Category Archives: News

Little known counter staff cuts at the Harrow Post Office causing chaos

POLong queues at the St Ann’s post office not because of the Covid-19 implications but apparently due to big counter staff cuts.
Depressed counter staff at the post office are worried about 50 percent staff cuts and the extra work load so resulted. At times, only three members of the staff were seen who not only manage the counters but also try to help in processing the parcels using the self-service counters.
In February 2019, the Harrow Post Office branch was transferred to WHSmith High Street Ltd who are operating it from their premises at the St Ann’s shopping centre since.  WHSmith  has  been  operating  Post Offices within its stores since 2007.
Post offices have been a staple of British life for decades, variously providing a local place for people to pay their bills, collect benefits, drop off their parcels, and buy stamps.
However, the number of branches dwindled from about 25,000 in the mid-1960s to 11,638 in March 2020 which are mostly (99%) operated by franchise partners or sub-postmasters, who are independent business people. Only around 1% of post offices are Crown post offices, which are directly managed by Post Office Limited.

“We defy you! Do your worst!”, message to Starmer’s Labour Party

Dedicated socialist Pamela Fitzpatrick, a Harrow councillor and Labour parliamentary candidate for Harrow East at the last election, has been speaking out about the abuse many women have suffered in the Labour Party.
“A growing number of women, like me, are speaking out about the abuse they have endured in the Labour Party over many years. I have started speaking more openly about the abuse and harassment I have experienced from a small group of men since 2016. I have tried all available complaint routes and been ignored” reports Ms Fitzpatrick.
“It’s clear that many women have had enough.  And our message.  ‘We defy you! Do your worst’!” says Ms Fitzpatrick.
What happens in macro, must happen in micro!
Responding to Ms Fitzpatrick on the Facebook, a variety of oppressive experiences by women have been shared, like the one blow.
“I am one of those women who suffered misogyny and abuse in the LP … I have made at least three complaints to Labour using the online form, not one complaint has been acknowledged … The LP is a toxic environment for socialists and being a woman means you’re fair game for the bullies.”
Regarding Ms Fitzpatrick bad experiences of the Labour Party, most probably locally, Gareth Thomas, the only Labour MP in Harrow, was asked whether he offered any support to Ms Fitzpatrick, he has not responded.

Harrow councillor plays on being a ‘woman of colour and Muslim’!

In an outburst at the last cabinet meeting (23 September), councillor Assad asked the fellow councillor Marilyn Ashton, “Do you have a problem with me? Because I’m a woman of colour and because I am Muslim”.
The disruption took place when the leader of the council Cllr Graham Henson, chairing the meeting, mentioned the council using social media to inform its work, and was listening to Cllr Ashton’s supplementary question regarding what could impinge the reputation of the council.
“You mentioned social media. You do have a member of cabinet who’s in charge of community cohesion, who has tweeted that she will take up arms against the Afghan government and its allies (at the time in recent past), and labelled Israel is an apartheid state and spread doubts about the AstraZeneca as presented a vaccine. And so really my supplemental question is, do you condemn or condemn these statements and is this suitable to have someone who has these things and thinks it’s acceptable to tweet these things and think it’s acceptable to have that person in charge of community cohesion?” Cllr Ashton asked.
Cllr Graham said “I will look at the points you have made, and then I’m probably you know then may consider them, but it’s quite difficult to respond to a question if you don’t tell me what it is and others need to look it up and find out how we got what the context of why it’s been said because sometimes people’s interpretation is different”.
“Cllr Assad interruption was most inappropriate, not respecting the meeting protocol. Equally, concerning was that the leader of the council let the disruption go on and failed to uphold the discipline in the meeting” said Cllr Marilyn Ashton, deputy leader of the Conservation group, after the meeting.
“However, the council leader’s attitude towards me was calm this time, considering to that on previous such occasions” Cllr Ashton added.
It is well known that the twitter is a public platform, and that councillors, particularly cabinet members, have to be very careful about what they say. They can’t skip scrutiny – if they can’t handle this, they should not be in a public office.

Labour under Starmer more divided now!

The way the Labour Party is trying to give a feel of being centrist, bashing left and socialists, raises a serious question about their ability to unite the country if in power.
Credit to the social media (particularly Twitter, Facebook) that public is no more dependent on the socio-politically biased conventional media for educating public opinion.
For example, below are some interesting comments from  a present Harrow councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick, and past Harrow councillor Bill Phillips, both Labour but social justice activists!Untitled-7Untitled-6Untitled-8

Harrow council work crumbling under ‘pandemic pressure’, sad!

Harrow council is good at generating data and would provide all kinds of figures to show residents satisfaction with its work, but the reality is very different!
It looks that general lack of challenging leadership by the Members has not only enabled veiling ineffectiveness and incompetence under the ‘pandemic cover’, but has given rise to under-hand practices discouraging residents to contact the council which include withdrawal of an email address (like for the council tax department) and withdrawing a number of phone lines. Long delays in replying to the resident’s queries.
Corporate Directorate (People) is less receptive!
Added to all this is rather immature attitude of some Members, enjoying generous taxpayers money but playing victimhood when concerns raised about their performance or lack of their interest in the ward matters while they are busy in raising their socio-political profile.
Feedback following the articles Harder for residents to contact Harrow council and Harrow council could do more in responding to Covid-19 provide examples of extreme difficulties in getting caring services, like in arranging council tax for a new house, setting garden waste subscription or in dealing with multiple garden waste subscriptions taken from a bank account, and in buying new food caddies. Delays in resolving disability matters.
In some cases, letter to the council have been shunted around, with the departmental responses being the same as received previously.
It is never too late for the constituency political parties to train their councillors and potential councillors about their role/responsibilities, focusing on serving the ward first and providing good value for the taxpayers money.

Harder for residents to contact Harrow council, ongoing concern

In the overview and scrutiny committee in July, Harrow council chief executive Sean Harriss said “the pandemic has exacerbated this  issue (access to the council) as  there  used  to  be  staff  who  could  help  residents  face  to  face  in the Civic Centre help access services that were only online.
“The turbulence of demand  caused  by  lockdowns  had  also  overwhelmed  the  system. What  had been planned was for the number of access points to be expanded within the Borough’s  libraries,  to  help  meet  demand  and  provide  better  access  to services”. 
Along with such short-comings in accessing the council, another reason which can’t be pinned on the pandemic, is that Harrow council seems to be systematically distancing its relevant officers from the community, more so in the people services directorate. This has not been addressed.
The restricted access to the council for the help and support compounds by certain  features on the council’s less than helpful website which are not fully equipped to handle particular issues that residents have.
Mr Harriss had somewhat different focus on the website issues: “though certain aspects of this service could be improved  there  were  challenges during  the  pandemic  that  required  Council Staffs’ capabilities that ultimately hindered other services, such as  delivering business grants during the pandemic” he said.
Harrow council claims to have distributed £62m in government grants to over 900 local businesses, but has failed to provide a list of the businesses who received the grant, despite a freedom of information request by a resident. This has raised questions about the Harrow council transparency in money matters!
The concerns in accessing the council become more tense considering Mr Harriss alert about how  far  into  the  future  the  Council  could be  affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in its day-to-day work.
“It  would  affect  the  Council’s work  over  the  next  9  to  12 months. Work  would  be  impacted  in a  number  of different  ways,  and  it  was  believed  that  there  would  be  extreme  pressure during the winter months. There could also be a significant spike in unemployment, housing could be seen as challenge for the future as well as pressures in social care” alerted Mr Harriss.

Harrow socialist councillor hits back at Labour party governance

pam5Describing the controversial actions by the Labour party leader, general secretary and some national executives, Pamela Fitzpatrick, a socialist and trade unionist who was a parliamentary candidate for Harrow East last election, said “The banning of people through proscription, the punishment of those associating with banned people, dictating who members can be friends with and what we can read are the actions of dictators in fascist states”.
Ms Fitzpatrick has been threatened with “auto-exclusion” from membership of the Labour party by the party’s Compliance Unit on the grounds that she is allegedly a supporter of Socialist Appeal, an organisation that the Labour party under Starmer’s leadership is not easy about.
Ms Fitzpatrick was interviewed by Socialist Appeal in May 2020 regarding why she was applying for the position of general secretary Labour party.
“Obviously one could not be a member of another political party such as the Greens and expect to continue to be a member of the Labour Party.  But what Starmer, Evans and some of the NEC are doing goes way beyond this.  Their actions in proscribing whole organisations and seeking to expel anyone that has had contact with those organisations past or present is seeking to prohibit who members can associate with  – the magnitude of this action cannot be ignored” Ms Fitzpatrick states.
“So many of our MPs are silent on this or even support such actions should be a wake-up call to us all. Fascism does not arrive one day with soldiers in trucks with guns, it arrives like this” Ms Fitzpatrick pointed out.
The Labour party has lost successive by-elections under Starmer unpopular leadership, narrowly surviving the last one. Many feel they can’t trust the party that treats its own in such an oppressive manner, to unite the nation if in power.

