Sunday, 31 January 2010
This is all part of our campaign to stop Whittington A&E being closed down. Lynne is leading this and you can read all about it on her website.
I have already blogged about my very positive experiences of the A&E at Whittington (and indeed the whole hospital) and why I think it’s so important that a full A&E service is retained. If you have your own story to tell then do let Lynne have a paragraph – personal testimony adds such weight to campaigns like this.
Saturday, 30 January 2010
So, what have Labour decided to do? As reported by the Hornsey Journal, Cllr Haley’s responsibilities (which were huge) have been added to Cllr John Bevan’s to-do list, which already includes trying to run Haringey’s housing service.
While most residents will be rightly pleased at the idea of reducing the number of Labour councillors receiving a top-up allowance for various jobs (almost every member of the Labour group gets a top-up allowance for something or other), it does give Cllr Bevan an enormous workload.
Housing is hardly a minor issue for the borough and the environment brief covers lots of areas that are the only direct service many residents get from Haringey – rubbish collection, street cleaning, recycling, traffic, to name just a few.
It seems that Cllr Bevan is now in charge of a massive part of Haringey’s service provision, even if it is only for a few months. Can one person really give adequate time to addressing all these issues satisfactorily? Time will tell, I guess.
Friday, 29 January 2010
Of course, there’s a very real worry for Cadbury employees over jobs and all the other uncertainty that comes with a takeover. Then there’s the concern that Kraft will not handle the Cadbury brand in the same way as currently.
The latter point has generated plenty of press coverage and comment – people wondering if Dairy Milk will still taste the same or if all chocolate bars are now going to be covered with plastic cheese.
Maybe it’s better to look at it more optimistically though – Kraft is obviously a highly successful company and didn’t become one by not listening to what consumers want. Hopefully there will be good continuation in existing management, as well as staff at all levels, both to protect jobs and to give stability which can continue to build the success of the brand.
And, if we’re very lucky, it might even push Cadbury into launching Pebbles on the UK market!
Thursday, 28 January 2010
Each year since I was first elected to the Council in 2002, we have had two Full Council meetings in February – these are the ones that set the council tax for the year and where the Labour backbenchers mindlessly vote through any budget that their Cabinet puts before them.
On Friday last week, we all received an email saying that the meeting was cancelled. No prior warning and no explanation. Certainly our Chief Whip was not informed in advance (or me as Deputy Whip), which at the very least would have been polite. In fact, it then took some days before we got any explanation… such as it was, I still don’t know why they cancelled it.
Perhaps they think they’re running the borough so perfectly they can squeeze any issues into just one meeting? Ho hum. Perhaps Labour Chief Whip Cllr Joe Goldberg has lost the plot or just wanted to show that the democratic process in Haringey is at his whim? Certainly more likely.
Not forgetting that this is the Chief Whip who hypocritically whined on at Full Council about wanting cross-party co-operation for the good of the borough while trying to score as many petty political points as possible.
Anyway, for anyone worried that I will have too much free time on my hands, there are plenty of other meetings that Labour haven’t managed to cancel. The scrutiny review panel looking at victims of crime, the safeguarding children policy and practice panel, the Alexandra Park and Palace advisory committee and the usual Area Assemblies and Full Councils are the main formal council meetings for me at the moment.
Last week I was also at the ward panel that works with the safer neighbourhood team to guide policing priorities for Fortis Green and provide useful two-way feedback between local residents and police. Chaired by Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Association Chair John Hajdu, my ward colleague Cllr Martin Newton normally represents Fortis Green on this, but had another meeting that night, so I went along instead and had an interesting evening.
Latest news on the Miscellaneous Functions Sub-Committee that I am on is... still no news, no meetings since I joined it – I’ll keep you posted on that one! Don’t all get too excited.
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Well, the one they picked for this story earlier in the week is probably my favourite stand-out quote.
It is also a nice summing up of the case, clearly free of any legal jargon.
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Key among those was next year’s council tax. The council tax and budget setting meetings are actually next month, but in this time of recession residents are no doubt even more worried than usual about what horror lies in store for them when council tax bills drop onto their doormats later in the year. So, following a well-presented deputation from a resident about just that, we had a debate on a council tax freeze.
Local Liberal Democrats first proposed a council tax freeze, to help local residents who are already faced with astoundingly high council tax, in November 2008. Setting the following year’s budget in February 2009, Haringey Labour ignored us and chose to hike council tax again, for the umpteenth year since they took control of the borough. We have continued to call for a freeze on council tax since and finally Labour have caved in with their own version of our council tax freeze proposal, which I like to call Haringey Labour’s Election Year Tax Freeze.
So the good news for local taxpayers is that council tax will be frozen this year, at last – as both the Lib Dems and Labour tabled motions last night to freeze council tax and that will be confirmed in next month’s meetings.
