Harrow Conservatives call for new civic centre rethink

Harrow Conservatives urged the council to reassess plans for the future delivery of services – including the building of a new civic centre.

The group submitted a call-in request to Harrow Council’s legal and governance services director Hugh Peart after its cabinet approved a new accommodation strategy last month.

The strategy includes ambitions to build a new civic centre in Wealdstone worth £22 million – smaller than first planned to account for post-Covid working habits – and a restructure of the central depot in Forward Drive to act as “the principal focus” for council staff.

However, Harrow Conservatives argued these proposals would not meet the desired outcomes when put in the context of the borough’s wider regeneration strategy and, given they will impact the way the council works “for decades to come”, were subject to insufficient consultation.

They added the costs associated with the overall plan – the development at the depot and housing other services as ancillary sites in the borough, for example – is at odds with the council’s commitment to making the move to a new civic centre cost neutral.

Cllr Paul Osborn (Pinner), leader of Harrow Conservatives, described the moves as “vanity projects” and suggested the current administration is not focusing on everyday areas of concern.

“This plan is the wrong thing to do. This is the wrong time to do it. It will result in the council having two new civic centres at a massive cost to the residents of Harrow,” he said.

He also called on the council to provide more detail and carry out extensive trials on its plans to promote flexible working, given the cost and scale of these developments.

Cllr Graham Henson (Lab, Roxbourne), leader of Harrow Council, said the changes would represent a “considerable improvement on the existing approach” that will “allow staff to work in a more modern, flexible environment”.

He previously explained the Covid-19 pandemic had forced the council to rethink its strategy, noting there is “no point having a whacking great civic centre if it’s not going to be used”.

If the Conservative Group’s call-in request is approved, the issue will be revisited at a future council meeting.

Harrow Times | Local News