Thursday, 22 March 2012

East Barnet Car Park - What did our Councillors vote for

On Tuesday evening, the East Barnet Residents association held a meeting at which the introduction of charging at East Barnet car park in Church Hill Road was discussed. The Barnet Bugle filmed the proceedings and the video can be seen here.

Cllr Rams states quite clearly on the video that he did not vote for these proposals but that he voted for a ‘consultation’. However, when he was repeatedly challenged on this by former Councillor Dan Hope of the Barnet Bugle and Cllr Pauline Coakley-Webb, Cllr Rams seemed somewhat reluctant to give a straight answer.

As I understand the situation, based on the documents published on the Council's website, Cllr Rams did indeed vote for a consultation on the budget proposals - which included the introduction of charges to Church Hill Road Car Park at the Cabinet meeting of 3 November 2011.

HOWEVER, at the Cabinet Committee meeting on 20 February 2012 it is is quite clear:
"The Cabinet received the Corporate Plan, Budget, Council Tax and Medium Term Financial Strategy proposals for the period from 2012/13 to 2014/15" (which included the introduction of charging to the Church Hill Road car park) "and RECOMMENDED them to Council for adoption".

Then on Tuesday 6 March at the full Council meeting the Council agreed item 4.1 where it "Recommends budget proposals for 2012/13 to 2014/15 for approval". Indeed that report set out the very clear details of the consultation that had taken place.
I would be grateful if Cllr Rams could point out to me where, at either the cabinet meeting of 20 February or Council meeting on 6 March, he voted for a 'consultation' or expressed any concern whatsoever about the introduction of charges. Residents should be clear as to what is the truth in this situation and I would be grateful if Cllr Rams could clarify the facts. If Cllr Rams and his Cabinet colleague Cllr Joanna Tambourides failed to stop this proposal at two Cabinet meetings and at the full council meeting, why did they wait until the statutory notice signs were erected before starting a ‘consultation’. It has been suggested to me that, as a non cabinet member, Cllr Evangeli had no power to go against the party line when this was discussed at Council so that may let him off the hook. It does however call into question the point of having councillors if they are unable to represent the views of their ward members.

A cynic might suspect that Cllr Rams will manage to stop the introduction of these charges and will then claim that he is the hero of the hour at the same time overlooking the fact that he in fact voted for the proposal in the first place. I wonder if East Barnet residents will share that cynicism?

Monday, 19 March 2012

A Tale of Two Barnets, Phoenix Cinema, Monday 19 March

Mr Reasonable is delighted to endorse this film and will be attending this evening.

The People of Barnet are given a voice

A Tale of Two Barnets

World Premiere
Monday 19th March - 6-8pm
The Phoenix Cinema,
52 High Road,
East Finchley,
N2 9PJ

A documentary about the way people in Barnet are coping with life in 2012 has been commended for giving the people of Barnet a voice. Filmmaker Charles Honderick spent six months interviewing people around the London Borough of Barnet and has made a film which is powerful, moving and funny. Charles said “We hear all the time about reality television, but we never hear the views of ordinary people. “

Official Film Website :

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Boris and his trips to Barnet

Having a look on Conservative Home website I came across a list of how often Mayor Boris Johnson has visited the London Boroughs during the last four years. The article was trying to show how Boris has made loads more visits than when Ken was Mayor. What I found mildly irritating was how few time Boris visited Barnet, the largest London borough, compared to some of the inner London Boroughs.

In the last 4 years Mr Johnson has visited Barnet 10 times. During the same period he visited:

Hammersmith & Fulham 17 times
Wandsworth 21 times
Camden 23 times
Kensington & Chelsea 24 times
Lambeth 28 times
Tower Hamlets 29 times
Southwark 40 times
Newham 42 times (possibly due to the Olympics)
Westminster 149 times

My view is that in Barnet we should see the Mayor a just as much as the inner London boroughs. Instead we get sent the bill and largely ignored. The cycle hire scheme doesn't really cut it in Barnet when you can't get a direct bus from Barnet General Hospital to either Chase Farm hospital or to the Royal Free.

Who ever is mayor after the election, they need to start taking Barnet a bit more seriously. 350,000 people don't like being ignored.

For the record Mr Reasonable supports none of the candidates and would prefer to see the entire GLA and mayoral role abolished along with the expensive representatives and advisors. Each borough could send along one of their representative (with no extra allowance) when London wide decisions need to be made.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Barnet Residents Forum – Credibility Exhausted!

Last night’s Chipping Barnet Residents Forum was a sad affair. Questions unanswered, evaded or banned. Public opinion ignored. With a dozen die-hard residents in attendance and eight questions on the issues list, the residents forum at least held out some hope that it might create a dialogue between the council and its residents.
The first question on the list went through on the nod as the questioner wasn’t present. Perhaps starting the forums at 6.00pm had something to do with it, especially if you work in central London.

The second question was about getting a dog bin installed on the library green at Friern Barnet Library. A charming chap from the Council said yes they could introduce a general waste bin. But that not what was asked for shouted several residents. It took several attempts to get the officer to recognise that if people ask for a dog bin that’s what they want.

Third question came from one of Barnet’s most well respected community advocates, David Howard, and related to the introduction of charges in East Barnet Village car park. David had asked a series of very clear points, none of which were answered. Cllr Evangeli said that there was a consultation taking place and that all three East Barnet Councillors were opposed to the introduction of charges. “In that case why did two of the three councillors vote in favour of this proposal at Cabinet “, Mr Reasonable shouted. No reply. Universally the audience were opposed to these charges. There were two other questions relating to the same subject, none of which were satisfactorily answered.

