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Jun 14 2017

Susan Says: No answers when it matters most

Last night an Extraordinary Council meeting was held to discuss and debate a petition with over 2000 signatures regarding the future of Pinner Wood School. My colleagues and I called this meeting as it was only right that a huge petition on such a vital issue could be publicly discussed at Council. If the meeting had not been called, the petition would have been presented in September which would have been completely ludicrous as the new academic year would have started.

There has been good cross-party work by the Council with the School and local residents to react quickly and come to a one-site solution. However, we would not be doing our job correctly as Councillors if we did not hold the administration to account, ask questions and make sure everything is done thoroughly; after all, it is the safety and education of our children that is our priority.

The Council meeting coincided with the release of report going to Cabinet tomorrow night which outlines the recommendations for the solution. After reading the report, it became very clear that the report is not thorough or detailed enough; lacking contingencies, risk mitigation and transparency.

The Council meeting was supposed to include a debate on the issues within the petition. I therefore asked a list of questions (see full list below) regarding the cabinet report to the Leader of the Council, the Portfolio Holder for Finance and the Portfolio Holder for Schools as these three Councillors would, or should, have studied, questioned and signed off the report. Our questions need to be answered to give assurances to parents. I was disappointed that not one of my questions was answered or even attempted to be answered by the administration and whilst I tried to get a response many Labour Councillors laughed-not good enough! The Labour administration need to take this seriously and listen to and answer our questions to make sure everything is in place for the Children and Parents of Pinner Wood School.

The report with the recommendations is set to go through Cabinet tomorrow night but there is clearly a lot of work to be done. We want to be as confident as possible that the programme for Pinner Wood School is being laid out in the best way possible to secure a positive future for our Children. We call on the administration and Chief Executive to address our concerns and the residents’ concerns when discussing the Cabinet report tomorrow night (15.6.17). It is more important than ever that the administration listens to residents and Councillors when the safety and education of children are at stake.

Councillor Susan Hall
Leader of the Conservative Group
Hatch End Ward

Questions asked by Councillor Susan Hall at the Extraordinary Council meeting 13th June 2017

1. Since our overriding concern is the safety and education of our young people, how likely is it that the works will be finished in time for the school to move back to the original site by January?

2. What contingencies are in place if this does not go according to plan?

3. If the works are not completed in time, have you properly consulted with all parties on the appropriate course of action?

4. Which officers and members will decide where the money is spent?

5. Paragraph 47 of the Cabinet report on Pinner Wood School says a Risk Register will be put in place but there are no timescales. When will a project risk register be put in place as this needs to be identified immediately?

6. It is clear that to enable this programme to financed, all departments will need to work closely to ensure all budgets are met. The LGA Peer Review highlighted that there needs to be improved cohesion between departments in the Council. This should be a matter of course but in light of securing this program, how will the administration guarantee all departments successfully work together?

7. How will you make sure the works are kept in budget?

8. Paragraph 49 of the Cabinet report on Pinner Wood School says the main risk is that the programme is “unaffordable to the Council”. However the mentioned control actions to mitigate against this risk do not seem to address the issue. How will this huge risk be effectively mitigated against?

9. Paragraph 56 of the Cabinet report on Pinner Wood School says that “there is no capital or revenue budget provision for this work”. Doesn’t this highlight the importance of a balanced budget and will you ensure that provision is made without further overspends?

10. When will the bids for DCLG and DFE funding (as mentioned in paragraph 59 of the Cabinet Report on Pinner Wood School) be put in?

11. Paragraph 20 of the Cabinet report on Pinner Wood School states: “If PBA and/or Forkers do not complete the works, the Council would have to retender the works at additional cost.” Can the administration give assurance that the works will be completed by PBA and/or Forkers? And if not, what financial provision does the administration have for the additional cost for retendering?

12. Paragraph 20 of the Cabinet report on Pinner Wood School also states: Retendering the works will require a minimum three month period in which to tender the works, review the returned tenders and respond accordingly. This would greatly impact on the progress of stabilising the land under and around the School.” If this situation occurs how will the administration mitigate the risk this could pose to the one-site local solution?

13. Paragraph 20 of the Cabinet report on Pinner Wood School also states: “There is a further risk that no tenders would be received for the remaining works.” What is the likelihood of this occurring and what contingencies are in place to secure a one-site solution?

14. Paragraph 57 of the Cabinet report on Pinner Wood School says it is recommended for revenue costs to come from the Contingency for Unforeseen items within the Council Budget. It goes on to say “This will mean that there will therefore be no capacity for any additional departmental pressures and directorates will have to balance their budgets.” This is astonishing as budgets should be balanced already as a matter of course. How will you ensure all budgets across the Council are balanced in order to secure this solution for Pinner Wood School?

15. Paragraph 57 of the Cabinet report on Pinner Wood School says “The estimated revenue costs are higher than the contingency provision by £511k and further centrally held budgets will need to be identified to fund the remaining costs. For any revenue costs over and above this figure will need to be funded from additional revenue savings”. This highlights the importance of having balanced books. Where does the administration propose identifying extra budgets to fund the remaining costs?

16. When will the Montesole playing fields be reinstated and has this been considered when budgeting?

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3 comments

  1. Robin

    It’s great that there’s been some good cross-party work to come to a solution on Pinner Wood. However I do agree, with Susan. This isn’t overly political (for once!) but she is just doing what someone with a brain would do – which is read the report and think to themselves “is everything in order here? Have all i’s been dotted and all t’s been crossed?”

    The administration shouldn’t laugh or get defensive when questions are asked but fully address them to the best of their ability. If there are no answers yet then admit that and work together to create policy decisions for the good of Harrow, and in this case, the children and parents of Pinner Wood School.

    It does look positive for Pinner Wood School but it can only help to address all these very valid issues brought up by Susan which Should assist in minimising risks and keeping the children safe.

  2. Concerned Harrovian

    Susan

    I do not get the joke! What is funny about ensuring children’s safety and access to education? There is a well-known saying ‘the devil is in the detail’. Please continue to press for answers to the questions raised. These are serious matters and we do not vote our councillors into office to behave frivolously in matters concerning children.

  3. Concerned Harrovian

    Susan

    Would name and shame those moronic, giggling councillors who think that children’s safety and education is a joke? They should remember we vote them in and we can also vote them out.

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