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Oct 12 2014

Harrow Safer Neighbourhood Board – A Disaster Already

harrow_council_logoOver recent weeks, we’ve been chasing down exactly the who, what, when, where and why of the Harrow Safer Neighbourhood Board – the MOPAC (Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime) replacement for the HPCCG (Harrow Police Consultative Community Group) which is, amongst other things, supposed to hold the Police to account. They probably do other things as well, but the Council representative on the board. Cllr Varsha Parmar, has been exceedingly cagey about releasing any information.

So, why is is a disaster?

Cllr Parmar says: “The Board met for the first time on 12th May 2014.” Which seems an awful long time since the original kick-off meeting of October 28, 2013 – over six months, in fact.

At that kick-off meeting, there was an agreement from all present to “hold all these meetings in public” and to meet “four times per year, maybe with an annual meeting in addition, giving details of all spends etc.” So, by the time the date of the next meeting rolls around – currently touted as being October 27th 2014, but with just about two weeks to go, that’s not been formally announced yet, and that’ll be just ONE meeting in the first year. Islington, below, have public meetings every two months.

We asked who the board members were. Cllr Pamar said: The Board is not going to publicise the names of the individuals without their express agreement.” A further request for the name and contact details of the chair has been ignored. So it would seem we have a publicy-funded quango, who fail to hold regular public meetings, who refuse to be publicly accountable, and still have no means of being contacted: “We are also looking to establish a Board email address,” says Cllr Parmar.

“There is no budget agreed for the Board,” said Cllr Parmar, forgetting that MOPAC are funding the boards to the tune of £5,200 each. The Boards can also “… apply for funding from MOPAC for projects and two applications have been submitted,” she continued, but has declined to provide any further information on what those two applications were for.

Harrow’s (lack of) effort is the polar opposite of, for example, Islington’s, who seem to be inviting residents to join their board, watch the meetings and generally help out… This seems to be closer to what one would expect with any sort of local board… But, imagine the uproar if say Tesco or British Telecom said “We’re not telling who’s on our board!”  In fact, it’s even public knowledge who the person in charge of MI5 / MI6 is, even if we’ll likely never know the full board there. Yet Harrow remains silent.

Oddly, Cllr Parmar finds time to have her photo taken whilst interrupting workmen filling potholes in a tacky piece of PR spin, but as for doing a bit of real work, it seems we can forget it.

For the final word, we can refer to the notes of the October 28th, 2013, meeting, which said “We demanded transparency and accountability…”

So, where is it?

 

 

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  1. Concerned Harrovian

    Paul

    Thanks for finding out the information about the invisible Safer Neighbourhood Board. Wow they HAVE achieved something and that is to be more secretive than MI5 and MI6.

    Tesco and BT are funded by shareholders and reveal who is on their Board. The tax payer is funding this Board (and they are apparently applying for more funding for their secret projects) which is holding covert meetings, making stealthy decisions and thus creating the impression they have something to hide from the public. it would appear to us proles that it is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

    It is only the fact that Commander Simon Ovens is achieving good results that stops this Board being exposed as a quango. I am sure Commander Ovens and his hard working officers support transparency. They need this board and its shenanigans like a hole in the head. it would seem to be undermining the public’s trust in the police.The people of Harrow don’t know that they don’t know!

    I have a theory that somewhere in Harrow, hidden in a pothole, is a secret laboratory which has succeeded in discovering the formula for invisibility. The Safer Neighbourhood Board and the current administration would seem to be gulping the formula down in huge quantities as they are victorious in remaining hidden from view of those they consider plebs.

    Why can’t Harrow taxpayers have the same type of Board as in Islington? Perhaps the Board ought to ask Islington for some training on how to run a Safer Neighbourhood Board.

  2. Susan Hall

    I find this secrecy completely ridiculous. I know the members of the board and very fine people they are. All Cllr Parmar needs to do is to ask the Chairmen if she can contact the Board members and confirm that she will give out the details or indeed ask the Chairmen to do that. Secrecy is not what MOPAC want in any form and neither does our Borough Commander. We should hear from the board about the good things that Harrow Police are achieving. I shall be asking the Head of Paid Service to get involved tomorrow. I would ask the Leader David Perry but its not Tuesday or Thursday so he will not be able to help. I am astounded by this continual nonsense.

  3. PraxisReform

    I can only agree with all the above (even Susan Hall), and whatever you think of Sonoo Malkani, at least she and her group actually made an effort to tell people what they were doing…

    Having since read the MOPAC technical information surrounding these groups, I can only add one thing to what Cllr Hall has said, which is – We should hear about the good things that Harrow’s Police might be doing, but if the Police aren’t meeting the borough residents expectations, then this board is supposed to be nudging them back in the right direction.

    Thus, I can only imagine that Cllr Parmar is labouring under the misapprehension that if the board keeps everything a closely guarded secret, we’ll only hear “good” things and everything else will be forgotten about – but hey, that’s the way Harrow Council seems to operate these days.

  4. Susan Hall

    Monday asked the Head of Paid Service to sort this out as a matter of urgency, as I promised above…. I am sure we will hear at some point.

  5. Concerned Harrovian

    PraxisReform

    I agree that the HPCCG under Sonoo Malkani, and her committee, provided an exchange of information between the police and the public. Questions were asked and answered.

    The accounts were scrutinised and cleared by the former Borough Commander Dal Babu, GLA member Navin Shah and the MOPAC representative Christopher Benson and this was stated publically at an HPCCG meeting and misconstrued accusations of financial wrongdoings were refuted.

    At the final public meeting it was stated by the HPCCG committee that they had funded the HPCCG out of their own pockets for two years, after funding was denied, because they were determined that the public should have access to information and be allowed to ask questions.

    it is nearly a year since the meeting mentioned by Paul Boakes, (October 28, 2013) in the above article. There must be public meeting due before October ends because otherwise the promise to the public of four meetings a year plus one where the public can raise issues will have been well and truly broken.

    The quote ” I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it” would seem to apply. Where is the notion of free speech in Harrow?

    Paul, is it possible for you to find out, either from the chairman (name at present unknown) or Cllr Parmar, the date of the public meeting, the venue and the time? Also is this meeting going to be the one where there is interaction amongst the police, public and the Safer neighbourhood Board?

    1. iharrow.com

      I understand the next meeting is October 27th. You won’t have seen any announcement because… It hasn’t been announced. Cllr Parmar is currently refusing to respond to any further questions. Here’s the latest update I have from her:

      The Board met for the first time on 12th May 2014. This was an inaugural and procedural meeting. It met again on 16th June to elect a new Chair as the Chair elected in May had resigned. The first and to date only business meeting was held on 18th July with the next meeting scheduled for 27th October. Meetings are open to the public and the dates will soon be on the Council’s website. We are also looking to establish a Board email address.

      The application process for membership was advertised by the Council and individuals were encouraged to apply. Those appointed do not represent any organisation although they may belong to a variety of other bodies. They attend as residents of Harrow. There are, however, three other groups of Members: – a Senior Officer from Victim Support, 2 representatives of the Youth Parliament and 2 Councillors.

      There is no budget agreed for the Board. The Board has the ability to apply for funding from MOPAC for projects and two applications have been submitted. As yet, we have had no response from MOPAC on these applications.

      As you have already said, MOPAC is funding every Board’s admin costs and, in most cases, this is provided to the Local Borough Council. The Council will receive £5,200 towards its costs associated with supporting the Board.

      The Board is not going to publicise the names of the individuals without their express agreement.

  6. Concerned Harrovian

    The meeting on 27th October 2014 is open to the public but none of the previous meetings were advertised and so the public would not have been able to attend. MOPAC did not say in October 2013 that the other meetings were to be held in secret.

    Also with an admin budget of £5.200 for the year the four meetings will have cost £1,300 per meeting. Do they intend to take less than the £5,200 for next year as surely they will have money left over from the first year unless the council’s admin charges are very high

  7. sonoo malkani

    Good to see you have received an update from Cllr Parmar,Paul.I find it most upsetting that the public of Harrow has scant or no knowledge of the so called PUBLIC meetings which they claim have been held.PUBLICITY has been really very frugal if any,,No opportunity has been truly provided for local people to see the well overdue birth of this new body or judge its workings–even in its infancy.

