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Apr 28 2017

Harrow Council’s Cabinet Meeting – Notes from the back, April 27, 2017

After skipping a meeting last month, as there was – apparently – nothing much to discuss, Harrow’s Labour administration held it’s regular Cabinet meeting last night. This is an opportunity for the administration to approve council actions, but for many, the important part is the public and councillor questions and answer segment. For 15 minutes, the administration will take (pre-notified) questions, and provide answers.

Q&A is a subtle game: the questioner (and we’ve done it ourselves) asks the pre-notified question, which gives the administration time to find a suitably vague answer, and then follows up with a related supplemental question, which is designed to get an unprepared (and, perhaps, honest?) response.

Last night’s meting was no different. Question #5 from Cllr Hall, read: “What is the administration doing to ensure that the Council levies all fees and charges associated with the Council’s facilities and assets?””

It gather a answer along the lines of the administration saying that it did all it could and should. As expected.

Cllr Hall, who had the grace and appearance of a purring cat, playfully pawing at the leader’s dangly bits, went in for the kill, and asked why the “Reigning Women Conference”, hosted by Labour councillor Chika Amadi, in her capacity as a pastor of the Good News Ministries, had apparently received free-of-charge use of the Council Chamber, despite charging attendees over £18 to attend. Nothing, purred Hall, to do with her position as a councillor.

Leader Cllr Sachin Shah, clearly caught on the hop, fumbled for an answer, which seemed to say that he was happy that the appropriate process had been followed. Not exactly the answer expected, and Hall, sights now set on the unexplained and potential dodgyness, pushed for an answer.

Shah, realising he was backed into a corner, refused to be drawn, declared the time limit of 15 minutes was up, and tried to move on to other business. Cllr Hall hung on, pushing for an answer, only to be threatened with being chucked out of the meeting.

In all, the administration took only five questions, out of 74 questions submitted. The rest go onto the ever-increasing pile that the administration promises to respond to, but doesn’t actually seem to ever want to.

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28 comments

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  1. Sunny

    Business as usual then at Harrow Council…..

  2. Wealdstone Warrior

    It appears so….and if you are a Labour Cllr you get free rental for extra curricular activities in the Council Chamber. This is really disgraceful, first Anne Whitehead gets a free 2 week Jolly to New Zealand & Australia to attend a conference for 1 hour and now Chika Amadi gets free use of the Chamber for a non council event. So while the Council is haemorrhaging money here there and everywhere, Sachin Polly Shah is complaining about Tory cuts and borrowing money with no realistic chance of paying it back, Harrow Labour Cllrs are getting freebies.https://gb.eventbu.com/harrow/reigning-women-conference-harrow-london/790897

    Why Couldn’t Chika use Sudbury Primary School to host this event……http://www.goodnewschurch.net/

  3. F.D.Billson

    These Labour councillors are not the least bit interested in managing the council efficiently they only want to grab for free whatever they can . Until they are removed nothing will change. We, the residents, will still continue to pay the ever increasing taxes for less and less service. Disgraceful!

  4. Concerned Harrovian

    it is the residents who are haemorrhaging money as they wait endlessly for the telephones to be answered, at the Civic Centre, adding to the cost of their telephone bills.

    However, if the phones aren’t answered I supposed they can truthfully say we haven’t received any complaints.

  5. Jeremy Zeid

    Surely parrots don’t have dangly bits.

  6. Bill Stephenson

    I also attended the Cabinet meeting and listened to Cllr Hall and Cllr McLeod-Cullinane once again try to disrupt the meeting once again trying to score petty political points. The Leader of the Council quite rightly said that it was wrong to make personal attacks on other Cllrs and the proper way to deal with a matter such as this was firstly to establish the facts internally before making any accusations. There are many legitimate areas about which the Opposition can raise genuine concerns but this silly continued political posturing means and too clever by half attitude does Cllr Hall very little credit.

  7. Hilltop Eatchman

    Sorry Bill, but the Labour administration is utterly inept and incompetent. It’s NOTHING to do with the “cuts” while in typical leftist fashion any pretence at openness, transparency and accountability went out of the window ages ago while you and Polly Parrot blame everyone else.

    1. Someonewhocares

      First of all Bill S. did not mention the cuts above, YOU did “Eatchman”

      Apparently when registering (this time…) you were just incompetent/inept yourself with your keyboard… (Clue- It’s the next one along, “Watchman”!!)

      However, as you brought it up, here -and yet again- is some “News” (from 2014) about these REAL cuts:

      https://www.localgov.co.uk/DCLG-fails-to-understand-impact-of-council-cuts-says-watchdog/37648

      Point made ? (Probably not, oh well ‘Eatchman to himself’)

  8. Someonewhocares

    Now for an attempt at some ‘more constructive’ criticisms:

    Just dealing with a few questions at a time is really not acceptable to residents Bill.
    Neither is cancelling the previous Council Meetings to avoid answering either.
    This is all going to come back and bite you at some point: It always does……

    We all know what Susan is doing now (and why) but you do need to *address* it not just *ignore* it….

