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Council must rebuild confidence
Since the Audit Commission published its damning assessment of Harrow Council this year, branding it as the worst-performing borough in London and the third worst in the UK, I have been advocating the need for a clear strategy to be adopted by the council to enable it to provide the high quality of services we Harrow residents deserve.
Sadly, senior Harrow councillors have not yet put in place the "turnaround strategy" to improve the council's performance and instead a series of other bad decisions have been taken recently.
The new development plans for Harrow town centre, with an extra 3,000 flats, have not been thought through.
There appears to have been no consideration given to the impact on existing residents, on services such as local schools and GPs or on the impact on the character of Harrow.
Many existing residents will find their view of the famous St Mary's Church on the top of Harrow-on-the-Hill blocked out. Residents have understandably labelled this decision as "sacrificing our future", echoing the words of the Audit Commission that the council is "more occupied with short-term issues than long-term strategic direction".
Other similar examples include the decision to scrap free parking helping businesses in North Harrow and Wealdstone and refusing to bring in free parking in South Harrow.
The amount of money the council will raise in no way compensates for the loss of support for those hard-pressed businesses.
In addition, the council has issued a completely unrealistic request of the Weald Tenants' and Residents' Association (WTRA). The WTRA would like to convert the derelict Cedars Hall into a community hall to serve the Hatch End and Harrow Weald residents for future generations.
Yet the council has given local residents a very short period of time to put together a rescue plan to raise the money needed.
Despite the lack of good leadership from the council's cabinet, senior council staff have driven some improvements, in particular in the provision of services for our children and young people.
The effective staff in the Children and Young People's Services in the council have, for example, worked to put together strong, effective bids for funding from the Government.
These strong bids, together with lobbying by Tony McNulty MP and I, have helped to ensure almost £200 million extra has come to Harrow.
I hope that the Children and Young People's Service will continue to flourish. We now need senior councillors to take the tough decision to put Harrow residents first and rebuild confidence in Harrow Council. I hope that, even at this late stage, a turnaround plan to improve the council's performance will be put together.