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’s Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee, 4th October, 2022

Ray Morgon has reformed Overview and Scrutiny (O/S) committees. Between 2018 and 2022 they were a ‘pot-of-gold’ for Damian White’s Conservatives. Short infrequent meetings were the order of the day. Ray’s principal reforms reduced the O/S committees from six to two with Conservatives chairing them. This meant they controlled agendas. But Ray didn’t anticipate sabotage.

Robert Benham, Conservative chair, kept his O/S committee in abeyance for five months. The O/S committee has five Conservative members. Three Conservative places are unfilled. Unfilled after five months! It’s disappointing losing elections but this is childish. They’re betraying their voters.

Item 41was a discussion of the outrageous events in Rainham’s Launders Lane. For twenty-two years there’s been abuses there. Havering’s Emergency Planning unit, the Environment Agency and London Fire Brigade are stretched to breaking point by numerous fires and air pollution incidents. Owners have been jailed but abuses continue.

Solution? Unfortunately, the solution is for the borough to CPO2 the land. If they do, they buy the problems. What, the chief officer wondered, is under the ground. They don’t know and finding out could be very expensive.

This item was a direct result of Sue Ospreay’s passionate speech in council. Neither she nor the other two Rainham councillors attended this vital meeting.


1 Launders Lane Report – OSSC 15th September.pdf (havering.gov.uk) This is a very detailed report showing the level of environmental challenges, criminality and contempt for the council and other agencies having responsibilities for the well-being of the public.

2 CPO = compulsory purchase order

Seven Questions: Any Answers?

The powers of Overview and Scrutiny Committee1

In particular, regulations give enhanced powers to a scrutiny member to access exempt or confidential information. This is in addition to existing rights for councillors to have access to information to perform their duties, including common law rights to request information and rights to request information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. Annotated advice para 38 (my emphasis)


Councillors must exercise their powers to fulfil their statutory obligations. For this huge responsibility they’re well paid.2 Most committees only met once in the first six months of 2021. This is an outrage. Committee chairs sabotage the powers the government has given them.

Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees are listed below, along with suggested questions.

Children & Learning Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

1 How was Marshalls Park Academy selected for £6.8 million pounds of capital works as opposed to the Council’s own Junior Schools?

Crime & Disorder Sub- Committee

2 What discussions have taken place about Knife Crime since Jodie Chesney was tragically murdered nearly two years ago? And what positive action has taken place?

Environment Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

3 When will a Task Force be established to discuss flooding measures? This critical problem needs well thought out strategies.

Health Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

4 How is the Digital Divide being tackled for Havering’s elderly population access to GP services?

Individuals Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

5 The recent report on N.E.London’s Health Service highlighted the distressing experiences of some disabled residents. What has been the Council’s dialogue with partners?

Overview & Scrutiny Board

6 The 2019 purchase of the Marks and Spencer site costs half a million pounds a year in interest payments. Damian White said this would be paid for with rent. How much rent has actually been paid since the purchase?

Towns & Communities Overview & Scrutiny Sub- Committee

7 What was the impact of the loss of business rates when Debenhams store closed?

Damian White’s Councillors are incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities and should be thrown out next year.


1 Overview and scrutiny: statutory guidance for councils and combined authorities – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

2 2020 Members Allowances final.pdf (havering.gov.uk)

Havering’s £50 A Minute Councillors

What the Government Says Havering’s Councillors Should Be Doing

The role that overview and scrutiny can play in holding an authority’s decision-makers to account makes it fundamentally important to the successful functioning of local democracy. Effective scrutiny helps secure the efficient delivery of public services and drives improvements within the authority itself. Conversely, poor scrutiny can be indicative of wider governance, leadership and service failure.1 Ministerial introductory statement (my emphasis)

What Havering’s Councillors Did in the First Six Months of 2021

Health Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

23rd February………………………………….1 hour 10 minutes

Chair: Nisha Patel……………………………£55.72 a minute

Crime & Disorder Sub- Committee

18th March…………………………………….1 hour 15 minutes

Chair: Sally Miller……………………………£52.01 a minute

Environment Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

18th February………………………………….1 hour 15 minutes

Chair: Maggie Themistocli…………………£52.01 a minute

Individuals Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

9th March; 13th April…………………………….2 hours 05 minutes (in total)

Chair: Christine Smith……………………….£31.21 a minute

Towns & Communities Overview & Scrutiny Sub- Committee

9th February……………………………………2 hours 15 minutes

Chair: Ray Best………………………………£28.89 a minute

Children & Learning Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

4th March……………………………………. 2 hours 25 minutes

Chair: Judith Holt…………………………..£26.90 a minute

Overview & Scrutiny Board

16th February; 10th March; 22nd June…………4 hours 32 minutes (in total)

Chair: Darren Wise………………………….£27.03 a minute

Chair of the Board is paid £14,706 a year sub-committee chairs get £7803. 2 There’s no interaction or constructive discussion between Overview and Scrutiny committees and the Cabinet. Worse, on no occasion has a Cabinet member attended an Overview and Scrutiny committee to discuss policy issues.

Chairs are are actively preventing Overview and Scrutiny committees from fulfilling their legal duties and are therefore in breach their crucial role in Havering’s democracy.

There were no meetings of any Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee in January or May


1 Government advice on Overview and Scrutiny couldn’t be any firmer. They place it at the centre of local democracy. Overview and scrutiny: statutory guidance for councils and combined authorities – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

2 2020 Members Allowances final.pdf (havering.gov.uk) 

I made an error on sub-committee chair allowances which was corrected by Cllrs. Durant and Morgon . Thank you to them. The text is now accurate.