Thank you

It has been a real pleasure attending staff forums over the past few weeks, in a range of venues from the Civic Centre to Alexandra Avenue Clinic. Staff are the lifeblood of any organisation, and the more staff I meet and work with the more I am impressed by your professionalism and hard work, particularly given the enormous challenges we as a Council collectively face, and will continue to do so over the coming months and years ahead.

The Council continues to do fantastic work in supporting our communities. Following investment by the Council the Croft Pavilion in Pinner is now newly refurbished and fitted out with as a gym and training area, which makes it the perfect new home for the Harrow Boxing Club. It’s great to see the gym up and running and a massive thank you to all staff involved in bringing this project together.

I would also like to thank all the staff for their hard work in our submission to the Independent Healthcare Commission. I’m sure all staff are aware of the huge pressures faced by our local hospitals in North West London and our staff worked extremely quickly to set up community engagement events with a wide range of different groups to hear about our resident’s experiences. The final report identified a range of key issues that all local public organisations from the Council to the NHS need to address to give our residents the best possible access to healthcare in North West London; I am sure that it will be an important contribution to the final report which is due to be presented to the Secretary of State for Health before the end of Summer.

I want to end by drawing your attention to some key community events over the past few weeks. Harrow’s leisure facilities and parks have hosted some enjoyable community events from the 10th Annual Sports Day at Roger Bannister Sports Centre, hosted by the Sri Lankan Muslim Cultural Centre to the Harrow Vaisakhi Mela Sikh community festival in Byron Park.

It was also a pleasure to attend the Mayor’s Annual Civic Service at St Mary’s Church, Harrow-on-the-Hill, as well as the Annual Flag Raising Ceremony to give thanks to our residents who are currently serving in the Armed Services. These traditional events are rightfully an important part of Harrow’s calendar and I would like to thank everyone involved who attended.

Cllr David Perry

Leader of the Council

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A great first year for the new Council

I would like to start by offering my deepest condolences to the family of Jeremy Jeeves, who sadly passed away last Friday. Jeremy has worked as a Librarian for Harrow Council since the 1980s, and was dedicated to serving the residents of Harrow. As a Trade Union representative he was a strong and passionate voice for staff and he will be sorely missed.

I would like to congratulate Cllr Krishna Suresh for being elected as the new Mayor and Cllr Rekha Shah for being elected as the new deputy Mayor. The Mayor making ceremony was a really successful evening, with a positive atmosphere and engaging speeches from all sides of the Chamber. I would also like to thank all the guests who came, some of whom travelled a very long way to be part of the celebrations.

I look forward to working with our new mayor and joining him on visits to the community. I know that Cllr Suresh’s energy and passion for the community will make him an extremely popular and well-respected Mayor.

The Council has been involved in some key community events recently; from the celebration of the Leisure Centre’s 40th anniversary to the on-going Leader’s Surgeries with residents. I In April and May I visited the wards of Pinner South, Rayners Lane, Hatch End and Marlborough. I have also had meetings with residents associations and community groups such as the Pinner Association to see how we can work together to protect our services from the Central Government cuts.  In addition I spoke at the staff conference with over 200 managers in attendance.

I would also like to congratulate staff for their excellent efforts in conducting a well run election process and count. Elections involve lots of hard work behind the scenes and long nights in the run up to Election Day.  All of the staff involved were professional and it is a credit to them that everything ran without a hitch.

It is nearly a year since the Labour administration took over the running of the Council, and we can already be very proud of what we have achieved as an organisation.

We have already fulfilled our key pledges; such introducing a period of free parking in our district centres and introducing on the spot fines for spitting and littering. We are also well on the way to fulfilling our pledge to support our young people into work, having helped 98 young people into work, training and apprenticeships – this is just some of the highlights out of all the positive work that has happened over the past 12 months.

Cllr David Perry

Leader of the Council  

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Open letter to the Royal British Legion in South Harrow

I would like to offer a huge thank you to the Royal British Legion in South Harrow for hosting the first ‘Meet the Leader’ event last Thursday.

Residents who attended were extremely pleased that such an event was hosted in their local area. They took the time to raise various local concerns with me, from road safety and potholes to housing and adult social care issues. Residents commented on how the personalised one-to-one meeting allowed them to raise sensitive matters that they would not normally raise with the council in larger public meetings.

I thoroughly enjoyed the one-to-one sessions with South Harrow residents, and I look forward to meeting residents and discussing local issues at the next sessions, especially as I know many residents are already booked in.

Over the next few months, I will be going to all four corners of the Borough to meet residents, so if you would like to book an appointment to discuss you local issues or concerns please email leaders.appointments@harrow.gov.uk, or call 020 8863 5611. To view dates and times for the upcoming sessions, click here.

