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.

News reaches me this morning that Cllr Manny Doku has joined the Labour party.

Six months ago, Manny was campaigning in the General Election to cut the deficit, now he has joined the party that caused the deficit both nationally and here in Harlow! You couldn’t make it up!

Manny of course, is the Councillor that has upset me more than any other in my life in politics, when in April 2009 I outed his little scheme to fleece the taxpayer of cash for taxi fares (or as he called is – his Perks) to avoid paying for parking at the town centre, he outrageously suggested that my motives were racially motivated!

In his emails at the time he showed scant regard for Harlow Taxpayers.

With attitudes like that, I almost feel sorry for Harlow Labour Party……. almost

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.

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.