    Sticks in my throat to be told that we had been promised “four meetings in public”, not public meetings—the latter are always inter-active.I am astounded by the clever use of semantics in a desperate effort to the pull the wool over the eyes of our citizens.This is totally unacceptable..

    When we agreed to TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY at the MOPAC PUBLIC meeting in the Council Chamber on 28 October 2013,we were given a false sense of security that the new set up would be completely above board..Nothing of that sort has happened to date.

    There is no real way to judge—- unless we can attend as observers—- and make up our own minds.I request everybody to be fair and open-minded about this.If you recall I had stood up and openly said so at this MOPAC meeting as well as at all subsequent HPCCG meetings including the last one held on 27 March 2014.

    We need to get our act together –and fast!It pains me greatly to see other boroughs,including our sister borough —BRENT–with whom we conduct oodles of cross-borough work —beating us hollow.Know why—they invite their public and PUBLICISE extensively.I felt so small to hear about this at the Commissioner of Police’s meeting held in Brent two months back,Surely our citizens are known to be very astute and intelligent.They don’t deserve an SNB which trailing behind a number of London boroughs.Let’s get to work and sort it out quickly.

    Harrovians have always been proud trail-blazers What seems to be the problem now?

    There is another worrying issue.The NAMES and Bio-data of members of the Safer Neighbourhood Board is publicised widely by other boroughs.Begs the question—why are we pussy-footing around?There has to be a jolly good reason for ours to remain anonymous.

    This cloak and dagger attitude is doing the Harrow Safer Neighbourhood Board(SNB) no favours and is unnecessarily giving the impression it’s like a secret society,—rather like the Free-masons.I am sure this is not the case but why allow those serving to be under a cloud.I am absolutely certain Mayor Boris Johnson did not envisage SNB’s doing their work in what still resembles a closed-shop.

    I approached the Chair of this SNB SUBHASH SAMPAT,as well as Council Officer MIKE HOWES, Howes,on 21 September,to please put this information in the public domain.I was advised this had been on their web-site but frankly it’s been a very lack-lustre introduction.I requested a Press Release and was told this would be considered.I inquired why MINUTES of whatever meetings had been held thus far be posted as had been promised at the 28 October 2013 meeting.No reply!

    There is another contentious issue which must concern us all.It’s about BROKEN PROMISES..You will appreciate that we were initially told at this same meeting that we could have just SEVEN LAY members but I had .stood up and demanded we have the maximum allowed—ie TWELVE LAY MEMBERS to be truly representative of the DIVERSITY which we boast.

    The MOPAC agreed right away and the former Leader of Harrow Council,Cllr Susan Hall put it to the vote.I was delighted to see almost every hand in the packed Council Chamber go up.So,that was also publicly agreed in a democratic fashion.We were promised by Cllr Hall.and MOPAC that we would get our full share of Lay ,members.

    However,the paucity of experience we are experiencing is a matter for some concern.With all due respect to existing Board members,in particular LAY members,this must be addressed right away.

    Board members it is your sacred duty to make the Borough Commander accountable.I have FULL confidence in Simon Ovens and his team.Sorry to say,it’s our Board which is the weakest link here!How fair is that!

    I know it is not easy to find people who will show full commitment for THREE YEARS as Board members or have the right sort of experience to fit the bill.However,it’s not that hard if you are determined to do so.I hope Cllr Parmar and the Chair of the SNB will reflect on this.

    I took the liberty to speak with Mike Howes today and have learned that the next meeting of the Harrow SNB will be on MONDAY 27 OCTOBER at 630pm,in one of the Committee Rooms at the Harrow Civic Centre.

    Please check details of the venue in the foyer,near the lifts.I hope this will help many more local citizens take in interest in how their monies are being spent on policing etc.I am very hopeful,once we come out in the open we can deal far more effectively and attract more talent and experience to fill the remaining vacancies on our SNB in a fair and transparent manner.I hope this information will be put out on the Council web-site as well as our local newspapers so that we attract much more interest.

    I am touched to read PraxisReform found my HPCCG works to be of some value.—especially after the manner in which some folk deliberately misled the public and set out to destroy our reputations and to trash all the hard work we volunteers had put in over many long years.

