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Oct 04 2014

Where’s Dave? Dave Who?

harrow_council_logoHarrow Council are running a series of Take Part information sessions across the borough, where they set up a tent, and tell you what they’re thinking of doing to save money. As luck would have it, I bumped into one of these today in South Harrow, just when one of their freshest-faced councillors was trying to tell a Hillingdon resident – yes, really – how important these savings were.

Stepping around the discarded kebab wrappers and dog-crap on the pavement (you get used to that , these days) and stumbling over the pothole they’d carefully pitched up next to – yes, this one was on the pavement – my enquiries as to what it was all about was answered by a need to save £75m – of course, that led to the next query about why they then want to spend £150,000+ on a Chief Executive.

“Ah, that’s to have someone look at ways we can save money,” said fresh-faced councillor.

When it was suggested that, perhaps, they’d had a Chief Executive for the last three and a half years that they ran the council, and how come that particular Chief Exec didn’t look at saving money, I got told “Well, if you want to talk about the past…”

[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]”Is Dave coming down?” I asked. “Dave who?” came the reply…[/pullquote]Meanwhile, the Hillingdon resident looked on in surprise. Hillingdon, of course, has turned itself around, and is looking much smarter these days. Major roadworks in areas that affect motorists have had a good effect; their Civic centre is attractive and full of character, whereas Harrow’s has all the charm of a train station waiting room, and so on. Mind you, the council has spent a few thousand on filling in the pond by the front door and planting a few flowers (FOI request).

Well actually, yes, it is the past that got us into the mess we’re in now, with threats to close libraries, arts centres, museums. But clearly, fresh-faced councillor didn’t have the answers, and the council officers with him were too busy stacking up some Take Part leaflets to offer any help.

I queried if his fellow ward councillors were there? They weren’t. But it seems that Dave’s lack of leadership over recent weeks has started to have an effect: “Is Dave coming down?” I asked. “Dave who?” came the reply.

At which point, I gave up.

 

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6 comments

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  1. Concerned Harrovian

    OMG if his fellow councillors do not recognise him or know of his existence what chance do Harrow’s residents and businesses have of communicating with him.

    “They seek him here, they seek him there
    Is he in heaven or is he in Harrow?
    Our leader Dave is like a shadow”

    Perry is the surname of the protagonist. He has found a way to become invisible However he has not discovered how to reverse the process and is slowly discovering that the advantages of being invisible outweigh the disadvantages and the problems he faces as leader of the Council in Harrow.

  2. sonoo malkani

    The state of play in Harrow fills me with much concern.We have had local elections in May and were promised all sorts of improvements.Am still waiting!

    The only thing one can clearly see is the deepening division between our Councillors which is to the detriment of all our citizens.Can we please have them work together and put the people of Harrow FIRST.The squabbling is endless.Rather like a Punch and Judy show which is no longer amusing.

    We have many issues to resolve.Please end the mud slinging and get on with what needs doing instead.After all,our public is still paying for elected Councillors to perform their duties..We would appreciate EVERYBODY doing their fair share and showing us some loyalty.

  3. Linda Robinson

    I went along to the “Take Part” session in Stanmore last Thursday, and had a similarly disappointing experience. I had already completed my paper questionnaire before I got there, so I knew in advance how badly designed and worthless the results would be.

    When I arrived, one council officer and one new, inexperienced councillor were talking to a handful of people. My conversation with the councillor soon revealed how naive and ignorant she was about the workings of the council and especially about the needs of the voluntary sector. All she could say was “all councillors have to do voluntary work now, so we do understand and we have some very experienced councillors who know all about it”… “we’ve been to talk with Harrow Mencap and Harrow Carers, so we have spoken to everyone…”. I felt sorry for this poor little councillor who thought she was just there to recite from a script about why the cuts were so necessary and how well the administration was doing by consulting with the public about them.

