Havering’s Cabinet Meeting, 28th September 2022

Boris Johnson’s economic philosophy was straightforward: I want my cake and I want to eat it.1 Ray Morgon’s Cabinet would do this too if it wasn’t fantasy. Havering once had a substantial government grant but Osborne’s Age of Austerity programme ended that.2 Havering’s budget is apparently balanced but this is achieved by ‘smoke and mirrors’. Damian White’s March budget is a classic example.3 400 redundancies were penciled in, without any loss of services. A claim made with a straight face.

Local government finance is boring until the bills arrive. (Most people used to pay energy bills without bursting into tears. Not anymore.) Since 2010, Havering’s government grant has evaporated from £70 million to £1.5 million. Havering hasn’t been allowed to increase Council Tax to fill the revenue gap. The inevitable decline in public services has accelerated and will continue.

‘Low hanging fruit’ will be picked. This means school crossing personnel, park gates left unlocked, fortnightly bin collections, library hours cut, swimming pool hours reduced for example. HRA’s sacred cow is street care but it might take a hit under the pressures.4

Setting Council Tax for 2023-4 will be hideous. The council is crippled by financing Adult and Children’s services, which are statutory.5 Will Kwasi Kwarteng cap Council Tax increases? Realistically 10% is needed but the Conservative government might find this politically unacceptable.

The government imposes duties on Havering council and denies the resources to fulfil them.

Notes

1 For Brexit it worked out this way Post-Brexit trade: UK having its cake and eating it, says Boris Johnson – BBC News On a personal basis he ‘paid’ for gold wallpaper and then got a dupe to actually pay Boris Johnson’s Wallpapergate: Leaked £200,000 estimate reveals flat renovation plan included £7,000 rug and £3,675 trolley | The Independent

2 Budget 2010: Pain now, more pain later in austerity plan | Budget | The Guardian

3 Agenda for Council on Wednesday, 2nd March, 2022, 7.30 pm | The London Borough Of Havering

4 ibid  HRA councillors voted to reduced councillor allowances to pump money into street care in a pitiful example of ‘gesture’ politics.

5 Chris Wilkins led the debate. He floundered through a repetitious presentation. He weaved in and out of ‘pressures’ like a ship drifting without power. And the elephant in the room – the size of the Council Tax increase – wasn’t hinted at. Heroically Ray said that they should lobby the two Conservative MPs to see if they’d vote against the government. See Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) for the debate. Wilkins speaks for the first 20 minutes

The Queen Elizabeth Memorial Council Meeting, 22nd September 2022

Ray Morgon (@ 7 minutes)1, as Leader, had to get it right and he did. The entire conduct of the meeting was in step with his quiet deferential, but not groveling, opening statement. He didn’t use his entire five minutes, saying what needed to be said with a suitable amount of brevity. It was unrushed and sincere.

Keith Darvill (10 mins) as a former MP had met the Queen and remarked on that occasion. He also commented on her charity and voluntary work and her position in the Commonwealth.

Martin Goode (15 mins) had an interesting comment about the way that Canadians honoured her as head of state. He also had an amusing anecdote of mistaking Princess Margaret for the Queen as a very young child in east London.

The Mayor (17 mins) read a eulogy from the Islamic Cultural Centre before remarking on his work as a fireman at Wimbledon with the Queen present.

Judith Holt (21 mins) made a moving and deeply personal series of anecdotes about the importance of the Queen to her own family. She queued for several hours last week for the laying in state.

Linda Hawthorn (32 ) told a lovely anecdote about the Queen’s visit to the Queen’s Theatre in 2003. She spoke briefly but obviously felt deeply.

Viddy Persaud (38) began by saying she was worried about repetition but then comforted herself by saying (rightly) that on this occasion repetition was appropriate. She was the last speaker.

There were 15 speakers in all and this is a summary of the meeting. I thought the meeting hit the right note throughout, as councillors rose to the occasion.

