Independents Day calls on residents to save our local Finchley shops (on 9th July)

Finchley is celebrating its first Independents Day on Saturday 9th July. Community group Finchlinks is calling on residents to make a point of shopping in their local high street and independent shops for the day in place of using supermarkets, buying online or visiting other areas.

Shops are doing their part by offering special incentives to encourage people to visit them on the day – an extra excuse for people to try a new shop or discover something different about an old favourite. To find out what shops are offering people can look up www.finchlinks.com/independents

Independents Day has been set up by local community group Finchlinks. The group hopes that the day will remind residents in Finchley of how vital it is for us to support our local shops. This is the first time the group have run the day and they hope it will be the first of many.

Across the UK high streets independent shops are under increasing pressure of low spending, competition from the internet and out of town shopping centres, as well as rising rates and parking fees. Town centre vacancy rates have doubled in the last two years and Finchley’s high streets bear witness to these statistics.

Finchley’s Independents Day is part of a nation wide movement to stop this decline. In May Mary Portas, or Mary Queen of Shops, agreed to take on the challenge of saving our high streets after being invited to chair a review by David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Independents Day has also been taken on by other high streets across the UK. As petrol prices rise people are starting to wise up to the benefits of shopping on our doorsteps. Hard times are also proving fertile grounds for new businesses and this can be seen with the emergence of new shops like Mr Simms Old Fashioned Sweets Shop and Tailors Corner.

Paul Evans, one of the founders of Finchlinks said, ‘Independent shops are the heart of our community. We all love the idea of having good friendly shops on our doorstep but it’s up to us all to support them to keep them there and to encourage new ones in. It’s easy when money is tight to put savings above everything else and just shop in the supermarkets and on line but these could be short sighted savings if we end up with boarded up, depressing high streets.

 



[Ed: Small businesses can get a free listing from FinchleyCommunity.co.uk a sister website of the Finchley arrow.] 
Posted in Community, News. Comments Off on Independents Day calls on residents to save our local Finchley shops (on 9th July)

The Big Society is Alive in Barnet – at the launch in the arts depot.


Photo of Paul Binks

Paul Binks

By Paul Binks

The Launch of Barnet’s Big Society Innovation Bank .

Barnet will be one of the fastest growing areas in London over the coming years. With reductions in public spending to tackle the deficit mean that times will be tough for the next few years, for both those who depend on good public services and those who provide them.’ Councillor Robert Rams.

The Barnet Big Society Innovation Bank has been launched so that we in Barnet get the biggest bang for our buck. This works by ensuring that the public are primarily involved in the decision-making process of where our money is spent.

From the revenue budget allocated to the Borough of Barnet, the council has set aside £600K to be invested in community-minded projects proposed and delivered by the local populace over the next 3 years.

As the Government’s Big Society agenda gains momentum, local citizens and communities will have more opportunities to take the reins in addressing local issues. Cynics would say that this is just another example of how the Government are transferring costs to the voluntary sector and alleviating themselves of responsibility should anything go wrong. The Government argue that at a time of financial constraint in the public sector, ‘business as usual’ is not an option. Nationwide polls show that the people largely accept this sentiment and which is why we are seeing a great shift in the landscape of public services.

Photo of Nick Hurd MP

Nick Hurd MP

The Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner patroned the scheme with an appearance and furthered the Big Society notion stating “too much power has been taken away from local Government and centralised. The transference of power back to the community is a big weapon every MP knows about.” He continued to eulogise the principles of the Big Society before changing focus to the people within the room, “Seize the opportunity in the challenge to test the notion that local communities know best.” This statement seemed to underpin the scheme’s true value to us in Barnet. For time immemorial many have exalted their wisdom in criticising the ‘powers that be’ in the administration of taxes with countless schemes suggested as superior models to those implemented. Not because of intellectual superiority but of local knowledge.

Well this is our opportunity to prove this, one never given to our forefathers and like our recent vote on the Alternative Vote, one which may never see again for generations if at all.

