Council met on January 18th, for the first full council of 2024.
The opposition, consisting of Conservatives and the East Havering Resident's Group asked a series of 15 questions and Conservatives tabled a motion on proposed cuts to special needs school transport.
A list of the full questions can be found on the link below. My questions were as follows;
Could the cabinet member please outline what work has been undertaken to assess viable alternatives for the management of Romford Market, including the option of engaging with private management companies to reduce cost to the council and ensure its survival?
In his response, Cllr Graham Williamson confirmed that the council is looking at a number of options, including handing over management of the market to a private company to reduce costs.
In my follow up, I asked the Council to consider the use of C.I.L money (money paid by developers to support local infrastructure) to invest into the market. My first suggestion was new signage to the market.
Cllr Williamson agreed that signage was a good option to consider, and that they are already looking at it. Further consideration will be given to other investment.
I'm pleased to see that we've kept the market on the council's radar. Romford market means a lot to the town's identity and if we can get the council to invest into it then we can see it really thrive.
2. With work now confirmed on the Eastern Road / South Street junction, to improve cycling connectivity, can the administration outline what other cycling infrastructure projects are in progress across the borough?
Cllr Mugglestone gave a response in which he outlined some of the local investment. This included 'scooter parking' in local schools.
In my reply, I asked Cllr Mugglestone to please write to me with an outline of all cycling infrastructure projects that the council plans to push ahead with in 2024. He refused to write to me directly, instead committing to write to all Cllrs about what is happening in their wards only.
This is disappointing as it would have been good to have had a joined-up list. Cycling infrastructure is often disjointed and doing it on a ward-by-ward basis doesn't make sense.
I'll continue pushing for a full list.
3. Could the Cabinet Member please provide an update on work to reopen Royal Jubilee Court and provide a projected date for opening?
Councillor Keith Darvill replied by outlining that residents have already begun to be moved in.
24 families are in already, 32 in progress, and 6 more will be in by the end of March.
Following concerns from local residents, about access to a private road in the area, I asked the Cllr Darvill to ensure that the gate at the rear of the property is kept locked. Cllr Darvill acknowledged the request and said he will look into it.
Questions from other councillors.
Cllr Viddy Presaud asked for an update on the Waterloo Estate. The reply that came back was quite vague and we were told to expect movement on a decision in the next 3 months.
This Monday, I made a formal complaint to the council. I complained that the administration have shown evidence of being pre-determined about the outcome of the consultation. As demonstrated by their motion.
During the meeting, the HRA were allowed to alter their amendment, which was changed to simply read that their should be a decision after consultation.
The Council's legal lead admitted to an administrative error, on his behalf, that allowed the HRA to table a non-legitimate motion in the first place.
There was around 30 minutes of back and forth on whether the HRAs new amendment should be allowed. It eventually was.
During the debate things were all very predictable.
The HRA claimed that they were listening to residents and that it wasn't proposing cuts, but changes. Cllr's Ford and Ford both made this claim. In one patronising contribution, it was stated that the protesting parents had been 'mislead into thinking that the decision on the cuts would be made tonight'.
Having spoken to the parents, I can confirm that they are neither naive nor stupid. They know that wasn't what would take place.
As expected, Labour and the HRA joined hands to vote the same way. As always. They backed the HRA's new amendment.
During the speeches there were attempts to blame government funding, the Truss budget, and denial from senior HRA councillors that there were cuts. They are 'changes', apparently, and the HRA claimed that they are listening to parents and that these changes will give more choice.
Showing they are not listening to parents.
You can read / watch my speech on the link below.