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

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Some more on libraries

Yesterday was a fast paced day, but here s some commentry on what it meant for the libraries services, which are in complete chaos.

First the news that the Artsdepot had been dropped as the site of the "landmark" library. The magical all singing all dancing landmark library.

Then comes Cllr Anne Hutton's response exposing the chaos in the libraries service. I am particularly glad she slayed the nonsense about people wanting to set up a community library in Friary House. Also, the idea of having a "landmark" library in the small North Finchley library makes it seem as if "landmark libraries" are not quite so magical.

Finally, we brought the debate round the full circle, and asked for Friern Barnet Library to be re-opened. It really is simple, that library ha overheads of £6,300. Piddling. Having a full time librarian, and a cafe with social space could easily help with the cost of running the building. There are plenty of other options as well.

And then Cllr Hutton showed how the Council had wasted invested £91,000 in the failed landmark library, far more than the costs of keeping FBL open.

I am seriously concerned about the state of the libraries service. I understand there is a large overspend, and I want to make sure it is covered without damaging the service in the long term. the £91,000 is a huge chunk of the overspend, and would be a pity is librarians had to pay for Rams' folly.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Barnet Council- welcome to the circus!

With the announcement today that the magical all singing all dancing "landmark" library in he Artsdepot will not be going ahead, and instead they will be turning the existing library in North Finchley into a "landmark" library, credibility has left Barnet. It joins prudence, transparency and community as words that have emigrated out of the borough.

The Council seems to be in chaos. They took the decision to move to the Artsdepot last year, closed down Friern Barnet Library 6 months ago, but did not have the deal for the "landmark" library settled. How incompetent. How shambolic. A farce only a clown could do well.

But the Council are persisting with their eviction order, and will not negotiate over the use of the building, only wishing to talk about this unwanted "community" library in Friary House. That they still won't listen is mean.

But negotiating with the occupiers in the first place, then breaking off negotiations abruptly and evicting the pop up library, in the basis they never had dialogue, is just bungling.

So who do you get with a clown, who is mean, but never implements his plans successfully?

And the funny thing about Cllr Robert Rams is that last night, he replied to a tweet from me in support of the Christmas parking plans we have promoted. I was asleep, and out all day today, so didn't see the tweet till about half an hour ago, but my response is simple. I don't need lectures on costing from a man who spends more closing a library than keeping it open.

Perhaps if Barnet need a theme tune or anthem, this might do?

UPDATE: My colleague Barry Rawlings makes the point that the decision not to go ahead with the "landmark" library has been announced 6 months afer the closure of FBL, and so out of time for a judicial review. How cynical.

Continuing the circus theme, it seems one Councillor has been fired from a cannon!

And I have had a complaint from Dan Hope, who objects to using the joker as a picture. It is the joker from the 1960's batman series, and the point is that the Cesar Romero Joker got up to naughty things, but wasnt very good at it.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Let's have a memorial for Horace

I have submitted a motion for council for the Cabinet to consider commemorating recently deceased street legend Horace White with a bench in Finchley.

A small token, but I felt, having been to his funeral, that people would like to have some way of properly remembering him.

Town Centres need Christmas parking boost

We have called for a couple of measures to improve trading conditions for traders in the run up to Christmas.

We are calling for parking to be free after 3pm on weekdays and all day on weekends. This comes after our parking pledges campaign have forced some changes to the way the system is operated, such as the introduction of scratchcards. We don't believe that's enough however, hence our lattest calls.

At the last Budget and Performance meeting, the Council endorsed an idea most Conservatives cherish- that lowering the price of parking will increase the demand. Barnets high streets need the boost in the all important run up to Christmas, which can make or break businesses.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Eric Pickles Barnet Council

I bet the Council were delighted to see this!

"Government action to enshrine Town Hall transparency as an everyday activity will now also open up punitive parking charges to public scrutiny, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced yesterday."

"Councils will have to publish soon as it is produced the number of off-street parking places and the revenue raised from them; the number of on-street parking places and the revenue they raise; as well as the revenue from parking fines and the number of free parking spaces available in line with the Portas Review of the High Street recommendations.
A recent survey found that almost seven in ten people intentionally avoided shopping areas with high parking prices. Two thirds said they would return to the high street if parking was more affordable. One in five felt there were not enough spaces available. It also found that four out of five people pay up to £150 per month for parking.
Eric Pickles said:
"We are ending an era of bureaucratic accountability and replacing it with a more open era of democratic accountability. It is right that taxpayers get to see how Town Halls spend their hard earned taxes so they can properly hold local politicians to account.
"Finally all councils have taken up the £500 transparency challenge but publication is only happening in fits and starts. By writing Town Hall transparency into law we can make certain every citizen gets open and equal access to information about local public expenditure.
"As part of that we will expose a great council cash cow cover-up unmasking punitive parking practices that hit residents in the pocket. We're calling time on local war against motorists - now, more than ever, we need to see the back of this shopping tax and encourage more people onto the high street."
The proposals mean that all local authorities would be required to openly publish their spending over £500 online including, tenders, contracts, senior pay, councillor expenses, voluntary sector funding, meetings, and frontline service data so that 'armchair auditors' can clearly see the decisions being made on their behalf.
This department has been publishing details of all goods and services spent over £500 matching the level required of councils since August 2010. As one of Government's transparency trailblazers that is now being extended to include all transactions above a new low threshold of £250. 'Can do' councils have been challenged to match that threshold.
As a minimum the code states that the public data that should be released in every council's transparency inventory is:
  • expenditure over £500, (including costs, supplier and transaction information). Any sole trader or body acting in a business capacity in receipt of payments of at least £500 of public money should expect such payments to be transparent;
  • senior employee salaries, names (with the option for individuals to refuse to consent for their name to be published), job descriptions, responsibilities, budgets and numbers of staff. 'Senior employee salaries' is defined as all salaries which are above £58,200 and above (irrespective of post), which is the Senior Civil Service minimum pay band. Budgets should include the overall salary cost of staff reporting to each senior employee;
  • an organisational chart of the staff structure of the local authority including salary bands and details of currently vacant posts;
  • the 'pay multiple' - the ratio between the highest paid salary and the median average salary of the whole of the authority's workforce;
  • councillor allowances and expenses;
  • copies of contracts and tenders to businesses and to the voluntary community and social enterprise sector;
  • grants to the voluntary community and social enterprise sector should be clearly itemised and listed;
  • policies, performance, external audits and key inspections and key indicators on the authorities' fiscal and financial position;
  • the location of public land and building assets and key attribute information that is normally recorded on asset registers; and
  • data on democratic running of the local authority including the constitution, election results, committee minutes, decision - making processes and records of decisions."
Mr Mustard must be in seventh heaven by now! If you wanted to upset the Tories,this is one way!
I like the paragraph that says 70% avoid shopping areas with high parking prices.
Barnet has seen a reduction in parking on high streets of 60%, and a fall in revenue for traders of 40%, 

Budget and Performance

Thursday night was the Budget and Performance meeting,chaired by Cllr Brian Coleman. unlike the last, this was a very low key affair, with only one item on the agenda of real interest. The Q1performance report. It's a pointless report, as we are in a position to know what Q2 will be like.

