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

Saturday, 29 September 2012

EFAS were superb

I went to a little function in the Bald Faced Stag with some old friends from the now closed East Finchley Advice Service. To give up your free time and dispense advice to those who need it is a great service to the public. We who gave the advice were unpaid, and volunteer driven. But we were well trained and delivered a high quality service to an excellent standard.

I was trained by my predecessor, Andrew McNeil in summer 2006 when on summer holiday from University. I couldn't do more than that summer for one reason or another, but it was my first introduction to casework, and a set of skills I find immensely useful today. Much of my work as a Councillor is casework driven, and it was good to be able to start my term of office with some experience to guide me. I would advise any aspiring Councillor to fund such opportunities.

But sadly, EFAS is no more. It was a brilliant service that literally helped thousands of people, coming from as far as Luton. I do sometimes see people I used to help, and in fact many of those who have nowhere to turn for advice now go straight to their Councillor. It is a real tragedy that the service was lost, and is unlikely to ever come back, but at least this evening I had a chance to see the people who have so selflessly improved the lived of others.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Please support people with learning disabilites and autism

The Larches Community are a North London charity that have been helping people with learning disabilities and special needs for the last 17 years. They do an excellent job, and that have had a very lucky break. Deutsche Bank have offered to pay double all the donation they receive from now until December. This is absolutely vital. As we know, charities funding is in real trouble, and the Larches Community need all the donations they can get to continue their services. This is a once is a lifetime opportunity for them, and I hope you will contribute to them.

please click :

or send a cheque to: Larches Community, 1 Rectory Lane, Edgware, Middlesex. HA8 7LF

Many thanks.

Stop the sale of our local heritage

The Barnet Labour Group has launched a petition to stop the council auctioning-off local historical artefacts that were removed after the closure of Church Farm House Museum.

The petition, submitted by Coppetts ward councillor, Pauline Coakley Webb says:

"We the undersigned petition Barnet Council to stop the sale by auction of our local historical artefacts that were removed from the Church Farm House Museum when the council closed it. We ask that the council advertise by public notice for donors to reclaim any items they donated to the Museum, and that any remaining items are either offered to Barnet Museum or are re-housed for viewing or for archive in Barnet's Libraries so that generations to come can enjoy and learn from them."

Cllr Coakley Webb said: "Many people will be surprised and shocked at the vast collection which is being disposed of by auction. Some of these artefacts may have substantial monetary value, and others not, but the way we value and protect our history and heritage for the benefit of future generations has clearly reached rock bottom.  Barnet council will not only be pocketing the proceeds of the sale of items donated in good faith, but will be doing a great injustice to the people who generously donated items to the Museum over many years."
Labour's spokesperson for Community and Libraries, Cllr Anne Hutton said:"The council should have more rigorously tried to contact donors to see if they wanted their gifts returned, and if not should have offered these artefacts to Barnet Museum so that they could remain in the Borough.  Once again Barnet council seems to be more interested in flogging everything off than preserving things for the benefit of all."



1. To sign the petition follow this link:

2. To see a list of the artefacts for auction read Cllr Coakley Webb's blog:

Tom Copley Report from GLA

Recieved the following from Tom Copley, London Wide Labour member of the Greater London Assembly

Dear Arjun,
I was elected to the London Assembly in May as a Londonwide member representing the whole of London.  I consider it a vital part of my role to keep you informed with my work on the London Assembly and around London, so I'll be reporting back to you each month.
This month has seen a dramatic fall in affordable house building under London’s Tory mayor, while the Labour-dominated Assembly has backed equal marriage and launched an investigation into London’s private rented sector.  You can read more about these stories in my report below.
If you would like to receive more regular news updates from me in addition to my monthly report please click here to sign up.
Best wishes,
Tom Copley AM
Labour London Assembly Member (Londonwide)
PS – you can keep up to date with the work I’m doing on the Assembly and around London by following me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  You can also visit my website at
September Report contents:
  • Affordable housing
  • Out4Marriage
  • Private rented sector
Dramatic fall in affordable house building under Boris Johnson
Housing is the biggest issue facing London at the moment yet affordable house building has fallen off a cliff under Boris Johnson.  There has been a 70 per cent drop in the number of affordable homes being built in our city since last year.  When I questioned the mayor about this at September’s Mayor’s Question Time he was terrifyingly complacent.
Boris Johnson has claimed credit for administering the programme he inherited from Ken Livingstone, who secured £5 billion for housing from the last Labour government.
London Assembly backs equal marriage
The London Assembly has backed the campaign for equal marriage.  At September’s plenary meeting the motion to support equal marriage received cross-party support, albeit with three abstentions from Conservative members.
Following the vote, I recorded a joint Out4Marriage video with Lib Dem Assembly member, Caroline Pidgeon, who proposed the motion:
Assembly launches investigation into the private rented sector
More than 25% of Londoners now live in the private rented sector, including an increasing number of families.  Large numbers of people who would previously have bought a home have been forced to rent privately because of sky-high house prices, as well as a lot of people who would prefer to live in the social-rented sector.
The London Assembly’s Housing and Regeneration Committee, on which I serve, has launched an in-depth investigation into the private rented sector.  Over a series of meetings we will be looking at rent regulation, tenancies, letting agencies, the housing benefit reforms and more.

