Wednesday, 27 July 2016

"Welcoming a New May Government": A response by Cllr Dr Devra Kay


"Welcoming the New May Government":  A response by Cllr Dr Devra Kay

to Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg's "Welcoming the New May Government" motion
Full Council, London Borough of Barnet, Hendon Town Hall, 26 July 

I also congratulate Mrs May.  She has made an impressive start.  She's an excellent speaker; she's presented herself as experienced, reliable, hard working, serious, caring with a sense of duty and public service.  Yes, Theresa May is very impressive at talking the talk.  But what about walking the walk?

She may look in control, but in her 'distinguished' career at the Home Office, her failure to control our borders and cut numbers of mass migration let alone reach her target of tens of thousands meant that as a Remainer she played an invaluable role in the success of the Brexit campaign that was so dominated by the issue of freedom of movement.

Mrs May's tough speech to the Police Federation two years ago was certainly impressive - but recent Home Office figures show t
he number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by nearly 20,000 since she came to power, police budgets have faced an overall reduction in real terms of 18%. And the claim that criminal offences have fallen by 6% compared with last year does not include new figures showing almost six million fraud and cyber crimes committed in the same period when officer numbers continue to fall.  Officers from a Black or Minority Ethnic background make up nearly 6% of all officers, far from representative of our population.  And you will all remember the G4S fiasco at the Olympic Games Her walking the walk record speaks for itself.

Mrs May has been a long-term high-ranking member of a Cabinet which has favoured the very rich while impoverishing the poorest and most vulnerable. She has vowed to change this and only time will tell.  But in a list of the world's richest countries that shows the gap between rich and poor, the UK is 3rd and is on target to become top of the list over the next few years.

Since becoming PM Mrs May has said that she wants people to "Take control of their own lives"  I don't know how she sees this fitting in with her Snoopers' Charter but I suspect this is Conservative speak for 'you're free to do things for yourselves as you won't be getting any help from the State.

Tory Peter Hitchin wrote at the weekend:
  "Mrs May may come to regret her vain, boastful behaviour at PMQs when she bragged about how big her party was and how it was united behind her.  These things can change and very fast and Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.  It may not be very long before she sits on the Opposition benches". 

Cllr Rozenberg requests that the Leader ask the new Government and the Mayor for an "appropriate financial settlement" for London and to regard Barnet as a priority.  Asking for money is only a part of the process.  It's how you spend it that counts.  

We only have to look at her record and while I hope for the best I cannot hope but fear the worst. We ain't seen Brexit yet!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Justice at last seen to be done: the Standards Committee in Barnet


My speech to Council - 9 December 2015
About 18 months ago, the Council was in chaos, and the problem was political proportionality. 
Clair Lloyd-Jones' damning report, criticized both the Council and its legal advisers on their legal provision.  Committees had to shut down until proportionality was correctly calculated.

But one Committee that should not have been politically proportional is what was then known as the Leaders' Panel which is to emerge again as the Standards Committee to deal with disciplinary matters of elected members.

The recommendation brought  before the Constitution, Ethics and Probity Committee on 16 November was that there should be two members from each of the two main political parties with the chair having the casting vote. It was claimed to be politically equal but it was in fact still balanced in favour of the ruling party.

The argument put forward in support of this recommendation was that in practice there was generally concensus among members, and also that members could be relied on to use their integrity.

However, it seemed that the objections that had been applied to the former Leaders' Panel could still be applied, and given the opportunity to rewrite the rules, why not get it as it should be - with no party having an advantage?

Justice has to be seen to be done, so even if a majority of cases are purportedly decided by concensus, the very make-up of the Committee, on paper, must be seen to be fair. 

The amendment on the table tonight that in the event of a tied vote the case would be unproven and therefore dismissesd seems a fair and good one.  And if it is indeed the case that proceedings usually end in consensus then the use of this procedure would rarely come into play.