There were some issues which Cllr Alan Schneiderman and Cllr Alison Moore were able to pick up on. The parking revenue account has been badly hit this year. Apparently by the "recession". I know Skyfall is out, but it doesn't take James Bond to decode that one! Clouseau would do. Alan managed to find out that the changeover to NSL had some big teething problems to do with enforcement. Despite being the same staff, just employed by a different organisation. Well anyways, it's been Ironed out, and there is a parking recovery plan, and we have asked to see it.

My main contribution was to ask about the revenue targets. there are apparently no targets for the number of Penalty Charge Notices, but they budget for the revenue. I suppose we haven't moved on much from the days of King Henry VII and charges for this and that. God knows what he would have done with parking tickets!

Alison also made a useful point about getting experts in to advise on what to look for when scrutinizing the One Barnet contracts.

We also had a report from property services. They gave us the list of Assets for sale! I have been battling for a month to get this. You could have drowned a fish and I would have been less surprised to see it.

Barnet 4th in Homelessness League Table

Barnet is the 4th Worst Borough in London for homelessness. This is becoming a bigger issue now, and you do notice the number of new people on the street.

I hope this shock will lead to a serious re-think on housing. There are thousands of people on the housing waiting list in Barnet, and as every Councillor with dozens of housing cases on the books knows, there simply isn't enough housing around. Now obviously, you have to fund and plan responsibly for any new housing, and take local factors into consideration. But I was alarmed by the figures from the 1st Quarter monitoring report that came from Budget and Performance last night, which said the Council were not meeting their deadlines on housing temporary accommodation tenants in 26 weeks, not meeting their housebuilding targets.

I myself have had a really tough housing case this week which laid bare many of the issues.

Nationally too, I fear that drives against welfare may make the homelessness situation worse. Cuts in benefits, replacing Council Tax Benefit (and making everyone pay, regardless of ability), the housing benefit cap and others will put more pressure on housing and housing costs. The Government must examine the impact of their policies properly.

UPDATE: You can see the list here: 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Labour's interesting motion.....

We have an interesting motion likely to be heard at the next Council meeting on 6th November. Please come along to support us.

Barnet Labour have it here.

The motion, submitted by Leader of Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Alison Moore says:
“Council believes that this Conservative administration has completely lost its way over the One Barnet Programme.
Council believes the process to outsource 70% of council services in two large contracts under One Barnet has been dogged by a lack of transparency. Scrutiny of One Barnet by elected councillors has been severely compromised by the administration scrapping the dedicated One Barnet Scrutiny Panel, and by preventing administration and opposition councillors outside the Cabinet from having sufficient time to scrutinise detailed financial information for the project – information which has been presented to elected members on blue exempt papers at the beginning of committee meetings, and then taken away at the end of the agenda item.
Council notes that the One Barnet Programme has so far not made any net savings, and that we are now in the third year of the programme. In fact the One Barnet Programme has actually incurred a net cost for the Council of at least £663,000.
Council further notes that the Leader and Deputy Leader seem to disagree over the appropriateness of the preferred model for the Development and Regulatory Services contract – Joint Venture – and that therefore the project seems to be in complete disarray.
Given the level of risk involved in the procurement of these two enormous One Barnet contracts, NSCSO and DRS, and the gambling of £1 billion of council tax payers’ money that is involved, Council resolves that the Executive Leader be removed from office and that a vote be taken on electing a new Leader who can propose a new way forward for Barnet Council and appoint a new Cabinet.”


I attended the beginning of the Business Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting last night, where the Barnet Alliance for Public Services handed over thier petition to call for a referrendum on One Barnet. What was most interesting were the exchanges with the new Interim Chief Executive, in which he was asked questions like "When you have just told us that you expect future cuts to be 30-50%, how can you know what the Councils financial position is going to be in 10 years to lock us into these contracts." And other gems like "In my businesses, when I write words like variances in, it helps compensate for a low bid- it's where I get my profit from." Tow hich the reply was "That's standard Practise in the private sector" (!)

It's clear now even Tories are getting cold feet, but there is still some effort to go. The Committee did not vote to send the request to Cabinet for their consideration.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Come to Buiness Management on Wednesday

Tomorrow evening, if you are at a loss for things to do, at Hendon Town Hall will be the important Business Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee. the Barnet Alliance for Public Services will be submitting their petition against Mike Freer's One Barnet catastrophe.

It's important to attend and support BAPS. You can see the agenda here.

There isn't much time to stop One Barnet, and I hope you will all be emailing your Tory councillors and Tory MPs to tell them to stop this madness.

Labour will be represented on the Committee by Cllr Alison Moore, Cllr Barry Rawlings and I think Cllr Alan Schneiderman is subbing.

Long lane pasture trust centenary art and photo competition

Read about Cllr Ross Houston awarding a prize at the Long Lane Pastures trust art and photo competition.

I visited the pastures over the summer, and it seems to be doing well.

The exhibition is at the Arts Depot in North Finchley till 31st October.

Monday, 22 October 2012


This morning, I went to the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC) meeting in Camden Town Hall.

With unreadable reports filled with unexplained acronyms and management gobbledegook, I do feel that the NHS needs to make better efforts to explain things to people in ways that can be understood! I am not a member of the JHOSC, I go as a member of the public with a personal interst in Health issues. And that's really important. The NHS IS accountable to the public. It SHOULD be accountable to the public.

