It was a quieter full council, with us Conservatives only putting forward one motion. However, we did see the first ever question from a Resident's Association (RA) Councillor to the administration.
Cllr John Tyler (RA) asked the Leader what was meant by remarks made on a BBC London Interview. In the interview, Cllr Ray Morgon (RA) said that he wasn't 'wedded' to the idea of the greenbelt. Morgon replied to Tyler explaining that he views some greenbelt development as beneficial to the community.
Councillors were asked to also approve a report on the Council's Target Operating Model, as well as a Treasury Report. The former went to a vote, which Conservatives voted against. We felt it wasn't a proper model and needed further work. Labour and the RA voted in favour of the report.
More on the Treasury Report later.
Questions From Conservatives
Conservatives asked a number of questions, as we get to each meeting. We were allowed to ask 13 this session, down from 14 as one was asked by Cllr Tyler (RA). I've pulled out a few of note below.
Will the Council cooperate with TFL in implementing ULEZ?
The short answer to this is, yes. Councillor Keith Prince (Con) asked this question as some London councils have said they'd refuse to put up the cameras etc.
Havering's administration has made it clear that they won't fight in this way. They say that the continue to object to ULEZ, however.
How much money is Havering Council putting upfront for the proposed data centre?
None. In contrast to some reports, this is not a 'joint venture' and so it's entirely funded by private finance.
I followed up by asking if there is a guarantee of jobs for Havering residents. After laughing at my question, the Leader informed me that there can be no guarantee. This, to me, is in contrast to what we're being sold as a benefit for the centre.
I asked two questions on the situation with social homes in Havering. It was revealed that we have 2,000 households on the waiting list, with just 78 empty homes. 416 homes are due to be completed in the next 4 years. 77 more are due to be purchased off the open market.
CIL money is 'Community Infrastructure Levy' money. It's paid by every developer, at a set rate, to be invested into local infrastructure, as the name suggests.
My colleague, Cllr Nisha Patel (Con) asked how much has been paid, and how much spent in Romford, over the last 12 months.
Around £2m was collected, with just under £900k spent. This includes £750k for a new CCTV centre and £22k on a study of the River Rom.
We're concerned that Romford is getting all the new developments, but not seeing the benefit of the CIL. I've asked some follow up questions on this.
Debate on bin collections
In their budget consultation, the Labour / RA coalition are proposing a move to fortnightly bin collections. Their claim is that this will save £650k over 5 years. They then go on to say that they'll introduce wheelie bins.
It didn't take me a lot of digging to find out that these numbers are not very accurate.
I have, in writing, proof that the Council and administration don't know the true cost. They haven't worked out who they'll collect from or when. They don't know what their responsibilities would be under new laws. And they don't know the cost of the wheelie bins proposed.
In fact, they are operating on a presumed cost of £20 for a wheelie bin, costing them around £2m in year one. This means it'll take about 12 years before this service cut saves them any money.
That's not the action of a council needing to urgently save money and it makes the consultation misleading. This is why I tabled a motion to protect weekly bin collections and to go to the public with a fully costed consultation on wheelie bins.
Our motion was defeated, with Labour supporting the RA in their motion to keep on consulting.
You can watch, or read, my speech on the motion below.
I had been running a petition asking the council to protect weekly bin collections. Until my website crashed, I collected 1901 signatures, which I submitted at Council.
I've since got the petition running and have close to 2500 signatures. I'll resubmit the petition at the next Council.
If you object to the proposals for fortnightly collections, and haven't yet signed the petition, please consider doing so.
The Treasury Report contains a number of items that I am seeking urgent clarification on. Top amongst these is the revelation that Havering Council makes loans to other councils, for short periods of time. They have also recently, in August, put around £55m into a savings account.
This may be entirely normal for councils to do, but it's not something I've become aware of before. So, I'm asking questions.
Specifically, I want to know how much additional revenue this brings in. Does the interest generated mean we see less cuts to services?
Given that Labour and the RA are proposing we cut around £110k from our Citizen's Advice Bureau (meaning it may have to close), why are we putting £55m into a savings account? Could we not put £54m in and have £1m to work with?
There are a lot of questions here.
You can read the full Treasury Management Report below.
You can watch the webcast of the full council meeting at https://aisapps.sonicfoundry.com/AuditelScheduler/Player/Index/?id=eaefb11a-96a3-467c-93fd-12c33c1b4e6c&presID=95a8ebdf370342c084dc68bfcc27cddf1d