowing the funding formula hasn’t changed since 2013.5 Oscar Ford focused on demographic changes in Havering with costs associated with increasing the numbers of children.6 Lobbying won’t change anything. Paul McGeary said rents only increased by 7% instead of 13.6% because of government intervention. A government decision to reduce rent increases from 13.6% to 7% was for Housing Benefits7 reasons not to help tenants during the cost-of-living crisis.

The council should lobby to increase the council tax cap.8 An increase to 10% would mean Havering avoiding bankruptcy in 2026. Lobbying to avoid bankruptcy would embarrass the government. It’s high-risk but death by a 1,000 government generated cuts is worse. Government will blame Havering whatever decisions are made. Why not take the battle to the government and pillory them for capricious incompetence?


1 Three Prime Ministers and four Chancellors of the Exchequer

2 Julia Lopez is a minister and wont bite the hand that feeds her. Andrew Rosindell’s a veteran MP who always supports the government on financial matters.

3 Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting 7th February 2023 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

4 Cabinet meeting 8th February 2023 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

5 Go to 38-43 mins where she cites two organisations, which, allegedly, have influence

6 Go to 45 minutes. He says the government is “incapable”. This implies he knows the government is incompetent insofar as they don’t understand their own policy.

7 At 9 minutes

8 Four bankrupt councils have increased their council tax by 10%+. They were all bankrupted by searching for additional revenue to pay for statutory services through commercial activities. They all failed

Havering’s Academies and Community Governors

Havering’s secondary academies’ policies on school uniform and personal appearance are virtually identical. It’s as if they collaborate in an institutional Group Think. Their decision-making is embedded in collective unchallenged beliefs. No academy has councillors, parents or teachers as governors. School uniform and personal appearance policies don’t enhance educational achievement. This emphasises that the academies’ approach to micro-managing students is bizarre.

In October 2022 this blog discussed coloured shoelaces,1 which are uniformly banned. Wearing coloured shoelaces can result in students being excluded from lessons. Hairstyle conformity is also an important ‘appearance’ policy.2 Schools seem unaware some ‘extreme’ hairstyles are legal and can’t be banned because of their racial context.

Race-based hair discrimination has been illegal in the UK since the Equalities Act became law in 2010 but the Halo Collective says it is still a really big problem.

A recent survey said 46% of parents say their children’s school uniform policy penalises afro-hair.3

In 2020 a Hackney student took her school to court because of the enforcement of a hairstyle policy. She won her case.

A pupil who was repeatedly sent home from school because of her afro hair wants to make sure it doesn’t happen to any other UK schoolchild.

Ruby Williams received £8,500 in an out-of-court settlement after her family took legal action against The Urswick School in east London .4

Excluding the community alienates the principal stakeholders. It’s difficult to believe legal Afro hairstyles are permitted in Havering’s academies for example.2 Community involvement challenges extremist Group Think policies, which have no educational purpose. Academies are in an intellectual cul de sac in relation to school uniform and appearance codes.


1 Havering’s Academies: School Shoes and Shoe Laces – Politics in Havering

2 This is typical: “It will be for the Headteacher to decide if a hairstyle is “extreme”. It is difficult to definitively set out in advance what will be regarded as an “extreme hairstyle” as styles vary regularly according to fashion. Students are therefore expected to speak to their Head of Year before they alter their hairstyle or dye their hair to obtain confirmation that the proposed new hairstyle will comply with this policy.” Year-7_11_September-2021.pdf (cooperscoborn.org.uk) This can be summarised as, ‘If we don’t like it, you can’t have it.’ Compare Uniform-Expectations-September-2021.pdf (bowerpark.co.uk) And FBA-uniform-policy-June-2020-r-1.pdf (fbaok.co.uk) Frances Bardsley The other 15 Havering academies cluster in the same territory.

3 Halo Code: What is it and how does it protect afro hair? – CBBC Newsround 10th December 2020
4 Ruby Williams: No child with afro hair should suffer like me – BBC News 10th February 2020

Havering Council’s Backbenchers: A Plan for Reform

Havering’s backbenchers are deliberately disempowered. This is especially true for administration councillors. Councillors should take part in debate as MPs do in parliament. This is important because the cabinet has identikit members endorsing each other’s biases.

Last week’s council meeting1 was farcical. Conservative councillors sulked and no motions were proposed.2 Twenty-three administration backbenchers were gagged by procedure.

