Roundup - October 2023
At the time of writing, we're just 54 days away from Christmas. I'd usually feel odd about mentioning it so early, but people are worn out and we need a bit of festive cheer.
2023 has been a difficult year for many and things do not look to be clearing up any time soon. Rather than getting me down, this has driven me to work harder for my residents and to try bring joy and resolution where I can.
Actions speak louder than words and so, whilst I'm saying a lot in public, I'm also getting on with the job. There's no photos of me with pumpkins for this newsletter, just real issues that are impacting people.
No issue is too small to be taken up by a Councillor and this has been a big part of bringing people some joy this year. This month I've had wonky road signs straightened up, patches of mislaid tarmac replaced and sought for lightbulbs to be replaced.
I've also been tackling the big issues in Romford. I've continued campaigning to have the government raise housing benefits, convened a meeting of faith group leaders, and made sure to get the right information about decisions such as reopening Royal Jubilee Court.
There's a lot to say about what's going on in the world right now and the opinions of a backbench Councillor from Romford isn't going to fix any of it. Instead, I am going to leave you with the words of the Bishops, concerning the situation in Israel and Palestine.
"We pledge ourselves to pray for and take public actions in support of our fellow citizens of Jewish or Islamic faith. We recognise that within the [community], too, we must acknowledge our own differences on this matter with care and generosity. The way individuals and communities act here and now could shape and influence what happens next. So, while we must condemn utterly those who foster fear and hatred in our communities, we must also galvanise and support those who are modelling something different and seeking the way of peace..."
- Appeals by the Bishops of the Church of England
At times like these, through war and poverty, we must come together more than ever before. We must put aside differences in class, race, politics, and faith and work to support one another.
I've made a concerted effort, over the last month, to work with Havering Councillors on all sides of the political divide and I hope that it gives you some hope for the future.
Cashless Parking Is Here
Cashless only parking has arrived in much of Romford, with many of the spaces now only allowing you to pay by using an App or calling a number.
I've previously raised concerns over cashlessness as studies show that it marginalises those on lower incomes and the elderly.
I am disappointed by this roll-out of cashless parking and have consistently lobbied Havering Council to prevent it. When recently parking in Lower Mawneys, I received a parking fine even though I had paid by app.
Havering promised that residents could pay at in-store 'pay-points', nearby. Signage doesn't indicate where this is and so I've asked Havering Council to emphasise this in their communications.
Romford is getting the worst deal when it comes to parking. Places like Hornchurch and Upminster are getting 30 minutes free, whilst we get increased prices and less accessible spaces.
I will continue to fight for a fair deal for Romford.
Royal Jubilee Court - The Truth
Havering Council have been placed in a difficult position. currently, there are 388 hotel bookings for homeless families or individuals across Havering. This is up from just 3 in 2019. Our borough does not have the homes needed to accommodate the most vulnerable.
Renting these hotel rooms costs Havering £4million a year, money we don't have.
By taking the decision to temporarily re-open Royal Jubilee Court, for our most vulnerable, Havering Council will be reducing that bill and giving people more secure accommodation.
The site will not be used to house refugees. I believe that those opposing the use of this site, to house those in need, should suggest an alternative.
Havering Council recently issued an FAQ on the site, which I've placed on my website. Please take the time to read it in full and to share the information with neighbours.
Campaigning on Housing Benefits
A big part of Havering's housing problem is that housing benefits (LHA) have been frozen since 2020. Whilst the cost of rent has gone up, the allowance hasn't and many families are left having to find as much as an extra £400 a month to cover their rent.
This isn't possible and so they become homeless.
Last month I wrote about how I have been to Parliament and lobbied for an increase. This month, I held a meeting between Havering Council representatives and the parliamentary group to prepare a campaign. The group, headed by housing charity Crisis, will be using Havering as a case-study, calling on the government to increase the allowance.
I have also been asked to write in a number of national, political, magazines on the issue.
Whilst only a lowly Councillor, I will still fight for Romford nationally.
Cabinet Member Visit - The Rotunda
Those of you who follow me closely will know that I am often raising awareness of issues with the Rotunda. These include poor maintenance, security worries, and residents querying their bills.
I was pleased to be able to host Cllr Paul McGeary (Labour) in meeting residents.
Paul is the most senior Councillor responsible for housing and we visited 5 homes together in one morning. Together, residents and I have given him a long list of concerns and we look forward to hearing back from him.
Whoever is in charge, whatever party, I'll work with them for the good of my residents.
The Small Stuff
When emptying public bins, Havering leaves the bags at the entrance to Como St car park. These are dropped off early-afternoon and not collected until the next morning.
In that time, foxes and crows get to it and residents often find litter strewn across their drives.
I've asked the council to change the collection time, so that rubbish is not left overnight. Residents are encouraged to only put our litter on the day of collection, I'd want Havering to do the same.
Someone paved tarmac over a BT manhole, which meant a local business was prevented from having their internet connected. Without that connection, they'd be unable to open.
I liaised with the council's highways team to have the tarmac removed and it was taken up within days.
BT are now able to get the business connected in time for this opening!
Who cares about a wonky road sign? Drivers who get caught going the wrong way, that's who.
This sign was bent over in such a way as to not allow drivers to see the 'one way' arrow. A number of residents contacted me about fines they received, having not seen the sign.
I flagged this and it got straightened up.
What's On In Romford?
Shopping Hall Santa's Grotto - 2nd December
Tickets for the grotto are going fast and they can be booked online through eventbrite. Grotto visitors book a 30 minute slot and they will get 5 minutes with Santa.
The big man will give visitors a fabulous present and parents are free to take as many photos as they like.
Romford and Gidea Park Rugby Club are looking for more players to join their boys and girls teams. Training is every Wednesday evening and they are particularly keen to hear from anyone in years 3 or 4.
For those aged 6-11 call Chris on 07881 297 819
The YMCA Orchestra is back! - Sunday 3rd December @ 4:30 PM
The fantastic charity concert will feature music from Frozen, The Polar Express and some sing-along carols.
Tickets are just £6, available in advance from Alexandra on 07941 008 278 or on the door.