Note

1 In brackets means the start time. The webcast is here Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

Havering, ULEZ and Public Health

Government intervention in urban Public Health began in 1835 when councils were permitted to build pavements and charge them to ratepayers. 120 years later The Clean Air Act was passed by a Conservative government to stop thousands of preventable deaths from air pollution. The Great Smog, 1952, slaughtered Londoners adding to the normal annual toll.

The 1956 Act banned traditional open coal fires and turbocharged the switch to central heating.

 

Domestic coal delivery was a very hard and dirty job

The Clean Air Act was transformative, with housing changed forever. There were significant costs during the transition period. But! Tens of thousands of lives were saved and Londoners lived longer, happier, healthier lives.

ULEZ stands in this tradition. “The ULEZ is central to the Mayor of London’s plans to improve Londoners’ health. It will clean up the city’s toxic air, which leads to the early deaths of thousands of people every year.”2

The Great Smog of 1952 was a physical reality. Parts of London came to a halt with choking polluted air and very poor visibility.

 

The Great Smog of London killed thousands of Londoners

21st century air pollution is invisible, though deaths are unpleasantly real. Three people a week die in Havering from air pollution. Deaths are the gruesome tip of a toxic iceberg. Thousands of people suffer respiratory problems which ruin their everyday lives.

During the transition to EV vehicles, ULEZ is a small and important step. It stands in a long Public Health tradition stretching back to 1835.

Notes

1 Summer 2022. ULEZ is London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone. For the historical contest see Highway Act 1835 – Wikipedia and Clean Air Act 1956 – Wikipedia

2 The Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone for London | London City Hall There are about 9,500 air pollution deaths each year Twice as many deaths caused by air pollution in London – HealthyAir

Havering’s Timid Councillors

Councillors should make their home address publicly available on the Register of Interests.1 Get-out clauses to this are laid out in government advice (see Addendum). Many of Havering’s councillors don’t make their addresses public and six haven’t made a meaningful response. The six might not live in the borough, who knows? 27 councillors concealed their addresses. Why?

Some councillors are fearful “because they believe the process [making addresses available] risks their safety or makes them vulnerable to abusive activity.” Can this be true? Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor, is subject to intense media attention, which often provokes threats to his safety. His Register of Interests statement deletes his home address, which is understandable. But a Havering councillor?

The fear argument falls immediately for councillors who share wards with co-councillors who do provide home addresses. Veteran councillors, from the 1990s, will remember that addresses and home phone numbers2 were published. Tiresome calls happened but not enough to claim that ‘violence or intimidation’ might ensue.

The notion that addresses are ‘private’ or can be ‘concealed’ is naive. Life in 2022 means living in the Surveillance Society. A malicious person can find an address easily on the internet. Do we want Havering’s councillors to be timid and naïve?

Addendum: Government advice to councillors on publicising their address

The Government wishes to avoid capable individuals being deterred from standing for office because they believe the process risks their safety or makes them vulnerable to abusive activity….The changes made mean that now all candidates in local government elections in England will be able to request that their home address is not made public. Candidates will have a choice – they can continue to include a home address if they wish to highlight their local connection to their ward. (my emphasis)

Source Letter to local authorities about the publication of councillors’ and candidates’ home addresses: March 2019 (publishing.service.gov.uk)

This builds on the Localism Act which spoke of ‘violence or intimidation’ as the principal criteria for concealing addresses. Localism Act 2011 (legislation.gov.uk)

Notes

1 Research done on 24th July, 2022 using Havering’s Register of Interests. This one is for Robert Benham. He wasn’t ‘chosen’ he’s the first councillor on the list mgConvert2PDF.aspx (havering.gov.uk) For Sadiq Khan see Sadiq Khan – Register of interests | London City Hall

2 Veteran councillors from the 1990s are Brian Eagling, Linda Hawthorn, Keith Prince, Michael White and Reg Whitney. This was prior to mobile phones

Havering’s Evasive Councillors

Havering’s Councillors conceal important parts of their economic status. This is despite government legislation demanding they should be open and truthful. The first section of the Register of Interests1 is unambiguous but virtually every Councillor is substantially less than forthcoming. If they don’t want scrutiny then they’re in the wrong game.