Surgery this saturday

I am doing surgery this Saturday, from 10-11.30 AM at the East Finchley Library. There is always an East Finchley Councillor in surgery every Saturday from 10-11.30, and this time it's me. I don't seem to get many visitors, so I have decided to promote my surgeries. As always, my details are on the right of the page, please feel free to contact me if you feel I may be of assistance.

Excellent Camden Result

I only got down to Hampstead Town once in the campaign due to a very high workload this month, but I could see things were positive. Hampstead Town is sort of like the Camden equivalent of Totteridge or the Garden Suburb. Though it was once a Lib Dem stronghold, the Tories have made big progress in the ward lately. In the by election tonight, Labour doubled it's vote from the previous by election (which had a higher turnout) in 2008. A stunning result.

And it shows that Camden Labour are doing well, they are an incumbent administration having to implement the Government's horrific cuts to local Government, but are doing it in a fairer way. Unlike our Tory Council they are doing what they can to protect frontline services. It's silly not to pretend that local Councils don't have to make big savings- they are legally required to, but it's where the axe falls that is a mark of your priorities. In this, Camden are streets ahead of children centre cutting Barnet.

And it was good to see so many local activists on the street. The Camden Labour Party is very dynamic, and they do a lot of work. I am glad to see they are doing so well, and it shows that the resurgence of Labour in North London is very real. Brunswick Park was no fluke. I find that time and time again many voters tell me that they voted Tory in 2010, and thoroughly regret it. Excellent Labour Councils like Camden show that we are capable of government again.

And there are plenty of questions the Tories should ask themselves, such as why their Mayor wants to shut down Hampstead Police Station, despite the pleas of residents, Councillors and Andrew Dismore, the GLA member. The Lib Dems will be very upset with this result too. This ward should have been a straight fight between them and the Tories, and this had been such a stronghold for them. As we saw in May, Londoners do not like Mr Clegg, and are heeding his advice not to vote for his party.

A final word about our candidate, Maddy Raman. He was quite simply brilliant. This ward has never had a history of returning Labour Councillors. But we had an exceptional, hard working candidate who was out there fighting in the last mews. Intelligent, energetic, personable; he was simply the perfect by election candidate. He and his team should be very proud of what they achieved.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Finchley Society

On 25th October at Avenue House, the Finchley Society will be debating Localism. I do hope to go (You can never really commit in advance as a number of important committee dates are up in the air at the moment), and it sounds like it will be an interesting discussion. I believe it starts at 6.30 and all are welcome. If you want to hear opinions, or have strong views and want to contribute, you will be welcome.

Yom Kippur

I thought I would belatedly wish members of the Jewish community all the best on the year ahead after Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Barnet has a large Jewish community, and they are a significant contributor to the culture and community of the Borough. I wish them all a healthy and happy year ahead.

Passing of Horace

I am very sad to hear of the passing of Finchley legend Horace White. Horace was a regular attendee of the East Finchley Festival and was well known for his "Best of luck!" greeting. He could often be seen in North Finchley, and I hear there are flowers being left outside McDonalds in tribute to him. He was also fond of travelling up and down on the 263 bus, becoming much liked by the bus drivers.

He was a very pleasant man, and could light up your day. I am sure all Finchleyans will remember him fondly.

Monday, 24 September 2012

LINk Meeting

I have just come back from one of the excellent Local Involvement Network meetings, with Baroness Wall of New Barnet and Mark Easton of Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals.

It was a good session, clearly the BEH strategy is doing some good things, they have identified some weaknesses which they are looking at and hope to improve using best practice. One issue was admissions again, which was a big issue in East Finchley. I may raise this as a members item at the next Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, if we have time. Mr Easton said no one had cracked how to do hospital admissions electronically.

I raised the issue of the telephone numbers they give out sometimes being wrong, out of date or merely a reference to another number. Many of us have experienced it when you ring a number provided to you that number refers you to another number, that number is no longer in operation, so you try to ring another number, who then guide you to the first number. I had this problem when I was looking for a dentist who did home visits for my Grandmother.

He also said he was looking at the transport issue, and confirmed that there would be 200 new parking spaces at Barnet Hospital. I'm choosing to be magnanimous about that. I will want a report back on the transport issue, particularly for Finchley Memorial, which is a little off the beaten track. I don't know is the buses that go along Finchley High Road can go into the hospital site, like they do at other hospitals. It would lengthen the journeys, but would make things easier.

But another good meeting by LINk, very valuable service.

East Finchley Apple day

Apparently it is the above celebration on Saturday 20th October, I have no idea what it's about, or where it comes from, but will keep you posted on more details.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Stirling Corner

Today, I visited Srirling Corner in Underhill to help deliver a survey for Barnet and Camden Assembly member Andrew Dismore. Andrew represented that corner of Underhill when he was an MP, and he and local Labour Councillor Anita Campbell have both been fighting for a proper crossing there for many years. To get from the caravan site to the Morrisons is to run a gauntlet of a busy roundabout with the A1 coming off it. Residents in fact have to take a bus to get the equivalent of East Finchley Station to Budgens. Not nice or safe.

