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Letter to Editor: Harlow Alliance Party response to Tory budget claims

Politics / Tue 5th Mar 2024 at 02:10pm

LETTER to the editor from the Harlow Alliance Party in response to the claims of the Conservative administration and statement from Cllr Swords.

It really is breathtaking to hear Cllr Swords trying to disassociate himself and the Conservatives group in Harlow from those at Westminster, which of course includes his own Conservative MP and the four Harlow District Council Conservative Councillors who are also Essex County Councillors.

Much of the problems facing this country and indeed Harlow are due directly to the policies his party have championed in recent years such as reducing the money given to councils resulting in many public services being cut, the huge reduction in the number of police officers, halving the number of council homes, allowing offices to be converted to tiny flats, the huge reduction in the number of NHS dentists and of course reducing road maintenance budgets leading to millions of pot-holes, to name just a few.

Cllr Swords and his Conservative administration will want to try and big up what it has done in the last three years but if like the Harlow Alliance Party you check many of the so called-facts you find that they are not all that they seem to be.

So let’s drill down into some of the issues from the recent past and in his post on yourharlow:

Council tax and running the Council.

If you have tried without success to talk to a council officer face to face who is responsible for providing a service, you might think that this is because they work from home. But in order to freeze Council Tax, in part this was achieved by not filling vacancies and deleting other posts in 2022/23 including for example benefit payment officers and planning staff, in all 62 staff from a total workforce of 450. Those with a trained eye will notice many issues of concern  in the town, only noticed when it directly affects someone. Whilst staff vacancies have reduced recently there is still a wide gap between residents expectations of the service and that which is provided.

Housing

When recently speaking in favour of the proposed changes to the housing allocation scheme, Cllr Swords said that no-one in Band 4 had been given a home in the last 5 years. However, in the tenants annual reports produced in the Harlow Times it is recorded that in the period 2016 to 2022, 45 applicants in Band 4 were given a home, 37 of these in the last 3 years. It is quite clear from the tone in the meeting that the Conservative administration has no concept of housing need, perhaps being so young Cllr Swords has no real life experience of living at home with his parents whilst earning an income which precludes him from renting in the private sector or being able to buy a house. As for “Homes for Harlow People”, well apparently a resident will become a Harlow person having resided in the town for 7 years instead of the current 5. As for those coming to Harlow from other Boroughs, well Conservative controlled Councils have also sent families to Harlow and of course it was Conservative legislation which created office conversions and all the issues which towns like Harlow now face. It is also worth noting that of the backlog of outstaning works, over 500 were duplicates or the work had already been done. Another claim is the reduction in the time taken to get vacant homes re-let, when in fact it is still longer than in most of the previous decade, excluding when Covid hit services.

Regeneration

The number of new Council homes planned by the Conservative administration is not dissimilar to that of Labour’s, both will leave the Council with less homes than in 2012. The Labour adminstrations plan for the town centre was also not dissimilar to that of the present administrations and many think the government test of ” Value for Money” in respect of the Playhouse Square may only have been achieved because the Conservatives were now in control of the Council. This plan will leave the town with a smaller live music venue than The Square, the smallest theatre in the region and less retail or leisure activity space than there was before. The Conservative plan for the Town Centre infers that as many as a dozen high rise flat blocks will be constructed, at least two are planned to be for investors to let. We all know what that has led to in the towns newest block near the train station.

Choice

The biggest choice the electorate have at the forthcoming election is not whether to vote Conservative or Labour but whether to vote at all. We hope that by providing an alternative, more people will come out to vote and give others the chance to work hard to improve things for those of us living in Harlow, 

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20 Comments for Letter to Editor: Harlow Alliance Party response to Tory budget claims:

Molly
2024-03-05 15:02:44

Well even from a brief read, I must say this letter is a looked better presented and researched than the hot air and nonsense presented by Labour's Tony Edwards. It a pity the Harlow Alliance Party are not standing in more wards to give voters a wider choice.