Councillors avoid the first question about, “Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain.” Few acknowledge that being a councillor is, ‘for profit or gain.’ Even Cabinet Members conceal their roles despite being paid up to £37,412 pa.2

Business interests must be included in section one and mostly these are stated. Some Councillors are directors or hold senior managerial roles. Others are retired, yet more wrote ‘None’ and some don’t answer the question.3

Havering’s Register includes 14 totally invisible Buy-to-Let Landlords who own 19 properties. These assets are worth about £5m generating £150,000 pa in rental income or, ‘profit or gain’.4 Being a Landlord creates political biases shaping decision-making. The government’s Register demands a truthful, accurate statement because biases are important. There’s a lot of organised opposition to social housing from wealthy Councillors who are motivated by NIMBYism.5 They sacrifice the needs of the unhoused to their privileged comfort.

Havering’s Councillors are evasive about they’re Landlordism and their significant political roles. But this isn’t a matter of taste. They’re legally obliged to reveal details and the Monitoring Officer is tasked with making sure they do. That there’s so much discrepancy suggests a total lack of focus.

Notes

1 see Title (publishing.service.gov.uk)

2 This is £6,000 more than the median wage in the UK for full-time employees. To be fair the Leader describes himself as a full-time politician.

3 Your Councillors | The London Borough Of Havering Research done on 8th July 2022. Sue Ospreay (Rainham and Wennington) signed a blank form. Why LBH’s Monitoring Officer finds that acceptable is beyond me.

4 At a 3% return after tax and business expenses this creates a collective income of about £150,000pa. The £5m is a guess-estimate based on the Havering’s property prices. I took £250,000 as a base figure though there are properties costing less than that most cost more: therefore £5m is probably an under-estimate.

5 NIMBY = Not in my backyard

Havering Council Meeting: 13th July, 2022

Ray Morgon’s cabinet has a lot to prove. None have had policy making positions and one’s only been on Council for two months. So how did they do?

Question Time was Ray’s cabinet’s first outing. Classy Conservative questions were a sharp improvement on the tedious HRA efforts we used to endure. There were two standout moments.

Dilip Patel asked about Development (@42 minutes)1. Graham Williamson casually remarked about developing the ‘Green Belt’ in the fullness of time. This is a dramatic policy shift. I wonder if his cabinet colleagues know about it?  Osman Dervish (@53 minutes) asked Oscar Ford about free school meals during holiday periods. He said there won’t be any unless government financed them and then burbled about budget constraints. Ford was unmoved when it was pointed out this meant sacrificing vulnerable children during a catastrophic cost-of-living crisis.

Sue Ospreay (@1 hour10) was emotional about derelict land in Rainham. Morgon said it was a ‘Bad Thing’. They’ll still be wringing their hands in horror in ten years.

Opposing ULEZ2 in Havering (@1:38) was led by David Taylor. Keith Prince’s rant, (@1 hour50) and Judith Holt’s desire to join Essex (@1:52) convinced me some Conservatives are having a mental breakdown. Williamson (@1 hour:55) remarked that 7% of Havering’s death rate was due to air pollution. This is three deaths a week, every week, which is a good argument for ULEZ, I’d have thought.3

There were an unprecedented six Conservatives absent. They included Damian White who’ll be pleased to know his group gave a good show.

