Harrow Council for Justice
a campaigning national organisation - promoting the principle of 'different but equal'

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    Our positions
  • people are not blind to colour in a colour conscious society
  • racism affects black and white people both but differently
  • racial harassment is anti human rights - more than hate crime
  • equal opportunity is to practise 'different but equal'
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To the Harrow community organisations

9/9/12

The Harrow Council for Justice has remained committed to actively support the community organisations which use the community premises at 27 Northolt Road, South Harrow and therefore made an effective representation on behalf of the organisations at the Grants Advisory Panel  meeting on 9 November 2012
(Minutes 80 at http://www2.harrow.gov.uk/documents/g60680/Printed%20minutes,%20Wednesday%2009-Nov-2011%2019.30,%20Grants%20Advisory%20Panel.pdf?T=1 )

We are now pleased to inform that the Harrow Council Cabinet is likely to approve the transfer of the management of Community Resource Centre at 27 Northolt Road to Carramea, a consortium of 16 minority-specific groups currently based at the property.

Carramea is made up of:

  1. Association of Senior Muslim Citizens
  2. East African Welfare & Development Concern
  3. Harrow African/Caribbean Association
  4. Harrow Agenda 21 Environmental Forum
  5. Harrow Anti-Racist Alliance
  6. Harrow Bengalee Association
  7. Harrow Iranian Community Association
  8. Harrow Kuwaiti Community Association
  9. Harrow Tamil Association
  10. Indian Association of Harrow
  11. IWANAAJI Somali Disabled Association
  12. Pakistan Society of Harrow
  13. Precisa de Falar
  14. Russian Immigrants Association
  15. Somali Cultural & Educational Association
  16. Tamil Community Centre

The HCJ is pleased that this sensible Council decision would help the organisations to work independently as a collective body and manage their own affairs in an enterprising manner. For example, to install most suitable IT equipment, undertake some refurbishment of the building and employ a centre manager.

Well done all!

Dr Pravin Shah
Legal & General Secretary, HCJ

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Open letter to Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi
01/09/12

Dear Baroness Warsi

In the public interest, we seek clarification whether Susan Hall, one of your councillors in Harrow, is also the ‘Harrow Conservative leader’ as reported in the local newspapers (http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/9904353.Tributes_paid_to__caring_and_hardworking__MP_Sir_Rhodes_Boyson/ ).

Saying what Councillor Hall says and saying the same as the ‘Harrow Conservative leader’ have different implications, more so  for your party.

For example, Councillor Hall’s reported “veiled opposition to the Hindu school” at the Harrow Teachers Centre and “Cllr Susan Hall’s objection, has led to a wide-spread anger amongst the Asians, especially the Hindu community living around for two to three generations” (Asian Voice: 14-20 July 2012) coming from someone who is also the ‘Harrow Conservative leader’ i.e. leader of all the Conservatives in Harrow, have very serious and deep  meanings.

We trust you would see the need to clarify Cllr Hall’s split-role in view of its different implications, particularly as you say that “all the groups that we’re aiming for are groups that I’m familiar with”  (Daily Telegraph) and because of your commitment that you “could help attract a new generation of voters” (BBC).

Dr Pravin Shah

Legal & General Secretary, HCJ

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Open letter to the Prime Minister (Re: the grassroots community groups funding)
7 May 2012

Dear Mr Prime Minister

You were quite supportive of the role of the grassroots community groups in delivering the ‘big society’ at the big society launch meeting held in Downing Street in May 2010.

Although the Harrow Council for Justice is not a candidate for any funding grants (nor we have ever been a candidate), the HCJ committed itself to support the ‘big society’ initiative, confirmed by my chairman’s statement (www.hcrj.org.uk ).

Two years on, there is a widening "big society gap" in which volunteering and other forms of social capital are strongest in wealthy areas. The first tranche of expected £3.3bn cuts in government funding to the voluntary sector over the next three years have and will hit charities based in deprived areas the hardest, creating the danger that the project becomes "an initiative for the leafy suburbs".

Though it might be too early to pass judgement on your vision but we believe there are real question marks over the vision and delivery of big society.

