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Cllr Michael White attracts criticism over Harold Hill Ambitions during Havering‘s annual leader’s speech

17:45 14 June 2013

Havering Council leader Cllr Michael White

Havering Council leader Cllr Michael White

Archant

“I don’t know what made me more sick – the norovirus, or the way in which some members dealt with a former member who should have been recognised for 25 years of service.”

Explaining his absence from last month’s full council meeting – at which he would traditionally have made his annual leader’s speech – Havering Council leader Michael White said he had instead watched the webcast footage from his sick bed.

But as he belatedly delivered the speech at Wednesday’s meeting, he strayed from the script to criticise his colleagues for failing to grant former councillor Alby Tebbutt the title of Honorary Alderman.

A Conservative motion to confer the title on Mr Tebbutt last month did not attract the required two-thirds majority, and Mr Tebbutt left the meeting empty-handed.

The remainder of Cllr White’s 4,000-word speech was more positive in tone, with the Squirrels Heath councillor saying it was time to “reflect” on the previous seven years of the administration.

He picked out new primary schools and affordable houses and the Harold Hill Ambitions programme as worthy of particular praise.

But opposition councillors criticised him for looking backward rather than forward.

Proposing an amendment, Residents’ Association leader Cllr Clarence Barrett said overview and scrutiny committees should have more power, with scrutiny becoming “part of the decision-making process rather than an afterthought”.

But Cllr Lesley Kelly hit back, saying the RA themselves had only tabled four agenda items in the space of eight housing overview and scrutiny committees.

Cllr Denis O’Flynn (Labour, Heaton) added Cllr White was taking undue credit for the much-lauded council tax freeze, saying: “We’re very boastful about the fact we haven’t had a tax increase, forgetting the fact [government grants have] made it practical for us not to have had one.”

Cllr O’Flynn and fellow Labour councillor Keith Darvill (Heaton) blasted Cllr White over the Harold Hill Ambitions project.

“Go around Harold Hill and you’ll see the pavements shifting under your feet and the potholes in the road,” said Cllr O’Flynn.

“Harold Hill hasn’t been transformed,” added Cllr Darvill, bluntly, “it is being overdeveloped.

“It looks to me as though I’m living on a different planet from the one described in the leader’s statement.”

He said that some of the successes mentioned in the leader’s speech were conceived under the national Labour government.

Cllr Roger Evans (Conservative, Elm Park) pounced on this, saying Cllr Darvill was “hilarious” to accuse the council of “basking in the glow of the last Labour government”.

“It’s like sunbathing at Chernobyl,” he quipped.

Cllr Steven Kelly (Conservative, Emerson Park) insisted the administration had “revolutionised” the borough.

“Remember the filthy state this borough was in 10 years ago?” he said, pointing to Havering’s eight “green flag” parks.

Following a two-hour debate, the amendments were voted down and the leader’s statement was passed by 25 votes to 15.

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