The process of the Committee was a positive one.   The establishment of an independent chair and how this could best be achieved was contributed to by both sides working together to achieve a solution and I think the Constitution and the nature of the new Standards Committee will be better for it.

I support the recommendation and the amendment

NB Both the recommendation and the amendment were agreed.

Monday, 5 October 2015


Barnet Libraries: Battles over: it's war

I oppose in every way the disgraceful destruction of the Barnet Libraries and will continue to Tweet and Facebook my horror and express here again my support of the fantastic Library lobby in Barnet.

The Council's decision is a mindless act of vandalism. It is a death-blow both to a profession with a long history and a continued relevance to the community today, a place of service that has provided generations with free access to reading and learning, the space and refuge for study, local support and advice that will no longer be available.  It brings together those of all ages, backgrounds, races, faiths, abled and disabled. Libraries are a last vestige of community, human contact and help that we all need so much and that is being denied us.  I weep at their proposed disappearance and the derisory manner in which the Tories, who spend profligately on consultants, Capita overspend, etc, claim they are compelled to make these small savings in times of austerity at such a massive and irreplaceable cost to the people who couldn't have expressed their wishes more vociferously and have been ignored.  We cannot allow the fibre of our community, our libraries, our public services, to be destroyed for ever on their watch.

Friday, 21 August 2015

It's my Party and I'll cry if I want to

It's my Party and I'll cry if I want to 

It really is quarter to 3 with no-one in the place awake but me, and after filling in the Labour leadership ballot form I decided to vote online. That decision was the hardest I had to make. The rest was easy.

Jeremy Corbyn for Leader. Only one vote cast and all the rest, though fair and wise, I commend to cold oblivion. JC  (interesting initials for a potential saviour!) is met everywhere he goes with wild enthusiasm from the people and vitriol from his Labour Party opponents who cling on well past their sell-by date in denial that anything like this could happen. Real life is pushing through the Party cracks eager to reveal itself. The stage-managing days, the mismanaged, unconvincing campaign, the lack of wide appeal, may finally have brought a clapped-out regime to an end.  

We seem to have arrived at one of those times of rebirth; resisted by those with plenty to lose, full of heady hope and relief for the rest. We have to catch up with things that have already moved on under their own momentum.  Do our actions cause change or reflect it?

In some ways the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon resembles that of Nicola Sturgeon and the phenomenal success of the anti-austerity SNP up in Scotland that could never happen but has. Just as in Scotland, there has been little self-awareness of the consequences of an increasing disengagement with the grass roots by what once was New Labour but is now an anachronism. 

The Leader's speech at last year's Conference in Manchester was a defining moment.  Having queued as we do every year to get into the hall, young, old and somewhere in the middle, Party members who were gathered together from all over the UK, patiently waiting for the hall doors to open, hungry for leadership, inspiration, we suddenly saw on a screen that the speech had started but the doors had not opened.  The reason?  A selected bunch of young people, good camera fodder, had been led through another door to be placed strategically around Ed.  We were furious. We were told we could go into side rooms and watch on screen. That wasn't why we had come to Conference. It was the speech in which Ed famously forgot to mention the deficit. The beginning of the end.  Priority was spin and image. Perhaps more priority should have been given to practicing the speech on Ed's hurried return from Scotland. But we didn't know about this omission until later as we had gone off in disgust to the nearest pub to drown our sorrows.  Tears of despair fell into my slim-line tonic with ice and lemon and lime. I didn't hold back. It's my Party and I'll cry if I want to.

As you may have guessed from my recent tweets, I voted for only one candidate, namely, Jeremy Corbyn, the only candidate who is right for our time, the candidate people are supporting in droves with a new-found trust and optimism for the future. Isn't that what democracy is all about?

I voted Stella Creasey for Deputy Leader,  I just like her; Sadiq Khan for London Mayor, no contest as far as I'm concerned - head and shoulders above the rest; and of course the inimitable, the excellent, tried and tested, Alon Or-bach for National Policy Forum.

