Saturday 3 June 2017

The Saturday List #132 - Election Special - The ten local issue which matter most in the London Borough of Barnet

I usually avoid politics in my Saturday lists. I take the view that at the weekend, we should have a day off all of that old rubbish. However as today is the last Saturday before the least important election in a generation, I thought it would be rude not to list the ten local issues which we should be quizzing our candidates about on the doorstep and I've also added what I have gleaned from the candidates as their position on these issues. If I have got any candidates position wrong on these issue, they are welcome to email me as a matter of urgency and I will add their comments.

1. The Thameslink Rail service.  This is a disaster. In the days of British Rail, we had eight rush hour services an hour from Mill Hill Broadway to Cental London. This is down to six. The Thameslink website shows that seats are not available on these.

Candidates position (as I understand it).

Conservative - Matthew Offord - "Thameslink is a victim of its own success, carry on with Privatisation"

Labour - Mike Katz - As I understand it, Katz wants to transfer Thameslinl to TFL and increase regularity of suburban services

Lib Dems - Alasdair Hill - As I understand it, Hill wants to end the Thameslink Franchise at the earliest possible time and divert profits from shareholders into service improvements.

2. Road Congestion and cycling policy. Again this is a disaster, with high pollution, roads unsafe for cycling and a burgeoning car culture, which will get worse with ever more overdevelopment.

Conservative - Matthew Offord - Promote electric cars and implement a buy back scheme for diesel cars. No comment on cycling policy at all.

Labour - Mike Katz - Promote "modal shift" from car to public transport, cycling and walking. Develop a cycilng strategy with TFL, Mayor and Barnet Council.

Lib Dem - Alasdair Hill - Promote safe cycling corridors to schools, to beat the school run. Improve local public transport

3. Overstretched hospital services at Barnet General. This is a nightmare. This year, my daughter suffered a seriously broken arm, requiring an operation and so I witness first hand the chaos in the NHS. She was offered a "virtual appointment" at the fracture clinic and finally had an operation nine weeks after the accident.

Consevative - Matthew Offord  -  "There is no money tree" Offord supports the government policy on NHS funding.

Labour - Mike Katz - As you would expect, Mike Katz supports better funding for the NHS and investment in local hospitals. This would be funded by tax rises for the very rich and corporation tax on large companies.

Alasdair Hill - Lib Dem - The Lib Dems have specifically quoted a figure of £38.5 million to address underfunding in Barnet. This will be paid for by a penny on income tax.

4. Cuts to local school funding.  School budgets are under severe pressure. I am the chair of a charity that supports fundraising for St Michaels Grammar School in Finchley (where my daughter was  a pupil). I support all good local schools and like the Tory party, I am not an opponent of good local grammar schools. I cannot believe the hypocrisy of the Conservative Party, which talks about the Grammar School sector as a marvellous idea, but chronically underfunds the sector. St Michaels, which is an outstanding school and has results at the very top of the league table, is well managed and is held as an example of why such schools work, has a funding crisis. The headmaster, Julian Ward, went public detailing how their was a budget deficit of £100,000 this year.  For the abscence of doubt, the organisation I am chair of is involved in raising cash for improvements and has no role in the day to day running, where the deficit is occurring. Every school in Barnet is under budget pressures. This needs fixing.

Conservative - Matthew Offord - Supports government policy and spoke in Edgware detailing how the budget allocation was fair. Keen on more free schools in Barnet. Asked why well off children need a "subsidised school meal".

Labour - Mike Katz - Against more free schools. Will increase budgets for existing schools and address other issues affecting Barnet schools. Disagrees with Offord that budget allocation is fair on Barnet. Tweeted that "Labour get school meal menus from Jamie Oliver, Tories get them from Oliver Twist".

Lib Dem - Alasdair Hill - Will pump £26 million into local schools. Will maintain free lunches for Primary School children". Is a teacher, so spoke about education as his priority.

5. Green Belt.  The Green Belt is under threat as never before. In 2010, Matthew Offord was elected on a pledge to "protect the green belt". This year, he supported an application to destroy 17 acres of Green Belt in Copthall. When challenged by local residents, said "planning issues are a matter for the local authority", despite his previous pledge.

Conservative - Matthew Offord - "Green Belt planning is a matter for the local council". Offord has confirmed that he does not see his role as an MP as one which is anything to do with the Green belt, therefore it was not appropriate for him to get involved.

Labour - Mike Katz - Katz told me that he would work with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to ensure that local residents are listened to. I challenged him on Offords statement that MP's have no role in the matter. He disagreed and said that MP's can make representations to the Mayor and The Council.

Lib Dem - Alasdair Hill -  Hill told me that he believed that it was vital that a local MP represents lcoal residents and works with the Mayor and the Council to ensure residents are listened to. He also suggested that national guidelines on such issues could be reviewed, if they weren't working. He also mentioned that it is vital that government support green belt legislation.

6. Anti Semitism and Islamaphobia. As a local residents with friends of all faiths and none, it is vital to ensure that we all live together in peace and harmony, and we don't tolorate any form of racism, or religious intolerance. Locally, it seems that there are huge concerns regarding anti semitis, especially in regards to the Labour Party and elements on teh hard left. We can't duck these.

Conservative - Matthew Offord - Offord believes that the answer to the crisis in the Middle east is Donald Trump (he said so at Edgware Hustings). He said issues of religious intolerance are far worse in Pakistan, which is why he'd been on a Parliamentary mission there. I, for one, was very pleased that the MP for Hendon was taking on extremists in Karachi. Offord also spoke of his good relations and work with local Jewish community.

Labour - Mike Katz - Mike said that as a an active member of the Jewish community, he's a leading player in Jeewsih Labour and if elected, will give the local Jewish community a strong voice in the Labour Party.

Lib Dems  - Alasdair Hill. Alasdair said that Anti Semitism and Islamaphobia are not to be tolerated. He said that special efforts should be made in schools, where young people are forming ideas and identities.

7 . Improving Town centres. Mill Hill has a neighbourghood forum, working to improve the local environment. Recently they had plans to set up  a Pocket Park community space in Mill Hill scuppered by Conservative Councillor Suri Khatri, a key supporter of Matthew Offord. This was met with disbelief by many hard working community campaigners across the political spectrum.

Conservative - Matthew Offord - He rarely ventures into the issue of local High Streets. The only known pronouncement on the subject was in 2010, when he told a local resident "I want Mill Hill Broadway to become a vibrant town centre, the type of place where independent retailers can set up great shops. I'd love to see things like cheese shops opening". Sadly, we still have no cheese shop.

Labour - Mike Katz - Sadly, Mike Katz views on cheese shops are  completely unknown. He briefly said "I support the work of organisations such as the Mill Hill Neighbourhood forum to regenerate the local High Streets".

Lib Dems - Alasdair Hill - Alasdair said "I deplore the fact that the local Conservatives have scuppered all of the hard work of local people and thwarted the pocket park".

8. Local Library Closures.  As a founder of the Save Barnet Libraries campaign in 2010, this is close to my heart. I deplore the closure of the Childrens library in Mill Hill. When I was toddler, my mum would take me their, let me pick a Thomas The Tank Engine book and read it to me. My grandchildren will not experience this. I am heartbroken.

Conservatives - Matthew Offord - "I support the work of Barnet council on libraries"

Labour - Mike Katz -  "If you believe in young people, you don't shut libraries"

Lib Dems  - Alasdair Hill - "I have tirelessly campaigned to save local libraries and lead the campaign"

9. Same Sex marriage. In 2010, I stood for council. One of my running mates was Jeremy Davies, a very hard working councillor in Mill Hill for 16 years. Jeremy is a good friend and a man I have utmost repsect for. He has taken advantage of the legislation to marry his long term partner. I am delighted that he has found a happy and stable relationship. It proves to me unequivicably that allowing people to legally cement relationships is a good thing, for hundreds, if not thousands of local people.

Conservative - Matthew Offord -  "I was proud to vote against the same sex marriage legislation".

Labour - Mike Katz - "I support equality"

Lib Dems  - Alasdair Hill - "I support same sex marriage legislation and am proud of the coalition for enacting it"

10. Outsourcing and loss of local democracy.   In Barnet, the local authority has outsourced all manner of local services to Capita. This has resulted in a huge loss of local accountability and democracy, with Capita running planning.

Conservatives - Matthew Offord - Offord was the architect of One Barnet Outsourcing. He supports the councils policies.

Labour - Mike Katz - Mike was active in the campaign locally to oppose the loss of democracy.

Lib Dems - Alasdair Hill - Alasdair is not opposed to outsourcing in principle, but believes that the Capita contract has gone far too far and resulted in the loss of democratic oversight. He believes that local services should be provided locally where possible and practical.

Labour - Mike Katz - 

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