So Harrow Council has a Cabinet. They lobby MP’s for us, consult residents about changes, meet the public to discuss how they can support us with the council and so on.
On June 10th there was a Q and A time with the Cabinet. We could submit questions in advance or raise them during the event. I’ve not been to anything like this before, nor did I know that these events occur every four months. I’ll definitely be at the next one!Â It was really good! 🙂
Here are some questions and answers that I made notes about.
Q. Why has there been an increase in council tax?
A. Although Harrow has pockets of deprivation, it is considered to be an affluent borough. Thus the government gives fewer grants and the sum of money given is not the same as that given to other boroughs. Harrow makes up for this shortfall through council taxes.
Also because the government perceives Harrow to be an affluent borough; 30p in every Â£1 gained from rents is used to support other councils nationally. This scheme is led and carried out by the government.
Q. Why are we seeing an increase in council taxes without an improvement in service provision?
A. Reviews and CPA assessments show that Harrow has improved. Harrow is classed as the 6th best borough in London. However, as with anything, you recall from experience and that defines and can blinker one’s view. The leader explained that perception is lagging behind the existing changes. Hopefully, residents will begin to ‘see’ the improvement soon.
Q. How do you expect perception to change when at grass root level, residents experience things like their valuables being removed from a padlocked shed that they use because the council authorised it? This very specific example refers to cases where residents have called the council asking about their right to a shed. Some lease/tenancy agreements state that the resident should have a shed. The sheds are not numbers and the council have no log showing which sheds are in use or who uses them. Thus some members of staff have advised residents to claim a shed, remove the padlock and the items in the shed and put their own lock on the door.
A. This is not condoned by the council. The councillorÂ Barry Macleod-CullinaneÂ was made aware of this a week or so ago. He has asked PaulÂ Najsarek to respond to him about this.
Q. What are we doing to improve Harrow Weald for young people?
A. To name a few things a media centre with a link to community radio will be opened in the Wealdstone Centre very soon.Â Additionally, the Healthy Living Cafe in Wealdstone is not economically viable as it does not generate in income. However, it is important and necessary. The council has been subsidising it to prevent it’s closure.
Q. Is it true that if 1 road in a consultation area has controlled parking, then all the roads will end up with it?
A. No. Susan Hall explained that consultation documents are really important and it is the way for the Cabinet to know what residents want. However, very few people respond to them. If it is appropriateÂ toÂ have controlled parking in one street but it would not be suitable for the whole area; the scheme will not be extended.
Q. What is Harrow doing about residents who are parking in front of their house if there’s no crossover/dropped curb?
A. Many people have begun to drive over the curb to park on their front garden. The council will request that the residents apply for a crossover. If they do not, bollards will be erected to prevent them parking there.
Q. Is this not costly?
A. Yes but it is cheaper than repairing the pavements due to damage caused by people driving over them. It is also a means to protect the public from injuring themselves as they walk on this unsettled paving.
Q. What are we doing to see more greenery in Harrow?
A. The council are happy to plant flowers around Harrow. The costly part in terms of finances stems from flowering them. The environmental cost of having a vehicle drive around Harrow to water the plants needs to be avoided too. This can be done if we adopt a bed. Harrow will plant the flowers but they need us to water them. Please contact Susan Hall if you’re interested.
Q. Why has there been an increase in rent?
A. Â Rent was increased by 6% BUT due to falling inflation, it was deemed too high. Councils requested the government to review their decision about rents but they took too long. The government capped the percentage increase at 3% AFTER most councils had sent their bills out. Thus the increase in rent will not be as high but councils are now paying for re-billing and so on. These costs will need to be recovered somewhere.
The next Q and A session will be on November 5th 2009. Venue to be confirmed.