Right now it is the good who are full of passionate intensity. 

Thursday, 30 April 2015

The election comes to Temple Fortune

The election comes to Temple Fortune

On a short late lunch break from interviews and campaigning and tweeting and supporting the Unison strike, I'm writing my first blog for ages because I just can't manage to tell you in 140 characters about all the exciting election action that took place this morning in Temple Fortune.  This tiny hamlet in Margaret Thatcher's old constituency of Finchley and Golders Green is attracting attention as being too close to call between incumbent, Tory's Mike Freer and challenger, Labour's Sarah Sackman whose success is taking everyone by storm making the fight too close to call.

There we were, me and Mrs Angry, sipping our Americanos with hot milk on the side, nibbling on a shared pain au raisin to minimise the calories, being interviewed by a charming French journalist in a cafe in Temple Fortune, discussing the local candidates, and by total coincidence Mike Freer walks past with none other than Boris Johnson. The Tories are bringing in the big guns in panic at the real possibility of losing the constituency. Boris looked to have got his temper under control since his tantrum on the Marr Show last Sunday when he was flustered by Ed getting the better of him, making him look like a spoilt brat throwing his rattle out of the pram. 

This morning I saw Mike Freer's latest leaflet. It is difficult to see that it has anything to do with Mike Freer because though it is very big (they have the money to burn) it is a warning about the SNP who the Tories know ruin their chances of getting back into power.

I know that the major Parties don't like to speculate about what sort of deals may be done if we end up with a minority government, but I must speak up because there would be a very different way of doing things and neither the SNP nor other small parties would wield as much power as they might hope. For example, on the Trident issue, both Labour and the Tories are in favour of its being retained and can vote together - that would be presumably around 600 votes - so even if the SNP won every seat in Scotland they would have no influence. All this Tory scaremongering about our security is dishonest and a sign of their desperation and in any case, it has been been the Tories who have cut our conventional military forces to the point where military experts have said that we are put at risk. And their inadequate support of our brave servicemen has been appalling.  

Freer has shown us the limits of his capabilities over the past 5 years. His first election leaflet, considerably smaller than his latest, produced when he believed he had a walkover, had so little to say about his achievements that the back of the leaflet was taken up with a game of Sudoku.  In contrast, Sarah Sackman is constantly being lauded as future Cabinet material, someone who will soar. When you see them side by side the difference is immediately obvious. Watch the video on YouTube of Freer's visit to Archer's Academy school with the PM.  You have to feel sorry for Freer, ex-councillor whose greatest achievement was to initiate the privatization of Barnet's services to Capita who are now running/ruining our services for Capita's profit on a 10-year contract that is costing us money rather than saving it (see Mr Reasonable's alarming figures on Twitter @ReasonableNB). The video shows that Freer said nothing, not engaging, looking awkward, as if he would rather not be there.  Watch Sarah anywhere and the crowds eat her up.  She is not only a very bright and successful human rights barrister, she is charismatic, engaging, listens and acts, and what draws activists in droves to her as well as voters, is that she is warm, a people's person. That is a characteristic that even those closest to Freer might find a difficult trait to attribute to him. 

Anyway, back to the morning, and yet more coincidental meetings. After our interview, Mrs A and I went to do a little food shopping across the road.  A lady who I had never met before wearing a Sarah Sackman badge saw my enormous Ed Miliband badge and asked if I was a member of the local Labour Party and then told me she was Sarah Sackman's mother! We three Labour muses then engaged in animated political discussion, our trolleys blocking the salad isle and we parted with much hand shaking and kissing.  On my way home through Temple Fortune I saw a forlorn looking Barnet Bugle, camera and tripod in hand, having missed all the action. 

