Budget Amendment - Full Speech
On March 1st, I presented the Conservatives budget amendment to Havering Council.
Our amendment delivered on three key priorities.
- A commitment to fighting ULEZ
- A freeze and consultation on parking costs
- And a hardship fund to help our residents through the tough times ahead
This was achieved through showing leadership and recognising that the money being handled was resident's money, not our money.
We proposed to cut top executive's pay and to only pay Councillors who turn up.
Unfortunately, our amendment lost the vote when Labour and RA Councillors united to oppose us.
Conservatives in Havering will continue to fight for our residents, even when in opposition
The full text of my speech, and a video (non-subtitled) are below.
Thank you Mr Mayor.
The topic of leadership is an important one to consider when we debate finances. Because when people vote for their councillors they are not just choosing someone who will do a good job of administration, they are looking for someone who will bring much needed change.
People want fresh ideas. They want innovation. They don’t want a repeat of the past.
The Conservatives amendment shows that we, as a party, are capable of fresh and new ideas. We’re capable of looking for new ways of working and we’re not only looking backwards.
Our amendment is showing leadership.
This is important when we look at the national economic climate.
Things are getting, slowly, better.
The Xi-Jinping virus has waned. British tanks will soon JOIN German tanks in rolling across Ukraine, ending Putin’s invasion. Inflation is beginning to fall.
But, Covid debts are huge. Government spending remains out of control. And the threat of a socialist government, with even more spending and taxes, hangs over Britain.
People are struggling. This evening we, as a chamber, will be voting to increase these people’s council tax. We will be putting our hands into their pockets and taking more out. They cannot object, they face courts if they refuse.
This is why we must respect the idea at the very heart of conservatism. The idea that this is THEIR money, not ours. Whilst some conservatives seem to have lost sight of that, Havering Conservatives have not and our amendment shows it.
Mr Mayor, our amendment delivers on three key priorities.
- A commitment to fighting ULEZ
- A freeze and consultation on parking costs
and a hardship fund to help our residents through the tough times ahead.
Complimenting the budget
It is important that we, as a chamber and an opposition, recognise the hard work of the Officers and Councillors who pulled this budget together.
This is one of the most important, and difficult, budgets that Havering has had to work on.
Whilst it doesn’t deliver everything, I’d want it to, it is balanced. That, itself, is evidence of the work that has gone into it.
Mr Mayor, on behalf of Havering Conservatives, I extend my sincere thanks to all at Havering Council.
As people will be aware… I am a fan of scrutiny. I enjoy getting out my calculator and crunching the numbers. Mr Mayor, I don’t think that Conservatives, as opposition, were given enough time to fully scrutinise this budget.
However, I want to praise the cross-party working that did take place. I am grateful for the Cllr O’Sullivan for bringing forward and extending the scrutiny meeting.
I believe we are all grateful for the time we were given. Let’s have more of this, cross-party scrutiny that isn’t afraid of a late night!
Mr Mayor, I want to highlight some of the successes of the budget being presented today. Afterall, Conservatives are proposing amendments, not an entirely new budget.
The Administration got to work straight away in pouring over contracts. They identified ways in which the council could save, they carried out an extensive consultation and they worked hard.
Of particular note, they worked from the ground up on some of the major budgets. Instead of tinkering at the edges, they rebuilt. This has delivered sensible savings.
Over five hundred thousand is saved through team restructurings.
Four hundred thousand found through realising the commercial potential of certain assets.
Four million pounds of savings have been found in Adult Services through a targeted review.
Mr Mayor, I commend the administration on pulling together what they have.
With regards to our amendments
Mr Mayor, as a Councillor for Romford’s Town Centre, I can tell you that the budget proposal was a sour read. Our town centre, the economic centre of this borough, is being viewed as a cash machine.
The budget delivers a double whammy to our high street
Selling off the car parks and surging the car parking prices by as much as 40%.
The increase in parking fares has been greeted with horror by local businesses and, from what we can see, the increased revenue is going directly into providing free parking in Hornchurch and Upminster.
This budget does not deliver a fair deal for Romford.