Yours truly has never been to the (very nice) Camden Town Hall, and was a little late. I arrived in the middle of what I can only describe as a polite disagreement. It turns out that someone in the NHS has said that the NHS should not be accountable to politicians, as we don't know what we are doing and we don't understand the NHS.

Well, perhaps you might be able to help by producing reports that can be read! But it's a serious charge. Whatever people think of politicians, and people don't think much of politicians, we do represent the people. Bodies are accountable to us because we are accountable to the people, hence bodies are accountable to the public. Beyond Barnet Council, most people see scrutiny as a positive thing, something that makes decision making better and accountability stronger. In fact, the JHOSC won an award for their excellent work precisely because they do know what they are doing.

Councillors are new to scrutinizing Health. We do other areas, and tend to do it well. When we have more expereince in scrutinizing Health, we will be just as valued for it. JHOSC is already recognised for it's diligence, and it is already having an impact.

There was a motion to send a letter to this individual to complain about their words. After a lot of two-ing and fro-ing, the vote was won 2-1 (with 2 abstentions) in favour of sending the letter. This was achieved, as much on the JHOSC is, through cross party work.

There were other reports afterwards, which JHOSC members managed to get some interesting answers from, despite the turgidity of wording in the presentations.

It was interesting to hear that when the Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are shut in favour of the new Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in April 2013, there is still uncertainty over the ownership of some of the assets. It appears that those who do not go tot he successor trusts and organisations will be put into a limited company, PropCo, which will be wholly woned by the Department of Health. What is interesting is that if assets are disposed of, it will be up to the Secretary of State for Health to determine who gets what from the profits.

All in all an important and useful meeting, even if it is tree hours of difficult reports.

A must see film- Billion Pound Gamble

This evening, In the Phoenix cinema in East Finchley, I went to see a film.

No ordinary film, Billion Pound Gamble is a very personal look at what has happened in local Barnet politics in the last few months.

It went through the changes that are happening in the borough, such as the awful parking regime, and spoke of the damage done to traders. I see this myself in East Finchley, and residents often say to me that they strongly support our parking pledges.

It spoke about changes in social care, and Cllr Tom Davey's unwise comment that "we can't help people who won't be helped".

They described what has happened with Friern Barnet Library, and how the community has responded to the closure, and the new occupied library in its place.

It addressed Mike Freer's One Barnet catastrophe, and carried the brilliant video of Mr Reasonable and his "magic shiny box" which eloquently demonstrated that One Barnet is really a black hole, and no one knows what happens inside.

It is a hugely important film, and I well recommend people see it at a showing, or buy the DVD.

People are rarely moved by local politics, but Mike Freer's One Barnet catastrophe is stirring something. People not ordinarily political, even those who are staunch Tories are being put off by the undemocratic and opaque process that One Barnet is being implimented by. They are standing up and making films about it. They are making films about local councils that fill cinemas! if One Barnet achieves nothing else, it will have achieved that.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Billion Pound Gamble

Tomorrow I will be at the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee in Camden Town Hall. This is an important meeting where health matters relating to Barnet, Enfield, Haringey, Islington and Camden are discussed. Barnet are represented by Cllr Alison Cornelius, Cllr Graham Old and Cllr Barry Rawlings. It's a cross party delegation, who work well together. I go as an observer, and the meeting is open to the public. Having read the papers, it is important for me to actually go,as I couldn't understand a word of the papers! They really must work on the management gobbledegook and acronyms. Can be very hard to understand papers if written for an audience intimate with the details already, but horror for members of the public.

After that, the follow up film to "A tale of two Barnets" will be showing at the Phoenix cinema in East Finchley from 5.30. "The billion pound gamble" is a film about One Barnet, and I hope to be there in time to see it.

Friday, 19 October 2012

We need more certainty over future of Fire Stations

Barnet and Camden Assembly Member Andrew Dismore has raised concerns about Fire Stations. The chair of the London Fire Emergency Planning Authority, James Cleverly AM, has released a lit of Fire Stations in London that are "safe" from closure. Unfortunately, this list is only 28 long, out of the 112 in London! Worryingly for us, it does not include either Hendon, Barnet or Finchley!

This is not to say that any of our ones are to close, but it does leave a lack of certainty, which can't be good for the servicemen and women who put themselves in harms way. Mr Cleverly is not living up to his name.

There are large cuts being made to the service, which will inevitably hit the frontline as the size of cuts are bigger than the entire backroom budget. There is always negotiation and consultation, but it's helpful not to leave people hanging.

Cllr Alan Schneiderman on parking

My colleague Cllr Alan Schneiderman, who is Counciloor for Woodehouse ward and Labour spokesperson for Environment, has written a good article on the Barnet Labour website.

he says:

There are many things broken in Barnet but having been at an angry traders meeting in North Finchley yesterday evening, parking may be top of the list.
The last Barnet Cabinet Member responsible for parking policy promised to put up charges “this year, next year and the year after” and was certainly true to his word. Cllr Dean Cohen took up the post, with great expectations of a change in policy, almost six months ago. But the consensus at the meeting was that scratchcards are not working and nothing has changed apart from a 30p cut in some car park charges – too little too late.
In fact, the consensus on parking extends far beyond a meeting of Barnet traders. The report earlier this year by shopping guru Mary Portas highlighted that the ability to be able to park cheaply and easily is integral to the success of high streets. And just this week, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has said that he wants to expose “punitive parking practices”, well as in so many areas he does not need to look any further than (One) Barnet.
The traders demands are simple – cut parking charges, bring back cash meters and introduce a free parking period. With parking revenue down by over a £1m in the first quarter of the year alone, these changes would not only boost the number of shoppers but the Council’s income as well. We need action and we need it quickly!

He is very right. As a member of the Budget and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee We were shocked to see how big the shortfall in parking is. Its in such a bad state that, as Alan says, following our advice would make the council more money.

Many residents either in, or visiting East Finchley tell me how bad the parking system is. For the traders, the visitors and the local economy. It was quite a big concern to residents, along with One Barnet at the stall on Saturday.

Cherry Tree Woods concerns

I have visited Chreey tree Woods with Cllr Alison Moore and a local resident who has raised concerns about the state of the park. The field is still very boggy, and too much so for children to play without getting very dirty. The closure of the kiosk leaves visitors without anywhere to get refreshments as well.

