Chaos at Harlow Council as deputy leader quits pointing to leadership as among reasons he has departed

News / Fri 3rd Feb 2023 at 02:58pm

THE DEPUTY leader of Harlow Council has quit his twin roles as deputy leader and as portfolio holder for regeneration.

Bush Fair councillor Dan Swords issued the following statement the afternoon.

Cllr Swords said: “Nearly two years ago, after a decade of abject failure from the Harlow Labour party, we were elected in a landslide victory, with a promise to deliver a new Council for Harlow. A promise to deliver what the people of Harlow so desperately deserve, a competent, bold Council that delivers for them, lowering their Council Tax, massively improving Council services and yes, regenerating our town.

“That is why I am beyond disappointed with the position we are currently in and our direction of travel. I have sung the tune of our administration from the rooftops, but in recent weeks, I have found it more and more difficult to do so and therefore, I am standing down as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning.

“I am proud of what we have delivered in regeneration and planning – establishing the biggest new council housing programme in decades that will deliver hundreds of new council homes for Harlow families, passing the first ever town centre masterplan which is now bearing fruit with massive investment from partners we have worked so closely with as well as the near £45 million we have secured from the Government in the past 18 months to genuinely transform our town centre – entirely rebuilding it – with work starting in the coming weeks, and putting in place genuine change to our planning policies to kickstart development of the highest quality and so much more besides.

“We truly turned the tide on regeneration, from a pit of self-doubt and defeatism to genuine delivery that will mean every resident in our town – your children and grandchildren can grow up and live in a town with the best town centre in Britain – one they are truly proud to call home.  

“It has been the greatest honour to work with some truly incredible people on this journey – too many to mention – but who can know that they have changed our town for the better. That includes some fantastic councillors, our brilliant MP, Robert Halfon, and some amazing officers.

“There is so much more to do, and this is just the start. But, I passionately believe that Harlow is and will be the best town in Britain to work, to start a business, to raise a family and to live. We have incredible opportunities glaring us in the face, but to make those a reality, it requires bold leadership and direct delivery.”

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48 Comments for Chaos at Harlow Council as deputy leader quits pointing to leadership as among reasons he has departed:

2023-02-03 16:10:42

Strong leadership is this not what has been said in the past? Dan I strongly believe as you do the need to go forward but I see some of the recent acquisitions of no benefit to the people who need help more than others

2023-02-03 16:16:41

Bush Fair? Good luck. Clowncil? Oh dear

gary roberts
2023-02-03 16:18:02

A young man wanting to go places that may not include Harlow. He has taken on too much and needed help including sorting out the housing brief after Cllr. Carter was sacked. I think his last sentence clearly indicates a lack of leadership from the top. I wish him well but again for all the warm words he and the council failed my area of Potter Street badly as well as other areas of the town. I have to ask that with so many in the council falling off the proverbial cliff what will happen in the May 2023 elections? With all the focus on the town centre, will all the regeneration projects be but a bad dream with the accompanying debt a mill stone around the necks of the residents: I sincerely hope not!

Nathan B
2023-02-03 16:18:04

It takes a certain kind of boldness to leave a collapsing Council and still slag the previous one as if this one is better. Particularly if most of your achievements came on the back of the foundations of the previous one. Obviously his long and deep experience of life have led to such confidence.

2023-02-03 16:22:08

So you won’t need your Batman Suit then.

2023-02-03 16:24:10

Bye kid. Thanks for the pointless purchases

2023-02-03 16:35:23


James Leppard
2023-02-03 16:52:52

Nathan B, are you trying to be serious? Laughable! Foundations inherited from the previous administration?? What, rotten planks? Ten years in power and a town centre reminiscent of a Third World shanty!

James Leppard
2023-02-03 18:19:45

Dear Gary Roberts, please be assured that the Town Centre regeneration is a major and much needed initiative. However, you might also wish to note the largest council housing new build programme in decades with new builds scheduled at Tye Green, Arkwrights and Staple Tye already announced. Furthermore, much work has been done to repair defective roofs inherited by this administration together with a significant house repair and estate renewal programme.

