Thankfully I’m a morning person and am normally up and working by 6am. However on Friday it was a little different from my usual Council work, where I spent my first morning as Leader of the Council with Team Leader Dave Garner and his lively crew for their morning waste collection rounds.
We all just assume that our rubbish will be collected automatically, and it was a real eye-opener to see how efficiently the team worked to get their rounds done. Collecting waste from all the properties in Harrow is no mean feat, it’s a huge logistical task and it’s a testament to our crew’s work that it runs like clockwork.
Next it was on to our Special Needs Transport (SNT) team – I joined them on their round to collect children who attend Alexandra School and saw for myself the compassion and care our SNT team show in their day-to-day work. In a twist of fate I also met one of my old dinner lady’s, who was a volunteer with the SNT team!
After safely dropping the kids at school I also returned to school – the school I went to as a child. It has now changed name to Heathlands but the fond memories (and not so fond memories of having to learn French!) came rushing back. As part of my tour I dropped in with a year 2 class that were full of energy and clearly enjoying all the new facilities that were built as a part of its expansion.
One of our biggest successes over the past couple of years has been our £100m school expansion programme. I know residents don’t always associate the Council with schools and big building projects, but the entire programme has been led by the Council with residents being consulted at every stage on issues like traffic and parking. We know it can be a pain when construction work is going on but we have a duty to provide a place for all our children in Harrow at one of our amazing schools that are amongst the best in the country.
After seeing our school expansion project at Earlsmead School I was off to Rayners Lane to visit some of the Borough’s budding entrepreneurs. Harrow Council won the award for being the best small business friendly Borough in London or our work in supporting local businesses and apprenticeships. I was visiting some of the ‘pop-up’ shops that we have opened up. These spaces bring life to our high streets and there were some exciting products on show! I particularly enjoyed hearing about all the exciting and new business ideas our entrepreneurs had! I also stopped by the Stanmore Innovation Centre to meet the local businesses there. Small and family run businesses are the life and soul of Harrow and as a Council we’re making sure that this tradition will continue on well into the future. We are a business like administration, a business like council and a business like Borough.
The new Bentley Neighbourhood Resource Centre was the next stop on my visits – it’s an incredible place. As a Council we provide services for some of the most vulnerable people in society – something that is often forgotten. New Bentley is a special place. The patience and professionalism of staff is so heartening to see as they care for our residents with a disability. Government cuts have put the future of places like this at risk and as a Council we need to be doing everything we can to protect them and our most vulnerable residents.
My final stop of the day was to Harrow Police station. We need to keep Harrow as the safest Borough in London and for that to happen we need to work closely with the Police, who themselves are facing unreasonable and unrealistic cuts. Keeping our residents safe is the very least our residents should expect of us, and it was great to meet the Borough Commander to keep this top of our priorities.
After meeting so many dedicated and professional staff I am more excited than ever to Lead the Council. The list of challenges we face, from the Housing crisis to government cuts, may look daunting but I am confident we have the staff and the mind-set in the Council and across the Borough to take these challenges head on and Build a Better Harrow.
I want to end this on a personal note. For me, as Leader of the Council, I will always make sure that those who cannot stand up for themselves are heard. At the end of my time as leader, if I can say that Harrow Council has used its powers to deal with inequality, I will be really proud. I hope you can all join me in sharing this vision.
Cllr Sachin Shah
Leader of Harrow Council