Potter Street community continue to put pressure on Harlow Council over health and community hub
Communities / Sat 3rd Dec 2022 at 08:20am
THE CHAIR of the Potter Street Residents Forum has continued to put pressure on Harlow Council over their commitment for a health and community hub where Ostler House surgery once stood.
Colin Thorpe to Councillor Dan Swords (Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Regeneration):
Osler House refurbishment is quoted as being £114,000 more than the available budget but as Councillor LeMay hasn’t allowed me to be part of the discussions as promised and my FOIA application has only been partly addressed, which may force me to ask the Commissioner to look into why this is.
At this moment in time I have no way of knowing how much the Trust will be contributing to those costs over and above the amount £22,000 allowed in the Trusts’ budget.
So, my question is twofold: when will I be allowed to see those costings rather than being presented with a fait acompli; and why are the funds allocated to the Neighbourhood Office being transferred to the Latton Bush Centre when they could be used to refurbish Osler House?
Reply from Councillor Dan Swords (Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Regeneration):
Thank you for your question and I fully recognise your passion and commitment to this project.
As you are aware, this has been fully reviewed in light of rising construction costs, the state of disrepair to the building and ultimately, value for money to the taxpayer.
At the time of the proposal coming forward, before the pandemic, a capital budget of £225,520 was allocated to cover the works and the professional fees required to bring the building up to a lettable standard. Since then, construction costs and inflation have risen dramatically and financial restraints on the Council have increased.
The most recent quote for the works to bring the property up to a lettable standard from HTS, submitted through a business case, was £349,172. However, given the rising inflation, construction costs and worsening state of the building it is a realistic and accurate assumption that the works required would be in excess of £400,000.
I must be honest that this presents a difficult situation and certainty about the project is urgently required. Therefore, officers and I will arrange to meet with you next week to discuss this and the next steps.
We are absolutely committed to investing in health and wellbeing as Cllr Charles will set out shortly and further to the regeneration of the Potter Street neighbourhood and I will announce further plans to do so in the very near future.
With regard to your question about the virement from the neighbourhood office and the Latton Bush Centre, this is in line with the regeneration plans we are working on and allows us to address an urgent situation at the Latton Bush Centre.
Colin Thorpe to Councillor Joel Charles (Portfolio Holder for Business and Community Resilience:
The Potter Street Health and Wellbeing Trust’s proposal clearly follows not only the Robert Wood Johnson Model, but also Core20PLUSS. If Harlow is classed as the 2nd worse town in Essex and the 20th in the whole of England for Deprivation, Child Poverty,Health,Crime etc. and the various different bodies I’ve been working with such as Harlow Poverty Alliance and Herts & West Essex ICB recognise the value of Wellbeing Hubs such as the Trust is proposing, why is this Council putting costs before the Wellbeing of Harlow’s population when adequate funds are available in Capital Budget to push the Trust’s proposal forward?
Reply from Councillor Joel Charles (Portfolio Holder for Business and Community Resilience:
The Health and Wellbeing Strategy includes a number of statistics that paint a sobering picture of the key public health issues facing the town today. That is why the Council has taken the decision to depart from the previous approaches used to tackle health and wellbeing challenges to look at ways, as a community leader, to curb the socio-economic determinants that compound the issues highlighted in the strategy. The Council’s approach will be governed not only by the strategy, but also the actions it agrees to take forward with key partners to address health and wellbeing inequalities in the town. Part of the ambition of the strategy is to seek further investment from Essex County Council as the lead public health authority and other health bodies to arrest the trend of avoidable wellbeing issues.
The Council is looking at how it achieves the better outreach of wellbeing services across the town, and part of that work has been the continued funding of the Community Hub operated by Rainbow Services. There is a continued dialogue with our local healthcare leaders and Essex County Council, through a partnership approach that the council hopes to build on further as officers provide evidence to them about the effectiveness of the hub approach.
In taking this all forward, it is always important to look carefully at how we deploy the Council’s limited resources across the town.
Thank youColin Thorpe for your representation for Potter Street well being hub. This is clearly a very needed service for Potter Street and local people . The Council have been deliberating over this for far to long and Osler House needs to be repaired and opened ASAP. It has a loyal following as hopefully the council will see by our standing protest at Osler surgery on 9th December 13.30. Please support this if you can
Great to have local champions like Colin who make a difference.
Why can’t the Community Association building & the old Neighbourhood office be used they are already there & usable the funds available would more than cover alterations needed. If this is to be for the Town why is it being placed on the edge of town when anyone from other than Potter Street will have to get 2 buses to get to it, a comment that keeps being made about the residents Potter Street having to do at the moment, surely something like this proposal should be in the Town Centre where it’s only one bus ride away from anywhere in the Towb.
Why can’t the Community Association building & the old Neighbourhood office be used they are already there & usable the funds available would more than cover alterations needed. If this is to be for the Town why is it being placed on the edge of town when anyone from other than Potter Street will have to get 2 buses to get to it, a comment that keeps being made about the residents Potter Street having to do at the moment, surely something like this proposal should be in the Town Centre where it’s only one bus ride away from anywhere in the Town
Things will get better once people stop voting Tory, it is the Conservatives who have cut services to the bone and are still wanting to cut more!!!.
It is very sad that the council and two of its Harlow Common councillors have used warm words to suggest they support the Potter Street well-being hub but have yet to back it up with action. It apparently is not cost efficient. But that conclusion is based on an outline assessment made by HTS and that assessment has not been released to the trustees of the hub so far. Now here is a suggestion to get the works completed within the budget: Add a tender process so local builders can bid for the work leaving HTS to eat humble pie and the council to get muted praise in getting the hub working for the benefit of the Harlow Common ward but also the whole town given the services it would provide. In addition the former council neighbourhood office could then be used to provide information on the town, pay the rent or council tax and speak to a human voice willing to sort out residents' issues and concerns. Will that happen? I suspect not given that it involves a sensible suggestion from a concerned resident!
Thank you Colin Thorpe for what you do for Potter Street and thanks too to Gary Roberts although I do not agree with Gary on some points. Politicians of any party so freaklently fail to look far enough ahead on so many aspects. [Think of the years the old Neighbourhood Office has stood empty - how mad can Harlow Council be (even now) to just let it 'rot'.]
There are very few Politicians I would trust in almost any party! We need more people like Martin Lewis - The Money Saving Expert - who can be clear in what they say and honest at the same time. In other words trustworthy people, who appear to be in short supply!
The question asked why Potter Street when it is on the edge of the town & takes two bus rides. As you can imagine the same applies to residents living in Potter Street they also have two bus rides to get into town. Also Osler House is the only suitable building in Harlow which is relatively accessible & has parking. If the Council could find a suitable building more central then that could be considered by the Trustees
Frederick Gibberd's plan for the town was to ensure that each neighbourhood had a building where public services would be provided and in the 1980's and 1990 Harlow Council was one of the leaders in decentralising it's own services and hoping to bring other services into each neighbourhood. As the last Neighbourhood Manager of the Potter Street and Bush Fair council offices I know only to well how many people used these services on a regular basis. These offices were closed down by the then local Labour Party to save money and to rent out the offices. What actually happened was that these offices remained empty for many years, just as the Potter Street office is now. There may be warm words from the Tories, but if they really wanted to see a community hub in Potter Street they could bring back the former neighbourhood office into use for a fraction of the cost to re-open Osler House. Many such warm words were nothing but smoke and mirrors to win the election last year.