Support for harassed Harrow socialist councillor rapidly mounting

A petition gathering hundreds of signatures asks the Labour party to immediately cease its purported action against the Harrow councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick and confirm in writing that she will not be auto-excluded from Labour membership.
pam3Ms Fitzpatrick, a proud socialist and trade unionist who was a parliamentary candidate for Harrow East last election, has been threatened with “auto-exclusion” from membership of the Labour party by the party’s Compliance Unit on the grounds that she is allegedly a supporter of Socialist Appeal, an organisation that the Labour party under Starmer’s leadership is not easy about.
Ms Fitzpatrick was interviewed by Socialist Appeal in May 2020 regarding why she was applying for the position of general secretary Labour party.
“The interview took place more than a year before the NEC made the decision to proscribe Socialist Appeal. Anything a member is alleged to have done at a time when an organisation is not proscribed cannot possibly be a basis for auto-exclusion on grounds of support for that organisation” argues the petition by members of Ms Fitzpatrick’s Harrow West Constituency Labour Party, started by Aghileh Djafari Marbini who herself experienced nastiness by the Blairites when she went through the selection process for the Brent and Harrow assembly seat.
“The Compliance Unit has provided no evidence that Pamela has supported Socialist Appeal as defined by the NEC” asserts the petition.
The petition could be signed here.

Harrow socialist councillor harassed!

While some attention-seeking controversial Labour councillors are promoting themselves through all kind of activism, honest and dedicated Harrow councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick, a proud socialist and trade unionist who was parliamentary candidate for Harrow East last election, has been harassed by the Labour party.
“I have just received a letter from the Labour Party threatening me with auto exclusion because I was interviewed by Socialist Appeal in May 2020 on why I was applying for the position of General Secretary. I explained to SA I wanted fair procedures followed in the party” informs Ms Fitzpatrick, a member of the Labour’s new National Women’s Committee. 
Labour party’s such a behaviour has been widely condemned, including the following:
Pam 3
pam2

Cosmetic use of high streets fund in Harrow, deplored!

Harrow council says: “As we rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic Harrow Council is investing in our high streets. Edgware, North Harrow, South Harrow and Rayners Lane are set to receive funding for a range of improvements to high streets. We’ve been working with ward councillors and the local community to drive forward this change (some residents and councillor don’t think so).”
In May, the government announced £576m allocations of future high streets fund, including £7,448,583 specifically for Wealdstone, Harrow. Possibly more places in the borough received dedicated funding for high street improvement programme, but Harrow council has failed to inform how much total high streets funding has been received and allocated to the targeted areas each.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick outlined the best use of this public money and said the investment will “make a huge difference to towns and cities across England”, helping them “transform themselves [into] desired places to shop, visit, live and work.”
DSE_7567d2In Wealdstone, an obvious improvement is the brightening up of the ‘square’ (photo), otherwise while local traders appreciate wall paintings and street decorations, they don’t know how well the Wealdstone money has been used, and their main concerns remain the crime, fear of crime and parking which renders Wealdstone less desirable place to ‘shop, visit, live and work’.
In Edgware, Canons ward residents see the use of £483K for decorating part of Whitchurch Lane (Edgware end), “waste” of public money. They want real improvements like street cleaning, addressing fly-tipping and more crime prevention measures. They described the so-called consultation as being  constructed in a way to deliver pre-determined outcome (many others in the target areas feel the same).
“We are completely opposed to the Edgware scheme – the money would be better served in street cleaning, which is much needed, particularly around Howberry Road” said the ward councillors.
Is the use of the street money on cosmetic street dressings for attractive visual impact in the council election year, saying that this is what residents want, good value for public money?

Harrow council seemingly distances relevant officers from community

Communication has not been a Harrow council strength (answering/dealing with residents queries, response time,  inadequate website etc) but Covid-19 crisis management has made it worst where residents fail to get prompt, efficient or satisfactory response.
PHAn example is the recent correspondence with Paul Hewitt (photo), corporate director people services, copying in the chief executive, regarding the following matter:
His attention was drawn to a ‘somewhat annoying practice, seemingly an extension of the previous corporate director’s apparent tactic to discourage officers, including himself,  working directly with the community where community/resident queries were often subjected  to the freedom of information (FoI)/complaints procedures etc. (Mr Hewitt, Hillingdon council’s head of child safeguarding at the time, joined Harrow to work under the director some years back).
Following the article  Harrow council could do more in responding to Covid-19 and a specific question, ‘in responding to Covid-19, how the Harrow council has reshaped its services in line with  the good practices highlighted by CQC?’, the Director of Harrow Adult Social Services, responded positively and said “I would be very happy to give an update on how we have reshaped and are responding to C19”- this was not a complaint!!
But then a Complaints Manager jumped in with an irrelevant website link, with the outcome that the director was not able to deal with this matter herself and therefore no professional answer received.
Since then, some others have a similar experience where their active issue-based interaction with the officers in People directorate has been picked and responded by the complaints manager.
It is reassuring that the community directorate seems to have no such policy to distance officers from the community or using a complaints manager to shunt around the issues (but then a very capable corporate director Community has now left the council).
We trust the chief executive would be interested in reassuring the consistency of policies and practices across the directorates, so that this could help in acquiring more public confidence in the council.’
After about a month, apparently Mr Hewitt sent the following inadequate message:
“Our complaints service do specifically deal with FOI requests, Member enquiries and MP enquiries, as well as complaints from citizens, as part of their official remit.
Also, as part of their role, the complaints team do often respond to general enquiries on behalf of senior officers when asked to do so, but we will need to make sure that this is made clear in the response, especially when it is not specifically a complaint that is being addressed.”

Harrow councillor Chris Mote passed away

CMFormer Deputy Mayor and Leader of Council, Cllr Chris Mote, sadly passed away late last night (29 July) after a short illness.
Cllr Mote was first elected in 1982 and now represented Pinner South ward.
He was leader of the Conservative Group and later Leader of Harrow Council between 2006 and 2008.
Cllr Mote announced his departure from the cabinet and stepped down as the leader of the Conservative group in 2008.
He currently served as Shadow Portfolio Holder for Adults & Older People.
Cllr Mote received ceremonial vellum scrolls to recognise his 25 years as Harrow Councillor at the Council Meeting on 16th January 2020 where he was described as “gentleman who is always polite and respectful – an example of how one should behave, not just as a councillor but as a person”.
Cllr Mote, deputy mayor in 2009 under Tory administration of the council at the time, was set to become Harrow mayor in the following year. But Tories, under Cllr Hall CPZ-hit poor leadership lost the council.

Covid-19 cases ‘soar’ in Harrow

GH“Be responsible as Covid cases soar” appeals the Harrow council leader Cllr Graham Henson.
“Cases of Covid-19 are rising rapidly in Harrow and, while I don’t want to alarm people, I strongly urge you to be aware of your surroundings, understand the nature of risk and act sensibly” he said.
As of 28 July 2021, the following is the Harrow picture, as per the simple summary for Harrow published by the UK Government:
Between 22 July 2021 and 28 July 2021, 758 people had a confirmed positive test result, while 95 new cases on 28 July 2021 alone.
Between 12 July 2021 and 18 July 2021, 48 went into hospital with coronavirus. This shows an increase of 37.1% compared to the previous 7 days.
There were 40 patients in hospital with coronavirus on 20 July 2021 alone – 4 on the mechanical ventilator on that day.
Between 22 July 2021 and 28 July 2021, there have been 1 death within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. This shows no change compared to the previous 7 days.
Overall picture: cases – 7-day average of 2,080 on 20/4/2021 has increased to 26,624 on 28/7/2021; deaths – 7-day average of 28 on 5/4/2021 has increased to 60 on 28/7/2021.
All this Covid-19 situation in Harrow, despite 166,488 people in Harrow had been given a first dose and 134,299 a second dose by the end of 27 July 2021.

Harrow council could reassure transparency in money matters!

AMSuch an information should have been readily available at the Harrow council website and as an attachment to the Draft Economic Strategy that claims to have distributed £62m in government grants to over 900 local businesses.
This public information would have helped for everyone to see that the public money has been appropriately and fairly dispersed for the benefit of those who need it most, and not for any political gains or on the basis of who knows who, in the council election year.
Precisely for these reasons, the council’s grant allocating regime under previous administrations used to publish a list of who gets what grant and for what purpose.
Similarly, the tax-payers have a right to know how and for whom the following incoming Covid-19 money has been used:
Harrow
For gaining public confidence in Harrow council’s handling of the Covid-19 funding, what stops the  council to have a dedicated web page, linked to the council website’s index page, to publish total Covid-19 money received, who decides how and where this has been/should be used, and a summary of who have benefitted from this additional funding.
By taking these simple steps (Covid-19 pressure not a valid excuse), Harrow council could reassure transparency in handling money matters, unless it has something to hide!

