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

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

You can't trust David Cameron on the NHS

New nursing figures out today show that there are 5890 fewer nurses now than when David Cameron came to office in May 2010. We’re facing a crisis in our A&Es, all while David Cameron hands six-figure pay-offs to managers with one hand, and P45s to nurses with the other. David Cameron cannot be trusted with the NHS. We’re committed to protecting it but need your help. Say you’re with us and let’s fight for our NHS together:

5 Numbers you need to know about Labour's Living Wage plan

Ed Miliband has announced plans to introduce Make Work Pay contracts which will help businesses raise wages for millions of low-paid workers - and help the next Labour government cut social security bills for the taxpayer. Here are five numbers you need to know about the plan: 1) 4,800,000 - number of people who work for less than the living wage. Millions of people aren't paid a living wage. Across Britain, millions of people work hard, put in a shift, and aren't paid enough to get by. In 2012 there were 4.8 million workers in the UK who were paid less than the prevailing living wage rate in their area, two-thirds of those people were women. For 39 of 40 months under David Cameron prices have risen faster than wages. Despite working hard, people are struggling to get by. 2) £3,230,000,000 - the cost of low pay to taxpayers. The government spends more on benefits for people in work than it does for unemployed people. Workers paid less than a living wage receive much needed social security support, and pay less in taxes because of their low pay - that's an annual bill of more than £3 billion. 3) 49p - the average saving to the taxpayer for every pound of pay rises for workers. If Labour wins the election in 2015, we'll launch a national campaign for firms to sign up as living wage employers. Make Work Pay contracts will mean that every company that moves to paying the living wage in the first year of a Labour government will help us cut the social security bill. For every extra pound employers pay to raise workers from the minimum wage to a living wage, the Treasury will save 49p on average in the form of lower social security payments and higher tax revenues. 4) £21,000 - the average tax rebate to employers who start paying the living wage from 2015. Firms which sign up to paying the living wage at the start of the parliament will benefit from a 12-month tax rebate of up to £1,000 –and an average of £445 – for every low paid worker who sees their pay rise to the living wage. On average, it is predicted firms who sign up will get a tax rebate of £21,000 each - and employees more motivated and productive, and less likely to leave to look for better opportunities. 5) £1,376 - the average payrise for workers struggling with the cost of living crisis. This plan is good for businesses who do the right thing, and it will help the next Labour government cut the social security bill. But it's also great news for workers. Under these new Make Work Pay contracts it is estimated that people will, on average, see a pay rise of £1,376.

Freezing your energy bill

Many have spoken to me in the last month in support of Ed Miliband's energy price promises. We have had very positive responses on the doorstep and on our local stall in East Finchley. See how much you could save with this calculator.

Diwali Message from Ed Miliband

"Diwali, the festival of light, commemorates the homecoming of Lord Rama. It reminds us how important it is not to lose hope and of how important it is to come together to build a stronger country, founded on our shared values. I would like to pay tribute to the Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities here in Britain for the great contrbition that you make to our communities, our economy and our way of life. Through these contributions we see the values which are also at the heart of the Labour Party: the value of community, the conviction that we can achieve more together than we do alone, and the belief that we must look after each other. This feeling of togetherness is expressed so well in the Sanskrit phrase Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - the world is one family. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Labour Party to wish you and your families happy Diwali." Ed Miliband Leader of the Labour Party

Labour's Parking Pledge

Very pleased to share with you Labour's Parking pledges. Barnet’s Labour councillors are launching their package of parking pledges for their local election 2014 manifesto at 10am this Saturday 9 November on Mill Hill Broadway. The package of parking pledges that Labour will implement straight away if elected next year in May are: 1)Labour will give you 30 minutes free parking in our town centres. The Barnet Tories drove people out of the high streets with their new parking regime. We’ll help you back and support our traders with a 30 minute free parking period. 2)Labour will bring back cash parking. Labour will enable all current card only meters to take cash. 3)Labour will introduce an Oyster-style ‘Barnet Card’ to pay for parking. Pay-by-phone parking doesn’t work for everyone! We’ll develop the card service over time to offer residents discounts and widen it’s use. 4)Labour will consult residents and make parking enforcement fair. Unlike the Tories, we’ll ensure that parking arrangements work for local people. 5)Labour will give you free parking every weekend in December. Every year we have pressed the Council to give residents and shops a parking amnesty over Christmas. If elected, we’ll stop arguing about it with the Tories – we’ll just do it. 6)Labour will also scrap the free Councillors’ parking permits that the Conservatives awarded themselves. If you can’t park for free, no Councillor should be able to either.

Small Business Saturday

The Barnet Labour group sent a motion to Council yesterday to agree to "small business saturday" which provides free parking on 7th December to help businesses in the run up to Christmas. Cllr Alan Schneiderman said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to show our support for small businesses in Barnet in this difficult economic climate."

Andrew Dismore challenges Johnson on regeneration

Andrew Dismore has challenged London Mayor Boris Johnson on his pathetic failure to stand up for residents on Barnet's regeneration schemes. Hundreds of affordable homes have been scrapped by the Tory administration, and andrew has challenged the Mayor is his total lack of action. read about it here:

82 % of crimes go unsolved in Barnet

Andrew Dismore reveals that 82% of crimes in Barnet go unsolved, an increase since Boris Johnson became mayor. Andrew said: “It is shocking that overall reported crime is down yet the number of unsolved crimes in Barnet is up to 82 per cent – the second highest in London after Lambeth. Boris talks big about reported crime going down, but so far he has ignored that the number of crimes actually solved on his watch has plummeted. Compared to the average in England and Wales, London is trailing on the number of crimes solved where we should be setting the gold standard. “Since May 2010, in Barnet the number of PCs has been reduced by 10 per cent and PCSOs by 50 per cent. Boris talks about getting more bobbies on the beat but the figures clearly show this is not happening. “This proves Boris can’t have his cake and eat it. If you cut the police budget by as much as the Government has then there will be repercussions. Victim satisfaction in London is lower than elsewhere in the UK and this is not acceptable. The Mayor must act now.”

Make Friends with a Book

I recieved this interesting communication from a new group operating in East Finchley: "Dear Big Local People I am writing to you to tell you about the exciting new group opening this Friday at the Ann Owens Centre. This reading group is for all ages and for anybody who wants to hear a good story read aloud and to share conversation in a friendly unpressurised environment. This reading group forms part of our Barnet wide Make Friends With A Book Project . And it is totally FREE!!! Please see the attached flier for more details or find out more about us as an organisation at Ruth and Yasmin look forward to seeing you at 10.30am this Friday if you can make it or any other Friday in the near future. Just drop in. If you would like to know more about our wider project or would like to get involved as a volunteer please contact me. Kind Regards Paul Paul Higgins Project Worker, Get Into Reading London Tel: 07985 718744"

Living Wage Week

I have been Sent the following communication from the GMB union regarding Living Wage Week: "SUPPORT LIVING WAGE WEEK 2014 GMB, along with our campaign partners, will be celebrating Living Wage week 2014 on 3rd - 9th November. In the week the new living wage rate is announced, we’ll be spreading the word on the successes of the campaign so far in lifting thousands out of in-work poverty, boosting local communities and improving service delivery. The living wage is hourly rate of pay, set independently and calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK. Up and down the country councils have decided to become living wage employers - so far 85 in England and Wales have implemented or committed to pay the Living Wage, along with all Scottish councils. The benefits of councils paying the living wage include: - Lifting council workers out of in-work poverty; - Boosting the local economy – council workers spend more than half of their earnings in the local community; - Improving staff retention and morale, meaning better services for residents and savings to the council as an employer. Because of these benefits, the living wage campaign has received cross party support, with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Mayor of London all endorsing it. It is also the subject of a major TUC campaign. The savings in recruitment and training costs, together with the other benefits, mean that the policy makes sense even in the difficult funding climate currently afflicting local government. As we prepare for the celebrations of Living Wage Week, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know about the benefits, and ask whether you will consider championing the Living Wage in your authority. If you are supportive but would like more detail on the benefits to help convince your colleagues please get in touch, and if you’d like to protest against your authorities failure to implement the Living Wage GMB can help to promote this in the media. Equally if your authority has implemented or committed to implement the Living Wage and you want to add your voice to the supporters, again please do let us know. It’s GMB’s ambition for all workers to be paid a living wage. We’ve a long way to go but the success we’ve had so far in local authorities is a huge step forward. I look forward to hearing from you and working together to make Living Wage Week 2014 the best yet."