Nathan B
2023-02-03 18:22:39

James, new schemes like those underway don’t happen overnight. We saw all the prototypes in the last administration. Sounds like the toys are out of the pram because the newly appointed Chief Executive gave the leader some good advice that didn’t suit the office boy.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-02-03 18:27:25

So Dan, will you advise readers why you are disappointed with the position your Party is in (whatever that is) and where you think it's direction of travel should be going and make clear the comment about direct delivery? I think the fact is, like a number of you Conservative colleagues you have found that working within local government is much harder than in the private sector, wheels turn much slower and politics get in the way of progress. It must be soul destroying trying to defend the situation in respect of potholes and the way they are being filled in, the lack of progress getting a new hospital and the mothballing of the former Public Health England move to Harlow!

Clare Harrison
2023-02-03 18:54:00

Very sad to hear this because I was excited for the new music venue. Dan was in charge of it all. I hope somebody else takes over this project and the music venue still goes ahead. Best of luck Dan Swords in whatever you decide to do next . At least you have youth on your side to go and explore the world. All the best.

2023-02-03 19:32:25

Is there anything politicians can do, its gets hard they quit. No winder the town is in the mess it is, why do we pay for these people. Interesting I cannot get my FOI around the latest purchases pushed through there is a lot of obstruction there from the council. Is all above board ? maybe yourharlow should start asking questions also

Luke Burton
2023-02-03 20:01:29

Cllr Swords - coming to some safe Conservative seat a few hundred miles away from Harlow to you soon.

2023-02-03 20:26:37

Strategic purchasing is an necessary approach when trying to transform a town such as ours. Sadly people do not understand the structuring of such acquisitions and instead fall back to basic interpretations that hold little value in the complexities at hand. These same people think money awarded by Central Goverment that has been won against schemes that target specific outcomes that funding requires (all plainly set out on HMG websites), should some how be spent on different things even though that is impossible, instead of celebrating the good news it represents. Sadly for all politicians at this level, they are damned if they do and damned it they don’t. Leadership will be a driving force in seeing the fortunes of this town improve, as well as the need for those leaders to not be dissuaded by the very vocal 0.2% of the population, who seem hell bent on stopping progress in order to satisfy their narcissistic need to shout about things they clearly understand little about.

Nathan B
2023-02-03 21:13:34

MAJ - interesting… you sound well informed. So what has that got to do with this story?

peter henegan
2023-02-03 22:10:04

I am with Nicholas Taylor on this. What are the issues that caused Dan to resign his roles? His statement was full of specific praise so why resign. Explain please!!

Johnny Boy
2023-02-03 22:11:03

Boris wannabe pushed the council into massive debt on overpriced Harvey Centre purchase, spouted a load of hot air for PR and then bolted for an increased salary. Classic.

2023-02-03 23:50:10

Johnny Boy, you clearly have not read the Business Plan nor the financial analysis and viability study for the Harvey Centre acquisition. I would be interested to know your business or investment banking credentials.

David Morris
2023-02-04 02:21:29

A young master of spin. Typical Tory diatribe. Regeneration? What regeneration? I love Harlow. It’s hilarious that you have quit Dan. Talk the talk but you can’t walk the walk. Schoolboy error. Goodbye and good luck. My friends of the previous Labour council didn’t leave. Why? They can face themselves and say I did my best for the community I represented. How did you help Dan?

David Forman
2023-02-04 02:36:28

Sorry to see Dan quit. I remember meeting him years ago in the Houses of Parliament when he was Robert Halfon's apprentice. He will go far one day. However, the regeneration of the town centre, including the Strawberry Star development and the purchase of the Harvey Centre was also accepted by the Labour luvvies.

gary roberts
2023-02-04 07:16:39

Cllr. Leppard, always nice to hear from you again. I just wish you had put as much effort into your constituency needs like the well-being hub and the return of local council services as you do on this organ. So the regeneration plans agreed by Cllr. Swords will go ahead so hold your front page Your Harlow for the next u-turn. And has anyone seen the leader of the council?

2023-02-04 07:36:23

This is a shame, Dan is one of the most straight talking people I met who had voice of the council. He is passionate about Harlow and the regeneration presentations given he has give show that he understands the town and is realistic... Almost completely the opposite for the views of hggt who are trying to shoehorn their way in with their vision..

Nicholas Taylor
2023-02-04 08:41:44

James, I have asked before, where can we find the business plan and financial analysis so we can judge if our money has been spent wisely?

