November saw the release of the Labour / HRA coalition's savings proposals.
As we all know, the financial situation in Havering is really tough. Successive governments have underfunded Havering for decades and, with the added pain of inflation, the situation has now reached critical.
It is, therefore, to be expected that we face difficult cuts ahead.
However, whilst being aware of the need to cut, it is also our job to examine what's being proposed. It is my view that Romford is being unfairly targeted, by an administration that doesn't have any Romford Councillors amongst it's members (except for one).
I've been campaigning to save our market, to ensure transparency over new developments coming to Romford, and to examining spending decisions.
But, it hasn't all been about criticising. You may recall that I went to parliament and lobbied MPs to raise housing benefits. I was told that it was very unlikely this would happen. I brought representatives to Havering and I spoke with government policy makers.
I'm pleased to say that the government listened and housing benefits have been increased. This could mean up to £600 a month extra for some Havering families, meaning they no longer rely on the council to find them a home and therefore reducing council costs.
I may be a new, backbench, opposition Councillor but I'll always fight for Romford at every level.
It would be wrong of me to also fail to mention the saga around Havering's menorah, which made national news.
Over the past few months, I have been working hard to build relationships between Havering's faith leaders and the council. This has included securing regular meetings between the leaders and the Leader of the council. I do this because our faith leaders see more of the needs of our community that most. They operate food banks, shelter the homeless, comfort our lonely and much more.
The decision to cut-short the menorah display was upsetting and our Jewish community felt hurt. However, I am grateful to the Leader for reversing the decision.
Havering must be a place where we all live in peace side-by-side, without having to hide who we are.
This will be my last roundup before Christmas, so....
Como Street Car Park Update
The car park sale is pretty much a done deal and the council owned property developer, Mercury Land Holdings (MLH), has begun revealing their plans for the site.
They are proposing 170 homes, no parking spaces, and a 12 storey tower-block. With retail.
It is my view that this is too dense for the area, which mostly consists of 2 storey Victorian houses. MLH appear to be taking their cues from the Angel Way site as opposed to Lower Mawneys.
There is certainly no need for more retail in Romford, with much of it already empty.
We do need more homes in Havering. We have over 300 families in hotels and B&Bs, which is a national embarrassment. But, we must build the right homes in the right places, underpinned with the right services, such as schools and GP surgeries.
Any new development here should include a GP surgery (as opposed to just paying a contribution to the council).
Still, there is a public consultation underway. It closes in 22 days and there is an online presentation tonight at 7:30pm (December 5th).
Share your views on the site, or register to join the presentation, on the link below
Fighting For Romford Market
The council have announced plans to close the Sunday market as it costs the council money to run. They'd rather use the market as a car park, with plans also including scrapping free Sunday parking and £3 per hour to park in Romford
It's my view that this is just the beginning. We must ensure the survival of our historic market.
On November 22nd, I tabled a motion in the Council asking councillors to commit to ensuring the survival of the market (as a whole).
This motion was defeated by Labour and the Resident's Association who voted to 'consider it's future'.
That's not enough of a commitment for me and so I'll continue to campaign and fight for our market. You can watch my speech and read my summary of the meeting and vote on the link below,
£300 a hour?
Somewhat controversially, apparently, I regularly publish my payslip in full. I also publish a report on which Councillors are attending meetings.
Councillors, obviously, do more than just turn up to meetings. However, if we only look at meeting attendance then we have Councillors earning over £300 an hour.
Releasing the figure has upset a lot of people but, I think the public should be equipped with this information in order to hold us to account.
Are you councillors turning up? Do you hear from them outside of elections?
Read my report on Councillor attendance.
As we approach winter we become even more aware of those unfortunate enough to be homeless.
Romford appears to have seen an increase in homelessness over the last few years and our services our stretched. However, there are some amazing charities and community groups out there who are playing a part in supporting those in need.
I recently pushed for support for a group who were living in the Mawney Road subway. Streelink are a charity who work with the council to provide support to rough sleepers.
If you spot someone sleeping rough, please make sure you report them to Streelink so that they can get the support they need.
Streetlink can be contacted on 0300 500 0914 or you can make a report through their website
What's On In Romford?
What isn't on in Romford would be a shorter article! Here's a few of my suggestions.
Mercury Mall Christmas Fayre - Saturday 9th December 10am - 4pm
Shop local & handmade this Christmas with unique art gifts | mulled wine | hand-made decorations and lots more.
Santa's Grotto, Romford Shopping Hall - 20th - 22nd December.
Tickets have gone fast and weekends are now sold out. But, there are around 100 spaces left, if you book fast, for other dates.
The Little Mermaid, Brookside Theatre - 8th to 23rd December
Visit Romford's very own community theatre to see hit Broadway musical The Little Mermaid.
Tickets are on sale now! Support local theatre this Christmas.