So we've made it to the end of the year and I am ending it by asking if things have gotten any better in Romford. We've had Labour and the Resident's Association in power for nearly 2 years now and we're beginning to see how they do things.
To me, I don't think much has changed. I don't think things are being done any differently. So, my goal for 2024 will be to promote new ways of doing things.
Our borough is in a financial emergency. It's not all the government's fault, there are things we need to change here in Havering.
We've got nearly 400 families living in hotels and B&B's, yet the Waterloo Estate still remains a pile of gravel and new developments are not focusing on social housing.
The cost of care is sky-rocketing, as external providers hike their prices, but not a single councillor has stood up and called on Havering to build it's own care homes.
These two moves, alone, could save us £millions.
What have I been up to in December?
The highlight of my month was a visit to Fambridge and Cotton's Court, a sheltered housing scheme located close to the town. Councillor Judith Holt joined us.
A resident there had recently been confronted by young men in the subway, demanding her money. She was lucky that a good-samaritan appeared and chased them off. My colleagues and I have consistently called on the council to improve safety in the subways, with CCTV added, but our requests are being denied.
The visit to the scheme was done in partnership with our fantastic local neighbourhood policing team. The team presented on tips to stay safe, handed out personal safety devices, and they held a Q&A session on local crime.
It was heartbreaking to hear that these vulnerable residents don't feel safe in the town.
I will continue to fight for new security in the Town centre.
I love Romford and I find it a town filled with fantastic people. People that give me hope for our town's future.
Some people were born in Romford, some have Romford thrust upon them. I chose Romford.
We have a busy 2024 ahead, with a critical budget and plenty more residents needing support.
Let me know how I can help you.
Budget Setting Update
This is the time of year when Councillors go through the budget proposal, now that the consultation is closed.
We all know that this is a make or break budget and, as I've outlined above, I hope to see some new ways of doing things being suggested. There's no point the captain of the Titanic demanding full speed ahead when an ice-berg is in sight. We must slow down and change course.
The budget setting timeline is as follows:
Cabinet Papers Deadline - 11th January
Cabinet Briefed - 22nd January
Budget Scrutinised - 31st January
Cabinet Meeting (Labour and HRA) - 7th February
Council Meeting (All Councillors) - 28th February
It is highly unlikely that the cabinet will make any changes after the scrutiny, nor are any amendments by Conservatives likely to be approved. So, in theory we'll know the new budget by the end of January.
Keep an eye on my social media and emails for updates.
There is a chance we don't even set a budget, if the council decides to declare itself 'bankrupt' first.
A new tower-block for Romford
I attended a public presentation on the proposal for the Como-Street development. It is clear that the council intend to build a 12 storey tower-block in the middle of the site.
I say 'the council' as the developer is owned 100% by the council and funded by taking loans from the council.
The public meeting was not really the advertised consultation. Residents have complained to me that their questions were not listened to and that their concerns were brushed off.
With that in mind, I have asked Andrew Rosindell MP and Keith Prince (London Assembly) to join me for a public meeting
Open to the public, we are proposing meeting at 7pm on Friday 26th January. Location TBC
Tackling Damp & Mould
I believe that everyone deserves a decent home, regardless of whether they own it or are council tenants. That shouldn't be a statement that any politician has to make however, it's a reflection of where we are.
Too often we hear about residents facing issues with damp and mould in their home. This creates health problems and can even leave to death.
This is why I asked the Places Committee, that I chair, to look at damp and mould in Havering's housing stock.
We received a report from Officers that outlined how the problem can occur and what it is being done about it. The Committee also requested that they receive a regular update on the number of homes impacted, so that we can assess if the problem is getting better or worse.
Read my report on the meeting, on the link below.
Delivery Bikes Moved - Campaign Success!
Since before I was elected, residents have complained about the delivery bikes that were opposite the McDonalds. It presented an eye-sore when exiting the station and meant the pavement became too narrow.
Residents also complained about feeling unsafe trying to navigate their way past.
I have campaigned for the bikes to be moved, and they finally have. The junction between Eastern Rd and South Street is due for a re-design, to improve cycle safety and this move will help.
I've also raised the issue of dangerous traffic lights at this junction, with there being no red light facing toward traffic coming from South Street (not that it should be).
More Transparency Please!
"We're open and transparent", that's what we are regularly told by those running the council. It's true, to a degree, they certainly lay out the scale of our financial problem quite clearly. Perhaps because they can easily lay the blame at the door of the government.
But, there is so much more to our financial problems than just government funding. We need to look at contracts we sign, spending commitments made, whether we're getting value for money and doing things in the most cost-effective way.
This is why I was shocked to find that Havering's public contract register hasn't been updated since July 2022.
The public are entitled to see what contracts have been signed and what for. Other London boroughs provide a real, in-depth and live, list.
I've written to the council leaders and asked them why our list isn't being kept recent.
We can't scrutinise what we can't see!
You can view the contract register HERE.
What's On In Romford?
Romford FC Promotion Push!
Did you know that Romford FC are fighting for promotion this season?
Having now located to a ground they can call their own, Romford FC are making huge progress in 2023. Follow their journey and support our town's club!.
Free Watercolour Painting Class - 8th Jan, 10:00
Hosted at the Mercury Mall, this free watercolour painting class will be a great way to start learning a new skill in 2024.
Materials are provided.