Bruce Downey
2023-02-04 09:05:17

It seems to me Dan., after being humiliated, he mulled it over and slept on it and come to take the brave decision and resign.Throwing a googly to his colleagues, in other words up yours.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-02-04 10:06:00

Chris, I don't think a bloke aged 23 is likely to have a good understanding of the town and lets not forget he is at the heart of the Council who are a major player in HGGT. Comments like we will have the best cycle track in the world, the best town in the UK and the best Town Centre in Essex just smacks of electioneering and is mostly hot air. The strangest thing is, that at a time when tens of millions of pounds are available to regenerate the Town Centre, he has jumped ship. Perhaps like many of us, we think that the recent £20 million grant won't go as far as it was intended when the grant was applied for some 3 years ago due to the huge increase in materials and labour costs since then.

Kim Oconnor
2023-02-04 10:24:36

Well said Nicholas. James where do we find the business plan.????

2023-02-04 11:08:40

Nicholas - good looking finding the business plan, I did a FOI request for data such as this and it was rejected as it would take too much time. It is not like they are spending our money. They never should have bought the Harvey center. It will end in disaster.

Bruce Downey
2023-02-04 11:31:50

🙄 Doom and gloom merchants, disaster this, disaster that..🥱

Johnny Boy
2023-02-04 12:09:54

James, my personal credentials have nothing to do with you. Boris Baby pushed for a purchase of the HC at virtual asking price when property prices have been graphing down. Borrowing money from other councils. The now bankrupt Thurrock did the same, and their business plan was lovely and shiny I'm sure. The whole deal was done behind closed doors with no independent scrutiny. Much of the hope value is resting on other private land owners following through on their promise of regeneration which has not happened for many years.

James Leppard
2023-02-04 13:09:06

Nicholas and Kim, I will see what can be published on this matter. Personally, would be happy to go through it. Will revert.

James Leppard
2023-02-04 14:06:59

Johnny Boy, your reply tends to suggest you have no serious investment appraisal or financial modelling experience. There was painstaking due diligence, independent financial assessment and scenario analysis using industry standard risk weighting and financial stress testing and full WACC modelling. Still, I am certain you are familiar with these practices. Be interested to see your full discounted cash flow analysis and pricing model.

Michael Hardware
2023-02-04 14:56:30

Dan has done some fantastic work for the town during his time - he has started the process to regenerate our town centre. It won't happen overnight, it will take many years, possibly over a decade, but he has ensured the first steps have been taken. Now someone else will take over that mantle and push onwards. The Government has faith in our plans and has so far allocated two £20million grants to assist with regeneration projects. It has also supported the Harlow & Gilston Garden Town, which will see the town grow significantly in the coming 30 years. It saddens me to see all the negative comments: progress is certainly being made - more in the last 18 months than all in the last 10 years put together - and there will be more to happen. We all want the same thing: for Harlow to be a great place to live and work, let's do this together.

Michael Hardware
2023-02-04 15:00:07

Chris, the Harlow & Gilston Garden Town (HGGT) is not trying to "shoehorn" anything. Harlow Council is one of the five members of HGGT and is instrumental in its vision and direction. It is a partnership between the five councils to facilitate the design and implementation of the Garden Town. Harlow is a garden town, and is at the cnetre of Harlow & Gilston Garden Town.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-02-04 15:29:22

Be interesting to see where there is any other town whose residents are served by two County Councils, three District Councils and where the nearest homes in one part are at least half a mile from the other. HGGT is nothing more than a developers charter to build homes in a field and call it a village. It is not the expansion of Harlow. Decisions have and are being made without any meaningful consultation with residents despite the dramatic affect they will have on where we work and live. It will be interesting to see if Dan makes any further comments on his resignation.

Johnny Boy
2023-02-04 15:29:43

Mr Leppard, I didn't realize my reply was being graded. I'll make sure to bring my a-level economics jargon with me next time (it does make you look very smart). I was not attempting to showcase my knowledge in those areas, but rather offering a more straightforward and concise viewpoint to the discussion. That being said, I am well aware of the importance of due diligence, scenario analysis etc in financial decision making. These practices are crucial in ensuring the accuracy and reliability of financial projections and evaluations. I have found them to be quite valuable in identifying potential risks and maximizing returns in my own business. I was under the impression that good judgement, market understanding, and common sense were also important in financial decision making, but it seems you think I was wrong. Shopping centres have been selling for much less than their asking price all over UK and I don't believe the HC deal was value for money.

