Tonight’s Executive Committee meeting of Harlow Council had the very sensitive issue of the future of Parndon Wood Cemetery and Crematorium discussed at it.

Sadly Harlow Council, over the last couple of decades, has not looked after Parndon Wood as well as it could have done; Today there are a number of issues with the site, not least poor road surfaces, a leaky building that does not have the right facilities for a modern Burial or Cremation service. Behind the scenes there are issues too, with new equipment needed to comply with National and European legislation. As we know the council has very little money to spend on these items, yet rightly so the money must be spent on making sure that our local cemetery and crematorium is of a high standard and  provides a good and dignified service to those in a time of grief.

So what other option is there? Well getting a Private Company to come in and help us run the site, one with experience of running similar sites around the country was an obvious answer; to be fair it was the answer selected by the previous Labour/Lib Dem coalition that ran Harlow Council, as they voted to do in January 2008 (5 months before I took over running the council). We have continued the process and voted to confirm one of the companies tonight.

The Lib Dem group stayed sure in their support for the process joining us in accepting the deal as a great chance to make the much needed improvements that are needed at Parndon Wood at as little cost to the taxpayer as possible. The Labour Group denied ever looking for a private bidder despite printed evidence to the contrary here, which clearly shows that they not only resolved to seek an external partner but that one of their cllrs was actually chairing the meeting that decided it. Instead tonight we saw the Labour Group start to play politics with grief and moving back to the very left wing ideological position that private equals evil.

I commend the members of my group and indeed the leader of the Lib Dems who tried to deal with the issue sensitively and without thought of the politics of the situation.

I see in this weeks Harlow Herald, Cllr Mick Danvers is ranting at me and trying to mislead the public over the Church Langley Monies. I have submitted the following letter to the Editor of the paper for publication next week in response to Cllr Danvers.

Sir – When is Councillor Mick Danvers going to start being straight with the public?

Last week’s letter “Profit from Cuts” was little more than an amateur distortion of facts from a man who comes across as being so bitter that he is still in opposition.

I have no problem with Cllr Danvers attacking my or my party’s policies – that’s normal healthy political debate, but spin and half truths and even untruths are surely not becoming of him or the Labour party.

The underspend, and not “profit” as Cllr Danvers suggests, came about from a number of windfalls at the end of the year. Cllr Danvers and his Labour colleagues may have tried to set budgets in the past gambling that such windfalls would arrive, but this Conservative administration doesn’t feel its appropriate to play poker or roulette with the town’s finances.

And as Cllr Danvers well knows, the Church Langley money was never the Councils’. It belongs to the developers of Church Langley and was entrusted for “safekeeping” with the Council. But that trust was betrayed in 2007 and again in 2008 by the Labour/Lib Dem cabal running the town who dipped their hands in again and again to prop up their own overspend. Had they not made a vague promise to repay at some unspecified later date some might even suggest the money had been misappropriated.

One of the first pledges I made when I became Leader of the Council was that Church Langley’s money would be repaid in five years. Because of the windfalls we have had we are actually able to repay the money three years early. However, instead of celebrating the fact that we have cleaned up their financial mess, Cllr Danvers and the Labour group continue to look with greedy eyes on money that isn’t even properly the Council’s to spend.

The worst thing about Cllr Mick Danvers rant is that he honestly believes there were never any financial problems in Harlow and still doesn’t believe there are financial problems nationally. What world does this Councillor live in? Certainly not the new progressive Britain that is having to pull up its shirt sleeves to sort out thirteen years of Labour incompetence both here in Harlow and across all of the United Kingdom.

Councillor Andrew Johnson,
Leader of Harlow Council

Cllr Danvers is a socialist of the old order and delights in his mischievous letters to the press each week. I fully accept that debates about policy are not only appropriate but welcome in the press but the kind of rubbish that Mick is peddling needs to be scotched immediately.