Now for more leafleting for that much loved Hendon Labour candidate, Andrew Dismore, and then off tonight for an exciting prospect, another unexpected rise of a Labour candidate in a seemingly safe Tory seat of Chipping Barnet held by Theresa Villiers of leafy Arkley, being challenged by the born and bred local girl from the other side of the tracks, Amy Trevethan, who got a scholarship to Oxford from a local school and came back home to work, got elected as a Labour Councillor and is known and loved locally by those of all parties. She is giving Villiers a run for her money and red and yellow posters abound as never before.  Tonight on stage: Villiers v Trevethan.  Should be good. At Barnet Church (St John the Baptist) at 7.45. Be there or be very square indeed.

And I really hope the Bugle comes across something worthy enough for him to film.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Something rotten in the Estate of West Hendon

Something rotten in the Estate of West Hendon

For two weeks at the end of January, a Public Inquiry was held at Hendon Town Hall. The London Borough of Barnet (West Hendon Regeneration Area) Compulsory Purchase Order No 1 2014.  You can't do better than to read Mrs Angry's two masterful blogs for a detailed report that brings it all to life as only she can:

It was a contest between residents of the West Hendon Estate, secure and non-secure tenants and leaseholders, who had no legal representation v Barnet Council, Barratts, Capita & Co aka 'The Partners', represented by a QC and Counsel.  The residents had no money for lawyers, but they had a nothing-to-lose passion and anger that instilled them with a determination to fight for the fairness and justice they feel is being denied them.   

Their advocates were a phenomenal, articulate leaseholder who is living the regeneration, Ms Jasmin Parsons, and the impressively calm, knowledgeable and dignified and bit of a Public Inquiry veteran, Mr Dan Knowles, an expert surveyor from Sawyer Fielding, who is representing many of the leaseholders in their struggle to get a fair price for their homes in the big buy out.  They are, as yet, nowhere near it.

 Jasmin Parsons & Dan Knowles

We now await the outcome, the verdict, as the Inspector, Mrs Zoe Hill considers the evidence and makes her recommendations to the Secretary of State, Mr Eric Pickles.

Here is the evidence I presented to the Inquiry in a speech on behalf of the residents, that can be seen on a video below.  It was a follow-up to my first submission that can be found together with all other submissions and information at

The London Borough of Barnet (West Hendon Regeneration Area) Compulsory Purchase Order No 1 2014

I am Councillor Devra Kay, one of the three Councillors for West Hendon Ward, London Borough of Barnet. I was elected in May 2014 but have been closely involved with the regeneration since early 2013. I am a member of the Welsh Harp Consultative Committee but these are my own views.

You'll notice that my original statement is slightly amended.  It consisted of two parts in which there was some repetition which I've tried to eliminate.  Also certain issues that I raise have been dealt with more than once and very ably by other witnesses, so again I will try to avoid repetition in an attempt to save the Inquiry's time and just make reference to the witnesses who dealt with these matters. In addition answers and expansion to matters I have mentioned in the original statement have been provided over the past week that have never been provided before to which I shall allude to better supports/illustrate my evidence and bring it up to date.  

It 's been said several times over the past few days that we are dealing with a very emotional situation and that certainly is the case.  In addition, evidence that has been given by the Partners would be expected to reflect the interests of their organisations.  So I think the best way for me to present my concerns and objections about allowing this CPO to be confirmed is to rely on primary evidence which includes my own personal experiences.

This Inquiry is very much a David & Goliath battle:  The Partners have the support and advice of learned Counsel, the residents have no legal support and are left to fend for themselves, at a disadvantage.  They have asked for help from the Council but were told there is no obligation on the Council's part to help and therefore no help has been given.  The Partners' legal adviser has made a point of the fact that there has been no legal challenge to the planning permission perhaps suggesting that there was no wish to make a legal challenge, but the truth is that legal action has been considered but there have never been adequate resources available to residents to enable them to make such a challenge. 

If I might draw your attention to Para 1.2 in its Statement of Reason, Barnet Council claims that:

"The regeneration proposals will provide significant social, economic and environmental improvements for existing residents."

