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

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Mental Health Awareness Week 2013

This year's mental health awareness week saw a focus on physical activity and exercise. For more information click here.

Foster care fortnight

I am pleased to see Barnet Council's work on Foster Care Fortnight. This is a vital area, and we are looking for foster carers to look after children. I have nothing but respect and admiration for foster carers, and I hope this week will prove to be of some benefit.

Healthwatch Barnet

I am pleased to see this week sees the launch of Healthwatch Barnet, the successor tot he Barnet Local Involvement Network (LiNk), whos representation of the public on health matters and research of public opinion I have always valued.

I look forward to working with the new body on the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and hope they will provide as much useful information as their predecessor did.

You can find out more on the Barnet Council website here.

High Road Problems

I was concerned to see on Thursday night that there were three burst water pipes on East Finchley High Road. The pipes are over 100 years old, which begs the question why they weren't replaced earlier. I understand there was only a loss of water at the station, and at the excellent Old White Lion Pub the other side of the tube station (and sadly just outside the ward). I understand this has now been returned to normal. I am not sure how long works were due to take, by that is dependent on which cement is used. I was also told there the roads would be swept of any debris.

There has been some travel disruption on the buses, but I hope this will all have been sorted by now.

91 Police Officers lost in Barnet

Mayor Johnson is clearly no good for Barnet residents, as there has been a loss of 91 Police Officers in Barnet since May 2010. Andrew Dismore AM reports that almost 3,000 officers have been lost across London in that time.

What really concerns me is the deconstruction of community policing in London, and the depleting of safer neighbourhood teams. This is real frontline policing, and I can't see this as being good for residents.

David Lammy MP speaks at Friern Barnet Library

I really enjoyed listening to Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy, who came to the Friern Barnet Library on Tuesday.

David spoke about his new book, out of the Ashes (PLEASE BUY IN A BOOKSTORE) Which is an interesting analysis of what caused the 2011 riots.

He spoke about the role of fathers, and the need for proper paid work. He said the Government's decision to scrap the future jobs fund, the New Deal and the jobs guarantee was fatal. I totally agree with this, so many problems in the poorest parts of our community stem from people not having jobs and standards of living being low.

He also spoke about housing, and how that was a major influence on the immigration debate. He was right to point out that of the £23 Billion housing benefit bill has effectively become a landlords subsidy, and that it is wrong to demonise the claimants.

He also spoke of the disconnect in politics, and why it is important for Politicians to really understand how the poorest live, and what their concerns are. I have always felt the best way of doing this was having regular doorstep conversations, and having those honest conversations on the doorstep.

We capped off the evening by cutting a cake, baked in the shape of, and with an edible photograph of the cover of the book. The cake was simply beautiful, and I had great pleasure polishing off my slice(s).

Can you help deliver East Finchley Festival programmes?

On the 6th June we hope to receive the East Finchley Festival programmes. Please email me at if you would like to volunteer.

Visit to Finchley Memorial Hospital

I was glad to have a visit to Finchley Memorial Hospital, with some members of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Cllr Alison Cornelius, Cllr Graham Old, Cllr Andrew Harper and Cllr Julie Johnson accompanied me. There were some issues of concern, which the committee will hope to raise. Firstly that 20 beds at the hospital are currently unused.

I am particularly concerned about some of the environmental aspects of the building, such as the lack of direct bus access, that the nearest bus stop was caked in mud and water when I visited, that there is no direct access to the bus stop on Finchley High Road, that the car parking signage isn't clear, that the internal signage isn't clear and that there are no covered walkways, despite the entrance to the hospital being a large distance from the entrance to the site.

I was also concerned to see the GP centre is still not up and running, and that the costs are high. I can see why the costs are so high just from the light fittings in the hospital, some of which you might expect to have to fill out a risk assessment form just to change. They are also not meeting their target stay times.

