Havering: The fight to tackle knife crime and save the lives of young people Councillor Tele Lewal

“Young people should not pay the price for austerity with their lives” – Labour Party Leader

Across the capital, senseless killings have shocked communities and the recent surge in knife crime has led me to evaluate the policing, council services and community efforts to tackle youth violence in the London Borough of Havering.

70% of police funding comes from the Tory government. Since they came into power in 2010, our police have been dealing with eight years of consecutive cuts. The impact of reduced funding from the Tories has resulted in the following:

– Over 3,000 PCs axed,
– Over 3,000 PCSOs gone
– 5,000 civilian staff reduced &
– The Metropolitan Police has had to make £850m in savings
– Funding to national police commissioners has fallen by 30% in real-terms since 2010-11
– Under a Labour Government we had over 32,000 MET officers, we now have under 27,000 MET officers – for a growing population

Last year, the National Audit Office (NAO) published an in-depth review covering police funding across England and Wales which can be found HERE. In summary, it called for the Tory government to WAKE UP. The report highlighted that the situation “could get worse” if the Home Office does not “direct resources to where they are needed.” The NAO report accused the Home Office of a “light touch” approach, with falling funding and staffing levels in the last eight years contributing to INCREASED levels of “high harm” crimes.

Metropolitan Police Chief, Cressida Dick recently said: “I think that what we all agree on is that in the last few years police officer numbers have gone down a lot, there’s been a lot of other cuts in public services, there has been more demand for policing.” She added, “I agree that there is some link between violent crime on the streets obviously and police numbers, of course there is, and everybody would see that.”

Well, not everyone, and certainly not our Prime Minister, Theresa May who stated there is “no direct correlation between certain crimes and police numbers,” and accused leaders who are speaking out for their grieving communities of “crying wolf.” I guess the Prime Minister has not had the time to read the NAO report or speak to the MET Chief.

The Prime Minister is relatively busy handling Brexit negotiations so positively well and throwing away £33 million of tax-payers money, which could have been invested into tackling youth violence, but was instead paid out to Eurostar thanks to the sheer incompetence of the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling.

SO, WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

1. Report all crime to the police, so we can receive further resources in Havering

If residents want more police patrolling the wards of Havering, then residents need to report every crime, in order, for this Tory government to know that we have real safety concerns in Havering because for some reason they don’t seem to understand despite the below increase since 2014 (stats available on Havering Council’s website):

As a member of Havering Council’s committee which looks at policing and community safety in the borough, I have been informed by the police and council officers who attend the meetings that “Havering residents, unfortunately, are not reporting as much crime as they should be.” If you do not report crimes for what-ever reasons then Havering will always have relatively lower crime figures compared to inner-London (check the MET data), and we will not receive the policing/funding for the services we critically need, because we are not seen as “priority” to the Tory government, despite the above stats.
Oh, and there is proof to this…
In November 2011, the Ending Gang and Youth Violence (EGYV) report was published, which was led by former Home Secretary, Theresa May. The reported identified 29 areas nationally facing the biggest challenges in relation to youth violence.

Out of the 29, there were 18 London boroughs identified as part of the EGYV work programme who received funding ranging from £195k-344k for 2012-13. Since then an additional 23 areas have been added to the list of EGYV areas, of which Havering is one.

One would think as Havering has been deemed as an area of concern regarding youth violence, we would receive additional funding from the EGYV. Unfortunately, our young people’s lives in Havering does not matter to the Tory government. Havering has NOT received any EGYV funding despite being added to the EGYV list and the following changes in the borough:

• Since 2011, there has been an inward migration of gang members and offenders involved in serious youth violence into Havering
• In 2014, Havering borough was the third largest importer of gang members identified by the Metropolitan Police Trident Gang Crime Command matrix
• Havering has the 10th highest rate of serious youth violence compared to the whole of London

The reason for Havering not receiving the funding, according to the Tories was because Havering has “lower levels of serious youth violence” (not a priority).

Let me understand correctly, we need to have more young people murdered in Havering, before we receive the additional resources? What a flawed approach. surely, early intervention would make more sense.

MET Tri-borough – Mayor of London

In the past year we merged with Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham to form a new Tri-borough police unit. A decision the Mayor of London had to make across the capital because the MET have to save £325m-400m by 2022 (a result of cuts from the Tories).

How did this impact Havering in tackling youth violence?

