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

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Helen Michael writes to Cllr Cornelius

North Finchley Trader Helen Michael, who organised the parking petition that attracted a record 13,000 signatures, has written to the leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius about One Barnet.

Better Barnet have the letter, reproduced below.

Dear Mr Cornelius,
I have read your interviews with Daniel O’Brien in The Press and Nathalie O’Neill in the Times with interest.
I feel that some of your comments are directed at me and that I have been publicly criticized.  I should like the opportunity to respond.

I wish to make it clear that I was nominated as the spokesperson for the traders of North Finchley.  As a woman trying to run a small business in these difficult times - difficulties compounded by your parking policy - I have my hands full trying to make a living and I could do without this distraction.
This was not a role that I sought. I am not a natural activist, I just want to do something. Before this parking fiasco I was not known to the Council.

After initially trying to reason with Barnet Council about the parking issue only to find that I was treated with disdain and ignored, I organized a petition and collected in excess of 13,000 signatures.  I speak on behalf of all those people who went out of their way to sign the petition in direct opposition to your parking policies.  I also speak on behalf of all those traders who displayed anti-parking increase posters throughout the borough.

I and the other traders feel that we are having our intelligence insulted by empty promises made by you. 
We met in CafĂ© Buzz in March for breakfast. You agreed that something had to be done about the parking issue quickly and you made it clear that the meters were not coming back.  We made a concession in relation to scratch cards on the basis that they would be introduced quickly. 
You assured us that they were being organized and would be available shortly. Well, we are now middle of August and still waiting. I and the other traders are driven to the conclusion that we are being led up the garden path.  

As for your comments that we are a vocal minority, I find this deeply offensive. You have been invited on many occasions to walk the length of the High Road and speak to every trader, independent and multiple alike. If you had taken the trouble to do so you would have found that far from being in a minority, there is 100% view that your parking policies are having a disastrous effect on the High Road. 

You seem conveniently to have forgotten that in excess of 100 local businesses from around the borough attended a business forum meeting in January, at the Arts Depot (where you promised scratch cards).  Not one of the businesses had anything positive to say about your parking policies.  In fact some were incredulous and quite angry at your apparent indifference.  This was an opportunity for you to hear what the shopkeepers actually wanted, but you said, as you have on a number of occasions, that there was nothing you could or would do. On this, at least, you have been consistent.

You have said many times that I have led a very effective campaign and that it is this campaign that is keeping people away.  Well let me tell you that it is YOUR council’s policies that are responsible for keeping people away.  My campaign has merely been effective in raising the profile of this insensitive, undemocratic and arrogant council.

You refuse to take responsibility for the grave error of judgment which has resulted in numerous businesses going to the wall.    Was nothing learnt from Councillor Coleman’s trouncing in the GLA where the electorate spoke loud and clear of its view on your parking policies?

The announcement of the paltry adjustment to the charges in the Lodge Lane car park does not begin to rectify the situation. It has been perceived for what it is – a sop.

I and my fellow traders are bemused by what is driving this insane parking policy. It is quite clear that not only has it been a complete failure in its objective to raise revenue, it has had the opposite effect. This is in addition to the devastating consequences for local traders. In case it has escaped your notice, every business that closes down represents a further loss to the local economy - and to council funds.

I have to remind myself that you are a Conservative councillor. Traditionally the Conservatives have always championed the cause of small businesses. I believe that this is still the policy at Central Office.    

I for one am aghast at the arrogance and ineptitude of a council that purports to act in the name of small businesses.  I know that your policies have driven away many core Tory voters.