I AM replying to the letter concerning Neighbourhood Champions from Councillor Jeremy Zeid (Keep Harrow under control, Harrow Observer, February 25).
I have raised a very simple point which Mr Zeid does not seem to understand. We already have a large number of excellent neighbourhood champions called 'local residents' and 'ward councillors'.
Day in and day out they raise issues about graffiti, street-cleaning, broken pavements, potholes and litter - and day in and day out they get little or no response from the council.
Why on earth do we need to spend £100,000 on 'training volunteers across the community'? The people that I deal with seem to me to be pretty well clued-up and could probably teach Mr Zeid a thing or two.
All they are asking is that their complaints be dealt with and not simply ignored.
It may be that the council does not have sufficient resources to deal with all the complaints it already receives.
If so, it would be the height of irresponsibility to train up hundreds more Neighbourhood Champions, raising their expectations, unless there is guaranteed back-up to deal with all the issues which they will generate and which are already being generated.
I am not alone in my concerns that this is a rushed and ill-thought out scheme. The overview and scrutiny committee were also concerned about this and set up a challenge panel to look into the matter. In their report, the panel made 11 recommendations which were highly critical of the way in which the Neighbourhood Champions scheme was conceived and implemented.
For example, they recommended that there should have been proper financial planning, costing and controls - not rocket science - and that formal plans and monitoring processes needed to be put in place.
Well, erm, yes - that consideration should have been given as to how local ward councillors could be involved (that's you and me, Mr Zeid); that phase two, which involves more controversial proposals such as reporting domestic violence and anti-social behaviour, should not be rolled out without further clarifying the scope of the scheme.
Mr Zeid, these are actually very serious matters, which you are trying to trivialise. I was trying to raise some serious points. You may be 'aving a larf' as is your wont but I certainly was not and am not, and neither, I suspect, are local residents.
COUNCILLOR BILL STEPHENSON Leader of the Labour Group