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Garden Town development receives funding boost

1.01pm - 13th February 2019

A £715,000 funding boost has been awarded to the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town project to help drive design and delivery of the 24,000-home development. 

Garden community projects across Essex and Hertfordshire are receiving £1.815m from the Government to help them achieve their ambition to deliver 70,500 homes. 

The projects have previously received nearly £4m in government to work on proposals. In Harlow and Gilston, 24,000 homes are proposed with work already underway on 1,900 properties. 

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse MP said: “We have not built enough homes in this country for the last three decades, and we are turning that around as we work towards our target to build 300,000 properties a year by the mid 2020s. 

“This funding boost is the next step on the road to delivering 70,500 properties across Essex and Hertfordshire.” 

Harlow MP Robert Halfon said: "It’s great to see this investment coming into Harlow. This grant is part of a long process that will help people from all over Harlow and its villages by providing more houses for the next generation.” 

The funding will be administered by Homes England, the government’s housing accelerator.

MP raises library campaign in House of Commons

2.35pm - 8th February 2019

HARLOW MP Robert Halfon has continued his 'Save Our Libraries' campaign bringing Essex County Council’s proposals to close three Harlow libraries to the attention of Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt.

This is the third time that Mr Halfon has raised the issue in the House of Commons and comes after he wrote to every household in the areas of Mark Hall and Tye Green, where the libraries are at highest risk of closure. 

He has also visited the county council, accompanied by pupils from Cooks Spinney Primary School and St James’ Primary School, who presented a petition and a school newspaper to try and persuade county councillors to change their plans to shut the libraries in Mark Hall, Tye Green and Great Parndon. 

Mr Halfon asked Ms Mordaunt whether she agreed on the importance of free library services, particularly for the vulnerable and for equality in society and education, and whether she would take the issue up with Essex County Council. 

He said: “Essex County Council is preparing to close over a third of libraries in Essex, with three out of five libraries in deprived areas in Harlow at risk of closure. 

"Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge the importance of free library services, particularly for the vulnerable and for equality in society and education? Will she talk to Essex County Council and keep our libraries open?” 

In her response, she said: “Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and effective library service. Libraries are clearly more than a repository for books. They can be community hubs through which services can be provided. 

"I encourage my right hon. Friend to respond to the county council’s ongoing library consultation so we can connect organisations in his community that could be able to ensure that services are not just maintained, but made better.” 

Mr Halfon said: “The closure of the libraries would be devastating to Harlow, to our community. 

"Libraries are the bedrock of our communities. They provide a wonderful place for people who don’t have a lot of access to books or computers. 

"No one is against modernising the library service, but to actually deprive neighbourhoods of access would be a really wrong-headed decision.”

Police and fire share of council tax to rise

3.15pm - 5th February 2019

THE Essex Police share of council tax bills for 2019-20 will increase by £2 per month to enable an additional 215 police officers to be recruited in the next year. 

In a public survey undertaken by Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst at the end of last year, more than 71 per cent of respondents said they would be prepared to invest more in policing to help improve the service provided. 

Seventy-three per cent of positive respondents said they would be prepared to pay at least £20 a year more. 

In the light of that and following discussions with Chief Constable B J Harrington, Mr Hirst is increasing the policing element of the council tax by £24 a year for the average household, the maximum permitted by government without a referendum. 

This will mean the average Band D property will pay £192.96 for policing in a year, an increase of £2 per month. 

The current levy is £169.02 per year. 

Mr Hirst has also been given the green light by the Police, Fire and Crime Panel to increase the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service precept - by roughly the rate of inflation. This will be equivalent to an increase of £2.07 a year resulting in a rise from £70.38 to £72.45 for a Band D property. 

Mr Hirst said: “I’m pleased the members of the Police, Fire and Crime Panel have approved this budget.

"This is an ambitious set of measures to improve policing across our county and get ahead of the increase in crime and disorder that we have seen. It will also underpin the effectiveness of our fire and rescue service. 