Alex
2024-03-05 15:59:09

Harlow Alliance Party certainly sound a lot more competent than Harlow Labour as an opposition.

Jack
2024-03-05 17:24:29

What is the Alliance party's attitude and policy towards Newham and other London boroughs getting property in Harlow and shipping their problems here, taking advantage of our cheaper property and accommodation costs and prejudicing our own people? This is something many people are concerned and angry about.

Tom
2024-03-05 18:19:40

Can Nicholas Taylor provide evidence supporting all his assertions. Only one item under 'Housing' cites the 'Harlow Times'. Sources should be cited.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-03-05 18:37:19

Hi Jack, I speak as a former Housing Manager at Harlow and then Epping Council and for some time at the former I was the lead officer dealing with homeless applicants. The main key to the housing crisis is one of affordability, far to many people chasing fewer and fewer homes which are truly affordable. The number of council homes has fallen by half since 1980 (from 21000 to 9000 in Harlow) and legislation about a dozen years ago makes it easier for developers to claim they cannot afford to build affordable homes. Newham Council and it's residents are in a place where Harlow will be in a couple of decades or so, lack of land to build new homes on and sky high rents and house prices which cost more than the locals can afford. Most homeless families are not a problem, the problem is they cannot afford to rent or buy in the private sector where they live. The new flat block near the station was built by private developers who are looking to maximise their profit. Many others sit on sites until bigger profits can be made, just take a look at the boarded up sites around Harlow. In conclusion, there needs to be a radical change in the housing market, which sees a house as a home and not an investment. There is far more I can say in response to your question, to long to detail here. You can always contact me via our website www.harlowallianceparty.org

Nicholas Taylor
2024-03-05 18:56:12

Tom, 1) The information I gave with regard to staff numbers was provided in response to a question I tabled for the then Leader of the Council, Cllr Perrin. 2) All of the information given under the heading of Housing is a matter of public record, the duplicate jobs was again provided by a Councillor when I asked the question at a Council meeting and the same goes for house numbers. The issue of void turnaround numbers can also be found in old copies of Harlow Times. 3) The issues under regeneration are a matter of fact, found in documents at the council since 2019 and of course the recent planning application for the Playhouse Square. Members of the Harlow Alliance Parting have ben asking searching questions of Councillors at either Cabinet meetings or Full Council since 2018, until we came along hardly anyone member of the public did. They are all to be found in the minutes of these meetings. We have been cutting through the smoke and mirrors produced by both Labour and the Tories. We already have a list of questions for the next cycle of meetings.

David Forman
2024-03-05 19:03:43

I bet Labour's leaders Chris Vince and Tony Edwards wish they could read council documents and then present a coherent, flowing argument like the Harlow Alliance Party have just done. Perhaps HAP are the real Opposition in Harlow! Move over Labour, especially in Sumners & Kingsmoor ward.

Allan
2024-03-05 20:38:00

David Forman and others have made some interesting points. Harlow Alliance seem far more engaged than Harlow Labour who just seem to think they will ride on the national coattails. That is wrong. Whoever runs Harlow Council runs exactly that. They have no influence on National politics. All Harlow Labour talks about are national issues , which are totally irrelevant to the local elections. Seems their only aim is to get Chris Vince elected as MP. How can he be the leader of Harlow Labour and the Parliamentary candidate?? Harlow Alliance should up their game and stand in more wards.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-03-05 20:56:44

Allan, our membership is open to anyone who shares enough of our views and policies, via our website and we would consider after an interview allowing a person to stand as a candidate for HAP. One of the key issues for smaller Parties is the matter of financial resources,. The Tories have spent thousands of pounds in producing their election leaflets, which have been going out since the beginning of the year. I am very pleased to say that Michael Casey of yourharlow has always given HAP the chance to air it's views in a timely manner.