I believe these events are what politics should be about; local elected representatives on the street corner, speaking to residents about the local issues that matter to them and their local communities.

I look forward to meeting you

 Cllr David Perry

Leader of Harrow Council

 

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Visiting all four corners of the borough

One of the most enjoyable parts of being Leader of the Council is having the privilege of being invited to events all over the community.

Last month I supported Harrow at the London Youth Games boy’s cricket competition, and I attended the Tamil festival, Thai Pongol, at Harrow’s Civic Centre. As always the Harrow Tamil Community Association do a great job of organising the celebrations and they put on a real show, complete with Tamil cultural dances and music performed by all generations.

I also attended some more sombre events at the council’s Chambers. Poignant memorials were held to mark the Holocaust and both the Paris and Pakistan Peshawar School tragedies, with speakers giving thoughtful and moving speeches.

No matter a Councillor’s position in the council, they are elected to support and serve their local residents. With this in mind, over the next year, I will be visiting all four corners of the borough to have 1 to 1 meetings with local residents to discuss any local concerns they may have.

If residents have any long-standing issues, such as housing concerns, problems with Council Tax, or persistent fly-tipping, please get in contact and book an appointment to see me.

The schedule for the first six months is:

  • 17th February, 5:30pm to 7:30pm – Grange Farm Estate Community Hall (Harrow on the Hill)
  • 5th March, 5:30pm to 7:30pm – St Alban’s Church (Headstone North)
  • 24th March, 4pm to 6pm – Belmont Community Hall (Belmont)
  • 2nd April, 9am to 11am – Daisy’s in the Park Café (Pinner South)
  • 16th April, from 12pm to 2pm – The Beacon Centre (Rayners Lane)
  • 30th April, 1pm to 3pm – Harrow Arts Centre (Hatch End)
  • 14th May, 9am to 11am – Harrow Leisure Centre (Marlborough)
  • 26th May, 4pm to 6pm – Knave café, St John’s Church (Greenhill)
  • 9th June, 2pm to 4pm – Pinner Library (Pinner)
  • 25th June, 3.30pm to 5.30pm – The Lodge (Headstone South)

To book an appointment please phone 020 8863 5611 or email leaders.appointments@harrow.gov.uk.

I look forward to meeting residents over the coming months.

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New year, new start on regenerating Harrow

A Happy New Year to all – I hope everyone had an enjoyable break over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday. 

Whilst the New Year is an extremely busy period I wanted to update staff about some of the community meetings that have taken place over the past few weeks. I have met with Simon Ovens, the Borough Commander, to discuss the recent fatalities in Harrow. On Saturday I joined an anti-austerity march to protest against this Government’s swinging cuts and their impact on the most vulnerable people in our communities. I also attended a moving memorial event for the victims of the Peshawar’s school massacre in Pakistan, which was arranged jointly by Councillors and the inter-faith council. 

2015 promises to be a challenging year, with the budget in February and the on-going housing crisis just a few of the issues that we will be tackling in the New Year. 

Despite these challenges there are also a number of positives and we will be building on the progress we have already made to date.  With the support of our hard working staff we have presented a draft budget that, despite having to find £25 million of savings in 2015/16, still allocated over £700K of funding to hire more social workers to ensure the most vulnerable in our Borough are protected.   

And whilst Northwick Park Hospital’s A & E department is facing unprecedented challenges our Adults team is still doing fantastic work in caring for elderly people in our Borough, the personalised care that we give is still recognised as being amongst the best in the Country.

Just before the New Year we published our ‘Heart of Harrow’ strategy, which will bring over £1.7bn of investment to the borough from a range of public and private sources to build new housing, especially much needed affordable housing and infrastructure investment into schools.  These measures will go someway towards tackling the housing crisis and rogue landlords caused by years of underinvestment.  I am delighted that plans are well under way to start the regeneration of Harrow.

2015 brings a number of opportunities as well.  Transport for London have indicated to the council that they will be developing Harrow-on-the-Hill station and the potential extension of Crossrail could bring a boost to the area and the economy.  We have a lot of work to do, but there are encouraging signs that together we can build a Harrow to be proud of. 

As with all redevelopment, we need to ensure that it is local residents that benefit. We will be holding public meetings and involving residents in the design stage, so that residents can contribute to what is a massive and exciting development for the area. 

I look forward to working with residents and council staff alike in 2015 to champion our community in the coming year.

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Harrow: back to business with regeneration and a new chief executive

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.

