The new administration has hit the ground running as we roll up our sleeves and get on with the job of protecting the vulnerable, supporting families, bringing together communities and finding new ways to boost local business and create jobs.
We’ve started to make bold reforms to the council, with the help of hard working officers who have put in long hours to ensure a smooth transition and we’ve already seen some very positive results.
Cllr Sachin Shah, had the honour of making the first decision of the administration, when he immediately carried over £300k into the welfare contingency fund for this year, to help families in dire need of assistance by providing them with emergency relief on anything from transport costs to white goods. This was quickly followed up by our group’s decision to save the taxpayers thousands of pounds by reducing some unnecessary committees that Councillors previously sat on.
Whilst we have made further short term progress, like the imminent introduction of the ban on spitting, and the beginning of the Council Tax Consultation Scheme, we have also started to have discussions about solutions to the longer term problems facing Harrow. Satisfaction with the council has fallen over the last few years and we are looking at undertaking a borough wide resident consultation program, to get local residents involved and a part of council decisions and developments in their area. In a similarly ambitious scheme, the recent development from our housing department that Harrow Council will be building council owned houses for the first time since the 80s promises to be just the start of our plans to deal with the housing crisis in Harrow (you may have spotted news of our ambitious plans to build hundreds of homes in the local press).
I would like to take this opportunity to thank staff; myself and the group have enjoyed working with officers so far and have been impressed by how professional and informed officers have been. We look forward to this relationship continuing.
In other news I have been to Westminster with Paul Najsarek and Simon Brown, our portfolio holder for Children, Young People and Schools, to represent the council at a meeting with the minister for Children’s regarding our services in Harrow. As leader I am keen to represent Harrow more widely and to ensure that our good work is recognised. I have met Capita and have further meetings planned with our health partners on the Health and Well-being Board and a meeting with Harrow’s fire commander.
As you know, we are having over £70 million of cuts imposed on us by central Government. This administration has already shown sound financial management, and we are going to keep that discipline while we try to pick our way through what will be a number of difficult decisions.
Looking to next week, Harrow, like the rest of the country, will be the subject of public sector industrial action next Thursday (July 10th). We recognise the Unions right to strike and over the next four years we will be working collaboratively with local trade unions to overcome the impossible situation the Government has put us in, with over £70m worth of cuts being imposed on Harrow Council and local residents.
Finally – and on a lighter note – I am delighted that Harrow has officially become a Fairtrade borough. I know its taken a while but I’m glad to see that all the hard work has paid off.
Again, I hope to meet as many of you as possible over the coming weeks and I will be at the next “Talk to Paul” events which are pencilled in for September