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Posts Tagged ‘Cllr Susan Hall’

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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The outgoing conservative leader of Harrow council heaped praise on the turnaround in the borough over the past three years.

Councillor David Ashton, who is retiring before the next election, reminded residents at a public question time that the Conservative cabinet had overseen the first council tax freeze in 16 years.

 “In 2006 Harrow was the second worst council in London. We had a budget blackhole of and inadequate services,” he said at a public question time on Tuesday.

“We have greatly improved. We are a three star council with reserves of just under £7 million.”

 He said Harrow was entering a difficult period, and that they were expecting a real cash reduction in the coming years, because the council grant would effectively be £2 million less than in 2008/9.

But he was not completely negative about the future.

“We are not complacent but we are pleased. This year we have a balanced budget but in the future we are going to need some radical solutions.”

 One resident pointed out the convenience of a tax freeze during a council election year, and queried whether the money was needed for services like road repairs. But Councillor Ashton said “at some stage, enough is enough.”

 However he said a reduction is council tax was very unlikely.

“Reducing council tax is a very difficult thing to do unless it is a cosmetic reduction. Unless there is a massive change in the grant from central government this is highly unlikely.”

 At the event on Tuesday evening at Harrow Arts centre, deputy leader Councillor Susan Hall outlined plans to include provisions against dangerous dogs in tenancy agreements. She said that while people know the punishment for being caught with a knife, being caught keeping status dogs should carry more of a threat to owners.

Although she said that status dogs were not a problem in Harrow, she said they were consulting with the RSPCA on the matter.

During the evening, residents questioned planning portfolio-holder Councillor Marilyn Ashton about removing the parking charge for the first 20 minutes, in order to boost the trade of smaller shopkeepers.

“It’s so important to maintain the vitality of our local shops,” she said. “We would really love to be able to afford to have the first 20 minutes free. But if you allow just any parking on the road it gets parked up all day. If we could afford it I assure you we would.”

She said that the Sainsburys supermarket had been an asset to Stanmore. “Shopkeepers have benefited from having an anchor store. People park there a go to get their hair cut and do other things. It doesn’t take business away.”

Later, she added: “There is scope for very big improvement and regeneration in Stanmore”.

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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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It will be politics as usual despite the resignations of two longstanding Conservative councillors, Harrow’s senior Liberal Democrat said this week. 

The comments by Councillor Christopher Noyce came following last week’s announcement that Harrow Council leader David Ashton and his wife Marilyn, who represents Stanmore Park, will not contest the upcoming election.

Councillor Noyce, the leader of Harrow’s Lib Dems, told Stanmore Politics the decision would not mean any significant policy change but made things ‘interesting’. He said the news had come as a surprise and that Marilyn had always ‘steered a distinctive course’ in respect to planning matters.

“The Tories will need a new leader,” said the Rayners Lane representative. “It’s quite interesting because the current deputy [Councillor Susan Hall] only won by one vote.

“So there are quite interesting possibilities for the new leader.”

The councillor said he did not expect to see much or indeed any change in the style of politics in the borough.

“The Ashtons may be gone but I don’t see any significant changes.”

Councillor Noyce said his party hoped to make gains in May’s council elections and were likely to contest more than 60 candidates. He said the election could be more interesting than usual.

“If the general election happens on the same day [voter] turnout will be up,” he said.

Turnout in Harrow, as elsewhere in the country, is typically low for local election. But he said the national contest could mean up to 70 per cent of people cast a vote.

The Councillor said the constituency boundary changes, which come into force for this election, would make a difference to Harrow’s parliamentary election. Under the changes, Harrow East will be reduced in size and Hatch End, Pinner and Pinner South residents will choose an MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner.

Councillor Noyce is one of two Lib Dem’s sitting on Harrow Council.

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The upcoming council elections in Harrow just got more interesting. Harrow’s very own Hillary and Bill just announced they were leaving public life.