Now we have Andrew in the GLA I think we can have a real opportunity to help these residents. I was struck by how nice the Caravan site is. I say caravans, but they are really more like bungalows. Really nice community, beautiful houses. As a self confessed urbanite, I am surprised by how much I like the place.

The only drawback is the road safety, it really is horribly inconvenient, as we discovered for ourselves. Given the age profile, I couldn't see the residents there darting across the A1. They are so close to the only local shop, but simply can't access it. It's nonsensical that it has taken so long for anything to be done, given how severe the situation is. In fact we were extremely well received by all but one resident, who were delighted that we are taking up the fight again. They appreciate the work done by Andrew and Anita in the past for them, and are angry that the Tories have let them down.

Budget and Performance

Last night saw my first Budget and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting at Hendon Town Hall.

There were some very important items on the agenda, and promised to be a good meeting.

We started with the questions from the public. The Labour group were annoyed to see that the questions had been written, but no written reply had been given, and the Chair, Cllr Brian Coleman read the original questions, gave a reply and then gave a supplementary. We registered a complaint that the standard practice was to provide written answers to written questions, but the Chair said he has checked the standing orders (the rules governing how committee meetings should be run) and said it was in order.

The public questions were very good, especially those of John Dix and Reema Patel, but it's never easy when you don't have the answer before you. The video of the exchanges are available on the internet, and I will leave it to your judgement on how they went.

Then we examined the early intervention and prevention strategy. this is a very important development which will save money in the long term, and help solve a problem. I followed the lead from my ward colleague Cllr Alison Moore and raised the concern that by targeting resources to the very bottom only, you miss those not at the same level of risk, but
still potential beneficiaries of the funding, and this would worsen their life chances. Cllr Cornelius said that he understood, but it was best to target at the worst off. There was a lot of patronising and jargonistic nonsense about happiness boundaries, which we all took pot shots at.

On the sport and physical activities review, Cllr Coleman was annoyed at the delay, and it was revealed that parks were part of the review. We had a go about them for ruling out any capital expenditure, but not ruling out not providing leisure centres. We lost the vote to recommend ruling it out.

Then we went through the provisional budget. There was a lot there, and I wont go through it in detail, the video is available on other websites. My contribution was to note that they had not provided figures about the savings from the "renegotiation" of the meals on wheels contract. All the Labour Councillors had various points to make, and clarifications to seek on different sections. It was revealed that the council will be charging for some driving infringements, but there was a mistaken figure of revenue from CCTV enforcement of parking, which will not happen. Sadly, due to the time limit, you can't query or debate all the lines, and the job is harder for me because I am often allocated my questions later, when everyone else has asked all the good ones, or the ones I wanted to.

Cllr Coleman was keen to see a freeze in Council tax, and Cllr Thomas challenged him to find the budget savings that would achieve it. There were some interesting exchanges between Cllr Coleman and his former Cabinet colleagues, which was fascinating to watch. I thought my colleague Cllr Alan Schneiderman of Woodhouse ward made a very goodpoint, which was how can the council target resources at the most vulnerable when they were cutting even more from the children's budgets. He was ruled out of order, but the point had been made.

Then we discussed the confusion over the DRS One Barnet contract. We were told that Cllr Cornelius had not seen any of the papers, nor discussed and aspects of the Joint Venture proposal, nor that it had been agreed to. We thought this was strange, because of the reported email that was sent to staff in the summer saying that a JV was the preferred option. I must admit that I dropped the ball, by phrasing my question in a way that was ruled out of order. I moved on to a secondary point about timelines in order to properly think a rephrasing of the question that could be ruled in order, but because it was nearing the 10 pm cut off, I was cut short and others were given their questions.

I could not find a copy of the email, and I wanted to ask why it had been sent, why Cllr Thomas was reported in the press supporting it and why the Leader had such a stridently different view. I was very disappointed, as I think I have enjoyed and done OK on my other committees, but found this one much harder to handle.

If one thing was cleared, it is that the leader has ruled out a JV. It's understandable, as the JV was considered the more risky (!) option in the earlier business model for One Barnet. It still isn't clear what went on over summer, regarding the email to staff, but it will have to wait for another day to find out.

Andrew Dismore listens to North Finchley residents

This morning, after a rather painful teeth extraction, I was cheered up by the visit of our local Assembly Member Andrew Dismore. Andrew is the chair of the GLA's Economic Committee. He brought some of his colleagues to meet shopkeepers in North Finchey, and talk to them about the problems traders have there. My friend Tom Copley and Joanne McCartney were there, and they listened to our views with interest, as we met up in Cafe Buzz. They spoke to Helen Michael the proprietor and chair if the traders association. They also spoke to her Barnet equivalent.

West Finchley Councillor Jim Tierney, Woodhouse's Cllr Anne Hutton and I represented the Labour group, Cabinet member for policing and High Barnet Councillor David Longstaff represented to Tories.

We did a walk around to talk to shop owners, shoppers and residents, and I hope we were able to provide the Committee with useful evidence to take back to the Mayor. We also saw the vandalised parking displays, which was reported on earlier in the week.