We believe that a support programme introduced by ministers for charities at risk of going bust, is too late and not really the answer.

We would be interested to hear how else you are going to address the impact of government cuts on the good work of the grassroots community groups, including the diverse community groups?

Regards

Jaiya Shah (Mrs)
Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

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To the Council chief executives and leaders, and elected representatives
Issued by HCJ on 5 May 2012

Hello

Although there has been heightened awareness of the need for governments to engage with older citizens when formulating and delivering its policies and services, there is a gap in the knowledge of effective models for active engagement.

It is within this context that we enquire your authority’s practice towards active, inclusive and ongoing engagement and partnering with older citizens in the community.

We are particularly interested in your authority’s process and success in identifying effective participatory models in the context of local demographic profiles.

As the Audit Commission's Comprehensive Area Assessment which included older citizen engagement as one of the evaluation criteria has been abolished, how does your authority evaluate the quality of its performance in this area of the work?

Regards

Dr Pravin Shah
General & Legal secretary
Harrow Council for Justice

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Open letter to the leader of London Borough of Harrow, and the chief executive LBH
29 March 2012

Dear Bill and Michael

Re: Cabinet agenda Item 11 - Corporate Equality Objectives and Equality of Opportunity Policy

The equality of opportunity policy, forwarded by you, responds well to the equality specific legal requirements. This can only be good!

However, we are not sure about the extent to which the policy would be effective in promoting equal opportunities in Harrow given that the policy seems to have no focus on addressing why ‘inequalities’!

In our long experience, such a focus is crucial in order to contextualise ‘equalities’, educate public opinion about this aspect of the human rights and to avoid the worrying situations like that despite your emphasis on the diversity and gender, the Resident Panel’s reported responses to the relevant Corporate Equality Objectives have lowest rating under ‘agreed strongly’ and highest under ‘disagreed’:

  • 66.61% Agreed Strongly / Agreed with Objective 2 (i.e. Celebrate the diversity of Harrow so the Borough is an increasingly cohesive place where people from all communities get on well together) and 11.80% Disagreed
  • 54.74% Agreed Strongly / Agreed with Objective 7 (i.e. Minimise the impact of budget cuts on equality groups) and 15.14% Disagreed

Such a perception, most probably based on their low level of understanding of the issues involved, has serious implications for the community relations and cohesion.

The attitudes indicated by the response to the Objective 7 becomes more concerning considering the GMB union report that of the 210,470 total jobs lost in local government since 2010, 68.2% were among women, including 75% in the southeast, 72.7% in the east of England, 69.8% in the southwest, 60.7% in London, and 57.3% in the East Midlands. 

Good understanding of ‘why inequalities’ would help to understand that the equal opportunities is not a concession but is to redress inequalities which are perpetuated through the individual and institutional practices and are embedded in the socio-political and economic system. Inequalities not only adversely affect the quality of life of those concerned but harmfully enable to define and redefine community aspirations and initiatives – for example, to deform the community-defined groups and replace these by the institutionally-defined groups (sure you know what happened to the HCRE and is happening to HPCCG in Harrow and by who).

We would also be interested to hear more about the Residents Panel whose 1,152 members were sent out this questionnaire - return rate 57%. For example, who becomes the member of the panel and how, their level  of interaction with the communities and have these members gone through a process of developing their shared understanding of the matters they are consulted upon including diversity, gender, disability, race relations and the relevant policy formation.

We look forward to hearing from you fully but in the meantime we request to table our input at the Cabinet meeting on April 4.

Yours

Jaiya

(Jaiya Shah, Chairman Harrow Council for Justice)

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Your interest in Harrow: Open message to the MEPs, Harrow MPs and GLA members
24 March 2012

In view of your interest in Harrow, the Harrow Council for Justice would like to draw your attention to some concerning community matters in Harrow (links below), including to what has happened and the way it has happened to the Harrow Police and Community Consultative Group (HPCCG). The group was a part of the London wide strategy to involve communities in policing matters following the Brixton riots. The group successfully adjusted its focus after the racially aggravated murder of Stephen Lawrence and became more community orientated.