Well, Havering gained a Gangs Unit, which we did NOT have before, this has enabled the police and Havering Council to target the highest risk gang nominals across all three boroughs.

Havering Council was also able to RELAUNCH the Serious Group Violence (SGV) panel in August 2017 to work in conjunction with the Gangs Unit and share vital intelligence. This leads me on to Havering Council’s work.

2. Engage and support Havering Council’s work to tackle knife crime

Here’s a breakdown of young people in Havering charged with carrying a weapon (not exclusive to knife carrying) in the period 2015-2018 (data available on Havering Council website).

The year 2017-18 was the first time that Havering had a weapon offender aged 11-years-old. Let’s be clear about why that is; eight years of Tory cuts to policing, youth services, mental health, education and other vital public services.

Offensive Weapons Bill and Public Health Model

In response to the above, the government recently introduced the Offensive Weapons Bill which is currently passing through parliament and will update laws relating to the sale, delivery and possession of and threatening with offensive weapons, including firearms, knives and corrosive substances.

Part of the bill will include new preventive measures, such as the introduction of Knife Crime Prevention Orders, basically, an “Asbo-style order.” I welcome the bill, but I am interested to see how the powers will be exercised when police numbers are failing, as well as cuts to services.

Home Sectary, Savid Javid announced that the government would also take a ‘public health’ approach to tackle youth violence – similar to Glasgow. Meanwhile, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock appeared on the radio and didn’t seem to know this was the plan.

He told LBC Radio: “I think if you try to say that knife crime is a public health issue, it implies that there aren’t individuals who are personally responsible for these terrible crimes and you’ve got to start from the point of the perpetrator needing to be brought to justice.”

Responding, Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s Shadow Policing Minister, said:

“It is disturbing that the Health Secretary doesn’t seem to be aware of his own Government’s strategy to tackle violent crime.

“Rather than taking real action to address the national knife crime epidemic that has arisen on its watch, the Government’s own strategy has been revealed to be nothing more than warm words.

“How can the Tory government possibly be serious about taking a public health approach when the Health Secretary doesn’t even know about it?

“Labour advocates real investment in community safety and a public health approach to knife crime.”

There is no real leadership from the Tory government, which is failing our young people. It is disappointing that there is no consensus, and the Tories are not willing to call Cobra, despite emergency calls from the Labour Party.

Unlike the Tories, Havering’s Labour Party Councillors will be clear on our approach in Havering, we believe in a multi-faceted approach to tackle knife crime in our community. We need politicians, Havering Council, schools, Metropolitan Police, Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime, London Ambulance Service, voluntary organisations, charities, community, businesses, faith groups and families working together. EVERYONE!

Havering Council is already embracing this approach and commissions/delivers preventative and enforcement opportunities across the borough. Some of the programmes already in place include the
following:
• Street Doctors
• No Knives in Schools
• Gangs Awareness Training
• Mentoring Scheme
• Schools access to Search Wands
• Safer Schools Officers
• Junior Citizens Programme
• Youth Offending Service Intensive Weapons Programme
• Operation Sceptre
• Knife Amnesty Bin
• Knife Arches
• Safe Haven Schemes
• Sales of Knives and Noxious Substances
• Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub
• Spark 2 Life
• Drug dogs
• Work with BTP
• Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)
• Serious Group Violence Panel
• Regular weapons sweeps
• Counselling
• And much more…

Havering Council have also created an ambitious Serious Group Violence & Knife Crime Strategy 2018-2021, which will be reviewed by the Cabinet in April. I would strongly urge residents to read the report once available and share any views.

I have reviewed the document and put forward recommendations through my committees, but in light of recent events, I will be taking a further look. I am very keen to see the programmes rolled out in Havering, with an even further joint-up effort to save young people’s lives. The focus of the strategy will be:

• Intelligence and information sharing
• Intervention
• Prevention
• Enforcement

Havering Council have already submitted a number of bids to contribute to the strategy, such as to the Home Office Early Intervention fund (successful) and the government’s Troubled Families programme (awaiting an outcome), and they intend to submit a bid to the Young Londoners fund when applications open later in 2019.

Predominately, funding for youth violence in Havering comes from MOPAC, through the London Crime Prevention Fund (LCPF). A new system has been introduced where boroughs receive a committed allocated amount of funding on a 2-yearly basis. £114,000 per year was allocated for 2017/2018 and 2018/2019. I am waiting for the funding announcement for the period 2019/2020 to 2021/2022.