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October leader’s blog: “Take Part” and taking action for our residents

For the past month, my colleagues and I have been asking residents to give their thoughts on our future budget, and they have done just that. I hope you’ve spotted the ‘Take Part’ stalls on street corners, libraries, Under One Sky and other events. I for one have been grateful for the feedback and suggestions people have given us. Cutting £75m from our budget over the next 4 years is going to be an extremely painful process and therefore I am pleased that as a community we are having those difficult conversations to see how we can protect our community together from the cuts which are being imposed on the Council. But nonetheless, the council will continue to deliver excellent value for money services, and it is essential residents continue to help us shape that process. 

There have been some other events in October that reflect our administration’s values and priorities, that I want to go into a bit more detail on. 

Last week was the Community Champions consultation conference, which was a great opportunity to meet all the champions who do such good work in our neighbourhoods. With over 1000 Champions in the borough, it is clear how important this scheme is to Harrow. However there is always room to improve and expand on the good work already being done. Whether it’s encouraging champions to work together to help grit a side street to champions working with a local voluntary organisation to support isolated elderly people along their street there is the potential and opportunity for lots of great work to be done in the future to broaden the scheme. After a successful conference and many Champions contributing to the consultation workshops, we can look forward to working with the current champions in the future to see what ideas they may want to take further to build and expand on the great work they already do.   

This conference was followed by the Xcite job fair which took place on Wednesday 22nd October. Despite the budget pressures we’re facing, in July of this year we announced £75,000 to help fund the back to work project; this is money that will help over 300 people in the borough train for extra qualifications to help them progress in their career and learn new skills to support them in their job search. Low-pay is a real problem in Harrow and great projects like this, backed up by the necessary funding can go a long way to helping residents in our borough not only find but continue to stay in employment. 

And finally, it was a real privilege to be at the Harrow Heroes Award ceremony on Tuesday October 14th. I was honoured to present an award and listen to all the stories of the selfless and inspirational work done by all the volunteers nominated for the awards. I would like to thank the council officers for bringing together the event and once again pass on my congratulations to all those nominated.

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The Budget: the big conversation with our residents has begun

I hope everyone managed to get some time off over the summer, and have come back to work refreshed and ready to go during what will be an extremely busy period for us.

With the start of the school term I am delighted that our School Expansion program is right on track, with all of our schools ready on time for the start of the new term. It’s also a tribute to the hard work of council officers and teachers that we have managed to deliver on the Government’s pledge to provide free school lunches for all 5 -7 year olds at all our community schools.

Our Budget Consultation with residents officially launched last Thursday. With £75m of government cuts being imposed on Harrow Council, and our residents, over the next four years the Administration has always argued that we need to have a conversation with residents about what services should be protected and how the Council should be run. This consultation is the start of this process and I hope that all staff, particularly those that live in the borough, will take part in this consultation and work with residents to ensure that their voices are heard loud and clear in the Council.

On the subject of consultations, I would like to say a big thank you to all staff that completed the staff consultation on the Senior Management Structure at the Council. This is a massive decision for the organisation and its only right that staff are part of the decision making process. A report recommending that Harrow Council reinstate a Chief Executive will go to Cabinet this week, to fill the damaging void left by the previous administration, as well as putting in place a management structure that we will deliver efficiencies and savings whilst enabling us to become a leader in West London for sharing services.

Also going to Cabinet are reports that deliver on our promises made in our manifesto, around introducing on the spot fines for littering and investing the first £200,000 of £1m in services to tackle Domestic Violence and support carers in the Borough. This major initiative will tackle problems including not only domestic violence but also honour based violence. These three issues go beyond injuring (physically and mentally) the victim but also scar the whole family. While women are often the victims, these abhorrent acts impact on the whole family. I want this administration to demolish the “behind closed doors” cover that so often masks these offences and work with our different communities to make them wholly unacceptable. You will see and hear lots more from the administration on this subject going forward.

It’s been great to see Cabinet members out and about in the community. Of particular note is PH for Finance, Cllr Sachin Shah’s visit to the Citizen Advice Bureau’s office with the announcement of over a £100,000 of funding for 1 -1 advice sessions; Cllr Simon Brown’s visit to Kenmore Park and Bentley Wood School as part of his Children and Schools brief and Cllr Sue Anderson’s visit with myself to the Indian Association of Harrow and Pakistan Society of Harrow’s independence celebrations.

Finally, it was a real pleasure to meet staff at the Talk to Paul events I attended. It’s always important that staff have a chance to ensure that their views are heard, and I look forward to meeting many more of you over the coming months.

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Harrow: building for business and a busy autumn ahead

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

David

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Getting down to the business of building a strong community

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

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