    1. Bill Stephenson

      I do not need to address anything. It is Cllr Hall who needs to address things. Her deliberately abrasive manner may receive or may not receive cheap publicity but achieves very little. As I have pointed time and time again, if she genuinely wants to get information and constructively contribute to making the Council work better and improve Harrow as a place to live and work in, the, she and her Deputy need to radically change the way they work. This is my view and it is only my view. However, it is not my job to tell her how to do it not that she would take the slightest bit of notice and indeed it is real very straightforward.

      1. Someonewhocares

        For clarification Bill by “you” I really meant members of the Labour group and Administration.

        The questions listed above (and as yet unanswered) seem reasonable enough, some are very direct, some rather probing – but is that not just how ‘you’ would ask them if it was the other way round? Similarly there are a lot of specific questions about AW’s trip to Oz/NZ -I won’t repeat all the implied ‘charges’ here- but if it really is all ‘above board’ why not just answer them?

        Unfortunately many of us ‘out here’ have now personally experienced the increasing-vague replies that are issued in response to particular questions. These often fail to meet the expected standards from a Public Body. Accordingly if Susan and Co. feel compelled to probe (even abrasively) it should really come as no surprise either.

        Again TRANSPARENCY would make Harrow ‘a much better place to live’ for sure…..

  9. Hilltop Watchman

    Yep, a simple typo. Not hard to do using a tablet. On the other hand your monicker “someonewhocares” is an oxymoron.

  10. Someonewhocares

    Why am I not surprised that you don’t know the actual meaning of ‘oxymoron’? You meant ‘misnomer’ of course – but that is not correct either! You did not comment on the main point above either but *have* you now read up on the DCLG (ie. the CUTS) link I provided yet?

    Oh, and can I also suggest you change YOUR name here to:
    “WhyStayOn-TopicWhenIHaveMyOwnBroaderAndPersonallyInsultingAgenda”
    (If you can manage that on your tablet)?

  11. Robin Arrow

    On the subject of cuts that was bought up in the comments: cuts are being made across the board to all Councils. Surely the administration can’t keep using the cuts as an excuse as other Councils are managing to do a better job despite facing the same cuts!? Maybe better financial management is needed… maybe a better monitoring of Council resources and not giving out freebies to your mates might help too….

    1. Someonewhocares

      Yes, Robin, but Bill S. did not mention the cuts: At least you accept these cuts are real enough; Tell me another Council though with a similar population/etc to Harrow who isn’t feeling the pinch now. (As you probably know even Surrey frightened May & Co. by threatening to increase Council Tax by 15% leading to the recent ‘concession’ to increase it by ~5%…)

      Don’t disagree with your better Financial Management/Freebies etc points though, either!

      1. Someonewhocares

        Just Googling ‘Council Cuts’ yields nearly 8 million hits……
        ie. Far too many stories to list, but these are typical:
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38982643
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38982643

        Note in that BBC item how the LGA says” further cuts will still be needed as councils are being pushed ‘perilously close to the financial edge’ “

        1. Someonewhocares

          Just noticed I had posted the same BBC link twice:

          http://news.sky.com/story/more-cuts-to-local-services-ahead-despite-tax-rises-councils-warn-10775017

    2. Bill Stephenson

      Harrow in its cross-party non party-political Peer Review was deemed to be a good Council and performing well in its use of resources and its innovative programme to deal with the austerity cuts. Historically Harrow has suffered a very low grant since the change from the Poll Tax to the Council Tax. Government grants are now being phased out to be replaced by the money raised by Business Rates. Harrow unfortunately is not replete with large businesses and so will be hit very hard by this change. Hillingdon, for eample, had Heathrow Airport which will generate a huge amount of Business Rates whilst in Harrow we are losing following the closure of Kodak and other businesses. It should be noted that Harrow’ Children’s Services have been rated good in all categories whilst Hillingdon’s Children’s Services has been deemed in need of improvement.

      1. Someonewhocares

        That’s great Bill so where exactly can we read all this good news?Please Encourage the Administration to publish such facts (but also to ‘go easy’ on all the spin, too: We are smarter than that!)

        Yes, this whole Business Rates change is likely to become a huge short-sighted folly; If there are large rises in Rates here (as is likely because they seem to be based primarily on house prices etc) then businesses could fail as a result – and then there will be less Rates being paid so they will go up for the surviving businesses….

        They claimed it will be a ‘Neutral’ tax of course… but of course it never is… Why else do it?

  12. Robin Arrow

    Yes admittedly Bill didn’t mention cuts but as they surfaced I thought I’d put in my take on it… for all it’s worth! Similar neighbouring boroughs; Brent, Hillingdon, Ealing, Barnet. Correct me if I’m wrong but none of them seem to be closing libraries or making such a mess of arts and culture services. Also none of them have raised Council tax quite as high as Harrow. Barnet even had a public consultation and Hillingdon I believe froze Council tax for about the 9th year running.

  13. Someonewhocares

    (Probably better to aim the Cuts problem/arrow straight at the administration then Robin?!)