"Any increase in tax has an impact and I do not take the decision to increase precepts for both police and fire and rescue services lightly. However I have heard the feedback from the public about the improvements we need to make and this money will make a real difference.” 

The total budget for Essex Police is £300.478m. £175.8m will be from central Government and £124.6m will be drawn from local taxation. 

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s total budget is £73m with £46. 876m coming from council tax and £24.533m from government grants with the balance drawn from the service's more than adequate reserves. 

Last year Mr Hirst increased the policing element of the council tax which led to 150 additional officers joining Essex Police. 

These officers have been recruited, trained and are already arriving in communities across the county. 

Mr Hirst said: “People across the county have been telling me they want more police officers and that they are prepared to pay more to get them. 

"Now my budget has been approved it will mean the Chief Constable will be able to bring police officers numbers to 3,200 by March next year which will get Essex Police near where it needs to be and deal with the level of demand.” 

The money will be invested in 215 additional police officers on top of the 150 recruited this year as well as 32 operational police staff and 18 police support staff. 

They will be divided into a number of teams including 68 officers dedicated to town centre policing, 50 officers to local policing teams, 21 roads policing officers, 20 officers dedicated to working with children and young people, 20 officers to boost the force’s crime and public protection command and 20 officers dedicated to dealing with gangs and violence and vulnerability. 

Seven officers will join the Gypsy, Traveller and Rural Engagement Team, six will work for the Serious Crime Directorate and three for a new dedicated business crime team. 

In terms of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, the 2019-20 budget will include investment in a number of initiatives including £400,000 to support the recruitment and retention of on-call firefighters; £372,000 to fund sprinkler initiatives in vulnerable communities and £600,000 to support improvements to operational training.

Students given inspirational talk

7.46am - 1st February 2019

CHILDREN at Cooks Spinney Primary Academy were inspired to face challenges by a former teacher who lost his sight to a brain tumour. 

James Shone had been a teacher for 16 years when, in 2012, he was preparing to take on his first headship. During a routine eye check as part of his medical assessment it was discovered he had a large brain tumour. 

After 27 hours of brain surgery and 80 days in hospital unable to eat, drink or talk, the father-of-four was left with no sight in one eye and only ten per cent vision in the other. 

He told pupils: “In 2012 I had it all; everything was as good as it could be. In 2013, I found myself with no job, no house and no sight. 

“We have good bits and challenging bits of life. That is life. When the bad bits come, do they break us or make us?”

The motivational speaker - behind the charity 'I Can & I Am' with a mission to inspire confidence - said three rules to follow in hard times should be to look up, look forward and think about other people. 

He said: “Keep looking forward because that is where the hopes and possibilities and opportunities are. They are in front of us; do not look back. The past we can learn from; it is a great teacher, but it is not a great master. Just think ‘can I learn from it’ and keep moving forward. 

“Sometimes you might wake in a right grump. Do things for other people; that’s a brilliant thing and is where you find your purpose in life. “The alternative option is to look down, look back and look in.” 

Mr Shone, who still has 50 per cent of his brain tumour, told pupils how he left hospital unable to walk, but was able to row the whole length of the River Thames two years ago with a positive mindset. 

He said: “We are the CEOs of our own lives. Our attitude says ‘I can’ or ‘I can’t’. 

“One of the most valuable things you can do is to be thankful for what you do have and what you can do.”

Pupils visit Imperial War Museum

7.44am - 1st February 2019

ARTEFACTS and original letters from the Second World War helped Freshwater Primary Academy pupils get to grips with their topic. 

Year 6 pupils visited the Imperial War Museum in London where they were given a talk to recap their knowledge of the Second World War after learning about the Holocaust and the Blitz. 

Class teacher Mav Ali said: “The visit really complemented pupils’ learning as they viewed real artefacts and original letters and diary entries - both of which they wrote during the topic in class after taking on the imaginary role of a wore-torn child. 

"I would highly recommend a trip to this museum as it has a lot to offer the children and is enticing due to the multitude of resources and articles including grenades, Spitfires and shelters.” 

Pupil Holly Boad said: “My favourite part was the interactive section which had a trench you could go in.”

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