After receiving thousand of responses, having hundreds of face to face conversations with residents and holding more than 50 community meetings in venues ranging from job fairs to Harrow Mosque and St. Albans Church, the extremely successful ‘Take Part’ budget consultation has just concluded.
In launching the ‘Take Part’ consultation three months before the first draft budget, we have been open and honest with residents about the challenges we face with central Government imposing huge cuts on Harrow Council, a fact which has led to the need for savings of £75m. I would like to say a massive thanks to all the staff for their hard work in bringing this consultation together.
The responses we received will influence the decisions we make as a council moving forward. Our announcement on the Arts Centre shows this perfectly.
We are delighted to say that after listening to residents’ concerns, we have decided to keep the Arts Centre open for this year while we develop a business plan to make the site financially viable and able to run independently without a council subsidy in future years.
I think it’s fantastic that residents are engaging with us; it’s a huge positive that we have attracted 12000 people to get involved in local politics as a part of the ‘Take Part’ budget consultation.
On the subject of tackling big issues, Harrow Council is about to launch a major regeneration plan which could potentially put £1.7 billion of investment into the area. This is an exciting project which shows our ambitions for Harrow. Having already announced the re-starting of a council house building programme earlier in the year, we’re going from strength to strength after submitting a Housing Zone bid for more than £30 million to the Greater London Authority which we will use to regenerate Harrow & Wealdstone Town Centre.
For projects like this we need a commercially astute chief executive who can manage a project on this scale. Following a consultation with staff and a thorough and robust recruitment process, Michael Lockwood’s vision for Harrow – together with his past experience of securing regeneration projects – meant he was the ideal candidate for the reinstated role of Chief Executive.
I am delighted to welcome Michael back to Harrow.
Michael Lockwood is a widely respected figure for his previous work at Harrow Council and his recent high profile role in leading on finance and policy at the Local Government Association.
Whether it’s resident and staff satisfaction at an all time low or the biggest funding shortfall in the history of the Council, we have many challenges ahead of us.
With the hard work of staff we have had lots of successes since the administration took over in May, from introducing on the spot fines for spitting to a £200,000 investment in fighting domestic violence, we can now build on this success and drive through our ambitious plans for the future – and meet the challenges of finding £75m of savings over the next four years.
On a personal note, when writing this blog I was shocked by the news that the 25-year- old Australian Cricketer Phil Hughes tragically lost his life playing the game he loved, and I would like to pay my respects and offer my deepest sympathies. I know how many staff and residents love cricket. The outpouring of condolences for Phil Hughes all over the world is a clear reminder of how, more than ever, sport brings people together.