I went up to Cambridge last night to participate in the BBC One show Our Economy.

The show gathered a panel of 20 experts, business men and women, entrepreneurs, academics and politicians from the region to talk about the economic outlook, and what we were each doing to help the economy.

I was proud to be there representing Harlow, particularly as it has been revealed that Harlow is the most economically prosperous town in the UK, fighting back with the strongest business growth in the UK.

Its great that Harlow is managing to produce so many new businesses, which is partly down to our great location; nestled between London and Cambridge next to two motorways and with the airport just up the road. But it is also due to the Council’s business friendly attitude, and our desire to work with the business community.

It’s really pleasing to see a Council Policy that I insisted on bearing fruit.

WHILE it goes against the grain to criticise a fellow Conservative Council, the BBC Radio Five phone in presenter had backed me into a corner. Did I disagree with Surrey County Council for raising council tax by almost three per cent? My short and sweet answer – yes.

Let me hasten to add, I have no issue with Surrey – I understand their budget issues. They are not alone in refusing the Government grant to freeze the council tax.

Things are no easier in Harlow. We are staring down the barrel of an 11.8 per cent cut in our funding, and our budget proposals for 2012/13 – announced on Monday night – had to cover a £1.8 million funding shortfall.

But Harlow Council will freeze the council tax, this year, and that is the right course for two reasons.

First: our residents are suffering an unprecedented squeeze on their household budgets. It hurts every time they visit the petrol station forecourt. They simply will not accept the town hall jacking up another bill.

Two – and this is my substantial point – there are things councils can do to cut back office costs and find innovative ways to save money.

So what did we do in Harlow?

Well, we turned the Big Society into reality by finding new providers for our most popular services – like the museum, the town zoo and our nature reserve. Transferring these services to voluntary or charitable organisations has saved us three quarters of a million pounds. Further big savings have come from cutting one senior management post (£100,000); changing the way we manage planning and public enquiries (£300,000) and moving housing staff from another office in Harlow to our civic centre (£60,000).

Sharing services will also hopefully pay dividends. We are working with a nearby District Council to merge our revenue and benefits teams and save a projected £500,000.

I won’t go on, but you see the point. My authority is as strapped as any other but we are cutting the back office with a minimum impact on the front line.

Amidst this, we will actually spend money too – for example, £11,000 on tidying up projects in every ward, to be chosen by our residents. We are setting up a £30,000 fund to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, the arrival of the Olympic torch relay in Harlow and our town’s 65th birthday (Harlow was designated as a new town on March 25th, 1947). Our residents expect financial prudence, but I believe they also want to have some fun.

As a Conservative, I believe this approach – seeking new partners, cutting our costs and looking to offer services in a new relationship with the community – to be the right one.

Freezing council tax is now the standard, not the exception and austerity is sending us down a motorway without exits – to borrow the Tam Dalyell quote on devolution – where the financial speed limit will remain zero.

Acknowledge that, and the public will know you share their pain. Embrace it proactively, and you may even get their support.

The BBC have a story that Barack Obama has launched his campaign for re-election. We actually he hasn’t launched his campaign, in fact he is no where near it, but a few people in Middle America, who match certain demographic profiles and have no surnames have featured in an online vid saying why they think Obama needs to re reun, without exaclty giving any specifics…..


Where is the candidate himself, why is he not trumpeting the key achievements he has made so far and what he wants to do with another four years? Obama will soon be bogged down in campaign mode trading blows with potential republican oppositions and his official relaunch was the one moment to capture a nation, indeed a worlds attention and actually say something…..

For those of us not represented by Obama (the rest of the world!) the idea of four more years of dithering foreing policy and the dragging to the left of the US economy is a nightmare bad enough, but for those of us in Britain who still have respect for that “special relationship” its a nightmare not even worth pondering. Obama has consistently looked down on Britain and shown he has no interest in the special relationship, except when a chance to diminish it comes along. Take the Falklands for instance! The Obama administration has taken to using the Argentine name for them, if that was not a clear slap in the face for Britain then I don’t know what would be.

Perhaps Obama is not fronting his re-election campaign personally because he hasn’t really

I was on the radio again this morning, talking about a potential plan to save Harlow Council money around cutting the working time, which I will blog about later tonight hopefully.

I was once again on the Ray Clark Breakfast show on BBC Essex, and I have to say I enjoy Ray as a presenter, his show is often very witty, he has a forensic mind and he always asks a question that his guests (including I) were not really expecting – I suppose that’s what makes him interesting!

If you want to hear my clip this morning it can be found here at 1:40:00

Sitting here this evening, I am seeing weather reports from around the country saying snow everywhere…. worse weather reports from around the region say snow everywhere….

But in Harlow? Well the BBC Weather says its snowing here now… Sadly a look out of my window says otherwise.

Why does Harlow have it’s own micro climate?