Harrow Labour activist hits out at Labour leadership

Labour’s recent London Conference has opened up all conflicts and contradictions in the Labour Party under ‘selected by some for some’ leader Keir Starmer.
“Labour has outraged members today by shutting down its London conference in the middle of the outgoing Conference Arrangements Committee chair’s speech, apparently because she was speaking critically of Keir Starmer – and, ironically, of the party’s anti-democratic conduct.” reports SKWAWKBOX (SW).
“The benefits of a July Zoom conference, being able to pull the plug on speakers compared to a November in person conference as was already agreed by the outgoing London REC, which we argued for on the NEC” informs the Labour NEC member Mish Rahman (@mish_rahman).
The Zoom meeting made it possible to kept off the agenda issues like the delay in publishing the Forde report, the rules prohibiting CLPs from discussing certain issues, the recent wave of proscriptions and much more.
Harrow councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick, socialist, trade unionist and member of the Labour national women’s committee, tweeted:
Pam1Ms Fitzpatrick has long and bitter experience of what has been happening in local Labour, especially in the Gareth Thomas (Blair/Starmer faithful Lab MP) Harrow West constituency.
(Sad that the silencing tactics of the national party show up at the council level – for example, critical voices are curbed by playing ‘victimhood’ and alleging targeting when cabinet members (at over £30K) are asked searching questions about their concerning conduct or performance.)
“Southside finally pull the plug, as members refuse to be silenced” Michael Calderbank reports .
“But if we’re to build an effective, united opposition to the Tories, then deeply factional and unnecessary attacks on socialist activists are clearly a major obstacle – and those responsible must be held to account” he said.

Higher-rates charging council fails to fill a dangerous road crater for days!

DSE_7647dDSE_7658dA big deep hole appeared on the busy Hindes Road (junction of Welldon Crescent and Radnor Road) on 17 July at the spot which had previous road problem, as the tarmac repair around the hole suggests.
The council installed barriers overnight, but has failed to carry out emergency repairs since.
Uninformed and concerned Greenhill Ward residents express disappointment: ‘Services like gas, water and electricity do carry out emergency services despite Covid-19, why the Harrow council has failed for days?”
Harrow council’s environment services are adequately staffed with skills to carry out such a repair work – why an apparent failure in this case (Covid-19 pressure is not an acceptable excuse)?
Back in March this year, National Audit Office reported that Covid has exposed the dire position of England’s local councils.  It reveals the precarious position of local government that struggle to provide acceptable services because of weak budgeting.
Councils with effective leadership and management have by now worked out how to provide good, responsive and efficient services.
Harrow council leader and the chief executive must now take an urgent notice of what has happened to the Hindes Road and arrange a long-term solution to the road condition.

How inclusive is the Harrow council?

“Our workforce is diverse, talented and adaptable and our local businesses are wonderful. With this support and their own skills I have every faith in them to be able to rebuild and flourish” said Cllr Keith Ferry, business, property and leisure portfolio holder as Harrow Council launched its Draft Economic Strategy which aims to respond to the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and support the recovery.
Cllr Graham Henson, Harrow Council leader added: “We have also worked hard to secure millions of pounds in external funds to deliver a range of employment, business support and infrastructure programmes.”
All this sounds well but how the strategies outlined in the plans help the small street businesses predominantly run by the cultural diversity like Afghani, Pakistani and Turkish communities?
(for example, Station Road Harrow and High Street Wealdstone are kept alive by these businesses, though not acknowledged)
The following core of the Draft Economic Strategy is of little relevance to these street businesses, considering the nature of their business.
The strategy says that in the immediate term the Council has secured over £16m in external funds to deliver a range of employment, business support and infrastructure programmes, and these include:
– An expansion of the Council’s job brokerage scheme and the launch of a vacancy bulletin supporting those who became unemployed to work with sectors, such as social care.
– Transferral of apprenticeship levy funding to SMEs to create new apprenticeships in care, health, construction, and digital sectors.
– Expansion of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and employability provision to deliver outreach services.
– Promotion of our Jobs, Employment and Training Programme as well as the Work and Health Programme
It looks that the council still has a long way to go in developing meaningful and inclusive ethos, policies and community support across the council, which are needed as the ‘community cohesion’ cannot be achieved in vacuum.

Wealdstone

headerWealdstone ward, 75% BAME population, is one of the most deprived wards in Harrow – with overcrowding, unemployment, crime and the fear of crime being major concerns – many say it is now a ‘no-go area’ in the evenings – most didn’t even know about the Harrow council’s ‘re-generation’ plans.
Parking was another key concern identified during the filming.
Under these difficult conditions and with little support, high street small businesses (mostly Afghani, Pakistani, Turkish) are significantly contributing towards the local and borough economy. (watch video here)
But their contributions are hardly acknowledged by the Harrow council.
Harrow council’s Economic Strategy 2021-2030 says ‘Harrow is one of the most culturally diverse local authorities in the UK, with  around  60%  of  residents  from  Black,  Asian,  and  Multi-Ethnic backgrounds’ and that ‘Harrow High streets contain more than 1,200 businesses’ – but no expressed credit to businesses by these communities which meaningly contribute towards the Harrow economy. Therefore, no surprise that the strategy has no obvious or specific strategies to support and nurture these small but important businesses.
Such omissions are usually seen in the light of the dynamics of institutional racism but in this case, they look more like because of a council that has fails to practise inclusion despite layers of the cultural diversity at the civic centre which simply recycle the council’s dominant ideological and work ethos, resulting in no change in the prevailing status quo!

Water SOS in Harrow!

SOS Water HarrowAffinity Water campaign Save Our Streams, staged in Harrow now, is the UK’s biggest ever water saving initiative, focused on saving incredibly rare chalk streams, and the habitats they provide for local wildlife.
The water we drink comes from the local environment, flowing through nearby rivers and streams.
“We’re not the kind of people to just go with the flow, and we’ve been working hard to reduce water wastage and help protect our unique local environment” the Affinity Water said.
“Not only do we have a responsibility to serve our 3.5mn customers, we also want to make sure we do this sustainably to protect our unique local environment and all the wildlife we share it with” they added.
They have made water saving easy with lots of free water saving devices (Buffaloo Cistern Bag, Eco Shower Head and 4-minute Shower Timer) and bespoke expert advice.

Concerning ambulance delay in attending an injured Harrow child

ambulanceVery concerning to read that it took an hour and a half for a paramedic to arrive to attend a five-year-old who suffered a broken collarbone after she was hit by a falling fire door at the Stag Lane Primary School.
Yet another example of under resourced NHS work!
The incident reportedly happened at around 2.30pm on Monday (June 28), but despite an ambulance being called immediately, it took an hour and a half for a paramedic to arrive.
The published photo of the fallen door shows broken hinges. Harrow Council is investigation how and why the door came to fall off.
Good schools have regular health and safety in-house inspections, usually carried out by a team of a designated school governor, member of the teaching staff and site manager. Inspection records should be formally kept.
As reported, the London Ambulance Service has confirmed it received its first call to the school at 2.31pm on Monday, and received another call at 2.51pm. Paramedics eventually arrived at the school at 4.03pm. The girl was treated and taken to hospital. 
Apparently the ambulance service was very busy on 28 June – they said they received more than 6,500 calls into their 999-control rooms, compared with a usual ‘busy’ day of about 5,500 calls.

Eye-opener for Labour!

While the Labour Party is struggling and face atrocious decline in vote share under its unpopular ‘new leadership’, the Peace and Justice Project, led by Jeremy Corbyn and actively supported by the socialists, including from Harrow, has  grown, taking   on   new   projects, developing new ideas, and building new coalitions of campaigners, despite the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on organising and activism.
“From opposing Boris Johnson’s protest ban, to standing in solidarity with the people of Palestine, to working with food banks in Liverpool and London clothes banks Nottingham, to hosting ten thousand people at a global conference led by refugees; we’ve taken on the powerful and organised for a better world” reports the recently published Biannual Report of the project.
The  Peace  and  Justice  Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn, is  an organisation with deep ties to the  labour  movement  in  the  UK  and overseas as well as social movements and progressive   activists.  It has a potential of becoming a political party like the Co-operative Party that has an electoral agreement with Labour Party since 1927.
“The peace and justice project is a very timely initiative. The world is in a parlous state and COVID19 has cast stark new light on the inequality and injustice surrounding us” Harrow councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick, a leading founder of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour Councillors, said after the launch of the nationwide project.
“Jeremy Corbyn is a politician who is genuinely altruistic and has been a powerful campaigner for peace and justice for decades. I very much welcome this exciting initiative” she added.
Achievements of the project include:

  • Seeing 10,000 in attendance at their global refugee voices conference, held in partnership with the ITF.
  • Supporting Palestine demonstrations which mobilised up to 200,000 people and increased international pressure on the Israeli government.
  • Gained thousands of signatures on their vaccine internationalism petition and brought together leading figures in health campaigning across the world at their roundtable on the issue.
The movement is working on the projects from improving independent media   infrastructure to researching the impacts of Britain’s new Defence Review, to mobilising people to support food banks.

