Monday, 10 June 2013

Council Meeting - 12/06/13

Havering Council, Main Road, Romford

At 7.30pm this Wednesday, 54 Havering councillors will meet at Havering Town Hall in Romford to discuss, debate and try to resolve the issues affecting you and I.

Here I will try to explain in plain English WHAT’s going on, WHO the main characters are, and most importantly WHY it matters to you.


A councillor is a local politician elected by the people of Havering to represent and stand up for our interests. If you’re over 18, you have the right to vote for 3 councillors for your ward. Below are the wards in Havering. Click to find out who your councillors are:


The last local election was in 2010, and the next one is May 2014.

Political parties in Havering council

Like in the national elections, most councillors belong to a political party or group, however some are independent of any. Here is a breakdown of the political parties/groups in Havering, how many councillors there are in each, and what group they belong to:

Conservatives (32), Administration
Residents Association (12), Principle Opposition
Labour (5), Principle Minority Opposition
Independent Residents Group (4), Minority Opposition
UKIP (1)


The administration is essentially the government of Havering. Just like our national government, the Havering administration is made up of cabinet members from the party with the most seats - in this case the Conservatives (see above).

The Leader of the Council is Cllr Michael White (Squirrels Heath, Conservative), and he is the leader of the Conservative group on the council.

Cllr Michael White (Squirrels
Heath, Conservative), Leader
of the Council
In his administration, there are cabinet members from the majority party who are responsible for the following roles:

Cllr Michael Armstrong - Transformation

• Cllr Robert Benham - Community Empowerment

• Cllr Andrew Curtin - Culture, Towns and Communities

• Cllr Lesley Kelly - Housing

• Cllr Steven Kelly - Deputy Leader of the Council

• Cllr Roger Ramsey - Value

• Cllr Paul Rochford - Children and Learning

• Cllr Geoffrey Starns - Community Safety

• Cllr Barry Tebbutt - Environment

Role of opposition members

For local democracy to work, the administration must be continuously scrutinised, questioned and challenged in the decisions it makes (otherwise we would live in a dictatorship!).

Outside the Town Hall, ordinary residents and the local media (like the Romford Recorder) take a proactive role in holding our administration to account, but within the council the opposition members have this task.

Below are the leaders of each opposition group:

Cllr Clarence Barrett
(Cranham, RA), Leader of
Principle Opposition

Cllr Keith Darvill (Heaton,
Labour), Leader of Principle
Minority Opposition
Cllr Jeffrey Tucker (Rainham
and Wennington, IRG), Leader
of Minority Opposition
What’s happening this Wednesday?

For me, there are essentially 3 sections to the meeting:

The first bit where nothing exciting really happens, just formalities: Mayor Eric Munday will introduce and chair throughout, we'll pray (or stand quietly), sing the national anthem (or move our lips anyway) and the councillors will exchange niceties.

Mayor Eric Munday will
chair the entire meeting
The second bit is the question and answer session which has been known to get quite interesting, especially if cabinet members get challenged on the follow up questions. It's a good opportunity for councillors to practice their public speaking skills.

Then there’s a tea break. After that, the third section – the most exciting section – is all about debating the motions. This is where the real discussion and drama happens, and where everyone makes their position very clear. I've attended a few of these full council meetings and I can tell you Havering councillors can get quite rowdy sometimes!

Questions & Answers

Fifteen questions have been submitted by opposition councillors.

Cllr Pat Murray (Gooshays, Labour) will be pressing Cllr Steven Kelly, Deputy Leader of the Council on what the council is doing to protect roads and footpaths in Harold Hill while the demolition of garages is going on.

Local squirrel hunter Alby Tebbutt
refused Honorary Alderman award
Following on from the angry scenes from last month’s Annual Council Meeting where opposition councillors voted against Alby Tebbutt receiving an Honorary Alderman (like a sort of pillar of the community award), leader of the Independent Residents Group Cllr Jeff Tucker (Rainham and Wennington, IRG) will be asking Cllr Michael White, Leader of the Council whether anything can be done to avoid such scenes in the future (not likely!).

Cllr Clarence Barrett (Cranham, RA) will be asking why the administration hasn’t followed up on its ban on spitting which it announced last year.

UKIP’s first elected London politician Cllr Lawrence Webb (Gooshays, UKIP) will be challenging Cllr Roger Ramsey, Cabinet Member for Value on the EU origins of a particular landfill tax.

There is also a question about the number of Freedom of Information requests which the council hasn’t responded to in time (which is very naughty and potentially illegal), a one about green spaces where residents will have some say in stopping development (£££s not included), and there’s also a motion about providing residents with a “No Cold Callers” sign (intended to do exactly what it says).


This is the 3rd section where each group (Conservatives, Residents’, Labour, Independent Residents and UKIP) can propose a policy of their choice. If everyone’s happy with the policy, it gets voted through.

If one of the other groups isn’t happy, they could propose an amendment which could either be slightly different or the complete polar opposite of the original motion. If this happens, then the councillors debate the issue and vote on whether or not it goes through.

As mentioned earlier, this is the most riveting part of the meeting, especially when councillors from different groups disagree with each other.

In this month, there are only 3 motions (it can sometimes go to 10 or over).

Clean house for a clean borough
The first motion entitled ‘Maintenance of front and rear of premises’ has been proposed by the Residents’ Group with no amendments from anyone. Basically it’s calling for the council to keep this borough clean, green and safe – a desire shared by all councillors.

Stopping unscrupulous landlords
with a national register
The second motion ‘National register of private landlords’ echoes Labour’s national policy and proposes the council call on the national government for a private landlord register to stop unscrupulous people from exploiting their tenants. As you might have guessed, this Conservative local administration don’t exactly want to call on the Conservative Prime Minister to implement a Labour policy, so they’ve proposed a watered-down amendment which proposes to merely ask the government to “consider and investigate” the idea of a register.

The third motion, ‘Mobile Homes Act 2013’ – another Labour motion – proposes that the council unanimously welcomes a new national law which protects park home residents from unscrupulous site owners. So far no amendment from the Conservative administration has been proposed.

Well there you go. I really hope this has helped you understand a bit more about how our local government works.

Now all you have to do is pull up a chair at 7.30pm this Wednesday 12th and click on the picture below to view the live stream. Enjoy the show!

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