Although the bins had clearly been very recently emptied, we were shown a picture, taken yesterday, of the bins being overflown, with litter piling up on the sides. Clearly this isn't good enough, and we have been pushing all summer for improvements to the service.

It is a beautiful, and much loved park, but we aren't making the best of it, and we will be pressing the Council to make improvements.

Support Graeme Park

About 5 minutes into the lottery programme is a segment about the Community Space Challenge run there.

Please consider voting for it to help our neighbours in Hendon.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Scrutinising Councils

I went to a training session at City Hall in Westminster this evening about scrutiny. Cllr Gill Sargeant and Cllr Alison Moore were the Barnet Councillors present.

It started with Meg Hillier MP and Caroline Pidgeon AM on what scrutiny is like in Parliament and the London Assembly. Meg Hiller has been a Councillor, an Assembly Member and an MP, so has seen a lot of scrutiny in her time. She is currently a member of the Country's most important scrutiny body, the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons.

They did an interesting talk, and the theme that developed was that scrutiny can be just as helpful to a political administration as to the opposition. (Perhaps our own might bear it in mind)

We then broke into plenary sessions, and we decided that we would split up so that the three Barnet Councillors would cover the three sessions. Gill went to a session on getting the public involved in scrutiny. It seems that Enfield have some best practise that Barnet could look in to.

Alison did Commissioning, which is really important for us in Barnet. I am glad that other Councils of all political colour seem to accept scrutiny of contracts and services should be something Council scrutiny committees do.

My session was on shared services. These were private discussions, so I won't go into detail, but there were experiences about the tri-borough system being adopted by three councils in West London. I got some good advice from colleagues as well.

It was a very useful evening, and I am glad that many Councils see scrutiny as a positive thing, welcome it, engage with it prosper by it. It seems as though Health has really benefited a lot from the way Councils are scrutinising them. I hope we can take some lessons and apply them to other areas as well.

Victory for Walksafe!

At this evenings Finchley and Golders Green Area Environment Sub Committee meeting at Avenue House in Finchley Central, The hard working, patient and dedicated Walksafe N2 campaign got rich rewards. Essentially, the committee voted to accept their recommendations for safety measures around Martin School. The committee has recommended:

1) The junction between Creighton Avenue and the High Road should get a new Zebra crossing on Creighton Avenue, and there will be railings put in to make sure people use the crossing. This is a major change from summer, when they tried to take the railings outside the school away, and we were promised this evening that they would not take any other railings away.

2) Better signage on the approaches to the school, and the redevelopment of the junction between Church Lane and the High Road. There were a number of layout options presented, the "best" option in terms of traffic flow will mean making the High road two lanes for a section, which will lead to the loss of parking spaces.

3) Most astonishingly, a 20 mph zone on Church Lane has been recommended by the committee. This is what I was very worried about, and I asked Dean Cohen to give a categorical assurance that he would consider a 20 mph zone for here at the last Council meeting, and I am glad he has kept his promise. We are very happy with this result, I know the fight has been on for many years.

This could be implemented in a matter of months, maybe even in time for the new year.

The meeting went well, and the speakers all did an excellent job (I won't name members of the public on a blog, as I did not ask permission to name them). One speaker ran out of time, and when it came to questions, my colleague Cllr Colin Rogers asked my favourite helpful committee question to someone who has run out of time in their speech- "Do you have anything further to add to your speech?!" Cllr Alison Moore also spoke very well, and summed up the arguments. It was good to see all the speakers got a round of applause.

Members of the committee were very helpful, and it was passed unanimously, much to our delight. I was not able to go to the celebratory drinks at the Five Bells on East End Road, as the lease on the pavillion in Cherry Tree Woods was later on the agenda, and I felt I should stay for that.

But well done to the Walksafe team! Along with the Archer Academy (There is a fair crossover of membership!) team, this is the strongest community campaign I have ever seen. You can't praise them too highly! They are reasonable, articulate, well informed, hard working, engaged, diligent, sensible and more. They are the very model of a successful community campaign, and I hope we have served them as well as they deserve.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Treat the elderly with dignity

I read this article on the Better Barnet website, and it does rather hit home.

I was a carer, and as a Councillor I have seen cases of elderly residents being unable to care for themselves. It worries me the thoguht of elderly residents having to sit at home all day in nightclothes bacause they can't afford the care packages they need.

Additionally, the closure of day cantres will affect the most vulnerable and isolated.

In my ward, the Ann Owens Centre is very popular, and many residents have told me how highly they think about it. Ironic, as it is just a few yards away from another vital and highly regarded service facing huge cuts from Barnet Council, the Newstead Children's centre. It seems like both ends of the age spectrum are suffering.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Gillard gives the speech of her life

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has given arguably one of the most important speeches on feminism that the 12 years of this century can offer.

She was responding to the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott who called for the speaker (who was from his own party) to resign. It is purely a political move, due to the precarious balance of the Australian Parliament. Prime Minister Gillard filleted him, and at one point you can see the blood drain from Mr Abbott's face.

Having been a fan of PM Gillard's predecessor, Kevin Rudd, I have taken time to warm to her, but after this speech, I have nothing but praise for Australia's first female PM.

PM Gillard has also spoken out against some of the worst notions against women that can exist, like the constant questioning of female politician's private lives. If they aren't a housewife they aren't legitimate. Well that's balls, and I for one want to see women from all backgrounds feel confident in politics, just as men from all personal backgrounds are.

I am lucky to be in a group with very strong female characters, and I think it shows what women in politics can achieve.

Friday, 12 October 2012

More Friern Barnet nonsense from the Tories

Cllr Pauline Coakley-Webb has been at it again, demolishing Tory nonsense.

We put out the following press release:

Deputy Leader slammed for Friary House "better access" claim

Labour Coppetts councillor, Pauline Coakley Webb has accused Barnet's Deputy Leader of making misleading comments in Wednesday's local press coverage that Friary House, in Friary
Park has "better access" than Friern Barnet Library.
In response to the court ruling that the eviction of Friern Barnet Library "licensees" must go to full trial in December, Cllr Daniel Thomas was quoted saying, "We have offered a perfectly good alternative with better access but this has been refused by a small group who claim to represent the whole community."

