Margaret Mullane writes

Havering Fabians Meeting 24 April 2023

I can’t claim to have invented the above headline. That is a saying from my ward colleague, Phil, from Village Ward Dagenham. The language used around housing by the government and media can be confusing and often misleading. We need to reclaim and redefine the terms we use so it is clear what people need, versus what is really being offered.

I attended the Labour Party Conference this year in Liverpool. Andy Burnham, who I am a huge fan of, was discussing the “Levelling up Agenda”. Once again, within that conversation, the topic of “affordable rents” was raised. As I stated to the New Statesman at the time, if we are truly serious about levelling up, we need to take the term “affordable housing” off of the table. Having been a Councillor for thirteen years, and Jon Cruddas MP’s office manager for longer, I have watched this term used to justify locking out working people on lower wages from ever owning their own house.

Affordable housing is defined as housing at least 20% below local market value. It sounds good in theory, but since 2013 we have gone from it costing 6.1x the average salary to buy the average house to 8.5x the average salary in 2023 – and many earn well below that £33,000 median wage. It is almost impossible to save up for a sufficient deposit and equally difficult to secure a mortgage for that amount, and these are national averages – the issue is obviously even worse in London. It means that working class people have been completely priced out of the system. The current situation is massively in favour of developers and landowners, and people in their communities are looking over their fences to new properties that they or their family members will never be able to own. I strongly believe that it doesn’t have to be like this.

Let’s take Beam Park, which boasts “affordable“ shared ownership properties – something that really isn’t affordable, as you are purchasing a part of the property and paying a monthly rent too. I had a look at the website last week: a one bedroom from £290,000 – £305,000, and a three bedroom from £510,000 – £525,000. Who can afford properties like this?! We are in a cost-of-living crisis; patterns of work are changing and job security is increasingly difficult to find for many people. I know that many in the community are working two jobs to make ends meet. I am a great believer that you should work to live and not live to work, but people are having this choice taken away from them. I passionately feel that people’s wages should be sufficient to ensure a decent standard of living.

A big part of the puzzle to solve this housing crisis and the “unaffordable affordable housing” issue is through council housing. The people that don’t want council homes built rally against them on ideological grounds and will point to issues with the right to buy scheme. I believe that a change to the legislation around council housing that prohibits right to buy purchases for a twenty-year period would be sufficient to ensure we can provide a steady stream of affordable council housing, while ultimately allowing people to live in the houses that have become their homes for their whole lives if they choose.

I also feel that, in the spirit of truly levelling up, you devolve powers on right to buy as they have in Scotland and Wales to the local authority, who can work to provide what is needed in their local community. All sales from council housing should have 100% of the sale goes back to the council with a commitment that the money is spent to build new council homes. Finally, I believe that the right to buy discount should be maximised to 50% and capped at a maximum of £100,000, which would ensure that more council homes remain in public ownership.

The planning system in the country needs changing, and the Labour Party have said that if they win the next General Election, they intend to help first-time buyers onto the housing ladder and build more homes by reforming planning rules. What should this reform look like?

I have sat on a planning committee and have seen developers put forward their plans containing very little truly affordable housing. It’s very difficult under the current planning laws to question or reject plans to create more large and luxury homes when there is a serious deficit of rent controlled available council housing.

I watched a political programme a few weeks back and a journalist that represents young people made an alarming but not inaccurate claim. He said that the current political system provides nothing for young people in terms of housing that they can access. His take on the matter was that older voters vote in greater numbers, so the political class doesn’t worry about the offer for young people.

The rental sector also needs our attention. The high rent rates, the low quality of rental properties and rogue landlords who fail to carry out essential maintenance are all in urgent need of solutions. I believe that all people, whether renting privately, living in council housing or buying a property have a right to a decent home. We as a country have gone through austerity initiated by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, then we all went through Covid which deeply impacted communities around the country. Now we face wage stagnation as inflation continues to outstrip wage rises, which has led to a cost-of-living crisis that has pushed many families into poverty. The trade union movement is finally starting to gain some traction and secure reasonable pay for some workers, but many still struggle and their pleas for a fair wage fall on deaf ears.

In my years as a Councillor and office manager for Jon, I have had many in-depth discussions with council officers regarding the need for more council housing. I believe that one group turning against another is counterproductive to the housing revolution that is needed for this country at this time. I feel that class politics offers a better prism through which to view the need for council housing. The task of moving forward on housing falls to unelected individuals in various government agencies, often without the necessary attachment to any given area to really fight for its best interests. The “social housing offer” is supplied with a box ticked that it has been offered, but the waiting times are enormous and only reform will bring us closer to my goal of social housing available to all who need it.