However, very few existing residents will be able to stay on the newly-built estate because ground rents, service charges, rents, parking, etc will not be affordable.  And the future for leaseholders is uncertain. Derisory offers for their homes well below market value make it impossible for them to afford to live in the new build where prices are high and the number of affordable homes has been drastically cut.  Even the offer of shared equity is unaffordable to most.  Reasons given last week by Mr Watling of Capita for the low valuation was the poor nature or location of the site but the estate is set on a unique site of natural beauty and of scientific interest because of the wildlife it attracts.  It was nostalgically described only last week by Leigh, a resident there for 45 years, who has taken 9 days annual leave to attend this Inquiry as having been a wonderful place to live, a peaceful haven away from the world set beside the reservoir with beautiful views from their windows.

Councillor Langleben has dealt in detail with the issue of inadequate provision of affordable housing.  I would just add that the goalposts have changed considerably since Brian Salinger's promise in 2002 the year in which the ballot was taken and in that ballot 67% of eligible residents voted and 75% of that 67% were in favour, so 49% of (less than 50%) of residents voted and voted in favour of the "new" "replacement" homes that were promised with their rights protected and affordable rents, rates and service charges  guaranteed. That was 12 years ago and 6 years before the original planning permission was sought and granted.

There is no intent on the part of the Partners to retain the current residents - the regeneration is now a completely different animal. It is no longer intended as a council estate, rather a commercial development on which any residents who stay are regarded as a nuisance and stand in the way of achieving the highest financial gain.  Residents have either left the Estate or will be unable to afford to stay even if they have tenure.

Regeneration was first hatched in 2002, the year of the ballot, and partners might claim that there has been constant and effective communication and consultation since then. But when I first became involved in the regeneration in 2013,  I heard the same complaint over and over again from tenants and from leaseholders - they faced a wall of silence, there was no information, no communication, only one broken promise after another. They just wanted to know what was going on.  They said they felt they were living in limbo, not even knowing whether it was worth repairing or refurbishing their houses, and the Council were not carrying out vital repairs. One woman had been trying with the help of her son to get a heater mended and for four years nothing had been done.  People felt betrayed. The first thing I suggested to Barnet Homes was that it would make such a difference if trust was established with the residents by listening to and talking to them and they suggested regular surgeries. But when I communicated this to residents they were sceptical as they said they had had surgeries before and when they asked questions they were usually told that the answers couldn't be given that day but that they would get in touch.  But no-one would ever get back to them.  Last year I factored some meetings between Barnet Homes and the two groups and they were very successful, but where Barnet Homes agreed to various requests they were thwarted when matters had to be approved by the Council.

As recently as 14 December 2014, (document CDB.38) a Variation to Section 106 Officers' report to the Council's Planning Committee was published which changed things once again considerably accelerating the demolition and building works. It is stated in this document that "Although not requiring a formal consultation process, Barratt Metropolitan LLP have advised local residents of the proposed changes within a newsletter". Another box ticked.

Paragraph 1.8 in the Council's Statement of Reason for confirming the CPO the Council states: "The Scheme reflects a revised Masterplan for the regeneration proposals and will result in the complete demolition of existing buildings within the Estate and redevelopment to provide new housing, a primary school and a community centre".  Another massive change that was not expected by the residents.

Any legal correspondence that arrives usually does so unexpectedly and although residents are offered the chance to have these explained, it usually causes panic because of either a lack of understanding or trust. The contact telephone number on the letters offering advice was dead, unobtainable.

And rather insensitively in the name of "consultation" two exhibitions were recently arranged for residents, the sort of exhibition that is provided for prospsective buyers who are buying off plan showing drawings and plans of the lovely new flats being built that they will never be able to afford. The residents staged a protest.

People feel that they don't count: and the evidence shows that that is indeed the case.