Cllr Coakley Webb slammed Cllr Thomas for his comments saying: "Short of being in a parrallell universe I do wish Cllr Dan Thomas would check out the facts before speaking. Anyone going to the Friern Barnet Community Library, currently being so well run by the community, would know that the perfectly designed slip road, right outside the library front door, has FREE parking and designated disabled places. Even if you came in a wheelchair the distance from the car to the front door is a metre or two. Then there is a gentle short slope with handrails and there you have it you are in the library.

In comparison Friary House, which Cllr Thomas has offerred as a replacement volunteer library, is in the middle of a park. There is no car park on site so you have to find a parking space on the surrounding roads. You then have to walk to get to the park entrance, then walk to the middle of the park only to then find a much smaller community space than is currently enjoyed at the original purpose built, Friern Barnet Library!!  The truth is, Friary House has poor access, and is not wanted by the local community as a library space.

Meanwhile, 4000 plus, and rising, supporters to keep their library, is not what I would call a 'small group'. If that is a small group it makes Barnet’s Cabinet a dot on the horizon eager to be totally out of touch with the wishes of the community."



1. A link to the Cllr Thomas quote can be found here:  

The notion of Friary House being more accessible is frankly nonsense. Soon after my election, Alison Moore and I started helping the Barnet Asian Women's Association, who were based at Friary House. They wanted our help due to the inaccessibility of Friary House! They were unable to get parking spaces, and dial a ride were unable to get to the house, as the gates were shut. Also, the only rooms available were the mezzinine, which is not accessible by lifts!

I took this photo at the time, and it shows that the walkway to the house is long, and the lighting is covered by trees. given it gets dark by 4 pm in winter, is this really safe? Is this really accessible?

Church Farmhouse Museum - The latest

My colleague Cllr Pauline Coakley-Webb continues to put pressure on the Tory administration on the flogging off of items from the Church Farmhouse Museum.

This Council is proving Cllr Coleman's words a few yers ago that "We don't do culture here in Barnet" with force. If it isn't the unhealthy relationship with the Arts Depot, closing down libraries or flogging off museums, Barnet Tories prove that being a Conservative doesn't mean having an interest in conservation.

Council Tax Benefit

Last night I attended a breifing session in the Town Hall on the replacement of Council Tax benefit with Council Tax support.

There will still be a large number of people statutorally exampt from paying council tax, but as there will be a £4.4 million gap in funding, some new methods will have to used to raise the missing funds, such as lowering allowances, charging for empty properties and even making people pay a minimum contribution.

It was interesting to see the political split at the meeting, 8 Labour Councillors, (Myself, Barry Rawlings, Andreas Ioannides, Anne Hutton, Ansuya Sodha, Gill Sargeant, Claire Farrier and Charlie O'Macauley), Jack Cohen of the Lib Dems and just TWO Tories (out of 38!). Full credit to Barry Evangeli and Sury Khatri though.

The changes are not likely to be very ward specific, because poorer wards will have those on CTB because they are out of work, wealthier wards will have those on CTB because there are retirees.

The Council are consulting for less than two more weeks, you can make a submission here.

The timeline for implimentation is very rushed as well, not due to the Council, but due to the Government. It basically needs to be up an running by 1st April 2013, despite the bill requiring it not actually having been passed yet! If we do not come up with our own version, we will have to get the governement managed system.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Friern Barnet Library- today's result

I went to the court proceedings for the possession order by the Council against the occupiers of Friern Barnet Library. Barnet Labour have two reports here and here about what happened today.

Essentially, due to the public interest in the case it will go to trial on 17th-21st December. This gives a little more time to the licensees to run the volunteer library.

Previously, when the library was first occupied, the Council showed the occupiers Friary House as an alternative venue to run a volunteer library. Then they started negotiating with the occupiers about possible alternative scenarios for running the library. By negotiating, the Council effectively turned the occupiers into licensees. The Council notified them last week that they were ceasing those negotiation,s despite them coming to some very detailed discussions about a large range of options.

We will see what the future holds, but in a worst case scenario the library might have been emptied today,and that the community hubis continuing is a very good thing indeed.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Children and Young People plan

The Council are consulting on what it's like for children and young people. Well, They keep cutting children's services, and narrowing down the number of people who will recieve help 35% being cut from the Newstead Children's Centre in my ward, The lack of proper maintenance has been leaving parks worse for wear, and that's just the parks they leave open. They still want to take Stanley Road from the community.

Young people are demonised by the Government as anti social and having it too easy at school. They have taken away EMA and the New Deal, scrapped Child benefit and youth unemployment is still too high. The Lib Dems betrayed every student in the Country.

I wonder if those will figure in the responses?

Church Farmhouse Museum - flog it!

The Council have released a list of the items from Church Farmhouse museum which they are flogging off. You may like to take a look here.

It's good that they are releasing the list, but it still doesnt explain why the list of assets the Council has for sale has risen from £3 millio last year to £27 million this year. A ninefold increase.

It isn't that there are Da Vinci paintings in the collection, but it is a local collection of items donated. They might be small beer to the council, but it is a testament to the way Barnet residents have lived. One Tory Councillor is famous for claiming that "we don't do culture in Barnet" and sadly he was right.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Martin School pedestrian safety to be discussed

Hendon Times has the details.

Campaigners fighting for greater pedestrian safety near a school are encouraging people to show their support at a council meeting.
Barnet Council’s area environment subcommittee will discuss plans for safety measures near Martin Primary School in Plane Tree Walk, East Finchley, on Tuesday, October 16.
Supporters of Walksafe N2 have been campaigning for the introduction of a three-way traffic light at the junction at Church Lane and East Finchley High Road and a pedestrian crossing on Creighton Avenue near East Finchley High Road.
The group would also like the council to improve road signage and markings near the school as well as re-introduce a speed limit of 20mph in Church Lane.
Roger Chapman, of Summerlee Avenue, is a governor at the school. He said: “We’ve already had 2,300 signatures on our petition, but we want people to come along to the meeting to demonstrate to councillors that there is a lot of support for this campaign.
“There have been some near misses on these roads. These changes would make conditions a lot safer for parents, children and other pedestrians.”
The meeting will take place at 7pm after the residents’ forum at Avenue House, in East End Road, Finchley.
Colin Rogers is the East Finchley representative on the committee, and I am his substitute.