As the prospective Parliamentary candidate for Dagenham and Rainham, I will be placing council housing at the centre place of my agenda, if successful going forward. The current housing conditions that some people are forced to live in within Dagenham and Rainham are plainly not acceptable. I feel we have taken many steps backwards in how the people of our country are housed. We need Labour politicians to make the case loudly and strongly for council housing. If the Becontree Estate was possible after World War II, think of what should be possible now. The cases I deal with would break people’s hearts to hear, but it doesn’t have to be like this.

Not everyone suffers directly from poor housing, but I’ve heard from friends, parents, grandparents and children all concerned about the costs and conditions their loved ones are dealing with. I do believe that the electorate understands this and will support us in saying goodbye to “unaffordable affordable housing” and building more social housing for the many in our community, and our country, who are in desperate need.

Margaret Mullane is Village Ward Barking and Dagenham Councillor and Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Dagenham and Rainham

Jennifer craft

On World Downs Syndrome day 21st March 2023 Jennifer will talk on the issues in bringing up children in the current environment. Jen is the Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Thurrock, and this will be her first visit to the Society. The meeting will start at 7.30pm and will be held at St. Joseph’s Social Hall 117, St. Mary’s Lane, Upminster RM14 2QB.

Future Meetings


Friday 3rd February 7.30pm AGM 8pm Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council

Fairkytes Art Centre 51-53 Billet Lane, Hornchurch RM11 1AX

Saima Ashraf Deputy Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council is guest speaker at our AGM on 3rf February
Saima Ashraf Deputy Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council is guest speaker at our AGM on 3rd February

Saima is Deputy Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership & Engagement.

She was first elected in 2010 and is currently a Councillor for Norbury Ward.

21st March 7.30pm Jen Craft Labour PPC for Thurrock

PPC for Thurrock Jen Craft

On World Down Syndrome Day Jen will talk on the challenges of parenting a child with additional needs in the current political landscape.

Jen was selected as Labour Candidate for Thurrock in 2022. Thurrock remains a seat Labour needs to win to secure a majority. The Conservatives won the seat by 11,482 with 58.6% of the vote. Labour was second with 34.4% of the vote.

24th April 7.30pm Councillor Margaret Mullane Labour PPC for Dagenham and Rainham 

Councillor Margaret Mullane PPC for Dagenham and Rainham

Margaret Mullane has spoken to the Fabians on several of occasions. Margaret was the Labour Candidate for Romford in 2005 and has been a Councillor for Village Ward in Barking and Dagenham Council since 2010. She was selected as prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Dagenham and Rainham in December 2022.

The subject of her talk will be determined nearer the time. As someone once said, a week is a long time in politics!

Future meetings

  Havering Fabians  – Change in speaker for Tuesday 30th May and Sponsored walk for Refuge – details below    30th May  The speaker will now be Councillor Dominic Twomey Deputy Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council and Cabinet Member for Finance, Growth and Core services.

The topic will be “Challenges of Local Government including regeneration.”

Dominic was first elected to Barking and Dagenham Council in 2010 and has been Deputy Leader for 9 years.  He has helped attrat investment in to the Borough, including London’s biggest film studio, the three iconic markets (Billingsgate, New Spitalfields and Smithfield) high- tech industry on the former May & Baker Site and a modern university (CU London). With the Finance role he has led the   Council response to public expenditure cuts.

15th June Unmesh Desai GLA Labour Member for London East – GLA update 7.30 pm Saffron House 273 South Street Romford 

6th July 2023 Carolyn Simpson – The Struggle for Female Equality 7.30pm in Fairkytes Arts Centre main room.
Carolyn has an impressive CV
Worked in banking before becoming a full-time Trade Union Officer. 
. Full time Trade Union officer since 1988 involved in many industries and sectors.
. Former Regional Officer of Unite the Union.
. Former Regional Pensioners’ Officer for Unite the Union 
. Co-organiser of 2014 “Women Against Austerity” Conference
. Regional Women’s and Equalities Officer in the London & Eastern Region
Elected Treasurer of the National Association of Women
. National Association of Women representative on the Russian Centenary Committee
. Chair and Co-Chair of the South Eastern Region of the TUC Women’s Rights Committee Chair and co-Chair
. Long term advocate of proportional representation in Trade Union elections.

