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Nov 14 2014

Lockwood Returns. Does Dave Know How Much He’ll Be Paid?

harrow_council_logoApparently not. Or if he does know, he did a very good job at pretending he didn’t know, if last night’s Council meeting was anything to go by.

It was almost the perfect storm. In one corner, we had Dave, Graham Henson and a bagful of Jelly Babies. In the other, we had Susan Hall, looking – at times – like a bulldog who’d chewed on a wasp, backed up by a lightening performance from Paul Osborn. In (literally, this time) an actual corner of the chamber, we had the new Chief Exec himself, watching everything unfold in front of him (although we can’t be entirely sure he hadn’t drifted off to sleep once or twice), and then, to cap it all, you had a packed public gallery who’d turned out to support the Harrow Arts Centre petition.

So, where to start? Well, the Mayor’s chaplain launched into a somewhat political sermon after prayers. A lot about charity, commitment and sacrifice, which was interesting, although a little different that usual. We spotted one empty seat in the blue side of the room, and it looked like the reds were all there as well.

The Hatch End Association presented a 6000 signature petition; followed closely by U3A and a 5300 signature one. And then the debate launched. Cllr Sue Anderson – she’s the one behind the disaster that is otherwise known as Lowlands Recreation Ground-cum-building site – played an interesting card, sounding like if anyone wanted to close the Arts Centre, it would be over her dead body.However, she did commit to keeping it open ‘until the end of the financial year’ – which will give her time to build a business case for it. Apparently, it costs £500,000 a year to run, most of which – accord to the local friendly Unison man – is on a huge management overhead.

Chris Noyce – the party of one – had a go, saying that the Arts Centre provides ‘excellence’ in the borough, followed by Dave who said we need to save money – the irony of spending a further million on Iron Man Mike wasn’t missed – and needing to look at spend line by line. “We’re all in this together,” he says, sounding as if he’s about to break into a song and dance from High School Musical. Dave’s actually on fine form – those public speaking lessons must be paying off.

Barry Macleod-Hyphen has a go, and pretty much calls Labour’s plan to close it a half-arsed idea, although as an ex-John Lyon’s boy, was much more polite about it. He suggested that the proposal goes for Scrutiny Review – a well-meant, but useless gesture, given that the committee is chaired by Labour.

John Hinkley mentioned that iharrow.com had done a remarkable review of council expenditure, which solicited groans from Labour, I think he said something about “excellent, world-leading journalism at it’s best” although I can’t be sure of that.

Next up came James Bond reminiscing about once seeing Ken Dodd at the Arts centre. So to cut a long story short, the Arts Centre may not survived, but it’s got an eleventh-hour reprieve whilst the whole idea is looked at again.

Onto a report of What Dave’s Done – which consists mainly of having a chat with Transport for London to see if there’s any movement with Susan Hall’s idea of making Harrow on the Hill step-free; saying that SEN provision is doing well; that school expansion is doing well (yes, especially in your own ward, Dave); says he is committed to the council being ‘open and transparent’ (think he was joking on that one); has talked to someone about finding a solution at Carpender’s Park cemetery; wants to commercialise Harrow Barnet Public Law; has invested £1m in domestic violence.

Onto the Lockwood segment now. “Harrow,” says Dave, “finds itself in a lonely place” without a Chief Exec. And then war broke out.

Susan Hall said the inteview process was a sham – it took them 20 minutes to sift through ten CVs. Barry MacHypen said it was a charade. Marilyn Ashton said it was ‘inappropriate’ to take on more overhead. Janet Mote rammed home the huge cost – one million pounds – of the plan.

Chris Noyce has a go, says the Conservative nine months of administration was a waste of time, and gets himself called ‘Billy no mates’ into the bargain.

James Bond starts a speech, and has to leave the chamber because he has a funny turn. At this point, Labour realising they need that vote, ask for a five minute recess, which at least gives us time to catch up with the nice man from the Union on other gossip going on.

Back inside, they all vote. Labour are all for it; Conservatives are all against it. Georgia Weston abstains as usual, meaning that the result is 33 votes in favour of bring Mike back, 25 against. At that point, Mike leaves the chamber, giving the man from the Union a wink and a wave, and heads outside for a chat.

we then try and find out exactly how much Lockwood is being paid – after all, the job advert had a range of about £20,000 offered, yet nobody seems to know exactly how much he’ll get. Newbies usually start at the bottom, says Hall. Dave can’t giver her an answer. We go back and forth for a while, and get nowhere.

Onto councillor questions, and the two independents spend 15 minutes talking about Pinner Park farm, with questions designed to waste time. Important questions, yes, but hardly of interest to the rest of the borough.

At this point, we run out of time. The remaining items get nodded through, and then it’s over. Labour head out like rats up a drainpipe, although it was good to see Jerry Miles is much on the mend after his recent illness.

 

 

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