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

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Full Council

Last night was the full council meeting, and the liveliest I have ever seen. The public gallery was packed with very angry members of the public, who were furious about a number of things, and had come to see the debate on One Barnet and the petition on Parking.

I must credit the Mayor, Brian Schama, who chaired the meeting fairly well in the main. It's very tough to chair a meeting like that, and he didn't rebuke individual heckles, he just got on with the job, and intervened only when necessary.

I asked in the group meeting beforehand that we properly introduce Andreas, despite his unwillingness! I messed up my introduction, but we did Andrew Dismore's very well. I take full credit for Andreas' one! After the Mayor had entred and sat down, I brought Andreas into the Chamber and took him to his seat, with a huge cheer and standing ovation.

We started with tributes to Jack Cohen and Brian Salinger, who have both completed 26 years as councillors, and congratulations to Melvin Cohen and Agnes Slocombe, who have done 30. Well done to all four, they are all unique and valued colleagues.

Then we moved on to questions. Alex Brodkin asked a question to Tom Davey about housing, and Tom Davey said "You can't help people who don't want to be helped". OMG. I understand he has also said when newly elected that public sector workers should "get real jobs".

I had some questions, which I have detailed here.

Alison Moore had a question about fire safety in tower blocks, and she raised a comment that I had received, from a resident in a block next to mine, that an elderly lady had been advised that in the event of a fire she should throw a mattress out and jump. Tom Davey said it depended on which height you were at. In fairness to him, he did not know that the lady advised was elderly, or that it is physically impossible to do that, as the windows are too small and the balconies on Prospect Ring have netting. This can't be the correct advice anyway, and I have personally been heavily pushing for some clarity on this. I raised it with Barnet Homes during their site visit to Prospect Ring and the Grange with Alison, Colin and myself. I have also raised it with Cllr Julie Johnson, Labour's housing spokesperson, who has passed on my concerns separately to officers.

Then came the debates. The administration business item was on the Gove reforms. Alex Brodkin was absolutely brilliant. There were several recordings of the meeting from the public gallery, and If they are available, I well reccommend viewing Alex's amazing speech. The only other notable part was that during John Hart's contribution, he quoted Richard Crossman, who said "I am going to close down every F**king grammar school if it's the last thing I do!" I thought it was unfair, I got told off by saying "God" in my question, yet nothing happens to Cllr Hart for saying "F**K"!

Our business item was on One Barnet. Alison did an excellent speech, which pulled apart the arguments in favour of One Barnet, again, you must see the the speech if you can. The reaction from the public gallery was amazing, there was cheering, waving of banners, applauding and shouting! I told Alison (I sit next to her) that that was the best response to a speech I have ever seen! The crown reaction will stay with me forever.

During the break, I had some very nice sandwiches and eclairs. The catering services at the Town Hall are brilliant. I also liked the bagels with salmon and cheese.

Then there was a composite motion about the olympic games, with top speeches all round, from Brian Salinger, Alison, Susette Palmer and Brian Gordon. Most notable was our new colleague Andreas Ioannides' maiden speech, which was delivered flawlessly, and beautifully. He read out the Olympic anthem in Greek and English, and I was very impressed with what he said and how he said it. I think the sore feet and tiredness on the campaign trail was well worth it!

Helen Michael brought her petition on parking, which attracted 13,000 signatories. she spoke very well and powerfully, given what has happened to her recently. Poor Dean Cohen never really had a chance, and his speech showed that there is disarray in their approach to parking. I thought Alan Schniederman gave a good speech, with his usual humour.

That was the most important bit of the meeting, and it meandered off towards the end, points having been made, and the opportunity to see the Tories inaction in action.

One last thing is that as a result of Andreas' stunning victory in the Brunswick Park by election, we have been allocated two extra committee seats. I have taken one, at Budget Performance OSC (chaired by Brian Coleman) and Andreas has taken Liscensing (chaired by Andreas Tambourides, his ward collague) which has been in the news recently.