I am not a big fan of the residents forums, or the AEC's (though the latter are a little better) as forums can't discuss policy, and often leave residents annoyed, disappointed, and perhaps even disillusioned. I hope the committee will be able to deal with this issue seriously, and I got Cllr Dean Cohen, the Cabinet member, to confirm in the last Full Council meeting that the Council were considering a 20 mph zone for Church Lane.

There are other issues as well, such as signage, the walk through Plane Tree Walk, the junction of the High Road and Creighton Avenue etc. We have had real difficulty in getting the Council to engage with this campaign properly. Soon after my election, when this was a very live issue, the Council removed the railings outside the School, without consultation as part of their "decluttering" of the street scene. We vigorously opposed this, and got the railings re-instated. In fact I spoke about it in the Business Management OSC. But I was concerned that they were doing this whilst consulting with the parents. Worst of all, when we asked about the criteria they were using to justify the removal of the railings, they stated that they were not outside the school! I am glad that the council listened though, and I am glad that this is being reviewed. I hope that we can get a positive outcome. I have never seen such a committed and hardworking community group either, the Walksafe N2 campaign are remarkable, and I hope we can get this done for them.

How One Barnet will affect children

My colleague, Cllr Barry Rawlings of Coppetts ward has the following article on the Better Bernet website.

Barnet’s Conservative councillors have started on the next wave of council service reviews under their ‘One Barnet’ transformation programme.
To re-cap, here are just a few examples of how your local services have already been ‘transformed’ under the ‘One Barnet’ programme:
  • Friern Barnet Library has been closed
  • Parking charges were hiked by up to 300% in one year
  • Sheltered housing wardens have been cut
  • Charges for disabled Blue Badge permits have been introduced
  • More vulnerable people are being charged for home care help
  • 8 children’s centres have been closed
  • Affordable child care funding has been cut
  • Funding for Day Centres for the elderly is being cut
  • More private events in our parks are being allowed
  • The welfare rights service that helps vulnerable and elderly residents claim the benefits they are entitled to has been axed
  • The council is gambling £1 billion of council tax payers’ money by selling-off 70% of critical council services like planning, licensing and environmental health to large multi-national companies
In Wave 2 of ‘One Barnet’ the Conservatives running the council are now turning their eye to ‘transform’ the 30% of services that are left.  One area they are looking at that has cause for further concern is “Early Intervention and Prevention Services” (EIP).
EIP services are designed to ensure that children and adults at risk are prevented from coming to harm, whether through poverty, poor health, poor educational attainment or abuse, and, where they are in danger of coming to harm, by intervening early to try and stop it.
As you can see from the list of examples given above, EIP services have already been cut under ‘One Barnet’ – 8 children’s centres have been closed where early intervention and prevention services were provided, and child care funding has been cut. In addition, the council have been given extra money by the government to provide 800 more affordable child care places in the Borough, but they are refusing to spend all this money to do this. They are only planning to try and provide around 500 extra places and admit they will take much longer than the specified time to do it.
This is the reality of ‘One Barnet’ service transformation.
The latest plans for EIP under Wave 2 of ‘One Barnet’ are theme rather than service based, and, unlike the Wave 1 ‘One Barnet’ £1bn sell-off, there is a hint that the resident or service user is being thought of.
To use the council’s own words in a recent presentation to councillors on the review:
“It emerged that successful Early Intervention & Prevention tends to be multi-agency. For work to succeed it requires all agencies involved to have: a strong cultural commitment to early intervention and prevention, a willingness to work in partnership and high-quality data and information flows, when any one of these three is less than solid, programmes of work will suffer.”
Quite so!
What will happen when one of the multi-agency partners the council commissions services from is a multi-national corporation like Capita or E C Harris as is proposed under Wave 1?
  1. Cultural Commitment – this commitment is based on a public sector ethos, a commitment to public service and the desire to improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged. It is based on co-operation rather than competition. It brings the public and voluntary sector together rather than selling parts of it to the private sector.
  2. Willingness to work in partnership – this is vital and involves partnership working for those groups, both statutory and voluntary, whose main focus is Barnet and its residents. It involves donating time and resources to make Barnet a Better place. This will never be the primary focus of a multi-national company whose main legal commitment is to their shareholders and not local people.
  3. High-quality data and information flows - while private sector companies often own and use data effectively will they willingly share it with others? Early intervention and prevention is for both children and adults at risk and there is a duty to share information, but large companies often have this work sub-contracted several times. This may mean many different companies can have access to sensitive data that may not even be stored in the country. Is this a risk too far?
As the council itself says “when any one of these three is less than solid, programmes of work will suffer”.
It is not only the programmes of work, but real Barnet people who could suffer.  This should be of concern to everyone.
Cllr Barry Rawlings, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group and Labour's Spokesperson for Adults Social Care & Health
What I find interesting is that Cllr Harper, the Cabinet member responsible led quite an attack on our comments, calling is scaremongering. Well, We said this was going to happen a while back, and guess what? There were huge cuts to children's services, like the 35% cut to the Newstead Children's Centre in my ward, or the closure of Friern Barnet Library. People should be concerned about the choices of this Tory Council.

Fiona Twycross AM on food poverty

I recieved the following communicaion from London wide Labour Assembly Member Fiona Twycross. If you have any input please get in touch with her.

Dear Councillor
Just last year, one charity’s foodbanks fed almost 15,000 people in the capital. Kids Company a charity working with vulnerable young people reports that 37 per cent of 5-12 year olds at three of their centres claim there is not enough food for them to eat at home every day.
I am writing to let you know about an investigation I am leading in to food poverty in London as a member of the London Assembly's Health and Environment Committee. As a councillor, you are well placed to know about the extent to which this is an issue - and to what extent this is a growing issue - in your local area. It would be really helpful if you could forward this email including the link below to any organisations or individuals in the area you represent with knowledge of this issue and encourage them to take part in the consultation. Issues that the investigation will be focussing on include the scale and health implications of the issue, existing emergency support for people already in need, as well as broader measures to address the risk factors for food poverty. The link below will take you through to the relevant page on the London Assembly website:
If you or anyone else would like more information about this investigation or would like to respond to the consultation directly yourself, please contact
Thank you
Fiona Twycross AM
t: 020 7983 4101


