Tuesday, 3 March 2020

What has changed in our neighbourhood since 2002?

So what were you doing in 2002? Lets start with a few reminders, some of the stories we all remember  (if we are old enough).

In January (rather topically) the foot and mouth outbreak was declared over, after eleven months.
In February, Princess Margaret passed away. March saw the Queen Mother die.
In April, the queen, having lost her Mum and Sister, had the joy of celebrating her Jubilee with the five living Prime Ministers, Blair, Major, Thatcher, Callaghan and Heath.
In May, Arsenal beat Chelsea to win the FA Cup.
In June, England were beaten 2-1 by Brazil in the World Cup quarter finals/
in July, the Commonwealth games were opened in Manchester, the stadium would be repurposed as the Etihad Stadium for Manchester City FC after the games.
In August, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman disappeared, Ian Huntley was arrested and then charged with their murder.
In September, the Body of Millie Dowler was found, after a six month search.
In October Chechen Rebels took over the Nord Est theatre in Moscow, 170 people died in the botched Russian rescue operation
In November, Myra Hindley died.
In December, The European Union announces that Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia will become members from May 1, 2004.

It is funny looking at thos stories. Some seem so much older and some seem relatively recent. Locally, many things have changed in the Borough of Barnet. If Dr Who took you for a spin in her Tardis back to 2002, there are many things You could do, which you can't now.

Pic - edgwarepropertyblog.com
These include watching Barnet FC at Underhill and Hendon FC at Clitterhouse Lane, go Diving at Copthall swimming Pool, go for a drink at the Mill Pub in Mill Hill East, buy CD's and Pick and Mix at your local Woolworths, watch live music at The Torrington, view newspapers in Colindale at The National Newspaper library. The average property in Barnet was under £200,000, still vaguely affordable for ordinary working couples.

Many of the changes we've seen locally are a result of a seismic change in Barnet politics in 2002. In 1994, a coalition of Labour and the Lib Dems took charge in Barnet. In 2002, the electorate booted them out and the Conservatives have been in charge ever since.  What has changed? Lets start with a couple of items that illustrate the costs to residents

Council Tax -  Massive rise 2003/4 (1st year of Tory Budget) - Band D £796.89 - 2020 -  £1545.45 As you can see that is a 94% increase. Barnet Council has tried to deflect some of the blame, by splitting the money going to the Mayor and the Council in the figure, but the bottom line is that there has been ahuge rise and your services are far worse.

Parking costs - Massive rises Mill Hill Station Car Park daily fee 2002 - £2 - 2010 £6.40 =  320% rise in costs. Sadly the car park is strewn with litter and other trip hazards. 

This has not been a sudden thing. This blog has catalogued the changes over the year. We thought that as the council is setting its budget tonight, which will see further changes, as there is a very dangerous finacial defecit, we'd revisit the way we've chronicled these changes. 

Back in 2014, I compiled a list of things that have changed in Barnet since the Conservatives took power .

What has changed under the Barnet Tories 2002-2014

1. Average car speeds in sidestreets have increased as a result of road humps being removed 
2. Homelessness and rough sleeping has increased massively 
3. Front Gardens have all but disappeared to be replaced by carports in all but the largest houses 
4. Back Gardens have started to disappear under new dwellings 
5. High Streets have declined as parking charges have shot up 
6. Moggies have disappeared from side streets as car speeds have shot up 
7. We have a proliferation of rubbish bins 
8. There are ever fewer sports fields and recreational facilities 
9. Potholes have become far more prevalenton the Borough's streets 
10. You can film council meetings 
11. Pubs are vanishing at a rate of knots 
12. Nail bars are springing up everywhere 
13. Car parks are hugely more expensive 
14. You can't get a train from Mill Hill East direct to central London outside rush hour. 
15. Council tax has risen faster than inflation 
As you can see, in 2014, the trends were well establisged

In 2011, I did another roundup of their achievements

Barnet Council Latest : Lynne Hillan admits Tories have bankrupted Barnet Council

Let us quickly recap on a few Barnet Conservative financial atrocities, which have brought about this situation :-
£27.4 million lost in dodgy Icelandic Bank Investments (+ another £3 million in lost interest) (Ed note - Barnet council eventually got much of this back, losing only £4-5 million)
£11 million overspend on the badly managed Aerodrome Road Bridge project
£8 million (and rising) overspend on the Catalyst Care home outsourcing project (Ed note - The company sued Barnet Council and won as they were not making enough money from the taxpayer, due to Barnet badly drafting the contract)

When the Tories took over the Council from Labour in 2002, borrowing was £38 million (and derided by the Tories as "a scandal"). It is now approaching £250 million according to the latest accounts. How have the Tories tried to cut this?