It's good to see Andrew has hit the ground running, comes up with innovative ideas and brings people out of City Hall to talk to us on the streets, and it was a pleasure to see Joanne and Tom with him.

Keep up the good work Andrew!

Sad news...

Probably not the one you are thinking of tonight, but I was sad to hear of news from my former university town of Canterbury. My first political opponent, though I would never really call her an opponent, has sadly passed away.

In 2007, whilst a student at the University of Kent, the real University in Canterbury, I stood in the council elections for the ward that held the University campus, Blean Forest. I stood with my housemate, really to make a point about the anti-student nature of the local Councillors in Canterbury. We did a bit of work, but never had a cat in hells chance of winning, and in fact I came last with about 130 votes.

We did have one visit to the residents association, which was quite unpleasant as they accused the university of being a ghetto. The only bright point was meeting one of the sitting Conservative Councillors, Hazel, really was one of the nicest people I met in Canterbury. She was lovely to us on that evening, and on the day of the count. In fact the residents said off her the kind of things every politician wishes people would say about them, like "We think she is brilliant!, I wouldn't care if she was the communist candidate, I would still vote for her!" I think that would make a touching tribute to any Councillor (except a communist one!)

I heard tonight that she had passed away, and that the Tories had won the seat. Hazel was an excellent local Councillor, widely respected, very hardworking and a true community champion. I have tried to model my own engagement with constituents on her, and she was a role model for all those who seek to represent their communities I wanted to thank her for her kindness to me ad my friend.

May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

What "assets" are Barnet Council selling off?

At the Audit Committee meeting last Thursday, I requested a copy of the list of assets held for sale, as I noticed the figure had jumped from £3million last year to a whopping £27 million this year. My concern was that this list included buildings such as Friern Barnet Library, Church Farmhouse Museum in Hendon or Barnet Museum.

My colleague Cllr Pauline Coakley-Webb of Coppetts ward has already raised the issue of the contents of Barnet museums being auctioned off in Birmingham. I am glad to see the Hendon Times are following up on Pauline's detective work here.

I have not yet received the list from the council, but I wonder if the contents of the museums are what I may have spied in the Audit report under assets for sale as well? We will find out soon.

This is also a good reminder on how important it is to read all the papers thoroughly in order to be fully effective in scrutiny at the Town Hall.

Bad news on Pinkham Way

This news article disturbed me greatly, as the unpopular Pinkham way plan really ought to be finished by now. Though it mostly affects Coppetts ward, residents in East Finchley spoke to me during my election about the site, and are very unhappy about it. I have done my best by highlighting the issue here on the blog, and actually talking to residents about it. Barnet Labour have led the way on Pinkham Way.

I hope that this plan is re-thought and that a more environmentally sound option is approved, preferrably making greater use of recyling, which is a woeful 33% in Barnet. I have tried to ascertain figures for East Finchley (as we are generally a more environmentally conscious and concerned part of the borough) and for statistics on estates, as in my opinion we need to re-evaluate how to promote recycling there, especially in flats and tower blocks.

Review raises spectre of more children’s centre cuts

Review raises spectre of more children’s centre cuts

The Newstead in my ward just can't afford another round of cuts. This makes a mockery of all the claptrap we heard in the last council meeting about "compassionate Conservatism". more like "kick the weak, elderly, young, poor and vulnerable Conservatism".

Friern Barnet Library ‘Licencees’ secure court adjournment

Friern Barnet Library ‘Licencees’ secure court adjournment

Some interesting developments. The Council seem to have misplaced the deeds to the library! I am at a loss for words if that's true.

Monday, 17 September 2012

East Finchley Festival

As you will no doubt be aware, we had to cancel the East Finchley Festival in Cherry Tree Woods this year because of the poor weather earlier in the summer. Well we had our AGM tonight, and we'll be back next year. We hope to be able to do a Christmas fayre in December, and I will try and keep you up to date.

Colin chairs these meetings well, and there are some brilliant people who are part of the committee, who are frankly irreplaceable. It was nice to see two eager new faces who are willing to help organise. Alison, as usual, made some excellent points and gave useful contributions. It's just me sitting there quietly with nothing useful to say!

If anyone is good at booking bands, please contact me immediately, as we need help and expertise there!

Budget and Performance

This Wednesday is a special meeting of Budget and Performance Committee, on which I sit. You can see the paperwork here. It should be an interesting and perhaps lively meeting. It is open to the public, and I recommend coming. It will start at 7pm at Hendon Town Hall. It is chaired by Cllr Coleman, and on our side, myself, Cllr Alison Moore, Cllr Alan Schneiderman and Cllr Geof Cooke will be there. Hendon Town Hall is disabled accessible.

More on Friern Barnet Library

I was unable to attend the Friern Barnet Library meeting this morning on account of a waking up with a splitting headache. My colleague Cllr Pauline Coakley-Webb was there, and reports the following.

We are also calling on the Council to negotiate, rather than evict the occupants of the library. There seems to be little clarity or coordination form the council on Friern Barnet Library at the moment.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Is Obama copying the Labour Party?!

