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AN OPEN LETTER TO MEMBERS OF THE LABOUR GROUP

 

 

Town Hall,

 Romford

 

25/3/96.

 

 

Dear Comrades,

 

It is with deep regret that we have resigned from membership of the Labour group. In spite of the "anti socialist" nonsense you may be hearing you should be in no doubt that we will continue to support the administration in the implementation of the 1994 Labour Party manifesto. The causes of our resignations are complex and cumulative. If a single unifying factor had to be identified it would be the style and character of leadership that we have endured for some years. Since the Leader's wedding with the Liberal Democrat Leader the autocratic nature of his leadership has intensified, bolstered by an increase in his personal self confidence. Sadly the confidence of staff within the Council has diminished in inverse proportion to this. This gives us grave cause for concern. In a recent District Auditor's report Havering comes in for particular criticism for its low staff morale and low level of staff commitment. Members will not have seen this report which though intended for all members has in fact had a very limited distribution. It is our view that the issues of staff commitment and low morale coupled with the fear of making "a mistake" have led to a paralysis of middle management and a sullen acceptance amongst the more junior officers. The rate of turnover of staff in the Leader's office and members support unit exemplifies the difficulties the Leader has in forming working relationships with staff.

 

We believe our staff should be genuinely empowered to act on their own initiative in pursuance and within the confines of our policies. At present staff are frightened to act because even relatively minor errors can lead to witch hunts.

 

As far as we are concerned the witch hunts are over.

 

An attempt was made last year to elect an independent chair of the Labour group, true to form this was fiercely resisted and narrowly defeated by the Labour Leader and the domination of the Labour group continued. The Chair/Leader not only has access to all information much of which is restricted, he also uses that knowledge to present a one sided view to the Group and consequently the Leader's policy becomes Labour policy. Any member that dares to voice a contrary view is rubbished and if the offender persists a campaign of vilification and character assassination begins which only ends when the member is politically and/or personally discredited.

 

It may be the case that this sort of behaviour is characteristic of political leaders if it is the following more bizarre incidents cannot be commonplace.

 

A couple of weeks ago all members of the Council, Labour and Conservative alike received a letter announcing Arthur's full return to health and his willingness to take on all of his enemies "within and without". We don't know if this has frightened the Tories but it frightens us.

 

At the last Council meeting we had the demeaning spectacle of the Leader of the Council with the assistance of the Mayor bullying a member of the opposition out of his democratic right to speak. A member was gagged for using a politically incorrect term, not a term we would use but then not a term the general public would recognise as insulting. However some people do find the term offensive, consequently we believe it was valid to point out to the member that this was the case, it was valid to ask that the member reconsider and withdraw the remark, but to gag an elected member is a grave error of judgement. The Labour group and three of us in an act of blind loyalty to the Leader supported him on the night. We regret that now and so do many other members of the Labour group.

 

Finally at last Monday's group meeting the Leader had originally unilaterally proposed to put to the group the proposition that Ray Shaw and Jack Hoepellman should be appointed as Chair and Vice Chair of the Housing Cttee. It should be noted that at no stage did the Leader attempt any consultation with the Deputy Leader or Chief Whip on the matter. After the event representations were made against the proposal and eventually the proposition was modified to suggest appointment until the annual meeting in May. We all very concerned with the Leader's determined advocacy of Cllr Shaw for this post. Cllr Shaw has already attempted to fulfil the role of Chair of Housing, failing miserably and resigning after a few weeks. As Vice Chair Cllr Shaw then got into an extraordinary scrape with P.E.P. much to the embarrassment of the then Chair Cllr Koseda another Leader's protégée that did riot come up to scratch. The Chief Whip discussed the issue with the Leader at the time but the issue blew over without the majority of the group ever becoming aware of it.

 

The leader is aware of it and we are appalled that he is prepared to vigorously advocate a member with such a dubious track record. We believe that all Chairs should be elected by the group in secret ballots with the electorate being in possession of all relevant facts, therefore we enclose with this letter a letter from P.E.P. and hope the Labour Group will do justice to Cllr Shaw in May.

 

Enough of the Leader and his increasingly bizarre behaviour. We also have some policy issues which give us concern. Sadly to deal with these issues at group meetings is impossible because all policy initiatives come from the Leader, the Leader’s policies are the Group’s policies and therefore opposition to them is deemed to be an act of treachery.

 

We have unresolved difficulties with I P A C' s and their relation to housing services, we are unconvinced of the necessity of spending millions of pounds on outside consultants to implement business process reengineering and there are other minor points of difference which are eminently capable of resolution. None of us have a reputation for unreasonableness; we are all capable of accepting group decisions contrary to our own views and assisting in their implementation. What we cannot live with is a leader bent on destruction of what he sees as the enemy within and that is anyone who does not agree with his idea of the correct policy.

 

Consequently we cannot and will not serve in a Labour group led by Arthur Latham. We realise that this stance may have serious consequences for our own political futures but that may be a price we have to pay.

 

Rest assured that even if we are denied membership of the Labour Party we will continue to work for a Labour victory at the next general election.

 

We all have many friends and supporters within the Labour group and the wider Party, it is already clear to us that this situation will not change, we are grateful for that, knowing these comrades as we do, it is what we expected.

 

 Dennis Cook. Mike Davis. Tony Hunt. Del Smith       .