Harrow socialist elected for a national committee!

PamHarrow East parliamentary candidate (Lab) last election and a dedicated socialist, Harrow Councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick  is one of the six socialist women elected to the Labour’s new National Women’s Committee.
Delighted Ms Fitzpatrick said, “I am hoping the party has some big ideas to deal with the inequality and injustice that women face today”.
Each year National Annual Women’s Conference brings together hundreds of Labour women, politicians, stakeholders and activists from across the country.
The conference enables Labour women members to better participate in policy-making and offers the opportunity to share ideas with delegates from across the UK.
The National Annual Women’s Conference 2021 (26 – 27 June), is online because of the Covid-19. There was no need to be a delegate to be part of this historic first online Conference – it was possible to apply to be a visitor (tickets started at £5) for this year’s National Annual Women’s Conference.
Ms Fitzpatrick secured 162,560 votes.
This socialist win through public vote (affiliate delegates) is yet another setback for the Labour leadership.  Keir Starmer was head-hunted to bring unity to the Labour Party but far from this, the party is now more divided in terms of left, right, centralist and socialist.
A recent tweet from Ms Fitzpatrick helps to understand why things are as they are: “The problem with letting Tories and other non-socialists into Labour is that it moves our party ever more to the right. These are the entryists into our party. They climb into positions of power feigning socialist credentials then set about expelling all the real socialists” – the tweet appeared soon after Tory John Bercow joined Labour.

Racial-card by Labour right must be condemned

Looks the Labour Party leader Starmer has not only failed in uniting the party but also in effectively dealing with the racism in the party. This is bad enough, but worst is the right-wing elements now using divisive tactics for political gain.
‘We’re haemorrhaging votes among Muslim voters,’ one senior Labour official tells me, ‘and the reason for that is what Keir has been doing on antisemitism. Nobody really wants to talk about it, but that’s the main factor. He challenged Corbyn on it, and there’s been a backlash among certain sections of the community.’ writes Dan Hodges for the Mail On Sunday regarding the forthcoming  Batley and Spen by-election.
“This is a patently vile, Islamophobic briefing by a ‘senior Labour official’ to the Daily Mail. This racism needs to be challenged urgently and publicly by the Labour leadership & the party as a whole. There can be no hiding behind the anonymity of the source and briefing” Labour Muslim Network tweeted.
Most concerning that desperate Labour officials are using a divisive approach by playing ‘antisemitism’ card in anticipation of a likely defeat at this by-election.
Batley and Spen by-election is not about Jews or Muslims or a block-vote, but the outcome is likely to reflect the poor performance by the Labour Party under Starmer as confirmed by successive defeats at the recent elections.
The defeat by the Conservatives in Hartlepool earlier this month was followed by Chesham and Amersham defeat, one of the worst by-election results in the Labour history, with 622 votes.
Before this, Labour lost control of eight councils and more than 300 seats in the Local Elections, including County Durham, which had been under Labour control for more than 100 years.
Considering that Harrow has significant Jewish and Muslim population and had Labour specific anti-Semitism and Islamophobia headlines, it would be most appropriate for Harrow Labour (in/outside civic centre) as well as the Labour MP to distance from the racist elements in the Labour Party and their ‘vile’ statement, condemning that such undesirable tactics have serious implications for the communal harmony.

Serious inadequacies in ill-thought Harrow Town Centre order

Harrow council’s call-in scrutiny sub-committee resolved (14 June) that the Harrow Town Centre Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) can be implemented but observed significant inadequacies.
The sub-committee considered the challenge, signed by 302 residents, to the ill-thought and overly forceful PSPO decision.
The PSPO, promoted by the portfolio-holder and gone through the cabinet stage (27 May), forbids the activities like Amplification of music and voice; Placing of tables, chairs, stands and other fixings / furniture on the street and Distribution of leaflets.
Failure to comply with a PSPO is an offence and can lead to a summary conviction and fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.  All enforcement officers as well as police are authorised to take action under it (there is no publicity about the role, responsibilities and powers of the Harrow council Environmental Enforcement Officer –  however, we managed to find some useful information about them).
The Call-In sub-committee found that clarification is required in terms of expectations by virtue of existing legislation (religious and political groups, charities) and that this needs to be made clear in any publicity. Also, that any leaflet make it clear how the council will determine applications/requests for permission. The portfolio holder should also recognise that the order will be subject to review.
The portfolio holder Cllr Assad, present at the meeting, did not do well and attracted concerning comments.
“She did very badly and failed to address the issues raised with her.  In fact, she made excuses that she is new in the job and that this is not ‘her’ report.  Then why didn’t she ‘pull’ it.  Very unsatisfactory. Hopeless really.” said a resident who watched the meeting.
Nadeem Hussain who presented the Call-In notice later said “PSPOs can be an effective resource to counter unreasonable and persistent behaviour that adversely affects the quality of life for residents in Harrow.
“However,  there are strong concerns about parts of this PSPO. I was disappointed with lack of answers received from the Portfolio Holder to specific questions and points I raised at the call-in regarding protected characteristics of groups under the Equality Act 2010, clarity of language, transparency, proactively contacting and identifying those who are most likely to be affected, consideration of adequacy of litter bins in the town centre”.
“I am pleased that the Sub-Committee did make some recommendations to the Portfolio Holder but I felt they did not go far enough” Mr Hussain added.

Heavy-handed Harrow Town Centre Public Spaces Protection Order discredited

Call-in2The Call-in notice, challenging the ill-thought and overly forceful Harrow Town Centre Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) decision, signed by 302 residents, has been sent to the Harrow council today (3 June).
The PSPO, promoted by a newly appointed inexperienced portfolio-holder and gone through the cabinet stage (27 May), forbids the activities like Amplification of music and voice; Placing of tables, chairs, stands and other fixings / furniture on the street and Distribution of leaflets.
Failure to comply with a PSPO is an offence and can lead to a summary conviction and fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.  All enforcement officers as well as police are authorised to take action under it.
Historically and without any negative impact, the Town Centre has been used by the political parties and civic liberty groups for setting a table/stand for literature/canvassing, or distributing leaflets and amplifying canvassing voices.

Ill-thought aspects of Harrow Town Centre Public Spaces Protection Order challenged

On 1stFebruary 2021, the Borough Wide Public Spaces Protection Order was renewed which included controls around alcohol consumption in public places as well as urinating, defecating and spitting.
But now the Harrow Town Centre Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), gone through the cabinet stage (27 May), includes Amplification of music and voice; Financial Agreements (people trying to get visitors to sign up to them); Placing of tables, chairs, stands and other fixings / furniture on the street; Feeding of birds and vermin; Distribution of leaflets; Illegal street trading  and Begging.
The newly appointed portfolio holder grabbed the publicity opportunity and tweeted:
PA2Failure to comply with a PSPO is an offence and can lead to a summary conviction and fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.  All enforcement officers as well as police are authorised to take action under it. The PSPO will be in place for a maximum 3 years as per the law, but will be reviewed to ensure it is effective in its approach in tackling issues that affect businesses and the public.
While many aspects of PSPO are good, but some are seen inappropriate and a public Call-in of the order is eminent under the council procedures.
The argument is that the Order does not strike the proper balance between the rights of businesses and residents and the basic right of civil protest and campaigning.
Historically and without any negative impact, the Town Centre has been used by the political parties and civic liberty groups for setting a table for literature/canvassing, or distributing leaflets and amplifying canvassing voices.
Another enjoyable feature of the Town Centre has been the street musicians who use non-acoustic instruments – most are of non-British origin.
We support the Call for the Harrow council to  re-evaluate the Order in order to better protect fundamental human rights.

A Harrow heritage desperately needs restoration

One significant but less well publicised aspect of the Harrow Recreation Ground in Harrow is a row of Mayoral Oaks planted by thirteen past Harrow mayors (most now passed away) (slide-show below) (to watch slide-show, click play button below – for full screen, click the square button at bottom right) : With the time, trees are grown well but some metal plaques and wooden posts are missing, deteriorated or decaying and need attentions, most probably require replacements. The restoration of this valuable heritage is urgently need!

Harrow councillor questioned about anti-semitism!

