I am really pleased that flying over the Civic Centre in Harlow, at the moment, is the English Flag of St George. I am pleased that the council is publicly showing support for our boys as they battle at the World Cup.

Even prouder am I, now that the Armed Forces flag is flying above the Civic Centre, supporting our Boys and Girls battling in a much more dangerous way so far from home.

Ever more bittersweet this lunchtime as I heard of the 300th death our troops have suffered in the conflict in Afghanistan.

We are flying the Armed Forces flag this week to celebrate Armed Forces Day on the 26th June (the day in 1857 of the first investiture of the Victoria Cross) and so we jolly well should.

Regardless of your view on the conflict in Afghanistan or Iraq, I hope we can all agree that those in the armed forces who put their lives on the line day after day in support of the country deserve the countries support!

It is a sad society where some places, towns, people show little or no respect to those who risk their lives to provide freedom to the people of the British Isles, and indeed freedom for our friends in other countries.

That is why people and towns need to make a difference. We can’t all be Wootton Bassett, but we need to keep faith with our Armed Forces and make their celebration part of everyday life.

Nothing wrenched my gut quite like my daughter the other month, when in a supermarket and spying a gentleman in Army Dress Uniform said “look mummy daddy its one of the brave ones!”

I hope by the celebration of Armed Forces Day, by big events or just by “Flying the Flag” more young people will grow up with a greater appreciation of what our Armed Forces do for all of us.

In the meantime Harlow Council continues to promote the charity Help for Heroes , as they provide direct support for those wounded in conflict, with a collection box and wrist band sale on our main desk in the reception area.

I was privileged to be able to attend the private view of the Harlow Open last night in the Gibberd Gallery at Harlow Civic Centre.

The Harlow Open is a chance for local artists to enter pieces of work for display, only the best works make it, and I have to say the standard was very high this year.

There were a range of artistic styles on display both in paint and textile work.

The Open also gives some of these budding artists a chance to sell some of their work, although some works are not up for sale, there were many at very reasonable prices.

Wandering the gallery I was struck once again by just how much talent there is in Harlow.

If you get a chance to pop into the Gallery in the next few weeks, please do – it will be well worth your while.

I was privileged to be able to attend the private view of the Harlow Open last night in the Gibberd Gallery at Harlow Civic Centre.

The Harlow Open is a chance for local artists to enter pieces of work for display, only the best works make it, and I have to say the standard was very high this year.

There were a range of artistic styles on display both in paint and textile work.

The Open also gives some of these budding artists a chance to sell some of their work, although some works are not up for sale, there were many at very reasonable prices.

Wandering the gallery I was struck once again by just how much talent there is in Harlow.

If you get a chance to pop into the Gallery in the next few weeks, please do – it will be well worth your while.

I had only just published my previous post when another Harlow Conservative Councillor drew my attention to a previous email that Manny Doku wrote just a few days ago on the same subject.

I currently have a permit to park at the civic centre car park because I needed one. Without that ‘perk’, I may have to walk (and may be late for meetings as I do have other calls on my time), or take a taxi on every occasion and claim same from the council (which will add up to more than the cost of permit, perhaps).
Again we are not staff and, like some company directors ( and I am one), do have to have some form of ‘special treatment’ because of sacrifices they tend to make in some cases.
Thanks.
Manny.

It seems Cllr Doku likes his “perks” and considers being a Councillor makes him worthy of “special treatment”!

Perhaps Cllr Doku should be reminded, that it is a privilege to serve his community and that he already recieves an allowance for doing so. And after all as he points out, he is a “company director” as well, which I am sure remunerates him well too…..

Edited 00:12
For those that worry, like Cllr Doku, that he might be late if he walked to meetings, you may want to check a map. Cllr Doku’s published address is CM18 6DN and the Civic Centre is CM20 1WG.


View Harlow Town Centre in a larger map

I was shocked and disgusted today by the scheming of a Harlow Lib Dem Councillor to rack up a mass of expenses.

In Harlow, during the budgeting process, which I have documented in this blog for you before, we decided that we should introduce a charge to park in the Council section of the Watergardens Carpark, which was previously free to Council Staff. We were not excessive; £1 a day. More than anything, since it was a tough budget year, this was about sharing the pain of the budget with the tax payers. We also decided that Councillors will have to pay too. After all thats only fair.

Now the opposition voted against our budget, and as I have detailed the Lib Dems never even put a budget on the table themselves. However today when the car parking charges started there were a flurry of emails complaining about the scheme.

What has really taken the biscuit though is that one Lib Dem Councillor – Emmanuel (Manny) Doku today sent the below email to all the Councillors and a lot of council staff:

Dear Colleagues,

Again, I must appeal to your common financial sense to rethink the proposal to charge councillors to park at the Water Gardens. The logic of my suggestion is plainly this (and I repeat what said earlier): I took a taxi to the Civic centre this morning which cost me £4.00 – one way. I shall be claiming this expenditure soon and from the Council. Had I taken another taxi home, the total would have been £8.00, which will be claimed from the Council. Since I am not happy about the charging of £1.00, and as a form of protest, I shall continue to take taxi to meetings at the Civic Centre and claim same. What this means is that instead of paying £1.00 to park, the Council will be paying out many times more that the £1.00. It does not take a rocket scientist to realise that it makes good financial sense to continue with free parking for Councillors.
I rest my case.
Manny.

So lets just get this right – because Cllr Doku objects to paying £1 to park in the car park, he is going to try and land the council with an £8 a day expenses Bill!!! What makes it worse is that Council Expenses rules say that Taxi fares are reimbursable in cases of urgency or where no public transport is reasonably available, which is clearly not the case for Cllr Doku and his little scheme.

I can’t believe that to protest aginast paying a £1 a day fee that our staff now pay, Cllr Doku would rather use £8 a day more of taxpayers money via his expenses!

And lets remember that the Lib Dem Group on Harlow Council also voted against Freezing Councillors’ allowances on budget night!