September Councillor Hannah McHugh  venue etc to follow 
Islington Councillor and Chair of the Fabian Law and Constitutional Policy Group Hannah McHugh has agreed to be the speaker. Details of the topic, time and venue are being finalised. Hannah spoke at the launch of the Fabian paper “Reclaiming Freedom – The case for a 21st Century Bill of powers and duties” alongside Liam Byrne MP, Steve Reed MP, Jon Cruddas MP and Dame Helena Kennedy        
Cllr Dominic Twomey – speaker on 30th May

andrew Achilleos on climate change 25TH jULY 7.30PM Fairkytes Billet Lane HORNCHURCH

Barking and Dagenham Councillor Andrew Achilleos will be the speaker at our meeting in July. Andrew is Chair of Dagenham and Rainham Labour Party, and has been a Councillor for Whalebone ward since 2018. He works for Jon Cruddas MP and is a keen (and very good) photographer of local wildlife. He will be speaking on climate change, a portfolio he held on the Council until recently.

Jack stevens rip

A tribute from Alan Williams

Jack Stevens and his wife Betty were two of the first members of Hornchurch Labour Party l met when l attended my first meeting of the Hacton Labour Party in 1971. They soon became firm friends.

Their contribution to Hornchurch Labour Party cannot be over estimated. They were loyal though thick and thin, in success and defeat. They were always there whether at election time, Branch meetings or fish and chip suppers.

They supported me in a very real way when l was elected to the GLC in 1981 and in our gloomy days of the 1983 and 1987. But how they enjoyed coming to County Hall!

Jack of course went on to be Chairman of Hornchurch Labour Party. I always recall his delight when John Cryer won the seat in 1997 and he went on to support John in his time in the House of Commons in the 8 years he represented Hornchurch. I know that John joins me in saluting a hard working man who had a great social conscience and was admired not just in the Party but in the wider community. He had a full and active life. He will be greatly missed.

Our thoughts are with his son Gary and his family today.

Alan  Williams Former GLC Member for Hornchurch , Havering Councillor and Labour candidate for Hornchurch in the 1983 and 1987 General Elections

Del Smith RIP


In the mid-60s when working at Lee Cooper’s factory in Faringdon Avenue (Harold Hill) Del also worked there.  Later, in the ’70s/80s/90s I was in Ford’s Dagenham Safety Department in which was his Del’s late father Arthur, so knew the family well.  Most of Del’s working time was as a self-employed carpenter, a trade in which he was skilled, much work came by personal reputation and previously satisfied customers’ recommendations.  Customers included many from our Labour/Trade Union ranks.  Before, during and after his time as a Havering Councillor Del was a committed and enthusiastic Harold Hill community activist and campaigner on numerous issues.  That’s why, nowadays, he’s still so well remembered by many Estate residents, long after his relocation to the village of Insch in Aberdeenshire.  

Del made a Council Chamber debut in 1986 when winning in a now defunct Hilldene Ward, Labour’s other’s successful candidates being Dennis Cook & Bessie Whitworth RIP.  He didn’t contest the 1990 local elections but, perhaps missing municipal action, earned selection for a 1991 Gooshays Ward by-election (caused by resignation of Sean Willis) when he finished streets’ ahead of an equally hard campaigner in Liberal Democrat Terry Hurlstone RIP.  He took the 1994 election in that Ward by storm when topping the poll with Bill Harrison & Mike Davis also winning seats. Come the 1998 Council election Del was no longer in the Labour Party and stated he’d no wish to stand against former Labour colleagues – as Yve Cornell, Bill Harrison & Kevin Robinson (now Southend’s Deputy Mayor) convincingly claimed 3 Gooshays Ward seats.  Del did so much for the people of Harold Hill – both as Councillor – and before-and-after his period of elected public service. 

In 2003 Del was a founder member of “The Friends of Dagnam Park” and ran their website until his demise on August 2nd. – despite living in Scotland.  The group emerged into one of the most effective campaigning organisations in the Borough.  What ignited it’s arrival was the amount of neglect and anti-social behaviour in a large and lovely Dagnam Park.

Del was twice recently a hospital patient for serious illness and a few months’ ago requested no further treatment, as it was so painful. He never returned to hospital and accepted his forthcoming demise at home on August 2nd, where he spent most of his time asleep as he was so weak.  He knew what was coming his way and accepted it with bravery.