There was also much that was positive, the building is extraordinarily clean and light, with large open spaces. The ward rooms are spacious and comfortable. The equipment and services provided there will see this hospital become areal quality leader, mush as Edgware is. I was pleased to see the recovery centre small gym, designed to help people make their first steps to recoveries from falls. There is also a gym for more intense care that may be required. As a former carer for a terminal cancer patient, I look forward to the new invision suite. It is very clean and will have top notch technology. I also hope they will be able to get the pharmacy up and running soon,even if there is no GPs there yet.

Best of all is a recovery suite which is designed to help integrate people back into home life, so it has an attached kitchen and bathroom with various different setups, to help everyone prepare for going home, no matter what cookers or showers they have. Truly revolutionary, and a statement of what is great about the NHS. I was very impressed by this.

So all in all this has the makings of a great local hospital, and the problems raised can be overcome and dealt with. It helps to have a knowledgeable, well trained, helpful and caring staff. Full marks to them.

HOSC meeting

The last Health overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting was interesting,as we scrutinised the care quality accounts for organisations as CLCH, BCF hospitals, Royal Free and the Mental Health Trust.

There are a number of issues that we picked up and questions representatives on. There was some concern about the performance of the Mental Health Trust, but there are clear plans in place to rectify the issues raised. I was pleased to see the care quality commission had no issues or concerns with Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals.

There were some small issues at the Royal Free, such as drug storage, which they have almost immediately managed to mitigate or rectify. We were very annoyed as a committee that we were given so few time to put in our submissions to the Royal Free. This is not a good way to start, given the acquisition of BCF.

We have also raised concerns about maternity services, and transport issues to Finchley Memorial, and the lack of any bus route from Barnet to Chase Farm. These will be pursued in time.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Book Recommendation - The Fears of Henry IV

I have just finished reading Dr. Ian Mortimer's book, the Fears of Henry IV.

Poor Henry, the first Lancastrian, is rather forgotten outside of Shakespeare. He was an important monarch, who overthrew the dictatorial Richard II, effectively ending the House of Plantagenet (though he might well have described himself as one). He was embroiled in a lengthy war in Wales, and was beset by plots against him. He had a famously terrible relationship with his wayward son Henry of Monmouth (later Henry V), who was probably more of an embarrassment than his famously philandering father, John of Gaunt.

The book is well written and a fascinating account of the whole life of Henry, as a popular and well rounded child, compared to his lonely and isolated cousin Richard. He was a great jouster and a celebrity knight, who was feted during his crusades. The book has interesting facts, such as Henry was probably the last King of England after the Norman Conquest who's first language was French.

I have some fascination for Henry IV, as I was a student at the University of Kent. I was fond, during my studies at Canterbury, of visiting the cathedral. Most famous for the murder and subsequent shrine of Thomas a Becket, the Tomb of Henry is a great jewel. Beautifully carved from alabaster, it is the nearest you can get to a King of England. He is buried in a place of honour, next to the former shrine of Becket. Opposite lies Edward, the Black Prince. Eldest son of Edward III, he is Henry's uncle, and awkwardly the father of Richard II, the man Henry overthrew.

Dr Mortimer also has an excellent book on Edward III, the Greatest King. I recommend that too. I do not subscribe to Dr Mortimer's views on the survival of Edward II, but barring that it is a good book.

I will not link to the amazon site, as I prefer to see books bought at bookstores or borrowed from a library. We should not let bookstores go the way of HMV by this destructive internet purchasing. And don't get it on a kindle either please.

Andrew Dismore on Olympic ticket prices

Barnet and Camden GLA member Andrew Dismore has an interesting take on learning lessons from the 2012 Olympic Games and making sure tickets are affordable. I think this could come in useful for football, where season tickets at some clubs are becoming more and more steep.

His article is well worth a read.

Street Parties

You might have heard the Tory policy of charging £300 for street parties. Well the good news is that they have caved in and conceded.

After last years private park hire, it seems the Barnet Tories are having a silly charge of the year competition.

Fuel poverty in Barnet

Labour Housing Spokesperson Cllr Julie Johnson has interesting news and commentary on fuel poverty in Barnet.

As the cost of living rises, but salaries stay the same or fall, this is going to be a bigger issue astime goes on.