So there I was, having a coffee, after a swim with my family, when someone who used to work with my dad, and lives in Harlow wanders by.

Of course we chatted and then the inevitable happened – The conversation turned to the Council. I ended up explaining, having been asked,  about the new bin system that we introduced in Harlow.

The people I was talking to were big fans of their bins, despite as they admitted being fearful to begin with; they now saw that the system made perfect sense.

I always find it funny that as a Council Leader you are never off duty….. I love it!

With all of the media frenzy about the Royal Wedding, and can I just say how pleased I am for Prince William and the future Princess Catherine, I suppose it was unsurprising to be asked for a quote about it as Leader of Harlow.

What I didn’t expect is that Harlow based bookie Joe Jennings would offer 5000-1 odds that the Royal Honeymoon will be here in Harlow!

What can any decent self respecting Council Leader do in such circumstances?

Head off to the bookies later for a punt of course!!

Tonight was one of those good evenings, where the Full Council in Harlow got to talk about the good things about Harlow; and the future.

Full Council is a chance for all of the councillors to get together and discuss important issues, move motions for consideration and ask questions of me as Council Leader, and the Committee Chairmen.

The First motion that I had put forward for discussion, was one that I was really proud to speak on.

It was granting the Freedom of Entry to the town by the Essex Yeomanry as part of our St. George’s week of celebrations. Its the first time that the freedom of entry to Harlow has ever been granted, and to do something to support our boys and girls, who are based in our town, we felt was important. The Essex Yeomanry, who have a 220 year connection with Harlow, are territorials and shortly due to head out to Afghanistan. We thought it would be a nice way for our community to show how valued they are. Its also nice to make it part of St. George’s week (note WEEK not DAY!).

Since taking control of the Council last year, The Conservatives have made a number of these small but important firsts. We have hung a portrait of Her Majesty for the first time ever, appointed the first Council Chaplain, and held the first ever Civic service. Now the first ever Freedom of Entry, with full parade raising money for the Armed Forces Benevolent Fund, Help for Heroes and the Chairman of the Council’s charity Child Victims of Crime. It promises to be a great day. So if you are in or around Harlow on the 25th April, then do please come to the town centre and see the parade!

What do you do when you take over a council and find out that its finances (which have never been good at the best of times), are in the direst of straights….?

What do you do when planning your first budget, your first real mark on the town, to find that your administration has to come up with over £4 million from a £16 million budget in 6 months?

Quit? I have to be honest it went through our my mind. Run round screaming and shouting, yes I did a bit of that too.

Then my mind went to that recently rediscovered poster from WWII “keep calm and carry on”. So typically British and at it’s root so typically Conservative.

Ok we had a budget that because of misuse and abuse by previous Labour and Liberal led administrations was in dire need of fixing, we had a budget that because of government meddling and dishonesty from “flash” Gordon was deteriorating fast. But good conservative principles HAD to come to the fore.

And that’s what we have done, and that’s what our budget later in February will deliver. There will be tough decisions. Not everyone will be happy.

But I have a Choice…. I can either do what every other Council Leader has done for years, nibble round the edge of the budget and not really touch the problem, trying to push it away to be dealt with by someone else.

Or I can bite the bullet and put the council’s finances on a sound financial footing once and for all and give us a chance to start again. It’s not a pretty choice, and as a politician in a town with elections every year, I understand why previous leaders have not had the guts to deal with the problem. I have to. I love my town, and I want it to get better, so I have to give it it’s medicine.