Barnet Tory Planning Chair denies vital site visits

Members of Barnet Council's important Planning Committee were denied the opportunity for site visits on planning applications for nearly 1000 residential units by the Conservative Chair of the committee.

At last week's Planning Committee meeting (25 July) Labour councillor Claire Farrier requested that four applications be deferred as no site visits had taken place.

Conservative Chair of the committee, Cllr Wendy Prentice, said it was her decision not to request the officers to organise site visits as she did not think they were necessary. The request to defer the four applications was defeated by six votes to four.

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All Capita-run services to be reviewed after Barnet Labour victory

Barnet Council has agreed that terminating the two Capita contracts will be fully tested and considered in a Full Business Case looking at bringing Capita-run services in-house. The decision was made at the Policy & Resources Committee on 19 July which discussed options to realign the Council's relationship with Capita.

A report in the name of the Leader of the Council recommended 'Option 2' - preparing a Full Business Case to insource a limited number of Capita-run services such as Highways, Estates, HR and Finance.

Barnet's Labour councillors proposed that 'Option 3'  - which would bring the partnership with Capita to an end - should be included in the Full Business Case to ensure that councillors had all the evidence and flexibility to make a final decision. This was conceded by the Conservative councillors.

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Letter to NEC in support of full IHRA definition of antisemitism

Letter sent yesterday to the Chair of the Labour Party NEC, Andy Kerr, urging the Labour Party to adopt the full IHRA definition of antisemitism with all its examples:

Dear Andy and members of the NEC

I am writing to you in advance of the NEC meeting tomorrow to express my support for the Labour Party to adopt the full IHRA definition of antisemitism with all its examples.

As an elected representative of the local authority area with the highest proportion of Jewish residents, I know how strongly the local Jewish community feel that this is the definition of antisemitism that has their confidence. It should therefore be the definition that the Labour Party uses when dealing with complaints about antisemitism. It is also the definition that best encapsulates the findings of the Chakrabarti Report.

For me this is a moral issue – we must ensure that those who suffer the racism are the ones that define it, and that the victim is placed at the heart of our processes. The Labour Party’s new proposed guidelines do not do this, and they should be rejected. If any additional guidelines are thought to be required, these should be developed in partnership with the Jewish community.

The Jewish community has made it clear through different representative bodies – the JLM, the JLC and the BoD - that the full IHRA definition with all its examples is the definition that they support.

I urge you to adopt the full IHRA definition and all its examples at your meeting tomorrow.

Cllr Barry Rawlings

Leader of the Barnet Labour Group of Councillors


Barnet Labour Councillors to join Stand Up to Racism protests

Statement from Barnet Labour Group supporting the Stand Up to Racism petition and protest: 

We must unite to halt the rise of the far-right

The 15,000 strong violent far right protest to ‘free Tommy Robinson’ on Saturday 9 June has raised major questions for all those who value our diversity. 

The racist right—from hardcore Nazis, through the FLA/DFLA to ‘For Britain’ and UKIP—are using Robinson to re-organise. Nazi salutes and Islamophobia were at the centre of the mobilisation. 

This is the first serious attempt since the collapse of the English Defence League (EDL) to develop a racist street movement and give it a political form. It is supported internationally by notorious figures including Geert Wilders from the Dutch Islamophobic right and Steve Bannon, former adviser to Donald Trump. 

It is absolutely vital that all who oppose this come together in a united mass movement powerful enough to drive these new developments on the far-right back. 

Donald Trump has played a major role in galvanising the racist right. When he arrives on 12-14 July we will take to the streets to protest against his racism. And when Robinson’s supporters take to the streets again on 14 July we will protest against them too. 

Wherever the far right’s support grows so does racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and violence. We will be joining the protests on 13 and 14 July to defend our multicultural society from those who spread hatred and division. 


Barnet Labour Group Leader urges Labour Party to adopt full IHRA definition of antisemitism

Leader of the Barnet Labour Group of Councillors, Barry Rawlings, has written the following letter to the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News supporting the full IHRA definition of antisemitism:

Dear editor

I am writing as the Leader of the Barnet Labour Group of Councillors to express my anger and sadness at reports of the Labour Party's decision to re-write the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism by excluding four examples of antisemitism set out in the IHRA's full definition. 

I cannot understand why these four examples have been excluded from the guidelines in the Labour Party's adopted definition of antisemitism. 

References to these four important examples appear in later paragraphs of the 16 point code of conduct on antisemitism, but the overall effect of these paragraphs is to nuance, caveat and weaken the examples.

The final paragraph of the code of conduct suggests that evidence of antisemitic intent is required, which inverts the Macpherson Principle - that an anti-Semitic incident is any incident perceived to be so by the victim or any other person.

It is for Jewish people to define antisemitism, and Jewish community groups have done so by endorsing the full IHRA definition. 