Mr Mayor, over 750 of Romford’s parking spaces are due to be sold off to developers. Around 50 of these are disabled spaces. They are in the heart of our town and they are vital for places such as Brookside Theatre, whose clients use the Slaney Way car park when watching a show.
Mr Mayor, this is why we mustn’t price people out of the few spaces that will remain.
As I said earlier, at the heart of Conservatism is the belief that this is THEIR money. Not ours.
This is why we are proposing to FREEZE parking prices across the Borough. We are then proposing a borough wide consultation, with residents AND local businesses, to design a parking fare strategy that works for everyone.
Next, Mr Mayor, Havering Conservatives are proposing a £1.5m hardship fund.
For much of the last administration, our borough was battling the Xi-jinping Virus. Covid.
The leader at the time, supported by the fantastic staff of Havering Council, kept our borough running. Weekly bin collections were maintained. Free school meals were extended beyond the government support, and the Havering Helps scheme was funded.
Mr Mayor. This budget recognises that some of those challenges still remain and the administration has done a good job of maintaining support.
However, we believe that this support must be increased.
This money will go a long way to showing the residents that they are our priority. It shows that we are not ignorant to their struggles and that we are going to find new and creative ways to make things work.
Mr Mayor, this proposal, like the others, shows that we are aware that this is THEIR money. Not ours.
So, Mr Mayor. Where do we get this money from?
As I touched on at the start of my time, we get it by showing true leadership. We get it through new ideas, instead of simply recycling the past.
The first of these is the recognition that the Council has seen a reduction in staffing and a reduction in what it does. Mr Mayor, we believe that this reduction should be reflected in the number of CLT posts.
Our amendment removes 6 of these posts, delivering savings of over £600k in a full year.
Alongside this, we are proposing to merge the Regen services into the Housing Directorate, funding it through the Housing Revenue Account as opposed to general funds.
This delivers a more appropriate structure, that recognises the changes in Havering’s regeneration plans. By removing this Director role, we save ninety seven thousand pounds of taxpayer’s money.
One Million Pounds is found through reducing the provisions for unachieved savings.
Mr Mayor, Conservatives have full confidence in our Council team and the cabinet to deliver the plan that they put forward.
We are, therefore, proposing that this provision be halved.
Mr Mayor, people are in need now. The money needs to be reaching people now. I’m all in favour of saving for a rainy day and being prudent.
But, Mr Mayor, the rainy day is hear!
Let’s get THEIR money working.
There’s another source of savings, Mr Mayor. It’s one of the more unpopular ones. But, Mr Mayor, it’s one of the most important when it comes to showing the residents that we are leaders. Not just administrators.
Mr Mayor, the Conservatives are proposing a reduction to certain special responsibility allowances. We are proposing to cut back on top politician’s pay, in order to step up our support of the most vulnerable.
Before the election, and thanks to an amendment by the East Havering Group, SRAs were reduced. In fact, Mr Mayor, that evening every group put forward and voted for reductions of some level.
Our proposed new structure returns the Leaders, and others, allowances back to the pre-election levels.
Mr Mayor, we also propose a system that rewards Councillors and Chairman who put in the most.
Being a councillor is not just about turning up to meetings, it is about meeting with constituents. It’s about hours of casework. It isn’t easy.
Not if you want to do it well.
Some members are lucky enough to be high earners. But many are not. Yet, they still do the hard work. This is why we propose leaving the basic allowance as it is.
The changes proposed come in for our Chairman, Mr Mayor.
We are proposing a move to a system where Chairman are paid based on the number of meetings they chair, as opposed to a flat rate.
I sit on the Strategic Planning Committee. We got off to a flying start with 5 meetings between March and September. Then the work dried up.
November – Cancelled December – Cancelled Jan – Cancelled Mr Mayor, a total of 7 Strategic Planning meetings have been cancelled. But, Mr Mayor, the Chairman’s allowance remains the same.
This isn’t unique to planning.
The Places Committee has met just 3 times in the last year.
The allowance? The same
It’s the story right throughout our committee structure.
Mr Mayor, the Labour Leader told the Romford Recorder that the new structure resourced the committees to “meet more often than before”. But the opposite has been shown to be happening.
It is only right, therefore, that we review the structure and the allowances.
