Category Archives: News

Newton Park transformed

Newton Park, in the heart of South Harrow has undergone a 9 month restoration programme.

(Click the play button to play – fullscreen by clicking the fullscreen button – bottom right – last)The park now boasts better facilities and access for the local community with new footpaths, bridges, four wetlands and more diverse wildlife habitat.
The attractive 46 acre open space project also provides river restoration and flood defence improvement works.
On Tuesday 17 July, the park will officially be opened by the leader of the council Cllr Graham Henson and the Mayor of Harrow Cllr Kareema Marikar at 1.15pm. They will be joined by local school children from Newton Farm.
There’ll be a ribbon cutting ceremony, planting of 500 aquatic plants, water testing, activities and information displays, tours and refreshments.

 

Blackman told off at the Commons again

Tory MP Bob Blackman in marginal Harrow East, well known for his divisive politics, has calculated his votes and asks specific questions at the Commons to capture the Indian and Jewish background voters.
On 4 July 2018, he asked what assistance can the UK government give to match the donations by  Indian Diaspora for orphanages and schools for disabled children in India.
Penny Mordaunt, the secretary for international development, reminded him that the “aid programmes in India are limited to investments on which we make a return and to technical support. We do not do traditional aid programmes in India, and we certainly do not fund the types of institutions to which my hon. Friend refers”.
On 17 May 2018, he enquired about removing the caste (mostly Hindu) as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010, despite the minister being already briefed about the matter and agreed to meet him.
[Labour supported in 2013 for laws to outlaw caste discrimination – in 2013 a clause against caste discrimination was inserted into the Equality Act 2010]
He asked a similar question about the caste on 29 March 2018.
On 22 February 2018, he alleged that “in Kashmir, illegally occupied by Pakistan, 162 terrorist training bases have been identified” and asked what could be done in this country “to help and support our great ally, India, in combating this terrorism?”
Andrea Leadsom, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, generalised the issued and told him “we work very closely with all our allies to try to stamp out terrorism and all terror attacks”.

 

Only Blackman says he is not ‘divisive’!

bb4Bob Blackman (photo), Tory MP for marginal Harrow East, denies that he is divisive as Barry Kendler, chairman of Harrow East Constituency Labour Party, outlines his group’s plans to defeat Mr Blackman whose majority was slashed at the last general election.
Mr Kendler said that “all communities are suffering at the hands of Blackman’s Government” and that he “needs to be given his P45”.
Labour parliamentary candidate for Harrow East Cllr Pamela Fitzpatrick has also condemned Bob Blackman politics.
Commenting on the Bob Blackman’s divisive campaign, London assembly member and 2017 parliamentary candidate for Harrow East Navin Shah said, “The general election also saw the same old issues like Kashmiri Pundits and caste legislation dragged out for the Tory propaganda to find cheap favours amongst Indian / Hindu voters”.
Mr Blackman has ‘championed’ Hindu caste being removed as a protected characteristic from the legislation, dismissing the caste system in the UK that gives rise to discriminatory practices in socio-religious and employment situations, as indicated by some court cases (i.e. upper class employers treating lower class ‘jatis’ less favourably).
He has also attacked Jewish Voice for Labour, calling it a fringe group that has failed to address anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
In international situations, he supports highly divisive issues that could please his potential right wing voters from the Jewish and Indian background.
Mr Blackman is in a habit of ‘do first, say sorry later’!
The Sky News reminds that  last October, Mr Blackman hosted a parliamentary event attended by Tapan Ghosh, a Hindu nationalist who describes himself as “determined to fight against Islamic aggression and expansion” – Mr Blackman said he was unaware of Mr Ghosh’s past comments.
In March, Mr Blackman expressed “regret” after being exposed for sharing a Facebook post from an anti-Muslim US website – he previously shared a Twitter post by disgraced Tommy Robinson “in error”.
In May he was revealed to have been a member of a number of far-right Facebook groups – he refuted this saying he was added to Facebook groups without his knowledge or permission.
Even the Harrow council has condemned Mr Blackman interactions with far right.
Some leading Tories have been raising concerns, including Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, that there is a “simmering underbelly” of Islamophobia in the Tory party.

 

Council telephone answering time needs to improve

Telephone.Irrespective of what data are reported in the council reports, the grass root complaints are that residents wait too long for a telephone answer from many extensions.
Worst extensions are specific to council tax, bins, waste collection, street issues and environment health.
In one example a caller tried to contact environment health and hanged up after waiting for 10, 11 and 17 minutes on different occasions.
In another example, the council tax telephone extension took 10 minutes to answer. A call to planning took about 5 minutes to answer.
Considering the over 65 population in Harrow (15%), most elderly use telephone rather than Harrow council website for the services.
Jonathan Milbourn, head of the council’s customer and business support services, has not dismissed the public concerns and said “We try to meet the challenge that those who don’t use the internet could contact us by telephone but we have to balance our resources with demands”.
Mr Milbourn informed that the council  receives typically between 80k-100k telephone calls a month which are mostly attended by the staff who do other tasks as well.
He said the council aims to answer the telephone calls within a minute though it was about a minute and a half in May 2018.
Such a target and achievement in answering telephone calls are surprising given what we know and understand about long delays.
Swift communication, warm communication and helpful tone of the communication go a long way towards giving a positive perception about the work and ethos of the council.
Regarding the way forward in cutting down the telephone answering time, Mr Milbourn said “we take opportunities to reducing the need of contact by improving the council services”.

