Jul 05 2013

Harrow Council Meeting July 4th – Notes from the back row

harrow_council_logoI went along to the Harrow Council meeting on July 4th, 2013, just to see what happens. I’ve been to a few Cabinet meetings before, and there’s usually a fair bit of bickering and heckling, so it was strange to see most of the Councillors on the best behaviour. Even Navin Shah took the opportunity to wear something more appropriate than a t-shirt, which is precisely what he wore to the Mayor Making ceremony.

So, sitting up in the gallery – the hottest part of the room, of course – what did we see going on?

First to catch my eye was Simon George, the Council’s new head beancounter. During the prayers given by the Mayor’s Chaplain, Mr George was spotted playing with his iPad. Time for a last minute tweet, perhaps, or a quick view at Snapchat? We’re unsure, but it would have been nice if he’d taken the two minutes – there being plenty of other opportunities to check his Facebook that evening – to give the prayers the attention they deserve.

Next up was a fabulous few words from Cllr Sue Anderson (Labour, Greenhill) who I rather quite like. She’s often out and about doing stuff, which is what being a councillor is all about. She challenged the Mayor’s order that no recording or photography was to be allowed in the chamber, despite a recent comment by Eric Pickles, Local Government Secretary that this should be allowed. To quote the Guardian, Pickles said: “I want to stand up for the rights of journalists and taxpayers to scrutinise and challenge decisions of the state.” I’ll be addressing the Mayor on that very point shortly.

We had Cllr Thaya Idaikkadar saying that he was “…prepared to eat humble pie if I’ve made mistakes…”, which I think was in relation to the dog poo bin saga. If other councillors follow this inspiring lead and do the same, someone had better get a call into Greggs the Baker pretty sharpish. Well done Thaya for having the balls to admit that you were wrong, and, better still, correcting it.

There was a bit of muttering going on about Capita, web sites and IT problems, which was funny, since I had time to check in at reception upon my arrival at the Civic Centre and go to the gents, whilst the security guard on reception was waiting for his computer to find a phone number of a councillor I was due to see. Looks like IT problems still persist at the Council, if the speed of that front-desk computer was anything to go by.

Cllr David Perry (Labour, Marlborough) didn’t have an easy time of it last night. I think the Mayor, whilst not exactly being fair to him, wasn’t going out of her way to make life any easier. However, when I did glance at him, he was busy wiping his table down with a bunch of tissues, so whether the power and dominance had pushed him just a little too far, wasn’t clear at the time. It turned out that he’d managed to empty his glass of water over the microphone electronics, since every time after that, his microphone burst into static whenever he tried to talk.

Over on the Tory side of the wall, I spotted Cllr Jean Lammiman (Conservative, Hatch End) keeping busy by polishing her watch with a rather nice hanky. She’d taken the watch off, was polishing just about every face of it, before putting it back on and admiring it. Of course, that caused another bout of polishing. Still, at least I didn’t catch her playing with her Blackberry again.

Cllr Husain “What party today?” Akhtar (ILG, Canons) got that very same heckle whenever he tried to speak. In fact, the heckling and talking-at-once by councillors of all sides got bad enough to fire up the Mayor into demanding respect and courtesy from the councillors. Several times.

Cllr Will Stoodley (ILG, West Harrow) was on top form as well, using the verbal equivalent of origami in some of his speeches.Indeed, there was even some wit, charisma and humour in there as well, so much so, I was rather looking forward to him plucking a bunch of flowers out of a hat or something.

There was a question about the cost of Under One Sky. It was difficult to understand Cllr Nizam Ismail (ILG, Queensbury), who was clearly wearing underpants a size too small, as his voice wavered in pursuit of octaves unknown to man. I think the figure he quoted was around £27,000, but there’s clearly much more to come on that. No doubt Cllr Susan Hall (Conservative, Hatch End) will go back for a second bite at the cherry on that one at a future meeting.

We had a bit of fire from Cllr Krishna James (ILG, Marlborough) biting back at the Labour group on a couple of points, and the lovely Cllr Zarina Khalid (ILG, Queensbury) gave us all an update, with a bit of ducking and diving, about some new social workers coming soon. It was unclear if they were experienced and qualified or just qualified, but she returned the ball nicely back to the Conservatives on that one.

There was some chatter about the Chief Exec taking over the role of Monitoring Officer from Hugh Peart. I beleive that this is a role which carried around £20k p.a. in extra allowances, but it wasn’t clear whether the Chief Exec will be getting that, whether Hugh Peart will be losing that, or whether they’ll be some jiggery-pokery so that they both end up a winner: Hugh keeping the allowance for NOT doing the job, and Michael picking up the bundle of cash for doing it instead.

The night rounded out with a rather interesting sounding item about a severance payment to a member of staff. The amount of the payment is in excess of £100,000, so it was shrouded in secrecy, and us mere mortals were booted out, but not before a long discussion about how it should probably have been out in the open. After some back and forth, led, primarily, by Cllr Paul Osborn, surround the Freedom of Information Act, he eventually capitulated, probably looking forward to bath and a hot chocolate. It was at this point that the turfing out began, and to smiles and waves from some of my chums down below – including the Chief Exec himself – I left. A FOI request was winging its way to the Chief Exec and his trusty sidekick before I’d even left the building.

So, all in all, a rather long evening – about three hours in all – but at least the car park was of free exit at that time. But well worth it, and highly recommended to see what your councillors are up to and it gave me a chance to catch up with other residents who are equally dismayed at the way this borough is spiralling down the crapper.


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  1. ricky123

    I dont think it is spiralling down the crapper, far from it, the new group is/has done more in the last few months than the Labour group did. Its refreshing to hear the debates and opinions with some common sense for once rather than just towing the party line. The two Conservative Councilors bring great points to the table and the new administration listens and takes action on some of there suggestions. These Cabinet and Council meetings have never been so good.
    It was spiralling down the crapper but I think it is now being sorted, AT LAST

  2. Ge

    How can they turf out members of the public from the gallery? Are they allowed to do that? Aren’t they supposed to be transparent? Harrow are the LEAST transparent council I know. This is holding our borough back I feel.

    Hillingdon (I believe) video all their meetings and they are available to view for upto 6 months after they have taken place.

    What’s up with Harrow? You represent US, guys, you are not autonomous or anonymous, so why are you acting like you are?


    Georgia x

  3. Praxis Reform

    Transparency seems like wishful thinking, but you’d think that if Councillors were really doing something to benefit the residents of Harrow, they would all be shouting “come and see just how hard we work”.

    Instead, I suspect they’re trying to avoid people questioning whether there’s really enough work in Harrow to occupy the time of 63 Councillors.

  4. Cllr Willy Stoodley

    You can’t discuss a redundancy payment in public if its possible to identify the individual concerned from the contents of that discussion; otherwise the individual can sue and then Praxis Reform and Georgia X would be whinging about why didn’t the Council discuss such things in private in order to avoid costly law suits. Exclamation mark.

  5. Praxis Reform

    Call me stupid, but why exactly can’t you discuss a redundancy payment in public? There’s no shame in having being made redundant, and plenty of people are in the same boat, after the current wake of financial scandals.

    Of course gross misconduct would be a different matter, but in that instance, the Council wouldn’t being handing out £100K to the former employee.

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