Sorry for the double Obama posing, but couldn't resist this. Tony Blair once said that he deliberately didn't campaign on a slogan of "change! in 1997, saying it was the "most vacuous sloganin politics" because it didn't mean anything. "Change to what, exactly?" Well obviously Obama had campaigned on the slogan of change, but it seems the President is following New Labour slogans more closely.

You may have noticed in the Democtatic National Convention some familiar phrases. "A lot done, a lot more to do" which was the Labour slogan in 2001, and even more brazenly, "Forwards, not back" which was the 2005 re-election theme!

I approve this message!



Obama is doing well

My take on recent American presidential politics.

President Obama was never going to fulfill the unrealistic expectations of his election, but he gets an unfair amount of opprobrium for not "delivering". In fact he has achieved what Bill Clinton could not, a good healthcare reform which will make a real difference to American lives. Not an NHS, which obviously is best, but not bad. In fact "Obamacare" may be the compromise solution to social care in Britain.

His stimulus has provided the American economy with growth and an increase in private sector employment, something the coalition are failing with here. In fact he has almost returned to the levels of employment that there were when he became President, halfway through the recession. His bailout saved the American Car industry and he brought Bin Laden to justice. He also made college education more affordable.

But he is vulnerable- there is the expectation that a newly elected politician to turn thing around overnight, and America is more used to 4% growth, than the 2% he has achieved this year (which we would kill for in Europe!) People feel let down that he wasn't what they imagined and that things aren't all fixed, so he could never rest in this election.

But arrayed against him are the Republican Party. Headed for a car crash, they have become an international joke. Unreasonable, unyielding to compromise, tolerance or even basic facts. Their culture wars are turning women against them on abortion. They are scaring off Latino voters, who are the largest growing demographic. Black voters are registering 0% support for them in one poll, and that is not likely to change soon. In fact, the keynote speaker at the DNC, Julian Castro, has a real chance for a good future in Texas, a state thought lost to the Democratic party forever. But with 38% of the population Latino, 12% black, and both demographics being increasingly repelled by the Republican party, the Democrats could start to do well in the future,provided they increase the dire turnout from their strongest supporters.

And it was the DNC which has caused a real turnaround. The Republican convention was atrocious, with Mitt Romney being uninspiring and gaffe prone, his VP pick seemingly can't go a speech without saying something that isn't true. It culminated in a keynote address that barely mentioned the candidate, and Clint Eastwood ranting at a chair. And the more they say Obama is a socialist muslim born in Kenya, the madder they look. The DNC, by comparison gave a real boost. Clinton proved he is still a master of communication, and every other speaker reinforced a positive message or progress and achievement. Biden gave a combative speech that ripped Romney and Ryan apart, then Obama gave the best speech of his presidency. The Democrats look united, sane and competent. The Republicans do not.

Romney's poor judgement in foreign affairs was exposed in his dire reaction to the atrocities in Libya, and Obama is surging in the Key battleground states. The Obama presidency could change the face of American politics if Virginia and North Carolina become swing states like Ohio, the Republicans just can't win without these states. Especially if the demographics time bomb starts to take Texas and Arizona away from them.

Barnet Labour: Scrap free councillors’ parking permits!

Barnet Labour: Scrap free councillors’ parking permits!

This was a motion we sent to council, but the Tories wriggled out of debating it by insisting a full debate on something we all agreed on. They are frightened by democracy, and are afraid to debate their behavior. Asking disabled people to pay for applying, whilst getting them for free is unfair.

Needless to say, we lost the vote.

Residents still angry about parking

During our stall in East Finchley, I was struck by how residents are still very angry about the parking fiasco. They do not like the pay by phone parking system, and they are concerned by how poor a system it is- sometimes sending the confirmation message half an hour later, well after they had left! They were getting ticketed as a result, and were having difficulty appealing the ticketing.

Residents in North Finchley also had a nasty surprise- the parking signs had been blacked out, meaning shoppers could not see the signs to know the parking regulations. when this is the case, they can park without hindrance. This week the signs were replaced and the parking wardens were quick to ticket people parked "incorrectly". This is why residents are angry and cynical about the process.

There are supposed to be reviews of this and that going on, but no one seems to know what's really happening. I don't know if the council are still reviewing the CPZ in Summerlee, as promised by Cllr Coleman before his defeat. I don't know what they are reviewing, or what the scope is. If it was a real review, they would bring back the parking meters, which is what people tell me they want time and time again.

Rest assured, we won't be letting this go.

Auditing Committee

I substituted on the Audit Committee on Thursday night in place of Cllr Alex Brodkin of Burnt Oak ward. It was an important meeting with a packed public gallery. There were a lot of questions from members of the public, which is very good to see, people should get involved! My first point was about transparency. The internal audit report said that the council was only meeting minimum requirements of transparency,and that they were moving to more demand led information publishing- i.e they wont bother to make public things unless asked for it! I said to them this was a bad idea, and that was it any wonder that the next page says that residents do not feel involved in decision making processes? And the council are not interested in transparency as it is, because look at what happened when the bloggers used their rights to inspect the accounts, and were confronted by redacted nonsense? I said that if this is how bad it is now, then how will it be under One Barnet when there are commercial sensitivity issues? The Council officer said they received legal advice which said to redact the accounts, but refused to publish the legal advice.

