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

Friday, 25 January 2013

Budget and Performance

Tonight at Budget and Performance we looked at the Q2 monitoring reports and Barnet Homes.

Sadly, the sessions started with an unhelpful exchange. There was a testy question from Julian Silverman during the public question time, and a bit of an exchange with the chair, Anthony Finn. When Mr Silverman got up to leave after his question (on housing) Cllr Finn moved on to the next item about Barnet Homes, and said as an aside, that Mr Silverman should stay as he "might learn something". I found this rather unfair, as Mr Silverman had no right of reply, and was an unnecessary comment from a chair. I made a point of order and said so, and the chair apologised.

We had a very productive session. Bedroom Tax, Housing benefit cap, Council tax benefit scrapping (Pickles' Poll Tax), lack of supply and vastly increased demand are clearly a big worry, and the Council are doing nothing to increase the supply of affordable homes. I have some truly sad housing cases, and I fear the underlying causes will not be properly dealt with unless we get the holy trinity of Labour Council, Labour Mayor and Labour Government.

I was shocked to see it takes 201 days on average to rehouse an emergency case. 6 1/2 months. not good enough. I'm glad they are dealing with the backlog that means it takes 76 days to just get a banding.

On the quarterly performance reports, sickness is a serious issue. Though it is otly denied that staff morale is behind it, it's clear that some staff on long term leave can't put the figures for a 2,000 strong organisation so out of kilter. I've made the point before a dozen times, but the treatment of staff must be a priority.

I rasied the question about planning for population growth. Hendon is going to see tens of thousands of new residents, and we must get the plans for health and transport and school places right. I think they will do it on school places, but they have seriously miscalculted on health and transport.

It's virtually pointless doing these sessions when the reports are so badly out of date, and the questions on the figures are simply not worth going into, as they are several months out of date.

We didn't end on a happy note eiter, as the Tory Councillors grumbled that they wanted to go home at 9.30, as Alan Schneiderman and Geof Cooke wanted to follow up on earlier questions. Cllr Gordon asked if we had families to go back to, to which Geof reminded him we are paid to be here.

All through the meeting, which, apart from the beginning and end had been conducted in a friendly and helpfulk atmousphere between the Councillors of both parties, allowing each other to follow up and intervene. At some points though, Tory councillors kept making political gibes, then recoiled as we made the ripostes. I know Alison reads the papers and knows her stuff, which shows because everytime they made a jab, she paid them back with interest.