Barnet's Labour councillors have raised the proposed closure of Finchley and Edgware Jobcentres at last night's Policy & Resources Committee (23 Feb) as an urgent item, and are urging residents to respond to the public consultations by the deadline which closes on Tuesday 28 February at 5pm.
The Jobcentres are set to close when the Department for Works & Pensions buildings contract expires on 31 March 2018, after which people will need to travel to the two remaining Jobcentres in Hendon and High Barnet to access job search advice and welfare services in the borough.
Labour councillors pointed out that High Barnet and Hendon are not "neighbouring" alternatives for people living in Finchley and Edgware as suggested in the consultation. The highlighted travel time of 23 minutes from Finchley to High Barnet is in reality much longer on public transport, and more likely to take up to an hour at peak times for example.
Labour councillors also said that the closures cut across the One Public Estate programme which Barnet is part of piloting, where public sector bodies are encouraged to share buildings and co-locate services. Under the programme the council has secured £500,000 towards bringing public sector services together in shared facilities.
The Committee agreed that a response to the Jobcentres consultation would be drafted by officers and circulated for agreement to members of the committee before the deadline.
Barnet's Labour councillors are calling for residents and businesses affected by the Affinity Water service interruption to check if they are entitled to be compensated under the Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS) laid down by Government. The scheme sets out that every customer affected by unplanned water supply interruptions may be entitled to £20 in compensation if the supply is not restored within 12 hours, or within 48 hours if there was a leak or burst in a strategic main, and then £10 for every 24 hours thereafter.
The failure of a valve at the Arkley reservoir this week led to thousands of Barnet residents being without water. A fault occurred during routine maintenance on Monday 20th February, meaning water supplies were disrupted to most residents on the east of the Borough from High Barnet to East Finchley.
Labour East Finchley Councillor, Arjun Mittra, has asked Barnet Council's environmental health team to take action against a fly-tipped private car park in East End Road, behind a shopping parade that includes Iceland and Budgens on East Finchley High Road.
Environmental health visited the site on 10 February and have served a notice on the freeholder asking them to clear the site within 14 days.
Barnet council's highways contractor - Capita-run Re Ltd - were proposing to re-surface a pavement on the Brent side of the Edgware Road until Labour Colindale councillor, Nagus Narenthira, pointed out it wasn't in Barnet.
The error follows Re Ltd putting up streets signs for Lower Strand located in Colindale, Barnet, with the Brent Council logo on last July.
Twenty nine Barnet schools have written to Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, about the impact that the proposed new National Funding Formula and other funding cuts will have on school budgets, quality and their offer to local children.
The letter states that "We work as Business managers and Directors in schools in Barnet, an area of educational excellence. We are concerned that funding cuts and rising costs, largely resulting from Government, are putting that excellence at high risk."
The letter highlights that the National Audit Office reported the Department for Education "...estimates that mainstream schools will have to find savings of £3 billion to counteract cumulative cost pressures" but that "The department's savings estimates do not take account of the cost implications for schools of its policy changes."
East Finchley's Labour councillors, Arjun Mittra, Alison Moore and Alon Or-bach, have welcomed the commencement of works to upgrade pedestrian crossing facilities on East End Road near Stanley Road.
Funding to install a zebra crossing was provided by the planning contributions of the Archer Academy, who also paid for an upgrade to another crossing on East End Road near Market Place last year.
Barnet Council secured just 21.39 per cent affordable housing through planning gain from major developments over the last five years, according to official council figures obtained by Labour councillors (2,587 affordable homes out of 12,096 total new homes).
Of the 61 developments granted planning permission between 2011-16 only 8 achieved or exceeded the council's policy of 40 per cent affordable housing.
Only 42 of the 61 developments included any affordable housing, and 10 developments, with a total of 343 units, had no affordable housing included because of so-called 'viability issues'.
The information was provided in answer to Council questions from Cllr Ross Houston, Labour's Housing Spokesperson and Deputy Leader.
- Labour councillors secure agreement for a full internal audit review of Barnet Council's planning function
- Issue to be debated at Extraordinary Council Meeting on 4 April, following Labour request
An internal audit report into the operational effectiveness of Barnet Council's planning enforcement function - run by Capita Joint Venture, Re Ltd - has found that investigations into alleged breaches of planning control are not being completed in a timely manner.
The report, which was discussed at Audit Committee on 30 January, highlighted that 619 of 3,168 planning enforcement cases did not have a recommended action logged on the case management system.
Of those 619 cases, 307 (50%) were greater than 6 months old, and 175 (28%) were greater than 1 year old.