Letter to Editor: Harlow Tories: “Oh what a circus, oh what a show”

General / Mon 15th May 2023 at 07:47am

AS a child I loved the circus, particularly the acts with the real skills, talent and daring like the trapeze artists and the fire-eaters but I never much cared for the clowns.

The Conservative administration in Harlow Council may have a new ringmaster but the headline acts are deserting the big top. Cllrs Joel Charles and Nicky Purse have quit their posts leaving a much diminished pool, or puddle, of talent from which to select a Cabinet.

The new leader, Cllr Dan Swords, was selected on the same day as Liverpool hosted Eurovision. The parallels are clear for any follower of either politics, the song contest or both. Watching both events unfold left me asking the question ‘if this is the best they can offer, who did they reject?’

Cllr Swords recently quit his Deputy Leader role with a stinging rebuke of the lack of leadership and disgruntlement at the direction of travel for his party. 

With this comeback he now has to deliver a new direction and focus at the same time as lying in front of the bulldozers in Purford Green whilst wearing his Batman costume. If he doesn’t his petulant departure will be exposed as little more than the posturing for position that we all suspected was behind it in the first place.

The world-class cycle paths he promised are nowhere to be seen.

Regeneration is nothing but a demolition site pipe dream so far.

Where are all the new homes they promised?

Where is the new Health Security Agency campus? 

Where is the long promised new hospital?

The broken promises of this Tory administration already have Dan’s fingerprints all over them, he’s got nowhere to hide now.

For the sake of Harlow I wish Dan well in his endeavours but in doing so it rather feels like offering congratulations to Capt Edward Smith on his appointment to the command of RMS Titanic; except in this case the captain knows there are many obstacles ahead and navigating them will be a huge challenge.

Cllr James Griggs

Netteswell – Labour

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16 Comments for Letter to Editor: Harlow Tories: “Oh what a circus, oh what a show”:

Tim Quinn
2023-05-15 08:43:25

The function of a circus being to entertain, the function of a local council being to maintain the wellbeing of the town............the trick being to be able to tell the difference. Vote for the clown and there's a fair chance you'll get one................

Kim Oconnor
2023-05-15 09:18:49

Strange thing is, when Labour was in Harlow, I don't remember it being any different. Labour who actually set the plans in stone , for the destruction of our only peaceful place in Harlow, the river stort valley. As a cyclist, the cycle tracks were still awful when Labour were in. The council house's built, were about 22, correct if wrong, but don't think much more. Labour seem to think they have it in the bag. I think watch this space, the greens are growing stronger, up and down this country, people have had enough of the vandalism of our lands, wildlife habitat s, and Ecosystem s.

David Forman
2023-05-15 10:22:29

For Kim O'Connor's benefit, it doesn't matter how many council houses get built by either party if the Right To Buy sales exceed them. Looking at Harlow Council's Statement of Accounts for the 10 years from 2012/13 to 2021/22 reveals 253 council homes sold under RTB. In the first year of current Conservative control 49 homes sold under RTB. See accounts at https://www.harlow.gov.uk/your-council/spending-and-performance/statement-accounts

Nicholas Taylor
2023-05-15 10:57:32

David, this matter has been raised by the Harlow Alliance Party (HAP) in the past by way of questions to Councillors. The number of homes sold under the Right to Buy (RTB) is huge in Harlow compared with for instance in the Epping Forest DC area. Many more homes have been disposed of by the Council during the period you mention and any boom in home building will not as things stand replace those numbers. That is why we in HAP say that every home the Council builds should be for older people with services which mean they cannot be sold under the RTB. In due course the houses which the Council intend to build will be subject to RTB in the future and could be lost to the Council stock. The current proposals for Sherards House is a good example of this.

2023-05-15 15:01:20

There are several ways in which I do not consider either Labour or Conservatives are 'up to scratch'. One big problem for past years has been potholes where too many people think the problem is with Harlow Council, whereas it is Essex County Council who are the offenders. Yet Cllrs. Garnett, Hardware, Johnson & Souter appear to just collect their (considerable) expenses from ECC (and HDC) but appear to keep quiet about this continuous public outcry - why?

Michael Hardware
2023-05-15 20:00:13

Paul, thanks for the mention - rest assured, your county councillors have been busy reporting problems and lobbying for more money, sucessfully I might add. This is why you are seeing the work that has been going on around the town over the past two months and is continuing to go on. That is why ECC has given extra cash at the Local Highways Panels for pothole and pavement repairs, and why the successful Member Pothole Scheme is going to be repeated. I spent four weekends last autumn with Cllr Souter driving around every single estate road in our division logging every pothole - perhaps you would like to come out with us next time? The pothole problem, and it is not just Harlow, or just Essex, it is the whole country, is the combination of 40 degree heat and then -12 cold with above normal rainfall causes road surfaces to deteriorate. It is not new, it happens every winter (more so this winter), but we have to explain this every year! There is little we can do to prevent it, all we can do is repair and renew.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-05-15 22:13:12

Michael, I really don't think it is the job of Councillors to be going round and inspecting roads for potholes, there are well paid Council officers who should be doing this. Spending your time away from your families at weekends is not something any of us should expect of Councillors. The key issue here is the huge increase in lorries travelling across the town on roads which were never designed to take such loads. What is of even greater concern however, if you take a look at the new road along from Gates roundabout, you can already see signs of wear, which with a hot summer and cold winter will soon become potholed. Another road taking a beating is Southern Way which is again showing signs of subsidence.

