This week the council was able to sell the old swimming pool site as part of the Gateway project. We have really missed the swimming pool in Harlow since the previous administration had to close it due to the years of neglect and underfunding it had been through, but of course now we have our nice shiny new LeisureZone we need to do something with the old site.

And so as planned in the Gateway scheme it has been sold to developer Croudace which plans to build much needed new homes on the land. I think we will see a planning application, for the site, submitted to Harlow Council in the next few months.

No town stands still and the new homes will be very welcome by the people of Harlow who want to stay in the town but cannot find a home at the moment, and of course the sale of the land was one of the things that made the overall scheme to deliver the new leisurezone possible.

I hope that Croudace will plan the homes sympathetically to the area and not propose anything outrageous. I look forward to seeing their proposals.

I got a press release from the government today.

Now my normal reaction at this point would be an urge to bin it!

I actually tend to read with disgust.

Today I saw it was about “housing for heroes” and gladly read on.

It appears the Government has just recognised that there might be a number of members of the armed forces returning from active service or being discharged from the forces following injury, who might actually need support.

So instead of:

Paying adequate compensation to wounded service personnel;

Having a better way of readjusting personnel in their return to civvie street;

Generally improving the housing on military bases in the first place…. I could go on but you get the idea,

Instead of this, they tell local councils to take care of these Heroes.

Well you know what Mr Brown?
We and many council like ours are well in front of you, and we want to care for our Heroes!

I have already blogged about what Harlow Council is doing around this issue here. And we are very happy to be doing it. Just like we are happy to support the local reserve forces.

What makes me mad is that the Government had to be prompted by Councillors in authorities like Harlow, asking the questions of Government departments before they did anything.

But I wont stay mad for too long, because these Heroes need as much help as we can all give.

An interesting evening at the Civic for me at the Housing Committee last night – as a Substitute for Mrs J (the other Cllr Johnson) who is unwell at the moment and can hardly speak.

Now, housing is not really my specialist subject, but I keep up with what is going on at the committee and read their agendas (if not always with glee!) But I found last night interesting because of the debates that took place, some good news, some really good news and a piece of bad news

Lets go with the bad news first (it helps me cheer you up at the end)

The discussion on “delivering decent homes” focused on Governments targets for council houses, really highlighted how badly Harlow has been treated recently by Gordon Brown and Co. Basically Harlow tenants have been mugged of a million quid!

Our housing subsidy this year shows a “significant reduction” (paragraph 12 here for those who want to see the document)

I asked for more details on this and was told that it would be somewhere between £800,000 and £1,300,000 that we have just lost from this years budget.

And the government had not yet clarified the details. Now remember that we had to set our budget a couple of weeks ago for the coming financial year and a gap this size is significant to our spending plans. Knowing that the new financial year starts in 20 days time, we asked when would the government let us know what the situation was. Sometime either late Spring or early Summer was the answer. What more can I say! Either the government doesn’t understand that we have to set our budget while they keep us in the dark or they just don’t care!

The Good News? We looked at a “Review of Housing needs and allocations strategy” for Harlow.
With this piece of work we were looking to strengthen the definition of local connection (which aids people in getting a house in Harlow) because previously it’s been allowed to be too broad. My colleagues still thought that being resident in Harlow for 6 out of the last 12 months was not really much of a local connection – but we were told that this is Government legislation and we can’t make it tougher than that. Shame really.

The really good news is that we added an amendment asking for a review of policy for homeless ex service personnel (who make up about 2/3rds of the homeless population). We may not all agree with the various wars that our armed forces have been asked to fight by this government, but we can surely get behind our troops when they come home. I look forward to seeing the result of this piece of work.