Tory Harlow Council leader looks to challenges ahead
News / Fri 27th Jan 2023 at 07:55am
IT looks like it could be a busy and a challenging year for the leader of Harlow Council, cllr Russell Perrin.
So far, there has been much to be positive about with the news that Harlow has been given £22 million for a cultural quarter at Playhouse Square.
That sits in tandem with all the regeneration work in the town centre and the work being undertaken across the housing estates.
But he has more immediate challenges with a budget to set next month.
We also spoke to cllr Perrin about Joseph Rank House,.
There was also the issue of potholes (3.30) and whether their Tory colleagues at Essex County Council are letting them down.
Allied to that was the recent departure of the portfolio holder for roads, cllr Steve LeMay.
He has gone to the back bench alongside cllr Simon Carter, who was removed as portfolio holder for Housing.
But overall, cllr Perrin was in ebullient mood and is clearly looking forward to presenting the budget next month and then fighting the local elections in May.
So on roads the local Tories go in a year from, with much fanfare appointing a "portfolio holder for roads" - to a despairing, "all we can do locally is push for our fair share". With nothing at all on how they will hold the County to account.
Tony, are you suggesting they should be following the Harlow Labour ‘Potholes Action Plan’? That really worked during the decade Harlow were in administration!! Didn’t it? Actually, Cllr Le May was never the Portfolio Holder for Roads. He was the Portfolio Holder for HTS with a special responsibility for Roads. Let’s not distort the facts.
James, semantics is a wonderfully fun game to play. Call it whatever you like, Cllr Perrin was asking for trouble when he created the role of having ‘special responsibility for roads’ and Cllr LeMay accepted it, this creating an expectation amongst residents that Harlow Tories would deliver something on the issue for our town. Yet again they have let us down. To be fair, Harlow stories now know how we all feel. They, like the rest of us, have been ignored and neglected by their Tory colleagues in County Hall and especially by their four County Councillors who sit amongst them in the District Council Chamber too. Perhaps it’s time to hand that special responsibility to one of them!
Tony, all four of the county councillors are continually holding Essex to account, and Harlow does get it’s fair share. You always try to make political mileage out of something that has been around for as long as I have. And this is not just a Harlow thing, or an Essex thing, it is the whole country.
What the interview highlighted was all those areas which had been neglected for a decade by Labour are now being addressed in a relatively short timeframe: Taxation, House repairs and new council housing, Roundabout sponsorship & maintenance and, significantly Town Centre Regeneration. All areas within the remit of Harlow Council, which Labour chose to ignore. Let’s focus on these. Labour’s record on a new hospital and potholes (neither of which are controlled by Harlow Council) was non-existent.
As a Harlow District Councillor Cllr Le May was appointed a Portfolio holder "with a special responsibility for roads" even though Harlow Council has no responsibility for roads. He then resigned and has not been replaced. So how will the District Council hold the County Council to account now, particularly as the County Councillors have demonstrably failed in this regard? To be constructive can we agree 1. that we have a major problem with road maintenance in Harlow, 2. this is a County Council responsibility and 3. can we give some thought to developing a coherent District approach to lobbying and engaging with both the County Council and central Government on this important issue?
Tony, I do not agree with the first premise as I know our County Councillors have undertaken every effort. However, I do agree that we should work cross-party to seek a solution to this issue that affects our town.
Well I have to take issue with you again Michael, the terrible state of the roads in Harlow are not an Essex wide let alone a country wide problem. The simple fact is that all the main roads in Harlow let alone ones within housing estates are the worse they have ever been. For instance on a drive along the A414 from Maldon to Harlow you will not see any potholes, until that is you come into Harlow and the same goes for if you go back to Chelmsford via Hatfield Heath. Our roads were never constructed to take the pounding from huge lorries that they do now days and together with the recent weather more and more damage is occurring on a daily basis, Southern Way is a good example. Without a huge investment in rebuilding our roads Harlow will never become "the best town in Britain" as described by Cllr Swords.
County Councillor Michael Hardware, please post links to instances of you and your colleagues asking questions, demanding action or even raising the issue of the potholes in Harlow. You say its an issue that's been around as long as you have, that it's not only a county but national problem. Is that something to be proud of? 13 years of neglect and the decimation of public services by a Tory Government in Westminster, a Tory Council in Essex and a failing Tory Council in Harlow are to blame. You are a member of both Councils, do you feel you need to apologise?
