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Harold Hill History Index

 

4th May 1978
The Conservatives took overall control of the Council winning 38 seats. the Independents took 13, leaving Labour with just 12. This included all nine seats from their stronghold in Harold Hill and three from Airfield in South Hornchurch. A revision of seats had taken place in the years preceding this election and Harold Hill's former seat allocation had been increased from seven to nine. The Council as a whole increased from 55 to 63 seats.

RON & BESSIE WHITWORTH

In the 1971 Labour administration Ron was the Chair of both Housing and Social Services. It was under Ron's watch that the Labour Council introduced the policy of buying private houses within the borough to house those on our waiting lists. Ten million pounds was set aside to buy over 800 houses and in the three years of his tenure a large number of people were rehoused. The policy was opposed tooth and nail by the Conservatives and the Ratepayers/Independents - After all who would want a council tenant for a neighbour? Ironically in 1980 Thatcher brought in the "Right to Buy" policy and Council housing began to be sold off. Needless to say the most desirable property was sold first and very soon the council tenants became home owners, I am sure much to the delight of their neighbours. It didn't go down so well with those still on the waiting list. To date (2013) more than one and a half million homes have been sold across the UK. The Right to Buy will be abolished In Scotland in May 2014.

By 1982 Ron was the leader of the Labour group but with only twelve councillors. He led them into the 1986 election and they added eight seats bringing them up to 20 borough wide. At the first group meeting following the election it was inevitable that there would be a ballot for the leadership. Arthur Latham returned to the council after winning his seat in Romford with the ambition of leading the Labour group. Alan Williams, another new member also fancied his chances. A certain amount of lobbying went on prior to the ballot. Ron had been assured by many colleagues that he had enough support to retain the leadership. It wasn't to be. On the first ballot Ron got just four votes, from his wife, Bessie, Dennis Cook, Del Smith and himself. He was then eliminated from the ballot. In the run off between Latham and Williams Del Smith and Dennis Cook switched to Latham and Bessie spoiled her paper. After an initial dead heat Latham won the rerun by the narrowist of margins and then led the group for the next eleven years. Ron was seen as a nice man, Arthur was regarded as on the left and Alan very much of the right. 1978 was the year that Ron and Bessie Whitworth were elected together for the first time in Hilldene, though Ron had initially entered the council in 1971 as a member for Harold Wood, where they lived. Bessie went on to fight and win on two further occasions until poor health led to her standing down in 1990. Ron also retired at the same time to care for her. She died in 1997, aged 75. Ron died some years later. The Whitworth Centre on the old Harold Hill Grammar School site was named in honour of the Whitworths and the recognition was well deserved. They were both thoroughly decent people who devoted a huge amount of their lives to the Labour Party and their constituents on Harold Hill. The Whitworth centre was demolished in 2012 and replaced by housing. I think Ron would have approved.

 

Along with Ron and Bessie, Ron Lynn and Geoff Otter were elected for the first time along with the exotically named Valentine Noel Birnie. He made his only appearance. Unfortunately he stood down after only two years and was replaced in a by election by the now notorious Alan Prescott. Prescott called by the judge "a pillar of his local community" having been a former assistant director of social services in Tower Hamlets and a magistrate as well as the superintendent of the St Leonard's Children's home in Hornchurch between 1970 and 1980. He was also a sex abuser and after his arrest in 2000 he was convicted in 2001 of numerous offenses and imprisoned for two years. While we are on the unpleasant stuff I should mention that the fascist National Front stood for the first time In the shape of Albert Yetton, a Harold Hill resident who got a derisory 147 votes. He never stood again.

6th May 1982
Borough wide Labour held its twelve seats but made no gains. The Conservatives lost one, leaving 37. The Liberal Democrats gained their first ever councillors, five in total, leaving the Independents reduced to just nine seats. So the Conservatives remained firmly in control.

 

Denis O'Flynn won his fourth election and both Geoff Otter and Ron Lynn won their second elections. Dennis Cook and Margaret Latham were both newcomers. Margaret Latham joined her husband, Arthur on the Council and they became the third married couple to have an interest in Harold Hill politics. Ron and Dennis were both long time residents of Harold Hill. Geoff lived in Harold Wood and Margaret in Gidea Park, of the nine councillors representing Harold Hill only three actually lived there.

Ron Lynn was what was called disabled back in 1982 and he was confined to a wheelchair. It posed a problem in the town hall as the Council chamber and the committee rooms were all on the first floor and there were no lifts apart from a small service lift. The nationwide movement to provide disabled access to all buildings had reached Havering, but only just. Getting into the town hall was probably the least of Ron's worries. He had spent a lifetime campaigning, naturally much of it on behalf of the disabled. He was a very important member of the Labour Group and he brought a perspective to the debate that many of us didn't always appreciate. He played his part and had his say but as often as not his mere presence was enough to remind us all of what was needed and what had to be done. Ron Lynn died in 1990.

Photo above is of Denis campaigning at the Ingrebourne School during the 1987 general election campaign.

Denis O' Flynn.

The leaflet opposite was actually published for the next election in 1986. Denis O'Flynn was first elected in 1971, in a by election and is a well known "Harold Hill" character, though in fact he lives next door in Chase Cross. Over the years he was probably Labour's best publicist on the "Hill" and he was never shy to create a headline. He was elected Mayor on two occasions in 1991/2 and 2001/2.

After a long run of local election wins he was deselected along with Wilf Mills for the 2006 local elections and he too was none too happy. Perhaps when the results came through he would have taken a different view, though I suspect he would have said "If I had been there we wouldn't have lost" He found himself back in favour with the local party for 2010 and fought and won in Heaton Ward probably for the last time. He never stood in 2014. He is still very active in Labour Party politics. I suspect he will drop dead making a speech some place, hopefully not too soon.

Denis also fought two parliamentary elections one in Romford in 1974, the other in the Upminster constituency in 1987. The year was a lost cause for Labour but Denis flew the flag in an "unwinnable" gaining 11,000 votes to Sir Nicholas Cosmo Bonsor's 28,000. Most of Denis's votes undoubtedly came from Harold Hill. Mercifully Cosmo was rarely seen in Harold Hill after the election.

 

 

 

 

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