Notes

1 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

2 For ULEZ see Ultra Low Emission Zone (ulez.co.uk)

3 Municipality of HAVERING: demographic balance, population trend, death rate, birth rate, migration rate (urbistat.com)

Havering Councillor: Keith Prince (Con: Squirrels Heath)

Keith is a superstar in Havering’s Town Hall. He’s been a councillor for 32 years in various places. He began his career in Havering, moved to Redbridge becoming Leader of the Council, and then a GLA councillor.1 He’s still a GLA councillor – he was re-elected in 2021 – with a massive majority. And in May, 2022 was elected as a Havering councillor. What’s going on?

Keith, like all successful politicians, can smell political blood. While campaigning last year he noticed Romford Conservatives weren’t a happy ‘Band of Brothers’. So, he did the obvious thing and seized the opportunity. Damian White was ousted from his seat in Squirrels Heath. He inserted himself into the newly created vacancy and was elected in May, 2022. Keith is simultaneously a GLA and Havering councillor. Maybe he doesn’t believe that being a Havering councillor is time consuming?

Keith has made two rare misjudgments. He thought Havering would be ruled by the Conservatives and he’d be Leader. Now he’s in Sadiq Khan’s GLA and is a councillor with an HRA2 Administration in Havering. It’s enough to make a grown man weep.

If Romford Conservatives weren’t a happy ‘Band of Brothers’ in 2021, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like now. And they don’t even have Allowances to keep them interested any more.

Addendum: Register of Interests

Keith’s mentor Boris Johnson, aka The Great White Shark, has taught him to be unworried about trivialities like legal obligations. Keith still hasn’t filled in his Register of Interests, which was due no later than 2nd June 2022.3

Notes

1 He’s GLA councillor for Havering and Redbridge neatly drawing together the threads of his career.

2 HRA is the Havering Residents’ Association

3 As of 4th July 2022 Councillor details – Councillor Keith Prince | The London Borough Of Havering

Havering’s Register of Interests: Three Case Studies

Every councillor has a legal obligation to fill out the Register of Interests. The government regard this as so important that if statements are false, it’s potentially a criminal act. Every councillor knows this.

The Register must be completed within 28 days of the election, which, this year, falls on the 2nd June 2022. Anyone not filling in the Register isn’t meeting their legal obligations.

Philip Ruck (HRA: Cranham) apparently hasn’t filled in his form, which is a significant failure. Philip’s a new councillor but Keith Prince (Con: Squirrels Heath) has a long and distinguished career behind him. He too hasn’t filled in his Register of Interests which makes me suspicious. Keith’s GLA entry is overflowing with detail. Can it be that they’ve filled in their forms and been let down by the Council? If not, then it’s a reprehensible failure.1

Sue Ospreay (Con: Rainham and Wennington)2 signed a blank form, which is legally binding. It can be tested under the true/false criteria. On the basis of the Register statement of Jacqueline McArdle (Con: same ward) Sue’s statement is false. Jacqueline received donations from the Conservative Party. It’s highly unlikely that Sue didn’t also receive a donation.

The Register of Interests3 is a vital part of democracy. The Councillors who apparently failed their legal obligation, without a reasonable explanation, should lose their allowances. Sue should be given the opportunity to revise her form if it’s deemed necessary.

Notes

1 Councillor details – Councillor Philip Ruck | The London Borough Of Havering This entire discussion is based on the information held on this site. The information was accessed on June 21st 2022. For other councillors go to the relevant entry. For Keith Prince see for his GLA statement Keith Prince – Register of interests | London City Hall

2 mgConvert2PDF.aspx (havering.gov.uk)

3 MPs also fill in a Register of Interests. This one is for Jon Cruddas (Lab) (Dagenham and Rainham) House of Commons – The Register of Members’ Financial Interests (3 May 2022: Cruddas, Jon ) (parliament.uk) For other MPs just fill in the relevant name.

Havering Residents’ Association: Who Are They?

HRA is an umbrella organization, which maintains the legacy identities of Residents’ Associations (RA). The hard political miles over next four years will be very demanding for this arrangement. Having to make policies for the whole borough and balancing spending priorities is challenging.

