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Harrow challenges Government’s austerity programme

imagesA motion at the Council meeting on 18 July 2019 demands the incoming Tory prime minister to take responsibility for the terrible human cost of his party’s austerity programme and make the necessary investment to properly fund public services.
The movers of the motion councillors Graham Henson and Adam Swersky point out that “Austerity has caused huge damage to communities up and down the UK, with devastating effects on key public services that protect the most defenceless in society – children at risk, disabled adults and vulnerable older people – and the services we all rely on, like clean streets, libraries, and community centres”.
In Harrow, the impact of austerity has been shocking.  Already one of the lowest funded councils in London, this government’s reckless policies continue to put an unacceptable strain on our finances and cause damage to our residents, highlights the petition.
Over 30% of children in Harrow live in poverty where child poverty is rising to 40% in some wards. Last year, the Harrow food bank fed over 2617 people, including over 1041 children.
The Young Harrow Foundation’s Needs Analysis found that 20% of Harrow’s young people need mental health support while 17% need help with suicidal thoughts or know someone who needs this help.
The government has cut the budget of the Metropolitan police drastically, forcing a reduction in officer numbers with fewer 3,000 police officers and 3,000 fewer community support officers in the capital compared to 2010 – crime has increased.
This year, a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime has found a link between these cuts and the rise in youth violence which has also been witnessed in Harrow.
Harrow has  seen an increase in violent crime with knife crime becoming a more frequent occurrence.
Inevitably, it is our residents who suffer these strains, whether it be through reduced services or increased council tax, says the petition.


A Harrow Tory councillor condemned

WrightHarrow council’s Standards Working Group found that Tory councillor Stephen Wright, a Pinner ward colleague of the opposition leader Cllr Paul Osborn and once a close friend of the controversial previous opposition leader Cllr Susan Hall, brought his office and the council into disrepute.
Last June, Standards Working Group considered complaints from a female resident that councillor Wright had breached the code of conduct for councillors and members. She alleged that he used information to exaggerate his influence as a powerful decision maker to form an inappropriate personal relationship with her.
The Working Group heard from the complainant, the investigating officer, witnesses and the councillor and unanimously concluded that Councillor Wright had breached the code.
It found that councillor Wright failed to treat others with respect; compromised the impartiality of those working for the Council; used his position improperly to secure an advantage; breached the Protocols on Members’ Access to Information and on councillor/officer relations; and inappropriately involved himself in the day to day management of council services by:

  • Making some inappropriate physical contact with the complainant
  • Seeking a frequency of contact with her that was not justified in the circumstances
  • Exceeding the normal professional boundaries of a councillor-resident relationship in the frequency and timing of his contact with her and the suggested locations of meetings
  • Describing council officers as liars trying to whitewash events, and exceeding his role by attempting to secure the suspension or dismissal of an officer
  • Attempting to secure privileged meetings between the complainant and senior officers
  • Retaining confidential papers on his personal device when asked not to by the court

In view of the above breaches the Working Group unanimously recommended that Cllr Wright be censured and that this notice be read out at Council, and put on the council’s website and in a local newspaper.
There are demands for Cllr Wright to resign because of the seriousness of the matters – there could be a Pinner ward by-election soon!
Online petition to remove Harrow Councillor Stephen Wright From Power


Knife crime – serious concerns in Brent and Harrow

NS2“I have seen the devastating impact of violent crime on my doorstep – last year, there were 89 stabbings in Harrow and 202 in Brent” informs the Brent-Harrow London assembly member Navin Shah (photo).
“The consequences for the people involved, their families and the wider community are heart-breaking” he said.
Knife crime has risen by 60% in England and Wales since 2013/14 and by 46% in London over the same period.
The Mayor of London has taken action to clamp down on the rise in violent crime. In 2017, the Mayor launched City Hall’s first ever ‘dedicated anti-knife crime strategy’ that included the establishment of a new Violent Crime Taskforce comprising of 272 officers working to take weapons off the streets and targeting the most dangerous criminals in the capital.
Also, London mayor’s new Violence Reduction Unit will build on the preventative action already taken by the Mayor such as the establishment of the £45 million Young Londoners Fund.
However, the government have been slow to act and inconsistent in their approach to tackling violent crime, reminds Navin Shah. He said Theresa May, the prime minister, had initially suggested police numbers did not make a difference on crime levels, only to equivocate on the issue after.
Likewise, while the home secretary has called on the government to treat knife crime as a public health issue, the health secretary has dismissed this idea, stating: ‘If you say it’s a public health issue that implies it’s nobody’s fault‘.
“We desperately need the government to show leadership on tackling knife crime and not only reverse the cuts that it has made to policing but to properly fund youth services, education and housing services which are all factors which increase the likelihood of a person committing violent crime” said Mr Shah.
Recent rise in the stabbings in Harrow has raised questions about the usefulness of the youth work in Harrow, Harrow Safer Neighbourhood Board and the effectiveness of the Harrow Police & Crime Plan (PCP) priority to reduce the number of young people involved in youth violence and gang crime and to decrease the number of young people carrying offensive weapons. Further concern that the Harrow youth violence scrutiny review lacks rigour .


Education cuts hitting hard!

A one-off increase of £3.8bn would be needed to reverse 8% cuts in per pupil school spending, the Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis shows.
cutsIn Harrow 46 of 50 schools have suffered £27.2M cuts to per pupil funding between 2015 & 2019 which on average is £286 per pupil loss – source Harrow school funding cuts (individual school cuts could be worked out).
The IFS says a further £1.1bn would be needed each year up until 2023 to maintain spending in real terms, once rising costs were taken into account.
“It’s the largest reduction in education spending for at least 30 or 40 years or longer, so it’s not surprising it has generated political pressure,” says their economist Luke Sibieta.
School budgets have moved up the political agenda, partly as a result of campaigning by parents and teachers across England (footage of the Together for Education – national protest against school cuts in London on 22 June 2019).