James Griggs, how can you allege that the Harlow Conservative Council has failed? Surely, you are referring to the abject failure of the decade of Harlow Labour abject incompetence. I ask you you straightly, what has the current Conservative administration done or not done that was specifically stated in their 2021 manifesto? Take your time to reflect and compare it with Labour’s total incompetence and failure regarding housing repairs, environmental upkeep and Town Centre regeneration. I await your reply with interest, but hardly with baited breath.
James, as usual the typical Tory tactic of obfuscation, straight out of the Johnson/Trump playbook. Let’s take housing shall we? The only new council houses built in Harlow since 2021 were already planned or being built under the Labour administration. From you we have seen nothing but more talk and empty promises. You presided over the Five Acres debacle, threatening residents with enormous bills for repairs, causing untold anxiety and distress before backing down and sacking your portfolio holder for housing. Regeneration, we are now seeing money coming in to the town for the cultural quarter and that is welcomed. You speak in one of your comments of seeking cross party co-operation whilst at the same time denying that this successful bid was largely (80%?) the same as the one the Govt previously rejected. You’ve previously said it is a totally new bid. I’ve seen both so let’s have some honesty please! Shall we look at finance? If you’re so financially competent why is there now a recruitment freeze within Harlow Council? Service delivery for residents will be impacted as you expect hard working council officers to do even more work with less resources. You ask about Labours record on a new hospital and potholes and in the same (not baited) breath admit it’s not within the remit of Harlow Council. The difference is that Harlow Tories are the ones who have claimed for years that a new hospital is coming, where is it? How many more elections do you and your friend Mr Halfon plan on using this as a big pledge? Now we get to the issue that has been the main topic of this debate, potholes. Again, this is not a Harlow Council matter but your leader made it one. For years Harlow Labour lobbied Essex County Council on the state of our roads but were ignored, they are a disgrace (both the roads and ECC). Your Leader, Cllr Perrin, decided he would create a role with ‘special responsibility for roads’ knowing full well it was a county matter. It is, therefore, not unreasonable for Harlow residents to have been expecting some great action plan to deliver some regeneration and levelling up of our road surfaces but there is none. I have some sympathy with Cllr LeMay, he was sold a pup and was treated with the same contempt by ECC as every other Harlow resident. Last weekend Cllr Perrin said, in a hastily released late night press statement, that works would start immediately and continue throughout the week to address the craters on First Ave (subject to temperature being above zero and it not being wet). You didn’t need to be Mystic Meg to know it was going to be a cold and frosty night on the 21st of January but promise he did. It was above zero degrees and dry most nights last week yet, at the time of writing, not a single repair has been made as part of this ‘immediate’ action. Cllr Perrin has also been sold a pup and received the full contempt of Essex County Council. All the while, residents are spending money they can ill afford to repair damage to their vehicles as our roads, cycle tracks and pathways are left to crumble. Will it take a serious accident caused by one or more of these potholes to shake ECC into action? You have four County Councillors among your ranks all sitting also as Harlow District Councillors, one of them has commented in this thread, just what are they doing for our towns roads? I’ve asked Cllr Hardware for examples. To paraphrase your comment ‘I await his reply, but hardly with baited breath’
James Griggs, if brevity is the soul of wit, you certainly missed that bus. Just look at Harlow Labour’s achievements over a decade and our over 18 months. You really should be ashamed.
James Leppard, there’s really no pleasing some people. You asked questions, I answered. Are you sure you and your party want to discuss buses? Shall we start with a big red one with lies on the side?
James Griggs, you mention that you started Bushey Croft, indeed, but we delivered it. We have also announced new builds at Arkwrights, Tye Green and Staple Tye. Labour’s record on council house builds and repairs was pitiful. Just look at this Council’s action to address the disgraceful state of roof repairs inherited from your administration. You mention and recognise that Labour’s efforts to deal with potholes was a complete failure, so what credibility does Labour hold? As for the application for the Levelling Up grant being 80% the same, well clearly the 20% difference was key. The devil is in the detail. It is hardly surprising that Harlow Labour were unable to make a serious business case.
I always read commentary with interest, but in this instance the thread seems to have got lost to political debate. The central thread seems to have been started about ‘potholes’, but drifted into mud-slinging. For a point of reference, having travelled close to 800 miles (no I am not a lorry or delivery driver) around the country last week it has to be said that whilst I did come across a few potholes, they were nowhere near the level or as bad as Harlow (I am a resident of Harlow), so this snapshot intimates it does not seem a country wide issue and as I would have travelled across any number of political boundaries, not a political one either? ESSEX COUNTY COUNCIL EVERYONE’S ESSEX, ANNUAL PLAN 2022-23, is probably worth a read and I would point people to pages commencing 57 and 67 and they can make their own deductions. Organisation Plan 2022–23 (ctfassets.net)