Havering Council negotiations hit an impasse

Negotiations over who will take control of Havering Council after the lack of any definitive election winner have reportedly hit an “impasse”.

The council remains under “no overall control” following the elections on May 5, which saw the Conservatives, Havering Residents Association (HRA) and Labour emerge as the three biggest parties.

The final local election results were: 23 Conservative, 20 HRA, nine Labour and three independent Harold Wood Hill Park Residents Association councillors.

As none of the three won the 28 seats needed for a majority, two or more groups could take control by coming together in a power-sharing agreement.

However, in a sign that no agreement has been reached, each group has submitted a motion for the first full council meeting on May 26, nominating their own leader as leader of the council.

The HRA group has offered Labour a “confidence and supply arrangement”, which would see its leader Councillor Ray Morgon appointed as council leader and all the cabinet posts given to HRA councillors.

Labour leader Keith Darvill has declined this offer, saying the arrangement would be “weak” and “on tenterhooks”.

HRA leader Cllr Morgon told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The RAs would be running the administration and would look to Labour to provide the voting backup if and when it was needed.

“That’s the most obvious choice, we don’t want a joint administration. 

“There’s a bit of an impasse there, from that point of view we’re a bit of a no man’s land… it could go right to the wire and be decided at the meeting of the annual council.”

The HRA leader added that a “Tory and HRA” coalition would not be possible with Cllr Damian White as leader of the Conservatives.

Earlier this week, Cllr White was re-elected Conservative group leader. According to a Conservative source, he beat Councillor Robert Benham by just one vote.

Cllr Darvill confirmed the Labour group has received an offer to work with the Conservatives, but said it would not be “feasible”.

Regarding the HRA’s offer, he added: “We feel that the way forward is for there to be a strong administration. It can only be strong if the two groups work together and it’s quite open in terms of what influence we have.

“A confidence and supply arrangement is weak because we have limited influence on that, particularly in the day-to-day running, without a role in the cabinet, and at the same time we’d be expected to cast nine votes for whatever the HRAs say.

“If we got to a problem area we would just pull out, it would be on tenterhooks for the whole [four years].”

He added that many of Labour and the HRA’s manifesto policies are “very, very close”, meaning the groups would be in “firm agreement” in a power-sharing arrangement.

Gillian Ford, who was elected as deputy leader of the HRA group this week, said the outcome is still “very uncertain”

She added: “We do know [the Conservatives] are putting out feelers for people that will cross the floor.”

Cllr White denied approaching any individual HRA members, insisting he has only met with the Labour and HRA group leaders.

He added: “We all come from respective different vantage points wanting the best for the borough, it’s how we can create a consensus on the issues we face as an authority.

“It’s whether there’s common ground that can be found which can create a framework for a stable administration

“The worst outcome for residents is having a minority administration that is unable to get a programme ahead, which will create uncertainty and paralyse the authority going forward.”

Advertisement

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter