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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From Cllr David Perry, new leader of Harrow Council

Last night, at our annual full meeting, I accepted the honour and privilege of leading Harrow Council. I’d like to use this, my first blog as leader, to introduce myself and tell you what my administration stands for.

For council staff, I know this has been a turbulent and uncertain period with changes in both administration and management. It is a tribute to our hardworking staff that the council was able to carry on delivering vital service for residents. To cite one particular example, the staff in the Mayor’s office navigated the choppy waters of last year with calm professionalism, allowing the first citizen of Harrow to carry out her Mayoral duties in the non-political way they should be conducted. For demonstrating such grace under pressure, thank you.

I believe our employees are the lifeblood of the organisation. They have the skills and expertise that help us, the members, form our decisions. I want to consult as many of them as possible in how we transform this borough.

So what does the new administration plan to do? In summary, we plan to make a difference to people in four key areas: families; communities; the vulnerable and business.

Over the coming days we will be announcing more detail in all of these four key areas. But it is important to stress that the manifesto pledges we were elected on have all come from what we were told on the doorsteps of Harrow, alongside meetings involving women’s groups, community organisations, the voluntary sector, trade unions and residents.

Whether it is building affordable homes, pledging £1m to tackle domestic violence and support carers or embarking on a programme of estate regeneration, our pledges reflect the needs of local residents.

Partnership with the community will lie at the heart of everything this administration does – from helping us to run services to taking up brushes and brooms to clean the borough together. (This last point was illustrated by our recent community clean-up day where local people worked with us to clear up a rubbish-strewn alleyway).

With a new stable administration in place, I profoundly hope the era of splits and factions has passed. It is time to return our activities to what matters – making a positive difference to people’s lives and empowering them to be a part of communities and homes they are proud to call their own.

We will of course be investing money in our key priorities. However,  there is also a difficult reality to face that Harrow Council will need to save more than £70m over the next four years. There is no avoiding the fact that making these cuts will be challenging and extremely difficult decisions will have to be made. We will work with staff every step of the way to protect frontline services; we always value the input of staff and will do all we can to ensure staff feel able to approach us and discuss their ideas or concerns.

To meet these challenges, we are going to govern in a new way, one where the administration works by consultation with staff, local people and the voluntary sector at all times. The town hall does not have all the right answers, and as a council we no longer have the chequebook to pay for all of the things we’d like to do for residents.

In the meantime, I plan to use this blog as the start of an on-going conversation with you. It is with your help that we will make a difference to Harrow.


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