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Prospect Ring

I had a good meeting with Barnet Homes on Prospect Ring, as my neighbours have expressed a number of concerns about the electrical works going on. It was a very productive meeting. They will replace six parking spaces lost in the corner car park by putting six matts on the green temporarily. I understand the works will be finished by March, because it will take some time to do all the drilling on blocks. They will be putting right all the works in the coming months, and the repainting of the sheds, garages and works to the central island should be part of estate improvements, so should not be charged to leaseholders.

New Committee system meeting

I went to a Councillors meeting on the new committee sytem proposals. It seems like there is still a lot of work that has to be done to come up with final proposals, but I know much better how the system would operate, and it was useful and reassuring to hear from a number of experienced Councillors. I'm not sure when the public consultation will be, but hope to keep you posted. I imagine the notes will be in the Constitution, Ethics and Probity Committee meeting. Labour Councillors were clear in their desire to ensure the public could speak at meetings, which I feel is very important.

Diwali Lunches

I had the very great pleasure of attending two Diwali functions last week. One, in Whetstone Methodist Church, and another at Friary House with BAWA. Ireally enjoy these events, and it is a pleasure to see so many friendly faces. they are always organised brilliantly, and it even got Cllr Rawlings and I dancing! These kind of community groups are gold dust, and it's vital we Councillors attend and show our support and appreciation. Community associations do a significant amount of social care, and we need to praise and recognise this. I was also pleased to see they seemed to fix the gate problem at Friary House!

Safeguarding Training

there were 27 Councillors in attendance last week at an important safeguarding training session. I though it was a very good set of events, and we thought a lot about the various scenarios you can get, and herad some very emotional stories. I feel much more confident about how to approach safeguarding issues, and I am glad this session was held. It is very important for Councillors to recieve this kind of training so that we can direct people to where they need to go and whom they need to see. I had a case last year, where this training would have been hepful in resolving.

Resident's Forum

There are better writers than I who can go into greater detail about the last Finchley and Golders Green Resident's forum last Tuesday. The key questions on recycling were at the end of the agenda, which cuirously we failed to get through to. Not much on East Finchley, but I was pleased to see so many Labour Councillors present. Is it any wonder so many people feel disenfranchised when the number one issue of the new waste scheme is barely touched upon, and the most detailed questions left to last?


I attended the AGE UK Barnet AGM last week, Where there was a fond farewell to stalwart Julia Hines, who is moving on to new things. Julia is an exceptional contributor to the community and I wish her well. Age UK Barnet do a range of services, and I was pleased to hear that they are in good shape going forward. I found the talk by Jewish Care quite interesting in particular. I was a very short meeting, which I think all appreciated!

Asperger's Syndrom Communication

I recieved the following communication, which I share below: We have just uploaded a new preview video to show you 'Good Obsession is Healthy' based on one of Aron's paintings. It's only 22 seconds so hopefully you should have the time to take a quick look at it Less than a week to go for our event on Weds 6th November, from 7-9pm at Watford Wellspring Church Centre ‘I Want To Break Free – Victory Over Asperger’s Syndrome’ and tickets have been selling well As you may know by now, we have been bringing Aron’s paintings to life through animation and audio. We have done this by talking in depth about what Aron wants each painting to convey and then using his ideas to add the sounds and highlight the images so that people who attend can get an experience of what was going on in Aron’s mind when he painted each picture If you haven’t seen our trailer video, please take a look here The event is based on artist Aron Glasser's collection 'My Journey with Asperger's Syndrome'. As well as Aron's paintings we will use drama and song, presented by Aron and 'The Professor' (Egbert Hedd-Boffin) Raising awareness, sharing strategies, delivering training in a creative way for an entertaining and memorable night out, and raising funds to support people on the autistic spectrum to deliver more training sessions, workshops and activities To buy tickets, and for more information, please go to: We would really appreciate it if you could share with anyone you think might find this email of interest

Grange Big Local Update

There will be a meeting for Young People aged 8-19 years Old on Monday 4th November at 6.30pm-8pm at the Ann Owens Centre – please help spread the word Please also see the attached flyer about a competition for young people in the Grange and surrounding area. Young people can write, draw, film or even RAP their imaginative ideas of how they would improve the area AND send to, participating schools or facebook. The Age categories are: 4-7, 8-11, 12-18. The Closing date: 29th November 2013 Please also note the next Grange Big Local Open Meeting Wednesday 13th November 6.30pm-8pm - at Ann Owens Centre, Oak Lane, East Finchley, N2 8L, Visit the Grange Big Local website for all the above information and more..............

Stonewall Housing

I recieved the following communication from LGBT Group Stonewall on housing advice to LGBT people, which I am happy to re-post: Housing Advice Line: 020 7359 5767 - open every weekday from 10am till 1pm, then 2pm till 5pm. Stonewall Housing is the specialist lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) housing advice and support provider in England. We provide housing support for LGBT people in their own homes, supported housing for young LGBT people, as well as free, confidential housing advice for LGBT people of all ages. We also research and lobby for LGBT housing rights, so that all LGBT people can feel safe and secure in their homes. Visit our website for more information All services are free and confidential and all venues are accessible for people with disabilities. No appointments necessary. (Pre-arranged appointments can be made for between 15:30 and 17:00) Current drop in times and locations: Monday 14:00 – 15:30 • Contemporary Urban Centre, 13a Great Chapel Street, London, W1F 8FL • The Cara Trust, 240 Lancaster Road, London W11 4AH Wednesday 14:00 – 15:30 • Origin Housing, St Richards House, 110 Eversholt Street, London, NW1 1BS Thursday 14:00 – 15:30 • Lighthouse South London, 14-15 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, London, SE1 7RJ Friday 14:00 - 15:30 • London Friend, 86 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9DN Also, monthly at: LGBT Sutton, and CliniQ

Burglary Week

The Council have been promoting awareness around Burglary Week. I do suggest taking a look as it is a serious issue in the Borough.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Gove's Exams fiasco

My colleague Cllr Anne Hutton (Woodhouse) is our spokesperson on Education and Childrens' Services, and has released a very good statement on Michael Gove's recent decisions on GCSE exams, which have enraged teachers.

"Secondary Headteachers in Barnet this week have been in a quandary, wondering what to do about the latest missive from Education Secretary Michael Gove who has just decreed that only the results of the first exam attempt by a pupil in any subject should count towards the schools’ league tables.
As usual, this latest announcement has not been thought through at all, students have been entered for exams in November, time-tables set and parents written to.  He has also, at the drop of a hat, scrapped the speaking and listening elements of the English language GCSE from next June, so unless students sit the exam in November credit for that won’t count.  Some parents have already received letters from their child’s school cancelling exams they thought their children would be sitting next month.  Schools, which have decided to go ahead have received phone calls from anxious parents of children in other schools asking them if they could sit exams at their school.  The reply to which is presumably ‘no’ as the student would not be registered there.  Result: chaos
Things can always be improved upon but throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn’t the answer, the Education Secretary clearly has no knowledge of how schools work, which is worrying in itself, if he thinks initiatives can be taken up or scrapped at the drop of a hat.  Do our three MPs support these measures? I am happy if the Tories lose the next election with the assistance of Michael Gove – but please not at the expense of the life chances of our young people.
Cllr. Anne Hutton
Labour Spokesperson for Education and Childrens’ Services"

Chuka Umunna MP on Royal Mail

Having recently been campaigning to save our local Post Office, I was interested to read this from Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP:
Now we learn that the option of a better deal for taxpayers by setting a higher price for Royal Mail was considered, and rejected, by ministers- Umunna
Chuka Umunna MP, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, responding to reports in today’s Financial Times that the Government was told that Royal Mail was valued at £5bn by two banks in June, said:

“Vince Cable claims that value for money for the taxpayer was ‘central’ to the government’s strategy. Yet now we learn that the option of a better deal for taxpayers by setting a higher price was considered, and rejected, by ministers.

"This comes as Royal Mail’s share price hits 500p, more than 50 per cent the amount which taxpayers received for their stake which was sold only days ago.

