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Mar 28 2014

Harrow’s Mayor in Sister-City Relationship with Accra, Ghana

harrow_council_logoResidents of Harrow might be interested to know that their Mayor, Cllr Nana Asante, is off in Ghana at the moment, meeting the Mayor of the Accra Metropolitan City, Dr Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije. We know this because she posted it on her Twitter feed earlier this week.

According an an article posted by spyghana.com, Cllr Asante said, “The time has come for people to be reminded of why they are elected to positions of duty,” which is an odd thing to say, as Harrow already has a twin-town with the French town of Douai.

Clearly, many questions need to be asked about this visit, at times of such austerity:

  • Who funded it? Was it paid for by the residents of Harrow?
  • Who else has gone with her? Some rumours passed to us earlier this week, and since confirmed by the council, report that she has taken one of her chauffeurs with her, although his duties and role out there aren’t clear. Nor is it clear who paid for his trip and accommodation.
  • What benefit does this bring to Harrow? Other than raising publicity for the Mayor’s pet cause, Fair Trade – “One thing we need to change is to do with Fair trade and trade justice…” she said in her speech.

According to Cllr Asante’s Facebook page, she studied at the University of Ghana in Accra, so its entirely possible that this is a personal trip for he father’s 90th birthday, which just happens to have a bit of business wedged into it. It doesn’t explain the chauffeur’s presence. Bob, the chauffeur, is actually pictured in some of the photos!

Our enquiries to the Mayor’s Parlour at the Civic Centre have been referred upwards with great speed, but despite repeated attempts, no further details for the reasons behind her visit have been forthcoming, and requests for comment from the council’s Democratic Services have been ignored. A FOI request has been made to the council – a request that we expect to require Council Leader Susan Hall’s intervention, yet again, to get a sensible response.

Indeed, if this has been funded by tax payers, and there’s not a good reason for it, Asante’s words, “The time has come for people to be reminded of why they are elected to positions of duty,” may well come back to bite her.

For the full story, see spyghana.com which has pictures and video of the visit.

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25 comments

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  1. King David

    Great sensationalist story, as usual, probably Harrow Labour Party machinery in full swing or not. This is after Labour’s full blown smear campaign and witchunt against Mayor’s charity failed miserably.

    Sources tell that no Tax Payers money is involved whatsoever but you can wait for FOI response. Hopefully iharrow will not become another Labour Observer or Tory Bugle 🙂

    1. Awula Serwah

      Thanks King David. I can assure Harrow residents that I organised the ticket and the Council did not pay for it. The FOI will confirm that the Council did not pay for tickets or accommodation. The Mayor of Accra invited the Mayor of Harrow to call on him. She was also invited to call on the Director of the British Council in Accra. Discussions were fruitful and likely to benefit Harrow and Accra. A Mayor wears insignia during official visits, and the Macebearer ensures that it is safe. Does anyone seriously believe that the Mayor would have considered using taxpayers money to pay for airline tickets to Ghana and that Cllr. Susan Hall would have allowed it? Perhaps we can focus on how Harrow can benefit from the visit.

      1. ricky123

        Awula Serwah, so it looks like these mischief makers will be embarrassed yet again, I hope when the Mayor returns she does not let this rest and exposes the people who think they are being clever. Maybe they are doing this to try and win votes, it will do the opposite, the people of Harrow will I am sure will take a very bad view of this.

        1. Awula Serwah

          Ricky,it is disappointing that some choose to attack the Mayor’s Office whenever they see an opportunity. It would have been helpful to check facts before printing the story. It is difficult to see how anyone who understands processes and how Harrow Council works could think that tickets were purchased by the Mayor’s Office. A potentially beneficial visit could have been undermined by the unhelpful comments. Readers are interested in facts not speculation and unhelpful comments which appear calculated to embarrass the Mayor.

          1. iharrow.com

            Awula – you’ll see from the article that I DID call the Mayor’s office to seek a comment leading up to this story, and I was told that an “Elaine” would call me back. No call came.

            I chased again, and was told to expect a call back from Hugh. No call came.

            I made further enquiries, and it was suggested I submit an FOI request – a request that the council would likely spin out for as long as it could, before providing a non-answer (see the other articles about corporate credit card spending).