We would like to declare that we are not a part of nor benefit from the HPCCG at all but our interest is the public interest in promoting and maintaining good community relations. For example, it is not pleasing to hear about rather uneasy feeling in some non-councillors who attended a very recent HPCCG meeting and quite rightly tried to seek clarification regarding the ambiguities surrounding the axing of the group’s funding and the arrangements for replacing the HPCCG, a long-standing body with the diversity-specific leadership. We are worried that people are not blind to colour in a colour conscious society.


http://www.hcrj.org.uk/News%20Page%2016.html ; http://www.hcrj.org.uk/News%20Page%2025.html ; http://www.hcrj.org.uk/News%20Page%2018.html ; http://www.hcrj.org.uk/HCJ%20letters.html

Dr Pravin Shah
Legal and General Secretary
Harrow Council for Justice

The HCJ has received the following response from the mayoral candidate Ken Livingston:

"Thank you for sending me details of recent issues in the Harrow Police and Community Consultative Group (HPCCG). If I am re-elected as Mayor next week I have pledged that I will show real leadership over the police by leading the Mayors office for policing and crime. I can assure you that I place tackling racisim within the force and beyond as one of the most important priorities facing the police in London today.

While I can give no specific commitment about HPCCG at this stage, because I am not aware of the full details of the proposals, I am very keen to review the issue again after next week's election": 27 April 2012 11:00

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To the Worshipful The Mayor of Harrow Councillor Mrinal Choudhury
22 March 2012

Dear Mr Mayor

As your term of office is approaching its completion, I, on behalf of the Harrow Council for Justice, would like to thank you for fulfilling your civic responsibilities with such a profound dedication and for being such a wonderful ambassador for Harrow.

We have heard nothing else but praise for you for supporting the communities and community groups in Harrow and beyond, so important at the time when diversity-led high profile community groups are attacked and disrespect to your position has been reportedly demonstrated by certain individuals.

We have also heard praise for your firm position on social justice and equality which sits very well with our campaign for the authorities and institutions to practise the principle of 'different but equal’ in dealing with the groups of people or their needs.

The HCJ particularly wishes to thank you for allowing us to lay a wreath at the Remembrance Sunday ceremony in November 2011 - I believe my photo laying the wreath is in the Mayoral archives - we take our civic responsibility quite seriously.

We wish you and the Mayoress very well!

Dr Pravin Shah
Legal & General Secretary
Harrow Council for Justice

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To the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Edward Davey MP
19 March 2012

Dear Mr Davey

We were aware that the fuel poverty is a major social problem, causing considerable hardship and negative health impacts, as well as impeding efforts to reduce carbon emissions but now we are very concerned about the magnitude of the problem which tantamount to a national crisis.

We were alarmed to learn that more than 7 million people were affected in England in 2009, living in nearly 3 million homes and that the report predicts a deteriorating, and therefore profoundly disappointing, situation by 2016 where the fuel poverty gap will rise by a further half to 1.7 billion by then.

We believe that the findings of the report provide a new body of evidence to underpin a course for effective future action. We also believe that a clear means of identifying and finding those affected, understanding who should be the priority, assessing the effectiveness of policies, target setting, and accountability would be helpful in addressing the fuel poverty.

The Harrow Council for Justice supports the report’s conclusion that the Government, and obviously your department, must decide how to respond to this daunting challenge urgently.

We would be interested to hear your response to the report, particularly an action plan to address its findings.

Jaiya Shah
Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

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Open letter to the Leader and the Chief Executive, London Borough of Harrow
23 February 2012

Dear Councillor Bill Stephenson and Mr Michael Lockwood

 Re: media coverage including  at  http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/9542113.Labour_defends_budget_after_Conservatives_label_it_erratic/?ref=mc ;  

http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/9541589.Labour_councillors_slam_Conservatives_for_walking_out_of_council_meeting/?ref=mr ;  and the public comments therein

In view of the leader of the opposition Conservative group Councillor Susan Hall’s reported ‘walk out’ from the budget Council meeting on 16 February 2012 followed by very worrying public comments about such a behaviour, we enquire whether Councillor Hall  has completed the following training* prescribed for her by the Standards last year.