MAMarilyn Ashton, a Harrow councillor, used newspaper space (click the box above and scroll down to ‘comments’) and commented being unhappy with the response to her cabinet question to the newly appointed councillor Peymana Assad for community cohesion, crime & enforcement.
“It is appreciated that days after the recent escalation of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.K., the Communications Department issued a statement to Community Leaders on Cllr Assad’s behalf on this subject. Will Cllr. Assad outline her strategy for supporting and showing solidarity with the Jewish community in Harrow?” – the question Cllr Ashton asked.
Cllr Aston pointed out that Jewish people are afraid to display their faith overtly following a rise of antisemitic incidents.
Cllr Assad assured “We need to show solidarity with the Jewish community to make sure they know we stand shoulder to shoulder with them”.
The Harrow opposition Tory group has previously questioned the suitability of some Labour appointments to the cabinet.
The Harrow Monitoring Group has been critical of and exposes any divisive elements in the public life as this seriously hinders achieving ‘community cohesion’!

Investigation report finds Anti-Muslim sentiment within Tory Party

“Judging by the extent of complaints and findings of misconduct by the party itself that relate to anti-Muslim words and conduct, anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem within the party” says the review by Professor Swaran Singh, a former equality and human rights commissioner, published today.
The review also found that the Tories complaints system is “in need of overhaul” due to its “under-resourced and inadequately trained” complaints team, a “weak” data collection system, and “poor” communication between officials, complainants and respondents.
Two-thirds of all incidents reported to the complaints team at the Tories’ headquarters related to allegations of anti-Muslim attitudes .
Previously, LBC obtained dossier showing 10 Tory councillors sharing Islamophobic comments, including Harrow councillor Anjana Patel, for example.
Regarding the Harrow Tories, there have been at least three high profile headlines:
bb4Harrow East MP Bob Blackman accused of Islamophobia after posting anti-Muslim article on Facebook 
APHarrow councillor Anjana Patel’s tweet included in Islamophobia dossier 
Online petition against Cllr Kamaljit Chana over IslamophobiaCH 
In the case of Cllr Chana, Harrow Tory group on the council, led by Cllr Osborn, was reassuring and did take firm action, suspending him from the group for six month but the national Tory party seems to have done nothing about the complaints against Cllr Chana.

Brent and Harrow seat remains Labour!

HirDespite Labour being badly punished nationally because of the Labour revolt against its perceived right-wing leadership, Brent and Harrow GLA seat is held by Labour.
As expected, Brent councillor and a council cabinet portfolio holder Krupesh Hirani (photo) has won the race mainly because of the nature of the seat and that Tory opponent karate champion Molly Irene Samuel-Leport seemingly lost the will to win months ago:  Krupesh Hirani 77782 and Molly Irene Samuel—Leport (Con) 56560 votes.
Historically personal votes have significantly influenced election outcomes in the Harrow East constituency and Brent and Harrow GLA seat.
Navin Shah defeated the then siting B&H GLA member Bob Blackman in 2008 despite the national trend against Labour because of Blair warmongering and then he came close to defeat the sitting Harrow East MP Blackman in the 2017 general election despite being given only few weeks to canvass the constituency with the help of his friends and family.
Delighted Cllr Hirani is a university graduate in politics and has good experience in the political sector where he held a number of posts.
During the Operation Black Vote Shadowing Scheme Mr Hirani was mentored by David Lammy MP. He seems to have good grip on a variety of socio-political matters, relevant to a wider society.
Though Cllr Hirani is seen more at the temple activities but he says he believes in representing all. He informs that he has spent his working life with organisations that support disabled people.
Cllr 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”.

London assembly needs overhaul, says a retiring member

“The imbalance between the Mayor’s powers and that of Assembly Members is stark. Assembly Members require power and recognition they sadly lack in the current governance arrangements. And it is my firm belief, that a fundamental overhaul is needed to address that imbalance” states Navin Shah (Lab), retiring Brent and Harrow London assembly member.
Mr Shah is but retiring Chair of the London Assembly over the past year. During the last 13 years he has served as the Chair of the Regeneration, Transport and Audit Committees and also served on Planning, Health & Public Services and Oversight Committees.
Mr Shah strongly believes in the London assembly reform and said, “I am in complete support of the GLA as a strategic body for London. However, 21 years on from the establishment of the GLA and the London Assembly, it is high time for a comprehensive and independent assessment to determine how the role of the London Assembly and Assembly Members can be strengthened”.
Mr Shah’s successor for Brent and Harrow Cllr Hirani and London mayor candidate Sadiq Khan, are set to win as the Tory candidates in the race have lost the sight of the winning post. Labour win despite low Labour voter turnout because of the poor and divisive Labour leadership, would reflect badly on Tories!

Harrow council could do more in responding to Covid-19

Good to see periodic text and video messages from the council leader and the director of public health about the infection, vaccination etc.
Whilst the information they provide is useful, responding to Covid-19 is more than this and includes services developed new procedures and ways, and working with others where needed, to provide more appropriate services and care, most importantly effectively keeping in touch with the residents.
Taking the communications in adult social care as an example, some councils with better leadership and management have worked with adult social care providers to embrace new ways for people who use services to stay in touch with family and friends while personal contact isn’t possible.
For example (as outlined by CQC), care homes send weekly newsletters to family members, as well as using Skype calls for residents to keep in touch with families. They set up relatives/friends WhatsApp groups to keep them informed to reduce their anxiety about their loved ones. They use this for video calls if they want.
Generally, good councils effectively inform which services are operating remotely throughout the pandemic and how to readily access these. User-friendly websites and easy read information about Covid-19 in different languages, help further.
Children services introduce texting service to support young people (10-19) and parents of children aged 0-5.
Well-being boards are effectively used to influence the CCGs for improved primary medical services design and delivery, including: encourage to set up a community team that could identify patients who could self-refer for help with activities like shopping, practice nurses to run a home visiting service and creating lead roles for important clinical and non-clinical areas.
Encourage the formation of GP Care Groups to provide patients with COVID-19 home monitoring kits including a pulse oximeter, a thermometer and blood pressure monitor where appropriate, and better links with care homes through the groups.
And to see that school nurses support virtual safeguarding conferences to make sure the child was represented. They also conduct health and sexual health assessments by video link.
Not sure whether the Harrow council has adopted/helped to set up these  good practices (above) as done by other councils who also face similar Covid-19 challenges but have avoided ‘crisis management’ type working!
Given the bad experiences of residents to get prompt/helpful responses to their telephone calls and emails to the council and given the low quality of its website, Harrow council could benefit by accepting that Covid-19 has been the catalyst for digital transformation at pace and search for digital solutions to support residents by adopting a multi-channel approach including Facebook Live and live internet chats as well as regular virtual meetings and brainstormings by the council services leads.

Racism has no political boundaries!

As the leading academics cited in the government’s controversial and seemingly pre-determined race report say they were not properly consulted, tweeter is busy in highlighting a Labour’s ‘racist’ leaflet.
A government-commissioned review into racism has concluded the United Kingdom is not an institutionally racist country, prompting a backlash from critics who described the findings as an “utter whitewash”, and that  Commission chairman Tony Sewell, once a Brent teacher, had been appointed only because he could be relied upon to deny there was a problem with racism in Britain. Sewell in 2010 stated “much of the supposed evidence of institutional racism is flimsy”.
Displeased with the report, Harrow West MP Gareth Thomas said “This report was a huge missed opportunity to begin to tackle the structural racism that exists in our country and which requires a multifaceted government response to begin to sort. Better leadership on this is long overdue”.
In the lead up to the 2021 local elections, Labour MP  Charlotte Nichols posted on Twitter about campaigning in the local area alongside a photo of Labour leaflets with a strong anti traveller community message printed on them.
The Shadow Equalities Minister later said she wasn’t aware of the meaning of “incursion” used in the leaflet or its negative connotation.
Responding to Nichols, a tweet said “If this true, and you don’t understand something so basic, then you shouldn’t be Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities.  If you had any integrity you’d resign”.
The problem isn’t the word “incursion.” The problem is a Labour leaflet promoting racism and, if you don’t see that, you should probably join the Tories, said the tweet.
Harrow councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick, Labour parliamentary candidate for Harrow East, points out that in legal dictionary ‘incursion’ is defined as a running into; hence, an entering into a territory with hostile intention; a temporary invasion, a predatory or harassing inroad; a raid.
“Attacking GRT (Gypsy Roma Traveller) is common. I have had to challenge Tories in Harrow in the council chamber for their offensive language. But I have also seen and heard it from Labour members. Nothing is done to challenge those responsible” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

Byron Hall, potential Covid-19 vaccination hub, could do better!

