Information about my work as a Labour Councillor for East Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Prospect Ring

I had a good meeting with Barnet Homes on Prospect Ring, as my neighbours have expressed a number of concerns about the electrical works going on. It was a very productive meeting. They will replace six parking spaces lost in the corner car park by putting six matts on the green temporarily. I understand the works will be finished by March, because it will take some time to do all the drilling on blocks. They will be putting right all the works in the coming months, and the repainting of the sheds, garages and works to the central island should be part of estate improvements, so should not be charged to leaseholders.

New Committee system meeting

I went to a Councillors meeting on the new committee sytem proposals. It seems like there is still a lot of work that has to be done to come up with final proposals, but I know much better how the system would operate, and it was useful and reassuring to hear from a number of experienced Councillors. I'm not sure when the public consultation will be, but hope to keep you posted. I imagine the notes will be in the Constitution, Ethics and Probity Committee meeting. Labour Councillors were clear in their desire to ensure the public could speak at meetings, which I feel is very important.

Diwali Lunches

I had the very great pleasure of attending two Diwali functions last week. One, in Whetstone Methodist Church, and another at Friary House with BAWA. Ireally enjoy these events, and it is a pleasure to see so many friendly faces. they are always organised brilliantly, and it even got Cllr Rawlings and I dancing! These kind of community groups are gold dust, and it's vital we Councillors attend and show our support and appreciation. Community associations do a significant amount of social care, and we need to praise and recognise this. I was also pleased to see they seemed to fix the gate problem at Friary House!

Safeguarding Training

there were 27 Councillors in attendance last week at an important safeguarding training session. I though it was a very good set of events, and we thought a lot about the various scenarios you can get, and herad some very emotional stories. I feel much more confident about how to approach safeguarding issues, and I am glad this session was held. It is very important for Councillors to recieve this kind of training so that we can direct people to where they need to go and whom they need to see. I had a case last year, where this training would have been hepful in resolving.

Resident's Forum

There are better writers than I who can go into greater detail about the last Finchley and Golders Green Resident's forum last Tuesday. The key questions on recycling were at the end of the agenda, which cuirously we failed to get through to. Not much on East Finchley, but I was pleased to see so many Labour Councillors present. Is it any wonder so many people feel disenfranchised when the number one issue of the new waste scheme is barely touched upon, and the most detailed questions left to last?


I attended the AGE UK Barnet AGM last week, Where there was a fond farewell to stalwart Julia Hines, who is moving on to new things. Julia is an exceptional contributor to the community and I wish her well. Age UK Barnet do a range of services, and I was pleased to hear that they are in good shape going forward. I found the talk by Jewish Care quite interesting in particular. I was a very short meeting, which I think all appreciated!

Asperger's Syndrom Communication

I recieved the following communication, which I share below: We have just uploaded a new preview video to show you 'Good Obsession is Healthy' based on one of Aron's paintings. It's only 22 seconds so hopefully you should have the time to take a quick look at it Less than a week to go for our event on Weds 6th November, from 7-9pm at Watford Wellspring Church Centre ‘I Want To Break Free – Victory Over Asperger’s Syndrome’ and tickets have been selling well As you may know by now, we have been bringing Aron’s paintings to life through animation and audio. We have done this by talking in depth about what Aron wants each painting to convey and then using his ideas to add the sounds and highlight the images so that people who attend can get an experience of what was going on in Aron’s mind when he painted each picture If you haven’t seen our trailer video, please take a look here The event is based on artist Aron Glasser's collection 'My Journey with Asperger's Syndrome'. As well as Aron's paintings we will use drama and song, presented by Aron and 'The Professor' (Egbert Hedd-Boffin) Raising awareness, sharing strategies, delivering training in a creative way for an entertaining and memorable night out, and raising funds to support people on the autistic spectrum to deliver more training sessions, workshops and activities To buy tickets, and for more information, please go to: We would really appreciate it if you could share with anyone you think might find this email of interest

