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Archive for the ‘Harrow council’ Category

Labour swept back to victory on Harrow council this week, overturning the Conservatives majority with a ten seat gain.

 But what do the results mean for all the different parties? Who were the winners and who were the losers of the local elections this year?

 Labour:

With their eye on defending the constituency seats (which saw mixed results for them as  Tony McNulty lost his seat) it seems the party weren’t expecting to storm back to power and certainly not quite so decisively.

Councillor Bill Stephenson claimed he was ‘shell shocked’ about the result.

 There were big wins across the borough for the party, including a clean sweep of seats in Queensbury and West Harrow.

 Conservatives:

While a good day for the party nationally, they lost their majority, including forfeiting seats in Rayners Lane and typically blue Harrow-on-the-Hill, where two Labour candidates made it on to the council.

 Notable casualties include Kenton West’s Jeremy Zeid (who had a razor thin majority of six votes to defend) and Headstone North’s Eric Silver. This election also marked the end of an era as former council leader and 2005 parliamentary candidate David Ashton and his wife Marilyn, who held the Stanmore Park ward, both stepped down.

 Stanmore Park remains a wholly Conservative ward.

 Lib Dems:

It seems the Clegg effect didn’t do much for Harrow. Nahid Boethe and Chris Noyce both came third in the constituency votes, but the party only managed one seats on the council.

 Independents:

Independent candidate, James Bond, managed a not unsurprising victory and ousted Mayor Eric Silver.

Bill Stephenson: Elected on to council in is likely to become the next council leader, to be voted on by cabinet next month.

 You:

Largely because the local and general elections coincided, turnout was up this year, meaning more people in Harrow had their say. Whatever you think of the result, that is an undoubtedly positive outcome.

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Labour has indeed taken back the majority on the council, with Bill Stephenson expected to be chosen as leader next month.

Results:

Labour – 34 (+10)
Conservatives – 27 (-8)
Lib Dems – 1 (-1)
Independent – 1 (-1)

Further election analysis to follow shortly.

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The end of the day has brought better news for Harrow Labour, as it appears they have taken back the majority on the council.

After the news that Tony McNulty lost his seat to Bob Blackman, the Harrow Times is reporting that Conservatives have not enjoyed the same success in the local elections.

A recount is currently going on but it seems Labour are in the lead with 31 seats to The Conservatives 27.

This will remove the majority the party won four years ago, with council stalwarts like Eric Silver set to lose power.

Former Harrow council leader David Ashton had retired at this election.

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Harrow now has 12 council staff earning more than £100,000.

Despite the economic crisis of recent years, the number of top earners in the borough has actually risen by ten since 2003.

One lucky council worker even earns £150,000, the same as the prime minister’s salary, a wage not paid to anybody in the council five years ago.

Figures revealed by the Sunday Times show Harrow falls at a respectable 45th place in the list of 66 councils paying such high wages.

The worst culprit is Kent council, where three members of staff earn more than the prime minister and 41 earn above £150,000

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There could be dark days ahead for Harrow after it emerges the council has abandoned plans to improve street lighting in the area. 

The Conservative run Harrow council is the only one in the country to have pulled out of the private finance initiative (PFI) scheme to upgrade street lighting, despite the £32 million allocated for the project.

The then Labour run council applied for the funding more than three years ago, but the current council have decided to scrap it saying it was ‘irresponsible’ because of the credit crunch.

Deputy leader Councillor Susan Hall said it was:

“Irresponsible of us to commit to £1 million a year over 25 years – a key condition of the PFI contract – given the unprecedented financial pressures on us caused by the credit crunch.”

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The deputy leader of Harrow council has reiterated her warnings about low grit supplies, ahead of what is forecast to be a snowy weekend.

As Stanmore Politics reported yesterday Councillor Susan Hall told residents at a public meeting that “if the weather gets worse we could be in real trouble. If we have a bad week we will be out of salt completely.”

Today in the Daily Express she said the situation was “deeply worrying,” and that the 2,000 tons of slat the council ordered in December had still not arrived.

“Waiting for our salt to come is on a par with waiting for Billy Bunter’s postal order, only with marginally less chance of success.”

 “We are conserving our supplies carefully and will have to eke it out as there appears scant chance of any fresh stock arriving.”

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It was an underwhelming turnout at a Harrow council question time tonight.

 Around 30 residents turned up to the public event at Harrow Arts Centre  to quiz cabinet members on everything from tax rates to parking restrictions and dangerous dogs.

 The council have put on some ten of the events in the past, where locals are invited to submit questions to cabinet members in advance and on the night.