    After last week’s front page headlines in both of our local rags about the effects of cuts on voluntary organisations, you would think someone would be there with something a bit more sensible to say. And then Cllr Sue Anderson, Portfolio Holder for Community, Culture & Resident Engagement, turned up. No one can accuse her of knowing nothing about voluntary and community groups. So speaking to her was a bit more productive and at least she took on board what I pointed out about the inadequacies of the survey itself.

    If you fill out the paper version of the Take Part consultation, watch out for some things that might make you laugh or cry:
    1. It asks you if you are a representative of a group or organisation, but it doesn’t give you the opportunity to specify which one you claim to be representing. So there is no way this data can be used to verify or identify interested groups or to analyse their views in any meaningful way. We might as well all say we are group representatives!
    2. It asks which of the options you think will have most impact on you, but it doesn’t specify that it is only talking about negative impacts. It just assumes you will know what they’re getting at. But if I think that “cutting the number of senior managers in the Council”, “negotiating with suppliers to cut what they charge the Council”, “cutting the cost of maintaining Council buildings” and “doing more online to cut the costs of postage” will have a major positive impact on my experience of the council (which I do), ticking these boxes means I will be counted as being dead against them! How can the results possibly be compared and used to justify any cost-cutting decisions?
    3. Apparently, in the marital status stakes, they’re only interested in knowing whether we’re married or in a civil partnership. There’s no box to tick for “neither” or any other status. Why? I understand the need for equality monitoring questions, but what are they going to do with this limited information? Are we going to find out if a higher than average proportion of married people want to save the Museum, whereas those in civil partnerships are more concerned about grass cutting?
    Sacking whoever designed this questionnaire would be a good way to start saving money. I see that the online version has been improved slightly now.

    Meanwhile, if you do genuinely represent a voluntary and community group, why not come along to the “special” Voluntary and Community Sector Forum meeting on the 21st October at 4.30 at the Civic Centre, and find out what the sector is trying to do to get better organised and open up proper channels to make the council listen to the community in the future. You can see more details including the agenda and proposed constitution here: https://docs.google.com/a/voluntaryactionharrow.org.uk/forms/d/1eyf53qvLhZJZC3FsDmBp4CWMGQFHpWV2J5yrCXQIpm0/viewform.

    Whether you belong to a residents’ association, a club for young, old or disabled people, a place of worship, a green campaign or any other kind of community group, please tell your colleagues about this important meeting where the future of the voluntary sector in Harrow will be decided. For me, it’s not about grant funding or being commissioned or volunteered to provide public services, it’s about groups having a voice on behalf of the communities they represent, giving our council some better ideas about how to use resources efficiently and helping it to avoid making stupid decisions.

    Did you know that the Labour administration has said that it will appoint a “Voluntary Sector Representative” to a non-voting seat on its Cabinet? Which one person will they choose to represent all those organisations? Let’s get together and try to steer them in the right direction for once!

  4. Susan Hall

    Linda, beautifully summed up. The opposition group will also be asking questions on Thursday at Cabinet although we are only allowed 15 minutes for questions – a complete disgrace. We allowed opposition members (two of them) on Cabinet when we were in control so that they could scrutinise anything we did. We were also promised positions on their Cabinet but as yet they have not kept their word. I wish you well with your meeting, your voices need to be heard. At the moment there is no evidence that Labour are listening to anything or anyone and they most certainly are not keeping to their word.

    1. Linda Robinson

      Thanks Susan. It’s hard for everyone when those in charge are so secretive about their policies and actions while at the same time publicly trumpeting their expertise and inclusiveness.

      Yes, thank you, voluntary sector voices do need to be heard, and this above-mentioned meeting on Tuesday will be crucial in determining whose voices they are, how loud they will sound, what they will say and how they will say it. I’d like as many community groups as possible to be represented by this Forum. Democracy needn’t be just about the ballot box.

  5. red mirror

    oh wow politicians lie well i never would have guessed that susan listen the only cabinet all you kind of people drive me to is the drinks cabinet which for the time being i can freely indulge in without the airborne harrow booze police knocking on my door with susie in tow chiding me for the third large claret ive consumed to numb the complete bafoonery of it all .

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