            Given all that, I ran with what I had, and asked the questions that you saw. Residents have an absolute right to know how their council tax is being spent, and if the council doesn’t want to provide its side of the story when asked, there’s not a lot I can do. As it is, it’s now four days since my first call to try and bottom this out.

            Your position gives you greater knowledge than most: I accept that the council didn’t pay for the ticket, but can you advise who DID pay for this trip, why the Mayor’s chauffeur went with her, and what benefits it all brings to Harrow – exactly the questions posed above.

          2. Awula Serwah

            Paul it is a pity you were not told that ticket and accommodation were not paid for by the Taxpayer. I am sure you are not surprised to hear that tickets were not paid for by Harrow Council.

            The fact that the tickets were not paid for by Harrow Council should be sufficient, and it is difficult to understand the concerns about costs. I am, however, aware that there are some who appear to be on the lookout for opportunities to discredit the the Mayor.

            To put an end to mischevious speculation, I will add that the Mayor paid for her own ticket, and the Macebearer’s ticket was provided by a private Ghanaian with no links to Harrow.

            You may be aware that the Macebearer accompanies the Mayor on official visits, and the Mayor was also on an official visit as she was invited by the Mayor of Accra.

            The benefits to Harrow are various and include possible placements, youth exchanges, enhancement of Harrow’s profile and image, raising awareness about Harrow’s Neighbourhood Champions Scheme, and an increase in the number of Ghanaians studying in the UK. As you may be aware Ghanaians studying in the UK benefits the UK economy.

          3. ricky123

            Awula Sarwah, now that is all cleared up is this going to be the end of it, I hope the Mayor does not forget this and find the mischief makers and expose them for what they are. I am sure Paul at i harrow was not behind this original mischief, it wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to know who was. I just wonder if they know the damage they are causing themselves through these childish political games.

  2. Susan Hall

    Paul to let you readers know, I was informed by the Mayor that the trip was not being funded by the Mayors Office and thus by the taxpayer. It would be totally unacceptable if it was. I will ask my Officers to ensure that the FOI is dealt with as a matter of urgency.

  3. sonoo malkani

    Many would be very surprised if the present Mayor had even considered using taxpayers monies to fund this trip.Let’s not jump the gun!Only fair and proper to wait to hear the FOI response before attempting to tarnish her reputation.

    On another level,it’s good that Fairtrade is being promoted in our borough, like it already has been in so many other London boroughs.

    Having an African “Sister City “in addition to our twin city in Douai can only be a feather in Harrow’s cap,and highlights how diverse and fair we are in our representation,even at the top.

    1. Dame Betty

      Sonoo is right, there is no need to jump the gun. My information is that the tickets and accomodation were at no cost to the Council. The visit has benefitted Harrow, and put it on the map. Let’s keep an open mind and not let the enthusiam to tarnish the Mayor’s reputation lead us to publisicise inacurate information.

  4. ricky123

    As Cllr Hall says it would be totally unacceptable if it was funded by the taxpayer. But if after the FOI comes out we discover it was not funded by the taxpayer are the people who started this going to apologise for mischief, I wont hold my breath about that. This mischief could backfire on the mischief makers big time like it has on several other occasions during this mayoral year. The smear campaign against her Chosen Charity is a prime example which also backfired and made them look quite pathetic. I have got a feeling this is going to make them look pathetic yet again. Lets wait and see.

  5. Harrow Dude

    Susie has spoken and we now know that no tax-payers money was plundered in formation of the Mayor’s expedition.
    Will Susie be as vocal about the money that she took from Children Services…allegedly.
    Over to you Susie.

  6. Susan Hall

    What money? All I know is that I have found 500k to employ more children’s social workers because I was told we needed them. We have also increased the budget in other areas here, I will be interested to hear exactly what money you are referring to

    1. Harrow Dude

      Susie you say that you have ‘found’ 500k to employ more social workers but if memory serves me correctly back in Feb 2013 Sachin Shah the then Portfolio Holder for Finance was going to allocate the same amount of funding to do the same thing so you’re not exactly breaking new ground are you?

      Nonetheless what I was actually referring to is the whispers all over the Civic Centre that pre-budget back in the summer of 2013, Michael Lockwood the Chief Exec at time, had put an additional £1milion funding into Children Services, which when you became Leader you took and used it to fund your big pre-election clean up of the borough.

