Finchley: Keeping it local

What our councillors are doing for us

By Sue Walder

Do you know which council ward you live in? Do you know who your local councillors are? Do you know what they do on your behalf?

N3 has two wards – West Finchley and Church End.  West Finchley ward is covered by three local Labour councillors: Jim Tierney, Kath McGuirk and Ross Houston. Church End ward is covered by three local Conservative councillors: Mike Freer, Eva Greenspan and Daniel Thomas.

The Finchley Arrow posed a set of questions to both sets of ward councillors to find out what they’ve been up to and what West Finchley councillors: their main focus for 2010 will be.

What are the main concerns of residents in your ward?

Church End councillors:

The recession, the fear of crime; transport (e.g. Henly’s Corner congestion); the Northern Line being split into two so ‘our’ branch would only be Bank-bound forcing everyone wanting the Charing Cross branch to change at Camden (which is very crowded even at the best of times); access to local GPs; the loss of the Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit and Major Trauma Centre at the Royal Free Hospital.

West Finchley councillors:

The main concern is the lack of affordable housing – we have a lot of residents in private rented accommodation on the council waiting list. Other issues include: local planning issues, school places, parking, the condition of the roads in the ward, general highways issues, public transport, enforcement in relation environmental issues such as pollution, graffiti, noise and rodents (the ward includes the town centres at North Finchley and Finchley Central), and wider concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour, council tax, council services and the economy.

What do you consider to be your main achievements on behalf of residents of N3 during 2009?

West Finchley councillors:

We have supported local residents in resisting overdevelopment. Local residents have formed an action group to campaign for a conservation status for the area between West Finchley tube station and Dollis Brook and we have fully supported this initiative. We hope there will be cross party and community support to take this proposal forward and preserve a classic garden suburb environment from the sort of overdevelopment you unfortunately see elsewhere in the ward.

Traffic congestion and safety is a big issue and we worked with the local police and council highways department to help improve the flow of traffic in Nether Street. Feedback on the changes has been positive. We are all active governors of local schools and take pride in their success. We have campaigned for the regeneration of our town centres and against  council pavement tax. We have successfully opposed the removal of trees and pressed for road and pavement improvements, e.g.in Dollis Road. A big success was Kath’s campaign to get cardboard and plastics included in the council’s recycling.

Church End councillors:

Getting mayor Boris Johnson to commit more than £8m to sorting out the Henly’s Corner Junction; ensuring our local schools remain well supported; bringing forward a town centre plan for Finchley Church End to keep the local economy vibrant; keeping council tax as low as possible despite major inequalities of central government funding; investing capital to improve school buildings; getting plastics and  tetrapak recycling added to the service; campaigning to improve the breast screening service for local women and persuading NHS Barnet to replace the analogue scanners with digital scanners.

What are the key issues for 2010 affecting the people of N3?

Church End councillors:

Helping the local town centres to come out of the recession; ensuring primary schools have enough places for local children; keeping the Henly’s corner improvements on-track. Also, fighting off inappropriate development on backlands (garden-grabbing), e.g. keeping vigilant on The Greensquare.

West Finchley councillors:

Getting a conservation area agreed for the West Finchley area; securing the economic viability of our town centres, local shops and businesses, maintaining the success of our local schools, fixing our local roads – there are far too many pot holes – and getting a review of the 326 bus route. We have submitted our concerns on many of these issues to the consultation on the Local Development Framework.

Which Council bodies are you a member of?

West Finchley councillors:

Ross Houston
Chair of governors at Northside School (LEA governor); Labour Spokesperson on Housing and Community Engagement; Shadow Cabinet; Adult Social Services Committee; Finchley and Golders Green Area Environment Committee; Policy and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee; governor of Friern Barnet School; council nominated director of Barnet Homes; Council nominee on Barnet Police and Community Engagement Group.

Kath McGuirk
Labour Spokesperson on the Environment; Shadow Cabinet; LEA governor and Moss Hall School; Licensing Committee; Ad Hoc Overview and Scrutiny Committee; Policy and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee; Business Management Overview and Scrutiny Sub Committee.

Jim Tierney
LEA governor of Finchley Catholic High School; Labour Spokesperson on Planning; Shadow Cabinet; Planning and Environment Committee; Finchley and Golders Green Area Planning Sub-Committee; Appeals Committee; Corporate Joint Consultation (Health, Safety & Welfare) Committee; Corporate Joint Negotiation and Consultation Committee.

Church End councillors:

Mike Freer
Pensions Committee; Corporate Joint Negotiating Committee; General Functions.

Eva Greenspan
Planning & Environment; Area Planning; Scrutiny; DT Cabinet; Cabinet Resources; Area Environment.

Daniel Thomas
Cabinet; Cabinet Resources; Area Environment.

How does your membership of those bodies benefit the residents of N3?

Church End councillors:

They cover all aspects of the council’s operation and the key areas that impact residents’ lives – planning, roads, pavements, cleanings, refuse, recycling, keeping council tax down.

West Finchley councillors:

We’re all governors of good local schools. Active and engaged governing bodies make a positive contribution to the success of these schools. All three of us are also in the shadow cabinet as opposition spokespersons on key areas of council work and help hold the administration to account. Our work on planning environment and licensing committees has a direct impact on the local community and we always listen to the concerns of local people. We are all very active in the committees that help to scrutinise the work of the council – vital for a healthy local democracy.  Ross is one of three councillor directors helping to ensure that Barnet Homes, which runs the council’s housing, improves its management for tenants and leaseholders. Jim keeps a tight brief over planning issues and Kath has a formidable reputation campaigning on local environmental issues such as pot holes, recycling, parking and parks/open spaces. We work well with local police and are active in the West Finchley Safer Neighbourhood panel.

What are the best and worst things that central government has done which have directly affected your work on the Council, and how do you think that might change following this year’s general election?

West Finchley councillors:

Best – giving local government a decent financial settlement over the past decade (Barnet got the fifth highest settlement of the 33 London boroughs this year) – reversing years of local government being starved of funds under successive Tory governments. Barnet has also been fortunate in getting generous funding to re-build our schools under the Building Schools for the Future scheme.

Worst – the closure of the Post Office in Nether Street. Although this was not strictly a government decision we were very disappointed that our campaign to save it was not successful. We all remain convinced of the case for a local post office.

Following this year’s general election we fear that if there is a change to a Tory government we’ll have draconian cuts to council funding and services. We need prudence in public spending not a ‘slash and burn’ wholesale destruction of our local services.

Church End councillors:

Best – reducing the amount of targets we have to report on from more than a 1000 to 100;
admitting Barnet to the Building Schools to the Future programme; giving some support to sure start centres.

Worst – adding responsibilities to the council without the funding; persistently giving the council below inflation increases in the grant settlement forcing the council to turn to council tax payers to meet the shortfall.

After the election if a Conservative government is elected we will see council tax frozen for a further two years and powers returned to local councils; the council will be able to retain council tax growth and business rate growth (currently sent to Government) to invest locally.

If there is no change of government we will continue to see council tax taken from Barnet and given to out-of-London councils.

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