 Council leader, outgoing Conservative Councillor David Ashton told Stanmore Politics that it was no bad sign turnout was so low.

 “We publicise this very heavily and it’s the right thing to do,” said David Ashton.

 “But if we’re doing things wrong people would be here. We take it as a positive sign.”

 However Akil Dhalla, Conservative candidate for Wealdstone, said there could have been more publicity. “The number of people coming to these events has gone down,” he said.

 “I want the public to be involved more. The more people here, the more legitimacy the council has.”

 “I think it’s very nice that they give residents the opportunity to meet them in a more informal way” said audience-member, pensioner Barry Harris.

 Michael Burton, editor of the MJ, the management journal for local authority business, hosted the evening. He praised the session, saying: “Not many authorities do bring the cabinet out to face the public.

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The deputy leader of Harrow council has warned that there could be big trouble ahead if there is more heavy snow this week because salt supplies have still not been adequately replenished.

According to the Met Office London should be braced for as much as 15cm of snow across Thursday and Friday. But Councillor Susan Hall told residents at a public meeting that only 272 tons of salt remained. She said:

“If the weather gets worse we could be in real trouble. If we have a bad week we will be out of salt completely.”

The councillor said that efforts to replenish supplies were being doubled but the extra 2,000 tons of salt needed to prevent icy roads had still not arrived.

 However she said the council had done everything they should have done to prepare for the snowy weather last month, which was the worst in decades. Harrow’s grit shortages became a national story as Britain was blanketed in snow and ice.

 One resident complained that on Harrow’s border with Barnet, along the A5, there had been a marked difference in how much grit was put down. “Harrow had absolutely nothing on it for quite a few days,” they said.

 Yet pointing out that many boroughs, like Haringey, had not kept their main roads clear, Councillor Hall said that it was not always possible to grit side roads.

 “Often where the snow is cleared it is on big wide roads which we don’t have in Harrow. We can’t send gritting lorries down narrow roads because they might damage parked cars.”

 Councillor Hall also said that the legal department were looking into whether residents should clear pavements against the risk of accidents.

 She admitted it was possible to be sued if someone did something negligent, like put water on an icy pavement, and “somebody came along and broke a leg.”

 “But the reality is that if you just sweep it away everybody should be alright. As long as people are warned and told not to be stupid. For elderly people hopefully there will be a neighbourly spirit.”

 Council leader David Ashton said they were considering an umbrella insurance policy. “There is the danger that if somebody slips over by your house they might ring up the lawyers,” he said. “Nobody wants to go through that hassle.”

 He said severe weather had exacerbated the “pothole problem” in the area, after one resident reported counting a rise to 85 potholes at Pinner View.

 Councillor Hall said they were taking pains to repair roads, but acknowledged that she has been receiving up to 30 emails every day on the subject. Last month it was reported that potholes would cost the council an extra £1 million.

 Michael Burton, editor of the MJ, the management journal for local authority business, hosted the evening. He said the gritting problem was a national problem and blamed it on highway maintenance budgets being trimmed.

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The leader of Harrow council has called for the Conservatives to be recognised for keeping council tax to be kept at a low rate.

Conservative councillor, David Ashton, who announced last month that he was standing down before the next election, was one of the signatories to a letter in today’s Daily Telegraph.

The letter, from more than 30 council leaders across the country, slammed Labour ministers for “crowing about how they have helped keep council tax down this year”. The writers went on to blame Labour ‘red tape’ for what they called ‘unprecedented council tax increases since 1997’. They said:

“Readers should be aware that we have managed to keep taxes low in our authorities despite the efforts of John Denham and his department”.

They went on to attribute the low increase in council tax to ‘high-tax Labour councils failing at the ballot box’ and argued:

“Conservative authorities have been committed, as always, to efficient and low-cost public services”.

Harrow East’s Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Bob Blackman, was also a signatory to the letter.

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Harrow council’s pension fund deficit has risen by more than £80 million in the last year, new figures show.

The shortfall in the borough’s pension pot rose from £108.4 million in 2008 to £189.6 million in 2009.

This comes as it emerged that London’s overall pension deficit had skyrocketed to. £10.23 billion. In 2008 this stood at £7.63 billion.

There are fears across London that councils are not putting aside enough money to secure the retirements of workers.

With Britain looking at an increasingly ageing population, the pension shortfall will become even more of a problem.

Although sizeable, Harrow’s deficit was by no means the worst in th capital. Since 2008, Southwark, which lies at the other end of the Jubilee line, has seen its deficit more than double to £450.3 million.

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