Oct 08 2013

Leader’s Blog: Harrow Gets Cleaner and Greener – October 8, 2013

susan_hall_leaderAnyone who knows me understands that the environment has always been my passion. And what I mean by that in Harrow is the world outside your front door. As you go around our town, are the streets clean? Are the parks a pleasure to take your family to on a sunny day? A fifth of our borough is green space – is it well looked after?

In Harrow, I think the candid answer is that we need to do a lot better. All too often we have received complaints from local people bemoaning bins overflowing with litter and green spaces that look unkempt. Allowing our parks to run to wilderness may be a delight if you are Bear Grylls, but I believe it undermines our status as a green borough.

Let me bring you quickly up to speed with some major initiatives on the environment that I’ve just agreed. First, I am slamming into reverse on our current parks policy and insisting that their appearance is restored to be the kind of well cared for space where people want to relax and play. That means cutting, pruning and mowing to ensure overgrown areas don’t blight their appearance.

I have also given the go ahead to a new team whose job is to blitz urban eyesores – from litter hotspots to sudden rashes of graffiti. I believe this is vital to how people feel about Harrow. If your neighbourhood is starting to look shabby and run down, that has a corrosive effect on how people feel about the town and their lives in general . It was the approach taken by Rudy Giuliani as Mayor of New York and I think his philosophy of zero tolerance holds good in an outer London borough as well as NYC. So much of how safe people feel stems from the environment, so I believe a major investment in making Harrow cleaner – and we are putting more than £500,000 into this – will be supported by our residents.

The Neighbourhood Champions will also play a key role in making Harrow cleaner and safer. As I mentioned last week, I have just relaunched this initiative and the council will be offering more help and support to those people who act as our eyes and ears on the street. Remember, this is about volunteers, not vigilantes. When I think about the role of Neighbourhood Champions, I think of those people who tell us about the precise areas where the streets are ankle deep in polystyrene food cartons or the cul-de-sacs where the detritus of drug abuse is all too evident. It is this intelligence from the champions that can guide both the council and our police partners to act.

Residents can also help us play a part in another way, and that is through their recycling. We are establishing a three-person team whose role is to help make recycling easier. I hasten to add that means friendly, helpful advice, not the hectoring of a bin inspector over a bewildering variety of doorstop caddies. We all live busy lives, but careful recycling on the doorstep pays dividends when we don’t have to send rubbish to landfill. It saves the taxpayer money and, yes, it’s better for the planet.

I’ll have more to say in the coming days as these initiatives really get under way. Having been to our depot at 6am as bin crews and cleaning teams prepare to hit the streets, I know we have the dedicated staff to deliver this clean up from street corners to parks. I look forward to seeing Harrow returned to being the cleaner and safer place we know it can be.

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  1. Praxis Reform

    I suspect many other people share the aesthetic approach, of not wanting to be tripping over abandoned mattresses when they walk down the street, but I need to add a vitally important point here.

    There’s no evidence that Mayor Giuliani’s “broken window” theory had any of the effects lauded in Malcolm Gladwell’s otherwise excellent book “The Tipping Point”.

    In fact, newer academic evidence suggests that Rudy Giuliani’s tenure as Mayor was part of a longer term trend of improving living conditions and falling crime rates throughout New York (and much of the rest of America).

    The reason I go to such pains to stress these facts is that the “philosophy of zero tolerance” in reality meant that large numbers of Americans were suddenly landed with “misdemeanours” for such things as being drunk, arguing too loudly or minor traffic violations etc. Certainly all things that deserve some sort of rebuke, but these schemes easily get out of hand.

    After New Yorkers had had their permanent records marked with “misdemeanours”, they then found they were discriminated against when trying to get into higher education and similar schemes that may have helped them achieve a better position in society. Worse still, the “misdemeanours” also appeared on background checks conducted by potential employers and landlords, and *still are* frequently mistaken for full-scale criminal convictions, all these years later.

    My point is that just like the intrusive cameras that you inflicted on Harrow, this scheme seems to have the potential to become instead an unpaid army of Wardens handing out ASBOs to anyone they don’t like to look of, thereby generating yet more profits for the likes of Tory chums in Capita, G4S, and Serco etc.

    Or – if you’d prefer a more left-wing answer – spies on every street corner, waiting to march anyone stupid enough to let the wind blow a wrapper out of their hand to the nearest cashpoint, before they’ve even had a chance to bend over and pick the debris; or to pounce on, and fine, the mother of a child that’s just thrown something out of it’s pram (both examples I’ve seen in the news).

    James 2:13

  2. John billiet

    Life in Harrow under our new “Great Leader” ( I think that’s the titled assumed by the last incumbent), Susan Hall’s Greener and Cleaner Initiative.

    It is 6:30 am a sudden racket wakes me from my slumbers. What is it I wonder? Investigation reveals some idiot starting up a mechanical sweeper in a residential road. There he goes making an almighty racket as he drive with floodlights on so he can see the dirt he has missed. Such a brilliant idea to wake the neighbourhood with noise and floodlights, at a time when the streets are full of parked cars, which mean he cannot clean the channels in the road.

    The use of mechanical sweepers is highly ineffective even when they are used properly to use them like this is gross incompetence. Mechanical sweepers have to be meticulously maintained to work effectively and forty years experience tells me they never are.

    Neighbourhood champions sounds a bit like the blochleiters of Nazi Germany whose duty was to spy on their fellow citizens reporting any misdemeanours to the authorities. They were disliked then, there successors will in time become disliked now.

    I am fed up with politicians coming up with quick fix solutions to problems of their own making.

    John Billiet
    North Harrow

  3. Concerned Harrovian

    The analogy between blochleiters of Nazi Germany amd Harrow Neighbourhood Champions is ridiculous. I am sure the blochleiters were not reporting potholes in the road, flytipping and non-working street lamps to their Nazi masters. You will have offended all the Neighbourhood Champions by referring to them as Nazi spies. What voluntary work do you undertake to help the community?

  4. John Billiet

    What voluntary work have I done probably more than you have done? 20 years as a school governor for a start. Incidentally I did not do work, which people used to be paid to do. I have not been complicit in the loss of front line jobs at the Civic Centre such as highways inspectors. What we have now is a well meaning group being used to do unpaid, the necessary work which was done by trained professionals. I see nothing laudable in such blackleg activities

    Your name “Old Harrovian” speaks volumes.

  5. Concerned Harrovian

    I used the term “Concerned Harrovian” because I live in Harrow and am concerned about the borough. I did not say I was a former member of Harrow School. Were you a volunteer governor at Harrow School?
    I am glad to hear you have been a voluntary school governor for twenty years. During this time I hope you emphasised the need to be concerned about the environment to the pupils. I and other Neighbourhood Champions can equal that record but it is not a competition. Many councillors are champions.
    Anyone who has been on a Neighbourhood Champion training scheme would tell you that Nazi ideology, Stasi ideology or spying form no part of the training. I do not know why you think people are spying on you unless you are paranoid. Champions’ lives are far too interesting and busy to be involved in spying on their neighbours for vicarious excitement.
    Using your definition you would appear to be accusing paid Highway Inspectors of being Nazis. I suggest you find someone to explain what Hitler’s desire for world domination was really about. His book Mein Kampf was not a textbook on how to report potholes, fly tipping, littering, broken street lamps and abandoned cars to the council.

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