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

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?