Havering Council’s Children Services said: “A further note should be taken of the financial restraints being put on the Public Sector. Depending on where the future [Tory] cuts are made, this could impact upon the boroughs ability to carry out various tasks within the Serious Group Violence Strategy post 2018/2019.”

Havering’s Labour Party Councillors are concerned about the funding for the programmes, and we have put forward a motion urging the Tory Councillors to review its provision for youth services:

“This Council urges the Executive to urgently review its provision of Youth Services as part of a multifaceted approach with its strategic partners to address and reduce the level of knife crime and serious youth violence in the Borough including the adoption of a public health model in the medium and long term.”

We hope all Councillors in Havering support our motion at the next Full Council, by putting party politics aside for the sake of all young people’s lives across the borough.

I would also like to thank Havering Council for their work during this tragic time. Havering Council are offering bereavement counselling to schools affected by the tragedy, as well as other support.

3. Community cohesion to support our young people is the key ingredient to tackling knife crime

“Although we need more officers on the street, policing is not the only answer to addressing the rise in violent crime. We need to come together as a community investing time and resources to rebuild the safety nets that this government have taken away.” – Jon Cruddas Labour MP
Here, Here.
Havering has really come together after the tragedy in the community, we have seen petitions for more policing, purple ribbons across the borough, a knife crime campaign launched in Harold Hill and a peaceful march to honour all victims of knife crime.
The community is needed to tackle knife crime and save young people’s lives. With that in mind, residents need to be properly involved in key decisions, strategies or programmes before they are implemented into their area, to ensure they are effective and targeted.
We need to rebuild the community and police relationship. Residents must have a healthy dialogue with their local officers, work in conjunction and share that ever so important intelligence.
Havering needs to work smarter. The pockets of groups need to combine their resources and funding to reach more young people. We also need to see greater community cohesion and individuals being more proactive than reactive.
There are many ways the community can play their part:
Communities creating Street Watch Teams is a way for people to come together, wearing high visibility jackets and patrol hotspot areas in their ward. This is an effective way to show a presence of unity and protect others. Further information here: http://www.street-watch.org/havering/index.html
‘Safe havens’ in public places should not only be limited to community centres or youth hubs. It is widely known that a lot of serious youth violence happens between 15:00 – 21:00 pm and in public places, such as town centres/high streets.
Therefore, I would encourage businesses in Havering to have visible signs outside their organisations, which state this is a ‘safe haven,’ so, a young person who is running away to save his/her life, knows they can enter that organisation for shelter, and then they’ll be referred to the relevant professionals.
How many times have we seen young people fighting in the town centre and then they run into a shop because they don’t want to be harmed, and then they are told to get out… a young life could be saved with this measure.
It also shows a sense of unity to see a visible sign which is associated with protecting young people.
Sharing our skills, knowledge and experiences with other residents can save the lives of young people. Do you know how to do CPR? Have you been a victim of knife crime? or maybe you carried a knife? We need individuals to communicate and share their expertise with others across the Borough. You never know when that information will be useful.
Public and private organisations should give young people further opportunities. By proactively contacting schools, colleges and pupil referral units to offer young people a range of experiences across Havering.
This also helps with lowering NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) statistics in Havering and gives young people a better chance in life.
Arts and sports clubs or organisations are key! Young people being active is an effective way to tackle youth violence and utilise their talents.
Residents sharing intelligence with the police and Havering Council is extremely important. This will ensure the right resources are allocated. There are many ways residents can engage with relevant authorities by taking part in the following:
1. Stop and Search Monitoring Group
2. Independent Advisory Group
3. Safer Neighbourhood Board
4. Safer Neighbourhood Ward Panel Meetings
5. Crime and Disorder Committee
6. Street Watch
Schools need to work better with young people. Although OFSTED can rate a school as ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ there is always room for improvement. A lot happens in schools which does not always surface in the public realm. I believe more conversations need to be had about money laundering, drug selling and weapons.

Youth forums in the Town Hall. I was never engaged with politics or my local authority when I was young. I was not a member of my Youth Council, nor did I engage with them or even know who they were.

Local authorities should hold quarterly youth forums in their Town Halls for under 25s. This will empower young people to come together and talk about what is happening, decisions which will impact their community and what they would like to see, all of this can be useful for when planning priorities for the next budget year.
Conclusion

Serious youth violence and knife crime is not a new phenomenon. This has been happening for years.