By moving chairman onto a per-meeting allowance, we will reward the hardest working members and we will save the public money.
But most importantly, we will be able to increase scrutiny.
We hear it a lot.
“This administration welcomes scrutiny”. – I believe them.
But it’s always in tandem with “we reduced the cost of scrutiny...” and “there’s no more money”.
We’ve solved that problem.
Mr Mayor, 70% of Havering’s budget is spent on Adult and Children’s services. Statutory services. But, Mr Mayor, scrutiny of this is rolled into ‘people’.
The meetings do not provide enough time for a full evaluation of reports. Conservatives proposed workplan was described as ‘unrealistic, given the time available’.
This isn’t good enough. There should always be time to scrutinise such an important topic.
A per-meeting allowance enables this Administration to increase scrutiny, whilst still saving money.
A dedicated Health and Social Care committee could be formed, even more Councillors could be given a role in scrutiny.
Mr Mayor. It makes sense.
Paid for when you turn up and increased scrutiny.
Being a Councillor is service and it requires REAL leaders.
I, Mr Mayor, believe that when people are choosing between fuel and food, our LEADERS should eat last.
The Conservatives amendment shows Leadership, by putting the taxpayer’s before ourselves. As Conservatives SHOULD be doing.
Finally, Mr Mayor, we come to the topic of ULEZ.
Perhaps the best thing for me to do here would be to burst into a rendition of “Do you hear the people sing?”.
Mr Mayor, do you hear them singing a song of angry men? Will we, Mr Mayor, give all we can? Will we stand up and take our chance?
For those of you not fond of musicals, I apologise.
Mr Mayor. Despite the claims of some members, Conservatives have not whipped up any anger around ULEZ. People are already angry.
They are angry that Labour’s Sadiq Khan has ignored them. They are angry at lip service being paid to them. Claims of opposition, without a fight.
Mr Mayor. We know that the RA are against ULEZ. But, I fear they are being held back through their coalition with Labour.
Our amendment gives the RA a chance to show they will fight for the residents.
Because Conservatives recognise that this is THEIR money, we are proposing to use it as THEY want. We are proposing to fund Havering’s participation in a Judicial Review to overturn ULEZ.
Mr Mayor. We’ve heard the Leader’s attempts at appeasing people. We’ve read his, and his deputy’s, posts over the past few days. They don’t think the legal action will succeed and so they have, instead, decided to focus on calling for ULEZ to be delayed.
Mr Mayor, our residents don’t want ULEZ delayed, they want ULEZ cancelled.
Other London Boroughs are refusing to roll over. They are combining to provide a true, legal, opposition to Labour’s Khan.
We must do the same.
Mr Mayor, when we debated ULEZ in this chamber, Conservatives proposed a Judicial Review. I remember the words of Councillor Darvill after the meeting.
“We don’t want to give money to the lawyers”. He told me.
We, Mr Mayor. I do and the residents do.
Taking legal action against Khan is money well spent and it sends him a clear message. Havering is not soft. We are not just another part of London, to be used as his personal cash point to fund his ever growing PR department.
However, by sitting on the fence for fear of upsetting Labour, Havering may have missed the boat. It may be too late to join in the judicial review, with other boroughs.
We may be reliant on others to do what our own leaders were afraid to.
Should that be the case, Mr Mayor, Conservatives propose that the 300 thousand allocated for the review be used for a Havering ULEZ Fund.
Many of our residents lack the means to make the adaptations needed. Especially when it comes to changing their car over.
Our 300 thousand pound fund could be utilised to help those hardest hit, adapt. We could provide a Havering scrappage top-up to our carers and NHS heroes. We could provide extra support to small businesses who will be hard-pressed to meet the rising costs.
Mr Mayor, the Conservatives amendment delivers on three key priorities.
We freeze parking costs.
We provide a hardship fund.
We commit to funding the fight against ULEZ.
Mr Mayor, the budget is good. But good should never be the enemy of great. There is always a time to make changes and to do differently.
Our amendment shows true leadership, not a recycling of what went before. It shows a new direction, that puts residents at the heart of things. It recognises that it’s THEIR money
Mr Mayor. Our amendments do not pitch US vs THEM.
It is US FOR THEM.