Not so many years ago, Harlow had a form of community engagement called Community Partnerships. I am sure if you have never been you can imagine the type of meetings that they were.

Go on – just imagine….

A school hall or a church hall, small child size chairs and an urn of tea. Just the same few regular faces turning up to complain about the same old thing…. Well that’s how the Labour and Lib Dem wards CPs were, and that’s why the Labour/Lib council cancelled them; and went for a series of focus groups instead.

The CPs in Conservative wards were, without exception, successful and well attended by concerned citizens who wanted to take a chance to interact with their councillors and be informed about what the council was doing. Yes you did get some people coming along with single issues, but if the councillors knew their audience, lived in or had a good understanding of the ward, then that was easily dealt with.

All of this became a large political campaign in the town, and a key manifesto pledge for the Conservative Party in Harlow was the reintroduction of CPs.

That’s why I am really pleased that last night, at the Policy and Resources Committee, I was able to vote for just that. The scrutiny committee had been looking at it, and referred it to the Environment and Community committee who also referred it on to the Policy and Resources Committee for final decision, (A big danger of an Enhanced committee model of local Government is this type of referral and the associated scheme of delegation), which we gave.

The Lib dems, having scrapped the CPs in administration, voted for reinstating them, which rather makes me wonder what their “real” motives were for both courses of action. The Labour leader decided not to vote either way because “the report got to me late, so I haven’t had time to properly consider it”….. this being despite the fact that the working group who produced the report had the previous labour leader as their rep on the group, the original report had been published at scrutiny committee on 10th Feb, had gone to the E&C committee on 19th March, and then come to our meeting on the 24th March.

I would normally expect an opposition group leader to be aware of all the reports that go to all the committees of the council, else how can they lead their group properly?

Anyway he abstained, but the Conservative Administration kept another manifesto commitment and I was pleased to be able to vote to bring back Community Partnerships.

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