Category Archives: News

Outgoing Harrow mayor found in breach of code of conduct

Councillor Kareema Marikar,  ex-Harrow mayor, breached the code of conduct by bringing the council into disrepute, finds the council’s Standards Working Group.
Cllr Marikar visited high ranking officers of the Sri Lankan Army during her trip last year and posted photos of her meeting in which she is wearing the mayoral chain.
“She conducted herself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing the Council and her office as Councillor into disrepute by uploading photographs of herself and a member of the Sri Lankan military onto Facebook causing distress to the local community” the Standards found.
KMMembers of Harrow’s Tamil community got upset by the mayor posting pictures of her meetings with the army officers on social media alongside messages praising the soldiers for their service, given the army officials’ involvement in the Sri Lankan civil war which killed many of their kith and kin in their former home country.
Tamils handed in a petition calling for her to resign and complained to the Harrow Council’s Standards.
In the known history of Harrow mayor’s office, this was the second protest against a serving mayor – previous was in 1989-90 by the Asian Parents Group during the mayor’s controversial visit to a primary school.
Standards recommended and the Monitoring Officer concurred that Cllr Kareema Marikar should be censured and that a notice should be placed on the Council’s website and in a local newspaper. Not sure whether a Harrow Mayor has been formally condemned before.
As an ambassador of the borough, mayor’s position is graceful but for last few years, Harrow mayors seem to be associating more with their background and acting accordingly – this is most unhelpful.


Labour to look for Brent & Harrow GLA candidate?

Soon after the European Parliamentary elections, Labour is likely to start process to select their London assembly candidate for Brent and Harrow as Navin Shah, the sitting assembly member, has seemingly decided to step down (not announced in this window).
Navin Shah has ably retained the seat since 2008 when he defeated Tory member Bob Blackman who is now controversial MP for Harrow East  (Navin Shah came very close to defeat him at the last general election).
Prominent local names floating for the selection, are:
The Momentum supported Aghileh Djafari-Marbini, mum and NHS worker, who has been very active in challenging inequality and social injustice, particularly in the area of health provision, in tune with Corbyn.Ir2
“In more recent years, coming from a family of NHS workers has given me renewed sense of urgency for what the Labour Party can offer our country” she said.
She is a well known supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and once said: “socialism have become active again in droves since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader”.
Aghileh Djafari Marbini stood for London Labour regional board and was a Labour candidate for Headstone North ward at the last council election (did not win but did very well in a traditional Tory ward).
HirBrent councillor and a council cabinet portfolio holder Krupesh Hirani, a university graduate in politics, who has a lot of experience in the political sector and held a number of posts in this area.
During the Operation Black Vote Shadowing Scheme Mr Hirani was mentored by dynamic David Lammy MP – he seems to have good grip on a variety of socio-political matters, significant to a wider society.
Though Mr Hirani is seen more at certain cultural activities, he believes in representing all. Mr Hirani informs that he has spent his working life with organisations that support disabled people.
Mr Hirani is proud of the local area and said: “I have been educated through the Brent state school system and am passionate about the area”.
Harrow councillor and past mayor Ajay Maru who has a Masters in hairdressing and has opened three hair salons and a training centre in the borough. Mr Maru is a friendly face at cultural events, mostly Asian.
Mr Maru is interested in local communities – for example, he believes that the UK should look to strengthen its relationship with India amid uncertainty around Brexit.Am
At the re-launch of the Labour Friends of India, Mr Maru spoke of the important connection between the two countries.
“This is about improving interaction and engagement between the UK and India and making the relationship greater than it already is” he said.
Either of these local hopefuls could easily beat the Tory’s out of borough candidate.


Increased food banks demand in Harrow – ‘scandalous’

food-parcelThe Trussell Trust which runs food banks in Wealdstone and South Harrow reports a 24 per cent increase in food banks demand in Harrow.
Between April 2018 and March 2019, 2,617 three-day emergency food supplies were given out in Harrow.
The emergency supplies are nutritionally balanced, non-perishable tinned and dried foods that have been donated by people in the local community.
More and more people are struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food, partly because the current five week wait for Universal Credit is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics. Evidence shows that other changes to the social security system are also major driver of food poverty.
According to the Trust for London, 27 per cent of children in Harrow are living in poverty – that is, the children living in households with incomes below 60 per cent of the median income. Higher levels of poverty are in Edgware, Greenhill, Roxbourne and Wealdstone.
Navin Shah AM, London assembly member for Harrow and Brent, describes the increased demand as “scandalous”.
“Whilst the Government is well aware of the key factors that are driving so many local families into food poverty, they are choosing not to act” he said.
Previously the Trust for London said that Harrow’s progress in addressing poverty is a case of mixed picture.
“In a number of areas it is performing well, especially in relation to some health and educational outcomes, but doing poorly in relation to affordable housing and is least progressive when it comes to council tax and low income families amongst London’s boroughs”.
Economically, London is a wealthy city but that wealth is not shared by all – the richest 10% of London’s households own 50% of the capital’s wealth, the poorest 50% of Londoners own just 5% of the city’s wealth.
What happens in macro, is likely to happen in micro!


Adult social care – Harrow struggling!

The recent Harrow People magazine informs: demand for the adult social care is going up and the council tax is rising because of it.
The client group for this aspect of the care includes people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, sensory impairment, and mental health or physical conditions.
With the rise of the council tax comes the expectation of good quality services and provisions as well as the best value for money. In this respect, Harrow adult social care presents a mixed picture.
Since 2017, many councils have developed Wellbeing and Resilience Framework to provide clarity on why wellbeing and resilience are important, and how they will be systematically improved and strengthened with their residents, and for all ages.
Harrow has now come up with a somewhat deficient Resilient Harrow Programme for the consideration of the Health and Wellbeing Board (this multi-agency forum, chaired by the leader of the Harrow council, receives verbal and written reports from the agencies which it  mostly takes as information rather than professionally scrutinising these – such a weakness results in the concerning performance of the key partners like the Harrow Clinical Commissioning Group not being addressed).
(resilience: empowering citizens to maintain their well-being and independence, strengthening support networks within their families and communities; enabling them to be stronger, healthier, and more resilient).
Following the director of adult social services Vision last year, the council engaged the specialist adult social care consultancy agency Impower to review the impact and effectiveness of the first phase of delivering the Vision.
The diagnostic work identified significant areas where work is needed, like areas such as improving access to information, developing the range of community based resources available, making better use of assistive technology and developing and managing the adult social care market locally.
Such shortcomings are concerning (no lessons seem to have been learnt from similar weakness in many other areas of the council’s works over the years) and become more concerning considering that the adult care provision involves a variety of stake-holders like providers, staff, national bodies and people who use services, their families and carers which requires rigorous coordination and monitoring across the board.
The resilient programme also seems to be lacking focus on the awareness raising activities like the workshops for the stake-holders.
While there is a Resilient Harrow Board, the resilient programme lacks a Wellbeing and Resilience Framework to support and guide the ‘entire system’ (including public, private, community and voluntary services, and communities themselves) as well as to understand and strengthen the things that make people’s lives go well, so that people live the life they want. What a serious omission!
As the council has moved from the interim to substantial senior managers, expectation is improved quality assurance and business like effective and efficient work of the council.


Harrow health care concerns raised at the Commons

gtIf there was ever a much-loved and vital service that told the story of the NHS funding crisis in north-west London, it was the walk-in centre at Alexandra Avenue closed by the Harrow Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that has been put into special measures because its forecast deficit of £40 million, said Gareth Thomas MP for Harrow west  who was speaking at the Commons NHS debate on 24 April 2019.
“Not only is there no prospect that the Alexandra Avenue walk-in centre will be reopened, but other walk-in centres that serve Harrow are vulnerable to the threat of closure at a moment’s notice” warned Mr Thomas.
Another walk-in centre in Harrow is now only by appointment. The walk-in centre crisis in Harrow have an impact on Northwick Park Hospital that has not met the A&E waiting target as over the past five years, 25% of patients in A&E have not been seen within four hours.
In describing another damaging impact of the NHS cuts, Mr Thomas said “For the first time, the maximum two-week wait for a first consultant appointment after an urgent GP referral is not being met, according to the latest data on our area”.
The Harrow Monitoring Group has been reporting concerns about the Harrow CCG performance whether it is about the walk-in clinics, closing the NHS desk at the Wealdstone Centre, restricted hospital procedures under PPwT policy, quality of GP services  (the Care Quality Commission inspections found that at least seven GP practices in Harrow require improvement – a failing category) or the impingement upon patient rights where the CCG has instructed GPs not to prescribe the items which the NHS England had said should be prescribed if the patents do not wish to buy.
It can only be good that Mr Thomas raised the concerns.
The Harrow CCG is responsible for planning and buying (commissioning) many of the health services needed by approximately 260,000 people registered with GPs in Harrow. Its budget deficit situation has serious implications for the quality of GP services as Harrow CCG has full responsibility for the management of the primary care medical services where GPs have to operate within the tight finances allowed to them.


Harrow stabbings – serious concern!

864736dHarrow is having its share of knife crime surge in London, seemingly for the reasons similar to those in the inner city boroughs.
In September 2018, 24% of Harrow residents were concerned about knife crime in their area, increasing from 12% March 2016, according to the Harrow council report ‘Summary of Crime in Harrow in 2018’.
The fear of crime is highest in Harrow East and rising in both Harrow East and Harrow Central, according to the recent Metropolitan Police Service Public Attitude Survey (PAS).
Very concerning that Harrow East MP Blackman is not really pressing his Tory government for more resources for the borough. Similarly no obvious action by the opposition councillors from the Harrow East Tory wards to work with the council administration and the police to redress the residents fear of crime, despite enjoying extra responsibility allowances.
Figures from London’s Metropolitan police showed that knife crime surged by 16 per cent in the capital year-on-year in 2018, as Britain’s crime epidemic continues.

The knife attacks in Harrow in 2018 and 2019 so far, include:

  • A teenager was stabbed multiple times in High Street, Wealdstone yesterday (April 15)
  • In March this year, a Sri Lankan shopkeeper was stabbed to death at his shop in Pinner
  • Soon after and in a separate attack, the police were called to the scene in Station Road, less than two miles away, to reports of a 15-year-old boy being stabbed in a park
  • A 13-year-old boy was shot in the head after another teenager was injured in a gun attack in broad day light on a busy high street
  • In another incident, two teenagers were attacked in double horror stabbing
  • A man in his 20s was stabbed outside a restaurant at the Station Road Harrow

“Violent crime in Harrow has increased by 60%, and it is no surprise that this increase correlates to the reduction in police officers on our streets” Gareth Thomas MP for Harrow West previously said.
Recent rise in the stabbings in Harrow also raises questions about the usefulness of the 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.


Winner at Tory race for Brent & Harrow GLA seat

Brent and Harrow Tories selected their London Assembly candidate today from the three candidates shortlisted earlier.
Winner by wide majority: Molly Irene Samuel-Leport MBE, England born east Londoner, well known for her sports achievements, including 1987 Jamaican Jubliee Award for Excellence. She was an impressive orator.Molly
Molly Samuel is a member of the Conservative Way Forward advisory board along with Harrow councillor Paul Osborn, leader of the Tory opposition group. She is a six time karate world champion, and was the unsuccessful candidate for Walthamstow at the general elections.
She has been active in community matters and is well known for her interest in homelessness and social justice issues.
Molly Samuel believes that schools need to change to include self-defence and self-awareness education for young children of primary age.
Other two candidates were:
George Currie, the “son of working-class parents” who progressed to have a PhD in political philosophy, helpfully worked with the Brent’s diverse community. He is chair of Brent Central Conservative Association.
Mr Currie’s manifesto was to reduce crime by securing more police officers and working with local communities to introduce ‘safe zones’ across Brent and Harrow.
He said he would work to improve the availability of affordable housing by working with councils and developers to identify suitable sites and remove unnecessary blockages, and  improve the local environment by working with local residents and businesses to tackle issues, such as poor air quality and the illegal dumping of waste.
Kanwal Toor, self claimed Indian actress associated with luxury jewellery and fashion outlet, with little obvious political profile.
Social media search in her case revealed her qualifying comments like “I am proud to know Bob Blackman. Bob has done a huge amount work for Kashmiri Dogras” – Indian held Kashmir is very sensitive issue and a matter of grave international concern.  Good understanding that Brent/Harrow could do well without divisive Kashmir reference. Also, apparent  block vote, seemingly led by Harrow East divisive Tories, did not work.
Last time such a Kashmir specific credit was given to the divisive Bob Blackman MP for Harrow East who has been repeatedly exposed for his alleged interactions with far right elements [i] [ii], was by his previous assistant from Kashmir background  [i] [ii] who has  left Harrow since.