As usual, Haringey Labour cannot admit they were wrong or slow to listen to the needs of local residents, so we had the unedifying sight of their Chief Whip Cllr Joe Goldberg ranting and raving in a way that reminded me of listening to certain speakers at a National Union of Students (NUS) conference. He also used the Labour majority to get their motion discussed first – which contained a lot of misinformation and party political attacks, whereas ours was a straightforward call for a council tax freeze.
But Cllr Goldberg has good form on that front. Never missing a chance to make proceedings as unfair and partisan as possible, he also likes to have a go at the residents of Highgate and Muswell Hill as much as possible – there were comments from him again last night like the ones I talked about here.
I don’t know where Cllr Goldberg lives himself – I heard from someone that during the Seven Sisters by-election he was registered temporarily at a property in Muswell Hill, though I don’t know if that is true and I have no idea where he lives now. I do know that he’s the Labour PPC for Witney in Oxfordshire though and I wonder how his constant (pitiful) attempts at class warfare go down there?
Perhaps we should give Cllr Goldberg a little leeway, he must be getting quite stressed about the possibility of losing his seat to the Conservatives in Seven Sisters ward in May, considering how close he came to losing the formerly safe Labour seat at the by-election.
Cllr Pat Egan and Cllr Matt Cooke gave ridiculous speeches. As usual, Haringey Labour were keen to talk about other boroughs, not Haringey - you'll notice if you ever have the misfortune to attend a Full Council meeting that they don't like to talk about Haringey! Not surprising, when they have nothing positive to offer.
One thing Cllrs Egan and Cooke both referred to was the long running Lib Dem campaign to axe council tax completely and replace it with a fairer system, such as local income tax. They both claimed that we didn't want to talk about it and that it would cost Haringey residents more... nothing could be further from the truth.
I had actually already talked about it, at that very council meeting, before they both spoke - it's a policy I'm very proud of as council tax is simply unfair. And they claimed it would cost residents more - but the figure that Cllr Egan used as the additional income tax people would have to pay was actually lower even than the extortionate council tax I have to pay in Haringey on a small, rented Band E flat. So they could both do with a little extra work on their briefings.
The news story in the Haringey Independent quotes Brian:
Over the last few months it has become clearer and clearer that Labour has absolutely no vision of how to lift Haringey out of its current mess. It is for this reason I have taken the difficult decision to leave Labour and join the only party that has the ideas and ability to turn things around.Now, defections are a part of political life. In the eight years I have been on the Council, two of our councillors have joined Labour and one of theirs has joined the Conservatives (still no Conservatives elected in Haringey since 1998). These things happen for various reasons. But they can provoke very different responses.
Haringey Liberal Democrats are the only party with the drive and determination to provide local residents with the quality of service they deserve. I would urge anyone wavering in their support for Labour to join me in backing the Liberal Democrats which offers a positive change locally.
You will notice that when I talked about councillors leaving our group here and here, that I did not make negative personal comments about them or their previous contributions and did not opt for the easy thing route of pointing out all their flaws.
But at last night’s Full Council, Labour Leader Claire Kober launched a very personal and vitriolic attack on Brian – which actually surprised me, coming from her. Dignified and leader-like, it was not. It just shows that Labour are rattled… rightly so, with the local elections coming up in May.
And Cllr Kober is on very shaky ground when talking about defections, deselections and backroom deals while proclaiming that only Labour have democratic selection procedures.
Brian Haley is not the first Haringey Labour councillor to apply to join our group. There are at least five that I am aware of, and I am not on the local party executive that assesses membership applications and conducts interviews so the actual number is probably higher. Cllr Haley is, however, the first that the group has accepted.
And it is worth saying, contrary to what Cllr Kober seems to believe, that the selection process for our council candidates has not yet taken place. As always, it will be our local membership who choose our candidates – proper democracy, not dodgy selection meetings with a handful of stooges present.
Perhaps Haringey Labour are not aware that one of their councillors who tried to join us in the past was a certain Reg Rice. A Tottenham Labour councillor who found himself without a winnable seat in 2006, he walked into one of my Lib Dem colleague’s surgeries and essentially demanded a “safe Lib Dem seat”. That’s the sort of behaviour he might have been used to in the allegedly democratic Labour party, but it’s certainly not how we do things. He was told that he could not join our group.
Having failed in his bid to switch sides, Reg Rice went on to stand for Labour in Stroud Green ward, where he was soundly beaten by my Lib Dem colleagues Richard Wilson, Ed Butcher and Laura Edge. But he has been luckier in the Tottenham stitch-up this time, having been selected to stand for Labour in May’s elections.
I wonder if Reg mentioned to his local party that his commitment to Labour was not quite so rock solid as might be ideal?
I welcome Brian to our party and our council group, as I would anyone else also showing genuine commitment (new or old) to our plans for making life better for Haringey residents.