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

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Have your say on pedestrian safety on Church Lane

The Council are consulting on what was agreed at the Area Environment Forum with regards to the acceptance of the Walksafe N2 campaign's requests namely:
  • A 20 MPH zone on Church Lane
  • A Zebra crossing and railings on Creighton Avenue
  • The junction of Church Lane and East End Road
You can contribute to the consultation here. Please remember you only have until 28th December to do so!

We need these changes and I hope you can demonstrate the interest and need for them by submitting your views!

The library that refuses to die.

... As Friern Barnet Library is called.

The court proceedings were not pretty, and there is little cheer to take from the final verdict, as we thought.

However, the judge did accept that what was going on there was a coherent protest, and that there were Human Rights aspects. She did not accept in the balance the damage was to severe though, which is why she ruled as she did. There will be an appeal, and I think we can see the defence of that.

There was also a ruling that the occupation was a bias against other bidders, and that they would be put off by the occupation. The judge agreed with this, despite a categorical assurance that any bidder would be shown the site without hindrance. I was also confused by the ruling that having people sleep over in the building to secure its state was a breech of planning regulations, making it residential. Are the security guards in Church Farmhouse Museum who stay at night in breech?

What is does mean in the medium term is that the library will be open in the New Year, and that there will be 6 weeks of negotiations. There may even be a 6 month trial period, so the current form of the library might have some life left in it yet!

It would apparently take between 6 to 18 months to market and sell the site, but I am skeptical. I can't be sure there isn't someone round the corner waiting to snap it up, but let's see.

I would also say well done to Reema Patel, who did much of the legal work and instruction, and Sarah Sackman, the Barrister. Both were exceptional, and I hope they will be a double act again!

Lottery funding forThe Grange

It was announced that the lottery would pund projects in the Grange estate in East Finchley as part of a package worth £1 for london estates. These estates were selected on issues such as crime and unemployment.

It isn't yet certain what the allocation for the Grange will be, but I welcome any funds that come our way. This year Alison, Colin, myself and a team from Barnet Homes did a walk of the Grange to pick up outstanding issues. I was very glad to hear the report back from them, and I see that many of the things we picked up have been looked into or sorted. There are some outstanding issues, but I think we have had an impact. I hope we can move on to the next level with this new funding.

Clearly, the anti-social behaviour and crime worries are beyond the remit of Barnet homes, and seem to be seasonal. We have also seem similar problems on Strawberry Vale, and in the New Year we will be looking into them in greater detail.

Whilst I welcome this money, I think it's a shame that funding for the poorest parts of the community have to come this way, instead of directly through Government or Council. The funding that is being allocated does not nearly cover for the serious cuts the Government have inflicted in other areas. A one off grant will not fundamentally tackle the unemployment, crime, health or education problems we have, and the Government is letting down residents of the Grange there without any plan to tackle them.

I will keep you posted on what comes out of this funding.

Monday, 17 December 2012

404 Great North Road

I have had some correspondence over the building site at 404 Great North Road, with concerns being expressed at the lack of building progress. There is some confusion about the state of the developers finances, and I have referred the matter to officers, though please note, the site is just over the boundary in the Garden Suburb ward.

This has been reported in the Archer paper, but there is sadly little the Council can do from what I gather.

As always, please feel free to email me at if you are concerned.

Friern Barnet Library

Tomorrow is decision day for the community project in Friern Barnet Library.

They can be hugely proud of the work they have done, doubling the footfall, opening up new services, getting the library re stocked with 10,000 books and bringing the whole community together.

At court today they were well served by Reema Patel and their barrister, Sarah Sackman. There was good evidence given by Keith Martin (a very courageous man indeed) Fiona Brickwood (whowiped the floor with the prosecutor) and Pete Phoenix, who's talents have gotten us further than we might ever have thought.

It's funny to look back. The library was closed on April 5th, just 6 days before my election. I recall going to the Business management meeting where they voted to keep it open a while longer, and going to Cabinet where they finally decided to close it.I attended these meetings in a sense of bewilderment. It was not my ward and I was not yet a Councillor, but I felt it would be important to support Pauline Coakley-Webb and Barry Rawlings.

I think everyone on the campaign  will look back with pride at the unity that was achieved, and the comradeship and spirit that those involved have acted in. Whatever is said tomorrow, it will still be a community library in the new year, and I hope the Council see sense and have a real negotiation and dialogue with the groups. That was the only way this was ever going to be resolved.

Hi, We're Capita...

Hello, I'm Capita, and you're going to be dependent on me for the next 15 years...

Sadly for Barnet, after the failure of the business management committee to refer the NSCSO contract back to Cabinet, It seems we could end up being run by Capita. I hope the judicial reviews are successful, but if not then there will be a very swift transition towards being integrated into the Capita Borg.

And it seems there will be no time for democracy- the timetable says that they will start on transition from April Fools day next year and be ready by December, so they will be making their big fat profits fairly quickly.

The grubby process that has gotten us to this lamentable point has not been robust. Councillors were given just a week to read the papers, with no time to submit written questions and get written answers for a 2,500 page contract. we were given a few hours before the meeting to see the contract. I don't believe that was enough time to do my job.

If there is a silver lining, it is that people now really know what this arrogant and out of touch administration is like. The opposition to them is getting stronger and more capable, and there ought to be a lot of worried Tory Councillors.

But there is still the DRS contract, and you canstill donate or volunteer your time to campaign against one Barnet by signing up to the better Barnet campaign.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Tacking crime in Barnet

Yesterday, the cabinet member for safety and policing, Cllr David Longstaff arranged a visit for some Councillors to see some aspects of crime prevention in the borough.

We started by visiting a centre in Hendon that deals with those released from prison on parole and probation. I was impressed by the work they did, they have a re-offending rate of just 18%,well below the usual rate of 58%.

They focus on the various issues those who come out of prison face, and by dealing with them, help reduce reoffending. We know many former prisoners have employment, health, housing and educational issues, and I was pleased to see a dedicated team successfully help tacklemany of those problems.

But this is no softly softly approach. They are very strict about making sure people turn up, and deliver exactly the kind of personal interaction that is necessary to the service user. This is not the sort of thing the Daily Mail get upset about, quite the opposite in fact.

I have had casework in this kind of area, and I am now in a better position to deal with it and help residents after this visit. I want to thank Cllr Longstaff for arranging the visit.

After that, we visited the centre where the CCTVs in Barnet are monitored. Again, an impressive service, with excellent staff. Highly trained and professional, it's clear they have an impact, even if sometimes people don't see or appreciate it.

They are in need of some investment to reduce overheads and improve service though, and I am glad this is being taken seriously. I hope the police will also properly support their work as well, it was good to hear how well integrated they had become over time with the police. I think they are well respected and appreciated.

Martin School expansion - update

I campaigned in my recent election on the issue of school places, and you will know of my support for the Archer Academy in the secondary school places sphere.

There is also an issue of primary school places, and the Council have received a pot of money for primary expansions. Some of that money will go to Martin School to expand it into a three form entry. Martin School is rated outstanding by Ofsted, and we are keen that they maintain that well deserved status, and that there is a managed, sustainable and successful expansion.

Alison, Colin and I had a meeting at the school to discuss the expansion, and it was a very productive and helpful meeting. I am glad I have properly met Mr Pickering, the acting Headteacher. We discussed the plans, and the outstanding issues in preparation for a meeting Alison and I had with a Council officer.

We raised a number of issues, and attained some assurances on some, but not on others. It won't be the last such meeting so we will have more bites of the cherry.

I won't go into details of what we discussed, as not all details are finalised, and I don't wish to put out details or information that isn't true. Nor would I want to break confidences! I feel it important to let residents know that Alison, Colin and I are on the case, we are dealing with the issues that people raise, and are listening to all those interested.

If you do want to contact me on any details, please email as I am keen to listen to residents.

Christmas festival

We had a really good first East Finchley Christmas festival on the High Road on Saturday. I hoped we might have success, and perhaps this could be an annual thing. There was a joke going round that the weather in December was better than it had been during the cancelled Cherry Tree Woods festival in March! I hope this added a boost to the European market, who were there as well.

I think this was a really good boost to the traders, who are suffering badly from the Council's parking policies. It is a real statement about how strong volunteering and community are in East Finchley as well that this was such a success. I want to belatedly thank all those involved, and thank them for their hard work.

I know Alison and Colin enjoyed it immensely as well. I can tell you that the next summer festival is shaping up nicely as well, so look out for updates on that!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Take a stand- join Labour

If you think last night was the end of it, you are badly wrong. Cllr Marshall thinks One Barnet cannot be delayed even a week, well I have some news for you!

There are different routes still available on the NSCSO, judicial review, call in etc.

But the NSCSO is only half the battle. We must stop the awful DRS contract, which will see core council services- the things you shouldn't get rid off en masse, like planning or environmental services. Losing these services would be a hammer blow to the Council's ability to function independently. For all the big talk, there are NO guarantees of success. The only certainty is uncertainty.

But you can help us to convince Barnet Council to change their minds. You can join the Labour Party.