I also asked for a copy of the One Barnet Risk Report, which I managed to get with some difficulty. They said they would send itto Councillors who requested it. Only Cllr Geof Cooke, my colleague from Woodhouse ward and the committee chair, Cllr Lord Palmer asked for it. I was annoyed by that,and sent an email to all councillors telling them that they all should ask to ask to see it themselves so that they fully understood what was going on. Cllr Daniel Thomas, deputy leader of the council replied that it was already available to Councillors, and that it hadbeen to audit before. I will carefully go through it, because I am not sure it will contain the full risks. If the Council are not fully risk assessing the One Barnet omnishambles, there will be real trouble for them.

Health Scrutiny

I was unable to go to the JHOSC on Monday,because of the Friern Barnet Library meeting, but did go to Health overview and scrutiny. It was an interesting meeting, and a full house of members. We raised issues like the transport problems at Barnet Hospital,and about improving the transport connectivity of Finchley Memorial hospital.

I raised with the LiNK that a lot of residents were concerned about the friendliness and helpfulness of receptionists at GP surgeries. This was a big issue at the LiNK meeting I went to in March as a candidate, at Martin School. There were also concerns about the ease generally of getting an appointment.

We also talked about primary care, and how to encourage people to use it better. There are sometimes cultural issues, in that some communities will tend to go straight to hospitals rather than GPs, because it's what they're used to. Hospital care is extremely expensive, and with the national cuts, it is more important than ever to save money without affecting care. There are good savings that can be made in the NHS simply by encouraging patients to use primary care, which soles problems earlier, and saves costs and care down the line.

We also made some comments about the integrated care strategy.

Friern Barnet Library

Events have moved quickly this week on Friern Barnet library. The Library has been occupied since last week, though the occupiers were licensed by the council, and even shown Friary House as an alternative place to run a volunteer library. Instead of going to the JHOSC on Monday, I went to a meeting between the council officers and community groups in the library. It was an interesting chat, as the officers basically said they would only offer us Friary House in Friary Park. It isn't a good offer. The room they offered is being used by the Barnet Asian Women's Association as a prayer room, and the only free room in the house is the mezzanine floor, which was not taken up by the safer neighborhood team. It isn't disabled access either. I was also there on Thursday when the BBC came to do interviews.

It now seems that the Council have  served them with an eviction notice, probably in the assumption that if things don't go well they can chuck them out.But who knows? These are the people who left the library unlocked, with the keys on the table and the heating on full! no blinds or shutters either.

What is also galling is that it was closed down on the basis of cost, but in reality the risible replacement in Tally Ho currently costs £34,000, the security at FBL cost hundreds of pounds a day, which is hardly value for money compared the running a library at FBL for £110,000 a year

There is another meeting this Monday, but I don't know what it will achieve, if the council are only interested in flogging Friary House, which no on wants.

Council Meeting

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, I have been without a computer.

I thought I would belatedly report back on the council meeting on Tuesday. I had some questions, which I will report back on later, when I am able to get a copy of them. They were myonly contribution to the meeting, as I did not speak to a motion.

The motions were interesting, The Tories business item was a silly bleat about how their OWN government aren't supporting them financially, so Barnet should make representations to the DCLG. As if the council needs a mandate to lobby for more money? And why aren't the three Tory MPs lobbying on behalf of their constituents? Maybe it's because Mr Offord isn't very well regarded, Mr Freer isn't well liked by Eric Pickles, and Ms Villiers is so horrified by the Barnet Tories, she has gone to Northern Ireland to get away from the arguing.

We had an item on One Barnet, which was very good, and we got a lot of support from the public gallery. Alison gave two brilliant speeches. But unfortunately, Cllr Coleman had an altercation with visitors to the public gallery, as has been well reported. It wasn't nice, and what was most telling was that the other Tory councillors were laughing with him and applauding him. Well, they will pay for that in 2014.

There were other administrative items as well. Not the most exciting council, and badly overshadowed by Cllr Coleman's altercation, but I think we got our points across, and perhaps some of the Tory councillors will be a little more concerned about One Barnet.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Terry Nutkins

I was sad to hear of the death of TV presenter Terry Nutkins. The Really Wild Show was a childhood favourite, and many people of my generation will remember him fondly. He has had a lot of tributes paid to him from a variety of different people, which says a lot. The last time I saw him on TV was the excellent, but sadly cancelled TV show Mongrels. Thoughts are as always, with the family.

Important health meetings next week

As you will know, I am a member of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) and have a long term interest in health and care related issues. I was a carer for a cancer patient and for a dementia patient, and campaigned against the Health and Social Care Bill, so health is one of my top priorities. I asked to serve on HOSC, and I have already been up to some naughty business. I am lucky to serve with an excellent chair- Cllr Alison Cornelius, a Conservative representing Totteridge and Whetstone; and with Cllr Barry Rawlings, who is our Health spokesperson, Deputy Leader and councillor for Coppetts. They have both given me support and advice.

Our next meeting is next Wednesday, 12th September from 7pm at Hendon Town Hall. Youw ould be very welcome to come along, we are discussing important issues such as Primary Care and CCG implimentation. The documents are here. If you have comments that you wish to put to me, please email but it is a public meeting, and all are welcome.