Grange Big Local Update

There will be a meeting for Young People aged 8-19 years Old on Monday 4th November at 6.30pm-8pm at the Ann Owens Centre – please help spread the word Please also see the attached flyer about a competition for young people in the Grange and surrounding area. Young people can write, draw, film or even RAP their imaginative ideas of how they would improve the area AND send to, participating schools or facebook. The Age categories are: 4-7, 8-11, 12-18. The Closing date: 29th November 2013 Please also note the next Grange Big Local Open Meeting Wednesday 13th November 6.30pm-8pm - at Ann Owens Centre, Oak Lane, East Finchley, N2 8L, Visit the Grange Big Local website for all the above information and more..............

Stonewall Housing

I recieved the following communication from LGBT Group Stonewall on housing advice to LGBT people, which I am happy to re-post: Housing Advice Line: 020 7359 5767 - open every weekday from 10am till 1pm, then 2pm till 5pm. Stonewall Housing is the specialist lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) housing advice and support provider in England. We provide housing support for LGBT people in their own homes, supported housing for young LGBT people, as well as free, confidential housing advice for LGBT people of all ages. We also research and lobby for LGBT housing rights, so that all LGBT people can feel safe and secure in their homes. Visit our website for more information All services are free and confidential and all venues are accessible for people with disabilities. No appointments necessary. (Pre-arranged appointments can be made for between 15:30 and 17:00) Current drop in times and locations: Monday 14:00 – 15:30 • Contemporary Urban Centre, 13a Great Chapel Street, London, W1F 8FL • The Cara Trust, 240 Lancaster Road, London W11 4AH Wednesday 14:00 – 15:30 • Origin Housing, St Richards House, 110 Eversholt Street, London, NW1 1BS Thursday 14:00 – 15:30 • Lighthouse South London, 14-15 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, London, SE1 7RJ Friday 14:00 - 15:30 • London Friend, 86 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9DN Also, monthly at: LGBT Sutton, and CliniQ

Burglary Week

The Council have been promoting awareness around Burglary Week. I do suggest taking a look as it is a serious issue in the Borough.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Gove's Exams fiasco

My colleague Cllr Anne Hutton (Woodhouse) is our spokesperson on Education and Childrens' Services, and has released a very good statement on Michael Gove's recent decisions on GCSE exams, which have enraged teachers.

"Secondary Headteachers in Barnet this week have been in a quandary, wondering what to do about the latest missive from Education Secretary Michael Gove who has just decreed that only the results of the first exam attempt by a pupil in any subject should count towards the schools’ league tables.
As usual, this latest announcement has not been thought through at all, students have been entered for exams in November, time-tables set and parents written to.  He has also, at the drop of a hat, scrapped the speaking and listening elements of the English language GCSE from next June, so unless students sit the exam in November credit for that won’t count.  Some parents have already received letters from their child’s school cancelling exams they thought their children would be sitting next month.  Schools, which have decided to go ahead have received phone calls from anxious parents of children in other schools asking them if they could sit exams at their school.  The reply to which is presumably ‘no’ as the student would not be registered there.  Result: chaos
Things can always be improved upon but throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn’t the answer, the Education Secretary clearly has no knowledge of how schools work, which is worrying in itself, if he thinks initiatives can be taken up or scrapped at the drop of a hat.  Do our three MPs support these measures? I am happy if the Tories lose the next election with the assistance of Michael Gove – but please not at the expense of the life chances of our young people.
Cllr. Anne Hutton
Labour Spokesperson for Education and Childrens’ Services"

Chuka Umunna MP on Royal Mail

Having recently been campaigning to save our local Post Office, I was interested to read this from Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP:
Now we learn that the option of a better deal for taxpayers by setting a higher price for Royal Mail was considered, and rejected, by ministers- Umunna
Chuka Umunna MP, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, responding to reports in today’s Financial Times that the Government was told that Royal Mail was valued at £5bn by two banks in June, said:

“Vince Cable claims that value for money for the taxpayer was ‘central’ to the government’s strategy. Yet now we learn that the option of a better deal for taxpayers by setting a higher price was considered, and rejected, by ministers.