The full IHRA definition is the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism. It is the definition accepted by the British Government, the British Police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, and by local councils across the country including Barnet Council, the local authority with the largest proportion of Jewish residents in the country. 

I am proud that Barnet Council was the first local authority to adopt the full IHRA definition following a motion from the Labour Group passed at Full Council in January 2017.

It should be the definition accepted by the Labour Party, and I call upon the Labour Party NEC to review its decision.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Barry Rawlings

Leader of the Barnet Labour Group of Councillors

Barnet Labour call for food waste collections to continue following Mayor's intervention

Labour councillors are calling on Barnet Council to suspend plans to stop separate food waste collections while City Hall investigates the Council's decision.
The cessation of separate food waste collections means Barnet Council will no longer be in general conformity with the Mayor of London's Environment Strategy. Local blogger, John Dix, reports that the Mayor of London wrote to Conservative Council Leader, Richard Cornelius, on 19th June informing him of this, and asking for the decision to be put on hold.
The Council's proposal to stop separate food waste collections was an unexpected last minute policy change forced through by the Conservative administration at the Environment Committee on 5 June. 
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Barnet Council proposes bringing several Capita services back in-house

A report just published by Barnet Council in the name of Conservative Leader, Richard Cornelius, proposes options to bring several services currently run by Capita across two contracts (CSG and Re) back in-house.

The preferred option is to bring the following services in-house: strategic finance, strategic HR, estates, health and safety, insight, social care direct, regeneration commissioning, highways, economic skills and development, cemetery and crematorium, strategic planning.

A third option of ending the contracts entirely is included in the report.

The report states there have been performance issues with financial controls and reporting; pensions administration; estates; and user satisfaction with back office services, and the operation of the Highways service.

The report goes on to say: "The environment in which local government is operating has also changed since the contracts were let. Whilst both contracts envisaged the need to adapt to changing circumstances, it is recognised that, as well as a longer than forecast period of austerity, the outsourcing market has changed over time. In addition, the rapidly changing external environment has accentuated the need for the council to increase the level of direct control it exercises over the levers that affect its strategic direction."

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Barnet Labour call for tougher action on fly-tipping 'epidemic'

Labour councillors are calling for better communication and education, as well as tougher enforcement action, to tackle fly-tipping across the Borough which costs Barnet Council around £500,000 a year to clean up.

Labour councillors believe the Fixed Penalty Notice fining scheme introduced in 2016 is generating income for the Council, but not changing people's behaviour by deterring them from dumping rubbish.

Labour's Community Leadership spokesperson, Cllr Sara Conway, has put the issue on the agenda of the Community Leadership & Libraries Committee (12 June) in a member's item. In her item she says:

"Residents are frequently raising with their local councillors the rising amount of repeat fly-tipping in locations in certain wards and across the Borough. Areas affected by enviro-crime appear neglected and this neglect encourages other forms of crime, impacting upon perceived and actual community safety. Yet environmental crime has disappeared as a specific aspect of community safety in the Committee on Community Leadership’s remit, at a time when the problem appears at unprecedented levels in our Borough.

I request that this omission is addressed and that a report is brought to the next CLLC meeting to consider a comprehensive and effective communications programme on education and enforcement on this important local dimension to community safety."

Cllr Conway will be presenting examples of fly tipping across the Borough at the meeting

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Barnet Tories facing £62 million budget gap 'armageddon' after overspending

Labour councillors secure vote to bring Capita CSG finance function back in-house
A whopping budget gap of £62 million to 2024/25 has emerged in Barnet Council's finances in the last quarter sparking criticism of Capita CSG's ability to provide accurate financial forecasting, and Barnet Council's ability to monitor the outsourced finance function.

An unforseen overspend of £7.9 million in 2017/18 (£13.5m before use of reserves) means that Barnet Council now has to find £9.5 million savings in this financial year (2018/19) compared to a balanced position forecast in March.

The budget gap for 2019/20 has increased from £5.9 million to £19.3 million, and going forward the Council now believe they will need to find savings as follows:

£34.3 million in 2020/21

£42 million in 2021/22

£62 million by 2024/25

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Barnet Tories secretly restrict residents’ right to ask public questions

The Barnet Conservatives have secretly removed the right of residents to ask public questions or make public comments on members' items raised by back-bench councillors and opposition councillors at Committees.  This restricts public questions and comments to so-called 'substantive' Committee agenda items. Public questions and comments can now only be asked or made in relation to reports brought forward by the Conservative administration.

The change to the Council's Constitution was made at the beginning of this year by 'delegated authority' with agreement from the Conservative Chair of the Constitution, Ethics & Probity Committee, Cllr John Marshall. The Committee and Full Council, which ratifies all changes to the Constitution, were not informed. 

Labour councillors are now calling for this and any other unreported amendments to the Constitution to be brought back to the new Constitution and General Purposes Committee for discussion.

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