Havering and the GLA Election, 2021

Damian White wept when he saw the results. Havering produced rock solid Conservative majorities whilst he struggles with a minority administration. A short political history lesson will explain why he’s suffering.

Fifty years ago, Jack Moultrie was the Conservative Leader of Havering Council who was dismissive of an Upminster housewife. Tragic error! That woman was the late, great Louise Sinclair. She despised the Romford-centric policies Jack embraced. He offered scraps from the table. She wanted more, much more.

Her formidable talents as an organiser and networker turbocharged the Residents’ Association (RA) movement. They fought and won elections in Upminster and Cranham. When Roger Ramsey was Leader in the 1980s, Upminster was nearly a Conservative no-go area. By 1990 it was. That feud shaped Havering’s politics so there would more-or-less be minority administrations. The RAs moved out of their heartlands taking over most of Hornchurch and south Havering.

To keep power, Damian has to do deals with RAs in one way or another.

Meanwhile the GLA election. ‘Tribal’ Conservative voters ignored the Gallows Corner disaster. Notwithstanding pre-election promises, I’m not holding my breath on that one. Shaun Bailey trounced Sadik Khan 51%-29%. His FaceBook campaign suggested there was lawlessness raging from Cranham to Heathrow. His grip on local government finance is strictly Ladybird and doesn’t inspire confidence. Another reason for Damian to weep.

Louise Sinclair changed Havering’s politics in the 1980s. She knew Jack Moultrie’s plan to turn Romford into central London was ridiculous. Louise knew what local politics means, good housekeeping and aspirations. We’ve got the housekeeping. Where, oh where, is the aspiration?

The Crime and Disorder Overview and Scrutiny Committee, 29th September, 2020

If this committee was a sick animal the kindest thing to do would be to put it out of its misery. Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny chairs receive lucrative rewards. In Sally Miller’s case it’s for defecting from the Residents’ Association. She’s hopelessly out of her depth.

“Ah!” you might say, “This fellow is a political opponent and is cruel, heartless and unfair.”

An unexpected consequence of the horrors of Covid-19 has been a strengthening of democracy in Havering. How so? The committee has a webcast. This means you can watch the proceedings and ‘enjoy’ the sight of councillors floundering as they try to make sense of complex issues. I viewed the entire meeting, hoping there’d be evidence that councillors understood the concept ‘scrutiny’. Or, at least, show signs that they’d read officers’ reports. Alas and alack, that hope died a horrible death.

‘Probing’ Questions Not Asked

The police spokesman was proud of the ‘Stop and Search’ of 279 people. Who were these people? Was ‘Stop and Search’ targeted? What gender were those who were stopped? What age? Where? Why? What race? Perhaps the police spokesman could have been asked more about the actuality of ‘Stop and Search’ and demand a report which was more analytical.

This is the report detail,

Stop and Search

“As a unit the Havering Joint Task Force currently stops and searches more people and vehicles than any other in Havering. Since its formation, the Task Force has conducted 279 stop and searches, accounting for 20% of the boroughs total number of 1,365 stop and searches.”*

This ‘Virtual’ meeting had half the councillors missing, which is surprising as the meeting was streamed from living rooms. The committee is important and deserved to be treated seriously by councillors discussing major issues associated with public safety. A dispiriting meeting demonstrated none of the councillors are up to the job**. Comments were trivial, inconsequential and immature. The people of Havering deserve better.

Notes

* https://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/g6682/Public%20reports%20pack%2029th-Sep-2020%2019.00%20Crime%20Disorder%20Sub-%20Committee.pdf?T=10 para 3:5 p62

** The substitute member actually made a greater and more positive contribution than the three actual members put together.

Sources

For the Virtual meeting webcast see https://aisapps.sonicfoundry.com/AuditelScheduler/Player/Index/?id=e904ff45-2cc7-410c-9cae-9f87d54b9120&presID=66c6a2a05f864989add5b8c026e44a341d

For the agenda see https://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/g6682/Public%20reports%20pack%2029th-Sep-2020%2019.00%20Crime%20Disorder%20Sub-%20Committee.pdf?T=10 pp59-66

Relevant blogs from the archive

On the use of patronage in appointing councillors to posts of Special responsibility see https://havering.blog/2020/02/29/haverings-conservatives-defy-the-governments-guidance-on-overview-and-scrutiny-committees/

On the government’s view of how Overview and Scrutiny committees should operate see https://havering.blog/2020/01/11/haverings-overview-and-scrutiny-chairs-damian-whites-cronies-cash-in/

On the use of Havering’s council tax to buy-in five police officers see https://havering.blog/2019/05/19/damian-white-and-viddy-persauds-rent-a-cop-scheme/

The Bizarre World of Hornchurch and Upminster Politics

This constituency is a safe Conservative parliamentary seat. But it’s also a no-go area for them in local politics. Indeed Conservative candidates have to brand themselves as Resident Association (RAs)to have any chance of success in council elections. The RAs are splintered and don’t have critical mass when it comes to power and influence. As a consequence, the minority Conservative administration has an easy time of it.

Veteran RA councillor, John Mylod, ‘became’ a Conservative prior to the 2018 election after a spat with fellow councillors in St Andrews ward. This ward is an RA stronghold but he still won with a personal vote. Or, maybe, voters didn’t appreciate he’d jumped ship. Harold Wood’s three RA councillors created a working majority for the Conservatives. They were always crypto-Conservatives but being offered lucrative allowances helped them make the crucial decision.

Two wards return Labour councillors. In their heartlands they won five of six seats. The sixth seat went to an Independent novice. The only reliable Conservative ward is Emerson Park, which isn’t rock solid. They lost a seat in 2014 to a UKIP candidate. Then post-2018, Bob Perry found Romford’s councillors too arrogant and he’s now an Independent.

So Julia Lopez MP has a majority of 23,000 in a constituency with only three Conservative councillors. Her seat may not be as solid as it looks. Local politics shows there is dissatisfaction with the Conservatives. Local elections demonstrate that voters are quite prepared to abandon them.

The Irresistible Importance of Brian Eagling: the Deputy Mayor’s Allowance for 2020-1

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.
Sources
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/

Havering Councillor: Brian Eagling (Harold Wood)

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