 (*“Councillor Hall may benefit from training in media and interpersonal training and training in holding voluntary groups and public bodies to account”: paragraph (b) of the Decision in the Decision Notice gov 008-039/ 442202)

Yours

Dr Pravin Shah
Legal & General Secretary
Harrow Council for Justice

 

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Open letter to Harrow MPs, Council Leader, GLA candidates and the London mayoral candidates
11 February 2012

The Harrow Council for Justice supports the Harrow Police and Community Consultative Group (HPCCG) call for an independent public inquiry to investigate what has happened to this now defunct community group and who could have influenced this very concerning outcome.

Following the Brixton riots, the HPCCG, like other similar groups in London, was an initiative under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) to involve communities in the local policing matters.

As far as we know other such groups in London are fully functional.

The HCJ is particularly worried about the serious implications for the community cohesion in Harrow because of the allegations and counter allegations and the bitterness reported in the local newspapers over the months.

http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/9496138.Police_watchdog_disbands_after_funding_axed_in__whitewash_/      and the comments therein; 
http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/9137376.Watchdog_under_fire_over__unacceptable__spending/     and the comments therein

You might be aware that the group is led by Sonoo Malkani  (chairman) and Baldev Sharma (vice-chairman) who have certain community profile!

It is no pleasure to read: “Cllr Hall may try and brainwash the public by repeating the MPA (previous Met Police Authority) did everything by the book, but we were at the receiving end, not she” and “It begs the question why Cllr Hall has become the self-appointed spokesperson for the MPA, robustly defending its corner, instead of flying the flag for her own borough”:  Sonoo Malkani’s letter in the Harrow Times on 9/2/12.

Yours

Dr Pravin Shah
Legal & General Secretary
Harrow Council for Justice

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Partnership Structure Proposals

Open letter to the Chief Executive, and the Leader of the London Borough of Harrow -  and copied in the elected and community representatives
2 September 2011

Dear Mr Lockwood and Mr Stephenson

Re: Item 8 (minutes of the Harrow Partnership Board meeting held on 12/7/11): Cabinet Agenda for the meeting on 8/9/11

We read with interest what the Partnership Board meeting has agreed regarding the Partnership structure (page 59).

We note that there have been proposals and consultations to enable the meeting to make the decision that they eventually made on 12/7/11 i.e. the strategic partnership structure made up of an Assembly and the Partnership Board.  Perhaps the proposals could have been wider than this – for example, a three governance tiers structure to enable wider community participation (including the grass-root community organisations), and for more effectiveness and smooth working:

  • Harrow Partnership Assembly:  (for example) to review and challenge the work of the Partnership Board
  • Partnership Board:  (for example)  to co-ordinate the totality of public expenditure in Harrow, promote transformational change in public service delivery, engage community interest and involvement and ensure co-ordination and embedding of equalities across themes
  • Strategic Theme Groups including  the bodies like the Children’s Trust and the agencies involved with the health and well-being, economic development , environment and public safety:  (for example) to bring together the key service delivery organisations to deliver improved outcomes and ensure that efficient, effective and equitable forms of public service delivery become embedded across the many public sector workforces in Harrow
We appreciate that the Assembly and Partnership Board are reliant on the voluntary participation of partnership members from the Council, public, business, voluntary and community sectors, nevertheless these are decision making structures based on representation. Therefore, the question of conduct and accountability is important but we don’t find a reference to these in the report.  Because of this, we suggest to include the following when developing any ‘code of conduct and representation principles’:
  • representatives must represent the broad interest of Assembly members, not their personal or own group view – however, outside this role they have every right to progress and pursue their own organisation's interests
  • representatives will inform the Assembly,  Board or Strategy Group etc  of organisations with whom they have a connection
  • monitoring  the partnership’s work and decisions through regular equalities audits: this really needs an independent evaluation and is more than having a representative of the Council promoted  Harrow Equality Centre – these audits make more sense in view of the possibilities that the services under tight economic conditions could have different impact of different groups of people in our diverse communities

Since we have expressed our interest in this initiative, we would appreciate if we are kept fully informed of the developments in this important area but in the first instance, we look forward to hearing your response to this communication. We request that a copy of this letter be passed on to the non-councillor members of the existing Partnership Board.