A recent meeting of the Harrow Council health and wellbeing board heard that the borough’s vaccination programme will be predominantly based at Byron Hall in Harrow when the vaccination at Hives and Tithe Farm would cease on April 30.
Therefore, it is worrying to hear that those who were called for their second dose of the vaccination today found the Byron Hall operations are closed till at least next Sunday – no prior notice of the closure seems to have been given to the attendees.
Lisa Henschen, assistant managing director for primary and community care at NHS Harrow, told the meeting that the Byron Hall will be utilised as a “hybrid” vaccination site, delivering all second doses save for some ‘roving teams’ for housebound residents from May 1.
It will also be responsible for 80 per cent of first doses from this date, complemented by the roving teams (one per cent), GP-led satellite clinics (nine per cent) and pharmacy sites (ten per cent).
The meeting also heard that there will be an effort to improve the vaccination statistics among social care workers and those with learning disabilities in Harrow, where 54.6 per cent and 65.6 per cent of these groups have received their first dose, respectively.
The wellbeing board, seemingly good in listening than active intervention, is well represented by the Harrow Clinical Commissioning Group, Councillors and Healthwatch Harrow,  but its firmness in demanding better health care and wellbeing is somewhat over-shadowed by the considerations of the budgetary constraints of the  Clinical Commissioning Group.

Tests urged after South African Covid strain found

20210315_150606Harrow residents and workers are being urged to do all they can to prevent the spread of Covid-19 following few cases of the South African variant.
Working with Public Health England, the council will shortly offer tests to anyone over the age of 16 living or working in some selected streets.
Those in Belmont, Harrow Weald, Hatch End, Headstone North, Marlborough and Wealdstone wards will be asked either to complete a home test or book a test at Harrow Arts Centre.
Anyone testing positive must self-isolate for 10 days. People on low incomes unable to work because they’re self-isolating may be able to claim a £500 payment.
Carole Furlong, Harrow’s Director of Public Health, said, “I’d urge everyone invited to take part in surge testing to do so.
“By testing you’ll be helping to limit the spread of Covid and make the lifting of further lockdown restrictions more likely. “
“This variant is still quite new – while there’s no evidence that it’s more serious than others, or that vaccines are less effective against it, our understanding of it is still quite limited” she said.

Blackman veils government’s destructive financial decisions

In his newsletters, Harrow East MP Bob Blackman keeps praising government’s economic strategy, including its recent budget, and handouts to NHS and other authorities.
“Behind the Budget’s slick government and media PR, rhetorical moves away from austerity and increases in overall tax and spend, there lies a simple truth: the Tories will hand out billions to their friends but won’t invest in our public services or protect the living standards of working people” reports the powerful socialist Peace and Justice Project.
For example, the two figures £37 billion and £3.50 where the former is the cost of the privatised Serco test and trace (generally reported as a faulty test and trace system), the latter the weekly pay rise for NHS nurses, both revealed by the government last week.
And the Metro has reported today that the Department of Health did £90,000,000 PPE deal with a firm listed in a Chinese hotel room.
In reporting benefits for the few and hardship for the many, the PJP points out that before being asked to pay a penny more, big business will have £12 billion of tax relief giveaways lavished on them for the next year, which will allow companies like Amazon to pay even less tax than the pittance they already pay. While:
Public sector workers received a real term pay cut, again. NHS workers were awarded a pitiful 1%, and 1.3 million majority female low paid workers will be brought into income tax as part of a stealth tax rise on the many, alongside a 5% rise in council tax.
The derisory extension to Universal Credit is only temporary and there was no extension to legacy benefits.
Disabled people, who have made up 60% of the deaths from Covid, have been entirely ignored. The social care system, which supports many disabled people and vulnerable older people, received no additional support.
Statutory Sick Pay remains so low that many can’t afford to self-isolate if medically required.
And those facing rent arrears or debts due to the pandemic got no support, while the stamp duty cut is a handout to landlords that inflates house prices for us all.
Governments shouldn’t be judged on how much they tax and spend in total but who it taxes and who it spends on, asserts the PJP.

Opposition councillor’s wasteful question generously answered

RALooks that some political attention seekers in Harrow are using Covid-19 to stir up socio-religious emotions for point scoring.
At the councillor questions time last Harrow council cabinet meeting, councillor Almond (photo) asked: “What evidence do you have that closing places of worship has helped to stop the spread of Covid?”
Pity Almond did not know that there are no direct measures to gauge the impact of closing places of worship on stopping the Covid-19 spread, except that public gatherings during the COVID-19 run serious risk of spreading the infection.
Leader of the council, councillor Graham Henson, who answered the question was gentle enough not to reject Cllr Almond’s wasteful question.
In pointing out that the council makes well informed statements regarding the Covid-19 situations in Harrow, Cllr Henson said “I do know that over Christmas, as I mentioned earlier, the rates were escalating exponentially. And it’s that argument we used with the Minister for Education as why schools should remain closed rather than opening up”.
“And this is where the faith leaders agreed that reducing down the level of contact amongst the population is the only way that reduces the spread of the virus. So all of this is evidence based. It’s all available online on the government websites.  All of it is factual information that shows what happens”.
“There’s no single thing that can slow this virus, and it’s a multitude of things and one of those was reducing contact between people which is the most effective” he added.
Councillor questions time at the cabinet meetings is a valuable democratic opportunity to hold the administration to account but this limited time must be used sensibly.

Prime minister and home secretary visit Harrow vaccination centres as GLA elections approaching

20210112_150945Apparently in a show of support, the Prime Minister Johnson visited Hive, Barnet FC’s home stadium in Harrow, which is turned into a coronavirus vaccination centre.
Harrow East MP Blackman boosted on his website that he joined prime minister on his visit to the vaccination centre on 25 January.
A few weeks later, home secretary Patel visited Byron Hall vaccination centre, seemingly promoting the vaccine in her Gujarati community who regulary uses Byron Hall at the Harrow Leisure Centre for their religious and cultural activities.
Should these visits be in the interest of Covid-19 vaccination, the Conservative visiting should have been the vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi, also from  a diversity background.
But then Harrow is well known for the pre-election visits by a Conservative prime minister and home secretary.
In a separate situation regarding the Conservative GLA elections campaign,  Brent and Harrow GLA member and chair of the London Assembly Navin Shah told Conservative assembly member Tony Devenish at a very recent meeting that he should feel “ashamed” for remarks he made regarding the upcoming election after a question about London’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
[Devenish outburst included: ‘The only thing he (mayor) does well is ask the taxpayer, not the Government, for more money. On May 6, it is time for change. Vote Shaun Bailey.’]
The virtual meeting allowed London assembly members to put their questions to London Mayor Sadiq Khan regarding transport, policing, air quality, housing etc.

Dismay on the way Labour party has dealt with ‘anti-black racism’

While the Labour leader Keir Starmer is busy in playing nationalism, nine black MPs in an open letter have expressed their dismay on the way the party has dealt with anti-black racism within the party.
The reference is to Forde Inquiry, led by Martin Forde QC, that was tasked with looking into an internal report, leaked online last year, on Labour’s handling of racism complaints. Findings of the inquiry have now been delayed indefinitely.
The Forde Inquiry was originally set to conclude in mid-July, but this timescale was described by Forde as “impractical”. It then aimed to deliver the report “by the end of 2020”, which was later changed to “early in 2021”.
The delay in publishing the inquiry report is intriguing given that local elections are expected to be held on 6 May 2021 in English local councils and for thirteen directly elected mayors in England as well as elections in the parliaments and assemblies of Scotland, Wales and London, the last in conjunction with the London mayoral election.
In term of racism, its complaints and their implications, Harrow is likely to reflect the national picture.
‘Following reports the Forde Inquiry has been delayed “indefinitely” the Labour Party has a responsibility to ensure its findings are published as soon as practicable and must consider the perspectives of black and ethnic minority members in its decision’ Kate Osamor MP for Edmonton tweeted.
Forde inquiry2

Harrow planning committee chairmanship in turmoil

20210128_153636Highly concerning that Harrow council planning committee, in many ways the public face of decision making, has leadership instability and has no substantial chairman in post at present.
Councillor Keith Ferry, a longstanding member of the planning committee who chaired the committee for years, resigned from his role last year due to a conflict of interest as he is to represent the council on a board associated with the Harrow Strategic Development Partnership.
Most prime building developments, especially the skyscraper around the Harrow Town Centre, have taken place under Cllr Ferry chairmanship.
Then councillor Shah was appointed chairman by the council in December, without realising the possibility of the conflict of interest. His register of interests, most recently signed off in November 2020, disclosed that he works for Curtin and Co, a “specialist consultancy in planning politics and community development”.
Subsequently, and after residents raised concerns about his potential conflict of interest, Cllr Shah recognised that his professional career makes undertaking the chairmanship of the planning committee problematic and resigned as both chairman and member of the planning committee.
Given such a conspicuous instability in the planning committee leadership, the role of opposition planning lead Cllr Marilyn Ashton becomes quite significant. Cllr Ashton has expertise, experience and track record of scrutinising planning recommendations as well as insisting upon well informed planning decisions.
In the public interest, it is expected that Cllr Ashton along with her capable colleague Cllr Baxter on the planning committee would play more pronounced role in protecting the characteristic of the borough, more than observing conventional political group alignment.