The most controversial time during his year as Havering’s Mayor was when appearing at Romford’s Remembrance Day Parade in a suit – not in traditional Mayor’s robes with pointed hat.  Many wrote to local newspapers stating he’d betrayed the deceased of those being honoured by not dressing properly.  Ex-Service organisations protested.  A week after an avalanche of criticism, many wrote to support Del, saying his choice of dress wasn’t important as long as he was there to take a salute and show respect.  Opinion becomes more modern as years roll by.  One critic was another former Havering Mayor, ex-Royal Navy man Conservative Ron Latchford RIP – who incidentally attended Havering Fabian Society ‘open’ meetings for years.  On reading that critics were outnumbered by supporters of Del, Ron wrote to local newspapers stating he’d considered supporters’ logic and changed his mind, admitting he’d got his opinion wrong in the first place.

In March 1996 Del took centre stage. along with fellow Harold Hill Councillors Dennis Cook (Hilldene Ward), Mike Davis (Gooshays Ward) & Tony Hunt RIP (Hilldene Ward).  They were at loggerheads with Council leader Arthur Latham (a former MP) over a number of issues mainly affecting Harold Hill and his alleged dictatorial control.  The “Gang of Four” as they became known – and still are to this day – broke from Labour to form “The Socialist Group” which reduced the Party’s presence in the Chamber to 26.  All 4 were suspended from Labour membership.  Soon afterwards another Labour Councillor resigned the whip but pledged to continue voting with Labour.  Their defection was enough to tilt the scales against Labour. Reaction split both ways. Some never forgave the quartet for dumping Labour out of power, but as all were so popular, many remained friends for all time.  One of Del’s biggest critics was former Council leader Wilf Mills RIP who wanted nothing to do with him – but buried the hatchet before his own fairly recent departure.  When Tony was at death’s door, in a now-demolished Oldchurch Hospital for months after contracting legionnaires disease he was a recipient of Arthur’s get well message. Tony recovered but still died at a young age, his popularity shown by a standing room only funeral at Corbet’s Tey Crematorium followed by a full-house gathering in “The Railway” public house near Hornchurch Underground Station.  At his funeral a eulogist stated that Tony often regretted taking the action he did.  Arthur Latham had the good grace to write kind words for an obituary for a local newspaper, in which he described Tony as “the least culpable of the four”.  Mike went on to work hard for the Labour Party in election campaigns and when readmitted, stood for them.  Dennis has always been supportive of Labour Party activities/campaigns and frequently attends Havering Fabian Society meetings.  As for Del, he was one of many who returned to Labour when Jeremy Corbyn was elected Party Leader but resigned when Bro. Corbyn was forced to continue his political career as an Independent. Soon after rejoining he went to his first Labour Party function – a West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine CLP Christmas social.  What a coincidence as he met that CLP’s former Vice Chairman Harry Bygate – another former Havering Labour Councillor who’d headed north after retirement. Harry, a then National Union of Seamen full-time Officer, topped the 1971 poll in South Hornchurch Ward with fellow elected colleagues Harry Rivers & John Whysall (who stood twice for Parliament at both 1974 General Elections in a newly created Upminster Constituency).  Sadly Harry left us in April 2019.

Del loved local history and wrote articles at length about Harold Hill on the Friends of Dagnam Park website. He wrote the history of St.George Church in Chippenham Road. On Harold Hill he resided in Edenhall Road for years just a few doors away from Hilldene Ward Councillor Reg Whiting RIP, who he always gone on with very well, before moving to Tring Gardens near a now boarded-up Havering College Quarles Campus.  Years after settling in Scotland he appeared, by telephone, in an hour-long ‘live’ show on a now defunct Link FM radio station – hosted by Roni O’Brien (now broadcasting on Time FM).  She asked him about many local issues and, such was his knowledge of Havering, he proved he knew as much while off our scene than when part of it.  That’s because so many of his friends kept in contact, and he read a Romford Recorder every Friday on their free website.  Del was a critic of the infamous Gallows Corner roundabout – his last public quote in the Recorder was earlier this year when they featured the 50th anniversary of a “temporary” flyover erected for 15 years’ use in 1971.  Del said it’d been up so long it should be “listed“.

To his widow Gaynor and 3 offsprings sincere condolence is expressed by so many.  We say farewell to one of Harold Hill’s best known residents – and one who leaves us with many memories of a life so well spent.

Dave Ainsworth

Denis O’Flynn – 50 Years of Public Service

Denis O’Flynn – a life of Public Service

Denis was first elected to Havering Council in July 1971, in one of the by-elections caused by the appointment of Alderman following the Council elections in May. This was the Havering election which was won by Labour for the first (and so far… only) time. Denis joined the new administration at an exciting time, and was also part of minority administrations under Arthur Latham, Wilf Mills and Ray Harris.

