New leader of Havering Council named

An independent residents association councillor has taken control of Havering Council with the support of the borough’s Labour group.

Ray Morgon, leader of Havering Residents Association (HRA), was last night elected council leader during the first council meeting since the local elections on May 5.

Negotiations over who would take control of the council have been ongoing for the last three weeks as none of the three main parties won a 28-seat majority.

In a sign of an approaching power-sharing agreement, Labour’s nine councillors supported the 20-strong HRA group leader, Cllr Morgon, in his bid for the council leadership.

Cllr Morgon’s victory marks the end of twenty years of Conservative council leadership locally and makes Havering and Tower Hamlets the only boroughs in London not to be controlled by a mainstream political party.

Following the vote, the meeting was suspended until early June to allow the Labour and HRA groups to continue negotiating over which councillors will be appointed to cabinet and committee positions.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Morgon said “the majority” of cabinet positions would be handed to HRA councillors.

He said: “The only deal that has been done is that we supported the mayoral candidate, so the mayor is Labour. We will carry on discussions going forward.

“I’m certain that we will have an agreement and that this administration will move forward – the majority of the cabinet will be residents association members and you might see some Labour.

“At the end of the day, you know that you have got to work with somebody else – we have to work with others – I want to create a consensual council.”

In a further sign of agreement, the two groups also supported each other to elect Labour’s newly-elected councillor Trevor McKeever as the mayor and the resident group’s Stephanie Nunn as deputy mayor.

Labour group leader Keith Darvill said: “We’ve been having discussions with the HRA and we think that we’re close to a final agreement.

“We’ve worked through a lot of detail and that’s the reason the whole council was adjourned while we conclude those discussions – which will then give structure for the new administration.

“The cabinet is not confirmed. It’s in control of the leader of the council, but clearly he has got to know that he’s got to have a majority for his votes.

“For us to support them we want to be confirmed with a form of cabinet structure that we can participate in.

“There’s some detail about how that cabinet is. We’re working as quickly as we can. It’s a sign that there’s likely to be a HRA/Labour administration.

“The final outcome will have to be approved by the [Labour] national executive and the Labour membership locally.”

Both Cllr Morgon and Cllr Darvill agreed that the borough faces an “extremely challenging environment” in terms of the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and the pressure on the council to cut spending.

Cllr Morgon said: “We all realise that we’ve got the cost-of-living crisis, the costs of running this council are also accelerating.

“The first thing that need to do is reduce costs and at the same time make sure that we at least maintain, if not improve, services that we provide.

“I do believe that we will be able to do that.”

Havering Residents Association is an umbrella group of four independent residents associations that represent different parts of the borough. It was formed after the 2018 local election, when three residents association councillors, from Harold Wood Hill Park Residents Association, supported Conservative Damian White’s council leadership bid.

The Harold Wood Hill Park Residents Association councillors are not HRA members and abstained in the vote for Cllr Morgon’s leadership.


Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter