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Dec 13 2015

Harrow Council Events Policy – A Licence to Print Money

harrow_council_brokenHarrow Council it’s draft Events Policy and is seeking views from those affected by it. Everyone should comment on this one, except… you can’t. With no space for residents to add their own comments on this scheme, the consultation is flawed from the outset: as one contributor to iharrow wrote: “It does not allow for the message that any cost is too much for a charity. It does not allow respondents to give a general comment. And it does not make sufficient differentiation between charitable and non-charitable events, As such, it means that any response, even the most negative possible, will appear as agreeing with the Council to some extent.

The survey itself (here) asks for a name (Q1) and email address (Q27) but there’s no indication on why the council might use it – where’s the privacy policy if they’re collecting this information? Why do they want it? What might they do with it?

Q2 asks “Are you a formally recognised park user group?” – a difficult one, as the form doesn’t ask if your’ responding on behalf of a group, until three questions further.

Q4 asks why you use the parks: one of the reasons offered is “green areas”, whatever that means. Conspicuous by it’s absence is “loitering to deal in drugs”, “drinking cheap alcohol” or “smoking weed” – all of which seem to be on the increase, following the decision to stop locking part gates. “Sleeping rough”, “taking a piss” and “cruising for gay sex” are probably up there as well, but not mentioned in the list.

Q8 asks about event size, and wants you to determine what a ‘small’, ‘medium’ and so event event should be. Entirely pointless: a yoga and mediation event of 1000+ people is probably less of an impact that 50 motorcyclists, so why ask?

Q9 gets technical, and asks you to rank event type by environmental impact (on, bizarrely, a scale of 1-12). Respondents are left to decide whether a birthday party has more environment impact than a wedding, for example. And where does a ‘community event’ rank on the scale? The obvious suggestion is that fireworks cause an environmental impact, although studies indicate that “…the potential human health or environmental effects are very low” (source) so you can’t even turn to the internet for help.

Q10 goes into whether certain criteria should be considered, most of which are worth ignoring and simply constructed badly anyway. You’re answering these on a scale of 1-11 by the way. One of the criteria is “what impact does the event have on the amount of rubbish” – is that important to you? It might generate tons of rubbish, blowing in the wind, so you could score it very important. It could be an event focussed on reduction of rubbish, again, you might consider that important. The organiser might say that they’ll clean up the park from tip to toe, having a huge impact on the rubbish already there, so again, you score it highly. The question makes no sense.

Q12 gets onto application fees, and is then duplicated again by Q13 with no discernible difference. But the real outrage starts at Q14: what do you think Charities should have to pay to apply – and the scale runs from £20 up to £660. If we consider the Roxeth Show in South Harrow, until it disappeared in 2015, the application fee alone would have made the difference between profit and loss. Or in other words, the application fee can kill an event, especially charity events which are already struggling in the borough. Bizarrely (although not, it must be said, unexpectedly) there’s no option to say £0 for charities.

Q18 is about commercial/funfair/circus events. You can only choose to agree that £1000 as an application fee is fine. No other choices are offered.

Q20 rams home the disdain for charities: daily hire charges, which range from £50/day up to £2000/day – and again, there’s no way to say you think it should be free for charities.

The whole scheme stinks, looks like a licence to print money, and should be consigned to history along with the idiots who dreamed it up. Whilst we applaud the council supporting community events, raping charities for every penny and screwing organisations that are trying to engender community spirit and cohesiveness is simply not the way to do it. And refusing to rule out charges for events like Remembrance Sunday is unforgivable.

Read the proposals for yourself here, but be very careful on how you fill out that survey.

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7 comments

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  1. Anonymous Contributor

    Here’s the person to respond to – directly. As a member of a “Park User” group I’m mor ethan happy to share her details with you. I’ve certainly responded!!!!
    Desiree Mahoney
    Principal Community Engagement Officer 0208 420 9671 (ext 5671)

    Desiree.Mahoney@harrow.gov.uk

    Would like to remain anonymous – if possible….PLEASE!