They have spent millions on consultants working on the future shape project, which has delivered no savings at all.

They have replaced thousands of perfectly good lamposts in the borough at huge cost.

Employed contractors to senior posts within the council (eg Deputy CEO) on salaries circa £15,000 a month.

They have spent tens of thousands of pounds on staff jollies, such as trips to Sandbanks hotel for awayday conferences.

They bought plasma screen tellies for senior staff (and installed a satellite TV receiver)

They spent £1.4 million on redundant Laptop computers, then put hundreds of them into storage (having taken out warranties).

Knowing that there was a huge deficit, they froze council tax last year, purely as an election bribe.

They hiked wages for senior council executives - the CEO salary has risen from £114,000 a year to £200,000 a YEAR (Excluding pensions & perks)

They rasied allowances for chairmen of committees (personally appointed by Lynne Hillan) by 57%

Back in 2009, we looked at the 2006 Conservative manifesto promises.

Do you fancy a good laugh? or even a good cry?

You may find these rather interesting, in light of what has happened. The manifesto is in italics, my 2009 comments are in Bold, my 2020 comments are in Red Underlined

"Barnet Conservatives will support Barnet FC to help them to succeed and to
play a full part in our community."

Barnet FC have recently set up a fantastic training scheme, with great a great community project. In Harrow. They are currently looking for a new home in a Borough with an administration which appreciates them. 2020 -  As we all now know, Barnet FC are now fully domiciled in Harrow and all links with Barnet are gone

Barnet Conservatives will continue to strive for excellence in the provision of all
services. We will continue to improve the efficiency of the Council to reduce
costs for our chargepayers

Last year Barnet made a big fuss about being a "four star authority". This year they lost a star. Have you council tax bills gone down? Have Council rents gone down? Has anything gone down which the Council charges you for? Even the cost of burying dead babies has gone up. 2020 - 2018 saw the bin round changes that saw chaos, undelivered bins, and rubbish rotting in the streets. Childrens services was rated as failing by OFSTED, resulting in Essex Councty Council being brought in to turn it around. Excellence is a long gone aspiration, just being average is now seen as success.

We will keep increases in Council Tax to the lowest levels possible without
jeopardising the provision of front line services.

Council Taxes have gone up. Ask the people facing cuts to their Sheltered wardens whether Front Line Services have improved. 2020 - The council now has a budget crisis, as they have totally mismanaged the finances.

Barnet Conservatives will continue to strive to impress on our residents the
need for ‘civic pride’ and will respect and uphold the traditions of the Council
and the Mayoralty.

With the appointment of Brian Coleman as Mayor, all of the respect for the office has gone. The man needed a £10,000 legal indemnity to fight a standards complaint. He was the only GLA AM to resist publishing his expenses. He besmirched the reputaion of Barnet with his comments about the British Olympic team. He thinks that leaving a taxi waiting for 5 hours while he guzzles dinner is a good way to spend £395 of taxpayers money. 2020 Sadly the concept of civic pridewent when Capita were brought in. Now everything in Barnet Council is about money.
We will campaign to get the benefits from the Olympics for the people of Barnet
and will encourage young people with Olympic aspirations to fulfil their

I'm still waiting for all of these Olympic benefits for the citizens of Barnet? Have you seen any? 2020 well the Olympics was eight years ago, Barnet was a desert as the rest of London partied

We will promote active participation in sport.

What has happened with the Pavillion Road playing fields, where several community groups have actively campaigned to reopen the facilities? What has happened to Mill Hill Village Sports club where the Council has imposed a rent hike. 2020 - Happily Mill Hill Village survived and common sense prevailed. Barnet have actually improved some sports facilities in the last couple of years, such as Copthall pool, but they also destroyed the diving club, purely to save a few quid. The Barnet Council sports policy was largely based on partnership and Saracens. Sadly, due to financial fair play issues, the club has been relegated and the council policy is now in tatters.

Here's a final two which anyone familiar with the planned developments around the Borough will fall off their chair when they read them. I'm not going to comment on these because I have a policy on bad language in the blog.

We will do everything in our power to prevent the further destruction of family
housing to make way for flatted accommodation. We will insist on the highest
standards of design and build in new developments. 2020 - If you didn't laugh at this now, you'd cry.

We agree with Barnet residents that Barnet needs more houses than flats. 2020 - If you want to see how this has panned out, look at Colindale or read our recent blog about Edgware.

So where are we now? Despite the huge rise in council tax and parking charges since 2002, the council has reached the point where the budget defecit is unsustainable. Tonight there is a Barnet Council budget meeting. The Liberal Democrats are proposing a local referendum to approve an increase in Council Tax.

Rather strangely, neither the Barnet Conservatives or Barnet Labour have bothered sharing their plans. We will share these when we have them.

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