We cannot continue to have the same conversations. It is time for further action to ensure our young people reach their full potential. Enough of burying our young people before their time, or seeing children ending up in the justice system because no one cared about them too.
I would also like to see women and girls have a more active role in tackling knife crime, as their voices are usually either muted or rarely heard.
On that note, I urge everyone to play their part.

Tele Lewal is a Havering Labour Councillor, first elected in May 2018

 

ELLY BAKER -Meeting 6th September 21

Elly Baker was elected to the GLA, having the number one position on the Labour list for the May 2021 election. She holds the Transport portfolio on the Labour Group, which includes the current “hot topic” of Transport for London (TFL) funding,

This was Elly’s first visit to us, and was again a zoom meeting as the main larger venues we visit were all being used.  We hope to resume in person meetings soon.

The funding for TFL  is different to other capital cities across Europe with 72% being raised by fares compared with the European average of 40%; this gap had increased  in part a legacy from the previous Mayor and  so was problematic even before covid leading to fare increases to balance the budget. Covid had led to a 97% reduction in passenger numbers, which was catastrophic for TfL and transport operators across the Country.

TFL had been treated differently from operators outside London, They  had been given 18 months funding with few if any strings attatched. TFL had been given  a series of 6 month settlements with a string of conditions as Government sought to control TFL actions. There was a requirement to make regular reports to Government with little clarity of how they would be used.

The current deal ends in December and there is no indication of what the outcome may be and if conditions will be extended or relaxed. There is no medium to long term thinking, and the Government remains on the attack. 

Government had pushed for a service review in July, before the return to work. Sadiq Khan had negotiated a delay until September, although even this may be too soon; Currently tube use is 45% of former levels, buses 60%.  The long term impact of working from home is unclear and there is no basis to determine whether this is a permeant change.

Elly made the point that service reductions, while they may achieve a balanced budget, could have an adverse impact on people’s lives, reducing mobility and social interaction.  So an approach is required that is based on more than achieving a balanced budget at all costs. There is a need to raise the profile on these issues and campaign to maintain services.

Transport for London has responsibility for much of the capitals highway network, so the collapse in fare income has a wider impact – funding for maintenance and new projects has been under pressure.  The GLA Conservatives have been critical on this point, although the lack of resources stems from Central government and the level and conditions within the funding settlement.

Elly then dealt with a number of questions from the audience. The first related to the lack of river crossings in East London, and issues with the Woolwich Ferry – frequently there was one Ferry out of action with the explanation of “technical issues”.  TFL now has control of Ferry operations after insourcing the operation.

The business case for dealing with Gallows Corner was work in progress and Elly would pursue within TFL for an update.

There were issues with Town Centres which were in decline – Romford in particular was suffering. With almost all local buses passing through Romford there was a need to ensure Romford returned to thriving centre to ensure the network remained viable, with the knock on impact on social interaction, as Elly had mentioned in her talk. The approach of 15 minute neighbourhoods was relevant – promoting local businesses and reducing travel. Permitted development allowed more housing in traditional business centres. So a number of competing pressures and a need for consultation to ensure community engagement.

There were no toilets on the Queen Elizabeth Line trains – these will (eventually) run from Shenfield to Reading. While it may not be practical to modify the trains there is a strong case for toilets on stations. Elly was able to confirm after the meeting that TFL intend all Crossrail stations will have toilets. The current indication is the work on Crossrail will be complete in the first half of 2022, although caution was required as the project has had several issues.

Cycling numbers had increased, and a future GLA transport committee was designated to look at Death on the Roads and how safety could be improved. Level crossings are checked daily to ensure they work and a similar level of oversight of the cycling network is required to ensure it remains safe.

The Silvertown Tunnel had been the subject of some controversy, although tunnelling had now started.

Low Traffic neighbourhoods had a mixed reception; there has been bad schemes that Councils were defending and good schemes that had been removed.  Cars were not bad per se and Elly recounted that when she lived in Hackney, the need for a car was less given the good public transport links. In rural Havering this was not the case and there needed to be sensitivity as to how the public were consulted on future schemes. The issues differ in Inner and Outer London and the approach should reflect this.

