After 13 brutal years of Austerity, the Conservatives lost 1059 councillors in the May, 2023 local elections. Voters voted against the destruction of council services. The beneficiaries were Labour, LibDems and the Green Party. Worse, for the Conservatives, was lethal tactical voting.1
This happened in Havering in 2022. 20 years of Conservative power ended with a coalition between HRA2 and Labour. An example of the new political reality is Julia Lopez’s position. She has a massive majority and no Conservative councillors, in her constituency.
Havering finances have been hollowed out. The real reduction in funding since 2010, is £97 million p.a.3 An obvious consequence are potholes becoming more dangerous. They’re now causing significant damage to cars when they hit them.
Which brings me to The Politics of Potholes.
Resident Associations used to focus on street care. They reduced councillor allowances to supplement that budget. Now they must make political decisions about the use of resources. Unfortunately, they’re in hock to the ‘Law and Order’ lobby.
The HRA/Labour coalition continued Conservative policies. The Section 92 MetPolice contract at £300,000+ p.a. was renewed. They then turbocharged the CCTV surveillance system with a multimillion-pound investment. Both were agreed without meaningful debate.4
The problem is: What do HRA/Labour “Really, really want?”5. Havering’s roads are a disgrace and need millions of pounds of investment. The money could come from the CCTV capital programme.
Pothole Repairs or CCTV?
Both sides have passionate advocates and it’s the art of politics to prioritise and not lose support. Considering that HRA built their ‘brand’ on street care, it seems quixotic to plump for CCTV. Damian White binned the same CCTV propositions and he ‘won’6 the 2022 election. He only lost power because of a surprise coalition between HRA and Labour. Motorists experience potholes every day and many of them vote.
1 Tories swept out of Home Counties council after Labour and Lib Dems formed a ‘progressive’ pact (msn.com)
2 HRA = Havering Residents Association
3 Havering’s Budget and Rishi Sunak: 2023 – Politics in Havering
4 In a rare moment of sanity about CCTV, Barry Mugglestone gave Christine Vickery a quick lesson in cost/benefit analysis. Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) Go to one hour one minute (1:01) for the exchange.
5 So, tell me what you want, what you really really want. – Bing video
6 23 Conservatives; 19 HRA; 9 Labour plus 4 others