May 17 2012 by Catherine McShane, Harrow Observer
Need consensus, not cheap politics
I WISH to reply to the comments by Bob Blackman (‘MP slams Council over schools error’), Harrow Observer, May 10.
Referring to Harrow Council, he states ‘the responsibility is theirs to supply the data to the Department for Education’.
This comment re-iterates his ill-informed statement in the House of Commons that ‘Harrow Council had failed to supply the data, and therefore received no money’.
Harrow Council did supply the relevant data to the DfE, on time and in the format they requested as confirmed by Sir George Young in his answer to Bob Blackman’s question.
It is also incorrect to assert that Harrow Council received no money as a result. The DfE has been clear that Harrow will receive funding in this allocation. It is the amount of that funding that is under review.
The space available for extra pupils in our schools, the ‘net capacity data’, and the GLA projections of expected pupil numbers in future years has been calculated and submitted in this and previous years in the same way as has been done under previous Labour and Conservative administrations.
Following clarification with DfE about the method used to allocate funding, officers immediately reviewed, revised and re-submitted the net capacity data.
It was this action, that we believe should benefit Harrow in the long term, that delayed the announcement of Harrow’s allocation. Officers have also met at the DfE with the relevant civil servants.
Harrow, like many other London authorities, has always used the GLA’s figures for the number of expected pupils.
If Bob Blackman had asked to speak to senior officers, or indeed myself, he would have been given the facts and figures so he could put his efforts into lobbying Michael Gove on Harrow’s behalf and not making unnecessary slurs on our officers. No such communication took place.
Mr Blackman was written to via email in January expressing concern over the poor allocation to Harrow of only £120,000 out of a national settlement of £500 million, with a plea to assist with lobbying Michael Gove. This was not acknowledged.
It is a great shame that Mr Blackman has no interest in supporting Harrow’s cross-party consensus on education in Harrow and has now resorted to cheap political point scoring.
I call on Mr Blackman to apologise immediately to all of Harrow’s hard-working officers for the unwarranted slur on their competence.
Portfolio Holder for Schools and Colleges
London Borough of Harrow
This is a ‘massive’ not ‘minor error’
BOB Blackman is quite right to highlight the actions of Harrow Council in failing to submit a credible application for funding for additional education finance (‘MP slams council over schools error’, Observer, May 10)
It beggars belief that Harrow’s corporate director for children’s services could say ‘we have acknowledged some minor errors in our initial submission and have carried out the additional work necessary to correct them’.
The original bid was for four extra classes in 2011 and one additional in 2012; this has now been changed to eight and 10.
This cannot be described as a ‘minor error’, it is a massive error and it has potentially cost our children millions of pounds in lost funding.
I say potentially because I believe that Bob Blackman will be able to persuade the Education Secretary to provide the funding.
Our children should not be allowed to suffer because of these actions.
Coming on top of the failure to control capital expenditure at Whitmore School this leads me to the conclusion that resignations are required from both the director and portfolio holder.
Let us see a return to the days when officers and politicians admit their responsibilities for their staff and their errors and fell on their swords.
Also, I note that Gareth Thomas will be campaigning alongside Labour-run Harrow Council to deliver a primary modernisation programme. Do I infer that were Harrow Council Tory run he would not campaign?
A former chairman of governors and retired Ofsted Inspector
n The current director of children’s services and portfolio holder for schools were not in those roles during the mismanagement of the capital expenditure at Whitmore School.
Why spend money on IT, Mr Thomas?
IN HIS latest Animal Farm-style letter, Gareth Thomas MP talks about schools; specifically school modernisation.
He mentions ‘Building Schools for the Future’; a now defunct modernisation programme started by the previous Labour government and which could most kindly be described as well-intentioned but cumbersome.
Therefore, he should remember one of the first decisions Harrow Council’s Labour administration made regarding school modernisation, given it involved BSF funding.
In July 2010, portfolio holder for Schools Councillor Brian Gate complained about the scrapping of BSF, because ‘desperately needed repairs’ were necessary at some Harrow schools.
Later that same month, despite Conservative objections, he and his Labour colleagues voted to spend £450,000 that had been earmarked as BSF reserve funding on the council’s costly new IT contract. Not on schools.
Not on improving facilities for our children. On computers, for themselves.
So why did Gareth Thomas stay silent? Why did a politician who says he wants each child in Harrow to ‘have the best possible start in life’ say nothing when school funding was spent on IT equipment?
