The 100th anniversary commemoration of the start of the First World War was for me, and I am sure for everyone in Harrow, a deeply moving experience. Over the coming months, we will be marking the start of this most appalling conflict in all sorts of ways across the borough – through exhibitions, a parade, a gallery exhibition and story telling activities in schools. We need to remember that 2,900 Harrovians served in the armed forces, nearly 700 of whom were wounded and 644 killed by the time of the 1918 armistice.
Their sacrifice needs to be remembered by future generations – and ensuring Harrow’s war memorials are looking their best will help us to do that. I have therefore asked council officers to begin a programme of cleaning all war memorials in the run-up to Remembrance Day. That is, I am sure you will agree, another way we can respect the memory of those who died alongside our major programme of commemorative and educational activities.
Away from national headlines, an issue which continues to attract a lot of attention locally is the London housing ‘bubble’ – a phenomenon which it seems is reaching dizzy new heights with properties going across the capital for record amounts, and in double-quick time.
House prices are rising to astronomical and simply unaffordable levels; similarly big increases in the private rental sector meaning young people can’t afford to move away from home; a chronic shortage of council houses meaning that local residents are unable to move to smaller properties to avoid paying the bedroom tax, with disabled people particularly badly affected; rogue landlords ripping off tenants who are often too scared to ask for the help they need to make their properties liveable.
As a council, we can’t stop the housing market from overheating. But there are measures we can take to give real choice to those who will otherwise struggle.
After 23 years, we are once again building council houses and regenerating estates like Grange Farm. As promised in our manifesto, this administration is beginning to address the lack of affordable housing in Harrow. In total, the Homes for Harrow strategy will lead to 500 new homes. It’s a good start, but only the tip of the iceberg. We have more work to do to support our families and the most vulnerable in Harrow.
Away from housing, I was pleased to hear about potential investment in Harrow with the proposed expansion of Crossrail through Harrow & Wealdstone. We will be following this story closely for more details. However I welcome any investment in Harrow if it will help local businesses and give our young people a chance to get skilled, well-paid jobs. A railway station on our doorstep that provides fast direct links to the city of London will, I hope, be a trigger to greater investment in the borough.
We’re looking forward to a busy September with details being released for our plans for the budget consultation, as well as the roll-out of our two manifesto pledges- the introduction of spot fines for littering and support to tackle domestic violence.
We’re also looking forward to the Under 1 Sky festival, which will be held on the 21st September; this is always a great day for the community and we hope to see as many staff there as possible. I’d also like to say a big thank you to the community and cultural services for all their hard work in organising this fantastic event. It will showcase the best of Harrow’s young performers, and there will be a parallel march and event to mark the 60th anniversary of the borough.
Like many staff I was disappointed to see England crash out of the World Cup. While I can’t promise that it will result in finding England’s next great hope, I am pleased that we are investing £50,000 in our sports network to help families and children get active and take part in sport in this summer. So whether you are using a football ground, a squash court, pool or simply shaping up in one of Harrow’s outdoor gyms, everyone will be a winner when it comes to getting fit.
Finally, if you’ve been away during August I hope you’ve had a good holiday. I hope those about to go on leave have a great break and come back refreshed for what will be a busy autumn.
All the best