Photo of Councillor Andrew Harper

Councillor Andrew Harper

The Interim Leader of the Council, Councillor Andrew Harper stated that the introduction of the bank was part of the ongoing realignment in the relationships between the Council and the people and Not-for-profit organisations and charities. He stated ‘the council is not the single depository of wisdom in the borough’ which requires no convincing on my part. He continued by saying ‘you are better at judging the effectiveness of grants and so it is your ideas not ours which will drive the scheme, ideas which will be properly supported by the Council and turned into practical solutions.’ In a similar vein to Nick Herd he challenged the audience by saying “go on, surprise me”.

Ultimately the new scheme is to galvanise creativity from all sectors of the borough so that local people can innovate and find new solutions for old problems. Ideas which have previously been overlooked are very much on the table should we have the aptitude and the conviction to push them forward.

To summarise how the scheme will work a key initiative outlined in the Big Society Innovation Bank Prospectus is SUSTAINABILITY. ‘We are using grants to kick-start community-led activities that can sustain themselves through new income streams such as charges to clients, trading income and corporate giving, as well as public sector and charitable income.’

The first theme is for new projects that strengthen the bonds within the community or reduce the need for public sector support or intervention.

The second theme is to enable groups or individuals to seize control of existing projects that currently rely on public sector support and run them in such a way they will no longer rely on that support.

The funds are allocated in the form of grants which are available to any individual or group. Unconstituted groups are eligible for grants from £500-£5K and constituted groups are eligible for grants ranging from £500-£50K. A project or scheme must be submitted to the council to be assessed and if successful the funds will appear in a one-off payment devoid of any conditions or external arrangements with the council. If a scheme fails in the application process it can be resubmitted to a later round of assessment.

Have you ever got together with someone to make Barnet a better place?” Councillor Andrew Harper. If you have or haven’t but would like to, the opportunity is there for anyone to put forward the suggestions they believe will make this a stronger and more cohesive community.

Question from audience

Question from audience

For more information – http://www.barnet.gov.uk/highlights/highlights-big-society-innovation.htm

Posted in Barnet Council, Charities, Community, News, Politics. Comments Off on The Big Society is Alive in Barnet – at the launch in the arts depot.

The Finchley Arrow, Twitter and Facebook. What happens at present.

Warning – the following is a little technical.

I have been very sporadic with Twitter in the past, but now, whenever I publish an article in the Finchley Arrow, the software automatically takes the article title, adds a shortened link (to the article) to the title, and posts it automatically to the Finchley Arrow account on Twitter. (@FinchleyArrow)

I have a certain amount of automation on Facebook but, at present, the software will only post to a personal account.

The following should only be relevant if you are a regular user of Facebook:

Rather than just the title, the software posts the allotted characters to Facebook which is approximately the Title and about one medium paragraph. Enough to see if you want to read the article and if so, there is a link to the newspaper article there.

Facebook pages have changed. You can now view a Facebook Page without signing into an account if you have a link. However you cannot add comments if you are not signed into a personal account.

I have a personal account called Andrew Ampers Taylor which is used just to link articles to. So if you want to view our page, also link into my personal page to read the articles. I don’t use the account for anything else.

Sue Walder who used to be on our newspaper team, had set up a Facebook Group called Finchley Arrow, and this is now a little confusing. I have asked her to delete the account as only she has the authority to do this. With a bit of luck this should be done within a few days.

Posted in News. 1 Comment »

More information on the CPZ action Group

Barnet Council are to increase Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) charges from 18th April this year. A residents’ car permit would increase from £40 per year to £100 (for the first car). Visitors’ vouchers would increase from £1 each to £4 each. The impact of the proposed visitor voucher charges will be particularly harsh on CPZ residents in East Finchley with all day restrictions. For example, a daily child-minder or carer alone will amount to over £1000 in visitors voucher charges per annum.

The aim of the new charges is to increase revenue from CPZ residents to help pay for road maintenance across the borough of Barnet. As most people in Barnet do not live in CPZs, this means East Finchley CPZ residents are being targeted to fund road repairs across the borough.

Despite strong local opposition to the charges at the Barnet Council Cabinet Meeting on 14th February, the charges were approved by the committee. Subsequently the story received media attention, including BBC London Regional news and various newspapers and radio shows. As a result, residents havey formed a new committee, the Barnet CPZ Action Group.