"Vince Cable has serious questions to answer on the Royal Mail fire sale. Concerns that taxpayers have been short changed - which he dismissed as ‘froth’ - are growing by the day."

Leaders Forum

I thought the Leaders Forum last week in North London Business Park was very interesting. I look forward to getting back the minutes or write up of the meeting, but the overall message from residents was "We want to be consulted!"

The Administration seem to be taken aback by the criticism surrounding their performances on the rollout of the new recycling bins. I thought this was strange, as this has been apparent at the last residents forums, where it was announced to anger from residents of all three constituencies. I thought it was odd that they felt there had been proper consultation. It had felt to me that they made a decision on what to do, then told people what was happening.

I have had a number of irate phone calls, twitter messages and emails about it, and if you also want to complain, please email me at and I will forward these complaints to the Council.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Report from Andrew Dismore AM

My report from City Hall
No14: 25th July to 9th October 2013
Firstly, a big thank you to the many of my readers who sent me details of their experiences and suggestions for questions to raise about accident and emergency services and about public transport. These first hand comments were very helpful in backing up my work on the City Hall Health Committee and at our full Assembly Plenary session with the Mayor and Transport for London: more details below.
If you have any questions or comments you would like me to put to the Mayor at a future Mayor’s Question Time session at City Hall, please do not hesitate to send them to  me and I will do my best to use them for you, to hold the Mayor to account.
Secondly, congratulations to Sarah Sackman, on being selected as Labour’s prospective candidate for Finchley and Golders Green at the next General Election for Parliament. Sarah is an excellent choice as candidate and more importantly, will be an excellent MP after 2015, when she is elected as I am confident will be the case.
In this report I will cover what I have been doing on:
·         Fire Brigade Cuts
·         NHS accident and emergency services for the winter
·         Low pay, zero hours contracts and cost of childcare
·         Transport and fares
·         Environment and biodiversity
·         Policing
·         Housing
·         Written questions to the Mayor
·         Press releases, letters for publication
·         Problem solving and casework
Please go to the sections you are interested in, as I realise this is quite a lot to cover!
Fire Brigade Cuts
This issue has now come to a head, with Mayor forcing the Fire Authority to implement his cuts package under the very heavy threat of legal action from him to force them to do so. The Authority’s  legal advice was such that they  had no option but to comply, even though this was clearly against their wishes, having voted against these cuts ( against  Conservative opposition) on four previous occasions..
At September’s Mayor’s Question Time, I reminded Boris Johnson of his pledge just before the 2012 Mayoral election, that there “will be no reductions in fire cover under this Mayor”: his reply was “get stuffed”. So much for him honouring a clear and unequivocal promise to Londoners, as he is now doing the exact opposite.
The cuts are planned to take effect in January and include 10 fire station closures including Belsize and Clerkenwell, and the loss of  14 fire engines and 552 front line firefighter jobs.
This may not be the end of the story though, as seven London councils, including Camden, have now made an application for permission to apply for judicial review of the decision. This is likely to proceed in the courts pretty rapidly.
On a separate front, you may be aware that the Fire Brigades Union went on strike for 4 hours over the Government’s refusal to negotiate with them, over their plan to weaken firefighters’ pension rights. The coalition Government is trying to force firefighters to work until they are 60. Currently firefighters can retire on ill-health grounds before 60 and retain their pension. Under the Government’s plans, if a firefighter is deemed unfit before turning 60 he or she will lose part of the pension. The government is being cynical as it knows from its own review that two thirds of firefighters will have to retire due to ill-health when they are 55 as they won’t meet the high fitness standards you would expect for such a physical job. Forcing firefighters to work longer and then taking part of their pension off them if they can’t physically cope when they are close to retirement is unfair, in my view.
NHS accident and emergency services for the winter
The Assembly Health Committee held a hearing with London NHS chiefs into the preparedness of NHS emergency services for the winter. The picture looks pretty bleak, with the Mayor’s health advisor, former head of NHS London,  Dame Ruth Carnall,  agreeing with my analysis, that they only have a ”sticking plaster” solution for A and E.
Apart from a probable winter crisis, we already have had a “summer crisis”, (when demand is traditionally lower than winter), with London’s A and Es missing their targets for the 12 successive weeks up to mid September. Our local A and Es have consistently missed their targets too: Barnet and Chase Farm missed target for 39 of the last 52 weeks, UCLH for 19 weeks, and Royal Free for 10 weeks. The target itself is to treat 95% of patents within 4 hours, which is less challenging than the target of the last Labour Government, which was 98% and which was being met.
This sorry underperformance was borne out by the examples I received from my readers, with details of recent experiences. They praised the hard work of the staff, but the general view was that they were overwhelmed by demand.
On my further questioning, the head of NHS London said that the expectations would be shifted, effectively massaging their figures to make the performance look better, if targets were still going to be missed.
It seems to me to be plain wrong for the Government, in breach of their promise before the election, to close Chase Farm’s A and E  and especially so in the run up to winter, it now being scheduled to close in mid November.
It is clear that we are seeing the results of the Conservatives broken promises on the NHS, with billions wasted on the top down   reorganisation they promised not to make before the election, money which should have been spent on patients.
Low pay, zero hours contracts and cost of childcare
I challenged the Mayor at September’s Mayor’s Question Time over the abuses of zero hour’s contracts. He does not see them as a problem, unlike the many low paid people who suffer as a result, for example the specific case I raised with him.
This was a them we also followed up in our sessions on low pay and zero hours in the Economy Committee; we also have been looking into the high cost of childcare in London.
Transport and fares
This month’s Assembly plenary session was devoted to questions to the Mayor as chair of Transport for London and to Sir Peter Hendy, the Transport Commissioner.  
I was overwhelmed with suggestions for questions to put to them, so I focussed on the Northern Line (for which I had more suggestions than any other issue, and most of which were not complimentary!) and on the need for a bus route between Golders Green and Stamford Hill. I have tabled all the other questions too and replies are awaited and will be reported in my next edition.
I was amazed that the Mayor could not remember when he last travelled on the Northern Line. The modernisation is two years behind schedule and it will not be till 2015 that train frequency is expected to increase, after the new signalling system is in place. in the meantime, it looks like little is going to be  done, to deal with the frequent  failures that cause such disruption to passengers’ journeys.
The need for a Golders Green / Stamford Hill bus route was identified as long ago as 2009, by London Travel Watch. The Mayor has made repeated commitments about this, but nothing has happened, so I raised this with him yet again. I am promised a detailed response which I will report back on in the future.
I also seconded and spoke to the motion adopted by the Assembly on fares policy, and the need for the Mayor to honour his manifesto promise by limiting fare increases to inflation. Tube fares have risen six times faster than wages and three times as much as inflation under Mayor Johnson.
Environment and biodiversity
The Environment Committee continued its inquiry into green infrastructure and biodiversity at our last meeting. I particularly  focussed, as an example, on the threat to the  Welsh Harp SSSI, as a result of a planning  application approved by Barnet  Council and the Mayor, which will see 29 storey tower blocks built right on its edge.
I was amazed to hear that Natural England, the environmental “ watchdog”, does no direct assessment of its own when asked  to comment on planning applications, but relies  exclusively on information provided by the developer and the council, which in this case amounted to the same people.  This I believe is open to exploitation, as I believe happened in this case. We will be conducting a site visit to the Welsh Harp later this month.
I have been pursuing the consequences of the so called “new policing model” through questions to the Mayor.
The official police numbers, statistics and predictions I have obtained confirm there will be fewer police in both Barnet and Camden by the time of the next election.
For Barnet, we now have 42 fewer police officers than we had at the time of the last general election in 2010, when Labour was last in office. By the time of the next election in 2015, there will still be 31 fewer. We have lost 17 sergeants, the most experienced of our officers on the streets, who provide important training and supervision to new officers. We now also have 91 fewer PCSOs, patrolling our neighbourhoods.  Before, we had 9 officers and PCSOs in each of our 21 wards’ Safer Neighbourhood Teams, a total of 189. By 2015, there will be only 135, a drop of 54.
For Camden, we now have 179 fewer police officers than we had at the time of the last general election in 2010.  By the time of the next election in 2015, there will still be 135 fewer. We have lost 27 sergeants, and also have 60 fewer PCSOs.
I have also established that calls to the 101 on-emergency number are not free, like they are for 999.  As an alternative to calling 101, the Mayor suggests crime can also be reported by attending a local police station - except of course, he has closed most of them! The police are still struggling with the alternative “contact points”. Some have yet to be set up, like the desperate suggestion of an occasional police stall in Starbucks to replace Hampstead Police Station. Others have seen little traffic and seem to me doomed already.
The Safer Neighbourhood Ward panels which feed into the police at the local ward level are also to be abolished and replaced with much larger panels covering clusters of half a dozen or so wards, which will inevitably be further from residents on the ground.
And all this at a time when the Mayor is cutting the police budget by 20%, he thought it was right to spend £660 on a female senior officer’s “Napoleon style” ceremonial hat!
The Mayor has decided to ignore the recommendations of the independent planning inspector over his amendments to the London Plan. The effect of the Mayor’s decision is to make “affordable homes” less affordable. Developers are normally required to set aside a proportion of homes in any major development for social rent (usually through housing associations) or for shared ownership, part rent, part purchase. The result is that rents will be charged up to 80% of open market rent, putting these new homes beyond the reach of the many families who they were supposed to provide for.
Barnet Council, at the same time, is relaxing existing planning consents by reducing the previously agreed number of affordable homes, for example at Beaufort Park in Colindale, where there will be 238 fewer affordable homes. The Barnet cabinet member for housing has made clear he wants rich people to move into the borough in preference to poor people, and is relaxed about providing homes for oligarchs and oil sheiks!
We are also now seeing the early signs of the consequences of the Government’s policy to cut housing benefit. over the 6 months to November last year, private  sector housing benefit claimants in Barnet  went up by 41% and in Camden fell by 1% In Westminster, the fall was 20%, in Kensington the  fall was21% and in the City, 33%. What this means is that people are being forced out of central London into outer London boroughs like Barnet. This creates pressures on Barnet’s own housing supply, putting up rents for local Barnet people as they face increased competition from people moving from the centre. This also puts more pressure on local services. Whilst school places in Barnet come under pressure, in Westminster schools are losing pupils. This is social engineering at its worst.
Written questions
I tabled a full range of written questions: for the replies click here.
Press releases, letters for publication
London Assembly demands apology from Mayor over Avanti free school
Barnet Council Planning Department faces Government “special measures” for underperformance
“Boris is wrong to push through fire station closures”
Eid Message from Andrew Dismore
Inflation-busting fares rises “a tax on workers”
Public Accounts Committee on HS2: Government “not yet presented a convincing case”
450 years until all low-paid Londoners on living wage
Launch of London-wide School Christmas Card Competition in Camden
Forthcoming inquiries at City Hall: have you any questions?
Health Chiefs admit London A and E plans for Winter is short term “sticking plaster” under questioning from Dismore
Camden Labour defending Belsize Fire Station
Local Assembly Members welcome North London Waste Authority decision on Pinkham Way
Mayor’s bus running four years late
Dismore questions “Where is Boris on the Northern Line?”
Letters for publication
Beaufort Park: Cllr Davey suggests poor people not welcome in Barnet
Letter for Publication: Syria
Letter for publication: Boris Johnson’s “get stuffed” comment
Letter for publication: Anti-Immigrant Van
Letter for publication: Trade Unionists
Problem solving and casework
Adam Langleben my City Hall assistant, managing incoming correspondence, casework and my diary:
Best regards
Andrew Dismore

UNISON Petition to Capita

I am a PROUD member of the UNISON Trade Union, and I received this communication from them recently, and I hope you will sign it:

"You may be aware that as a result of Capita winning a contract to deliver back office services for Barnet Council nearly 350 jobs will be lost to our community and up to 150 staff made redundant.
Our branch is determined to try to convince Capita that there is another way to deliver services to Barnet residents.
On behalf of all of our members now facing redundancy I am asking you for an act of solidarity and support.
I hope that you are able to both sign and encourage your family and friends to sign this petition which is now on line. There are a lot of staff and their families hoping for your support. To view and sign the petition click on this link
Below is a copy of the petition.
Tell CAPITA - TO KEEP OUR JOBS IN BARNET - Community Petition
"Dear Mr Pindar
As Chief Executive, you will be aware of the Capita Plc consultation with former Barnet Council staff starting on Monday 7 October 2013. You will know the Capita Plc proposal means hundreds of jobs are to be lost to Barnet, with no certainty that these will be recreated elsewhere in that community, resulting in a loss of local knowledge and another severe blow to the local economy that will have a negative impact on any remaining Council staff, residents and local traders. In the current economic climate this is unacceptable. I would ask that you directly intervene and provide a commitment that a new service solution is found that both protects and creates jobs in the community they serve."
Why is this important?
In August 2013, Barnet Council signed a ten year £320 million contract with Capita Plc to take over the provision of the following services take over the running of the council's back office services which includes customer services, human resources, finance and payroll, IT, revenues and benefits, estates, corporate procurement and commercial services.
Capita Plc proposed solution is to provide these services in Capita Call centres elsewhere in the UK which will ultimately lead to approximately 350 jobs losses to our community and upwards of 150 redundancies in Barnet.
We are passionate about local public services and believe people providing them have local knowledge and are accountable to the residents of Barnet. Not only that but local job losses will have a negative impact on our local economy as working people become jobless with a reduced income to spend in the local economy." "

Monday, 14 October 2013

Pinkham Way update

I was pleased to hear that the Pinkham Way waste site which we oppose had been dropped as a porposal by the North London Waste Authority. COngratulations to the residents who campaigned so well, but also to my colleagues Barry Rawlings and Pauline Coakley-Webb who are the Coppetts Councillors.

A tribute to the master, Sachin Tendulkar

News of India batsman Sachin Tendulkar's retirement is something of a hammer blow. Sachin is my absolute hero. In the many tough times over the last 24 years, I have often found inspiration from his innings, and I can't imagine following cricket without him. He is a genius and incomparable.

Tendulkar is the reason I have, hitherto, failed the Tebbit test. I may no longer once he finally goes. My cricketing love was based on a batting lineup of Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman. Now only Sehwag remains. I could not feel more depressed. :-(

Boris' fare rises

The GLA Labour Group have been campaigning against Boris Johnson's oyster card fare hikes, which are already 50% higher in his 5 years of office.

Andrew Dismore AM has two interesting articles. Firstly on the campaign to limit the fare rises. He also carries Val Shawcross AM's motion here.

Andrew has also asked Boris "Where do you stand on the Northern Line?".

Sarah Sackman

I did want to do a quick post very belatedly congratulating Sarah Sackman, who was selected as Finchley and Golders Green PPC last month.

I had planned to write this when selected, but I have only just recovered access to this blog, who's password I lost for a while.

Sarah will be an excellent candidate for us, and is already working very hard. I hope she wins and can give the people of this seat proper Parliamentary representation.

You can keep up to date with Sarah here, and I will be adding her to my list on the right of the page.

Martin School Centenary

I had a great visit to Martin School last week to celebrate their centenary. there were all these really great cakes, as well as sandwiches and tea. I particularly enjoyed the cupcakes with the school logo icing. There was also scones and jam too. Best part of the job in many ways.

There was a talk about the history of the school, and I talked to former teachers, pupils and parents. As a former Coppetts Wood boy, who loved that school a great deal, I am sure Martin School pupils will have the same fond memories of their school.

Martin is another East Finchley school with a real appreciation for the community, a good governing body, good teachers and leadership and very nice pupils, who are well behaved and polite. A real asset to the community.

A visit from European colleagues

I really enjoyed seeing Claude Moraes MEP, who came to Finchley to campaign with us. The European elections are the same day as Councils next year, 22nd May, so it is nice to make sure people understand what is on the two ballots. I have always liked and admired Claude, who is one of the nicest people in London politics. I was equally impressed with Lucy Anderson, a candidate. I had not met her before, and it was a real pleasure. She is very engaging, and good at talking to people not generally inclined to Labour. I hope she is elected next year, as she will be a real asset to the Labour MEP Group. I look forward to working hard to try and make that happen.

Joint Health Commiittee

I had my first go subbing for Alison Cornelius on the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting in Haringey Town Hall. We share this committee with Enfield, Haringey, Islington and Camden.

It was a long meeting, with a number of issues. We looked at the acute care and A&E figures, the proposals for Moorfields Eye Hospital and the BEH clinical strategy, which has been endorsed by Barnet and Haringey, but Enfield want to judicially review the changes in their area.

My thanks to Cllr Old, who was with me on the committee for pointing things out, and to the excellent chair, Cllr Gideon Bull from Haringey.

Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee

I wanted to pick up on the Health OSC meeting a few weeks ago, as we were surprised to hear that the Tories had tried, and failed to get anything going on the bus situation with Finchley Memorial. This was surprising, as we were the ones who had raised the issue, but were not invited to any discussion, despite Woodhouse having Labour Councillors. It says something pathetic about the Barnet Tories that they are too partisan to work with us on an issue we raised.

Middlesex Uni Freshers Fayre

The Labour Party were a strong presence at the Middlesex Uni freshers Fayre. We signed up a lot of people interested in helping us,and supportive of the party. Feedback was particularly positive about Ed Miliband's energy policy, and our campaign on the Great Tory Train Robbery, to stop Boris from his inflation busting oyster card rises.

It was notable on the Thursday when I was there that there was no sign of the Tories or any other party. Andrew Dismore and Sarah Sackman went down very well as well. It was good to see students take an interest in the areas they live in, with a number from Beaufort Park and Colindale.

The funniest moment though was when we saw that a big nightclub in Watford had their stalls right opposite the Jehovah's witnesses. can't have been a big crossover appeal.

Visit to Friends of Finchley Youth Theatre

I enjoyed visiting Finchley Youth Theatre, where East Finchley resident and actress Carolyn Pickles spoke about here career. I was good to meet the people there and talk about some of the issues they face. Funding is becoming harder and harder for these excellent organisations, and I hope they can all push through these tough times. I commend the work they do, and the dedication to the arts. They should be applauded for their work.

Archer Academy visits

Last week I was very pleased to visit the new Archer Academy twice. I answered questions from pupils about the local area, what I would like to see improved and other very tough questions. Kids are no pushovers, and they do ask some very searching questions! Alison Moore was asked what era from East Finchley's history would she like to go back to. That was her first question. I think her answer (for the record) was the times of Octavia Hill and Henrietta Barnett (Great answer). I was asked what I most disliked about the area, which was tough to answer. Lots of very political questions as well. I did have to behave myself, as I was being recorded and this was, technically, for the record.

I did struggle with where's my favourite place in East Finchley, and the only thing I could think of was the Windsor Castle Pub! I may also have given a few pub related answers, but on the whole I hope my answers were helpful. When they asked what I would like to see here, my answer (for which I got an applause) was a milkshake bar, as there are several nearby, but not in East Finchley.

I have to say, I was incredibly impressed by the school as a whole. very well behaved pupils, good teachers, a leadership with an excellent grasp of the school and a good governing body. Given I visited only three weeks into their opening, I was surprised how quickly the school had settled. I put this down to good planning. It is also telling that I have been invited to the school only three weeks into it's history, and am a regular visitor to Martin School. It's good to see how seriously these schools take community engagement.

I would also add my thanks to Mike Gee from Barnet Greenspaces. Onthe first day we were a very good double act and complimented each other quite well.

Grange Big Local

I enjoyed visiting the Grange Big Local open day at the Ann Owens Centre a few weeks ago. It was a very well organised day, with a lot going on, and I'm sure many of the residents felt engaged by the event. Live music, including a string quartet (with only three members. Budget cuts I presume!) playing music from the 20th Century. They were brilliant, and there were lots of children around who were mesmerised.

I hope there wasa lot of useful feedback for them to use.

Barnet War Memorial Initiative

I was very pleased to attend another meeting of the BWMI. We had some excellent discussions about a range of issues. First and foremost are the exciting developments at Hendon RAF museum, where they will be opening a new section on the air war in the first world war. There was a very interesting presentation, and they have planned and prepared for this exhibition a lot. It looks to be very exciting and I encourage all to go and see it.

We also looked at the situation with the John Parr memorial. John Parr was the first British casualty of the First World War, and he was a Finchley boy. Born on Litchfield Road in Finchley, he also lived on Bedford Road in East Finchley, before moving to Lodge Lane in North Finchley, where he lived at two addresses. We have been looking at placing a plaque for him at his old house, but have not met with much success. We are also looking at a notice board on the car park site. At the meeting, some interesting research was presented about his life, which was interesting however brief. It seems it took a long time for him to be identified as dead, as everyone around him seems to have been killed at the same time. His mother wrote several letters to the Ministry of War asking where he was, but they did not seem to know. His death was only confirmed by a friend of his who wrote to his mother telling her he had seem him die. It seems he was buried by the Germans. A tragic story, and an important one to remember as we COMMEMORATE (not celebrate) the centenary next year.

Cllr John Hart also gave an interesting update on the renovation of Mill Hill memorial, and the work done by Barratt Homes to help restore it.

We also heard about work with Harrow to produce a book of remembrance, for which I will be on the sub committee.

East Finchley Festival

I attended the AGM of the East Finchley Festival, where again I have been put in charge of stewarding. If anyone is willing to help out on the day please email me!

Friern Barnet School leads the way with arts

As a governor at Friern Barnet School, I was very impressed on attending a concert there for European visitors. It shows how important performing arts are in the curriculum, and how it induces students to excel. It was also a good advert for the school, which keeps getting better. congratulations to all.

Henry VI in Barnet

I very much enjoyed my trip to Monken Hadley for the Shakespeare's Globe production of all three Henry VI plays. Despite the dreadful winter conditions of freezing cold and persistent rain (it was on 24th August!) it was a really brilliant day. It was part of a programme of staging "battlefield performances" at the places where some of the battles depicted in the plays took place, such as St. Albans and here. Full credit to the actors who braved it out in that weather, and the crew who worked miracles. It was only towards the end when some of the lights blew!

It was once said that "we don't do culture in Barnet", but I think this proves we have an immense historic and cultural legacy here, which we should be very prod of.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Ashes Victory - Half Way done

On the fourth day lof the last test, I checked the score, to see Australia's progress in chasing 299 to win a consolation test. I was alarmed to see it was 147-1. While I was checking the score, a second wicket went down, but I was still relatively pessimistic of England winning. Let's be honest, they've won, but hardly in style and could as well be 3-1 down as 3-0 up as they are.

But we should never forget the propensity of the Australian batting lineup to crack. For those of us scarred by years of Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Martyn, Clarke, the Waugh twins, Slater and of course Gilchrist, we are not used to this. It is a wonder in our eyes, as Queen Elizabeth (the one who wasn't Queen of Australia) might have put it.

I have no sympathy, having memories of 1997, 1999/2000, 2001, 2002/3 and 2006/7.

But England must not relent, they ought to aim for 4-0, if not 3-0 at the least. England often won a test at the end, "When the Aussies were hungover from celebrating their wins" as Nasser Hussain put it. Let's not dangle that carrot. The next Ashes aren't 2 years away, they are a few months. It's vital to keep up the mental pressure in what is effectively a 10 test, two continent mega-series. We don't need to give them a boost for the next series. When England won at Sydney in 2003 after losing the preceding 4, they went on to win the next Ashes in 2005.

This has been an odd series. England have yet to reach 400 in an innings, whereas Australia have. The highest score of the series, often a barometer of performance, is held by the Aussies (thus far). Despite this, England have been consistent, which is why they are where they are. Even without too many runs from the top 4! They have won thanks to a glorious run of form for Ian Bell. Is it really the same Ian Bell of the painful and tortuous memories of 2005? Not really.

I hope they can keep it going back down under.


I have had a large number of emails regarding Fracking.

I have not heard of any applications in Barnet, and suspect that it would be unlikely to happen here, but if residents would like to be kept informed you are all welcome to email me.

The Tempest

I went to see The Tempest at the Globe Theatre last week. Sadly, this Sunday sees the last performance from this excellent cast. It was quite simply brilliant. I have never been to the Globe before, so this was a great treat and experience, to be recommended to all.

