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

Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny Board 24th November 2020

The meeting received the ‘Inclusive Growth Strategy and Implementation Plan’. It includes statements about educational achievement in Havering in its discussion of economic growth (see table and graph above).

Havering’s secondary schools are, in general, well below the levels of Redbridge, unlike our primary schools which are above average at KS2.Unfortunately, Havering’s secondary academies ‘coast’ instead of building on this wonderful achievement. The government colludes in this,

From September 2019, the department will no longer publish coasting thresholds and RSCs will take no formal action as a result of a school meeting the coasting definition. Whilst local authorities retain the power to intervene, the department is unlikely to support action against a school on the basis of coasting data alone.”* (my emphasis)

Havering’s KS2 general achievement is statistically significant at the national level. Post-16 education, in contrast, is a stark failure, especially NVQ 3 and 4. This is caused by the mediocrity at Havering’s academies (see Addendum). During the debate about future employment and new businesses in Havering, there was much talk about ‘aspirations’ and ‘jobs for Havering’s youngsters’ with ‘higher value jobs’**. None of this will happen without significant improvements in educational achievement throughout the 11-16 schooling period.

Brexit and Covid-19 *** place a premium on education. KS2 achievements should lead to KS4 excellence as a base for achievement at higher education. Havering is sold short by their secondary academies. Only the council can end the cycle of complacency and mediocrity. The government doesn’t want to admit that coasting schools are an outrage but this council should.

Addendum: Education and economic growth

To develop an aspirational programme through the Havering Academy of Leadership, to combat low ambition among young people and their parents. The Local Authority has worked with the early years’ providers, schools, and colleges to develop a shared Education Vision for the Borough. (my emphasis) Para 9:2 p67 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Overview & Scrutiny Board, 24/11/2020 19:30 (havering.gov.uk) Let’s remind ourselves that these children and parents are the same children, with the same parents, who over-achieve at primary schools and then stagnate at secondary level.

Notes

* Schools causing concern guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk) p5

** SQW and BBP’s report to the Board Economic Evidence Base: Havering January 2018 pp 118, 121, 126, 140. Table and bar graph on pp141-2. NB: NVQ 4 are degree level qualifications

*** Neil Stubbings at 21 minutes going forward. Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

Sources

The ‘coasting’ school concept was formulated in 2015 using several key indicators see Coasting Schools Definition: The Nerdy Details Guide (schoolsweek.co.uk)

Havering’s educational institutions are opaque in informing the public about their results usually relying on hyperbole instead of statistics. Havering Colleges Sixth Form Results 2019 says, “I am delighted to announce fantastic outcomes for our students at Havering Sixth Form in 2019.” (my emphasis) Results – Havering Colleges (havering-sfc.ac.uk)

For the disparity between Havering and Redbridge secondary schools see Havering and Redbridge: A Tale of Two Boroughs – Politics in Havering

For the council’s potential response see Havering’s Academy Schools: Councillor Robert Benham’s Dilemma – Politics in Havering