Harrow youth violence scrutiny review lacks rigour

It can only be good that Harrow council scrutiny committee commissioned a review into preventing youth violence as the fear of this crime is high  in the borough.
The purpose of the review was to investigate how the council work might contribute to reducing youth crime and anti-social behaviour.
While the rationale for the review is good, the Preventing Youth Violence Scrutiny Panel report (21 May 2019) has serious shortcomings. The report is more descriptive than evaluative, lowering its usefulness in tackling youth violence.
Much write-up is about the methodology that includes meetings with and references to the youth specific research/field work by the council, police and voluntary sector without evaluating the effectiveness and outcomes of their work, resulting in less well informed and inadequate recommendations.
YCOn the question of the failure to positively engage young people through meaningful activities, the Harrow council has a lot to answer, like the appropriateness of its youth services and the missed opportunities to engage youth. Bottom line is to provide activities to help keep young people away from crime. Young people also need to learn new skills or get advice about school or jobs.
Recent rise in the stabbings in Harrow has raised questions about the usefulness of the youth work, Harrow Safer Neighbourhood Board and the effectiveness of the Harrow Police & Crime Plan (PCP) priority to reduce the number of young people involved in youth violence and gang crime and to decrease the number of young people carrying offensive weapons.
Many believe that a lack of visible police officers in the streets and there being nowhere for young people to go in Harrow are reasons for a rise in violent crime in the borough.
The report is silent on these concerns!
Having detailed the youth work relevant to reducing crime, undertaken by various agencies and at various levels – council and voluntary – the report fails to identify the crucial need to have more and better coordination amongst the providers, a longstanding challenge for Harrow.
The report repeats the gap of intervention services for young people in the transition age group, growing drug use amongst young people and the need for a streamlined approach to ensuring all council strategies consider youth violence as driving out crime – all well known factors in the borough for quite some time.
Some recommendations have serious omissions: the key recommendation ‘each time a strategy or policy is reviewed a specific perspective on reducing youth violence should be included’ looks less meaningful without highlighting a need to map the work of the council where reducing youth violence could have taken place but is not.
While meeting the needs of young people through the Glasgow originated ’lens of a public health approach’ has been repeatedly articulated in the report, there is no appreciation that unlike Glasgow, Harrow has an exciting regeneration programme which could helpfully involve youth,  meet some of their needs and by implications help in reducing the youth-related crime on a long-term basis.


Proposed Harrow bus route changes

Transport for London is proposing some changes to the bus network in Harrow town centre, particularly between Harrow bus station and Northwick Park Hospital.
They are seeking views on the proposed changes to routes 186, H9, H10 and H14.
Their proposals are to:

  • Withdraw route 186 between Harrow bus station and Northwick Park Hospital. Route 186 would terminate at Harrow bus station
  • Extend route H14 from Northwick Park Hospital’s main entrance to terminate at St Mark’s Hospital, following the existing alignment of route 186. This would give an increased frequency of buses servicing St Mark’s with a bus every 9 to 10 minutes compared to every 12 minutes now
  • Move the terminus of circular routes H9/H10 from Harrow bus station to Northwick Park Hospital. This would give a more direct bus link between the South Harrow area and Northwick Park Hospital
  • Withdraw bus routes H9/H10 from Northwick Avenue and Rushout Avenue, in both directions, and instead operate a more direct service along Kenton Road between Kenton station and Northwick Park roundabout

Public views matters. The TfL previously consulted on the withdrawal of route 223 between Northwick Park Hospital and Harrow bus station and following the consultation feedback, they are no longer proposing this and the route 223 will continue to terminate at Harrow bus station.
Click here for the consultation which is open until Wednesday 31 July 2019.


Harrow East Labour supports ending immigration detention

DetentionHarrow East Labour becomes the first CLP (constituency Labour party) to send the Momentum backed  Labour Against Racism And Fascism motion – End Immigration Detention – to the Labour conference 2019.
The motion asks an incoming Labour Government to end the Detention Estate and adopt a community-led response for migrants that challenges xenophobic sentiment and supports the vulnerable, promoting wellbeing and combating criminalisation of migrants.
A community-based approach to immigration and asylum systems, without detention, to encourage social inclusion and promote human dignity.
Pam“The UK is the only EU country that detains migrants indefinitely and every year detains thousands of migrants, some held indefinitely in inhumane conditions. The system of immigration detention is also costly and ineffective.
“We need a system that is fair and treats vulnerable migrants with dignity. I am delighted Harrow East CLP supports this motion” said Harrow councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick (photo), Labour parliamentary candidate for Harrow East.
The UK has one of the largest immigration detention networks in Europe having over 8 detention centres and locks up thousands of people in immigration detention every year – for example, in 2018, 24,748 people were put into detention.
The motion reminds about the out of control violence and mental ill-health faced by detainees – 11 reported deaths in 2017, 2 suicide attempts per day, a 22% rise in suicide between April and June 2018.
Also reminded is the inhumane conditions and cases of rampant racist, sexual and sexist abuse by staff reported at Yarl’s Wood detention centre.
On 8 May 2019, Amnesty International UK handed in 100,000-strong petition to end indefinite immigration detention, alongside Liberty, Women for Refugee Women, Freed Voices and the Asylum Justice Project.