Dave Ainsworth paid the following tribute;

“I first met Denis when starting work in Ford’s Dagenham Foundry.  Denis was a leading Shop Steward.  The Trade Union was “The Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (Foundry Section)”.   In time Denis successfully stood for election to become a full-time District Organiser, hence he became based at their Dagenham East Office.  Denis had a wide area to cover.

In time the Trade Union changed its name a few times, through amalgamations, so becoming the AEUW (Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers), then AMICUS and now UNITE.

It’s like turning a full circle, for only a couple of months ago UNITE opened its new office block ion Yew Tree Avenue, which is where the old May & Baker Works were – this office complex is also where Jon Cruddas MP recently moved his Constituency Office to.  You can see his old office from Unite’s new office.  Denis is highly active in UNITE as he’s Chair of the local UNITE Retired Members’ Branch.

Denis was a leading trade union shop steward in Ford’s Dagenham heyday before becoming a full time District Officer for the old Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (Foundry Section). Denis is now Chairman of a most active local Unite Retired Members’ Branch.  He’s held many other Community positions.  He’s so active that constituents of other less committed Councillors often turn to Denis with their concerns and problems.  He never turns anybody away – and makes his home phone number available in all publications.  

Denis is – without doubt – the most active Councillor ever to serve on the Harold Hill Estate.  He stood 4 times for Parliament, in Romford February 1974, when I was his Election Agent – then in same Constituency in October 1974. In 1979 Denis stood in Hitchin and 1987 for Upminster.

In Havering he was a highly effective Housing Chairman and twice served as Mayor with wife Maureen as his Mayoress.

Denis in full flow at a Havering Fabian meeting in 2018

Denis became a Councillor in 1971. Denis always was, and still is, a brilliant orator. He can quickly grasp situations, such as in his early Council days as he organised effective protests and demonstrations on Harold Hill about the dangerousStraight Road, when mobilising hundreds of residents to stage road blocks at two locations along what was dubbed “Murder Mile” by our local press. Soon after election he organised one of the most successful and best supported mass participation protests ever seen in Havering – and one which Denis is still proud of, to this day. The local press dubbed Straight Road as “Murder Mile” owing to many serious road accidents, some fatal.

Denis twice had his Council service broken.  Prior to our 2006 Council Elections he was disgracefully “stitched-up” in a curious selection meeting, where people were present who nobody knew – and to this day, have never been seen since.  Along with long-serving Wilf Mills R.I.P. he was deselected.  The Romford Recorder reported that Labour had ditched their two best drawing cards. Denis was then selected to contest Rainham & Wennington Ward, where he was unsuccessful.  However he continued supporting Labour and, along with fellow dumped local politician Wilf, ran weekly advice surgeries in St.George’s Church on Harold Hill – this despite receiving a Labour Party disciplinary letter instructing him not to, as he was no longer an elected Councillor.  Denis ignored that letter and carried on!  As did Wilf!  As for Heaton Ward – without Denis & Wilf – Tories won 2 of the 3 seats with only Councillor Keith Darvill remaining for Labour.  Ouch!

Denis also lost his seat in the 2014 Council Election when UKIP won 2 Heaton Ward seats, again with only Councillor Keith Darvill retaining his seat.  However Denis was back in our Council Chamber in 2016 after a really hard fought by-election with numerous candidates, caused when Councillor Philip Hyde (ex-UKIP and then “Independent”) resigned.

Without doubt Denis has been the most active Harold Hill Councillor ever seen. So much that residents from all parts of the Borough contact him when, at times, their own elected Councillors aren’t so active.  Denis never turns anybody away.  He’s always made his home address and personal telephone number available to all, on campaign literature and in directories.

Denis has twice served as Mayor with wife Maureen as his Mayoress and currently holds a Council position – this being The Havering Champion for the Armed Forces.  Denis, along with Wilf, was a protagonist in securing a Harold Hill War Memorial and commencing a well-attended open-air service each Remembrance Sunday.

We will never see his like again!

Dave Ainsworth

Denis is keen to point out that the “Made in Dagenham” film on the equal pay dispute under states the support for the women from the male trade unionists. Denis was very supportive and did all he could to support the cause, and was not unique in this.

Denis did not seek re-nomination for the Council Election in May 2022 and so will end his time on Havering Council and once again become an honorary freeman of the Borough. We wish him well in what we hope will be a long and happy retirement and look forward to seeing him at future Fabian meetings where his wit and humour are always welcome.