The next question related to the phasing of traffic lights and the adjacent pedestrian crossing at the junction of Colney Hatch Lane and the North Circular. This seemed an exceptionally dangerous situation. The charming officer promised to come and have a look at the situation. The discussion drifted into the councils traffic management study and the review of all pedestrian crossings in Barnet. Unfortunately the charming officer made a serious error by suggesting that if residents said they wanted light controlled crossings to remain then they would. Oh dear! He obviously hadn’t been to previous residents forums where the pedestrian crossing at the junction of Whetstone High Road and Oakleigh Road North. He was quickly reminded that not only had people asked for the crossing to remain but that Councillors on the Environment subcommittee had formally asked officers to reinstate the lights only to be overruled by Cllr Brian Coleman.

Three questions from Mr Reasonable followed. One related to the East Barnet car park issue no satisfactory answer on how much revenue this would generate. The next question related to the events in the parks consultation. The consultation results showed that 94% of respondents are opposed to events in Oakhill Park. An entirely misleading reply stated that 45 events already take place in parks. Yes but this is about PRIVATE EVENTS. How many of those had been held in Parks. Cllr Kate Salinger suggested that none had been held, that’s why they were undertaking the consultation.
I then asked about the public toilet in Oakhill Park which has been out of order for more than 9 months. The reply stated that the toilet was the responsibility of the Cafe owner. Since when? It is a Council toilet. Yet another misleading answer.

At this point David Howard suggested that none of the questions had been answered satisfactorily, either missing information, answering different questions or providing misleading answers. Was it incompetence or was the council being disingenuous. I think I know what most of the people present thought.

So two banned questions were not read out. What were the banned questions asked another community activist. Kate Salinger formally adjourned the meeting and suggested that I could then tell those present. And what were these questions that were so disruptive, so dangerous that they were censored?

One question was, “The council is planning to introduce a new website in April. Will the council consider holding training sessions for the public to help them find their way around the new website?” Very radical and dangerous!

The other question was “When will the council take time to inform the local community about the progress on the One Barnet outsourcing programme?” Ah the One Barnet phase that no one is allowed to mention even though it is a Billion Pound project which is costing millions of pounds just in consultancy fees.

The residents forums have lost all credibility (which I think was the intended objective when the council changed the format). All credit should go to Cllr Kate Salinger who did a good job of running the forum allowing everyone to have their say but ultimately an entirely unsatisfactory and pointless exercise in the illusion of consultation.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A letter to BT and Capita - Please Come and Have a Chat

Dear BT and Capita,

I know you are both currently in the running for the NSCSO outsourcing contract worth an estimated £750 million. I am sure you have spent a long time talking to the Council and their consultants and I realise that you have arranged some time to meet with and talk to the staff at Barnet Council. However, I was wondering if either of you could find some time to talk to some of the residents of Barnet who want to understand what you are proposing, particularly as, potentially, we are going to be your customers and ultimately we, as rate payers, pay the bill.

While you're there Capita perhaps we could talk about the DRS contract (worth an estimated £250 million).

There are a load of questions I am keen to get an answer to but so far Barnet Council have managed to avoid answering. They do not want to engage with the community in any way on the One Barnet Project. We are not allowed to discuss it at our local residents forums and the Scrutiny committee set up to oversee the process was scrapped. If you are serious about taking over such a large element of local services I think it is not unreasonable that you should come and talk to some of the residents as well.

This is a genuine request. I take a great interest in Barnet, it's where I live and a place I care for. With such a massive change on the way I just want to understand what you are planning and how it will affect me and all the other local residents who care so passionately about their community.

I know this may seem a bit rude to poor old EC Harris, who I am sure are very nice people, but everything I hear suggests that you haven't got a cat's chance in hell of winning. However If you want a chat please feel free to get in touch.

Kind regards

Mr Reasonable

Friday, 2 March 2012

Barnet Council and their plot to destroy East Barnet

East Barnet is a small local centre, at the heart of a community, with a selection of shops. They have a great dry cleaners who are incredibly friendly and helpful, newsagents, an electrical shop, an optician, a florist, a chemist and post office, cafes, etc. Behind the shops in Churchill Road is a small car park which has approximately 50 spaces. When I go to the dry cleaners or opticians I always use the car park because it is free and makes using the local shops easy.

The problems is Barnet Council have a focus on generating money and tough luck if it hurts people on the way. They want to introduce charges for this car park; £1.05 for 30 mins £2.10 for up to an hour and if you are staying more than 3 hours it will cost you £5.25. Now on the face of it some people would say that car parks should have a charge but most people are just popping in for one or two things; picking up your dry cleaning, nipping to the chemist. Up at Potters Bar the first hour is free. What it will do is either encourage some people to pull up on the bus stop or on double yellow lines. More likely is that they will drive elsewhere where they can park for free or get other shopping at the same time.

Will it generate that much money - no. Barnet council have identified that the revenue generated form charging in all the free car parks will generate about £6k a year of revenue. Speaking to a few of the shopkeepers today they are all pretty angry with Barnet saying that it will ruin business. Some of the shop staff park in the car park to keep the road free outside the shops for the passing trade but that will stop when the parking charges are introduced.

Now given that Boris has just ploughed over £400k into tarting up High Barnet, you would have thought that £6k per annum could have been found to keep these car parks free.

I hope that our three local councillors, Robert Rams, Joanna Tambourides and Barry Evangeli are ashamed of their actions and make a rapid u-turn. If they don't then they shouldn't be surprised when yet more business in East Barnet close down.