 

Harrow appears in pro-Tory racist group!

Many Tory MPs and councillors have been reported  as members of the Conservative Debating Forum, now changed to the Conservative Politics Forum.
The exposed Facebook group contained Islamophobic, homophobic and racist comments about some public figures like Sadiq Khan, Diane Abbott and anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller.
Comments, part of the evidence collected by Red Roar blog, include demands to “expel the London mayor”, “send back” immigrants, that “Islam should be banned” and homophobic remarks about Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, posted after she announced that she was pregnant.
High profile Tory MPs such as the Tory leadership hopeful Jacob Rees-Mogg, as well as the Conservative Chair for Youth Ben Bradley were both among the ten Tory MPs reportedly found to be members of the openly racist Conservative Debating Forum group, informs the report.
On a local level, Cllr Paul Osborn, leader of the opposition Tory group on the council, is included in the list of the councillors named in the forum where it was possible to join by invitation or by permission of moderators.
In assuring his passion for the Harrow diversity, Cllr Osborn told us: “It was not a group I chose to join or a group of which I was aware of any of its content. Facebook allows people to be added to groups without their consent and lots of people have signed me up to lots of different groups. I have now gone through and left most of them”.
“I abhor the comments reported to have been made within that Facebook group. I totally and completely reject and condemn the comments at the Facebook Group” he said.
Perhaps Cllr Osborn’s honest rejection of far right elements could be followed by the Harrow East divisive Tory MP Bob Blackman who seems to be in a habit of endorsing far right extremists.

 

Uncomfortable bus shelter seats are to stay!

There have been complaints regarding the new red seats installed on the bus stops, like the one in front of the civic centre or further down the Station Road.
seats
“The new bus stop seats are too high and too back that you can’t sit on them, especially old ladies who are not tall enough.  Even if we try to sit with our feet hanging, the benches are fixed in such a way that our back touches the back of the bus stop shade, we cannot sit properly on them as we slide back” explained one female complainant.
“The old bus stop with proper seats was much better, like the bus stop in front of Super Drug in Harrow with lower seats which are fixed in such a way that we can sit on them comfortably” she said.
We took up the issue with Valerie Shawcross, the then deputy mayor for transport, and have now heard from the Traffic for London.
“Unfortunately there is no longer a design available similar to the one in question that used to be featured in our older designs.  Our shelter seats are now manufactured and pre-attached at factory source according to a predetermined height and as per the initial design specification” said Carl Eddleston, TfL head of asset operations.
“We agree that the older versions may have been more comfortable but we are confident that the frequency of buses has now improved greatly throughout London so sitting on a seat in a bus shelter is down to a minimum unless there are delays due to unforeseen circumstances”  Carl Eddleston added.
Bit difficult to follow the logic –  less waiting for the buses means  designing less comfortable shelter seats?

 

Council opposition profile – mixed picture!

shadow portfAn interesting difference between the previous Tory group leader (Cllr Hall) and the present leader (Cllr Osborn) is that he recognises ‘compromise’ being a key quality of good leadership.
Therefore, the allocation of shadow responsibilities for the council work reflects good compromise – rewarding those who elected the leader and keeping those under wing who could rebel.
While such strategic appointments might help in running the group, there is another aspect which is more important. Both the council administration and opposition need to work together, pooling abilities and resources, for providing effective and better council services to the residents. In this context, there seem to be some anomalies in shadow positions. For example:
Council finances are quite complex and challenging but the councillor with finance expertise (Cllr Bharat Thakker) has been placed at the planning committee instead of giving him shadow finance portfolio.
Another challenging area of the council work is the planning, a dynamic process that is constantly evolving in response to changes within the community and which involves both control of existing and new development. Harrow has to strike good balance between meeting the housing demands of local community and preserving Harrow characteristics like 29 conservation areas, each having special interest derived from its architectural, townscape or landscape qualities.
Very unfortunate that the Tory planning expert  (Cllr Ashton) who held the planning portfolio in pre 2010 Tory administration and who masterminded  Harrow’s Core Strategy*, has been kept away from the planning since her comeback to the council in 2011 by-election because of the internal situations within the Tory group.
Some other shadow responsibilities like performance or safety make no real sense.
[*it includes land use policies that form the legal basis for deciding planning applications, allocating land and encouraging investment; also it specifies how much development will happen in the borough and where, when, and how it will take place].