      So what will it be Susie confirm or deny?

  7. sonoo malkani

    Deeply saddened to see how some people have made it their favourite pastime to try and tarnish the reputation of those who are doing their best to keep our Council functioning normally.Elections will come and go but communities are here to stay.We must not lose our balance and spit venom just to muddy the waters.Our actions and beliefs must be honest and sustainable.Only then can we be proud of being Harrovians.

    I realise ,being just a humble citizen and not a skilled politician,that I cannot fathom the mind-sets of such folk.One thing’s for sure.They are not simply cutting their nose to spite their face but are actually damaging the fabric of our local society in an insiduous manner which is most deplorable.The after effects will go on for a long time and create divisions which we cannot afford.The price is too high to pay!We will set ourselves up as targets for trouble-makers who must be rubbing their hand in glee seeing what is happening in our borough.

    Many of us have spent long years working hard to build and nurture harmony in our local community so that our diverse communities not only respect each other but come closer to one another and feel we all “belong” here and arr welcome.That is the only way forward so we can progress.

    Nobody is perfect.I urge fellow citizens to please only make statements which are evidence-based.Truth will always out.No point being vindictive ,just to win votes!Think long-term.

    This is HARROW.We have our good name to uphold.The disgraceful behaviour and language some are resorting to is beyond belief.Let us make those in charge accountable but not behave unfairly and deliberately paint false pictures of them.

    Let the public have the FACTS and make up their own minds.Time we called a truce and ended this slagging match which shows us in the poorest light.

    1. Harrow Dude

      Sonoo I have only ever dealt in facts if you care to look back at any of my posts you will see that all figures and facts I have ever quoted are in the public domain should one choose to look. The facts are this is talk at the big white House on Station Road, I have only ever on numerous occasions asked Susie to clarify how she funded the vast amount of agency staff amongst other things that she has enabled to clean up the borough as I remember the New Harrow Project and how much money Susie poured into it, and what happened when the money dried up.

      I am of the mind-set not to be fooled by all the Susie spin so when Susie spouts facts and figures I like to check and if found to be incorrect I will ask Susie for clarification. If you think that means I am trying to tarnish Susie’s reputation then let me assure you I am not. Although I have never been impressed by her ‘look at me, look at what I’ve done” approach to local politics. I am a firm believer ‘one for all not all for one’ As you have said ‘Truth Will Out’ and as it happens the truth is out there…You only have to look for it.

      Or ask the questions as you quite rightly said “Let the public have the FACTS and make up their own minds”

  8. Susan Hall

    Harrow Dude I have not taken a million out of Children’s Services nor do I know what Lockwood is alleged to have promised. The money used for cleaning up the borough was money that The previous Labour Leader (Bill Stephenson)had as transformation money, it was in the Leaders pot. I knew the borough needed cleaning up as things were getting so bad that I used it to give residents what they want, a clean, safe borough. As for telling residents what we Conservatives are doing yes I do that and will continue to do that because its essential that residents and voters know what we conservatives stand for – a Cleaner, Safer and Fairer Borough and I make no apologies for letting our residents know that. I am also strong and tough enough to use my own name Harrow Dude-whoever you are, because I will stand up and be counted unlike so many who hide behind fictitious names. Continue to knock me if you have nothing better to do. I know I am working as hard as I can and I am determined to stand up for the residents of Harrow. I lead from the front it’s a style some dont like but so be it, I will continue to lead from the front and I will continue to let residents know what I and the Conservatives are doing and if you don’t like that then don’t read the articles or watch the tv -simple as that

  9. ricky123

    Harrow Dude you say you only deal in facts, in your post of March 30th you say ” What I was actually referring to is the whispers all over the Civic Centre that pre-budget back in the summer of 2013″ so whispers are your facts are they? Since Susan Hall has taken over Harrow has been transformed for the better in the short space of time of her administration. Cllr Hall please ignore these mischief makers and keep up the good work.

    1. Harrow Dude

      ricky123 The facts are that these are the whispers from the staff at the Civic, all I have ever done is ask Susie on numerous occasions whether or not it was true that some of the additional money made available to Children Services by Mr Lockwood was used to fund her big pre-election clean up of the borough and if not where did she get the funding?. Susie has now finally clarified the state of affairs. So now I will ask Bill Stephenson if this is in fact the case.

