At a meeting of the Full Council (22.09.16) Harrow Labour Group voted through their £356million regeneration program without any discussion or debate.
The Labour councillors unanimously voted to stop the meeting at 22.30 before they had reached the main part of the agenda, despite the Conservatives pushing to stay however long it took to discuss these important issues. This came after hours of talking away the allotted time by senior Labour councillors. The Labour Group did not want to allow any discussion of their own policies.
In an obvious attempt to silence the opposition, Leader of the Council, Cllr Sachin Shah, preferred instead to use the three hour meeting to posture and criticise the Conservative Government’s national policies rather than discuss what he is doing for Harrow.
As well as the regeneration program, other issues not discussed included the Council’s Community Safety Strategy and the pay rises for senior directors.
The Council’s regeneration program was described in the report as, “a once in a generation opportunity to make a real difference to the quality of life in the borough” leading to speculation as to why the Labour Group refused to talk about it. The report, a mere 12 pages long, did not present any detail, costing or contingency planning. It said “It is difficult to judge exact values but the total contract value for building works for the entire programme is in the region of £350m…” Plus of course the £6 million for consultants!
Cllr Susan Hall, Leader of Harrow Conservative Group, said: “£356 million is a colossal sum of money and for Labour to prevent any discussion demonstrates a reckless disregard for tax payers. Any Harrow resident who has ever hired a builder will understand that unforeseen problems and costs occur. Time and budgets can soon spiral on the smallest of projects. The stakes here are huge.”
She continued: The regeneration report was written in the name of the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council, surely they would want to discuss their own report? Unless they are ashamed to discuss a vague and poorly put together report in front of their own councillors. If we had been allowed to discuss, colleagues in my Group and I had important questions to ask on the eye watering £356m. This project will double the Council’s debt, burdening Harrow tax payers for generations to come. It is vital that the Council takes these decisions carefully. Not in the reckless way we saw last night.”
She went on: “Cllr Shah talks of wanting to work together but when it comes down to it he won’t even answer our questions. It is nothing more than a desperate attempt to cling on to power by a weak and ineffective Leader. This was an outrageous affront to democracy. Our Country has a long and proud tradition of free speech, fair play and democratic values. Labour’s appalling actions at last night’s meeting to shut down debate flies in the face of all that is right. This is not the first time they have used Machiavellian tactics to stifle democracy in the Council Chamber but it is quite frankly the most egregious.”
Concluding, Cllr Hall said: “Cllr Shah may think he has silenced us in the Chamber but he cannot silence us outside it. I will be discussing with my Group how we take our concerns for democracy in Harrow to the highest possible authority.”