Ward by Ward: Church Langley: Conservative councillor looks to place in history
Elections / Wed 12th Apr 2023 at 11:37am
WE thought we would start our preview of the local elections with a look at Church Langley.
We start there as we think it should be relatively straight forward. That is to say: A Conservative hold.
However, in many ways, parties will be looking at the bigger picture and having an eye of the General Election in 2024.
If the Conservatives take a hit, an MP like Robert Halfon will want to look at how big?
In 2022, Nicola Purse won by over 800 votes, taking 69% of the vote.
The Tories will have an idea of good night/bad night, irrespective of defending the seat.
There could be a lot of property owners out there in Church Langley who will be still suffering from Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous November budget.
Whether that means people in Coalport Cost or Malkins Drive will go out and vote Labour or Green is a moot point in a local election but perhaps how many stay at home, may be a better indicator.
Councillor Andrew Johnson was first elected in the nineties and although still a young man, he will, if he wins, be the longest serving councillor.
As chair of the Council, he has been a wonderful ambassador for the town and has really embraced the whole ethos of being a chair.
But he has been missed in the heart of the meetings and many would welcome his return.
Many may know that there has been lots on the agenda at the Conservative-run Harlow Council. A lot of action and a lot of decisions. There also seems to have been a lot of internal fighting amongst the Tory group. We may see if things settle down or continue.
It will be interesting to see how The Green Party get on. Ben White polled 168 votes last time and may be hoping to get more than 200. We understand they will certainly be concentrating their efforts in the east of the town.
Andrew Johnson (Cons)
Mike Danvers (Labour)
Benjamin White (Green)
YH Prediction: Conservative Hold
Will you vote for Mr. Andrew Johnson? I suspect Mr. Danvers will have the Conservatives just a little worried given his economic competence and professional approach to council matters. It is not my Ward but the question I would ask Mr. Johnson is this: Is he proud of voting to close all the local neighbourhood offices in Harlow?
Andrews closed playgrounds in Harlow when he saw people in them in the pandemic. His argument there were ambulances outside PAH - that happens every year covid or not. He has sat too long in the council and should make way for younger newer ideas who do want to live up to conservative principals of freedom and not support human rights violating lockdowns. I am a natural conservative believe in low taxes, small state, freedom etc the total opposite of what the tory party has become I will be voting for anyone but conservatives
The problem with Harlow Council is that the same people year on year are elected and yet we are no further ahead! The Roads are broken, The hospitals are not meeting the needs of the residents, The town is a crime hotspot along with most of the hatches, Everywhere you look around the Harlow it looks sad and dated IE back in 50,s! It takes nothing to tidy the town up with new street signs unlike the faded blue ones we have currently! There are cars parked all over green spaces and if you take a look at little Pynchons you will see the massive mud bath on the green spaces!. The police do their very best but are under funded and under staffed and all we get is a few police covering Harlow at any given time! I could go on but I think you can see where I am coming from! They are supposed to be councillors not politicians yet the councillors argue over and over again and the residents are fed up with it! The Labour camp would'nt do this and neither would the conservative camp o and there is the green party you should all ride a bike end of all our worries! I give up and we will see when the next election takes place what our future holds!
I need to remind you of the facts again Gary, it was Labour that began to dismantle the decentralised system of management which saw the closing of neighbourhood offices. This began with the deleting of staff posts including mine as Neighbourhood Manager of Potter Street and Bush Fair in August 2000. The Tories of course never wanted to see these offices opened and supported Labour when they closed. Ask Mike, he will remember. The closing of area committees began the withdrawal of the contact residents had with their Councillors, quite simply the latter could not stand the heat and it led to the Tories taking control of the Council. Residents in three Wards have the chance to start seeing new faces in the council chamber by voting Harlow Alliance in May.
Terry Absolutely we need independents not career local politicians
Mr. Taylor, The facts: The residents' of Potter Street did not want the neigbourhood office to close. We organised a large petition that resulted in a council working group for which I was co-opted as the chair of the Potter Street residents' group. I had no voting rights. The working group consisted of Cllr. Simon Carter, Robert Thurston and the late Greg Peck. The ruling coalition [Conservative and Liberal Democrat] voted 2 to 1 to close the office. I don't remember you being on that group so I know who decided to finally close the offices. Those are the facts. They claimed that by closing the office[s] £1m was saved but where were those savings? Indeed given the closure of that building that is still empty after twenty years what was exactly saved in cash terms let alone residents satisfaction terms. Do you know as a former senior officer in Harlow council? Cllr. Johnson voted at full council to approve the vote of the working group. All I asked of him was: Is he proud he did that? No answers yet!
I had occasion to visit the town hall yesterday. I spent a decent while queuing at reception then had to queue at the payment desk. Being retired, this wasn't a big issue. The payment desk is being closed shortly. Now, I am all for efficiencies but it seemed to me that a lot of people were using that desk, perhaps people being hit hardest by the cost of living crisis. Given the comments about neighbourhood offices, above, I wonder if this closure is wise.