Kim Oconnor
2023-02-04 16:44:39

Michael Hardware, it saddens me to think that you all voted against frends of Latton lsland, and many other groups and party's, to destroy this part of our river, with over 6,000 signatures against... and it saddens me to think that you will still call this a garden town. This will be a concrete monstrosity, killing of an entire Ecco systems. As I'm not against the regeneration of town centre, I do feel that the rest of this town, and its residents are are being let down very badly, the rest of this town is being neglected.. You don't hear us, you don't see us.. Not a very good recipe, and one heading for disaster for this town.

James Leppard
2023-02-04 16:59:51

Johnny Boy. Thanks. I can assure you that a considerable discount was obtained to the original asking price. Also, footfall in the HC is back to pre-pandemic levels. We also used a scenario where several major tenants left and the entire first floor was vacant.

2023-02-04 17:11:19

I've never understood why you are spending multi millions buying the Harvey Centre & regenerating the town centre when the council all voted on plans to build a monstrosity of a 4 lane road out of Harlow off toward Hertford & another routing people around away from the town?

2023-02-04 17:16:27

Perhaps Mr Swords would like to join the Green party? They seem to be the only ones who know exactly where they are going & seem to be the only viable, trustworthy option in the may election.

2023-02-04 18:49:13

James Leppard, could you get any more insulting you are a representative of the people who are rightly asking questions about the purchase of an asset in our names using ultimately our money. That asset is depreciating and had been for sale for a long time with no buyers, it has no anchor stores. Coupled with the history of council investment in shopping centers ending in disaster. Then there is what Thurrock did which is nothing short of criminal, it does not set a good heritage of council investments being a good idea. So please put all the analysis, considerations, business cases etc out to the public so they can be reviewed and independently considered. Of course if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. I suspect however, this will turn out to be a massive mistake of the council so how about putting your money where your mouth is and we both agree to pay £1000 to a charity of the others choice if the Harvey center purchase results in loses for the council within the next two years. Or are you only happy when your using tax payers money

2023-02-05 03:47:19

Simple bit of advice for Dan get out there in the real world and see what life is really like for ordinary people then come back to political life when your in your 40s

Michael Hardware
2023-02-05 15:29:43

Nicholas, you know better than that. Harlow is served by two councils, like most other towns: the district council and the county council. And HGGT is a partnership between those five councils to facilitate the design and delivery of Garden Town. As to consultation, yes, the last Labour administration did the barest minimum.

2023-02-05 16:55:37

Michael Hardware we pay for two council but you all do bugger all mostly apart from play politics. The roads are terrible you are on both councils as I understand it why are they in this mess ?

Nicholas Taylor
2023-02-05 17:13:05

Michael, the area covered by HGGT will of course be served by five councils as I said. Those living around Harlow are to be encouraged to use the services in Harlow but will of course pay nothing in Council tax towards them. Estates will merge with each other along the borders, on one side part of a road swept by EFDC the other by HDC. Same for litter picking hedge and grass cutting, bin collection etc etc. As for consultation, your administration is no better, Stort Valley comes to mind, as does Sherards House, Arkwrights garages ... and so it goes on.

Kim Oconnor
2023-02-06 09:49:27

Correct Nicholas.

Michael Hardware
2023-02-06 14:44:08

Nicholas, yes, you are quite right about HGGT and we hope they will come into Harlow and spend their money here. Not sure what Council services they will use though. We want those new developments to fully integrate with the town. Our consultation is much better with improved numbers of responses - the SCI was amended soon into our administration.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-02-06 15:59:19

Well Michael, with a new leisure complex being opened in Epping where undoubtedly EFDC Council tax payers will get a discount, a car park with 50 electric charging points, a Marks and Spencer, close proximity to Epping Forest, a new road heading south and of course the Tube station it might be a whole lot less people than you would hope. The residents will only look to Harlow if all the services I mentioned in my earlier post were being provided by HDC and not EFDC. As for consultation, well Sherards House is a good example of failure. Planning Permission has not yet been given or indeed anything heard by those objecting to the proposals and yet contractors turned up last Saturday and today and are busy cutting down nearly all the trees on the site!

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