Harlow Labour Councillors say, “Hands off Harlow”
News / Sun 26th Jul 2020 at 09:23am
Harlow Labour Councillors say, “Hands off Harlow”
HARLOW’S Labour Councillors said today that the town’s unique identity would be lost and residents would lose contact with their elected representatives, if the leaked Conservative government plans for local government come to fruition.
The Government’s devolution white paper, which is expected to be published in September, is set to propose “super council’s” of a minimum of 300,000 residents. A “super council” would be an artificially created authority that has little economic, social, or historical integrity. It would be too large and remote to support local communities and residents in the way Harlow’s District Council does claims Harlow Labour.
Councillor for Toddbrook, Tony Edwards said, “Our residents will be left with little or no contact with the people who make the decisions that affect their everyday lives.”
Harlow’s Labour Councillors believe the timing of the government’s plans for local government reorganisation is poor, given the need to ensure there is an absolute focus on supporting communities and businesses to recover from the devastating effects of Covid-19.
Councillor for Staple Tye, Stefan Mullard said, “This idea is not only extremely ill-thought-out, it comes at completely the wrong time. We should not be having to justify our existence at a time where we should be focusing all our energy on ensuring our residents and their livelihoods recover from this horrible virus.”
Harlow Labour are keen to stress that District councils such as Harlow have proved their worth during the COVID pandemic. Their local knowledge has been a lifeline to residents and communities, providing food and welfare support to those in great difficulty, disbursing over £12M in grants to local businesses across the town to help their prospects of survival, housing 36 newly homeless people and providing vital services to the town including the management of many thousands of council homes. Local knowledge and local services have been vital in supporting residents, from those suffering the effects of domestic abuse, those needing deliveries of food and prescriptions, those that need support and advice, through to looking after parks and green spaces for people to enjoy.
Harlow’s Labour Councillors will take into account the views of residents as well as working with key partners to help inform and development options that retain local accountability and preserve Harlow’s unique heritage as a New Town.
Deputy Leader of the Council, Eugenie Harvey said, “We will fight tooth and nail to ensure that Harlow’s identity is recognised and retained and that our residents continue to receive the vital support of a District Council.”
There is already a good argument that more services should be provided by local councils rather than by remote politicians running Essex County Council. Maintaining the towns cycle tracks easily comes to mind as one such example. The Harlow Alliance Party supports the view of Harlow Labour, creating wholly false new 'districts' is not the way to carry out any sort of re-organisation of Local Government. There are no doubt changes to town boundaries that should be made in various places around the country, here in Harlow we have a good example of this ..... all of the Harlow and Gilston Town area should be included within a new boundary for Harlow so that the Council tax and business rates paid by the residents and businesses goes to Harlow Council rather than East Hearts DC and Epping Forest DC.
The Harlow Electoral constituency has approx 67,000 electors and a estimated population of approx 140,000. The Government are reportedly suggesting 300,000, which for this area would be for example Harlow and Gilston, the whole of Epping Forest District and Bishops Stortford combined and that's assuming there would be no problems with the little matter of the county boundary. If crossing the boundary was not allowed, the area could be for example Harlow 87,000, Epping Forest 131,000 and Uttlesford 89,000 combined. As it happens I am in favour of unitary authorities. According to Wikipedia currently there are 56 of them and they vary in size from 40,000 to 550,000. The underlying principal was that they made sense both geographically and socioeconomically. A Harlow and Gilston Garden Town Unitary Authority would make all sorts of sense. But the leaked Government proposals make no sense other than as a Cummings inspired political power grab.
One of the link ups suggested by Tony Edwards demonstrates just how out of touch with residents many politicians are. I am sure for example that no-one living in Saffron Walden would have any sort of connection to residents living in Chigwell and so when important decisions have to be made by Councillors about council services they would have no idea either. The creation of The Harlow and Gilston Garden Town should have been accompanied with a change to Harlow's boundary to include the whole of the area to be developed. This would have meant that instead of three Councils being involved in the creation of an extended Harlow there would have been just one. Residents across the whole of the area would have been consulted in the same way and when new residents pay their council tax it would be paid to Harlow Council and help with the regeneration of the town. Instead of which Harlow Council were effectively conned into allowing thousands of homes to be built on Harlow's borders, without receiving any of the benefits. Grandiose plans to provide a new tramway are now trotted out by our Labour Council to try and mitigate residents reactions as more and more realise the effect this massive house building programme will have in increasing congestion on the towns roads.
Sounds like the Turkeys are whining about Christmas coming early. The small geograhic area of Harlow Council has denied it a larger share of high rateable properties compared with adjacent local authorities. This would solve a problem that the existing Tory authorities fought vigourously at the birth of the New Towns to restrict Harlow's size.
This whining by local politicians is an affliction otherwise known as big fish in small ponds syndrome.
Tenpin - just to be clear I am not advocating for a Unitary Authority of Harlow,Uttlesford and Epping Forest but put it forward as an example of what a unitary authority of 300,000 would look like and I agree with the points you are making regarding relevance and accountability. As I said i would be interested establishing a Harlow / Gilston authority which would make all kinds of sense. RazzelDazzel, I couldn't give a monkey's about being a big fish in a small pond (to mix metaphors). By the time the changes go through others will have probably taken on the role of being a Councillor. What I do care about is accountability and having a Council which Harlow residents feel has some relevance to their lives. The current two tier arrangement often does not work particularly well. Residents through no fault of their own are often confused about what is the responsibility of the respective County and District Councils and often the District is blamed for the failings of the County, the state of our roads and pavements being a good example. But then neither will a Unitary Authority of 300,000 people work well. It is simply to big and will lack accountability. But finally the point Cllr Stefan Mullard makes is an important one. Why on earth are the Government embarking on a country wide large scale reorganisation of local government when we are in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic? It makes no sense!
Just to be clear Tony, I realise that you were not advocating such a tie up with other nearby Authorities. Such a tie up was however proposed in the not to distant past, when Harlow Council and others were considering making a bid to create a new Unitary Authority. This soon bit the dust if only because Councillors from across the three Districts could not agree amongst themselves. Times have changed, Uttlesford is now run by R4U, a new, independent political party made up of local residents with no allegiance to a national party, EFDC has a large rump of Cllrs from the independent Loughton Residents Association and Harlow has a 20/13 political split. This gives a stark in site into the differences between each area, getting any agreement to seek a merger seems even less likely than before. As I said before, Harlow Council were conned into agreeing the garden town status without a boundary change which in the main simple involves land which is open fields. If you look at the latest info on the Local Plan portals of both HDC and EFDC you will see that the Plans of both councils may be far from finalised as they stand. Another subject, but one we in the Harlow Alliance Party will soon want to return to.