Monday, 29 October 2012

Praise be to Cheeses - Matthew Offord MP special

My attention was drawn to the above poster by a friend who used to drive nuclear submarines for the French navy. The poster makes its point rather well. It did however remind me of a broken promise, made to the people of Mill Hill, by local Tory MP Matthew Offord during the election campaign in 2010. Mr Offord promised a local resident that Mill Hill would get its very own cheese shop*, if he was elected.

We are more than two years down the line and we are no nearer seeing the realisation of Matthew Offords dream. In fact, given the parking policies of Barnet Council, we are even further away than ever. In High Streets all over the London Borough of Barnet, small retailers have been driven out of business, by the incompetence of Barnet Council. How many times has Mr Offord spoken up for his constituents and their businesses? Not once. In Mill Hill, we did actually see a small shop open shortly after Offord was elected, doubtlessly encouraged by his stated commitment to small retailers. It was called Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shop. When it first opened, it was mobbed with customers, clamouring for it's scrumptuous selecton of delicious sweeties. My own children were ecstatic at the arrival of a pick and mix shop, following the demise of Woolies.

Sadly Brian Coleman decided to shaft the shops, abolished Pay and Display parking and all of a sudden, a trip to the Broadway for a bag of mint imperials for Tarquin and Gemima became a horrific process in terms of both hassle and costs. Mr Simms buckled under the regime and closed. The Tories claim to be the party of business, but all that they have done is shaft people.

 Mr Offord replaced Mr Andrew Dismore as MP for Hendon. In May, Andrew Dismore ousted Offords best friend, Brian Coleman as GLA representative for Barnet. Mr Dismore has wasted no time at all in taking up the fight for local traders. A GLA delegation was organised to visit the Finchley High Road and meet traders. Even the local Tory Council realised that Mr Dismore was on to a winner and sent cabinet member Andrew Longstaff to support Mr Dismore in his mission. Sadly neither Matthew Offord or Finchley MP Mike Freer could be bothered to turn up.

Rumours reach the Barnet Eye that following pressure from Andrew Dismore and good work by David Longstaff in trying to make his colleagues see sense, Dean Cohen, the man who replaced Brian Coleman as parking supremo, has finally seen sense.

Although I am quite sure that Andrew Dismore has more sense than to promise anyone a cheese shop in their local High Street, I would suggest that if you want to see small, local, specialised businesses thriving, you would be far better off talking to Mr Dismore than the man who promised the earth and delivered nothing.

Barnet Council used to be run by the unholy trinity of Mike Freer, Brian Coleman and Matthew Offord.  These three have given us One Barnet, which does nothing for small business, they have wrecked the High Streets with disasterous parking policies. Mike Freer has asked dozens of questions in the House of Commons about phone tariffs, a matter of great interest to One Barnet bidder BT (who paid for Mr Freer to get an honoury MBA from Harvard). Matthew Offord has asked questions on behalf of cod in the North Sea. This is all fine and dandy, but neither of them have stuck up for the small businessmen who by and large voted for them in 2010.

I am not a Conservative supporter, but when Offord and Freer were elected, I took small solace in the fact that both claimed to care about small business and both had said they would work tirelessly on behalf of the sector. The sad truth is that they have been a disaster. I was having a conversation with a local businessman at the weekend who is a big supporter of the Conservatives. He asked me how I could possibly support Labour as a small businessman. I explained how Andrew Dismore had arranged the GLA visit to North Finchley and that the Labour group had fought the parking regime of Brian Coleman. He conceded that Matthew Offord had done nothing and that Brian Coleman was an embarrassment. I then asked him to name a single policy that the Tories nationally had done to help small business. He couldn't name one. He then responded by saying "What did Labour do?" I said "They cut VAT from 17.5% to 15%, the Tories put it up to 20% as soon as they could". He looked rather upset. He conceded that this had cost him a fortune and driven away many customer.  I asked him if his support for the Conservative Party was the same as his support for Spurs, unconditional and without question. He said "There are no circumstances under which I'd vote Labour, but I will certainly think about this".

The sad truth is that Barnet Council under the Conservatives is as anti small business as it is possible to be. The even sadder truth is that it is exactly the same at national level as well. And the saddest truth of all is that our local MP's Matthew Offord and Mike Freer are amongst the worst for neglecting the sector.

Just consider this. Matthew Offord was recently in the papers for calling a Labour MP a "Gobshite" because the previous Labour government refused to by the latest weapons for the Army. Look at the poster above. Mr Offord is more than happy to get his name in the paper, supporting the business needs of multinational arms suppliers, but has never said a dickybird about the plight of cheese shop owners in the High Streets of Barnet.

* Matthew Offord told a local resident in Mill Hill Broadway that if he was elected he'd support policies which would revitalise the High Street and we'd see all sorts of specialist shops spring up in Mill Hill Broadway  such as cheese shops.


Mrs Angry said...

Hmm. Perhaps Matthew Offord is now hoping for a fishmongers, rather than a cheese shop?

Mr Mustard said...

I am lucky that we have an excellent fishmonger's stall every Saturday and Wednesday at Barnet market. Be there at 8am for the best choice. Home grown mussels are now in season, £2.80 a kilo, and they are excellent.

I would like to see good food shops in every high st to counteract the monotonous supermarket choices. Until parking becomes easy to pay for with coins (imagine if no shop took cash!) and a reasonable price, it won't happen.

baarnett said...

I heard on the Today Programme about a retail taskforce. Its boss says on the BBC website that
"The taskforce recognises that our High Streets are going through a structural recalibration, rather than an economic cycle from which we will emerge over time.

We have too many shops, the wrong size and under-invested. So the change in town centres that is required is significant, and will require public and private sectors coming together to find ways of financing these changes.

What we're talking about are essentially infrastructure projects that can future-proof our towns for the next 50 to 60 years,"