The level of support, commitment and passionate determination, the very existence of Our West Hendon, and People's Power speaks for itself and is powerful evidence that people are feeling immensely frustrated because of being badly treated and feel they have nothing to lose by protesting as vociferously as they can in public as the only way to make themselves heard. And because of this Public Inquiry questions have had to be answered that might never otherwise have been addressed because they just didn't need to be.

 And there is not only a problem for current residents, most of whom are not going be living on the estate in any case.  What about the new buyers, the future residents, paying around £450,000 for a two-bedroom flat, the first of whom are due to move in during the second half of this year. They, too, are being misled and treated with the same disregard as the current residents. We learned last week that there are no definite dates for the provision of the promised infrastructure - school, roads, community centre, etc.  Such details seem to have been omitted from any sales literature. Buying flats for nearly £½m, thousands of new residents think they will be getting a new road system, GPs and schools but there is no intention to provide this infrastructure for some years after they move in, and regarding the promised school Mr Wyld made it clear that there is no obligation ever to provide a school if the projected so called "child yield" shows there is no requirement for one and for the first few years at least there is no more obligation than to provide school places within a two-mile radius.  And the promised Community Centre is to be built right at the end of the scheme - I think 20 years was mentioned, but I hope I misheard.

The partners are eager to market the homes but do not consider the needs of the community - the residents, present or future.

I believe there are certain things that need to be fixed before the CPO can be granted.


It is going to be in the developer's favour to claim that the scheme is deliverable and professional suicide for them to deny it.  

But we have already seen that conditions like market changes, projections such as "child yield" mean that things can change substantially, as they already have and in fact there are no guarantees.

As we have heard, the plans for regeneration in West Hendon date back to 2002. Since then leaseholders who bought their Council homes under the Right to Buy Scheme have lived in uncertainty being given promises of building going ahead that never happened and plans that were revised and revised again.  But over the years properties were badly neglected in spite of an obligation on the part of the landlord, the Council - a common practice of many developers of private schemes who purchase a property with future development in mind and leave it to deteriorate to a point beyond which renovation is neither practical nor financially viable. 

You only have to look at Marsh Drive, which isn't due to come into the scheme for another 10 years. The place has been allowed to fall into a poor state of repair - no longer pleasant to live in as it once was - and any repairs carried out by the landlords are shoddy and dangerous with no consideration for either safety or appearance.   

Residents cannot be left living like this for the next 10 years and should not be expected to do so. The management must recognise a duty of care and not continue to write off properties still to be occupied for some years, spending as little time and money as possible on upkeep.  This is not only a blight on the estate, but a blight on people's lives - people who have little choice, little redress & who are not listened to or taken into account. They are just seen as a nuisance, to be got rid of.

The residents are living on a building site on which the standard of site management and enforcement of rules is unsatisfactory. There is bound to be some inconvenience, but there are perpetual lorries, thick dust, overwhelming levels of noise, giant cranes swinging over their rooftops sometimes out of control, porta cabins erected close up to their windows that appear without notice, bright lamps turned on outside their homes from early morning that light up their rooms, construction workers regularly working beyond the agreed hours. Article 1 of the Human Rights act states that "every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his (and I assume 'her' though not stated) possessions". This is not the case on the West Hendon Estate .    

It has been pointed out at this Inquiry by the Partners' lawyer that there are a number of processes available to deal with residents' complaints, but I can assure you that availability does not guarantee anything being done.  I have complained on behalf of and with residents again and again on the same issues and even when something is done, the situation usually reverts back to how it was. 

Yesterday afternoon at around 4pm, I had a typical phone call from a frantic resident about noise..."Listen to this." I could hear something that sounded like a hammer drill, so loud I could hardy hear what the resident was saying. it had lasted all day from 8am.  When she complained she was told with a laugh that the noise would only last for five minutes. Copper pipes were being cut in bunches outside her windows with an electric saw.   

