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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