Future of Harlow Council leader uncertain as senior colleagues spurn chance to give support

Politics / Sun 5th Feb 2023 at 01:40pm

THE FUTURE of the leader of Harlow Council remains in doubt after his fellow senior Tories have declined the opportunity to give him their support.

On Friday, the deputy leader of Harlow Council, Dan Swords resigned making a number of “indirect” criticisms of the leadership of his boss, councillor Russell Perrin.

Councillor Swords resignation is just one of a long line of departures since the Tories took over in May 2021.

The Chief Executive of Harlow Council Brian Keane retired.

Leader of Harlow Council Andrew Johnson steps down as leader.

Deputy Leader of Harlow Council Joel Charles demoted.

Portfolio Holder for Housing Simon Carter sacked.

Portfolio Holder for HTS, Properties and Roads Steve LeMay sacked.

Portfolio Holder for Regeneration Dan Swords resigns.

On Friday evening, YH contacted all the remaining portfolio holders (cllrs Mike Hardware, James Leppard, Nicky Purse, Joel Charles and Alasdair Gunn and asked them if cllr Perrin still retained their confidence.

Answers there were none.

We followed up with a text to ask if they had actually received the e-mail. Only one replied to confim they had (Nicky Purse) whilst cllr Joel Charles is away on holiday.

We also sent a number of questions to councillor Perrin.

We are conscious that many may think this is a local politics bubble story but we beg to differ.

For the avoidance of doubt, we wanted to know who was in overall charge of: Housing, Regeneration, HTS as well as all the roles a deputy leader would take on.

If a potential major investor rings up the council on Monday looking to speak to the relevant councillor, who is, the relevant councillor?

Again, no reply. We also sent a text to cllr Perrin on Saturday night. No reply.

If you question why we would expect him to respond or acknowledge a text late on a Saturday night, well he did send one to us on a Saturday night two weeks ago, asking if we would publish a story on pothole repairs on First Avenue (work by the way that still hasn’t been completed).

We are also being sent concerns and appeals from residents on a host of issues that we normally pass on to portfolio holders. On Saturday, a landlord expressed their concerns over conditions in a property in town and the lack of urgency from Harlow Council. Trouble is, there is no portfolio holder. Councillor Simon Carter was always (in our experience) very good at co-ordinating matters such as this. We spoke to the relevant Tory councillor who said they would bring it up at the next council meeting (next meeting is Thursday February 23rd).

Overall, this doesn’t seen to be a happy camp at the Tory Towers.

We have met Conservative members close to tears regarding how they felt person have been treated.

Others expressed their dismay at the no-show of the council leader at a vital cabinet meeting in November instead he attended (along with Robert Halfon) a political gathering in Cambridge. We were told this was a long standing invitation (councillor Perrin stood for parliament in Cambridge in 2019).

Some responded by, in the words of former footballer and Sky Sports pundit, Roy Keane “but this is your job!

Others, continuing the football theme, have compared it to Harlow Town FC having an important match and the manager hasn’t turned up as he has tickets for hospitality at Arsenal.

Indeed, that night, just four out of a possible eight portfolio holders turned up. It wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a great look.

The Conservative administration may well say that whatever one thinks is going on behind the scenes, that they are delivering on services for the town. All parties have their differences, splits, schisms and as long as they are delivering etc.

Why we are writing their possible lines of defence we do not know. Frankly, the fact that not one of them could pick up the phone and even have an off the record chat begs questions removed from the political bubble. But that is for another day.

The Harlow Conservatives will know the clock is ticking and may well have just fifteen months left to govern.

We say that as Labour would need to retain all their seats in May and take Old Harlow, Church Langley and Great Parndon and we can’t see that happening.

But in 2024, due to boundary changes, all 33 seats (three in each of the eleven wards) are up. Good luck on retaining the council. In fact, good luck in finding 33 Tories willing to stand.

But a day, a week, a month as Harold said, is along time in politics. We may move forward to the council budget in a couple of weeks and see what surprises that may bring.

Finally, the Conservative-run council ordered a review of communications at Harlow Council.

Luke: 4:23 comes to mind.

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16 Comments for Future of Harlow Council leader uncertain as senior colleagues spurn chance to give support:

2023-02-05 13:56:36

If Harlow Conservatives can't put a team of Councillors together to oversee the workings of the Council (and its clear from this chaos that they can't), then they should step aside.

