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.
The government understands that political patronage is corrosive and they’ve written guidance to police it. This guidance has been trounced by Damian White. The Resident Association’s Brian Eagling will be deputy mayor during 2020-1 and Damian has doubled his Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA). It’s legal but is it wise?
The deputy mayor’s allowance has more than doubled to £8,160. Responsibilities haven’t doubled. The 2018 SRA for the deputy mayor was £4,000 and is now increased to £8,160. This is blatant political patronage, reflecting Brian’s importance to the maintenance of Damian’s administration. He, and the other Harold Wood councillors, are vital to the stability of Damian’s minority administration. Following Bob Perry’s defection, their importance has increased.
It’s politically convenient to throw money at Brian but is this what taxpayers want? The guidance has a touching belief in the acuity of the local electorate:- “the local electorate may rightly question whether this was justified.” In the real world of local politics everyone knows that SRAs are not a major issue beyond a world weary, ‘They’re only in it for themselves’. Damian’s cute move isn’t illegal and won’t be costly in the 2022 election. Its ultimate cost is that that it’s destroying the public’s faith in politicians and democracy itself.
Brian has been a brilliant mayor in the past and will be in his mayoral year but doubling his allowance is an outrageous use of taxpayers’ money for political advantage.
For the government’s guidance see https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/employment-income-manual/eim65960
For the 2018 Havering scheme for Special Responsibility Allowances see https://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/s30715/Report%20-%20Special%20Responsibility%20Allowances.pdf
For the 2020 scheme see https://www.time1075.net/156776-2-havering-councillors-allowances-increase/
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
Brian was a Labour party councillor and Mayor before he discovered he’d never become Leader. Brian switched allegiance and joined the Harold Wood Resident Association (RA). He was eventually elected as an RA councillor. Once more, he found unimpressed colleagues who valued his vote, but not his opinions. So he separated Harold Wood RAs from the RA mainstream and greatness arrived. He became Leader of Harold Wood RAs.
The 2018 election put Brian in poll position. Damian White came calling. Brian straightened his back and accepted the pivotal position of holding the balance of power. Damian didn’t just offer glory. Brian and his two colleagues had their stellar qualities recognised, at last, with all three having remunerated positions of responsibility. For septuagenarian pensioners this was very pleasant, if long overdue.
The allocation of ‘roads’ refurbishment capital stayed in Romford.1 Harold Wood got nothing. Is Brian disappointed? Did he even notice? Harold Wood RAs are an old boys’ clique who’ve long ago forgotten the driving motives behind their movement.
Harold Wood councillors are tied irrevocably to Romford Conservatives. This might not be a shrewd move as Brexit alters Havering’s voting habits. The RAs moved into the ascendency in 2018 at the expense of the Conservatives but what if Harold Wood RAs are tarred with that toxic brush?
1 Living in Havering April 2019 edition p15