Labour councillors secure 'Residents Board' for North Finchley regeneration

Barnet's Labour councillors have got agreement that a stakeholder partnership board will be established to oversee the North Finchley town centre regeneration.

A report on the North Finchley Town Centre Framework Supplementary Planning Document was discussed at this week's Policy & Resources Committee (13 Feb).  Residents have complained not enough consultation has taken place on the scheme.

Labour's Housing Spokesperson and Deputy Leader, Cllr Ross Houston, proposed the Board be set-up to help address this, asking that residents are represented on it as well as local traders, businesses, landlords, Barnet Homes, community and faith groups.

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Councillors launch petition to stop closure of Finchley Youth Theatre and Greentops Youth Activity Centre

Labour Councillors have started a petition against any future proposal to re-locate the Finchley Youth Theatre currently based in East Finchley, and the Greentops Youth Activity Centre currently based in Colindale, following publication of a Council consultation on the issue. 

Councillors feel that re-location of the services will take them out of the communities they have served for many years, and will eventually result in complete closure of the centres.

The consultation entitled “Early Help Services for families” was launched on 1 February and sets out a number of proposals changing the way family support services, children’s centres and youth centres are delivered.

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Barnet Labour councillors call for accurate housing needs assessment

Labour Councillors have got agreement from this week's Housing Committee (7 Feb) that Barnet Council will revise their assessment of housing needs in the borough so this is accurately reflected in key documents like the Council's Housing Strategy.

A Labour Council in Barnet would build significantly more genuinely affordable homes than the current Conservative administration, with an initial pledge of 800 new council homes and an ambition to deliver many more if funding can be identified.

A Government imposed cap on local authorities' borrowing restricts the number of new homes that Barnet Council can deliver themselves, but councils  in some "high demand areas" can now apply to have their cap lifted.

Accurate housing needs data helps maximise the effectiveness of such an application.

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Auditors slam Barnet's Capita-run pensions service with 'limited assurance' rating

A Barnet Council internal audit report discussed at last night's Audit Committee (31 Jan) has exposed serious failures in Capita’s management of pensions administration for Barnet Council. Two high-risk failures were identified- with data quality and the preparation of the annual benefit statement.

The report also found problems with retirement benefit calculations, a lack of a communications strategy, incomplete new member records, delays in transfers out of the fund, a lack of any policy on breaches of the law, and problems with the governance of the scheme, which would have made it hard for the council to identify if laws had been breached in the first place.

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Barnet Council to look at contingency plans for outsourced services as Capita shares plunge 41%

Barnet Council are to consider contingency plans for outsourced services in the wake of the Carillion collapse, following a request from Labour councillors at last night's Full Council meeting (30 Jan).
A motion from the opposition Labour Group Leader, Cllr Barry Rawlings, which was passed unanimously, highlighted the large number of outsourced services in Barnet including parking enforcement, education services and the two massive contracts with Capita that deliver all back office services (Capita CSG) and development / regulatory services (Re Ltd). 
In speeches, Labour councillors raised concerns about Capita, including a number of profit warnings and a share price that has fallen by 60% since the contracts with Barnet were signed.
This morning it has been reported that Capita's share price has plunged a further 41% today following their announcement of another profit warning, a dividend suspension and a £700 million cash call.
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Barnet Labour councillors welcome Mayor's announcement on early years hubs

Barnet's Labour councillors have welcomed this week's announcement (8 Jan) of four new early years hubs in Barnet from Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

The hubs, to be led by the Barnet Early Years Alliance, will provide support for parents with children under 5 years old, including help with access to affordable child care, early years education and family support practitioners. The Barnet hubs scheme will receive £175,000 in funding.

The hubs are being located in places where the take-up of free early years education places is lower than the London average. The Mayor has pledged to improve access to high quality affordable early years education for London's most disadvantaged children.

Under the Conservatives in Barnet eight children's centres out of 21 have been closed.

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Mayor of London refuses Grahame Park regeneration over loss of 257 social homes

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has told Barnet Council that the net loss of 257 social rented homes in the next phase of the Grahame Park estate regeneration (Stage B, Phase 1) is "wholly unacceptable" and does not comply with the London Plan.

The Stage B, Phase 1 planning application from Genesis, which includes the Concourse, proposes 1,083 new homes of which 652 would be a mix of affordable housing tenures, but only 39 of these would be for social rent compared to the existing 557 social rented homes on that part of the site, and only 153 at London Affordable Rent.

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3,101 Barnet children homeless this Christmas

Over three thousand Barnet children will be without a permanent home this Christmas according to the Council's latest homelessness figures.

2,820 children are classified as living in long term temporary accommodation, and a further 281 children are in emergency temporary accommodation. The children in emergency accommodation have been there for an average of 47 weeks.

The figures were revealed in response to a question raised by Cllr Ross Houston - the Barnet Labour Group's Deputy Leader and Housing Spokesperson - at this week's Full Council meeting (12 December).

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Barnet Labour win vote forcing Tories to back betting shops campaign

Barnet's Labour councillors last night (12 Dec) forced Conservative Barnet Council to accept their motion calling on the Council to lobby Government to:

  • reduce the maximum stake for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals - dubbed the 'crack cocaine of gambling' - to £2 from £100 to help reduce the clustering of betting shops;
  • introduce a 'cumulative impacts test' so local planning committees have greater powers to restrict clustering of betting shops; 
  • impose greater restrictions on gambling advertising.
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Labour councillors call for urgent review of gritting regime after weekend snow fall

Barnet's Labour councillors are calling for a review of the new gritting regime following this weekend's snow fall.

Councillors received a number of complaints from residents about the lack of gritting on lots of Barnet roads and pavements despite the cold weather warning. The snow led to parts of the borough being left at a standstill with roads blocked by abandoned buses and cars - this included a bus blocking North End Road in NW11, vehicles unable to use Cat Hill in East Barnet and nothing moving in High Barnet.

Conservative-run Barnet Council has controversially relocated their gritting operation outside the borough at a depot in Harrow, and as a result has had to arrange for a satellite site at the M1 Gateway services to try and deal with the anticipated problems. In particular, the depot move has led to longer journey times for gritting vehicles having to travel greater distances in adverse weather conditions.

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