Good wishes

Jaiya Shah
Chairman of Harrow Council for Justice

Click here for the London Borough of Harrow response

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A big success story: letter to London Borough of Harrow 23/01/2011

To the Leader, and the Chief Executive of London Borough of Harrow

Dear Councillor Stephenson and Mr Lockwood

You might have noticed that the Harrow Council for Justice has publicly acknowledged the nationally credited exemplary performance by the Newton Farm Nursery, Infant and Junior School in South Harrow, through the local press as well as our website http://www.hcrj.org.uk/News%20Page%2011.html

The ethnically-rich school is of national interest.

We would be interested to hear how and when the Harrow Council would celebrate such a consistently fantastic local success?

Wishing you well!

Jaiya Shah
Chairman
Harrow Council for Racial Justice

Note: We also make the following observations and wonder how and when you would address the following apparent imbalances:

  1. Harrow’s Vitality Profile informs that Harrow has one of the most ethnically diverse populations nationally:  33% are Asians and 8% are Black, and in total 53% of Harrow’s residents are from minority ethnic groups – fifth in England for cultural diversity: this population profile does not reflect at all at your senior management team level!
  2. 2008-2009 YP Needs Assessment informs that  in the maintained primary & secondary school sector 74.5% pupils are from black and minority ethnic groups:  http://www.harrow.gov.uk/download/8248/harrow_young_peoples_needs_assessment
    Again such an ethnically-rich school population does not reflect at all at the Local Authority (LA) leadership level, including the directors, managers and the lead councillors!
  3. You might say that the council employs and deploys best people for the job but then other councils/ service providers generally practise the same!

Click to read a letter from the Chief executive and the leader of Harrow Council:

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To Boris Johnson re: appointment of LFEPA Authority Members since May 2010
20 December 2010

In the following letter to the London Mayor Boris Johnson, the HCJ General & Legal Secretary Dr Provin Shah has asked (under FOI) how the LFEPA members are appointed.

In the interest of public and within the context of transparency, we request the following information under the scope of FOI:

  1. When and where the vacancies were advertised?
  2. How many applications were received under each category?
  3. How many applications were shortlisted – and the list of the criteria used?
  4. Any declaration of interest by those who carried out the shortlisting?
  5. List of the criteria used for the selection, including to ascertain the suitability to represent diversity-rich councils like Brent, Harrow etc?
  6. Any declaration of interest by those on the selection panel?

If this is not the procedure to appoint the members, then how else are the members appointed?

Mayor has responded

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To the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg - Re Housing benefit cuts –  onslaught on vulnerable
26 October 2010

The Harrow Council for Justice appreciates your conscience search over the coalition's spending cuts and that you found that putting through the measures was "morally difficult". However, we would like to draw your attention to the plight of those differently affected by the cuts, particularly those vulnerable and on housing benefits.

As you know the government announced a 10% cut to the housing benefit budget as well as cutting the money it spends on new social housing by 50%. The cuts would affect 80% of those receiving housing benefit, said the Conservative MP for Bromsgrove and member of the Commons Work & Pensions Select Committee.

The National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents English housing associations, estimates that 1.3 million people are at risk of losing their homes.
There are serious concerns that the council housing will be under significant pressure as thousands of people would require council to re-home them because of the cuts in housing benefits, and that there would be increased homelessness, including in London.
In highlighting the impact of the cuts in housing benefits, the NHF estimates that the average rent for a three-bedroom council home could go up from £85 to £250 a week which most deprived families would not be able to afford.

Speaking to the BBC, Paul Rees of NHF said that the housing benefit changes have been rushed through the Commons without thoughtfully assessing their impact. Mr Rees said that the overall impact of the changes is an onslaught on vulnerable groups of people like single women on low income, disables, and black and ethnic minority people.

We would be interested to hear your plans to deal with the impact of the cuts in housing benefits on different groups of people whose different needs are equally important
.