Friday, 5 October 2012

Andrew Dismore report back

This reporting period is a bit longer than usual as it covers the summer holidays and the Olympics, when City Hall in large part shut down for the Games and I wanted to report to you on a full City Hall cycle.
Before getting into the "meat" of this report - which will focus on the very worrying cuts in the emergency services- a few words on the Games.
Whilst I didn't get any tickets in the various ballots for Olympics events, it was great following the progress of Team GB on the TV - I was glued to the set as I am sure many of my readers were too. I was able to go to the athletes' parade though and see in the flesh both many of the UK medal winners and others who took part in the Olympics and did the country so proud, too.
Congratulations and thanks also to the "Games Makers", the volunteers who did so well to make the experience so enjoyable for everyone, the emergency services and the armed forces drafted in at such short notice, and to Transport for London for coping so well with the huge extra demand on he capital's transport network.
London Fire Brigade
I am a member of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority ("LFEPA"), which is the body which is in charge of the Fire Brigade. After some key events in August and a series of meetings in September, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the future of the Fire Brigade in London.
Fire Cuts
Over the next two years, Mayor Boris Johnson is imposing cuts of £64.8m on the Fire Brigade, about 25% of its total budget. Although the Commissioner (the uniformed Chief Fire Officer) has worked hard to indentify "back office "cuts of about £14m, it is now clear (if it was ever in doubt!) that the balance cannot be achieved without the closure of fire stations, withdrawal of fire engines, or a combination of both. A fire station with one fire engine (known in the trade as a "pump" or "pump ladder") costs on average £1.45m a year to run; and a station with two pumps costs £2.43m. It is not rocket science to work out that up to 30 fire stations and/ or pumps are at risk, and indeed this was even reported in the Fire Brigade's own internal staff magazine "Shout", which made clear the required cuts could not be achieved in any other way.
My efforts have been directed to two objectives: challenging the scale of the cuts Mayor Johnson is imposing; and trying to find out which stations are threatened.
The key issue for public safety is the attendance time, once a call has been made. On average, in round terms, the first fire engine arrives in about 5.5 minutes. In Barnet, it is 6.5 and in Camden 4.5 minutes, so even in the GLA constituency there is a wide difference, and a minute can mean  the difference between life and death.
Early press speculation in June suggested that Euston fire station was threatened, but I have not been able to get any confirmation one way or the other.
At the first Plenary meeting of the London Assembly after the summer, coincidentally we had a scrutiny session with the chairman of LFEPA (Johnson appointee James Cleverly) and with the Commissioner. I challenged the chairman then, but the details of likely closures were not forthcoming. You can read the transcript of this meeting by clicking here or watch the webcast by clicking here.
At Mayor's Question Time, I questioned Mayor Johnson, but he also would not provide the details of closures. You can read the transcript by clicking here or watch the webcast be clicking here.
I asked the Commissioner at the first Resources Committee meeting of LFEPA in early September again with no result, so at the full meeting of LFEPA on 27th September, on behalf of the Labour members, I tabled an amendment to require the officers to produce at the least their up to date drafts on the possible closures, so we could get an idea of what was under consideration. I regret to say this proposal was voted down, because the Liberal Democrats and Green Party members of LFEPA voted with the Conservatives to block it. as it is a "hung" authority, we could have had the details of possible closures if the Liberal Democrats and Green Party had voted with us and not against transparency, but they decided to allow the secrecy to continue. This will mean that the details will only come to light to o late for any meaningful public consultation or input into the decision making process. We were told we would get the list of threatened stations "in due course"- and I am sure you can see that means after the chance for any meaningful input has passed!
However, I had more success with another part of my amendment with LFEPA agreeing (but not the Conservatives, who abstained) to lobby the Mayor to ask him to reconsider the budget he has laid down requiring these draconian cuts.
Another big concern I have, is over the privatised contract to maintain the fire brigade's vehicle fleet (including all the fire pumps and special vehicles) and other equipment. It is not a secret that the company responsible, AssetCo, was in financial difficulty and was seriously underperforming on the contract's requirements. Whenever I visit fire stations, the firefighters complain of the poor maintenance of their appliances and kit.
In August, without notice to LFEPA, the company was sold for £2 to another company, AB and A Ltd, a private company founded only days before with one sole director, Sir Aubrey Brocklebank. The company has never filed accounts, we have no idea as to its financial backers, and it is registered and run from Sir Aubrey's home, a semi detached house in Northamptonshire. His sole experience of vehicles seems to be the fact that he runs a Citroen 2CV car racing team, which hardly qualifies him, in my view, to run the entire London Fire Brigade fleet and equipment maintenance operation! The contract also provides for the compete replacement of the fleet with new vehicles, starting in a couple of years' time.
Whilst I am not allowed to put all the details in the public domain due to legal constraints, as soon as I heard about this, I wrote to LFEPA chairman Cleverly, with a detailed series of questions: my correspondence with him and his replies are on my website. I have to say the response of Mr  Cleverly and Mayor Johnson has been utterly complacent when faced with this serious situation, both in correspondence and in Assembly meetings, when I questioned them on it. You can read the transcript of this meeting by clicking here or watch the webcast by clicking here.
Most of the discussions in LFEPA about AssetCo are being held behind closed doors for legal reasons, which is unfortunate as I would very much like to share the details with you. My view is we should get out of this arrangement asap!
Other Fire Brigade matters
On a more positive note, I am pleased that the Brigade have agreed to investigate my suggestion, that all the vacant residential property on fire stations should be looked at, with a view to bringing it back into use. When we have such a housing crisis in London, it is clearly wrong that homes are left vacant like this. Whilst understandably the Brigade does not want to be a landlord, there are a quite a number of flats, houses, and single persons' accommodation not in use, and it seems to me the best solution would be for the Brigade to do a deal with a housing association to take over the properties and run them on behalf of the Brigade, with nomination rights for fire service key workers to live in them. The Brigade are now inviting interest in the cottages behind West Hampstead Fire Station.
Also, do you know how many firefighters it takes to change a light bulb?
Answer: none, as they are not allowed to do it! We can send them a hundred feet up on a hydraulic platform, or into a burning building, but they are not allowed to use a step ladder to change a fire station bulb. Instead a big contractor is called in charging hundreds of pounds to do the job! I have proposed, and this is also being looked at now, that we should have devolved budgets, like in schools for head teachers, for at least routine and minor maintenance tasks, which I am sure will deliver savings on property upkeep costs.
Policing cuts
If what was happening to the Fire Brigade wasn't bad enough, Mayor Johnson and the Coalition Government are imposing major cuts in policing, and changes are underway in the methods of policing too, as a result. Answers to written questions I put to the Mayor show that as of May 2010, when the Conservative led Coalition came to power, there were, in Barnet, 607 warranted officers, 110 sergeants and 171 PCSOs. In Camden, the figures were 884 of ficers, 136 sergeants and 120 PCSOs.
As of 31st July 2012, the numbers had dropped to, in Barnet, 530 warranted officers, 88 sergeants and 97 PCSOs. In Camden, the figures were 777 officers, 121 sergeants and 77 PCSOs. The impact on the individual Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs) has been very serious indeed: full details are in my recent press releases for Barnet and Camden.
And as they were allegedly protecting police numbers during the Olympics, worse is yet to come.
The traditional SNTs of ward based officers will no longer be the case, with the "local policing model" requiring bigger teams covering wider areas with more responsibilities. The introduction of this system has been put back , and now looks likely to come in, in April next year.
Police Stations are under threat, too. The Mayor has been very underhand with this, in that the list he published was not complete: for example Hampstead Police Station is likely to go. When I questioned him on this, the Mayor referred to such stations as "Stalags" (that is Nazi prison camps) and refused to agree to a public consultation on the closure or alternatives. I had a joint letter with Cllr Abdul Hai of Camden Council published in both the Ham and High and Camden New Journal on the future of Hampstead Police Station.