"This comes as Royal Mail’s share price hits 500p, more than 50 per cent the amount which taxpayers received for their stake which was sold only days ago.

"Vince Cable has serious questions to answer on the Royal Mail fire sale. Concerns that taxpayers have been short changed - which he dismissed as ‘froth’ - are growing by the day."

Leaders Forum

I thought the Leaders Forum last week in North London Business Park was very interesting. I look forward to getting back the minutes or write up of the meeting, but the overall message from residents was "We want to be consulted!"

The Administration seem to be taken aback by the criticism surrounding their performances on the rollout of the new recycling bins. I thought this was strange, as this has been apparent at the last residents forums, where it was announced to anger from residents of all three constituencies. I thought it was odd that they felt there had been proper consultation. It had felt to me that they made a decision on what to do, then told people what was happening.

I have had a number of irate phone calls, twitter messages and emails about it, and if you also want to complain, please email me at and I will forward these complaints to the Council.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Report from Andrew Dismore AM

My report from City Hall
No14: 25th July to 9th October 2013
Firstly, a big thank you to the many of my readers who sent me details of their experiences and suggestions for questions to raise about accident and emergency services and about public transport. These first hand comments were very helpful in backing up my work on the City Hall Health Committee and at our full Assembly Plenary session with the Mayor and Transport for London: more details below.
If you have any questions or comments you would like me to put to the Mayor at a future Mayor’s Question Time session at City Hall, please do not hesitate to send them to  me and I will do my best to use them for you, to hold the Mayor to account.
Secondly, congratulations to Sarah Sackman, on being selected as Labour’s prospective candidate for Finchley and Golders Green at the next General Election for Parliament. Sarah is an excellent choice as candidate and more importantly, will be an excellent MP after 2015, when she is elected as I am confident will be the case.
In this report I will cover what I have been doing on:
·         Fire Brigade Cuts
·         NHS accident and emergency services for the winter
·         Low pay, zero hours contracts and cost of childcare
·         Transport and fares
·         Environment and biodiversity
·         Policing
·         Housing
·         Written questions to the Mayor
·         Press releases, letters for publication
·         Problem solving and casework
Please go to the sections you are interested in, as I realise this is quite a lot to cover!
Fire Brigade Cuts
This issue has now come to a head, with Mayor forcing the Fire Authority to implement his cuts package under the very heavy threat of legal action from him to force them to do so. The Authority’s  legal advice was such that they  had no option but to comply, even though this was clearly against their wishes, having voted against these cuts ( against  Conservative opposition) on four previous occasions..
At September’s Mayor’s Question Time, I reminded Boris Johnson of his pledge just before the 2012 Mayoral election, that there “will be no reductions in fire cover under this Mayor”: his reply was “get stuffed”. So much for him honouring a clear and unequivocal promise to Londoners, as he is now doing the exact opposite.
The cuts are planned to take effect in January and include 10 fire station closures including Belsize and Clerkenwell, and the loss of  14 fire engines and 552 front line firefighter jobs.
This may not be the end of the story though, as seven London councils, including Camden, have now made an application for permission to apply for judicial review of the decision. This is likely to proceed in the courts pretty rapidly.
On a separate front, you may be aware that the Fire Brigades Union went on strike for 4 hours over the Government’s refusal to negotiate with them, over their plan to weaken firefighters’ pension rights. The coalition Government is trying to force firefighters to work until they are 60. Currently firefighters can retire on ill-health grounds before 60 and retain their pension. Under the Government’s plans, if a firefighter is deemed unfit before turning 60 he or she will lose part of the pension. The government is being cynical as it knows from its own review that two thirds of firefighters will have to retire due to ill-health when they are 55 as they won’t meet the high fitness standards you would expect for such a physical job. Forcing firefighters to work longer and then taking part of their pension off them if they can’t physically cope when they are close to retirement is unfair, in my view.