Before that, there is the Joint Health OSC on Monday 10th September somewhere on Laycock Street. This is the fun one covering us, Enfield, Camden, Haringey and Islington. I am not a member, but I always go anyway. Again, it's open to the public so feel free to come.


Please do come along to Council on Tuesday 11th September from 7pm at Hendon Town Hall. We have an excellent motion on One Barnet. Meanwhile the Tories are whinging about the settlement they get from their own Government! Some good other motions too, like the one about war memorials, and Cllr Alan Schneiderman from Woodhouse and our Environment spokesman, has a good motion, as he often does.

The full papers are here.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


I suspect this is what David Cameron will end up feeling when the final chapter is written on Jeremy Hunt's tenure at health. Hunt has some remarkable opinions to his name, that make him uniquely unqualified to be health secretary, including his views on abortion, his support for homoeopathy, his opposition to the NHS tribute at the Olympics opening ceremony and his views on the NHS, which he says he wants to dismantle, and close the barriers between the public and private sector, with the state subsidising the poor in their attempt to buy health insurance. This would be an adoption of the lamentable and awful American system, which literally kills thousands of people a year.

He leaves behind a wasteland at DCMS, where he was hugely unpopular. He is replaced there by Maria Miller, who bizarrely gets the equalities portfolio, despite her views on abortion, opposition to Gay marriage, etc. From my point of view, Cameron has appointed exactly the wrong people in key positions, from a Tory one he will be credited for putting in place ministers who will help halt the flow of progress. People like Chris Grayling, the "justice" minister who believes b&bs should be able to discriminate against Gay people. He and Miller will no doubt lead to a large increase in membership for LGBT Labour.

There are also a couple of sad dismissals. Tim Loughton, though I disagree with him on some issues, was a caring minister for children and knew his stuff. Obviously he had to go. Same with Nick Harvey at defence. The Fib Dems used to have a minister at every department, but have traded defence (which they didn't care about) for one at environment, because they have lots of rural MPs. It won't save them. Neither will a return to the backbenches for Sarah Teather, who has to go back to Brent and explain to all those voters who never dreamt that when voting for her that they were voting for a Tory government, much less that she would be part of it.

The removal of Justine Greening is beautiful. The Government have changed their policy on Heathrow. About as subtly as a kick in the face. Also interesting is the promotion of Michael Green, from housing minister to Tory co-chair. Sayeeda Warsi was just embarrassing, I used to leave the room when she was on she was so cringe inducing. Who will forget her saying this year on the may election night coverage that Labour were only going to make 500 councillor gains, which was mediocre, a good result would be gaining 800. Then we gained 850.

So now the Cabinet is entirely white, more male, more southern and with more Oxbridge graduates. As if it wasn't before! Cameron has signalled the death of his mission to reform his party, and he has no vision anymore. He is rolling back everything that was decent about him, promoting anti-green ministers, anti gay rights ones and anti NHS ones. He is either so weak that he is having to cosy up to the right, or he is just showing his true spots.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Citizenship Ceremony

I am just off to Hendon Town Hall for a bit of civic dressing up. I have been asked to witness the Citizenship ceremony with the Mayor. I was sceptical about the ceremony when it was introduced, but it seems to be quite popular. Barnet is a very open and welcoming community, and I hope they enjoy living here. I would also say that I think it a real compliment that people want to live here. This country is a great place to live, and perhaps we should remember that when the press do us down.


I have been there now, and I have to say it was very enjoyable. it seemed to mean something cvery personal to people, and everyone in the room was beaming with pride. I must book myself on more of the ceremonies!


I went to Corby on saturday to help Labour's Andy Sawford in the by election there. I do think there is a significant challenge for us to win the seat, because about a third of it, and the high turnout third, is rural, and really havent voted Labour till now, but seemed more positive now.

But there is real anger against Louise Mensch, the resigned MP. I personally understand why she resigned, and have some sympathy for it, but residents didn't, they seemed to feel she was there to put it on the CV, and never really cared about the constituency. I think that's harsh, but she knew what she was getting into when she stood, and it's disappointing for residents there that the Tory party out so much effort into winning the seat, and her candidacy was longer than her representation.

I noted that Andy's campaign literatures biggest promise has been to not treat the constituency like that, and it seems to be going down well. Andy is a hard worker and looks fit for the job. It also helps that the Tory candidate thinks the seat is in Hampshire!

I had a good day out, and hope to go back.

Police Commissioner elections

Over the weekend, I went to Corby to help in the forthcoming by election. I had a couple of interesting discussions with activists from other parts of the country, who are dealing with the November Police and Crime Commissioner. I understand where the idea comes from, the Tory "localism" agenda, which is really just an excuse for the government to dump the job of cutting public spending on local bodies, thus trying to escape blame.

We don't have the American idea of directly elected this and that, we have always preferred elected bodies from which an executive decision making body is formed, like Parliament or local councils. I think direct mandates for commissioners will lead to confused and conflicting mandates, duplication and meddling in operational metters. It's the latter that bothers me, because there has always been an important separation between politicians and services. Politicians are indeed accountable to the public, but should never interfere in any operational matters. If the police and crime commissioner is not about operational matters, then what is it for? I'm not sure it has a purpose at all. If the commissioner has real power then won't it clash with those of the Home Secretary? or the actual police? Who knows how this will work out, because as usual with this Tory Government, they haven't planned it properly.