Car clubs were a viable alternative. They require infrastructure that needs to be in place (when Leonie Cooper visited us, she described how Wandsworth had a car club with 50,000 members, so this is possible). There is high car ownership in both Havering and Redbridge, and potential for a lot of resistance to changes however environmentally friendly.  This requires positive engagement and if necessary well-funded car scrappage schemes to encourage use of more environmentally friendly cars.

Confidence in public transport is vital and mask wearing provides this – there was a general consensus that mask was less frequent.  Bus drivers were understandably reluctant to confront those not wearing masks given the likely reaction. On a similar point it appeared the 86 bus route was an outlier in respect of “free rides” – again exposing the bus drivers if they try to collect the fare.

So a wide variety of issues within the session. Elly is also a Member of the Housing and Planning committee and we did not discuss the many issues in this area, which we will no doubt revisit in future.

Elly can be contacted via e-mail at Elly.Baker@london.gov.uk

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. 

Margaret Mullane – Paul Embery, Celebrity and representing the working class

Happy New Year everyone!  I have been meaning to write a piece about politics for a while but have not found the time – until now.

I have not long finished reading a book called ‘Despised: Why the Modern Left Loathes the Working Class’, by Paul Embery. I would encourage everyone to read it. Many of the themes will be familiar to anyone that knows me, has heard me speak or has read my blog posts. The key message running through the book is the need for the modern Labour party to engage and listen to the working class.

Reading this book had me reflect on our relationship with the media, class, celebrities and political engagement.  I wanted to draw to people’s attention something I noticed during the Covid lockdowns. Speaking to politically engaged people, I have often heard the sentiment repeated that, ‘I don’t like Piers Morgan, but you have to admire how he tackles politicians on Good Morning Britain’. I must confess here that I do not watch Good Morning Britain and do not find Piers Morgan likeable or admirable, but it brings me to the question – why is it left to him to hold the Government to account?

Piers Morgan is paid £1.1 million every year for sharing his opinions on Good Morning Britain and has an estimated personal fortune of £15.8 million. While I do not begrudge him his success, Piers Morgan went to Cumnor House Private Boys’ School for his education and is about the furthest thing from the working class that I can imagine short of the Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates of the world. Bear this in mind when he is ‘holding the Education Secretary to task’ and trying to depict himself as the voice of reason.  He presents himself as an ‘everyman’ – creating an unconvincing pretence of distance between himself and many of the Eton-educated Tory MPs and Ministers that he self-righteously tears down.

I like my T.V. as much as the next person, but it is fascinating that Piers Morgan holds such an esteemed place in the world of British politics without holding office. I would not expect to hear Micky Flanagan’s extended opinions on Brexit or social housing, but this kind of political engagement is happening more and more with ‘celebrities’.

It is the politicians that you vote for who should be challenging the Government – your local Councillors and MPs. I feel a void has occurred where political parties have told MPs and Councillors that they will be whipped on decisions and have little latitude to express their own opinions, keeping to the adage that divided parties do not win elections.

Political programmes are in decline. Many programmes, instead of asking politicians their stance on an issue, will go to a celebrity. I recall during the first lockdown seeing TV programmes showing celebrities lecturing the public from their holiday homes abroad to stay at home. This disconnect between their realities and the realities of the average working-class citizen of this country could not be starker.

When the national media decide politicians are boring, they will then turn to those they see as the voice of the people. Nigel Farage is another example; he does not hold elected office and is essentially a failed politician, but he is on many national media programmes playing ‘ordinary bloke at the pub’ when he is anything but. The scrutiny is selective. His followers cry on Twitter that he should get a peerage for all the ‘good’ he has done.

Politics is tough, and politicians need to be able to hold their own against differing opinions. Just because someone has an opposing view does not make them wrong.  In my opinion, political parties are mistaken in asking for celebrity endorsements and it can even be damaging for the celebrity. I never quite felt the same about Gary Barlow after he stated he had voted Tory.

Has anyone noticed a theme in the different people I am speaking about? They are all male and they are all wealthy. The female working class voice is essentially silent in the national discourse, as are regional perspectives. Something I have said before and will say again is that there are not enough working-class MPs in Parliament, and especially in the Labour Party. If the public could hear a voice that sounds like them and has lived a life closer to their own, the world of politics may become more accessible and engaging to them. If the right people do not go into politics, then the wrong people do – those who are hungry for power and money. With this power they can be extremely dangerous due to a short-sighted obsession with playing politics like it is a game rather than an essential public service. Many current politicians have far more interest in serving their career ambitions, their bank accounts and the interests of wealthy donors and business associates than in serving the public.