Jake Shepherd
2024-03-05 21:30:00

Slightly unfair re: comments about engagement in public meetings. I myself have asked frequent questions or FOI requests and indeed have one question tabled this month for full council. In terms of expertise, like many cross-party colleagues Harlow Labour has a broad range of candidates from various backgrounds. In fact I believe every party in our town (bar UKIP/Reform) can boast members/candidates/Cllrs with a wealth of experience and knowledge. I for one very much believe in our town's motto, "In Common Endeavour", and if elected look forward to working cross-party where possible and in accordance with the party whip system. Harlow Labour is offering a bold, viable and positive alternative to the current administration, and I very much implore residents, businesses and community groups to give us a fair hearing. With best wishes, Jake Shepherd @jdashepherd Labour Candidate for Passmores (formally Toddbrook Ward)

Tiredoffailedpoliticalnorms
2024-03-05 21:33:40

Thank you HAP and Nicholas Taylor for setting this out so clearly. Nice to see at least some folk are looking out for the town!

Alex
2024-03-05 21:47:00

Jake, I do not mean be unduly unfair and accept your sentiments at face value. However, you claim that "Harlow Labour is offering a bold, viable and positive alternative to the current administration,..." However, as is usual no specifics or details are provided. Like Chris Vince on Budget night, you basically asking voters to give you a blank cheque blind. Not really reasonable or credible.

David
2024-03-05 23:19:41

In Netteswell, we only ever seem to get a choice of Labour and Conservative. Never see them. Is Harlow Alliance planning to stand. I think they would get a lot of votes.

Bruce Downey
2024-03-06 06:54:01

N. Taylor, like his past likes to run the show..Complains about everything the council is doing..including regenerating the town centre, eg: Bus station, playhouse, music venue etc. and how everything is wrong, and he’s right..💤 Not.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-03-06 08:31:04

Bruce, for once you have actually got it right, HAP do not agree with what both Labour had and now the Conservatives plan for the Town Centre, regeneration based on a coffee shop environment, huge tower blocks, spending millions on a new bus station, less shops, no space for large leisure venues etc etc. Our view is a totally different one, nothing wrong with that, the other parties think we are wrong and they are right. Our views are at least based on facts, the other two Parties on maybes and hopes. Their legacy remains to be seen all around us, boarded up sites and hundreds of families living in tiny former office blocks

Nostradamus
2024-03-06 09:46:18

Nicholas if Harlow Alliance Party went Green and formed a broader based Alliance both Parties might actually get somewhere.

Jack
2024-03-06 12:19:09

Nicholas , thanks for your reply regarding Newham council and the threat to Harlow. However, your response is not dissimilar to what I would expect from Labour... in short, no determined action to stop this assault on our town. We need politicians who will stand up and fight for our town, not lament from the sidelines. Whoever stops this gets my vote and of many others. Labour did nothing concrete to stop Terminus House except whinge. Harlow Alliance doesn't seem to different on one of the biggest issues affecting our town.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-03-06 13:22:16

Firstly, just an update on the original article. I have just received the latest Harlow Times. Readers will be interested to note that the council housed 33 applicants in band four in 2022/23. So much for Cllr Swords claim. Jack, the fact is that councils in London have been buying/building homes outside of London for decades indeed they have been buying homes in Harlow for some time. As things stand Harlow Council can do nothing about what has happened so far but it could stem the flow but it cannot because it has a blue print for the future for the Town Centre which includes many high rise flat blocks at least some of which are for buy to let. Where HAP differs is that we would put this blue print in the bin and draw up one which only includes low rise blocks, insisting that developers come forward with schemes that have a substantial number of affordable housing as identified in the Local Plan. The Conservatives existing plan includes the Sainsbury, fire station, bus garage and Wych Elm sites as part of the Town Centre, we would take them out because the Conservatives and Labour Party see these sites being vacated by the present occupants and then filled with even more high rise flat blocks.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-03-06 19:51:39

I should have said won't not cannot in my post above.

Kim Oconnor
2024-03-07 10:13:09

DAVID.. I'm a green party candidate for Netteswell. We are not government funded, as much as we would love to canvas for every area, our funds do not allow it.. unlike labour an Conservative which are government funded.

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