Letter to Editor: A Conservative-run council will build back better
News / Wed 5th May 2021 at 01:27pm
THIS year’s local elections take place at an important crossroads as the town looks to define its future in a post-COVID world. The last 12 months have tested the resilience of our community. Harlow rallied together to confront COVID-19 head on. The action taken by charities, faith groups, volunteers, the NHS and other key workers must never be forgotten.
It will take time to understand the true impact of the pandemic on livelihoods and how much the way we go about our daily lives will change in the future. The loss of loved ones will also be a tragic legacy of this pandemic. Harlow Council’s role will be pivotal in the coming months as it must show the community leadership required to lead the town forward.
Polling day is tomorrow. It is the most crucial polling day in a generation because the next council administration must do all it can to deliver greater prosperity and more opportunities for residents to succeed in a post-COVID world.
What needs to happen now is action to stop the drift that has consumed the council in recent years, to introduce a fresh vision that can capitalise on the opportunities today and tomorrow. My colleagues and I have developed a strategic plan to build back better from the pandemic that will guide us if we are in the privileged position to form the next council administration. There has been an absence of direction and political leadership in this town for far too long. The focus of our overarching vision will be to encourage the expansion of enterprise, make Harlow a national centre for research and innovation, position the town as the region’s cultural hub and support residents to achieve their life ambitions as part of a thriving and diverse community.
A Conservative-run Harlow Council will be driven by the belief that the town’s best days are ahead of it. Plans will be rolled out to boost economic growth through a pro-business approach. The small and medium sized businesses that make up the town will form a key part of the recovery – they will need more support to rebuild. It is important to never forget that small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of our local economy. Job creation and economic growth will stall without a thriving business community. That is why a Conservative-run council will seek to speed up access to financial assistance. Making the Harlow pound stretch even further will be a priority.
Stimulating a rapid recovery from COVID-19 will be at the forefront of a Conservative-run council’s agenda. The current council roadmap will need to be adjusted to link the town’s long-term recovery more closely to the regeneration agenda and the wider need to enhance local economic growth. Cutting Council Tax, putting more money back in taxpayers’ pockets, will be one of the first steps that signal the council’s commitment to help more people make ends meet.
The regeneration agenda needs to be shaken up to face the reality of life in 2021 and the next decade. Town centre regeneration will be relaunched, working closely with the Government and regional partners to access funds to attract new retail, establish better business facilities and create a new cultural quarter to attract inward investment.
More leadership will be shown on the green agenda. It’s time Harlow embraced the cutting edge of green technology to create more jobs and secure investment in the town. It will be important for the council to further capitalise on the regeneration agenda by looking to attract new green business ventures to the town, and provide the facilities for them to thrive so that we encourage the growth of a more diverse local economy.
Backing the many charitable, voluntary and faith-based groups through support to increase their capacity to help the most vulnerable will be pursued with the creation of a new action plan, developed in collaboration with community leaders to take this ambition forward.
There also needs to be renewed impetus to set in motion a far more ambitious plan to build affordable housing. A Conservative-run council will scale up the ability to build more affordable housing by further investing in its existing commercial levers. Purely focusing on the acquisition of existing housing for rent is not a long-term solution to fix residents’ desire for more and affordable housing.
The courage and determination shown during the height of the pandemic must not be lost. Whoever forms the next council administration will have a heavy responsibility to ensure action is taken to move at pace to direct the strength of community engagement seen during the lockdowns into delivering a recovery that benefits everyone.
Building an even better Harlow, that offers current and future generations the opportunity to raise a family, set up a successful business and access affordable housing is within the town’s grasp if residents elect a Conservative administration.
Cllr Joel Charles
Deputy Leader of Harlow Conservatives