Sara Ringsell
2023-05-15 22:13:42

Not being funny, but I was homeless for ages, at least 7 weeks, sleeping on a bandstand. Nobody helped me. (In fact, a man from Zimbabwe, came to council for first time and was housed within 2 days). I am now in a tiny, tiny room, where my own grandchildren cannot stay as i haven't any room. Thanx to that, i haven't seen my grandchildren for 8-9yearsI am not a political person. But, there are so many homes going up for the wrong people. Im not racist or bias, but think of Harlow people. Please Please, within in the next 4-6 weeks. Please let me get a different home life. Even if I see my grandchildren again. Please

Sara Ringsell
2023-05-15 22:14:52

Not being funny, but I was homeless for ages, at least 7 weeks, sleeping on a bandstand. Nobody helped me. (In fact, a man from Zimbabwe, came to council for first time and was housed within 2 days). I am now in a tiny, tiny room, where my own grandchildren cannot stay as i haven't any room. Thanx to that, i haven't seen my grandchildren for 8-9yearsI am not a political person. But, there are so many homes going up, Im not racist or bias, but think of Harlow people. Please Please, within in the next 4-6 weeks. Please let me get a different home life. Even if I see my grandchildren again. Please

Cllr James Griggs
2023-05-16 07:38:37

At the time Cllr Hardware was doing his drive round HDC had a Cllr with ‘special responsibility for roads’, Cllr Steve LeMay, but there’s no mention of him being included in the excursion. Do the Tories not talk to their colleagues? The repairs undertaken on Momples Road are already falling apart so I guess we should expect similar failings in a few months for those potholes that were urgently patched up before the recent election. Cllr Hardware proudly claims additional funding having been provided to repair what pass for roads in Harlow. If he and his ECC colleagues were doing their job properly and regularly maintaining our roads there may not be the need for such special funding. Lucky for him they committed that funding before he and his colleagues voted themselves a pay rise at our expense. I hope when he undertook his drive round he didn’t damage his vehicle, or perhaps he would care to advise if he claimed for any damage and the mileage on his expenses?

Michael Hardware
2023-05-16 11:01:38

Thank you Cllr Griggs, as you are well aware, the Conservatives are not responsible for the weather. Potholes happen every winter, and it is not just in Harlow, it is the whole country that has the same problem. It seems I have to explain this to you and your colleagues every year! We have seen a very hot summer followed by a very cold winter with above average rainfall, which has caused rather more damage than usual. ECC and your county councillors have been working to resolve all these issues, and there has been significant work in Harlow both recently and going forward. The Member-led Pothole Scheme was for the county councillors to execute in their divisions, not Cllr LeMay who is a district councillor, although he was fully aware of the scheme and very supportive of it. The scheme will be repeated later this year.

Peter Scally
2023-05-16 12:39:40

Cllr. Hardware will know that potholes have been a major problem year after year - not just this past Winter. So have demolished road signs. In Church Langley Way three signs were demolished in 2021 & 2022 yet remain on the ground to this day. The answer is because ECC Highways have an unacceptable policy which I have challenged since before Covid, but Councillors have so far ignored considering an improvement in ECC policy - Why? At present their policy does not include any final completion timeframe which will continue to be the case in the future unless they act to rectify the unacceptable situation voters have endured for far too long. I am of the opinion that ECC senior staff may have hoodwinked our Harlow Councillors and even Cllr. Scott who knows the full history since he became directly involved. Our MP has acted on the existing potholes, but what is needed is longterm improvement in Highway policy. If this is not dealt with we will be back to 'square one' in less than a year. [It does not involve merely lack of finance.]

2023-05-16 13:11:41

And yet again here we are, another party slinging match. This is the first time I've posted after being sent a message from the editor about using a real name. To which I pointed out it was my real name, which ran around the time of the election. In all honesty if I could have voted for a no confidence in all parties I would have done so, but I'm forced to play the theatre in order to "contribute". The theatre that is mud slinging of "they didn't do when in power, they haven't done while in power" spending time to quantify and back up their statements. Look at the quality of the party manifestos this year, most were pointing out others failures. But few spoke about what is important to them, the town or the people! That's right us the public that are told we are free to vote and do what we want, as long as it is curated around the framework of the party and ethics, where the local councillor is the puppet to listen to the concerns of the peasants. If it's going to get them enough recognition will act and then add it to the pot of "but I did this and achieved this for your area". Totally sickening that hard earned money is paid in tax to support tit for tat childish behaviour. I'm expecting this post to be removed as it's not in keeping with the political agenda or bias, but sharing expresses my frustration and dispair since it's mental health week awareness and I've been very stressed this year as a result of "the council" to the point of a breakdown with little support from local counsellors. Keep arguing kids. -Working together for Harlow/ In common endeavour-

2023-05-16 18:17:26

This constant party slinging match has put so many off politics, so now only one in four vote. If only they would work together to improve rather than boast!

Harry Hill
2023-05-17 15:56:15


Cllr James Griggs
2023-05-18 16:33:43

Stan, I have long advocated cross party working where possible. To that end I asked to work with the current administration on the Disability Charter brought to the council in the autumn of 2022. At that time I was told by the Leader of the Council that he would invite me to join a working group to take this forward. Nothing has happened thus far, not one thing! Perhaps the new leader will prove to be better at collaborative working, he certainly couldn’t be any worse than the outgoing one.

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