  2. Concerned Harrovian

    Many of these events raise money for charity. The money raised for charity would then go into Harrow Council coffers. This is an attack on both charities and the community. I am sure the hard working (I wish that hard working could be said of the Council) volunteers holding these events and the people attending do not wish their money to be used in this way.

    As for charging for Remembrance Sunday words fail me!

    Is charging people on the highway a return to times past? Are the council men going to wear masks and say “stand and deliver” ?. I wonder what the horse will be called Black Bess or perhaps Herga?

  3. Concerned Harrovian

    The next wheeze to raise money for the Council coffers could be to charge residents for the amount of air they breathe. Any suggestions how much they could charge per cubic metre?

  4. Lesley de Meza

    The other point of interest is that many of the “Park User” groups comprise volunteers who actually maintain the parks/gardens because the Council no longer do so. Thus saving the Council a large amount of money.
    These proposed charges for using the parks/gardens actually amount to said groups paying the Council so that they ( the park user groups) may continue to undertake the Council’s work!!!!

  5. Linda Robinson

    Thanks for highlighting these ill-judged recommendations Paul. People are understandably outraged that the councillors who are meant to represent them are sleepwalking into yet another almighty mess. The consultation is indeed just a sham exercise that gives no opportunity to air one’s true reactions. Don’t worry though… word on the ground is that cabinet members have already realised their blind mistake on this one and will send it back to the drawing board. In any case, it’s absurd to suppose for one moment that the council will have enough resources to fairly and efficiently administer and enforce what they’re proposing – application fees, notice deadlines, hire charges, number restrictions, risk assessments…

    It was obviously all meant to be part of the council’s “Project Phoenix”, which seems to be all about using every service in every department as a way of making money or getting residents to do everything themselves for nothing. The Overview & Scrutiny Committee’s review of Community Involvement in Parks is due to start in the New Year and report in April. Papers at http://www.harrow.gov.uk/www2/documents/g62656/Public%20reports%20pack%20Wednesday%2016-Sep-2015%2019.30%20Overview%20and%20Scrutiny%20Committee.pdf?T=10. The “scope” for the review says that it will “consider current levels of community involvement in Harrow’s parks and the schemes in operation to encourage more residents to be actively involved or volunteer in their local parks. Community usage of parks will be examined in terms of sports groups, access to grant funding, community lettings and events. The wider impact of parks in relation to community cohesion, public health and social benefits will be considered. In inputting into the development of the next open spaces and parks strategy for 2016 onwards, this review will in particular look at the plans contained within Project Phoenix and the commercialisation strategy for parks.”

    Anonymous Contributor is right; it was Desiree Mahoney who asked for comments about the draft policy to be sent to her, when the consultation first emerged under a different web page (it was under ‘traffic and parking’ and now it’s under ‘environment’ http://www.harrow.gov.uk/info/100006/environment/1667/draft_events_in_harrow_policy). You can’t see the full papers on the consultation link though. To get the whole picture you need to read the policy itself which is at http://www.harrow.gov.uk/www2/documents/s130998/Appendix_A1_-Events_Policy_15102015_Cabinet.pdf. With their usual ploy, the so called consultation finishes on 31 December – a period when community groups, especially park users, are understandably least active and mindless council questionnaires are the last thing on anyone’s list of things to do.

    Sending Desiree an email at desiree.mahoney@harrow,gov.uk is a good idea, so that her department knows the strength of feeling on this. Alternatively, if you can claim to represent a Park User group or a Friends group, the best place to voice your opinions will be at the Parks Forum meeting that Desiree has arranged at the Civic Centre for tomorrow night, Wednesday 16 December at 7pm, where the Events Policy is one of the main things on the agenda. Maybe see you there. All such groups are welcome.

  6. Abdul

    This lady is a very rude individual by putting the phone down on my wife this week.

    Desiree Mahoney
    Principal Community Engagement Officer 0208 420 9671 (ext 5671)

    Desiree.Mahoney@harrow.gov.uk

  7. Concerned Harrovian.

    Abdul

    Perhaps the lady’s surname is pronounced Moany.

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