Former Havering deputy mayor hits out at after controversial election

The former deputy mayor of Havering has attacked the council administration after a controversial election saw her lose out on the mayoralty.

Labour councillor Patricia Brown had been deputy to Stephanie Nunn, a councillor from Havering Residents Association (HRA), from 2023-24.

After councillors instead voted for HRA councillor Gerry O’Sullivan to succeed her in May, a “shocked and appalled” Cllr Brown said a working agreement between the two parties had been broken.

The May 2022 elections saw no party win an overall majority, prompting the HRA to form a coalition with Labour.

They had reportedly agreed to alternate mayors, but the HRA has denied the deal extended beyond the cabinet.

The allegiance collapsed earlier this month, after weeks of tension.

Labour leader Keith Darvill called the mayoral election a “fundamental reason,” though the HRA is “confident” it will perform well.

As Labour now takes its place as a minority opposition group on the council, Cllr Brown accused the HRA of “peddling lies” in a lengthy statement.

She said there were supposed to be two HRA mayors and two Labour mayors over the next four years.
She said: “Even if I hadn’t wanted to be mayor, it would still have been for Labour and not the HRA to appoint someone to the position.”

After the election, the HRA claimed it was told that Cllr Brown did not wish to stand as mayor.

A spokesperson said Labour councillors were “playing a game,” adding: “It was verbally agreed that the mayor in the first year would be Labour with an HRA deputy mayor.

“The second year would be an HRA mayor and Labour deputy mayor. It was at this point that the leader of the Labour group made it clear to the cabinet that [Cllr Brown] did not want to be mayor. The deputy mayor reinforced this with other councillors.”

Cllr Brown responded to say she is “not a liar” and would have been “honoured” to be mayor.

She added: “The inference was that I was breaking a working agreement that had been in place since 2022 in which the position of mayor alternated between an HRA member and a Labour member.

“But this is entirely untrue. I most certainly was prepared to be mayor after a year of supporting the HRA mayor and carrying out duties as deputy mayor.”

She added: “I have not lied about this issue. I am not a liar and I will not have my integrity questioned.”

The Gooshayes councillor said she had confirmed to council leader Ray Morgon she wished to be mayor on three separate occasions, disagreeing with the HRA statement issued in May.

The HRA declined to comment further on the mayoral election.

Cllr Darvill previously said that while he was disappointed by the collapse of the coalition, he had “expected it”.

He said: “I was hoping, being a born optimist, that good sense would prevail but clearly it has not.

“For political understandings like this to work, there has to be understanding and parties have to work together for residents of Havering.”

He added that pulling out of a Labour coalition when the national party appears set to win a general election next month seemed “futile”.

The HRA now controls the council as a minority administration. Cllr Morgon said there are independents sitting on the council that the HRA can try to work with, and he was “confident” about the future.

The group claims to be removed from national politics, which it calls restrictive.

Councillors that have defected have said, in statements issued by the HRA, that they did so in order to focus on residents’ issues rather than party politics.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter