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

Friday, 25 January 2013

Full Council

Tuesday's full Council was very interesting. We had a presentation of velum certificates to Cllr Melvin Cohen and Cllr Agnes Slocombe. Agnes gave an impromptu speech thanking the residents for electing her for 30 years. Always classy is our wonderful Agnes!

Then we had written questions. My first was about the libraries cuts. Cllr Rams says they have identified all the cuts they want to make, which is slightly different from what I had heard. I also asked him to let me know the details of the competency tests the librarians were asked to do. I told him he ought to give them more time to complete them. I didn't ask a supplementary about the levels of crime in Strawberry Vale, as Cllr Longstaff has kindly referred the matter to the police to look into, plus were to have a debate about it later.

Curiously, Cllr Coleman's questions were all at the end, and he only got to ask a few of them. He told me in the interval that it's because the questions were done by group. I don't understand why his would be at the end if that were the case, the order should go Con Lab Lib Ind. Given his questions are so awkward for the Tories I would rather see him get better billing!

Azi Khatiri did an excellent speech and handed the petition with 8,000 signatures asking for a referendum on One Barnet. She clearly rattled the Tories, as Cllr Thomas gave a poor response, in which he said only 4% of the population had signed the petition, the other 96% didn't. Alison hit him out of the park and reminded him that it was 8,000 more than he had consulted and asked about it.

The Tory Item was about returning to the old committee system. I have no preference whatsoever, but I find it grating how the Tories demand more accountability and democracy on one hand, then run the residents forum into the ground by disallowing awkward questions, don't consult the public on One Barnet, allow the public questioners at committees to be treated like idiots by the chairs and refuse to have One Barnet debates in the chamber, unless it's an opposition business item, which they can't take off the agenda.

Quote of the night goes to the brilliant Cllr Jack Cohen, who said "this Tory administration is a Marxist regime..." to much hilarity "...that's Groucho, not Karl!" and brought the house down.

Then our item on emergency service cuts. Alex Brodkin was brilliant. He hammered the Tories on the police station closures, which will leave the entire Chipping Barnet constituency without a front desk, and with the closure of Borehamwood, Hampstead, Winchmore Hill and Southgate, the residents there have to go to Edmonton for their nearest 24 hour desk.

Cllr Longstaff then proceeded to give one of the oddest speeches I have heard since Cllr Rayner's maiden speech in which he said Gordon Brown and skip several times. David also managed to dredge up that long debunked nonsense about gold. You know they're stuck when they go for that. I spoke about cuts to the safer neighbourhood teams, blaming them on Boris, and excoriating him for damaging the most successful anti crime measure of the last 50 years. Barry Rawlings also did an excellent speech about the ambulance service.

The Tories accused us of scaremongering, and Barry reminded us that he had been accused of the same before he 2010 election, when he campaigned saying the Tories were going to close Friern Barnet Library.

After the interval was a motion about the contribution of Ugandan Asians, which was very positive, we restated our commitment to Jinja, our twinned town in Uganda. Best part was Agnes Slocombe, who left Brian Gordon whincing after she brought out an old quote of his saying it had been a mistake to allow the Ugandan Asians in.

Then the unexpected turn of the night. WE WON A VOTE! Cllr Coleman put down an vote on the names of the new directors. He said "Why has Pam Wharfe been given the title of Director of Place? why not haddock or cod? and what does the Director of Assurance do? go "there, there" to the auditors?!" His amendment said something along the lines of giving the directors proper names. When it came to the vote, the Lib Dems and us voted with him, 24 in all, and only 20 Tories voted against! Many keeping their hands down. This is the first vote loss since 2006.

The best speech of the night was from Andreas Tambourides. Chair of the licenseing committee, he simply got up and moved his report on gambling. If only David Longstaff and Daniel Thomas had done the same...