NHS accident and emergency services for the winter
The Assembly Health Committee held a hearing with London NHS chiefs into the preparedness of NHS emergency services for the winter. The picture looks pretty bleak, with the Mayor’s health advisor, former head of NHS London,  Dame Ruth Carnall,  agreeing with my analysis, that they only have a ”sticking plaster” solution for A and E.
Apart from a probable winter crisis, we already have had a “summer crisis”, (when demand is traditionally lower than winter), with London’s A and Es missing their targets for the 12 successive weeks up to mid September. Our local A and Es have consistently missed their targets too: Barnet and Chase Farm missed target for 39 of the last 52 weeks, UCLH for 19 weeks, and Royal Free for 10 weeks. The target itself is to treat 95% of patents within 4 hours, which is less challenging than the target of the last Labour Government, which was 98% and which was being met.
This sorry underperformance was borne out by the examples I received from my readers, with details of recent experiences. They praised the hard work of the staff, but the general view was that they were overwhelmed by demand.
On my further questioning, the head of NHS London said that the expectations would be shifted, effectively massaging their figures to make the performance look better, if targets were still going to be missed.
It seems to me to be plain wrong for the Government, in breach of their promise before the election, to close Chase Farm’s A and E  and especially so in the run up to winter, it now being scheduled to close in mid November.
It is clear that we are seeing the results of the Conservatives broken promises on the NHS, with billions wasted on the top down   reorganisation they promised not to make before the election, money which should have been spent on patients.
Low pay, zero hours contracts and cost of childcare
I challenged the Mayor at September’s Mayor’s Question Time over the abuses of zero hour’s contracts. He does not see them as a problem, unlike the many low paid people who suffer as a result, for example the specific case I raised with him.
This was a them we also followed up in our sessions on low pay and zero hours in the Economy Committee; we also have been looking into the high cost of childcare in London.
Transport and fares
This month’s Assembly plenary session was devoted to questions to the Mayor as chair of Transport for London and to Sir Peter Hendy, the Transport Commissioner.  
I was overwhelmed with suggestions for questions to put to them, so I focussed on the Northern Line (for which I had more suggestions than any other issue, and most of which were not complimentary!) and on the need for a bus route between Golders Green and Stamford Hill. I have tabled all the other questions too and replies are awaited and will be reported in my next edition.
I was amazed that the Mayor could not remember when he last travelled on the Northern Line. The modernisation is two years behind schedule and it will not be till 2015 that train frequency is expected to increase, after the new signalling system is in place. in the meantime, it looks like little is going to be  done, to deal with the frequent  failures that cause such disruption to passengers’ journeys.
The need for a Golders Green / Stamford Hill bus route was identified as long ago as 2009, by London Travel Watch. The Mayor has made repeated commitments about this, but nothing has happened, so I raised this with him yet again. I am promised a detailed response which I will report back on in the future.
I also seconded and spoke to the motion adopted by the Assembly on fares policy, and the need for the Mayor to honour his manifesto promise by limiting fare increases to inflation. Tube fares have risen six times faster than wages and three times as much as inflation under Mayor Johnson.
Environment and biodiversity
The Environment Committee continued its inquiry into green infrastructure and biodiversity at our last meeting. I particularly  focussed, as an example, on the threat to the  Welsh Harp SSSI, as a result of a planning  application approved by Barnet  Council and the Mayor, which will see 29 storey tower blocks built right on its edge.
I was amazed to hear that Natural England, the environmental “ watchdog”, does no direct assessment of its own when asked  to comment on planning applications, but relies  exclusively on information provided by the developer and the council, which in this case amounted to the same people.  This I believe is open to exploitation, as I believe happened in this case. We will be conducting a site visit to the Welsh Harp later this month.
I have been pursuing the consequences of the so called “new policing model” through questions to the Mayor.
The official police numbers, statistics and predictions I have obtained confirm there will be fewer police in both Barnet and Camden by the time of the next election.