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To London Mayor Boris Johnson - Re Housing benefit cuts –  onslaught on vulnerable
26 October 2010


As you know the government announced a 10% cut to the housing benefit budget as well as cutting the money it spends on new social housing by 50%. The cuts would affect 80% of those receiving housing benefit, said the Conservative MP for Bromsgrove and member of the Commons Work & Pensions Select Committee.

The National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents English housing associations, estimates that 1.3 million people are at risk of losing their homes.
There are serious concerns that the council housing will be under significant pressure as thousands of people would require council to re-home them because of the cuts in housing benefits, and that there would be increased homelessness, including in London.

In highlighting the impact of the cuts in housing benefits, the NHF estimates that the average rent for a three-bedroom council home could go up from £85 to £250 a week which most deprived families would not be able to afford.

Speaking to the BBC, Paul Rees of NHF said that the housing benefit changes have been rushed through the Commons without thoughtfully assessing their impact. Mr Rees said that the overall impact of the changes is an onslaught on vulnerable groups of people like single women on low income, disables, and black and ethnic minority people.

We would be interested to hear your plans to deal with the impact of the cuts in housing benefits on Londoners, particularly the vulnerable.

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To the borough chief officers and the leaders - Re Impact of Comprehensive Spending Review on your services & provisions
21 October 2010

The Harrow Council for Justice acknowledges tough times ahead because of the job losses, cuts in social housing, cuts in the borough council funding and inevitable cuts in local spending as part of the recent Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

However, the HCJ is interested to hear how your Council would absorb the impact of the CSR particularly with reference to the care and provision for the vulnerable and disadvantaged groups of people in our ‘big society’ who have different but equally important needs.

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To the  Prime Minister - Re Big Society
14 October 2010

As you would see from our website, we take our civic responsibilities very seriously. Therefore, we welcome the notion of ‘big society’ and would like to participate in building the ‘big society’ but in most effective ways.

You would also know the part we have been playing in addressing why ‘inequalities’ and informing institutional practices about the necessity to treat different groups of people and cater for their needs on the basis of ‘different but equal’.

In our long experience of public services and the town halls, the politicians and service providers though 'celebrating' diversity,  generally argue that variety creates 'anomalies'. We wish that this would not be the case in building ‘big society’ because whatever is built on a problematic base is going to be problematic.
We strongly believe that the principle of ‘different but equal’ can well be embedded in building  the ‘big society’ whether it is to do with giving communities more powers, encouraging  people to take an active role in their communities, accessing the government-held data  or in supporting co-ops, mutuals, charities and social enterprises.

In view of what we have said above, we wonder how and to what extent the diversity would really be a part of the ‘big society’?

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To LB Harrow Members & the management team - Re community consultation - meaningful?

It can only be good that Harrow Council is seeking appropriate ways to consult the residents at a time when the available resources need to be sharply focused on the clearly identified community needs, especially the needs of those who have less favourable circumstances.

Whilst any initiative to consult the recipients of the council services is helpful but what would really help is an ongoing and well structured community consultation, especially since any biting  effects of the country’s financial situation are going to be long lasting.

The customer satisfaction surveys, pop-up rooms, gleaning residents’ views about the council provisions through a complex and highly institutionalised voluntary/ third sector that has become so big with highly paid executives that they miss touch with the wider community and their needs, are no substitute to a healthy and transparent community consultation process.

The archives of the Harrow civic centre would confirm the benefits of the ‘community consultative committee’, chaired by a senior Member, where the local grass-root community came together, developed a shared understanding of the issues involved and then collectively responded to the council agenda. The ownership of the decisions made was much wider.
 
Sadly, the simple and rather effective mode of consultation where the people concerned were in a position to directly address the matters that affected them has been overtaken by relying on the sophisticated umbrella organisations to represent the remote communities - some of these council-funded bodies have finished up in being investigated, as you know.

It is about time to recognise that the communities in Harrow are now more capable to take charge of their own affairs as well as to directly and collectively become involved in decision-making through a well constructed community consultation platform that the Harrow Council can facilitate. We look forward to hearing from the leadership of the Harrow Council.

Chief executive and the leader of Harrow Council have replied:

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