Town Hall Protestors – they did themselves no favours

If you take time the read the so called “barnet blogs” you will be painted a one sided picture of events of the full council meeting on Tuesday. The reality was very different.

Yes there was a small protest outside – the same people we see most full council and cabinet meetings.

Yes there was lots of heckling – again by the same people but this time it was embarrassing to themselves and did their argument no favours at all. It was so over the top and we ran out of time debating the one barnet motion – which was a real shame.

At the break I met with John Burgess of Unison. He introduced me two of his colleagues whose names sadly I have forgotten. I hope they don’t mind me saying that they looked embarrassed by what was going on and one of the ladies tried to point out to me that not all the members of their union were like this.

I passionately believe that what we are doing is the right thing – and it is obvious that they are passionate in their views – but Tuesdays performance by a small group of people did themselves no favours.

It must be remembered that we are in this situation and forced down this path because of the former Labour Government – whom I am sure many of the protestors supported.


Library strategy discussed at Overview and Scrutiny

Last night, the Strategic Library Review was discussed by the Business Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee having been called in by a Labour councillor.

When we first published the Strategic Library Review back in March, it received considerable cross-party support. In comparison to the plans put forward by many other London boroughs that face similar budget cuts, Barnet’s plan for local libraries is very positive. The council has made a commitment to focus on literacy, spend an extra £10k on books and increase library opening hours.

I take my responsibilities seriously, I care about the future of the Barnet’s library service and I’m proud of the strategy that has been developed.

While I can understand that political point scoring always plays a part in the democratic process, much of what was discussed last night centred on issues of trust.

You may have seen comments in the press last week that implied the council hadn’t had any meetings with the artsdepot about our plans to create a new landmark library at the North Finchley site. This is simply not true. Below is a statement from Tracey Cooper the Chief Executive of the artsdepot.

“artsdepot has been discussing with the council proposals for a joint artsdepot-library service in North Finchley for several months, including officer meetings with the artsdepot board. While the planning of detailed proposals are at an early stage, with a lot to cover before we can finalise an agreed model, our two organisations are jointly overseeing the project to confirm the detail of what will be offered and both are excited by the possibilities. Our initial project delivery meeting was positive and artsdepot looks forward to the detailed next stage of work.”

After yesterday’s meeting, libraries in Barnet have a clear future despite the financial pressures faced by the council.

Are we heading to a two party Barnet?

If I was Cllr Lord and Lady Palmer and Cllr Jack Cohen – our last remaining Liberal Democrat Councillors – I would be worried after last nights election results.

Up and down the country Liberal Democrat Councillors lost their seats – not because of what they had done in their wards but because in their supporter’s views – they had gone back on their manifesto promises when coming into Government with us.

I believe Clegg was brave to come into coalition – and those decisions he has made have been correct – but it is obvious his supporters do not agree with him.

Therefore it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Barnet will have no Liberal Democrats after our next local election.

A few thoughts on last night

Out in East Barnet whilst knocking up I did not come across one person who said they were voting yes to AV.

A great result for my old boss Nigel Evans MP in the RibbleValley. The Ribble Valley Council now has no Labour councillors and the Liberal Democrats were halved.

Nigel used to be the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and in my time working with him I had a lot of dealings with the Welsh Assembly. I am sorry to see, that whilst picking up a number of seats, the leader of the Conservative Group, Nick Bourne, has lost his.

And the AV vote – my prediction 70 per cent voted No 30 per cent yes.

Another nail in Nick Cleggs coffin?

Vote No Today

I have just finished doing my session of telling outside Trent School. I had a total of 12 people walk past me in the first hour! It was very slow out there and I hear similar things from friends around London.

But it is important to go and vote today and here are some key reasons why you should vote NO to AV:

  • AV is not a fair system – The candidate coming third on first preferences could end up winning. Supporters of fringe parties can end up getting five or six votes while people who backed the mainstream candidates only get one.
  • AV is complicated and expensive – Calculating the results would be a long and complicated process, requiring special counting machines. With ordinary families facing tough times, we can’t afford to spend a quarter of a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money bringing in a new voting system.
  • AV is an obscure and unpopular system – Only three countries in the world use AV for their elections – Fiji, Australia, and Papua New Guinea. In Fiji, they’re about to get rid of it. In Australia, voting is compulsory and 6 out of 10 voters want to return to the British system.
  • Even the people campaigning for AV have admitted it’s a bad system – Nick Clegg called it “a miserable little compromise”. An independent commission run by the senior Liberal Democrat, Roy Jenkins, concluded that AV was ‘even less proportional’ than our existing system and would not make politicians more accountable.

AV – Why I will vote ‘No’ in the referendum

I was always told ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ and that’s how I feel about the AV referendum. The first past the post system serves us perfectly well. What is wrong with the person who gets the most votes being elected?

It did make me laugh when I watched the ‘Yes to AV’ broadcast last week. Their main assumption was that the system should be changed because it would mean that Members of Parliament would have to work for ‘all’ of their constituents. I know many Members of Parliament – I have been fortunate enough to have worked for one for seven years – and I have never met an MP that doesn’t work for all of their constituents. They also did not mention once how the new system would work. That is clearly because it is so complicated!

I have spent the last two weekends in and around East Barnet knocking on people’s doors asking for their views on the referendum. Two things are very clear. Most people do not know that there is a referendum taking place and when you explain what it is about most are happy with the current system.

What does worry me is apathy. I predict that the turn out is going to be very low and with that, any result is possible. So, if you believe, like I do, that the best voting system is the one we currently have and that the person who gets the most votes should win, please go out on May 5th and vote no.