‘Destruction of Metropolitan/Chiltern Line trackside vegetation’, environmental activists concerned

EsmI03xW4AEHLbYActivists campaigning for environmental and social justice in Brent and beyond are concerned that excessive removal of the trackside trees has now left residents without protection from the pollution, light and noise from frequent trains passing, both on the Met line and the Chiltern Railway.
“Residents living next to the Metropolitan and Chiltern lines straddling the boroughs of Harrow and Hillingdon, have witnessed a series of distressing environmental actions carried out by TFL this new year” informs Emma Wallace, Green Party GLA candidate for the Brent and Harrow.
Over the last two weeks, TFL contractors have been arriving daily with chainsaws, strimmer’s and tree chippers and removing huge stretches of trees and vegetation running along the Metropolitan line between Pinner towards Northwood Hills.
“This act of environmental vandalism has meant a biodiverse, green corridor has now been severely reduced, impacting nearby residents’ health and mental well-being, as well as removing habitat for local wildlife” alerts Ms  Wallace.
The activists point out that the local community were not informed by TFL that these works were going to be carried out, consequently have not had an opportunity to raise concerns or ask for a consultation of the works.
They now call on the London Mayor and TFL to immediately stop the excessive removal of habitat from trackside embankments and ensure that biodiversity surveys are carried out before work begins, that local residents are informed and given time to feedback concerns, and that the contractors are trained on effective vegetation management.

Take-up of self-isolation by Covid-19 positives is very low, resulting rapid spread

Harrow Covid-19 spread has been alarming: 491 deaths and 17,046 total cases (97,329 deaths and 3,617,459 cases nationally).
While the Harrow council is doing what it can to educate about self-isolation by those tested corona positive to avoid spread of the infection, it can’t provide the level of support for the working people in isolation that they need.
Harrow’s reality has to reflect in the national situation where less than 20% of people in England fully self-isolate and stay home when asked to do so, according to documents released from the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies, as reported by the Guardian.
It is not that working people don’t care and decline self-isolation but because of inadequate government support. There is a desperate need for a furlough scheme that is worthy of the name as well as not cutting Universal Credit, but instead increasing Universal Credit, and increasing statutory sick pay.
What is also lacking is a proper mechanism of support, and proper funding of people in corona isolation.
Speaker after speaker at the Zero Covid Coalition launch Zoom meeting on 24 January articulated that the government’s handling of the pandemic has been nothing short of disastrous. There has been a steadfast refusal to learn from the mistakes of the past or from the successes of other countries.
Jeremy Corbyn at the Zero Covid meeting said: “We’ve seen the best and the worst in our society (in dealing with Covid-19). The worst has been the greed. The worst has been a deception and dishonesty, and the best has been the professionalism in the NHS and in the care in local government”.
“It’s the negligence of government, it’s the delay on decisions, it’s the incompetence, it’s the inefficiency that has cost 1000s and 1000s of lives that need not have died because of corona and  which could have been supported and saved” he said.

Increased fines for environmental crimes – some by 100%

Forthcoming Harrow council cabinet meeting (21 January) is likely to agree recommended levels of fines for many environmental crimes, including 100% increase in some that have no levels of the fines currently .
The purpose of the Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) is to reduce environmental crime within the Borough and should be part of a wider enforcement strategy, designed to address all aspects of environmental crime, says the council.
The proposed levels of charges make good sense considering the increased environmental anti-social behaviour in the borough like fly-tipping, the proposed fine for which is to increase from £200 to £400. Similarly, graffiti and fly-posting fines are to increase from £80 to £150.
Recently increased random fly-tipping includes furniture, electrical goods and even children toys left on the pavement outside the house, perhaps because of the lack of understanding that this constitutes fly tipping, an anti-social behaviour which is a criminal offence – good case for effectively educating the potential offenders.
Harrow council street teams and intelligence based actions swiftly clear up fly tips but residents are rightly concerned about fly-tipping and they want more done to combat the problem.
For example, to offer a reward  for information which leads to a successful prosecution in cases of fly tipping as practised by Surrey Heath Borough Council (offering £5000 reward).
The officer report before the cabinet sets out 21 new areas of environmental crimes which are to carry £100 fine each. These include littering from vehicles, depositing builder’s skip on highway without permission, failure to secure lighting or other marking of builder’s skip, failure to secure marking of builder’s skip with name and address  and failure to secure removal of builder’s skip.
The council claims that ‘the scheme is there to seek compliance and to improve the highways and environment, not as a money maker’ though ‘some income will be generated initially from the implementation of the regime’.

Covid-19 vaccination well organised in Harrow – positive experience

20210112_150945Harrow has started its Covid-19 vaccination programme, mainly using Pfizer-BioNTech which needs 2 shots, 21 days apart. The shot is given in the muscle of the upper arm.
The vaccination reduces the chances of suffering from Covid-19 but it takes a few weeks for the body to build up protection from the vaccine. So it is important to follow up the guidance to avoid catching/ spreading the infection.
Following is a typical feedback on having the vaccination.
‘Being a Harrow resident from a vaccination priority group, GP arranged my vaccination at the Hive Stadium, Camrose Ave, Edgware.
The vaccination has been very well organised. The vaccination centre is helpfully sign-posted, outside/inside the Hive. Equally helpful are the volunteers who are at the car park (free car parking token given) and inside the vaccination centre, helpfully guiding through the process of registration, to the vaccination stations and in seeking the follow up appointment for the second shot.
The vaccination desks and the seating are well arranged –  provide comfy and safe environment. The nurse doing the vaccination is cheerful, thoroughly explained the vaccination process and the follow up procedures. The injection itself took only few seconds and was painless. Noticed at least one doctor in attendance.
After the injection and booking next appointment, there is a period of ten minutes to sit and relax before leaving the vaccination centre (two wall clocks have been placed to obverse ten minutes). The experience of vaccination has been smooth and positive.’
In term of improvement, perhaps a feedback form at the centre would be a helpful addition, particularly to occupy the vaccination takers while they stay for ten minutes after the vaccination.
There are few other vaccination centres in Harrow, including Harrow Leisure Centre’s Byron Hall, in Christchurch Avenue, Wealdstone.
In Harrow 14,621 total cases to 12 January and 462 coronavirus-related deaths registered to 1 January.

Winter fuel payment for all on low income, insists Harrow socialist

A survey found that 72% household, the equivalent of 20 million, across the UK fear an increase in their energy usage during the lockdown and that they face an average increase of over £32 per month in energy bills.
Demand is growing that the government must do more to help people cope with rising fuel bills this winter as they stay in more and work from home during the lockdown.
Pam“Staying home in January and February as temperatures drop to below zero means even higher fuel bills. The Government needs to expand the winter fuel payment scheme to all those on a low income to ensure that families do not have to make the difficult choice between eating and heating” asks Cllr Pamela Fitzpatrick (photo), a leading founder of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour Councillors and Harrow East parliamentary candidate in 2019.
Even before the outbreak of Covid-19 hundreds of thousands of people were already struggling with energy bills. What the coronavirus crisis does in addition to increasing energy usage for those at home, is to create an uncertainty and insecurity of income for workers. There is a real risk these higher prices will fall heaviest on those least able to pay.
“The Government mishandling of the COVID 19 crisis means that we find ourselves in no better a situation than at the start of the pandemic. Many people have lost their jobs or on reduced pay and the crisis has vividly exposed the problems ordinary working people face with the combination of insecure low paid work and an inadequate benefit system” Ms Fitzpatrick said.
The survey found that for those working from home, there is growing financial anxiety, as almost half (44%) worry that working from home will lead to unaffordable energy bills.
Would Harrow MPs and the council follow the lead, and ask the government to expand the winter fuel payment scheme to all those on a low income?
Wonder why the ‘selected’ Labour leader Starmer is not pressing government hard to meaningfully deal with the coronavirus and its adverse socio-economic impact on the quality of people lives but then he seems more keen on frequently saying ‘Labour supports the government’!

Harrow GPs in level 5 COVID-19 response!