That said, although the Labour Party is opposed to this waste of time and money, we have met the challenge head on, and selected some quality candidates, selected them early and campaigned for them. We shoud take all elections seriously, even those we don't support. If the system exists, Labour should be there to represent our values. But I do hope we abolish the roles if we win the next election.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Barnet Council beat scam

I can say something good about the Council! Actually there are many fine people who work for them, and this is an example of what they can do. They defeated an insurance scam worth £120,000. Well done to them. It shows what in house services can deliver.

Hands off our parks

My friend Kathy Levine has written an article for the Better Barnet website about the parks situation. She says:

Saturday was the hottest day of the year and Friary Park playground was practically empty because there was a charge to come into the park due to the Friern Barnet Summer Show taking place that weekend. I actually took a photograph of the virtually empty playground to capture it because I thought it was so sad.

As part of Barnet council's 'One Barnet' programme, the council are still planning to encourage more private hire of four local parks and open spaces - Hendon Park, Edgwarebury Park, Princes Park and Scratchwood.

The council's original plan was to do this in several Barnet parks, including Victoria Park, Oak Hill Park, and Lyttelton Playing Fields, but they backed down following a vigorous campaign by local residents and Labour councillors who were concerned about noise nuisance, traffic, parking and environmental damage.

1,206 people responded to the council's consultation on these private hire of parks proposals, and up to 95% of those people responding said they were opposed to the plans.

The question is, why, given this response from local people, are the council still going ahead with plans to encourage more private hire of parks in ANY of our parks. If it is not right for Victoria Park or Oak Hill Park why is right for Hendon Park or Egwarebury Park?

This is all part of the 'One Barnet' plan to increase the council's income by charging local residents more for things, and introducing more new fees and charges.

Labour councillors stressed the importance of public access to our parks as part of their submission to the private hire of parks consultation.

As we can see from the picture above, when people have to pay to get access to our parks and playgrounds they end up not being used.

Pinkham Way plan in trouble

The proposed Pinkham Way waste treatment site in Muswell Hill has been stopped in its tracks today. The planning inspector ruled that the North London Waste Authority had not worked sufficiently well with other councils to provide other refuse disposal methods (you could start in Barnet, which is 281 out of 351 Councils with its baleful 33% recycling rate). Pinkham way has not been entirely ruled out, it could still go ahead if the NLWA meet their requirements, but it looks a little less likely now.

The Barnet Tories are responsible at least in part for this shambles, for selling off the land, despite not checking properly if they were allowed to. The land is classed as a "village green" because of years of use by local people, and as such might not be permissible as a site. Pinkham way is totally unnecessary because if the councils involved met their recycling targets, the need for the site would not arise. Given the cost is £8 billion, the money would be better spent putting in place measures to increase recycling.

Having the site at Pinkham way is a bad idea anyhow. It is only accessible by road, and through a stretch of the North Circular which is always severely congested. The railway line is on too steep a gradient to make it accessible, and there are no canals nearby. The increased road traffic in this congested area would be bad for local residents, plus the site is likely to be noisy at unsocial hours. This was always a bad deal for Barnet, and covers up a decade of failure by the Tories to improve recycling rates. it also show a lack of concern to Muswell Hill residents, as well as the usual Barnet Tory attitude to public consultation.

I must say, the Pinkham Way Alliance have been excellent, as have the local Labour Councillors, Pauline Coakley-Webb and Barry Rawlings. Barry in particular was exceptional, and Labour were the ONLY political party that asked to speak against the plans, not the Tories, not the Lib Dems and not the Greens. The team at Better Barnet have also campaigned against Pinkham Way. I have bee helping Barry and Pauline a lot in Coppetts ward, and it comes up again and again on the doorstep there, and people know who has been on thier side from the start.

Update: Amended 17.15.

update,I have been asked to add the following correction

The North London Waste Authority is not in any way responsible for preparing, developing or submitting the North London Waste Plan for examination by the Planning Inspector. The plan is wholly owned by the seven north London boroughs – Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Islington, Haringey, Hackney and Waltham Forest, in their capacity as planning authorities. Camden has been leading on the NLWP for the seven boroughs. The NLWA is an entirely separate body, responsible only for waste disposal in north London. Our only involvement in the NLWP was, alongside many other bodies in north London, as a consultee to the process .Therefore your statement that ‘The planning inspector ruled that the North London Waste Authority had not worked sufficiently well with other councils to provide other refuse disposal methods’ is inaccurate in two ways:

1 – The Planning Inspector ruled that the seven north London boroughs had not worked sufficiently well with other councils outside of London – not the NLWA.
2 – The Inspector’s announcement makes no suggestion that the NLWA, nor indeed the seven London boroughs, had failed to provide ‘other refuse disposal methods’- what he refers is to is a matter of process regarding the ‘duty to cooperate’ – a process of engagement and consultation - with the outer London boroughs during the preparation of the NLWP.

apologies for the misstatement.