    It is most gratifying .to read comments such as the one from Concerned Harrovian about the public HONOURABLE EXONERATION of the HPCCG Chair–ie myself–and our Committee by the mentioned senior figures who scrutinised our accounts and brought it to the public forum This gave the people of Harrow the chance to double-check our spends and to satisfyb themselves there had NO WRONG DOING or MISUSE OF FUNDS..All monies had historically gone direct into the Council’s coffers.The HPCCG was only given sums of money after much careful vetting by the Council and other people in charge,such as the MOPAC (then MPA) representative and portfolio holder too.

    My HPCCG colleagues and I find it immensely rewarding to be met with so much affection and respect as we move about in our community till this day.We worked minus funding for two whole years and continue to have the interests of ALL our citizens at heart,We also have much respect and admiration for our Police and continue to give them our full support.

    I am most hopeful that our SNB will turn itself around very soon.We should only judge them by their works and their results at the end of the financial year.We have ONE INTER-ACTIVE meeting which will be the Annual General meeting(AGM) and will have the opportunity to judge their performance and also to raise any concerns..

    Wish all of you a VERY HAPPY DIWALI(OCT 23) and good luck to the formation of a strong and very successful Safer Neighbourhhod Board for Harrow.

    Stay Happy!Stay Safe!God Bless Harrow.

  8. Susan Hall

    I have asked again for the information………..

  9. Susan Hall

    I have now been told that the issue of putting board members names into the public domain will be discussed and hopefully agreed at the meeting on October 27th.

    From the very beginning members of this board knew that this would be open to the Public and therefore of course their names would be public. Why someone can’t contact them all to discuss this and release their names is beyond me. I am sure this is not an issue for the members but a lack of initiative from those dealing with this. – totally ridiculous

    Just to confirm Harrow Police are absolutely supportive of this being transparent, the issue is not with the Police.

  10. Linda Robinson

    I agree, this situation is absurd. Someone should remind them of the seven Nolan Principles.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life/the-7-principles-of-public-life–2
    One of them is “openness” and members of this Board cannot pretend they are not holders of public office who are obliged to abide by these principles. If they don’t want anyone to know who they are, then they shouldn’t have put themselves up for appointment to a publicly accountable body and should be replaced by someone who’s prepared to stand up and be counted!

  11. sonoo malkani

    I heartily endorse that Harrow Police are all for having the names and details of the SNB being put in the public domain.They are keen on TOTALTRANSPARENCY so that we have the opportunity to judge for ourselves how effectively they are using public funds which have been allocated to them by this Board.The results thus far have been most pleasing,under the excellent leadership of Simon Ovens and his team of hard-working officers.
    .
    It’s great hearing from the Borough Commander that we now have our full complement of 380 officers —-even though many are new at their work .However,they are very keen to police with much passion and energy.Many experienced officers have left the MET POLICE for a variety of reasons.We must give our officers all the support we can muster to achieve optimum results for our people.This has to be ONGOING if we wish to remain the SAFEST London Borough.

    When I spoke with Deputy Mayor for Policing Stephen Greenhalgh, at a police event last month,at the Guildhall he was totally taken aback to hear about the secretive manner in which our SNB has been operating and wanted to know what was on earth had been going in Harrow.
    I am sure he will have spoken to his MOPAC officers about Harrow dragging their heels.

    I am optimistic I will soon be able to report back and let him know that Harrow has come out of the closet and is actually functioning in public.We still have much to do and learn from other boroughs who have got off to a flying start—not because they are smarter but because they choose to be upfront and INCLUSIVE of the public they serve.I am very hopeful we will soon be arriving at such a place with support from many in the know.There is no shame in wanting to learn from someone who has already achieved.

    It seems from Susan Hall’s comments that there is no issue except for lack of initiative.I leave it to the people of Harrow to use their own judgement.One thing for sure,we need more depth and breadth in the “experience base “of our present Board–a matter which needs addressing like yesterday.

    Linda Robinson thanks for reminding us of the SEVEN NOLAN PRINCIPLES for those wishing to serve in public life.Many seem to have forgotten /abandoned such noble sentiments.

    Good luck Harrow SNB.Wish you every success.

    Look forward to our first meeting with you on October 27.God bless us Harrow.

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