For Barnet, we now have 42 fewer police officers than we had at the time of the last general election in 2010, when Labour was last in office. By the time of the next election in 2015, there will still be 31 fewer. We have lost 17 sergeants, the most experienced of our officers on the streets, who provide important training and supervision to new officers. We now also have 91 fewer PCSOs, patrolling our neighbourhoods.  Before, we had 9 officers and PCSOs in each of our 21 wards’ Safer Neighbourhood Teams, a total of 189. By 2015, there will be only 135, a drop of 54.
For Camden, we now have 179 fewer police officers than we had at the time of the last general election in 2010.  By the time of the next election in 2015, there will still be 135 fewer. We have lost 27 sergeants, and also have 60 fewer PCSOs.
I have also established that calls to the 101 on-emergency number are not free, like they are for 999.  As an alternative to calling 101, the Mayor suggests crime can also be reported by attending a local police station - except of course, he has closed most of them! The police are still struggling with the alternative “contact points”. Some have yet to be set up, like the desperate suggestion of an occasional police stall in Starbucks to replace Hampstead Police Station. Others have seen little traffic and seem to me doomed already.
The Safer Neighbourhood Ward panels which feed into the police at the local ward level are also to be abolished and replaced with much larger panels covering clusters of half a dozen or so wards, which will inevitably be further from residents on the ground.
And all this at a time when the Mayor is cutting the police budget by 20%, he thought it was right to spend £660 on a female senior officer’s “Napoleon style” ceremonial hat!
The Mayor has decided to ignore the recommendations of the independent planning inspector over his amendments to the London Plan. The effect of the Mayor’s decision is to make “affordable homes” less affordable. Developers are normally required to set aside a proportion of homes in any major development for social rent (usually through housing associations) or for shared ownership, part rent, part purchase. The result is that rents will be charged up to 80% of open market rent, putting these new homes beyond the reach of the many families who they were supposed to provide for.
Barnet Council, at the same time, is relaxing existing planning consents by reducing the previously agreed number of affordable homes, for example at Beaufort Park in Colindale, where there will be 238 fewer affordable homes. The Barnet cabinet member for housing has made clear he wants rich people to move into the borough in preference to poor people, and is relaxed about providing homes for oligarchs and oil sheiks!
We are also now seeing the early signs of the consequences of the Government’s policy to cut housing benefit. over the 6 months to November last year, private  sector housing benefit claimants in Barnet  went up by 41% and in Camden fell by 1% In Westminster, the fall was 20%, in Kensington the  fall was21% and in the City, 33%. What this means is that people are being forced out of central London into outer London boroughs like Barnet. This creates pressures on Barnet’s own housing supply, putting up rents for local Barnet people as they face increased competition from people moving from the centre. This also puts more pressure on local services. Whilst school places in Barnet come under pressure, in Westminster schools are losing pupils. This is social engineering at its worst.
Written questions
I tabled a full range of written questions: for the replies click here.
Press releases, letters for publication
London Assembly demands apology from Mayor over Avanti free school
Barnet Council Planning Department faces Government “special measures” for underperformance
“Boris is wrong to push through fire station closures”
Eid Message from Andrew Dismore
Inflation-busting fares rises “a tax on workers”
Public Accounts Committee on HS2: Government “not yet presented a convincing case”
450 years until all low-paid Londoners on living wage
Launch of London-wide School Christmas Card Competition in Camden
Forthcoming inquiries at City Hall: have you any questions?
Health Chiefs admit London A and E plans for Winter is short term “sticking plaster” under questioning from Dismore
Camden Labour defending Belsize Fire Station
Local Assembly Members welcome North London Waste Authority decision on Pinkham Way
Mayor’s bus running four years late
Dismore questions “Where is Boris on the Northern Line?”
Letters for publication
Beaufort Park: Cllr Davey suggests poor people not welcome in Barnet
Letter for Publication: Syria
Letter for publication: Boris Johnson’s “get stuffed” comment
Letter for publication: Anti-Immigrant Van
Letter for publication: Trade Unionists
Problem solving and casework
Adam Langleben my City Hall assistant, managing incoming correspondence, casework and my diary:
Best regards
Andrew Dismore

