Del Smith RIP

DEL SMITH R.I.P.

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.

Romford Labour Party Food Bank Collections

FOOD BANK AT ROMFORD LABOUR HEAD QUARTERS

Prospective Labour Candidates for the St Albans ward Jane Keane and Hope Mendy have begun a Food Bank Collection point at Saffron House on South Street. The collection is open every Saturday from 10am-2pm, although they are happy to collect donations if people are unable to make the trip

“We started the collection to give back to the community” Hope commented “Over a decade of Tory austerity has sadly meant there’s a real need for food banks. Even in a relatively wealthy area like Romford. After we publicised that we were going to be donating, we heard from another Food Bank that they would appreciate donations as well, so we’ve begun donating to them too. It’s a real issue. 2.5 million people used foodbanks over the past year.”

Through the terrific generosity of residents, Jane and Hope have been able to deliver over 80kg of food to local food banks. In addition to collecting food, they also collect toiletries and pet food.

Hope (left) and Jane await your donations,

“The reception from the locals in Romford Town, particularly in our ward has been warm and generous. We’ve even seen some regulars pop by!” says Jane “Although this isn’t the only community project we have embarked on. We’re also planning on setting up a Gardening Club along with arranging Historical Walks and Assisted Dog Walking. If anyone would like to get involved, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

Hope Mendy and Jane Keane

Labour Homelessness Campaign

At our meeting on the 18th of May, we were joined by Andrea Gilbert of the Labour Homelessness Campaign. The campaign has its origins in 2018 and was formed partly as a reaction to the number of rough sleepers in Westminster, which at that time exceeded the number in the rest of the capital.

Rough sleepers in particular are amongst the most vulnerable of those seeking temporary accommodation. Many risk being moved on and fined 100 pounds under the Ancient Vagrancy Act, which remains in place.

The campaign also deals with squatter’s rights, aims to end homelessness and is lobbying on the Homelessness bill.

One of its activities during the General Election was to ensure that rough sleepers were signed up to vote, and in Wandsworth alone they were able to ensure that around 100 Rough sleepers were added to the electoral register.

The pandemic has exposed the inequality aspects of homelessness and highlighted some of the problems. The Government policy of “Everybody in” has shown it is possible to end rough sleeping if the funding is available.

With over 3,000 people moved into hotels in an effort to reduce the risk and exposure that would have followed if they had they remained on the streets. It also exposed some inconsistencies in terms of the numbers. For example, in Wandsworth there were 25 Registered. Rough sleepers, but in reality the number turned out to be 140. Similar numbers are reported elsewhere in the capital.

One of the activities during the Covid campaign has been to ensure that those rough sleepers are vaccinated as well, as they are a particularly vulnerable group

As funding provided during Covid lockdown is withdrawn, an increase of rough sleepers is already occurring.

In addition, those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)[1]  increase the numbers requiring housing, employment and many of these have been relocated into hotels during the pandemic as well.

One of the issues LHC are currently campaigning on  is the ability of government to deport rough sleepers from non EU countries, which seems remarkably callous. The campaign are linking with unions such as Unite in order to develop new policies and are currently campaigning to reach the 100,000 signatures required in order to have a parliamentary debate on the deportation procedures.

The policy of moving people out back out of hotels at the end of Covid to see more people return to the streets and the funding that was provided previously has proved to be a sticking plaster. Homelessness is often a result of a multitude of issues such as

  • Addiction \ Dependency,
  • lack of employment,
  • disability.
  • LGB TQ

all leading to potential breakups of existing family relationships and people becoming homeless as a result.

So the links with other issues are important and the outreach teams that deal with these issues need to be multidisciplinary as a result.

The long term solution is building more affordable housing on which a great deal of lobbying has taken place of various parliamentary groups with little or no response. In particular the. Labour Party is undertaking a review of policies at the moment with no known announcements in terms of how it can address these issues due in the near future.

The LHC is campaigning  to ensure that these  issues are taken seriously as and when the new manifesto  is developed ahead of the next election.  This policy should include ensuring support for all rough sleepers, including those currently with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).

 Homelessness within Havering has doubled over the recent years (according to the Samaritans), while Havering has a homeless strategy, this is seen as something that needs further development.

The policy of building homes has to cut through the NIMBY attitude that is prevalent within the borough, and other parts of London. This is not easy; during the discussions afterwards while all were in favour of more house building, many had been involved at some stage in ensuring that development within an area close to them was rejected.

Houses that are built they need to be fit for purpose and in the right location.

Housing will remain a big issue for the party locally and will be a key component of the next Havering Labour manifesto.

We thank Andrea for an interesting discussion and will no doubt revisit many of the subjects raised again in the run up to the Borough elections.


[1] a matter discussed  when Stephen Timms MP visited last year- see newsletter 43. 

Councillor Keith Darvill statement on behalf of Havering Labour Group

Keith Darvill

The Havering Labour Group want to see the COVID-19 pandemic defeated and for us all to return to the new normal as soon as possible, however, the primary consideration must be to save lives and keep people safe.

This week, parents have a very difficult task in making the judgement as to when their children should return to school. While Head Teachers and School Governors are particularly concerned about how compliance with social distancing requirements will work, as the degree of risk and challenge varies depending on the design of each school. There are many other factors including the provision of personal protection equipment, infection control and cleaning to name a few.

So it is our view that parents should not feel pressured to return their children to school. We encourage them to confidently liaise with Head Teachers and School Governors before making any decision, this will allow them to carefully consider the risk assessments that are being carried out in their child’s school.

We should recognise that schools have been open throughout the lockdown supporting children of key workers and caring  for the most vulnerable youngsters. We know that all teachers have the well being of their pupils as their paramount responsibility  – and we praise them for their public service and commitment.

So as we move forward and are at the early stages of recovery, albeit that the risks of the virus returning in force must not be overlooked,  caution and safeguarding must be of the highest priority. Key factors in this decision-making process include the size of classes [ maximum 15 per class] and importantly, organised dropping off and collection of children at school gates to facilitate compliance with social distancing requirements.

Some parents will decide to keep their children at home until they perceive a lower degree of risk. Such parents should not be fined for their child’s non attendance, nor should it be entered on their absentee record. Those children remaining at home during the phased opening should be supported by home learning packages, including online teaching which in our view can be assisted where possible by the council’s education department. Some progressive councils are supporting parents with the provision of devices so that children can access the virtual learning packages now available – Havering should consider such support.

Finally more support should be given to those running nurseries and other “Early Years” settings. These, mainly small businesses, face the some very difficult challenges and -do not appear to be receiving support from the government or Havering Council,  yet they provide essential service benefitting young children and parents. Similar risks face this sector and whilst public attention is focused in the challenges facing schools we should not overlook nurseries and and those who run them.

Keith Darvill

Leader Labour Group Havering Council