News comes that Stanmore Park councillor for the last 12 years, Marilyn Ashton, will not be contesting her seat in May. Ashton is also the council member responsible for planning, development and enterprise.

Along with her hubbie and Harrow Council leader for the past two years (and Belmont ward cllr), she will be standing down in May.

The couple, both Conservative councillors, have cited a desire to go to the theatre more as one of the reasons for leaving their seats.

Mr Ashton said the decision was a personal one which he had taken:

“to spend more time with Marilyn and the rest of my family, travel, as well as other professional activities.”

He added that being a councillor is an all encompassing role and said:

“We have enjoyed every minute of our twelve years serving Harrow residents. We have not been to the theatre for ten years and hope to change this situation after May as well as generally broadening our horizons.”

Michael Lockwood, Harrow’s chief executive wished them well. He praised Mr Ashton’s ‘excellent’ leadership, saying:

“He has given strong political direction for us to deliver cleaner and safer streets, building stronger communities and improve support for vulnerable people. He has also played a significant role in our improved finances.

“Marilyn has given a critical lead in her portfolio and the Planning Committee.”

Councillor Susan Hall also paid tribute to the husband and wife pairing. Harrow’s deputy leader said Mr Ashton’s financial background had been beneficial to the area.

“Part of his legacy is to have played a dominant role in putting the borough’s finances back on to a sound footing. I’d like to place on record my thanks for David and Marilyn’s tremendous work in leading the Council to a position where its improvements are now recognised across the local authority world.”

No word yet on who might stand to replace them, but watch this space for the latest updates.

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The snow is melting, at least on the main roads, and we better hope it goes away fast.

At present, there is only 427 tonnes of grit left in the borough, and gritters are operating at a ‘light rate’. The council are still waiting on the 1,000 tonnes of grit needed – and ordered last month – to stop roads in the area from transforming into ice rinks.

Harrow council leader Cllr Susan Hall joked today:

“Perhaps it will arrive just in time as spring daffodils flower in our parks.”

Looks like we better hope spring springs up soon!

Especially because neighbouring boroughs have even less, so Harrow may even have to share its dwindling supplies.

Meanwhile Harrow’s Labour councillors are none too happy about plans to cut the borough’s Winter Maintenance Budget for next year by £50,000.

The deputy leader of the Labour group and Wealdston councillor, Phil O’Dell, said:

“This is a very short sighted cut by Harrow Council.

“Clearly the council is neglecting public safety.”

What do you think? Should the council have made better preparations for the winter weather? Are they mad to cut spending on snow protection for next year, or is this just a freak season, so money could be better spent elsewhere?

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Harrow residents will now need specific permission to own dogs and the council may ban them from having certain breeds.

The Times is reporting that Harrow council could evict tenants if they are found to have dangerous dogs. The dogs will also be given microchips to better survey them.

Owners of the so-called “weapon dogs” or ‘status dogs’ could be refused council housing. Existing tenants face council checks to ensure the dogs, increasingly used as weapons and appearing in cases of violence, are not causing problems to other residents.

This follows the case in November in Liverpool where a four-year-old boy was killed in an attack by an illegal pitbull; it was one of many such cases in recent years.

Councillor Susan Hall said breed is irrelevant to the plans, as decisions would be made on case by case basis. However she said crossbreeds were the main concern.

She said: “Young men are aware that they face five years’ imprisonment for carrying a knife — but they can buy a dog, use it as a weapon, and there’s no penalty at all. We need to ensure the safety of everyone who lives on our estates.”

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Harrow council are apparently none too happy about Britain’s gritting situation as we enter another weekend of heavy snow. Or rather, they’re miffed about the lack of it:

Councillor Susan Hall, the council’s deputy leader (conservative) said Harrow was waiting on an order of 1,000 tonnes to stop residents from slipping up or skidding on the roads.

Calling the shortfall “pretty outrageous,” she said:

“We’ll do what we can but, if salt suppliers don’t honour their obligations, it doesn’t leave us much room for manoeuvre”.

snow covered: but will there be enough grit? photo: JL

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