Gary Roberts, I am not sure readers will be very interested in our posts but there is a common theme running through this whole issue. The fact that residents did not want to see the offices closed but the Council took no notice and closed them anyway. Nothing has changed in the last 20 years, which is why the Harlow Alliance Party was formed. In 1999 the decentralisation of council services into neighbourhood offices was under extreme scrutiny by both Councillors, senior offices and others, many of whom had a vested interest. The future role of these offices was being discussed at the same time as a new political structure. As 2000 unfolded it became clear that much of the functions and certainly responsibility for services was going to be taken from those working in the neighbourhood and Councillors had been to the Beckton Globe which was a new "one stop shop" called a "contact centre". I saw the writing on the wall and found another job at Epping Forest DC where I started work on 21 August. A report just three weeks later dated 12 September was presented which basically neutered neighbourhood working, for all intents and purposes it became a dead duck. Less and less people went to the offices and with the opening of a contact centre in the civic offices there simply was (as far as the council were concerned) no need for local offices. What you allude to was really just going through the motions. The money "saved" did include a number of staff wages but it was also said that the offices could be rented out to raise income. As you say these offices remained empty for years. In conclusion, we are on the same page, the Council and Councillors takes no notice of what residents say, it takes the "we know best" attitude. Former Housing Manager at the Stow Housing Office 1985 to 1987 and Neighbourhood Manager for Bush Fai and Potter Street 1997 to 2000.
As Mr. Johnson is apparently proud of his record as a local councillor, I ask again: Is he proud along with his colleagues of voting to close local neighbourhood offices? It is important because I want the Potter Street office reopened and restored to provide all the council services it started including a cash facility. Any party that does that may well get my vote. And Mr. Taylor, I suspect Mr. Henegan would support that option based on his comment.
Gary, I am pleased to say that providing council services in the neighbourhood has long been an ambition of HAP. Early on in HAP's existence some members were not sure they could support such a proposal so we visited The Stow and Bush Fair to do a survey and in view of the overwhelming response we got from those shoppers we asked, those members in doubt were soon convinced that council services should be provided in local shopping centres. Doing so has the benefit of increasing footfall into the centres and more trade for shop keepers.
Cllr Andrew Johnson as chair of the council has shown how to professionally chair meetings with an in depth knowledge of standing orders and procedures. Certainly the best chairing of meetings I have ever seen.
Whatever the details and whatever the case we are where we are under the current administration: in an absolute mess. As for neighbourhood offices: had it not been for the last manager at Potter Street the Potter Street Football and Cricket Clubs (history back to 1861) would have not been able to drive the creation of a local community charity that's served many hundreds of youngsters and the community in this part of town. Neighbourhood offices were extremely valuable places where local politicians could be regularly held to account.
South East Harlow Sports &Youth Association est 1995 registered charity 2002 based in Church Langley would, as a local charity based on Church Langley Playing Field, very much welcome Cllr Johnson's support and invite him to visit with or before the High Sheriff of Essex's visit being planned this Summer.
PS should Cllr Johnson be elected. Otherwise equally welcome Mike Danvers or Ben White
There is and always will be a need for neighbourhood involvement as who knows better what local residents what is needed in their particular area. At the moment the Potter Street Health and Wellbeing Hub is providing a Warm Place in the Stow not ideal for Potter Street residents but still helping others. The next project is a Community Garden which hopefully will be in Potter Street but all of this could have taken place at Osler House in one central place not only serving Potter Street but South East Harlow which represents 29.5% of Harlow's population . Yes I fully understand the cost implications of repairing Osler House but like the neighbourhood office it will stay empty and unused when it could have been a Community asset
There is and always will be a need for neighbourhood involvement as who knows better than local residents what is needed in their particular area. At the moment the Potter Street Health and Wellbeing Hub is providing a Warm Place in the Stow not ideal for Potter Street residents but still helping others. The next project is a Community Garden which hopefully will be in Potter Street but all of this could have taken place at Osler House in one central place not only serving Potter Street but South East Harlow which represents 29.5% of Harlow's population . Yes I fully understand the cost implications of repairing Osler House but like the neighbourhood office it will stay empty and unused when it could have been a Community asset
So the Potter Street Health and Well-Being hub is in the Stow! That is ridiculous by any standards. Colin Really? No wonder that was kept quiet. The Potter Street residents' have been shafted again by its supposed own side. The Stow even has its own doctors' surgery. I am disgusted and disappointed at this news.
And lets say the two Conservative cllrs. for Harlow Common [Potter Street] helped in this disgrace. I can just see the Conservatives local election leaflet saying: Vote Harlow Common we got the Potter Street well-being hub set up in the Stow! You couldn't make it up. It is not funny at any level.
The mention of Osler House is a good indicator that in many ways the Tories are no different from when Labour were in power. The homes in Prentice placed stood empty for over a decade and unless someone comes up with £400,000 (and growing), Osler House will suffer the same fate. It could be argued that instead of reducing Council tax by about a third the price of a cup of coffee each week, providing a community centre to include a warm bank in Potter Street would have helped many people reduce their heating bills, far more than a third the cost of the coffee. Perhaps Cllr Leppard could tell us how much the Council Tax reduction actually cost the Council in 'lost' revenue and how much was 'lost' had the Council Tax increased by 3% in 2023/2024?
Gary the reason why the Hub is operating a Warm Place in the Stow is there was nowhere else for me to open one. To comply with the grant conditions the monies had to be spent by the 31st of March we actually opened on the 13th March after searching in Potter Street for a new venue but nothing was available after talks with the Potter Street Community Association for space failed. I'm as disappointed as yourself that despite all the Trust's efforts we seem to being blocked at every turn. I'm having talks on Wednesday 19th with Council Officers about the availability of land at the top end of Potter Street where we maybe able to have a Community Garden with a large shed as a base for the Potter Street Health and Wellbeing Hub again not the ideal solution but if I'm not to lose the funding I've worked hard to achieve at the moment the only one