Cllr Roger Ramsey is the Leader of Havering Council.
Last year’s General Election undoubtedly delivered a tough blow to London Conservatives, with high profile losses in Kensington, Croydon Central, and Battersea – and slimmed-down majorities elsewhere.
However, these dramatic events obscured the brighter story unfolding across the city’s eastern reaches in the London Borough of Havering. Romford MP, Andrew Rosindell, secured his biggest ever share of the vote to kick off his fifth term. Dagenham & Rainham candidate, Julie Marsden, pushed the Tory vote up by 15.6 per cent to close in on Labour’s Jon Cruddas. Meanwhile our new Conservative MP, Julia Lopez, secured over sixty per cent of the vote in Hornchurch & Upminster, making it the Party’s safest seat in London.
Havering has become a stronghold of Conservatism in the capital, and as borough leader I hope our local team will build on 2017’s record of success by winning back a majority in May’s council elections. For the past four years, we have governed in coalition with a Residents’ Association group but we believe the rapidly-changing demands on outer London boroughs will best be met if we can secure overall control once again.
Havering has a large population of older, first-generation homeowners and, for the past three years, the fastest growing number of children across all London boroughs. These twin demographic challenges inevitably place substantial pressure on public services, housing stock, and already-constrained budgets. Nonetheless, through efficiency and innovation we have not only continued to deliver key council services but undertaken an ambitious sports and leisure strategy, planned new schools and are about to embark upon major housing regeneration.
Our corner of London is changing at breathtaking rate, and the challenge for us as Conservatives is to mold growth into an opportunity rather than a threat to existing residents’ quality of life. We believe this can be done if we use the proceeds of development to preserve the heritage that local people hold dear, expand and improve green spaces, and deliver new healthcare and school sites. Similarly, local people are likelier to support new homes if development translates into the chance for children and grandchildren to stay close by – one of the reasons why Havering applies a six-year borough residency requirement for our council properties.
With this philosophy, we have been able to provide local people with extensive new leisure and sports facilities at no cost to the council taxpayer – whether the £3m Sports Park on Harold Hill, new libraries in Rainham and Harold Hill or Romford’s brand new ice rink and pool, opened on time and on budget after Labour closed the last facility twenty-five years ago. We pride ourselves not only on protecting the Green Belt but on delivering high quality public space, with thirteen of our parks awarded the Green Flag for quality and the Land of the Fanns project underway to restore London’s lost landscapes. We cherish our precious heritage assets, refurbishing Langtons House and promoting the restoration of historic Upminster Windmill with Lottery cash. And we are using new transport links to unlock brownfield sites like Beam Park, as well as undertaking a twelve-estate refurbishment programme, to deliver homes without encroaching on protected green belt.
Our aim is to make Havering a place where the strong existing sense of community is used as the foundation stone to build a future in which older residents feel comfortable and newer residents feel invested in. With our two Conservative MPs, an active London Assembly Member in Keith Prince, and hopefully a strong Conservative council in May, we believe we can show Londoners that ours is the Party truly focussed on improving residents’ quality of life – just as Jeremy Corbyn’s new brand of old Labour will be taking the reins in councils across the capital and beginning its indulgent crusade to divide and segment London’s communities.