We don't have the finite resources of the Tory Party, what we do have are hardworking dedicated members. We don't get fundraisers at the Carlton Club, but we do talk to the people we represent. If you've always been inclined to support us, this is the moment for you to take a stand against barnet Council and Join the Labour Party.

If you don't feel comfortable joining the Party, but you want to get involved, then contact us here. If all you can do is deliver leaflets, or want to do something fun like canvassing, we can use any help you can give!

Welcome to the London Borough of Capita

So it's agreed. Months, years even of campaigning and hard work have come down to now. I won't say all is lost, because we still have the even worse DRS contract, which must be stopped. I feel disappointed becuase nothing has monopolised more of my seven and a half months on Barnet Council more than this.

When I was first elected, I thought being a councillor would be an extension of much of what I already did organising and helping out in the community. I thought I would be more of a ward Councillor than one who did a lot of work in the Town Hall, then this landed on my desk. After Andreas' stunning victory in Brunswick Park, we got two extra Committee seats, and I got one on Budget and Performance, to go with subbing on Auditing. So I have been on the scrutiny frontline!

We will need to do a stocktake and see what scrutiny can really achieve in a Council where we aren't actually delivering the services ourself, and that we are in effect reviewing an oganization we will, in my view, have little control or influence over. Once we are run by Capita, I think it will be their way, and we will be a sideshow.

For all the promises, guarantees and assurances, I don't believe any of it. From what I hear about Capita, from what I know about the Council's own terrible record on contracting and procurement and what I read about what is going on in local government elsewhere, I fear for this Borough. I am not convinced there is anything Capita have to fear. They are staking just 12% of their management fee on meeting performance targets. Piddling amount. nothing to lose if they fail our borough. Any of the management fee they lose out on will be compensated for by the dirty great mounds of profit they will be making at my constituent's expense. Pass me the sickbag.

Last night was a night to remember, for all the wrong reasons. The public were treated with contempt when they asked questions, there was no real debat, just a set of pre-written questions, and pre-written answers. Formailities for form's sake. That wans't scrutiny, open minded decision making or thorough research. It was a blind leap into darkness.
But let's not be too disheartened, there is still so much more to fight for. The DRS as I mentioned, but I hope there might be a judicial review of the NSCSO as well. Let's get back on our saddles and fight the next battle.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Make a stand against the NSCSO

Today's the day.

Cabinet will vote on whether to approve the NSCSO contract at 7pm at Hendon Town Hall.
I urge people to come to Hendon Town Hall this evening to show the Tories how much people don't want this. They need to know that they will lose the next election badly if they don't listen to ordinary residents. They always say that the campaign against One Barnet is led by the same left wing activists (As if that means they have no rights to be heard). I know this isn't true, When we talk to voters, even Tory ones, there is deep concern.

I understand there will be a petitioning of North London Business Park at 7.30-10.30 this morning as well.

Conservative Councillors need to understand that there is an alternative. They don't need to do this. I have never questioned the sincerity or decency of Conservative Councillors, but I sincerely believe they are thoroughly wrong. They must look seriously at service transformation, they must look seriously at a public sector comparitor and they must consult the public to ask them what they think.

No one doubts the challenges ahead, but the options before us are not the right way forward. We got an email from Andrew Dismore AM about how he is working on getting out of the contracting failures on London Underground. He says that once a contract is signed, there is no way back, even if it goes wrong. And the failure of the contract should be the foremost concern at the front of the Cabinet's mind. They tell us it is reckless to carry on the way we are, but it is even more reckless to go ahead with One Barnet, with so little scrutiny, so little consultation, and so little consideration of alternatives.

Mr Dismore also raised the question which I feel is most pertinent to us, which is what is being handed on. If there is a failure, there is no council to take things back. Once we go in, they take everything, and we will never have the capacity to bring things back wholesale if the contract fails, whatever these nonsensical guarantees, and non existent assurances.

But we all, as residents, have a duty to the borough as well. We need to stand up and be counted. I hope that if you agree with me, you will be sitting next to me in Committee rooms 1 and 2 tomorrow.

UPDATE: Apologies, I had heard the meeting was to be held at 6pm, rather than the normal time of 7pm. Needless to say, it is a genuine error on my part, and I ought to have checked the frontsheet when I read the papers. Many thanks to Daniel Hope of Barnet Bugle for letting me know my error.

I have cut the following paragraph, as it is innaccurate, however I stand by my criticism of the treatment of staff in general. The staff I met outside NLBP this morning as we gave them leaflets seemed to agree with me. But nontheless, apologies for the innaccuracy.

