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Posts Tagged ‘Harrow council’

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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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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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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