May 28 2016

Harrow: The council so broken even it’s Chief Exec can’t get things fixed

harrow_council_brokenQuestion: how many council workers does it take to replace a light bulb?

Answer: we don’t know. Despite countless on-line faults, emails back and forth between everyone from the guy who arranges tree pruning to the chief exec, nobody has actually done it.

There’s an alley in South Harrow. It’s a well-used shortcut between Northolt Park station and South Harrow tube station. It’s also fairly well frequented by the local drug dealers, there’s the occasionally mugging at knifepoint, and it’s not unknown to have the odd one or two flashers down there, exposing their withered genitalia to old ladies. So when a street light breaks, you’d think the council might make a bit of extra effort to repair it, perhaps needing only a couple of reported faults and one or two follow up emails to get the buggers moving.

But, alas, no. This council is so broken, so utterly hopeless, so totally incapable of doing what it says it will do, it’s taken, over the course of more than two months:

  • Five on-line reports (they “went missing” due to a “problem” with the website)
  • Phone calls to the council (result: “you need to report it online”)
  • One email to a local labour councillor (result: nothing happened)
  • Multiple emails to Ms Venetia Reid-Baptiste, the responsible director (result: ignored, not even a reply)
  • Multiple emails to Mike Lockwood, the Chief Executive (result: one email to say “I’ll look into it” followed by deafening silence)

In fact, the only people who engaged in any kind of meaningful dialogue was (a) a chap named Lee Coomber, who sniffingly rejected my suggestion that the maintenance company hadn’t a clue, with “Kier Services are a professional outfit who hold sufficient stock of replacement components and complete luminaires for maintenance of the columns on this footpath,” and (b) a chap named Martin Caddock who arranged for some branches to be chopped back so the ‘professionals’ from Kier could attend without getting jabbed by a twig.

So having been told, twice, by the council that this street light had been fixed, would you want to bet it’s working? Of course not: on the occasions that I’ve passed since this sorry saga started, I’ve not once seen it working. That isn’t, of course, to say that nobody has been out (and, no doubt, billed the council for attending), but if the end result is that the light should be working, they’ve failed. At the main accountable to us, the residents who pay council tax for this very service, have every right to demand answer: why is he, on an inflated salary, incapable of getting the basis right? Why does it take so much effort to get a light fixed? Why does it take so long? Why does he clearly not give a damn?

I’ve met Mike Lockwood a number of times. He’s fairly approachable, has the sort of stage-presence that would see him ignored at the bar in a busy pub, and isn’t particularly offensive. But when a resident escalates a problem, that nobody else at the council can fix, he should really be taking the effort in getting someone, anyone, to make a token effort to see that the problem is finally resolved. And if he can’t do that, maybe it’s time to move over and let someone else do the job instead.


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  1. mike mcfadden

    Its all down to the old saying. Oh what a web we weave when we first start to ……………….!

    Harrow needs to start at the beginning afresh mandate a fresh way of doing things. Remembering the TAX-PAYER is the most important person. NOT the freeloader!! A real fact of life. If you can’t pay for it you can’t have it. Its not rocket science.!!

    1. susan

      Brace yourself Mike, it would appear that the Labour administration are about to spend around £350 million on their so called ‘regeneration’ project. I cant imagine how much it will cost us taxpayers to borrow the sums of money they will require. We are doing more digging on the finances so will keep iharrow and residents informed. Labour certainly know how to spend taxpayers money – they always have.

  2. Concerned Harrovian

    It seems as if Harrow Council is in the dark in more ways than one. Mike McFadden is correct. We are the customers paying Harrow Council for a service which for the most part we do not receive.

    Paul perhaps you should report Harrow Council to Brent and Harrow Trading Standards for failing to provide the service they advertise. .We could also start a collection to pay for a sign to go on the Chief Executive’s desk. The sign should read the same as the one that was on President Truman’s desk. “THE BUCK STOPS HERE”

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