The first public meeting was held on 9th March and got off to a flying start with approximately 60 residents attending. Over £2000 was raised to start the legal proceedings and everyone offered either their expertise and support take the legal action forward. David Attfield, a solicitorm is acting as Chairman and said; “we have tried all other avenues and have been left with no alternative other than to legally challenge the new charges in the High Court. We have sought independent advice from a barrister and believe we have a good case to apply for Judicial Review”.

Treasurer Nigel Linton also explained; “the increases in charges are driven by the need to raise revenue and not by the need to regulate parking. This is not what CPZs have been established for and we have the evidence and the law to prove this”.

Local resident Philippa Worke adds; “if these new charges are approved it will set a very bad precedent for CPZ residents all over the country. We have a race against time now”.

The Barnet CPZ Action Group are fundraising with some urgency given that the court rules mean that, by the time you read this, the claim will have had to be issued. In total £15,000 needs to be raised if there is to be a good chance of successfully taking this case through to trial. The action group are calling on all residents who are affected, and those who see that this should be fought on principle, to give generously or to act as fundraiser along their road.

If the case is a success the action group expect to return the bulk of money donated. Cheques made payable to ‘Barnet CPZ Action’ can be sent to 88 Summerlee Avenue, East Finchley, London N2 9QH.

The group also has a website www.barnetcpz.blogspot.com and they can be contacted via email barnetcpz@gmail.com

Avenue House to close down?

You heard it here first!

We are in the possession of a document from Avenue house which quite clearly states:

“We have been told by Barnet Council that the Mansion could then be boarded up, with minimal ground maintenance, or the whole Estate even disposed of as a private school.”

Apologies for the superfluous capitals but we wanted to publish it eactly as it is in the document.

The link above refers to our News Flash on the 8th February.

Is Avenue House closing down?

Yesterday I got a call from Mike Langton, a press officer for Barnet Council, saying I would have the full details by the end of yesterday. I also got a call from Janett Durrant of Avenue House promising me information after their board meeting yesterday.

I didn’t receive anything from the Council yesterday, and from Avenue House, I received an email saying would I hold up any more articles until they could put together some information for me. Naturally I told her I couldn’t do this.

This morning I received the following from an unnamed council spokesman via Mike Langton at the Barnet Council Press Office: “The Council is the Corporate Trustee of The Avenue House Estate, the freeholder of the property. Avenue House Estate Trust (AHET) hold a 125 year lease of the property expiring in the year 2127. AHET are entirely responsible for the management of the estate, principally Avenue House, its outbuildings, The Bothy and the grounds, which have full public access. “The council is therefore merely a trustee of the property and has to accord with the terms of the trust. As far as the council is aware there are no plans to dispose of the property.”

This, unfortunately opens up more questions than it answers as, essentially, this doesn’t explain why the council, and the trust, have been so secretive. One such question is, what would happen if the Avenue House Estate Trust ran out of funds and had to liquidate, and is this likely?

I asked our Arrow Historian, Stewart Wild, what he thought about this new development. He said: “Whatever the future of Avenue House, it is essential that the house and grounds remain freely available and in public ownership. This is because, under the terms of his will, local benefactor and former MP Henry ‘Inky’ Stephens, whose home this was from 1874 until 1918, left his estate on his death “to the people of Finchley”, and as such we believe it should under no circumstances be sold by the Council or anyone else into private ownership.”

Andrew Ampers Taylor.

NEWS FLASH: Avenue House to close down?

New information coming in is that the situation is indeed serious with threatened closure at end of this month when the building and grounds could be closed to the public.

I have contacted the Barnet Council Press Office, and also Avenue House but have been met with a wall of silence. We will keep you informed if they contact us about the situation.

David Smith of The Finchley Society says; “This is quite alarming news as all our archives are at Avenue house. Then there is the Stephens Ink museum on the premises. And, Spike Milligan statue committee will not be able to put his statue in the grounds if they are closed to the public.”

There is a rumour, and we stress it is just a rumour, that there is a possibility that a school is interested in acquiring the premises and land.