Worse! Councillors who are brushed off, a frequent occurrence, can’t reply. Next question please!

Cabinet makes political choices, which need debate. For example, motorists are pre-eminent in Havering. Any policy limiting their supposed rights is attacked with ferocity. Some claims are uncritically endorsed by cabinet biases.4 Alternatively, the children’s lobby is weak, as are groups associated with volunteering and the environment. Policy making based on who shouts loudest is the politics of the playground bully. Transparent debate is the only way good policies emerge.

Reform Propositions

  • Every cabinet member should attend an hour meeting quarterly with one of the two Scrutiny and Overview committees
  • Question Time should be open to all councillors like parliament’s
  • A follow-up question should be permitted with the Mayor’s approval
  • The Leader should attend a separate committee with both Scrutiny and Overview chairs and deputies along with a further four councillors quarterly.


1 Havering Council Meeting, 18th January 2023 – Politics in Havering

2 It was ever thus. When the Conservatives were in administration their Overview and Scrutiny committees were an embarrassment

3 Campaign to save Elm Park children’s centre. – The Havering Daily

4 The ULEZ debate is a prime example. In Havering public health is trumped by the right of motorists to pollute with impunity. If readers wish to check their address for levels of pollution go to addresspollution.org – Search (bing.com) The figures relate to WHO statistics.

Havering Council Meeting, 18th January 2023

Damian ‘Mick Lynch’ White has led the Romford Conservatives out on strike. The ‘Winter of Discontent’ suits his mood.1 He doesn’t like his loss of allowances and powerlessness. This council meeting, for the first time ever, had no opposition motions. The Mayor was so pleased he nearly did a jig at the end of the meeting.

The Conservatives used Question Time instead of motions.2 As is traditional, only innocuous questions are asked. Question One by David Taylor concerned Romford FC. This has appeared every four years since the 1990s and isn’t a Number One question. Subsequently David tried a knockabout on London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s consultation methods but he doesn’t know how to land a glove. (We all missed Keith Prince’s ranting passion.)

Question Four about bin collection was pure Martin Goode gold. Barry Mugglestone was brusque. He pointed out Havering doesn’t revolve round Harold Wood. Question Five from Viddy Persaud became a trick question when Barry explained the difference between standing water and floods. She isn’t quick on her feet and floundered. Question 14 on homelessness was complex. Neither the question nor answer were understandable but Joshua Chapman and Paul McGeary seemed happy: so that’s alright then!

But were Havering’s taxpayers served well? Not at all. It was disgraceful.


1 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) You can watch the meeting here

2 Council Questions 18th January 2023.pdf (havering.gov.uk) All 14 questions are here

Havering’s Budget and Rishi Sunak: 2023

Havering’s lobbying of government is the triumph of hope over experience. Underfunding is government policy and is non-negotiable. Havering’s Chief Executive said some ministers treated him as if he was a ‘naughty school boy’ (@ 23minutes).1 Naughty like Oliver Twist was ‘naughty’.

Havering’s government grant: 2010 = £70 million

Havering’s government grant: 2023 = £1.9 million

Havering’s outcome:…………….: 2023 = Minus £68.1 million

The Bank of England calculates inflation for 2010-22 at 41.7%2

Therefore 2010’s £70 million in 2022 £££s is £99.18 million

Havering’s real 2023 shortfall is £97.28 million

Rishi’s policies rely on people not understanding maths3


Cabinet Meeting: 14th December 2022

The meeting had a budget item. Councillors are listed in speaking order. (Starting @ 14 minutes)

Chris Wilkins: Chris doesn’t understand strategy or analysis. His jog-trot through ‘highlights’ was unhelpful.

Gillian Ford: She injected passion into her speech and cares.

Oscar Ford: He gave a very competent review of an OFSTED report. Unfortunately, the prevailing counsel of despair continued.

Graham Williamson: He was woefully unprepared for a budget meeting.

Keith Darvill:  A brief brilliant intervention about the impact of decision-making by the government. His political point was welcome.

Ray Morgon: He’s self-depreciating and as Leader needs to be positive. Cabinet members should be warned about being unacceptably casual.  

Paul McGeary, Paul Middleton and Barry Mugglestone: All three were mute.


1 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

2 Inflation calculator | Bank of England

3 So it’s surprising that he’s keen that everyone studies maths until 18 Rishi Sunak wants all pupils to study maths to age 18 – BBC News