Every bit of humour was pulled out, and normally dull roles were performed the best they probably ever have been. Having not previously been much of a Shakespeare fan, I have been converted. There are some great lines there which politicians would be wise to pour over, to plagiarise if not learn from!

I understand this will be released by the Globe as a DVD next year, I think you would be mad to not get it!


I am a member of the Your Choice Barnet Task and Finish Group. We held our first meeting on Monday, getting some background from officers. If you have any input you would like to make into the process please get in touch. We have already had representation from some groups, which we are going through.

CPZ statement

Sorry for the delay, thought I would share the Labour response to the recent ruling on the CPZ rises.

Light Rail

The Labour Group have released a statement regarding recent developments on the light rail front. We have been calling for this for some time, especially given the regen projects on the western side of the borough.

Boris to close Tube ticket offices

That walking disaster Boris Johnson is up to his old tricks again. He wants to close all but a score of London tube ticket offices. This is another bonkers Boris idea. Completely unnecessary, financially and organisationally. Having increased fares by 50% already, and likely to have doubled them by 2016, TfL are already sitting on a lot of money. They would be in even better shape if they weren't blowing almost a £ billlion on the white elephant bus for London.

What is the point of having a mayor who makes things worse for the residents of the city fir no actual gain?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Post Office Motion

I was pleased that Full Council passed my motion last week on saving East Finchley Post Office. With another pointless Tory amendment to basically do nothing, I was pleased that there was unanimous support for not changing the current structure.


I wanted to make a note that it is a real shame the Tory Councillors chose to play petty politics with our blacklisting motion at Council last week. It wasn't necessary to amend the motion, nor attack Unions when we were dealing with an issue we all agreed with.

London Living Wage

I was pleased to meet with campaigners for London Living Wage, who asked for an update on Barnet Labour's successful efforts to implement it in Barnet. We are very pleased with our work in getting a motion passed unanimously at council last week.

Task and Finish Group

I am pleased to be a member of the Task an Finish Group looking into the Barnet First Programme. I welcome any representations.

Old Barn

I attended an informal meeting with the managers of the Old Barn on Sunday. It was something of a farce, as he proceeded to hold an AGM, which he was told by the charity commission that he could not do. I won't go into the details now, but I do want to reassure that we are fully engaged with the process.

Post Office Lobby

I attended the Communications workers Union Lobby of the House of Commons last week. It was good to see strong support from Murad Qureshi AM, Alan Johnson MP and Dennis Skinner MP, all of whom spoke extremely well. Talking to others, it is clear that our campaign in East Finchley to save our Post Office is much further advanced, and enjoys more popular support than most other places.

Crossings on Church Lane and Creighton Avenue

I was really pleased to get a Council officer down to talk to the three ward councillors and local residents and shop owners about the continuing problems on Church Lane. The officer was excellent, he was polite, professional, listened carefully and made very sensible suggestions. I cannot praise him enough. I won't name him, as I don't for any officer, but he is surely in my very good books!

We looked at Creighton Avenue, and the crossing there. It is apparent that on the shop side there isn't a good view for children, as cars park behind the white zigzagged line. We are looking at some cross hatching there.

I explained about the dire state of the pavement on the High Road in front of the Fuel Land allotments, and St. Pancras Court, as well as over the North Circular, in front of Finchley Memorial.

We looked at the whole length of Church Lane, including the junction with King Street, Leslie Road (where the markings are incorrect) and East End Road. We pointed out a number of problems with EER, including the signage, the corners that get cut and and problems for cyclists with it being two way, but some drivers not knowing that.

He also explained that the poles had not yet been put up for the 20 mph zones, nor the flashing lights yet, and that is due to be done. It is supposed to be done this week, but who knows what further delays there will be. I was there today and saw no changes.

I was very pleased with this session, and hope we can deliver some real changes.

One Barnet Judicial Review

I was pleased to attend the High Court deliberations for the appeal on the One Barnet judicial review, brought by Maria Nash. I felt her lawyers did a good job in tough circumstances, and hope for a positive outcome. How the Council can still claim they consulted is beyond me. How they can claim that we knew what it all was in 2011 is also beyond me. I don't think anyone knew what it was until the proposals actually came out.

I think the result is due on 30th September.

Bishop Douglass and Benedict Way

I hear from residents of Benedict Way on the Thomas Moore estate that Bishop Douglass School has opened the side gates on Benedict Way for pupils to come into and go out of the school. I understand this is only temporary, as building works go on. Nevertheless, it is disappointing that the school did not ask permission of Viridian, nor consult neighbours. I visited the area to talk to residents and listen. They are not amused, and I hope we can get this one done swiftly.

Ward Panel

I am afraid I missed the ward Panel meeting with the safer neighbourhood team at Strawberry Vale, due to the Health meeting. I understand Alison Moore went, and represented the councillors. There are a number of concerns locally, and I struggle to see how Mayor Johnson's destruction of community policing, by reducing ward SNTs to 2 from 9 will improve patrolling and local knowledge. As I have said before, it is about maintaining stats, not real service delivery. I have real concerns about some areas in the ward, but I fear the new policing structure, where they all operate out of High Barnet Police Station, will not deliver it.


I was pleased that at the latest Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee we covered some issues very important to me, the Brunswick Park Health Centre and access and travel to Finchley Memorial.

You really have to ask what the point of the Cabinet member for health is, if she constantly delegates all responsibility to others and claims no influence. I think it is becoming a joke that every time Cllr Ioannidis asks her what she is doing, she says she can't do anything. Well done Andreas is all I can say. If it wasn't for his pressure there would be nothing being done to get this moving.

I was also displeased by the attitude of the Mayor of London towards improving bus access to Finchley Memorial Hospital. Andrew Dismore seems to have put in a lot of work for several months trying to get him to even look into it, and thus far the mayor has done nothing. It was interesting that Helena Hart waved a letter from his Borisness saying he would personally look into it. Why, after months of questions from Andrew Dismore had he not done that before? Does he not listen to residents represented by the Labour Party?

I am glad he has suddenly taken interest, no doubt to claim credit for himself.

East Finchley Altogether Better

I visited the East Finchley Altogether Better session at the Sree Aden Depala centre on Church Lane. This is the latest incarnation of the East Finchley Village Project, which I felt was unfocussed and unclear.

This seems to be a much better system, which aims to link in different local groups together, and help people access different services. I look forward to seeing more of their work in the future, thesekinds of events could be very useful if done right. I must also praise the hospitality of the centre, which was my first visit there.

We did a test to see how well we know East Finchley, and you will be pleased to know Alison and I got full marks!

Post office meeting

I was glad to be able to speak at the public meeting organised by the Communication Workers Union in East Finchley Library to discuss the future of East Finchley Post Office. It was an interesting discussion, with the gentleman from the Post Office saying that the re-franchising did not mean losing the post office, merely a different deliverer. I asked peopek to bear in mind that these are exactly the same promises that were made to residents in Finchley Central, when they were told they would get longer opening hours and better services. In the end they got nothing.

There were also concerns expressed about the TUPE change in employment conditions for the existing staff. I also raised the fact that the post office in its current location was vital for the economic health of the town centre, and that it attracted visitors, who shop locally too. It would lead to fewer local services, and potentially do damage to local business, losing the shop front. It was argued that the branch loses £1.60 for every £1 it makes, but I pointed out that it was a large space that seemed almost entirely unused, and that they could make creative solutions to reduce their losses. I also questioned whether the Government saw them as a community asset and service,rather than just a business.

Archer Academy plans

I visited Holy Trinity School to see the Archer academy plans. I am a member of the planning committee, so it would be improper to comment, but it was good to see what the proposals are, and how they will take shape. It was also good to see the proposed layout scheme, and how they plan on keeping parts public. It was a helpful session to me in getting background detail, and i hope others who are interested.

Back again

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, I have had computing problems. I am going through my diary writing up all the events I have done in July.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

One Barnet Appeal

Don't forget to all those available in the day time that the One Barnet Appeal Date will be heard in the High Court on 15th and 16th July.

East Finchley Ward Panel

This Thursday from 6:45pm onwards will be the East Finchley Ward Panel meeting with the safer neighbourhood team and the police at the Green Man, Strawberry Vale. Ican't make it due to the Health OSC meeting, but my Colleague Cllr Alison Moore is going.

I know there are a number of concerns in some areas, particularly with the good weather finally arriving. Added to that the long light evenings and I am sure some will have concerns about anti social behaviour on places like Strawberry Vale. I hope to talk to the SNT to make sure they are vigilant to the threat.

Archer Academy Plans

I understand that the Archer Academy will be holding a meeting from 4pm till 8pm for the public to see their plans for September and beyond, as well as look at the site proposals. I hope to be there from 4 till 5, because I am having a public talk about the future of the Post office at the library from 6PM.

The meeting is at Holy Trinity School on Eagans Close (Off Market Place).

East Finchley Altogether Better Conference

On Thursday 4th July from 10am till 3pm will be the first conference of the East Finchley Altogether Better project, that aims to connect people, groups, businesses, programmes and services.

It will be held at the Shree Aden Depala Mitra Mandal Community Centre 67a Church Lane N2 8DR

I hope to attend,and If you have an interest in the area I hope you will be able to come too.

Brunswick Park Health Centre

This Thursday will see a Meeting of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Hendon Town Hall from 7pm. The Agenda includes a discussion on the situation at Brunswick Park Health Centre. Thank God my colleague Cllr Andreas Ioannidis has been chasing this up doggedly and putting pressure on the NHS to open it. It is currently costing over £300 a day to keep it closed thanks to security!

Well done to Cllr Ioannidis for his hard work.

Long Lane Pastures

I very much enjoyed my visit this afternoon to Long Lane Pastures to see the unveiling, by local MP Mike Freer, of a panoramic view of the fields, set up on "Octavia Hill", the side along the embankment with the North Circular. It is am impressive work, and does full grace to the beauty of the pastures.

Among Councillors, I was joined by Jim Tierney and Alison Moore from Labour, and Brian Coleman as an independent. We were very well looked after by the folks there, who as well as being good gardeners are also seemingly good cooks (and hosts!). It is a tragedy the cupcakes are not on general sale. It was also a first visit for Mrs Angry, and she was so enchanted that I am sure it is unlikely to be the last.

I don't mind admitting I am pleased with myself for turning up, having bad hayfever is tough, but especially on a hot day in a field with hay and flowers!

It was mentioned tome that each year at the pastures takes a different identity, and that is very true. The last time I was there was for the Mitzvah day last year, where I did some volunteering to help clear the hay, along with Alison, Jim and Anne Hutton. They look completely different this year, with brand new plants and flowers.

Living in a flat I have never been green fingered, especially with my allergies, but I have a lot of time for those who put hard work and effort into keeping these gems of the borough. I have been thinking about asking Barnet Homes if they can put a little garden or vegetable patch on Prospect Ring to give people something to do, and I have had some ideas from here.

 Sincere thanks to them for their hard work and for hosing this reception.

Armed Forces day

I managed to attend Armed Forces day this morning despite severe hayfever, and I'm glad I did.

It is a very special privilege to pay our respects to service men and women, and thank your young cadets. They work hard and are a great credit to the borough in the way they support community events, behave impeccably, are always smart and well turned out. They are always polite and respectful too, unlike your sometimes unruly Councillors! I was not the only one who felt there was something to be learnt from their example.

Thanks to all who made it an excellent day.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Armed Forces day

Though Armed Forces day is tomorrow, Barnet will commemorate the day at 10 AM at Hendon Town Hall on Sunday. The event last year was very good and I hope people will come to show their appreciation for those who risk their lives for us on a daily basis.

Spending Review

Better Barnet have a good analysis by Labour Group leader, and my ward colleague Cllr Alison Moore on the effect of the spending review.

Julia Gillard's finest hour

I thought I would post the video of former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's speech on misogyny and sexism. East Finchley has a strong socially liberal conscience, and I think this is a video many in the ward should see.

Post office meeting- 6PM at East Finchley Library Wednesday 3rd July

The Communication workers union, CWU are hosting a talk for members of the community next Wednesday at East Finchley Library from 6PM to talk to residents about the future of the Post Office on the High Road.

Please come and show your support! I will be speaking on the platform.

One final thank you to the 2013 East Finchley Festival Team

The committee that organised the East Finchley Festival had a good meeting tonight to talk about how it went, whet to learn for next year (there are a few lessons) and to congratulate on a job well done. I want to pay final tribute to those who have helped run this year's festival, and say how well it was run.Many have said how much they enjoyed it, how they missed it last year, and that the community could not take it for granted.

A huge well done and congratulations to everyone.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Action on Prospect Ring

I was concerned to see that a lift on the block 61-104 Prospect Ring was not working,and that the bin doors on the block of flats on Market Place still have not been fixed. I am glad to report that Barnet Homes  hope to fix the door by 4th July, and are sending someone to look at the lift.

Diabetes in Barnet

Andrew Dismore has highlighted some of the worryingly high figures we have for Diabetes in Barnet. Read his report here.

Bus Services

Do you have a view on the 102 or the 234 bus services and their cross borough services? if so email me at as part of a TfL consultation.

Diamond Jubilee video

You can see here the video that has been produced to demonstrate a proposed Diamond Jubilee gate near Hendon Town Hall.

North Finchley Consultation

Have your say on the proposed North Finchley Town Centre project.

Salute to Julia Gillard

Few world leaders have had to put up with as much vile sexist rubbish as now former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. "Ditch the B****" being one slogan, the menu scandal and such the like. She has been pelted with food, assaulted and harassed. The personal questions have just been awful.

As she says, perhaps she has made the job slightly easier for the next female PM, but it was never easy for her on her tightrope majority. I think the Labor Party might now have a hope of salvaging something to build on after this year's election, regardless of the result. Either way, however hard it is, fences must be mended and the fratricide must end. Nothing can be worse for Australia the Tony Abbott, even the Labor party performing the Sopranos.

Let's be honest, al least the ALP are doing better than their nation's cricketers. The Ashes will be a delight I'm sure.

Residents forum

I attended the Finchley and Golders Green residents forum last night.

All I can say is that the Council are looking for feedback on these rather limited and outdated sessions. you can let them know what you think if you can find the feedback form!

These sessions are dreary, because residents xan only report environmental issues. They are not a place where residents can voice opinions of policy, or even frankly voice opinion.

Case in point is that there were several queries on pedestrian safety, but because the committe can't affect the policy, it is not allowed to be discussed. There were a number of residents from the Garden Suburb who got more and more frustrated as time went on. I don't think they had ever seen the Council inaction in action before, and they were not impressed.

If they were annoyed with that they were even angrier with the waste and recycling changed brief. Many of the anxieties could have been answered if they had public involvement at an earlier stage. There has not been any effort to explain the background to these changes, such as the huge costs of not recycling more. Nor has there been any effort to look at some of the challenges of terraced roads, which was a prominent concern. When residents got angry, the debate was shut down. A real pity, as they could have addressed many of these concerns at the meeting, instead of being defensive.

Huge thanks to those involved in the East Finchley Festival

I wanted to say a thanks to the organisers, volunteers, stalls, bands and visitors to the East Finchley Festival on Sunday. We had a really good day, lots of people came, and the feedback was very positive.

Many thanks to all of you.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Scrutiny training

Cllr Barry Rawlings, Cllr Sury Khatri and I attended a scrutiny training even held by the centre for Excellence in Local Government and Health (ELGH) in Lambeth today. It was a very useful session, and I think we all came away with some good tips on how to scope committee investigations and task and finish groups. It was interesting to hear the approaches of officers to scrutiny, and hear some good tips.

What was most interesting was how bad some things are in Barnet, and how dependent you are as a committee on a good chair for a successful committee. The tenor of a meeting and the attitude of committee members stems from the chair.

Take for example, Health and Budget and Performance. Health is a good committee because the members work together, the chair is excellent and gives a fair hearing to all and we cover the agenda. We do site visits and call a range of witnesses. Budget and Performance is not so, and if possible I recommend watching the DRS meeting last week to see why.

I wonder if our system isn't as broken as the way it is applied. For any system to work, it calls for a real change in attitude, or else the same problems will persist whatever the system.

I thought we were also presented with an amusing set of questions about how the council view scrutiny, such as whether the Leader of the Council views scrutiny as a management tool. Barnet would have failed them all. It's a real pity because, as I saw today, scrutiny can be valued by the administration as a way of making sure people know what is going on and are kept on their toes. It was good to see that approach taken by Lambeth, and I think it is possible to be done in Barnet, it just needs good chairmanship and a change in attitude.

State of London "debate"

Last week I went to the LBC sponsored State of London debate with Boris Johnson. It was very disappointing. He knows so little detail and always passes people on to his minions. It seems most of his achievements, like the bicycle scheme, were founded under the previous Labour administration, then left to wallow under his mayoralty (much like recycling in Barnet). And he is totally unwilling to share credit. Did you ever hear him thank the Councils for their considerable input into the successful planning of the Olympics?

His actual achievements seem few and far between. His record on transport has been to unnecessarily raise fares to pay for a new routemaster bus. The only reason he did this became apparent on the night, when he touted how many jobs it had made across the country. It was something he can say when he challenges Cameron. Throughout the evening, I got the impression this is a playground for him to hone his skills, have some things down on his political CV and work up a head of steam to challenge the Prime Minister. He seems to care little for London or our needs.

His record on Housing is abysmal, as anyone who has tried to rent in the Capital knows. His record on policing is the one that will do the longest term damage though. By keeping to his 24,000 officers pledge, he is destroying the most important part of modern policing, the community policing. What a joke that local Safer Neighbourhood teams have been slashed to two from nine, and in Barnet they are to be based out of only two stations. Officers for East Finchley will have to come from High Barnet. Good old joker Boris eh? The severance between policing and the front line will do a huge amount of damage, as local knowledge and relationships will be lost. It is more tragedy than farce.

And don't get me started on fire services cuts.

The thing that galls me though, is that he seems to get away with it. There is no press scrutiny, and because he can tell a joke or a funny anecdote he seems to escape any serious questioning, except from the Assembly members. It will take a long time to put all these right.

Cost of Living concerns

I was glad to see the Labour Party Shadow Treasury Minister Catherine McKinnell MP make this statement on the Party Website today. The cost of living comes up on the doorstep time and time again, and it's a shame the Government have done little to help. I have been particularly concerned by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson's policy of raising travel fares, with transport service quality noticeably worsening over his time. Those fares are set to rise again now that there is no election for him round the corner.

Labour Call for Barnet Council to pay a Living Wage

Barnet Labour are calling for Barnet to become a Living Wage Council. Read more here. We currently have 846 workers paid less.

More news on the East Finchley Festival

Plans are in final stages for the festival in Cherry Tree Woods this Sunday from 11 till 6.

Don't forget to follow them on twitter @U&N2 and @EFFestival2012

And Like them on Facebook.

You can also email

Monday, 10 June 2013

Chuka Umunna MP

Last wednesday I was pleased to meet Shadow BIS secretary Chuka Umunna, who delivered a very good speech and answered questions from members at a dinner for Barnet Labour members.

What stood out to me was how clearly he understood the importance of local businesses to communities, and how keen he is to listen to them and for them to let him know what is holding them back, what will help them and how things can be improved.

Businesses in Barnet have suffered as a result of the Tory administration's disaster year in parking policy. I am glad barnet businesses will have a passionate advocate in Chuka Umunna.

NLWA Labour Group Submission

I was happy to work with colleagues on the Labour Group submissions to the North London Waste Authority plans. You can see them here.

Recycling changes from october

From October 14th, the recycling regime will change, as all properties currently in posession of the blue and black boxes will be replaced by a blue wheelie bin, into which all recyclable materials will go. I understand a food waste bin will be brought in in due course as well.

For further information please see the Barnet Council website.

East Finchley Fesitval

Don't forget this years excellent East Finchley festival from 12 PM on Sunday 23rd June at Cherry Tree Woods. The festival program has been delivered to the office, and people should stuart getting them from Wednesday.

The Grange

I am pleased to report that good progress is being made on the Grange Lottery funding. Don't forget to come to Seasons Cafe on the High Road at 6.30PM this thursday to discuss future plans. The locally trusted organisation is Martin School, adnd the £20,000 start up fund has been won.

Questions on the DRS

Here are my written questions on the DRS contract, to be debated Tuesday 11th June 2013 7 PM at Hendon Town Hall.

1) What action will be taken to mitigate against residents with protected characteristics being unable to access web based services?
2) What use is improved data collection for concerns about potholes if there is nothing that can apparently be done to mitigate against these concerns?
3) To whom does responsibility for the provisions within the contract fall if the Council is abolished or ceases to exist?
4) If the parent company suffers financial distress, how can it provide securities, much less find funds to secure a bond?
5) If the parent company collapses, but the Joint venture is still financially robust, what will the impact be on the Joint venture?
6) Can shares in the JV be sold by either side, and does the Council have control over whom to?
7) If CSL pull out of the contract, are there financial penalties for them accruing to the Council?
8) If service levels underperform and the Council consequently reduces payments, will payments for the service areas be reduced?
9) What are the change provisions within the contract to deal with policy changes?
10) When was it first decided that the preferred option for the DRS was to undertake a joint venture?
11) When was the leader of the Council told the preferred delivery model was a JV? When did he agree to it?
12) What details are specified under 6.17, Annex 1?
13) What happens if CSL find they cannot deliver the DRS program on the funds allocated? If the Council decides they will not provide more funds, and the contract is terminated, is the fault on the part on CSL, and will Barnet Council receive compensation?
14) Are there other circumstances than above where Barnet Council will receive compensation from CSL on termination of the contract?
15) If it becomes Council policy to become a Fair Trade Council, or a Living Wage council, will the DRS JV be covered by those policies?
16) What form will the “Barnet Observatory” take?
17) Is CSL obligated to hand over a viable organisation under all circumstances, including acrimonious dispute?
18) How will CSL decide who stays as part of their organisation and who goes back to Barnet Council at the end of the contract?
19) Will all staff be dedicated to Barnet Council, or will they be shared with other JV clients?
20) Will current Barnet staff TUPE’d to CSL, who serve the duration of the 10 year contract be re-TUPE’d back at the end?
21) Why does the Council have to set up a wholly owned subsidiary?
22) Who will be on the Board of directors of the Wholly owned subsidiary?
23) Can the Wholly owned subsidiary be sold, either in part or full?
24) Who will be on the partnership board of the JV?
25) Who will be on the Directory board of the JV?
26) Is it not the case that the system that offers the greatest level of control, transparency and confidence to other potential public sector partners is the Council itself?
27) If the 2010 options appraisals saying that a JV carried a higher level of risks was wrong, and that a strategic partnership should be preferred; Is it not possible that the current recommendations are wrong, and subject to revision?
28) is there not an inherent risk that Barnet Council staff, who are public sector workers, do not wish to work in the private sector and do not feel comfortable with profit maximisation as a consideration in their work?
29) The EIP recognises staff maybe unused to touting for business, and the mitigation will be training. How does that deal with the underlying risk that some Council staff will not be comfortable with being salespeople?
30) Why does Table 3.2 state the Council has “limited commercial ability to deliver the higher levels of income that would help meet the Council’s financial objectives” when most of the proposals are simply to raise fees on existing paid for services?
31) If one of the aims of the Contract is to create “a new relationship with citizens” then why have they not been consulted?
32) How is CSL making profit out of this contract?
33) What in the contract is undeliverable by an in house bid, none of which has yet been considered?
34) If members do not agree to charge and fee rises, how is that dealt with? Are CSL still guaranteed to deliver savings?
35) Why are 30 extra staff needed in year 1 only of the contract?
36) What are the cost reductions identified in Table 8.2 (Appendix 1)?
37) Why are the other 4 income increases identified in Table 8.2 (Appendix 1) undeliverable by the Council alone?
38) Why is there only a guarantee that the contract will not be signed during the Alcatel period, and not before the JR is finished in Table 9.5?
39)Why is recruitment for the commissioning board being undertaken before Councillors have had a chance to scrutinise, let alone agree the contract?
40) How will costs to customers be “minimised” under 1.2.4 (Appendix 2) when the entire project consists of fee rises?
41) Any “Profit” the JV makes is shared with CSL and subject to dividends. Can it be confirmed that that is not the case with an in house model?
42) What is the total value of the contract?
43) If there is another recession, can CSL claim it as an excuse for not delivering on business growth KPI’s or are they set in stone?