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Tonight, Stanmore Politics left north west London and headed east…to trendy Shoreditch, for David Cameron’s first campaign rally in the race to become our next Prime Minister. 

The election might not even have been called yet, but David still had plenty to say to rouse the troops. Joined by Baroness Warsi and Tory chairman Eric Pickles, plus a pretty raging soundtrack, Cameron made an appeal to British voters. 

The full report, including pictures, video and more will soon be available for you to feast your eyes on over at The Hackney Post.  

But to whet your appetite, here are some snaps of the evening. 

Cameron spreads the love in Shoreditch

 

Baroness Warsi introduced her leader (spot Eric Pickles behind)

 

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Boris Johnson faces a grilling from Harrow residents at a question time event on Wednesday (photo: Simon Williams)

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Last week Stanmore Politics reported the plans for a new bus route between Stanmore and Brent Cross.

 While the benefits of better transport links may be obvious, not everyone is pleased with this, as you can see here. The fear is that the route will cause too much congestion along busy roads like Old Church Lane.

Michelle Stern, who is at the forefront of the Stop The Buses campaign, told the Harrow Observer:

“I don’t think there’s any way on these roads, particularly Old Church Lane, it’s safe to have bus stops because they are so narrow.”

Do you agree? Is it worth putting up with even more traffic on a busy road to give Stanmore a new bus route? Air your views here, and take the poll below!

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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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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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Local government should embrace social networking, according to a report released today.

The report encourages councils to employ internet communication tools as a cheap and simple way of informing the public and delivering services. At present, many councils see sites like Twitter as a security risk and block access to them.

According to the man behind Social media: why ICT management should lead their organisations to embrace it:

“Use of social media has exploded, appearing on the radar of ICT managers, but mostly for the wrong reasons.”

Chris Head argues that councils need to be educated about the benefits of social media. He said:

“The term “social” implies “not related to work”, but this is a fallacy.”

It’s a point politicians in the Harrow area could take on board. According to Tweetminster, there are over 300 constituencies now represented (by MPs and/or PPCs) on Twitter.

Yet our politicians are fairly quiet on the social media front. Since Harrow Council joined Twitter in July 2009, they have posted a paltry 37 messages.

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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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