Peter Henegan
2023-02-05 15:21:07

Politicians come and go, our town is here to stay. At first sight, this reads like a draft for Yes Minister, the reality is the situation is very relevant, and serious to Harlow, both current and future. I hope the Conservatives get their act together

gary roberts
2023-02-05 16:58:50

As in the article regarding Cllr. Swords I did ask where is the council leader. This is very serious given the bells and whistles announcements on the proposed regeneration funding of different areas in the town centre. All the important players' in these matters appear to have been sacked, resigned or gone missing. The losers in this play of egos are the residents again sadly.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-02-05 17:18:00

Labour must be rubbing their hands. I have lived and worked in Harlow most of my life and cannot remember an administration in such a state.

2023-02-05 18:27:04

It's very noteworthy that not one Tory Councillor has come on here to defend Mr Perrin. His leadership of the Council has been as chaotic as Liz Truss' leadership in the Commons. Hopefully, like Truss, he too will soon be gone. But, also like Truss, is there anyone else in the Conservative party fit to take over? I think not.

2023-02-05 18:48:41

I’m not that savvy on local politics but somethings didn’t sit right with me on how they outed Andrew Johnson once they come into power

Luke Burton
2023-02-05 20:48:57

But hey - at least these lot gave us a couple of quid as a so-called "efficiency dividend"!

Yasmin Gregory
2023-02-05 21:15:55

At the very least, there should be a Responsibility List of who to contact for these services, published on the council website. Whilst the councillors have resigned/stepped down/been demoted/moved aside, the problems still persist. If we are to direct all correspondence to Cllr Perrin, then this is the information that needs to be communicated to the residents of Harlow. You can’t expect the switchboard to triage all additional enquiries. It really is a very bizarre turn of events since the back slapping and whooping of last May’s election results evening.

Joe H
2023-02-05 21:40:09

I blame the left wing economic establishment

Harlow Gooner
2023-02-05 22:06:15

Good old Arsenal.

David Forman
2023-02-05 23:43:27

Perhaps Russell being an assistant headteacher is the issue. Maybe he forgets sometimes that he is dealing with adults. Russell has a wry sense of humour that some may interpret as sarcasm. I suggest the Tories take a deep breath and rally around the leader until such time as a new challenger emerges. The town needs to function.

2023-02-06 08:24:02

It's ok though, while the majority cannot do their job or communicate successfully they are still getting full pay and benefits. I wrote to the majority of those counsellors about an issue some 6 months ago, still yet to even get an acknowledgement of receipt. It's a very one sided partnership, if any. Regardless of sides, they come, they go, they spend, they retract, they try, they fail, they fail they fail and still get off. A reform of some kind needs to happen to politics and councils. Otherwise it's the same pantomime of disconnect council, but different political puppets convincing you of the story.

Kim Oconnor
2023-02-06 09:41:46

Oh dear .

Nicholas Taylor
2023-02-06 09:49:53

Chris, I would point out that Councillors do not get paid or any benefits as such. Most will have full time jobs elsewhere or are retired and most receive just a small allowance. Officers of the Council are paid to do a job and run the Council. I am afraid that the 20 year history of disconnect between the Council and residents has seen local offices closed, meetings involving residents, officers and Councillors closed down, being unable to see Council officers face to face and now officers working from home (which could be anywhere in the Country) has meant that those who are supposed to represent residents have little if any idea of the needs of residents other than those in their political bubble. The effect of this can be seen in what is happening now, different 'factions' within political parties at all levels, each at odds with each other.

2023-02-06 18:31:25

Here we go again Politics! Can I or should I remind the people of Harlow that whoever runs the council and despite whether they are Labour or Conservatives even a monster raving Loonie party member you are there voted for by the people of Harlow as councillors whom look after Harlow and there constituencies! All this nonsense about being Labour or Conservative is as boring as winning the lottery then finding out it was all a dream! Get on with the damn job Harlow residents put you in office for!!

Mark Gough
2023-02-10 23:28:35

The funny thing is anyone in the least bit surprised! Perrin has a pathetic record of both Political achievement (basically restricted to ridiculous big red pots in the market square) and doing his level best to do nothing at election time and damn near losing Sumners and Kingsmoor! In Andrew Johnson the Tories had a decent Leader. I know cos I served on the Council with him! Perrin has also knifed Joel Charles and Simon Carter and now clearly fallen out with Dan Swords! He owes everything he has to sucking up to Robert Half on and being his pathetic and utterly useless yes man. To Russell I say - In the name of God man - GO!!!

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