Thursday, June 13, 2013

Action needed now !

Barnet Council has featured again this week in the national media with the "Daily Mail ", Radio 5 live and BBC London amongst others reporting on the shanty town reportedly full of Roumanian migrants that is flourishing on the former site of Hendon Football Club over in Cricklewood , very near to Brent Cross .

This problem is not new , in Spring last year , the night of the Mayor's Ball if I remember rightly , there was a major fire on this site and it took the London Fire Brigade a considerable time to confirm that fortunately there were no casualties amongst the derelict buildings, rubble and rubbish which was being used as some sort of shanty town by mainly Roumanian and mostly illegal casual workers . Indeed any weekday morning you can see these migrants workers lined up on Cricklewood Broadway

The freehold of this site is owned by Barnet Council and although there have been endless legal arguments and even a protracted land tribunal hearing over the last 15 years or so , the site is earmarked for development for much needed housing and no doubt once the housing market picks up developers will get on with it . In the meantime local residents have to put up with this eyesore and the resulting nuisance and people are living in conditions which make war torn Damascus look like a luxury holiday .

There is no sanitation , the place is over run with vermin and it is an all round health hazard and frankly in the event of another fire a death trap .

The Council has the power to deal with any dangerous structure any where in the Borough if necessary and take remedial action and send the landowners the bill . In this case never mind any disputes with the leaseholder the Council has an increased responsibility as the freeholder of the site .

During the media ho ha on Monday apparently " nobody from Barnet Council was available for interview" . Very odd . Where was the Leader of the Council or the Cabinet member for the Environment , Councillor Dean Cohen ?

 Indeed this site lies in Councillor Dean Cohen's Ward , although rumour has it  not in an end of the Ward he often visits . When in the Summer of 2001 there was a spate of Irish Traveller invasions of greenbelt land in Totteridge and elsewhere the late Victor Lyon, Kevin Edson  and I as Ward Councillors were at Brook Farm before the sun had set and we even had Sir Sydney Chapman then MP for Chipping Barnet return from  his Summer break to reassure residents everything possible was being done to move these people on and deal with the issues of abandoned vehicles and dumped rubbish  . Once the travellers had left  the Council moved in swiftly ,cleared the tonnes of rubbish and spent a not inconsiderable sum securing Brook Farm and several others sites in Mill Hill, Burnt Oak and Arkley from possible future occupation . Indeed the Council Officers swift action was not unrelated to the pressure they were under from elected Politicians .

Last week after the fire at the Somali Community Centre in Coppetts Ward, which appears to be the result of a disgraceful racist arson attack , there were so many visits from senior Politicians that the place began to resemble Downing Street on Cabinet reshuffle day . Councillors (some of whom had never ventured South of the North Circular Road)  had to ask for directions from Council Officers , indeed one Senior Barnet Councillor was heard to ask "surely this place is in  Haringey ? " Yet it did not stop them  queueing up to give the nation the benefit of their views on this fire before they had any confirmation that it could be arson .

However what this site in Cricklewood needs is not a ministerial visit but a fleet of Council bulldozers and skip lorries and some of our hard working refuse staff from the soon to shut Mill Hill Depot to clear the site and end the problem .

Take  the necessary action, worry about the niceties and who picks up the cost once you have sorted the  problem out .

It used to be that the Conservative Administration in Barnet was noted for firm and swift action when problems arose , now we seem to have dither and delay .

As Churchill would have said "Action this Day "

Monday, June 10, 2013

I had a wonderful evening last Thursday attending a performance of "The Bodyguard" at the Adelphi Theatre in the Strand . Although I love my musicals I do not normally enjoy " compilation " shows and have never bothered with "Mama Mia " . However although "The Bodyguard " is just a rendition of the Whitney Houston song book it is saved by a stunning performance from the American actress / singer Heather Headley.  The audience seemed less of the usual West End audience with the majority female and a sizable "Essex type " contingent with the odd tattoo and bra strap showing and numerous boxes of maltesers's being consumed , but never the less for all that  it was an enjoyable evening and even I joined in the standing ovation for Heather Headley.

On my way to the Theatre I popped in to the Leicester Square headquarters of Global Radio to do a radio interview with my old acquaintance Iain Dale of LBC who has forged a hugely successful media career having given up his ambitions of becoming a Conservative MP.

During the day I had received several media bids from outlets wishing me to comment on the decision of Chipping Barnet Conservative Association Executive the night before to expel me, which developed into a bizarre bidding war . BBC London offered me the Eddie Nestor show which I accepted but then Iain asked me to appear on his show which I accepted as he has five times the listeners of Nestor and he is an old friend and in the past I have found Nestor ill informed and frankly lightweight when it comes to Politics. The BBC were not very pleased with my withdrawal and phoned back and offered me a television appearance as well !

Before going on air I reflected with Iain that we had both been shafted by the Executive of Chipping Barnet Conservative Association , me the night before and Iain in 2003 when he failed at the Executive stage in the Chipping Barnet parliamentary selection process undertaken to find a candidate to succeed Sir Sydney Chapman . Iain had told the Executive that he was openly gay and the sound of elderly jaws hitting the floor was the end of Iain's Parliamentary ambitions in North London.

Iain's excellent show gave me an opportunity to refer to matters that were mentioned in Court but surprisingly have received very little media coverage including the three attacks on my 89 year Mother and the sustained incidents of harassment mentioned by the Judge

The decision taken by the 39 Executive Members who turned up ( the Executive numbers over 70 , so there was a long list of apologies), was I understand a very narrow majority but I had no intention of turning up for what was clearly a kangaroo court with the Officers of the Association having already made their minds up . In the current world of rapidly declining  Conservative Party membership Councillors are forced to "multi task " with Cllr Richard Cornelius serving as Chipping Barnet Conservative Association President as well as Leader of the Council and his wife and fellow Totteridge Councillor serving  as a Deputy Chairman ( this is an elected post as opposed to the five other jobs her husband has appointed her to ) . Councillor David Longstaff who like Cllr Alison Cornelius shares an ambivalent attitude to Barnet's Jewish Community , he opposed the Barnet Eruv , she opposed Etz Chaim School , is also a Deputy Chairman of the Association . Former Councillor, the sensible shoe wearing,  Fiona Bulmer is the current Chairman of Chipping Barnet Conservative Association . Fiona spent 8 years on Barnet Council where she valiantly opposed Barnet Football Club's Underhill Stadium and consistently advocated a firm right wing Conservative approach to all problems . Indeed she often undermined former Council Leader  Mike Freer considering him not right wing enough and often outflanked even me from the right. Her firm free market views included  voicing the opinion that Barnet Market should be allowed to go to the wall . Fiona who is a failed  Parliamentary and European candidate is apparently still seeking a Parliamentary seat . Her failure to win the Conservative Group Leadership when Mike Freer retired in 2009 led to a sulk of Brian Salinger proportions as she walked out of the Cabinet and then a few months later suddenly retired from the Council . She is currently serving as a (paid) non Executive Director of the Barnet and Chase Farm Hospital and driving through the much needed reorganisation.  A friend of mine who considered her for a Parliamentary seat a few years ago unkindly said " She will never get selected ,she has a face like a bag of spanners !"

Several of the others present who voted for my expulsion were individuals who have their eyes on my Totteridge seat .

There is a mystery as to why Chipping Barnet Conservative Officers saw the need to hold this meeting when they took no action against another Chipping Barnet Conservative Councillor who was fined a considerable amount more than me when he was convicted for drink driving at three times over the legal limit. The matter was hushed up during the period that Cllr Richard Cornelius was serving as Chairman of Chipping Barnet Conservatives .

I have been overwhelmed by the many messages of support I have received from many friends from within and without  the Conservative Party and I can assure my residents that I intend to continue to represent them on the Council and to advocate firm Conservative values , opposition to Gay marriage , support for Grammar Schools, Academies and Faith based schools , withdrawal from the EU , opposition to the Stalinist , Soviet monolith that is the "One Barnet " programme and support for all our Communities in Barnet without discrimination .