The political labels that Havering’s Democracy Department uses for councillors illustrates the problem.1 HRA has six councillors not 20.2 Neither the Leader, or his deputy, are identified as HRA councillors. Ray Morgon belongs to the Residents’ Group; Gillian Ford to the Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Group.

This isn’t nit-picking.3 Amateurism is lovable, until it lurches into a destructive shambles when people discover that not every decision is applauded.

HRA’s 20 councillors includes five women. Conservatives have nine out of 23, Labour five out of nine and East Havering Residents’ Group none. HRA and Labour have female deputy leaders so women’s issues should, hopefully, get a voice. Gillian Ford has an especial role in this matter. HRA’s female councillors are middle-aged and their life experiences should have sensitised them to sexist injustices.

HRA’s male councillors are mostly old.( see Addendum)4 It should be remembered that Havering is an ‘old’ borough, so this isn’t a complete anomaly.

Ray Morgon has begun consensual politics with his nominees for LGA positions.5  This policy has to be applauded if it’s a sign of things to come.

Addendum: Ray Morgon’s Cabinet

Ray Morgon (60) Leader and professional politician

Gillian Ford (60) Deputy leader involved mentoring councillors (not LBH)

Chris Wilkins (67) Retired Senior local authority officer in housing

Graham Wilkinson (65) Retired logistic manager

Oscar Ford (?) Retired Senior local authority officer in strategy, performance and resources

Barry Mugglestone (?) Retired Ford Motors supervisor

Keith Darvill (74) Solicitor

Paul McGeary (65) NHS estates manager

Paul Middleton (?) Unemployed

Source Romford Recorder 12th August 2022

Notes

1 Your Councillors | The London Borough Of Havering This list is used for this blog. It’s published by the Democracy department of Havering Council and is based on the information given to the Council by councillors. As of 8th June 2022 HRA, as an umbrella organisation, is recognised on the Democracy site.

2 There are two HRA councillors for Emerson Park and Hylands and Harrow Lodge wards. There’s one each for St Andrew’s and Elm Park.

3 Oscar Ford describes his party as the Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Association. The other two councillors in that ward describe themselves as the Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Group. This is bizarre. The three councillors can’t even agree what party they’re in.

4 Councillors ages aren’t revealed by the Democracy Department but photographs offer clues. The Conservatives have the ‘youngest’ group of councillors including Damian White their Leader.

5 Local Government Association. The national organisation for councillors.

Havering Annual Council meeting, 25th May, 2022

What do you really, really want?1 Spice Girls

This Council meeting was pivotal because Havering voted, yet again, for No Overall Control. Minority Conservative leader Damian White was hoping to mop up a few Resident Association (RA) members but failed. Adroit political thinking by Ray Morgon led to an umbrella organization for RAs: the Havering Residents’ Association (HRA). HRA members have decided playing footsy with Conservatives is a mug’s game and they ‘really, really want to be in power’.

HRA face exactly the same challenge as every other minority party. How to achieve a majority? Enter Labour. Labour’s nine votes create a majority but…. Many HRA members dislike Labour which is reciprocated. But…  what do they really, really not want? The thought of four more years of Damian White, is helping to focus minds.

The Council meeting was important but had the drama of paint drying.2 There were two decisive moments. Firstly, the election of Labour’s Trevor McKeever, as Mayor. Secondly, and crucially, Ray Morgon becoming Leader of the Council.

Instantly the challenges Morgon faces were revealed. He was unable to name a cabinet or chairs of committee and so Council was adjourned. On a positive note, Havering’s four LGA councillor nominees3 showed him building consensus politics.

The adjourned meeting is eagerly looked forward to as it points the direction of travel for the next four years.

Notes

1 Spice Girls – Wannabe Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

2 Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

3 Local Government Association. Havering’s nominees are Ray Morgon, Gillian Ford, Keith Darvill and Michael White