Waking me refreshed from my exhausted Friday, my alarm on my phone has the words flashing at me “time for more leaflets!!!”

Is that just my mind playing tricks or has Mrs J (the other Councillor Johnson) been up to no good with my phone? Hmmmmm

In case you hadn’t realised from my previous blogs, we have a by-election coming up in Staple Tye ward in Harlow. The close of nominations for candidates is April 1st, but we already have our candidate chosen – Lorraine Calderella. She and her team have been working hard every day for months to knock on doors and deliver leaflets in the ward telling people about all the good work that the new Conservative council in Harlow is doing. Today we are having an action day to get a specific letter out to the whole ward and keep up the knocking on doors.

A team of about 20 people meet at the Party office at half nine and are all given handfuls of letters to deliver, those knocking on doors will be there at eleven (we try not to wake people early on Saturday) and lunch is provided from midday, before another session in the afternoon.

It’s a miserable day! Rain, hail and wind are all not great when you are delivering anything, as your hands get very cold and the leaflet/letter gets very damp. But we soldier on. Meeting residents in Harlow and getting information out to them is very important to us.

It funny but when you have a group together to do something like that there is often very good humour despite the weather, and so it is today. Which makes the bad weather bearable.

All in all a good day, with over 3000 letters delivered and two big estates knocked on.

OMG (for those of you not able to speak TXT that’s Oh My God!) what a week!

Monday is never my favorite of days…. alright its my least favorite of days… but this morning I feel like I am about to be hit by a hurricane.

My week consists of four very busy days of work in my full time job in the Health Service, onto which I am piling:

  • Audit and Improvement Committee meeting on Monday.
  • Policy and Resources Committee meeting on Tuesday.
  • One to One with the Chief Executive of the Council on Wednesday &
  • Meeting with the Chairman of the Local Strategic Partnership (Harlow 2020) and Chief Executive of Rainbow (she is double hatted) also on Wednesday.
  • Full Council on Thursday.
  • Full day in the Council on Friday, including a meeting with the Chairman of the local Hospital trust, the Harlow Youth Conference and a meet with the Chairman and Chief Exec of Harlow Renaissance…. to name just three of the many things during the day.
  • Friday night – no not a relax, but not Council business, I have a special Executive Meeting of the Party, followed by the AGM of the Party… and at some stage I have to write my report of the year as Deputy Chairman Political of the Harlow Conservatives.
  • Weekend consisting of campaigning for the By-election, we have an action day on Saturday if anyone wants to help beat the Lib Dems in an election.

Mrs J (the other Councillor Johnson) is understandably not chuffed, although we do get to have dinner together on Friday, since she is also going to be at both the Special Executive and the AGM…. I feel takeaway beckoning already!

Weeks this busy are not the norm, but spare a thought for my daughter whom I will carve out as much time as possible for during weeks like this, and who (bless her) already understands that daddy has three different offices to work from!

So, it’s Mothers Day and that means a rest right? A chance to visit with and spend time relaxing in the comfort of your dear mother…. and no politics right?

Wrong!

The morning started well enough, getting up with the 2 year old daughter, to give Mrs J (the other Councillor Johnson) a lie in as befits the day and her station in our household. Then onto both sets of Parents to see our respective mothers, and shower them with gifts and attention. Easy right? No Politics can creep in there right?

Except for:

  • The A&I agenda for tomorrow night that I was flicking through here and here.
  • Checking through the latest leaflet ideas that had been produced by Cllr Lee Dangerfield.
  • Talking about the upcomming P&R with my dad, when I was with him.
  • Talking about the latest canvassing plans with my father-in-law, when I was with him.
  • Answering some emails sneakily to constituents and members of my group, whilst my wife was not looking……

and so on and so forth.

Because even a day off is never really what it seems to be…..

Still – all three mothers (mum, mother-in-law and wife) liked their presents and cards, so brownie points there!

This morning Mrs J (the other Councillor Johnson) our Daughter and I went to St Paul’s Church for Harlow’s first ever Civic Service.

The Civic Service was arranged by Harlow’s Conservative Chairman Tony Hall who was also responsible for suggesting that we appoint the first Chaplain to the Council last year.

It was a lovely service, attended by lots of people who are involved in the civic life of the town, and a great chance to showcase something good about Harlow to the rest of the county, who sent representatives in the form of many Mayors and Chairmen. Lord Petre, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex was also in attendance, welcomed by both the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the Council.

There were readings and thoughts from Tony, Robert Halfon the Conservative candidate for Harlow, the Council’s Chief Executive and the Labour MP – who snuck out part way through the service (I’m sure he had some important Government work to do on a Sunday afternoon) and a former MP for the town who is the Chairman of Harlow’s Civic Society.

The congregation were also in rather good voice for the Hymns, and the National Anthem at the end of the Service.

The whole congregation were all then invited back to the Civic Centre for light refreshments by the Chairman.

There were only two things wrong with the morning, the first, something that irritated me – I sat behind Stan Newens, the former MP for the town, an ardent socialist who I don’t get on with at the best of times. To give you an idea of his outlook on the world, he wrote a book praising Nicolae Ceau┼čescu, and his exploits in Romania. Anyway at the national anthem, Stan visibly shuddered and clamped his mouth firmly shut. I am sure it was only coincidence that the entire row behind him sang with even more gusto.

The second thing, which annoyed me, but really should annoy everyone in Harlow, is that there was not a single member of the opposition in the congregation; and just so I am not being biased with the evidence, the majority of the Conservative group were in attendance.

Now I know Councillors are busy people (seconded by Mrs J!) and I know that not everyone can make everything, but not to have any members of the opposition, either from the nine Liberals or the five labour members, is frankly disgusting.

Last night the Planning Committee of Harlow District Council voted to allow two new “micro wind turbines” at Tesco in Church Langley

Now I have been pretty interested in these, as a Councillor for the area, and so have a number of my constituents.

But I have kept quiet about it at home as Mrs J (the other Councillor Johnson) sits on the Planning Committee and I would not want to prejudice her in anyway, or bait her into forming an opinion before the meeting (yes the laws on planning are that stupid!)

In the meantime I have told a number of people how they can find out more, explained the details as I knew them to others and told people who wanted to object how to do so. I also got a phone call from a gent who wanted to support the application on environmental grounds but didn’t want his name used in case his “neighbours found out”

There has been some confusion about these micro wind turbines, with a number of people I spoke to thinking that Tesco were trying to install huge 3 bladed propellers, which is not the case. I have attached an article here on them, (and have added a photo so you can see what they look like) and whilst it needs to be noted that the article is by the people who are working with Tesco and so are probably biased, they are certainly not what I thought of when someone said wind turbine either!

They are about 10 metres tall, which is the size of most lampposts and apparently produce little or no noise. Another Council, whose local Tesco has installed them claims you can stand next to them and not hear anything.

I think its admirable that a major retailer wants to do something about its carbon footprint, and I hope this is not just for show but really is about changing the way they operate. I would love it if more people and businesses in Harlow wanted to do more for the environment. But I think if they do they need to spend more time telling people about it before they do it.

Tesco’s as far as I can tell undertook no publicity of this with their shoppers and neighbours during the planning process. The council did its statutory bit (advertising in papers, putting signs on lampposts and writing to those in very close proximity) but still got blamed for not consulting widely enough – even though we were not the applicants. I wonder if there isn’t some way to pass the cost of increased consultation to the applicants in cases like this?