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  • Writer's pictureDavid Taylor

Full Council - 6th September 23

Our September meeting, of full council, was the second in as many weeks as we held an extraordinary meeting to debate ULEZ. The meeting had a very different feel, with a number of tributes to former Councillors who recently passed away.

Conservatives, who are the opposition, did not table any motions.

When we last held full council, with a large number of tributes, we had to pull a motion as we ran out of time. Every motion deserves robust debate and this cannot always be guaranteed. Whilst we did not submit a motion, we did table a set of questions.

You can read all questions and replies on the document below.

Council Questions & Answers 6th September 2023
Download DOCX • 54KB

My questions

I submitted two questions to the Administration, one on Romford's Conservation Zone and another around the work of faith groups in the area.

Questions are submitted in advance and the cabinet members replying usually read a pre-written response. This is why, when watching the meeting, you'll see us simply say "as per the screen" instead of asking our question.

We are then given 1 follow-up question. We are not allowed to make a statement and the Mayor will switch off our microphone if we do.


Video of my questions


Romford's Conservation Zone

I asked; "Given the recent character study, which recognises the importance of heritage across Havering, would the administration commit to a review of Romford's Conservation Zone, with view to extending it?"

Cllr Graham Williamson gave the reply.

"The borough’s 11 conservation areas all have Conservation Area Appraisals and Management Plans which serve to identify the special interest of each conservation area and provide a clear basis for assessing how far planning proposals preserve or enhance their character or appearance.

The administration is committed to an update of all of the Conservation Area Appraisals and Management Plans and is in the process of procuring specialist expertise to undertake this work. The updated Conservation Area Appraisals will be subject to public consultation prior to being adopted. This update links neatly to the work already underway on characterisation and the wider Local Plan refresh. The update of the Romford Conservation Area Appraisal will consider whether the current conservation area boundary should be extended. "

My supplementary question was to ask if we can be provided with a timeline on any consultation. Cllr Williamson could not provide one, but said he hoped it would be by the end of the year.

Why ask this?

Romford's Conservation zone is important to protect the character of our town. We're a focus of a lot of new development and any residents feel that this is dramatically alternating Romford from being a historic market town to a bustling suburb.

The Conservation zone is strangely designed. It only covers the front of many buildings and not the full building It also stops halfway down South Street and doesn't extend much beyond the market.

We need to ensure that, as the town continues to grow, we protect it's uniqueness.

I'd like to see the zone cover most of inside the ring-road.


Faith Groups

I asked; "Havering's faith groups play an important role in our community. They provide food banks, mother and toddler groups, tackle loneliness, and support people who are struggling with their finances. Will the Leader join me in thanking this community for their work?"

The Leader, Councillor Ray Morgon, replied (including with a little sassiness about me making a statement);

"I thank you for your statement. We fully agree that our Faith groups are one of the many groups that includes charities and residents that support our community. We join you in thanking these groups. Indeed, they were invaluable in helping us during Covid by reaching residents and encouraging take up of vaccinations.

The cost of living crisis and reduction in funding for local government, plus the rising costs in social care services mean we will have to work together to build further resilience into our communities. I hope the Conservative group will support and work with us on this moving forward."

My followup was to ask the Leader for a meeting with myself, and faith leaders in the area, to look at how we can build a better working relationship for the benefit of the borough.

Why ask this?

I've seen a lot of fantastic work from faith groups over the years. They are Big Society in action and they do a brilliant job.

Most of the UK's foodbanks are operated by faith groups, or faith linked charities. Huge numbers of people benefit from the services provided and zero cost to the council. Conservatives, such as William Wilberforce, have always recognised the value of such groups.

But, the relationship between these groups and politicians can often be strained. There are suspicions that they are just trying to 'convert' people and faith groups are often afraid they may be seen as 'doing politics'.

These are hurdles that must be overcome and it will only happen through better dialogue. If we work closely with these groups, we can deliver better services in the borough and help more people in need.

Faith groups are also the key to tackling cultural tensions in Havering. Most people in the borough count themselves as religious and we have growing numbers of non-Christian residents. By increasing our understanding of these other faiths, through working together and working with the public, we can break down some of the fear or suspicions that exist.

This starts with us politicians.


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