Sep 19 2014

Harrow Council Cabinet Meeting: A Lesson in Bellyfeeling

harrow_council_logoQuite possibly one of the most pointless meetings yet, a view clearly shared by Dave, as he didn’t bother to show up for it. Quite surprising, as common belief was that Thursdays were one of his two days at work. Of course, the irony of the meeting rubber stamping the plan to recruit a Chief Executive to help him run the council wasn’t missed.

This was also the first meeting to be recorded by the public – and a number of cameras were running throughout the evening. The man from the Ministry of Truth told us that one of them were from the Harrow Film Makers; the other he wasn’t sure about. However, he did introduce a new purveyor of Newspeak at the Council, a Tim Matthews, who had a disturbingly firm handshake.

So, back to the bread and circus (forgive me, I’ve been reading up on Orwell’s 1984, which could easily have been set in a place other than Oceania) that passes as a Cabinet meeting these days The usual  couple of petitions, which will probably end up in the Memory Hole, followed by some questions from residents. A couple caught our interest: one about the pavements in Tintern Way being impassable on a wheelchair, the other about the Council’s policies impacting on the lowest paid public realm workers. The first didn’t particularly get an answer; the second got a non-answer and a promise of something being put in writing at a later date, once dreamt up.

On to councillor questions, and an inordinate amount of blustering – with the exception of Cllr Sachin Shah who gave a one-word response to a question. So there’s still no progress on introducing some transparency by giving the opposition – or the voluntary sector – a non-voting seat on cabinet, a promise made, possibly, when the Party thought the had no chance of winning the election.

Bin collections could be changed, says Cllr Parmar. Collections could move from weekly to monthly, we imagine, but lots of detail to come.

So, moving on… a couple of agenda items about Susan Hall’s spitting and littering plan… What was a surprise was that it seems the plan Labour are intent on bringing in – complete with £50,000 to be spent on an enforcement company (more on that in a second) – doesn’t appear to outlaw spitting. Sure, spitting a piece of chewing gum is covered, as it is technically littering, but hawking up a greenie – and sorry, there probably isn’t a better way of putting it – is probably still quite legal.  But going back to the £50k… yes, the council is toying with the idea of bringing in some quasi-military group to issue fixed penalty notices to residents who flout these laws. Which isn’t a lot of money. Which then suggests that there’s probably some kick-back, a commission-driven scheme, to pay them. Which means, that there will be targets for FPNs, and where there are targets, there are probably bonuses at stake too. So, you have a small army of ticket-wielding mercenaries, who see each fixed penalty ticket as a means to boost their income. Now, what on earth could go wrong with that?

£200,000 was announced to be ploughed into tackling domestic violence – a fine example of something done right. Of course, this had to be whored-up with at least 20 minutes of mutual back-slapping, people feeling pleased, and what-a-wonderful-group we are. Honestly, sugaringly-sweet doesn’t begin to describe it – I’ve see less sweetness in a builder’s cup of tea.

On – and these are in no particular order – the Chief Exec. All but one (ie: Harrow) of the London Boroughs have a Chief Exec, said Cllr Ferry. “Harrow is a laughing stock, “ he continued. Not for having a part-time leader, apparently, but for not having a Chief Exec.  So, that got rubber-stamped with a big YES, thus allowing Dave to cut down on his working hours. No mention of the actual cost of recruitment that this will incur, as we don’t expect this to be a vacancy to be advertised on Craigslist (or, on the other hand…).

About this time, Jon Turner (I think; if it wasn’t him, perhaps the Council could advise who it actually was) turned up. Jon’s the HR honcho, so you’d think he’d know a bit about timekeeping.

Another councillor gets propped up by a new Portfolio Holder Assistant. According to Cllr Ferry, this won’t cost any more, because the councillor already gets a Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) for something else. Of course, that other role might be handed to someone else, in which case, the SRA comes into play, and this cabinet starts to cost you more…

Can’t think of much else of interest. It was all over and done in 90-minutes, but when there’s no opportunity for challenge, question or transparency, we’re surprised it took that long.

Footnote: The word bellyfeel means a blind, enthusiastic acceptance of an idea. The word likely comes from the idea that any good Oceanian should be able to internalise Party doctrine to the extent that it becomes a gut instinct – a feeling in the belly (source: Bellyfeel).

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1 comment

  1. Angelina

    What a joke especially as David Perry who only works 2 days a week didn’t even turn up….he needs to be replaced and quick!

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