  10. John Clement

    IN THIS ERA WHEN MANY POLITICIANS ARE HAPPY TO MAXIMISE EXPENSES AND JUNKETS IT IS RIGHT THAT SUCH QUESTIONS SHOULD BE ASKED -THAT IS DEMOCRACY. IT IS RIGHT THAT THE MAYOR SHOULD REASSURE US OF THE PROBITY OF THIS MATTER, AND i WISH HER GOOD LUCK IN HER INITIATIVE TO STIMULATE CONTACT WHICH WILL BE BENEFICIAL.

  11. sonoo malkani

    Harrow Dude,you are right about one thing that I have said”Let the public have the FACTS and make up their own minds”..That is only fair and proper in a mature democracy like ours.

    I am baffled why you think what I have said is only with reference to Cllr Hall.Yes,many things are being written about her which are quite incorrect and even inappropriate.Some of her actions may badly upset those in the opposition but that’s to be expected ,especially with our local elections looming.The saying “Everything’s fair in love and war” has however been overstretched by many of late and created a nasty atmosphere which is wholly repugnant.This is totally unlike the Harrow we have been so proud of.

    However,even you must admit that since her appointment as Leader of Harrow Council Cllr Hall has helped to clean up our borough and,in doing so,not only made it more like the Harrow we expect to see but has helped boost safety.

    I have often stopped cleaners on the roadside and asked how they felt about this.They are so pleased that they now have a lot more hands to hep them do the work on the ground and less managers.You could find this out by doing the same.

    It is well-documented that areas which look neglected and dirty attract villains of all sorts.They are automatically attracted to such venues like bees to honey.Of course,there is much more to do.Get volunteering and see how you can make a difference..Please help your borough’s reputation to be restored,doing whatever it takes to turn things around.

    I must make one thing adequately clear.My sense of deep sadness is about the general state of affairs which seems to have infected our borough of late.I sincerely appeal to each and every Harrovian,—citizens and politicians alike—,no matter whom we choose to favour or follow,to please keep a civil tongue..We need not stoop to vulgar language or spreading unfounded rumours which only seek to spoil another’s good works.I don’t care who does what.What matters in the final analysis is that the work done is in the interests of our borough and its people.

    We have every right to expose wrong-doing but equally the RESPONSIBILITY to be CIVIL and polite.The name-calling and vitrionic spouting of abuse is totally unnecessary and uncivilised.What example are we setting our young folk ?How many will be minded to become Councillors with the sort of nastiness people are experiencing.Please let’s get real and think how our behaviour reflects on us personally.

    Last but not least,WELL DONE to anybody who has performed actions or is helping in any way to making our borough cleaner,safer and more welcoming.I salute you.

  12. sonoo malkani

    It’s such a shame that we have arrived at a point in our lives where we no longer seem to trust or have confidence in those chosen by us to represent the public.It is even more regrettable that local citizens view all and sundry with a jaundiced eye and almost expect the worst!

    Whilst appreciating that some appalling misuse of funds may have occurred in our boroughs we really should pause and think is this really fair and proper.?I am very pleased that we have received so many forthright answers from Awula Serwah,clarifying our Mayor’s visit to her motherland,Ghana.

    It must have been incredibly painful to read the cynical comments and be treated like some corrupt criminal —-almost be pronounced guilty without any proof—when the Mayor was simply visiting Ghana and promoting our own borough.I feel so ashamed that we have sunk so low!It eflects more on us rather than the ones we point fingers at.

    Please let us behave in a more mature fashion in future.Do ask questions but not seek to bring everybody DOWN,,irrespective of the good works they are doing on our behalf.This is a general appeal to all our peoples to calm down and not get carried away like some vigilantes.

    Please talk our borough UP and not keep on knocking it down.YOU are responsible for making or breaking our borough.

    1. Harrow Dude

      I do not recall the residents of Harrow voting for the Susie to be Leader of Harrow Council

  13. Cllr Willy Stoodley

    ‘Harrow Dude – a whisper is not a fact.

    1. Harrow Dude

      Cllr Stoodley I accept what you are saying but the staff are only whispering for fear of repercussions but when the many whispers are at a senior level you will forgive me for the presumption that they are fact

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