UNISON Petition to Capita

I am a PROUD member of the UNISON Trade Union, and I received this communication from them recently, and I hope you will sign it:

"You may be aware that as a result of Capita winning a contract to deliver back office services for Barnet Council nearly 350 jobs will be lost to our community and up to 150 staff made redundant.
Our branch is determined to try to convince Capita that there is another way to deliver services to Barnet residents.
On behalf of all of our members now facing redundancy I am asking you for an act of solidarity and support.
I hope that you are able to both sign and encourage your family and friends to sign this petition which is now on line. There are a lot of staff and their families hoping for your support. To view and sign the petition click on this link
Below is a copy of the petition.
Tell CAPITA - TO KEEP OUR JOBS IN BARNET - Community Petition
"Dear Mr Pindar
As Chief Executive, you will be aware of the Capita Plc consultation with former Barnet Council staff starting on Monday 7 October 2013. You will know the Capita Plc proposal means hundreds of jobs are to be lost to Barnet, with no certainty that these will be recreated elsewhere in that community, resulting in a loss of local knowledge and another severe blow to the local economy that will have a negative impact on any remaining Council staff, residents and local traders. In the current economic climate this is unacceptable. I would ask that you directly intervene and provide a commitment that a new service solution is found that both protects and creates jobs in the community they serve."
Why is this important?
In August 2013, Barnet Council signed a ten year £320 million contract with Capita Plc to take over the provision of the following services take over the running of the council's back office services which includes customer services, human resources, finance and payroll, IT, revenues and benefits, estates, corporate procurement and commercial services.
Capita Plc proposed solution is to provide these services in Capita Call centres elsewhere in the UK which will ultimately lead to approximately 350 jobs losses to our community and upwards of 150 redundancies in Barnet.
We are passionate about local public services and believe people providing them have local knowledge and are accountable to the residents of Barnet. Not only that but local job losses will have a negative impact on our local economy as working people become jobless with a reduced income to spend in the local economy." "

Monday, 14 October 2013

Pinkham Way update

I was pleased to hear that the Pinkham Way waste site which we oppose had been dropped as a porposal by the North London Waste Authority. COngratulations to the residents who campaigned so well, but also to my colleagues Barry Rawlings and Pauline Coakley-Webb who are the Coppetts Councillors.

A tribute to the master, Sachin Tendulkar

News of India batsman Sachin Tendulkar's retirement is something of a hammer blow. Sachin is my absolute hero. In the many tough times over the last 24 years, I have often found inspiration from his innings, and I can't imagine following cricket without him. He is a genius and incomparable.

Tendulkar is the reason I have, hitherto, failed the Tebbit test. I may no longer once he finally goes. My cricketing love was based on a batting lineup of Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman. Now only Sehwag remains. I could not feel more depressed. :-(

Boris' fare rises

The GLA Labour Group have been campaigning against Boris Johnson's oyster card fare hikes, which are already 50% higher in his 5 years of office.

Andrew Dismore AM has two interesting articles. Firstly on the campaign to limit the fare rises. He also carries Val Shawcross AM's motion here.

Andrew has also asked Boris "Where do you stand on the Northern Line?".

Sarah Sackman

I did want to do a quick post very belatedly congratulating Sarah Sackman, who was selected as Finchley and Golders Green PPC last month.

