It may well sound boring, and sometimes I am sure we all do find it so, but one of the important things that happens every month in my diary, is the Harlow Conservative Group Meeting.  I just go back from this months meeting.

It’s  a regular meeting, where all of the Conservative Councillors in Harlow get together, to look at what has been done over the previous month, what is planned in coming months, get briefed by experts in certain fields and have policy discussions as well as pass on tidbits of information that other councillors may find useful.

Tonight we discussed the forthcoming budget, and although not yet in possession of the details of our councils support grant from government we were able to firm up a number of things that we have been looking at. We also of course discussed Thursdays full council meeting. Strangely the opposition have not submitted any motions or questions…. it must be near Christmas!

Cllrs Lee and Sarah Dangerfield have deceided to step down as Conservative Councillors on Harlow District Council. 

Since they were both up for Election in May 2011 anyway, there will be no by elections and the seats will remain vacent until then.

Lee has decided to stay as a councillor on Essex County Council.

I would like to thank Lee and Sarah for their hard work as Conservative Councillors both for their residents and the Conservative Party and I would like to wish them well for whatever they do in the future.

Off into London today, to a Conservative Councillors Association event, at which Eric Pickles will be guest speaker. I hope to find out a little more about the CSR and put some meat on the bones of what we already know.

We know it will be a tough few years in Local Government, and I hope that Eric, despite being a damn fine speaker, will be able to cheer me up with a few surprises of good news that I may not have heard about, but I suspect the main thrust will be pointing at councils who are sharing services/management tiers in an effort to save money.

All the more reason why we need to pass the paper on Shared Services with Uttlesford council on the 4th November.

Tonight was the first meeting of the Executive Committee of Harlow Council, part of our new way of working in Harlow. I think overall it was a success.

The meeting was well attended, only one Lib Dem apology, but a number of other Labour and Conservative Councillors who were not members of the committee also turned up to speak and ask questions. There were even some members in the public gallery, which is always nice to see.

Two main items of business, establishing the working groups and naming their Chairmen and members. I now have my full team in place and we can effectively get to work. I want to see the decision making process streamlined so will be watching very closely over the next couple of months to see how it works.

The other key item of business was to kick start the discussion on moving to a formal different model of control, and we agreed to ask full council to go to a period of consultation on this. I really do think the opposition thought that it was a sown up and done deal, but I hope I persuaded them that I really am interested in what the public have to say about this. I am not sure if the people of Harlow will care a great deal about the differences between committee structure and cabinet may be but I want to hear what they have to say about both of them and the mayoral system as well. I want to consult the community, the business community the faith based communities. In fact I want everyone in Harlow to have a chance to have their say.

After that it will be up to the politicians, of all colours, to listen to the will of the people. I hope the opposition will agree to listen as much as I will expect my group to.

Tonight I was a guest at the Environment and Community Committee.

There were a lot of people in the audience and it was a heated meeting; then again it always was going to be. Parking is an extremely emotive issue.

What made the situation worse, was the attitude and position of the opposition councillors.

When I led the opposition, if we opposed an issue we always offered a suggestion for what we would do instead, or how else we would solve the problem. I think that’s the role of a responsible opposition and it gives the public a chance to know what your party “thinks” on issues.

Tonight we heard a lot about what the liberals don’t like, a lot about what they are against, but nothing positive in it’s place. No suggestions. No alternatives. Just abuse to the administration.

I shouldn’t be surprised really; it’s what they did on budget night too. Criticise but offer no alternative.

What the Conservative Councillors did tonight, was to explain in detail why we have the problems with car parking that we do, why enforcement is needed and what we did with the consultation responses received.

We listened. For the local shopping areas we suggested an hour of free parking. We suggested creating dedicated spaces for businesses and that their staff could have annual permits, for less than £1 a week. We have even started to create extra car parking for businesses in a disused council depot area.

Not everyone was happy, but not everyone ever was going to be on such an emotive subject, but we showed that we were willing to listen to people.