Complaints have been made repeatedly about the workers with regards to drinking and smoking certain illegal substances on site and urinating in public areas and noisily changing their clothes in the very early hours of the morning in the portacabins that have been erected so close to the homes that they block out the natural light. All allegations are denied even though they come from many different residents from different parts of the estate.  At the recent Partnership Board meeting a week before this Inquiry Barratts were told that on many occasions bread was delivered noisily at 3am to the portacabins which are used as a canteen.  The representative from Barratt's refused to accept that this was possible.  But I had made this complaint months before on behalf of residents and nothing had been done about it how could anything be done if the complaint was not even acknowledged by Barratts. 

York Memorial Park has been dealt with more than adequately by Theresa Musgrove.

The Chair of the Barnet Council Housing Committee has been heard to say on more than one occasion at public committee meetings that if you can't afford to live in the Borough then you should live elsewhere and that he would welcome Russian oligarchs as residents.  

(I saw a television programme a couple of weeks ago about Russian oligarchs living in London and none of them expressed a wish to live in West Hendon).

But the residents of the West Hendon Estate were able to afford to live in the Borough until the goalposts were suddenly moved and it has become more and more apparent that leaseholders are being forced out of the Borough against their will due to the inadequate, well-below-market-price offers made to them for their properties. There are leaseholders who have outstanding mortgages which have not been taken into consideration.  And it seems that rents are due to rise for secure tenants so that in spite of their assurance of a home on the estate, even though this will be beside the busy main road in the most unattractive part of the estate away from the views over the reservoir, rents are due to rise to 80% of private market prices that will be unaffordable for them

Non-secure tenants are offered an alternative home as their blocks enter the demolition stage that could be anywhere. Some have been moved elsewhere in the Borough.  A home is offered and a decision demanded within 24 hours and if tenants turn down the offer because of unsuitability either of the property itself or its location in terms of jobs, schools, family, etc they are struck off the list and responsibility to rehouse them is removed.  

Some families have been threatened that if they don't agree to take the one property on offer they will be homeless and their children taken into care.  People are frightened to object.

Some tenants are transferred to other regeneration sites. There is a family with three children, one only four months old forced to transfer to Graham Park, another regeneration site due for demolition with no information about how long they would be there (this came up at the Partnership Board meeting the week before the Inquiry). The flat had broken windows and after two protests that were rejected they were given 2 days to move or no home.  In the end they were given 4 days. Their departure was filmed and is available on Youtube. Yet a few days later so called "Guardians", a middle-aged couple I believe, moved into the flat. These Guardians pay rent and there seem to be different terms and conditions for different guardians. Some have an unfixed amount of time, some are offered a 6 month contract/agreement and I've heard of one who have been offered 12 monthst, but then your clients must be able to give you this information.  We only hear of it from residents.  Other non-secure tenants have been transferred to other regeneration sites.  Residents also talk of construction workers who are given empty flats to live in. The decisions of those with the power of allotting empty flats and decanting non-secure tenants in what appears to be an inexplicably cavalier fashion needs explanation and seems to have no regard to the care and wellbeing of current residents.  There needs to be a properly managed system established that is fair and reasonable and makes the process of having to move home less traumatic.

If the CPO is allowed to proceed without pause at least, the Partners will be given carte blanche to go on as before indicating that all is well and acceptable. New procedures need to be put in place and monitored or there will be increasing dissent and problems will continue into the future.

The question that has to be asked is WHAT WOULD BE THE IMPLICATIONS IF THE CPO DIDN'T GO AHEAD?

What's done is done. Unfortunate things have happened and people's lives have been changed in very unsatisfactory circumstances and it's too late to do anything for some who no longer live on the estate.

But I think it's important to learn lessons and ensure that things change and better processes are put in place for the future.  A pause offers the opportunity to improve things that are at present unacceptable.

The rot set in a long time ago but we still have a long way to go and the evidence given to this Inquiry from both sides reveals that the intention to consider anything but profit has either never been there or certainly has not been there for some time. 