I had planned to write this when selected, but I have only just recovered access to this blog, who's password I lost for a while.

Sarah will be an excellent candidate for us, and is already working very hard. I hope she wins and can give the people of this seat proper Parliamentary representation.

You can keep up to date with Sarah here, and I will be adding her to my list on the right of the page.

Martin School Centenary

I had a great visit to Martin School last week to celebrate their centenary. there were all these really great cakes, as well as sandwiches and tea. I particularly enjoyed the cupcakes with the school logo icing. There was also scones and jam too. Best part of the job in many ways.

There was a talk about the history of the school, and I talked to former teachers, pupils and parents. As a former Coppetts Wood boy, who loved that school a great deal, I am sure Martin School pupils will have the same fond memories of their school.

Martin is another East Finchley school with a real appreciation for the community, a good governing body, good teachers and leadership and very nice pupils, who are well behaved and polite. A real asset to the community.

A visit from European colleagues

I really enjoyed seeing Claude Moraes MEP, who came to Finchley to campaign with us. The European elections are the same day as Councils next year, 22nd May, so it is nice to make sure people understand what is on the two ballots. I have always liked and admired Claude, who is one of the nicest people in London politics. I was equally impressed with Lucy Anderson, a candidate. I had not met her before, and it was a real pleasure. She is very engaging, and good at talking to people not generally inclined to Labour. I hope she is elected next year, as she will be a real asset to the Labour MEP Group. I look forward to working hard to try and make that happen.

Joint Health Commiittee

I had my first go subbing for Alison Cornelius on the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting in Haringey Town Hall. We share this committee with Enfield, Haringey, Islington and Camden.

It was a long meeting, with a number of issues. We looked at the acute care and A&E figures, the proposals for Moorfields Eye Hospital and the BEH clinical strategy, which has been endorsed by Barnet and Haringey, but Enfield want to judicially review the changes in their area.

My thanks to Cllr Old, who was with me on the committee for pointing things out, and to the excellent chair, Cllr Gideon Bull from Haringey.

Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee

I wanted to pick up on the Health OSC meeting a few weeks ago, as we were surprised to hear that the Tories had tried, and failed to get anything going on the bus situation with Finchley Memorial. This was surprising, as we were the ones who had raised the issue, but were not invited to any discussion, despite Woodhouse having Labour Councillors. It says something pathetic about the Barnet Tories that they are too partisan to work with us on an issue we raised.

Middlesex Uni Freshers Fayre

The Labour Party were a strong presence at the Middlesex Uni freshers Fayre. We signed up a lot of people interested in helping us,and supportive of the party. Feedback was particularly positive about Ed Miliband's energy policy, and our campaign on the Great Tory Train Robbery, to stop Boris from his inflation busting oyster card rises.

It was notable on the Thursday when I was there that there was no sign of the Tories or any other party. Andrew Dismore and Sarah Sackman went down very well as well. It was good to see students take an interest in the areas they live in, with a number from Beaufort Park and Colindale.

The funniest moment though was when we saw that a big nightclub in Watford had their stalls right opposite the Jehovah's witnesses. can't have been a big crossover appeal.

Visit to Friends of Finchley Youth Theatre

I enjoyed visiting Finchley Youth Theatre, where East Finchley resident and actress Carolyn Pickles spoke about here career. I was good to meet the people there and talk about some of the issues they face. Funding is becoming harder and harder for these excellent organisations, and I hope they can all push through these tough times. I commend the work they do, and the dedication to the arts. They should be applauded for their work.

Archer Academy visits

Last week I was very pleased to visit the new Archer Academy twice. I answered questions from pupils about the local area, what I would like to see improved and other very tough questions. Kids are no pushovers, and they do ask some very searching questions! Alison Moore was asked what era from East Finchley's history would she like to go back to. That was her first question. I think her answer (for the record) was the times of Octavia Hill and Henrietta Barnett (Great answer). I was asked what I most disliked about the area, which was tough to answer. Lots of very political questions as well. I did have to behave myself, as I was being recorded and this was, technically, for the record.