In GP workload prioritisation, Harrow is in the BMA defined  level 5 (highest) emergency response where all non-essential work stopped to allow general practice to cope with very significant demands relating to COVID-19, acute deterioration in long term conditions and new symptoms indicating potentially serious disease.
The text message from local GP practices on 1st January confirmed about a reduced range of general practice services in Harrow.
Since then, following is a summary of the feedback from some Harrow GPs:
‘It is true, most of the non urgent and community services have been suspended, this is because hospital staff have been redeployed to cover essential /urgent and Covid-19 units as well as there are a significant number staff members being ill.
Non Covid hospital services are adversely affected, for example, orthopaedic units and orthopaedic theatres are closed for non urgent work like hip replacement.
Hospitals (secondary care) stopped accepting referral from us a while back, anyhow, not only because of the pandemic but as hospital won’t have responsibility if something happens to patients while waiting for treatment. Also they don’t have waiting list any more, except the ones before the pandemic.
We can only refer patient who may have cancer, or very urgent, like chest pain’.
No matter how the NHS England performance is looked at, government approach ‘save money than lives’ to health care becomes obvious, as confirmed that while long-term under resourced NHS just coped  before pandemic but is now crumbling under Covid-19 pressure – lack of staff, equipment (even Oxygen masks), medical aids etc – ‘Imagine the scenes where you have to ration oxygen, have no staff and those that are there are exhausted’, a doctor on social media has summarised.
Harrow has total 11,819 cases to 4 Jan.

Disruptive Harrow opposition councillor continues her behaviour at City Hall

Tory appointed London assembly member Susan Hall, a Harrow councillor enjoying full council allowances while participating little in the work of the council, uses her City Hall position to gain publicity.
Her individual  targeting, practised while leading Tory opposition in Harrow, continues; now attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who faced the worst Tory racist campaign in 2016 London mayor election, for taking interest in the wider welfare of Londoners.42D29E9F-3D5B-4B87-8575-E4E7031774F3
During a very recent interview with an online right-wing newspaper, Hall unduly criticised the London Mayor’s handling of the Met Police finances. She also questioned what the ‘personality colour test’ carried out by officers in 2018 achieved for the police officials that took part in the course.
[the personality colour test, widely used in commerce and industry,  asks a series of questions to rate likes and dislikes leading to well recognised personality grading, all to maximise professionalism]
The test was initially carried out as part of a five-day workshop on communication and engagement in view of popular view to early detect and address any heavy-handedness/discriminatory tendencies in the Met.
A spokesman for the London mayor dismissed Hall’s claim of inappropriate use of the police funding for ‘personality colour test’ and said: “This claim is absolute nonsense”.
“A comprehensive training package covering a whole range of areas is being delivered to more than 10,000 officers”.
But of course such a training programme has not seen favourably by the elements that oppose ‘black lives matter’ movement and do not like measures for better policing.
Regarding the police funding management generally, the mayor has not only used the funds very wisely but also provided further City Hall funding to help protect police officer numbers over the next year, though still facing huge financial challenges because the government refuses to refund City Hall and the Met for costs and lost income as a result of the pandemic.
Hall also criticised that “As a Mayor, all he ever does is talks about things he cannot affect like Brexit.”
In responding to her toxicity, a spokesman for the Mayor of London said: “Sadiq makes no apology whatsoever for standing up for London.
“Whether it is defending the capital from the impact of Brexit, holding the Government to account over its mishandling of COVID-19, or killing off the worst Government proposals to hit Londoners in the pocket in return for a TfL funding deal, the Mayor will always put the capital first.”

Harrow hit by COVID-19 contradictions

On the first day of 2021, a text message from GP surgeries informs about a reduced range of general practice services in Harrow: ‘all GPs have been asked to STOP any non-essential work – any routine referrals to the hospital cannot be done at present as hospitals are NOT processing any new referrals. Some essential blood test monitoring may continue’.
This is top level 5 emergency response where all non-essential work stopped to allow general practice to cope with very significant demand relating to COVID-19, acute deterioration in long term conditions and new symptoms indicating potentially serious disease.
But the same BMA COVID-19: toolkit for GPs and GP practices also says: Under the GMS contract, practices have a responsibility to provide services to your registered patients and it is for practices to decide how best to do so. COVID-19 does not in any way negate this requirement.
The level 5 emergency sits well with the Harrow COVID-19 situation – 10,588 total coronavirus cases (to 31 De) – mostly in 0-59 years and 438 coronavirus-related deaths registered to 18 December.
Despite such an alarming COVID-19 situation, Harrow is one of the ten London local authorities that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has asked to reopen primary schools next week. There has been a wider reaction to his irrational decision, including a letter to him signed by leaders of all of those boroughs.
In a separate move, a Harrow council letter to Harrow primary schools tells:  ‘we have taken decision to advise our schools to move to online learning for most pupils next week’! [UPDATE 8pm: now in a late u-turn education secretary has announced that primary  schools in all London local authorities will not reopen next week]
The government failures in containing and treating coronavirus already have serious implications, including for Harrow.
For example, massive publicity with significant shortcomings and implications: ‘if feeling unwell with just one of the symptoms of Covid, call 119 to get tested, if the test positive, follow the rules and self-isolate for 10 days’ – because ‘there is no medicine or cure for the virus’ without due emphasis that though there is no cure for the coronavirus as such, the damages to the organs caused by the infection can be medically managed. Such an ill information and omission could only be seen as a political decision to keep pressure off the NHS England which has been suffering from the lack of resources!
The prescribed ‘isolation’ with no medical treatment for ten days mostly results in developing shortness of breath or fall in oxygen saturation, damaging lungs and other vital organs. Since main casualties occur in late presenters to the hospital treatment, medical treatment in the first few days rather than after 10 days of the corona symptoms should have been prioritised, but then consideration seems to be ‘save money rather than lives’!

Risk of increased coronavirus spread as school reopening not delayed in Harrow – but Tory MPs silent

Harrow Labours are questioning why the lives of Harrow residents are less important, as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced children can go to schools in Harrow but not if they are in schools in Barnet, Brent or Hillingdon.
Harrow is now a Tier 4 where over 150 new cases of covid-19 diagnosed in Harrow every day compared to only 50 previously. Harrow council reported ‘as of 13/12/20, Harrow had the 10th highest rate in London and 39th highest nationally’. [1,990 cases in the latest week 20 Dec-26 Dec, +480 compared with the previous week, 10,266 total cases to 30 Dec]
Number of corona deaths remains a serious concern (438 as of 18 Dec).
“Why is Bob Blackman not standing up for residents in Harrow while schools in neighbouring boroughs are allowed to delay opening to protect lives – just like Eaton, Harrow residents are being out at risk – how shameful?” said Cllr Pamela Fitzpatrick, Labour Harrow East parliamentary candidate in 2019.
“The Government want schools in 13 London boroughs to open next week and 22 delays. There is no explanation, no rational – this government is playing with our lives and has really outdone itself this time” she added.
Harrow East Tory MP Blackman remains silent about Harrow schools reopening despite it poses higher risk of coronavirus spread but of course he is busy in celebrating Brexit: “Great news to help the recovery process from Covid19 and rebuild our economy on the back of the Trade Deal” he tweeted after his Commons vote.
In a separate move, Harrow West MP Gareth Thomas has asked minister for School Standards Nick Gibb to explain and review why Harrow not on the list of the areas where primary schools face a delayed return yet all neighbouring boroughs are, even though Harrow shares same NHS Trust and the infection rates are similar.
UPDATE: soon after our article (8.30pm), now Bob Blackman (10.30pm) has asked Gibbs why Harrow excluded from list of boroughs where primary schools will be closed next week.

‘Destruction’ of a Green and wildlife corridor in Harrow

265A variety of campaigners have been calling on Harrow Council’s planning regime to reject the planning application to build residential units at 265 The Ridgeway, Harrow, a wider green corridor full of wildlife.
The campaigners argue that the development is not in keeping with the local area, will have a detrimental impact on the local neighbourhood, park and allotments.
Regarding the environment damage already taking place, Emma Wallace, Green Party GLA candidate for Brent and Harrow reported “On the morning of Saturday 19th December 2020, a team of volunteers arrived at the Pavilion site, 265 The Ridgeway with chainsaws and chopped down the trees and foliage in the green corridor running North of the site boundary.  The group of volunteers behind this were Harrow Gospel Hall Trust, otherwise known as the Brethren”.
West Harrow Cllr Adam Swersky (Lab) tweeted: ‘Worst thing I’ve seen in 6 years as a cllr – demolition of a whole tree line by volunteers (incl kids) with chainsaws acting for a religious group who have a major planning application on the site. Ignored me and Council officers – said they were just “doing a job”. Appalling.’
Whilst a decision by the Council planning committee has been delayed until early 2021, Harrow Council is not considered being supportive of local campaigners.  Indeed, when Harrow Council was asked for comment after the act of wildlife vandalism on Saturday, their response was that Brethren were in their legal right.
“I am calling on Harrow Council to do the right thing and reject this short-sighted and hugely detrimental development in West Harrow.  Harrow Council must do all it can to preserve green spaces in borough, in line with its Climate Change Strategy” Ms Wallace said.
“It is completely out-of-keeping with the rest of the low-level area and will have a negative impact on local wildlife, surrounding green spaces, local residents, as well as the roads and local infrastructure” she added.