Town hall split as Havering passes historic EU ‘Out’ vote

Cllr Lawrence Webb

Cllr Lawrence Webb - Credit: Archant

A groundbreaking vote in support of the EU “Out” campaign dominated the full council meeting, but it angered some members.

The atmosphere was unusually tense among the sharply-dressed councillors as film crews set up cameras in the town hall chamber.

They were there to film Havering becoming the first council in Britain to support the EU “Out” campaign, which it did by 30 votes to 15.

But some members did not appreciate the spotlight being taken away from pressing local issues like meals on wheels, which was scrapped last week.

Ukip leader Cllr Lawrence Webb (Gooshays), who proposed the motion that Britain would be better off out of the EU, was keen to keep it local. He listed an A-to-Z of EU issues he said impacted negatively on Havering, including agriculture, energy, free movement of people and social care.

But he was criticised by the leader of the opposition, Cllr Ray Morgon, who was angry the discussion was taking place. “I was voted in by Hacton residents to talk about local issues, not national issues,” he said. “They are interested in what I do in holding the administration to account, and perhaps the leader of Ukip should be doing that rather than this self promotion.”

Cllr Barbara Matthews, (RA, Hacton), agreed, saying debating the issue was a disgrace.

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East Havering Reisdents’ Group leader Cllr Clarence Barrett (Cranham) spent most of his allotted 15 minutes outlining why members should support his motion not to discuss the issue.

But many others backed the debate. An impassioned speech from Cllr Graham Williamson (IRG, South Hornchurch) urged members to “vote for freedom and vote to leave”, while Cllr Ray Best (Con, Havering Park) called it the “most important vote of our lifetime”.

Cllr Keith Darvill (Labour, Heaton), Cllr Alex Donald (EHRG, Harold Wood) and Cllr Ron Ower (EHRG, Upminster) all argued for Britian to remain in the EU.

Former MP Cllr Darvill discussed red tape issues, saying Britain does influence legislation.

He also argued the working time directive was a good thing. “It protects workers with their hours and health and safety issues,” he said.

Meanwhile, Independent Residents’ Group (IRG) members competed for the most confusing speeches on the subject.

Cllr David Durant argued why people should vote to leave the EU, even though he believes doing so won’t ensure Britain leaves.

“Government won’t honour an ‘Out’ vote,” he said. “I want to reassure moderate ‘In’ voters that you can vote ‘Out’ in the referendum in the certain knowledge that Cameron will use the ‘Out’ vote to negotiate better terms to stay in.

“An ‘Out’ vote becomes the best way for moderates to secure the halfway house Europe you say you want.”

His leader, Cllr Jeff Tucker, then spoke of why the issue was relevant to local councils.

“This national issue has become a local issue because all the people locally are asking what we’re going to vote nationally about.

“I will give you a letter that Cllr Webb didn’t include and that’s Z and what do you get in a Z? You get a zoo. And what do you get in a zoo? You get monkeys. If we don’t represent residents of this borough and express their views and understand how we’re thinking and how we should vote we’d get monkeys, not councillors, monkeys.”

Members questions were left out due to the meeting over running. The answers will be emailed out.