    Well similarly if you specifically google ‘Barnet Council Cuts’ you will find lots to read too: Yes they did the Consultation so they could decide just what to cut:

    https://engage.barnet.gov.uk/commissioning-group/barnet-budget-consultation-2016-2017/user_uploads/009133_budget-consult-a4-booklet5.pdf

    And note this where Residents were angered “by their Council ignoring their £200K s-called “consultation” too: http://www.savebarnetlibraries.org/

    Hillingdon often comes up too in this context but I understand it has a ‘special status’ due to its proximity to Heathrow….

    Anyway there is no doubt about it Robin ‘the peasants are revolting’ (almost) everywhere!
    (Any chance that you and the other Merry Men can take on the Sheriff?)

    In fact many Councils have opted for the 4.99% increase in Council Tax
    (simply because any higher needs a referendum…)

  14. Robin Arrow

    Great pun, you’ll be surprised to know I’ve had many Hood jokes thrown my way before! Thanks for highlighting the links. I don’t know enough about Hillingdon’s funding to be honest but if they receive extra due to Heathrow – surely it is warranted for the extra costs incurred by the airport – or at least to some degree? I’m also aware that Harrow has always been hard done by in terms of the Barnet-formula and both parties in Harrow have pointed that out to various governments, red or blue. You’re right, many Councils have opted for a 4.99% increase – in fact most Councils. But I think what I and many other residents are feeling hard done by is the lack of responsibility taken by the administration. Cuts need to be made and you can’t please everyone but at least stand up and be counted – say why you have had to do something and why you have chosen to make a particular cut instead of constantly blaming the government.

    But also back to the main revelation in this post. It’s very well Bill and others saying Susan should have gone through a “proper way of dealing with a matter such as this” but from what I can see, even just on this website; dealing with it by going down this avenue or another – it doesn’t seem like anything would get done in this Council anyway! So Susan might as well put the controversy out on the public record!

    1. Bill Stephenson

      Cllr Hall would not need to use the website. She is the Leader of the Opposition – a position that I have been in – she has access to senior officers and the availability of briefings. How do I know. I have done the job and it is standard in all councils.

  15. Someonewhocares

    In fact Robin I don’t personally begrudge Hillingdon’s funding either, and they do definitely have some better ideas, like free parking for 30 minutes *almost anywhere* plus a special (reduced fee) “HillingdonFirst” card for residents, too: Google that and then get irritated! The real problem is when folks just say “see that’s what a Conservative Council can do” (but without reference to that special status funding of theirs of course).. but it makes you wonder…

    -And you are spot on with your ‘take responsibility for your action’ points: As we know to begin with the Labour Administration were keen to say “they were listening to residents”; What we did not know back then was that they would -slowly but surely- effectively take less and less notice of what we said! The cuts have provided a very useful excuse -for many other Councils too- for failing to prioritise properly. Whilst much of this was indeed due to Sheriff Pickles. notably in terms of Harrow’s Care Services (which were decimated and now seem destined to be run by ‘machines’)

    -It’s also a fair point that they seem to blame Susan & Co. for drawing attention to various issues too – as though it is simply not our (residents’) business; Unfortunately this seems to have clouded their judgement (even further), almost to the point of paranoia about revealing anything!

    Finally don’t forget that many of the ‘Fat Cats at the Top’ (Lockwood & Co.) seems incredibly ineffective (if not just actually invisible – indeed most residents don’t even know what they look like – why is that? Most (Elected) Councillors have other jobs and – in theory – often merely have the role of ‘rubber stamping’ what ideas (often nonsense) have originated from all these Full-Time Officers. It’s OK though as if they foul up they can just blame the (current) administration too; In fact if you do meet any and have any ideas they apparently just say “It’s The Cuts” and/or “We just don’t have The Money”…. either way, WE pay…

  16. Concerned Harrovian

    it would be good if Mr Lockwood and Sachin Shah did shifts on the Civic Centre telephones They might just then understand why residents are so fed up about a telephone system where you wait so long for an answer you lose the will to live. if the ‘phone is answered the answers are usually of no help at all. Residents would like to CUT the costs of their telephone bills, Please answer the phones someone, anyone.

    Yes lets have CUTS and more CUTS to residents’ telephone bills.

  17. Sonoo Malkani

    Is this what Harrow Council has sunk to?All this bickering!Please stop and get some work done.

    1. Someonewhocares

      Sorry Sonoo, but have you ever actually watched/heard “Prime Minster’s Question Time” & etc? It seems bickering (right or wrong) is a pre-requisite – and they seem to enjoy it too….
      Please pop down to the House and remonstrate with them instead!

    2. Harrow Dude

      Sonoo do you not think a question on a potential breach of Harrow’s Constitution is worthy of a proper justifiable answer?
      What about the Harrow Arts Centre question whether Harrow Council are paying Cultura’s legal fees and also some of Cultura staff wages prior to transfer and who agreed this?
      The transfer from Harrow to Cultura deal looks hooky and without answers to reasonable questions there is no transparency therefore with Sachin’s response at Cabinet on the balance of probability it is hooky.

      It’ can only be considered bickering if you don’t want to hear the truth.

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