We are left with a conversation dominated by wealthy celebrities, wealthy politicians and relatively wealthy journalists. Where is the voice of someone who understands what it is like to struggle on Universal Credit through no fault of their own or who has relied on schools to provide their children with vital nutrition when the budget just will not stretch far enough?

I am not saying that celebrity engagement is always a bad thing and can never make a positive impact – Marcus Rashford springs to mind. But the potential danger I see is when celebrity opinions supersede those of elected politicians and are afforded little scrutiny.  Vacuums can occur and the likes of Donald Trump, who claims to have the interests of the workers of America at heart, will step up and fill it. The question is not why America voted for this former celebrity millionaire, but why the voting public saw no viable alternative.

As we enter 2021 and I see the inequalities deepen for our communities, I will continue to highlight the inequality that the Tories have heaped on working class communities and I will continue to work to be a voice for those without one.

Margaret Mullane is Cabinet Member for Community Safety on Barking and Dagenham Council and Secretary of Dagenham and Rainham Labour Party – this post first appeared on her blog

Call-to-Action: End the racial inequality at Havering Council

tele lawal in the town hall

 

I am Councillor Tele and I am tired and black.

The title ‘Councillor’ does not protect you from the overt and covert discrimination at Havering Council. When I have walked into the Town Hall, and without speaking a word, Council staff have immediately directed me to the public gallery to watch the proceedings, instead of the Council Chamber where my colleagues, politicians, like me, are sitting. At meetings, I am warned that I am asking too many questions, my recommendations are not noted, and my remarks are cut short. Meanwhile, others can speak at length and with no restrictions. What they have in common is the colour of their skin.  More often, I raise my black hand, which is very visible, yet the Chair looks around the room and says, “let us move on.”

It is a year since I was physically assaulted at the Town Hall by a white Councillor and Havering Council has done nothing. If it was a black man who aggressively grabbed a white woman in the Town Hall, the Council would have reacted very differently. I have written a report on diversity and race for Havering Council and put forward recommendations. Emails have been sent, and meetings had about these issues. I and many have concluded that Havering Council is institutionally racist. George Floyd’s death and outcry for justice has shown me that several voices are powerful and it will take a collective to push the race agenda and that black lives matter.

Therefore, I am making a Call-to-Action for you to email Andrew Black-Herbert, Chief Executive: andrew.blake-herbert@havering.gov.uk and Councillor Damian White, damian.white@havering.gov.uk the following demands;  

  1. Switch on the Town Hall lights to purple in memory of George Floyd and in support against the fight of racism on Friday, 12 June 2020. This is being done across the country by other Councils. Havering Council has also done this before, and therefore, it is not a policy issue, but merely a decision to show solidary or not.  
  1.  Launch an inquiry into the entrenched racial inequality at Havering Council which affects their workforce and Councillors. This should be an independent Investigation – and not someone on Havering Council’s retainer as this will lead to a whitewashed report. Recommendations must be adopted within 5-10 years. 
  1. Havering Council should set up a task group including the BME forum and their BAME employee forum to provide solutions to tackle racial inequality in our community.  
  1. Havering Council should create an equality fund by the next Budget Council meeting. Members in the community can apply and use the funds for projects which will bring about better community cohesion and inclusion. 
  1. Havering Council does not know the ethnicity or race of over 40% of its workforce. How can they aim to want to achieve the ‘Excellent’ rating in the Equality Framework for Local Government when they do not capture or monitor such data about their employees? That is basic for any organisation and this failure shows clearly how much their employees’ lives matter. Havering Council must close the data gap by April 2021. 
  1. Havering Council should diversify its Senior Leadership Team and Senior Managers within 5-10 years. At the Senior Leadership level, there is not a single black or Asian director in 2020.

In Havering, brothers George, Keane, Ryan, Charlton, and Robson Handley will be running a combined marathon in support of Black Lives Matter on Sunday, 14 June. The Romford Recorder has published an article here; https://bit.ly/2zUT4jW. You can donate here; https://bit.ly/309nrxs.

Please see here other ways you can support George Floyd family and the Black Lives Matters Movement in the UK; https://linktr.ee/grmdaily

Councillor Tele Lawal

 

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