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Nov 25 2013

Leader’s Blog: Susan on the Northolt Road Week of Action

susan_hall_leaderA week is famously a long time in politics, a week of action is probably even more intense. For those who might have missed it, last Tuesday marked the start of our week-long blitz of activity to clean up a particular part of the borough, in this case around Northolt Road.

Those with longer memories will recall the WOA scheme at its height from 2007 to 2010. It is an exercise where we, the council, join with police, fire and trading standards to give a specific area the full treatment – from deep cleaning of streets and overgrown areas to intelligence-led police activities to curb certain types of crime.

Tuesday proved a spectacular relaunch for the Week of Action. In the first part of the morning, we went to the homes of two suspected cannabis dealers, one of whom was found with 10 bags of the drug. Both are known to deal on the streets, and one is now being investigated for whether he has a proper claim on the council flat he lives in. Dealing drugs on the streets is patently a criminal activity; to do so from a flat that the taxpayers underwrite adds insult to injury. I take the view that social housing is a perk, not a privilege, and we will turf out people who misuse our precious housing stock.

But a more intriguing discovery was yet to come. Just a few yards from a high street bank off the Northolt Road, we came across a brothel occupied by four Romanian girls. The irony is, this property was only uncovered as it was checked for smoke alarm safety in the upper floor flats above shops. There were suspicions about the nature of this property as it was surveyed… no smoke without a fire alarm, you might say.

After police gained access, I stood in the hall as officers questioned these young women, one as young as 19. They came, they said, from the town of Corvinesti. They knew why they were coming to Britain, they said; to earn in a day what they could only scrape in a month back in Romania. The overheated rooms, complete with platform shoes, pathetic heart decorations and tea light candles, told their own sad story. One admitted their visa was a year out of date; others seemed to shrug their indifference as the Romanian-speaking PCSO quizzed them on their movements. Of course, brothels in London are hardly new. But how depressing that the oldest profession in the world is now being fuelled by the newest wave of migration.

Victims these working girls may be, but equally the people of Harrow did not ask to live next door to brothels, and we know the kind of anti-social behavior that lurks in the shadow penumbra of prostitution – drug dealing, anti-social men and occasionally violence. This brothel is being shut down, and where we find others, we will take similar action.

Our staff endured a biting cold morning to hand out leaflets outside the Baptist Church and make clear the help the council can offer across the board, on its own and with volunteer groups. This authority is here to help people who need it, and these weeks are not just about enforcement – they are also about enabling those who need our help to access it.

The Weeks of Action will continue on a rolling basis, and I will have more to announce in future blogs. They are there to do three simple things – make Harrow cleaner, safer and fairer, and so far I’d say we are off to a bright start.

Last week ended on a promising note with a visit to Harrow by the deputy mayor of London, Sir Edward Lister. A major focus of his visit was our regeneration plan in and around Harrow on the Hill station. In particular, I pressed hard for the case for step-free access at Harrow on the Hill, a long-running issue I am passionate about. Harrow Council is committed to finding a solution to this issue – details of this will become clear in the budget – and I am hoping that Transport for London and the Mayor’s Office will back us.

In my view, step free access at this station is inarguable and Sir Edward was impressed by the strength of our case. I hope to hear hopeful noises from City Hall over investment at the station, and rest assured I will beat any train whistle in volume to make that case heard!

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3 comments

  1. John Clement

    This area has plummetted since I moved here 25 years ago. The Network Housing & Better properties premises are little better than slums, with high rents mainly paid by benefits as the slum landlords exploit the residents.

  2. sonoo malkani

    Having lived in and loved this borough for well over four decades it is enormously hurtful to see some parts of it turn into what most of us would consider “highly undesirable” or “seedy”.Never imagined this could happen in Harrow.Deprivation,changing demographics and many more factors have contributed towards this.It is like a cancer which has the potential to spread.It is up to all of us to work together to rid our borough of these dreadful problems.

    During long years volunteering I have seen the results of clean up operations and excellent partnership working.It is such a relief to read that these actions are reviving and helping reap benefits for our local citizens.It is high time we all pooled in our efforts and stopped the rot.More WEEKS OF ACTION please!

    These are focussed and most productive, sending out the message to those abusing our borough that they will be dealt with in the strongest possible manner.Let your local cops and Council know what is happening in your vicinity and join hands to beat these law-breakers.

    Some of you may wish to inform the Police anonymously using Crime stoppers free number ,if you know something seriously wrong is happening.Of course,you could also anonymously report other issues by using the MET BOXES located at various points in our borough eg The Civic Centre,Waitrose in S.Harrow and many more.Your leads will help us make our borough more safe,clean and a better place to be.

  3. sonoo malkani

    Making access at Harrow On the Hill station “step free” is what all Harrovians have been clamouring for since ages.Sincerely hope having visited so recently deputy Mayor of London,Sir Edward Lister,will help our cause since this is desperately needed by so many —across all age groups.So many are vulnerable elders and disabled.We have loads of mums struggling with little ones or just not using Harrow on the Hill for this very reason.Must impact on the local economy.

    It would be enormously encouraging for shoppers and visitors to come to our borough far more often if they had the facility so many other stations of equal importance already enjoy.Harrow has historic importance and should receive its fair share!!Keep the flag flying!

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