"That in itself is a cheap trick, holding the meeting an hour earlier, making it harder for campaigners and activists to come along, specifically their own staff at NLBP. I said at last weeks Budget and Performance meeting that they treated the staff abysmally, and this is just one example."

East Finchley War memorial

There has been some concern relating to a proposed development at number 78-80 Brackenbury Road. The former British legion building is to be converted into two houses, but there is a memorial to 22 local residents who died in the first world war. The Planning officers had already attached strong conditions to the application that the plaque would have to be re-located (at developer's expense) and preserved, however, I felt that more had to be done to keep the plaque in a very local area.

As I explained to the committee, Church Lane is one of the oldest inhabited parts of East Finchley, and there are a number of long settled families still living in the area. In fact, I know some descendents of people listed on the plaque still living in East Finchley. As such, It is extremely important that that specific part of East Finchley retained the plaque. The Borough Archivists have been negotiating, and I understand that Trinity Church on Church lane are interested in having the plaque. This would present an ideal solution in my view.

At the committee, we attached a condition that the plaque would be relocated as close as possible to the current site, and an informative that the plaque should be retained in the East Finchley Ward. We were saisfied with this, though initially I had pressed for a condition that it be retained in the ward, officers advising that it is up to the Borough Archivist, hence the informative. I had also reieved legal advice earlier stating that to be the case.

So the plaque is saved, and will be relocated nearby, within East Finchley. I have recieved a number of complaints on the issue and hope this clarifies the position, and is acceptable.

Excellent LINk meeting, and my near mental breakdown

Tuesday evening I went to the Local Involvement Network (LINk) AGM at the Greek Cypriot centre in Britannia Road in North Finchley.

There were some fascinating presentations from health professionals. As any of my followers of my twitter account will know, I had a near meltdown as the dietitian spoke, she basically slated my diet. Apparently, waffles and creme brulee are bad for you. Adding banana to a nutella crepe does not "cancel out the calories" as I earnestly believed. And a juicy fruits chewing gum is not one of your five a day. Neither are five banana crepes. I now smpathise with the US Republicans and their science denial on climate change. Why believe science if it tells you things you don't like? The dietitian was young, she couldn't possibly know how healthy a walnut whip really is...

Also good advice prom a podiatrist. Apparently, chiropodists changed their names to podiatrists 20 years ago, without telling anyone, hence the confusion. As someone who gets really sore feet, i found the session useful. And just like the dietitian I will ignore the advice because it seems like a lot of hard work.

Then an optician spoke. I had some questions for her, but was unable to ask due to time pressures. I am thinking of getting laser eye surgery, as I hate my glasses, and wanted o know how you can take care of your eyesight better.

An interesting theme that came out from the optician, and the speaker from MIND and some of the others is how ethnic minorities are far more susceptible to certain health problems. interesting, as there were so few ethnic minorities in the room.

In fact, that was a general issue afterwards. one speaker was concerned that not enough was being done by LINk to go out to estates like Graeme Park to give people free health advice like this, and that this meeting was very middle class. In fact, during a show of hands, I turned out to be the only person there who lived in a housing estate. I don't count though, apparently, as I am a Councillor.  thought that was very unfair, I thought people wanted more young people, ethnic minorities and poor people from estates in politics, and when you get one, we don't count. Anyways, it was pointed out to the gentleman that they had done exactly as he had suggested- in Graeme Park!

But a really good session, I'm glad Barry Rawlings and I attended.

Monday, 3 December 2012

East Finchley Christmas festival

This Saturday will see the very first East Finchley Christmas festival. Running concurrently with the French Market, we are hoping to give East Finchleyans some festive cheer, especially as we were unable to hold the Cherry Tree Woods festival in June.

The High Road will be shut off in sections, at the junctions with some of the County Roads. Please come and have a look. If it is successful we may be encouraged to see this run in perpetuity. Needless to say, the Next summer festival is being organised as we speak.

I hope this can provide a boost to the economy here, and a boost to the shops in the area, which are still suffering badly from the parking changes.

Some alternative ideas to One Barnet

The Barnet Labour Party have suggested some of the different ways we would approach administration in the Council. These are important and deliverable changes to the way the Tories are doing this now. I think consulting the public is hugely important. One of the most distressing aspects of One Barnet has been that it has been slipped under the carpet, with no overall consultations.

In addition, Cllr Geof Cooke, my colleague in Woodhouse ward, has made some important obervations about the NSCSO contract. This is a point all four of us repeatedly questioned at Budget and Performance last week, and in private too. I am simply not confident about the credibility of the guarantees.

See the One Barnet contract

...or at least the volumes we saw last thursday. We read a volume each in the three hours we had with them.