I thought your readers might like to see this. Its a letter I wrote on the 25th September to 25 Labour Councillors after the last Council meeting on the 22nd September. Sadly I have only had acknowledgements from three of them.
This either means they are too embarrassed to answer or they have not even bothered to read the letter.
Our residents deserve better than this, they deserve their opposition Councillors to at least be able to question these substantial borrowings. Harrows reputation is sinking quickly because of the terrible Service the residents are receiving as a result of the appalling decisions the Labour Councillors are making.
I feel compelled to write to you to explain why we wanted to discuss the Regeneration Plan at Council.
This paper allows for an additional borrowing of the Council of £301 million. That is a huge amount of money. It could also put the finances of the Council in a terrible place if things go wrong. In effect, your administration will be nearly doubling the Capital debt of the Council by 2020. There are no contingency plans in the paper should things not go according to plan. Worryingly, at 5.7 the paper says: “it is difficult to judge exact values but the total contract value of the building works for the entire programme is in the region of £350m”. If any of you have employed a builder to get things done at your home, you will be aware of just how often costs overrun, not to mention timings, etc.
In our view, the administration’s Regeneration Plan, and the borrowing to finance it, could so easily not go according to plan. If that happens, it will be our residents that will bear the cost in terms of higher council taxes and deep cuts to their services.
Even if things go right, the increased borrowing costs will still have implications for the Council’s Revenue budget, which funds our frontline services. If you borrow more on your credit card, the amount you have to pay each month in interest goes up; with their Regeneration Plan, the administration is essentially maxing-out Harrow’s corporate credit card. The Administration’s proposed extra borrowing will have a negative impact on our frontline services.
Your Leader, Cllr Shah, said on Thursday evening at Council that he wanted the Regeneration project to be cross-party. And we would welcome the chance to be involved. However, the truth is we have been repeatedly kept away from all the decisions relating to the Regeneration Plan. Indeed, we believe that the Council Motions were moved up the agenda precisely to prevent discussion of the administration’s Regeneration Plan.
One has to wonder why your Leader and Cabinet Members did not want to be asked difficult questions about their plans to nearly double the Council’s debt. The residents of Harrow deserve answers on such an important issue but we were not even allowed to ask the most basic of questions about the Regeneration Plan. Your Leadership Team should be comfortable enough with their decisions to be able to answer questions from anyone.
Thank you for your time in reading this, I am most grateful.
Cllr Susan Hall
Leader of the Conservative Group. London Borough of Harrow