I did struggle with where's my favourite place in East Finchley, and the only thing I could think of was the Windsor Castle Pub! I may also have given a few pub related answers, but on the whole I hope my answers were helpful. When they asked what I would like to see here, my answer (for which I got an applause) was a milkshake bar, as there are several nearby, but not in East Finchley.

I have to say, I was incredibly impressed by the school as a whole. very well behaved pupils, good teachers, a leadership with an excellent grasp of the school and a good governing body. Given I visited only three weeks into their opening, I was surprised how quickly the school had settled. I put this down to good planning. It is also telling that I have been invited to the school only three weeks into it's history, and am a regular visitor to Martin School. It's good to see how seriously these schools take community engagement.

I would also add my thanks to Mike Gee from Barnet Greenspaces. Onthe first day we were a very good double act and complimented each other quite well.

Grange Big Local

I enjoyed visiting the Grange Big Local open day at the Ann Owens Centre a few weeks ago. It was a very well organised day, with a lot going on, and I'm sure many of the residents felt engaged by the event. Live music, including a string quartet (with only three members. Budget cuts I presume!) playing music from the 20th Century. They were brilliant, and there were lots of children around who were mesmerised.

I hope there wasa lot of useful feedback for them to use.

Barnet War Memorial Initiative

I was very pleased to attend another meeting of the BWMI. We had some excellent discussions about a range of issues. First and foremost are the exciting developments at Hendon RAF museum, where they will be opening a new section on the air war in the first world war. There was a very interesting presentation, and they have planned and prepared for this exhibition a lot. It looks to be very exciting and I encourage all to go and see it.

We also looked at the situation with the John Parr memorial. John Parr was the first British casualty of the First World War, and he was a Finchley boy. Born on Litchfield Road in Finchley, he also lived on Bedford Road in East Finchley, before moving to Lodge Lane in North Finchley, where he lived at two addresses. We have been looking at placing a plaque for him at his old house, but have not met with much success. We are also looking at a notice board on the car park site. At the meeting, some interesting research was presented about his life, which was interesting however brief. It seems it took a long time for him to be identified as dead, as everyone around him seems to have been killed at the same time. His mother wrote several letters to the Ministry of War asking where he was, but they did not seem to know. His death was only confirmed by a friend of his who wrote to his mother telling her he had seem him die. It seems he was buried by the Germans. A tragic story, and an important one to remember as we COMMEMORATE (not celebrate) the centenary next year.

Cllr John Hart also gave an interesting update on the renovation of Mill Hill memorial, and the work done by Barratt Homes to help restore it.

We also heard about work with Harrow to produce a book of remembrance, for which I will be on the sub committee.

East Finchley Festival

I attended the AGM of the East Finchley Festival, where again I have been put in charge of stewarding. If anyone is willing to help out on the day please email me!

Friern Barnet School leads the way with arts

As a governor at Friern Barnet School, I was very impressed on attending a concert there for European visitors. It shows how important performing arts are in the curriculum, and how it induces students to excel. It was also a good advert for the school, which keeps getting better. congratulations to all.

Henry VI in Barnet

I very much enjoyed my trip to Monken Hadley for the Shakespeare's Globe production of all three Henry VI plays. Despite the dreadful winter conditions of freezing cold and persistent rain (it was on 24th August!) it was a really brilliant day. It was part of a programme of staging "battlefield performances" at the places where some of the battles depicted in the plays took place, such as St. Albans and here. Full credit to the actors who braved it out in that weather, and the crew who worked miracles. It was only towards the end when some of the lights blew!

It was once said that "we don't do culture in Barnet", but I think this proves we have an immense historic and cultural legacy here, which we should be very prod of.