Surely Gareth Thomas’s silence really isn’t as straightforward as ‘Labour good, Conservatives bad’?
Conservative Group Deputy Leader
All creatures are here for a reason
CONCERNING Samantha Samsons letter regarding the water rats (Observer, April 26) I agree with her!
Rats don’t seem to be a problem, they usually remain in their own area, don’t bother people and do no harm. I believe that all creatures are put on this earth for a reason.
There were some on the pond at Walpole Park in Ealing, they seem to have completely disappeared and the children were asking about them.
Samantha is right, leave nature alone.
Grey is the new green in wheelies
WE RECENTLY had the unfortunate experience of having our old, original green coloured (and large) wheelie swallowed by the council garbage truck.
No, honestly – one minute it was there, lovingly holding all our standard, non-recyclable garbage, the next moment it was gone – into the bowels of the garbage truck with no trace.
I spent about 20 minutes wandering up and down the street peering into the neighbours’ gardens and driveways looking for it.
Eventually I phoned Harrow Council who told me they were already aware of this, as it had been reported by the men from the truck. It would have been nice if they could have left me a nice old fashioned note.
Fast forwarding two months – yes, that is how long it has taken to get a replacement, despite numerous calls to the strangely titled ‘Public Realm Department’.
Low and below, yesterday as if by magic, the new bin appeared on the drive. But wait, its not green like the old one – its grey!
Have they delivered the wrong one? Will the binmen condemn it (and me) and not remove it? Do I have to wait another two months to get the right bin?
After yet more calls to the council’s PRD I have deduced that we now have the following: A grey bin that is the new ‘green’ bin; a blue bin for green refuse; and a brown bin for that does not take either ‘green’ or non-green refuse, but only green refuse.
Praising the good work of the Met
A Letter to Harrow Borough Commander
WE HAVE not yet met, but I have been an ICV (Independent Custody Visitor) to Harrow Police Station for the past 12 years and I would like you to convey my thanks to all the custody officers, both past and present, who have been most helpful, courteous (and at times humorous) to me on my many visits.
Their attitude has made my visits both interesting and enjoyable and they have dealt with any problems raised with the utmost efficiency. I am sure you know that you have a very good team there.
I am writing this to you, as all too often people like to complain but not many write to praise the work done by the Met Police.
PETER G MORRIS
Gay hate crime is on the increase
TODAY (May 17) marks the International Day Against Homophobia; a global day of recognition to commemorate the World Health Organisation’s decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
While great progress has been made in tackling the oppression and discrimination that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community faces in London – progress that capitals around the world should aspire to – homophobia remains a shameful fact of life.
While the last 12 months has seen a drop in homophobic crime across greater London as a whole, attacks in certain parts of the city have soared.
Latest figures from the Metropolitan Police show that gay hate crime has increased by a staggering 104 per cent in the borough of Greenwich, 69 per cent in the borough of Hackney and 20 per cent in the borough of Westminster.
With IDAHO here today,it is timely to renew our pledge to continue the fight for true LGBT equality here in the capital.
We all have a role to play in developing a society in which this kind of intolerance and violence is rejected outright.
GREEN MEP FOR LONDON
Voters liked Boris on his honesty
BOTH towards the end of the campaign and after the re-election of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London, those on the losing side complained about the election focusing too much on ‘celebrity’ instead of policy.
While Boris does indeed share a distinctive characteristic with both James Bond and Alfred Hitchcock – in being instantly recognisable by silhouette alone – policy debates were very much at the heart of this election.
Boris, in both his attitude and policies towards outer London, has been a world apart from Livingstone.
In Harrow and beyond, Boris delivered funding and investment through the Outer London Fund and other initiatives; helping boroughs to revitalise town centres and improve roads and transport links.
He even added to our green spaces by planting more trees.
Across London, voters liked Boris’s honesty on tough issues like fares and transport investment, and his commitment to lowering the cost of City Hall.
They didn’t like Ken’s fag-packet promises of fare cuts, and his pledges made on issues over which the Mayor has no control.
Now that the electorate has delivered its verdict, one hopes that while the silhouette of Boris Johnson becomes a true symbol of London’s future; that of Ken Livingstone finally becomes little more than a shadowy reminder of its past.
COUNCILLOR SUSAN HALL
Leader of Harrow Council Conservative Group