There is an unsatisfactory system in place, an established culture, a practice that has been allowed to lapse into bad practice that will undoubtedly continue if the CPO is confirmed right away.  I ask the Inspector to recommend to the Secretary of State that there is a pause to accommodate a complete rethink and change in policy, in priorities and an acknowledgement and recognition that things cannot go on as they are.  From the Council and Partners there is no recognition of duty of care. By suppressing, ignoring and denying the protesting voices of residents the situation is bound to worsen over the years and be counter-productive in attracting buyers amid bad publicity. 

We don't have a Hamlet to sort out the things that are rotten in the Estate of West Hendon as Marcellus almost said to Horatio, but we do have this opportunity to delay the CPO until a better, fairer process is in place, has been monitored and is approved by both sides, in fact until the statement in the Council's statement of reason 1.2 that "The regeneration proposals will provide significant social, economic and environmental improvements for existing residents" and (I add) also for future residents, is seen to be honoured.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The three boomerang skips: Skips and caravans go away! (Updated16 January)


The three boomerang skips:

Skips and caravans go away!

Once upon a time in West Hendon there were three skips.  They were brought to my notice by residents who lived beside them in their roads but wanted them gone.  The skips were full of earth and then filled up and overflowing with any old fly-tipped rubbish: mattresses, rats in mattresses, old cookers, planks of wood, crisp papers, cans, half-eaten sandwiches, anything that was no longer wanted.  I complained to the Council on behalf of the residents and my complaint was sent to Street Scene, Highways and then Highways Enforcement and after lengthy correspondence but with no sign of anything happening I was rung one day out of the blue by a resident to be told rather thrillingly that the skips were no longer there.  A frissant of happiness and jubilation was felt by all.  

Then early one morning about three weeks later another call from the same resident. "You couldn't make it up, Councillor Kay, the skips are back in the same places and they're still full of earth".  I couldn't quite comprehend.  And to add to the problem complaints had been coming in to me that two derelict, abandoned caravans full of rubbish were parked in different roads in West Hendon and in spite of residents' complaints to the Council nothing had been done.

I'd had enough of emails and their ridiculous platitudes.  I wanted action. I resorted to the telephone.  A slight diversion about CCCC (Capita Coventry Call Centre) answering calls for the London Borough of Barnet.  Sadly but not surprisingly little has changed, except that the operators are very polite even though one came back to me saying that she was sorry but forgot what department I'd asked for and please could I tell her again. It happens to us all.  It took at least 15 minutes to get through to someone who could help me.  This is because I first rang the officer whose name and direct line was on my correspondence and was told I needed a particular person in Highways Enforcement, but there was no reply from the extension I was given, no answering machine and no redirection.  This is something Capita assured me would be fixed some months ago at a Performance and Contract Management Meeting .  If Anna Earnshaw is reading this, please take note. So I had to resort to the main switchboard.  Again a polite and lovely lady, but didn't know anything about Highways Enforcement.  I finally got through to someone in Highways who took a message for the person in Highways Enforcement who turned out not to be in Highways Enforcement at all. Nevertheless I did finally speak to her the next day and what she said was refreshingly honest but the last thing I wanted to hear.

The punch line is that there is no facility for the Council or Capita's RE (Highways) to remove either skips or caravans.  They have neither the equipment nor the storage space.  The officer speculated that the skip company must have removed the skips but couldn't understand why they had brought them back. But then it is a bit of a brain teaser.  The skip company is claiming that the skips were stolen and therefore not their responsibility and so will not pay the fine which presumably they have to do if they admit to their ownership and remove them.  So we'd better get used to seeing rubbish-filled skips and caravans as a permanent feature of the Barnet Street Scene because the Council doesn't do skips and neither does it do caravans.

 Update on 16 January from a West Hendon resident who told me that she was told Capita was getting estimates from companies who could remove a caravan. Will check it out.  A mess in every way.