Jul 26 2015

Lockwood: For One Night Only – The Review

mike_lockwood-150x150Fresh from a couple of weeks in the sub, and sporting a healthy suntan, Harrow Council’s Chief Exec, Mike Lockwood, accepted an invitation to meet residents at South Harrow and Roxeth Resident Association’s July meeting. We tweeted the event live at the time, but for those not on Twitter, here’s a brief recap:

Mike talked first about what Harrow was: the 12th largest London borough, with the two centre being the 8th largest in London, although it looked “tired”. The perception of Harrow across London is that it’s a borough of affluence, although what’s lesser reported in the areas of deprivation across the borough, and there’s a large gap between the two.

52% of Harrow’s population is of BME origin; the borough is recognised as one of the safest in London, with only 2% of crime in the capital committed in Harrow. It’s also supportive of small businesses, with around 4500 small enterprises registered.

In terms of the council, it provides over 600 services, with over 5000 staff. It has 28,000 young people in schools, 150 under the care of the council (making Mike the dad to them all – must be chaos on father’s day!).

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left” width=”30%”]”My job is to protect your services” – Mike Lockwood[/pullquote]Some of the council’s achievements include it’s community ePurse, for personalisation of care.Over 50% of waste is recycled. However, it’s not all great: Mike recoignised weaknesses with customer services, and wants levels to get better – too many residents are experiencing long delay in phones being answered, emails being responded to, and letters being replied to. However, we still need, he says, to save £83,000,000 over the next 3-4 years. Lots of legislative changes have put additional pressure on the council – homelessness, for example, costs an extra £1,000,000 per year. However, all councils are in a similar position, and his recent restructure of management will save one million pounds a year (excluding implementation costs – which Mike didn’t mention).

He’s keen to change the culture, with more innovation and creativity. We can’t, he says, continue “salami slicing” and need to have a “prevention, rather than cure” mentality. Things like community champions are valued, and projects like commercialisation and regeneration might bring in money.

The Civic Centre is no longer fit for purpose, and the council is looking to relocate, probably selling the Civic Centre site to fund that. Mike says we could see schools, retail or housing on the site.

Things for the future include a new leisure centre, some reinvestment in the town centre. Need to fix anti-social behaviours, and what’s important is what’s outside your front door. “My job,” he says, “is to protect your services” – which we took as a gentle dig to the decisions being made by the Labour administration recently.

So, that was it, brought to a hasty close at 9.00pm by a taxi arriving for the long slog back to leafy suburbia where Mike lives.

At iharrow, we’ve been critical of the council, and of Mike, in the past, but his work in reaching out to residents, taking the time to listen – something we’ve only seen preached about by recent schemes involving pop-up living rooms on street corners in recent years – is something to be welcomed. The council doesn’t seem to have a history of listening to residents (for example, the outsourcing of libraries, followed by closure, despite an overwhelming number of residents saying they don’t want them touched!), but it seems perhaps, Mike’s recent bout of time away at the LGA has given him a bit more confidence to point out to Dave that Labour’s policies of slash ‘n’ burn, whilst ignoring residents, isn’t the way to run the joint.





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1 comment

  1. Ilikefilmme (@vespa2222)

    Included in the above article is the line ” It’s also supportive of small businesses, with around 4500 small enterprises registered.”,well how about ensuring that the Councils website shows the correct information for this tears small business Saturday unlike last year when it had the previous years info up until we pointed it out.

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