The only police station commitment is to one station open 24/7 per Borough, and so we will see other stations going too, before long. The only alternative that has been tried so far, (not in Barnet and Camden) is a weekly enquiry point for a couple of hours at a supermarket, which  did not find much favour with the public!
We will also see the mergers of Borough policing: for example, I have seen proposals which suggest that Barnet and Harrow police will be merged. I shall be opposing this!

Economy Committee
This City Hall committee, which I chair, is well into our inquiry into the problems of the high street. We have visited 6 high streets round London so far, to meet with traders, local councils, experts and shoppers, including visits to North Finchley and Camden Town in the GLA constituency. We have held a formal evidence session at City Hall where the public came to give us their views (including a number from Barne t!) and to hear from experts, too. It is clear so far that whilst every high street has different problems,  themes are emerging, such as the problem of high parking costs, difficulties with landlords, unsympathetic local authorities, and planning law issues. Suggestions for solutions are also coming forward, and whilst we still have a way to go in taking evidence, I expect our report will be out in the New Year.

Andrew Dismore & Joanne McCartney with Barnet Labour Councillors
North Finchley visit: Left to right - Cllr Jim Tierney (West Finchley), Cllr Arjun Mittra (East Finchley), Cllr Pauline Coakley-Webb (Coppetts), Joanne McCartney AM (Enfield & Haringey), Andrew Dismore AM (Barnet & Camden) and Cllr Anne Hutton (Woodhouse)
Transport Committee
I sit on the Transport Committee at City Hall. At the last meeting, we heard from the head of Transport for London (TfL), Peter Hendy, on TfL's performance during the Olympics, and then held the concluding evidence session on our inquiry into cycling in the capital. We will be publishing a report on this.
I am now in a position to consult constituents more formally on matters within the Assembly/GLA's terms of reference, on local issues. The first I have just launched concerns Stirling Corner roundabout, and pedestrian safety - if you use the junction and want to feedback to me you can download the consultation by clicking here. If you have any ideas for issues you think I should consult on, please let me know.
Press releases and public letters
I have published a number of press releases and letters, links as follows:
Press Release: Flooding at Filton Blood Testing Centre proves my point about Colindale closure
Press Release: Cuts to Policing in Camden
Press Release: Barnet Police Numbers in Free Fall
Dismore launches Stirling Corner road safety consultation
Press Release: Future of Hampstead Police Station "not clear"
PRESS RELEASE: Firesale of AssetCo raises serious questions
Press Release: Boris Johnson's post Olympic threat to Peel Centre playing fields
180% Rise in long-term youth unemployment in Camden
775% Rise in long-term youth unemployment in Barnet
"If there was a gold medal for dropping the ball, Boris would be an Olympic Champion"
Joint Letter in Ham & High: Hampstead Police Station
Letter to Barnet Newspapers: Hendon Museum Sell Off
Broadcast media appearances include BBC and ITV London TV news and BBC London radio on the Economy Committee high street inquiry and the issues at LFEPA referred to above.
Mayor's Questions
You can view my questions to Mayor Johnson by clicking here.
Problem solving and casework
Adam Langleben who was  working at City Hall for me on a temporary basis, managing incoming correspondence, casework and my diary has now been confirmed in his post as my permanent Research & Support Officer:
Please pass this email on
Please feel free to forward this email update on to any other local residents or neighbours who you think might be interested in it. If they would like to receive their own copy in the future, they should email me at, with their address in Barnet or Camden.
If you use social media, please follow me on twitter for the latest updates. You can follow me at @Andrew_Dismore.
Best regards

Andrew Dismore
Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Stop ‘One Barnet’ in light of West Coast main line fiasco

Stop ‘One Barnet’ in light of West Coast main line fiasco

Barnet Labour have released this.

I warned some time ago that G4S was a warning shot about what could go wrong with Mike Freer's One Barnet, and I said that we wouldn't have the armed forces on standby to provide planning services if OB failed. Well the fiasco with WCML is another reminder.

My colleague from Woodhouse ward, Cllr Geof Cooke makes similar points here for Better Barnet.

Ed right about "One Nation Labour"

I have been away for the last few days, so I did not get to see Ed Miliband's speech to the Labour Party conference in Manchester live, but I read the reports. I like the idea of appealing as a one nation party.

I have always thought that we should be an inclusive party, and welcome people from different backgrounds, from different demographics and different parts of the country. I can't stand the argument that anyone or anywhere should be written off. You might have thought that it would be pointless to work hard in the seat of the Prime Minister, but then why did we won Finchley, and have 9 councillors there now? I note that Labour have won a few councillors in Witney as well...

I have always thought that The Labour Party was at it's best when we were the biggest of tents. That means big debates no doubt, and dissappointment, but it means we reflect the country we seek to represent. Nothing makes me more sure of this than watching the US election, where one party is actively insulting those that don't agree with them.

Ed Miliband has given is a lot to think about, and I will be pleased to take this to the doorsteps of East Finchley!